Sunday, August 14, 2016

Colombia 2016

We got back to Bogota after our trip to Cartagena and spent only one night before loading up the car with our stuff and Diana's mom and dad to go to Chiquinquira. If you're not familiar, this is the small town about a three-hour drive north of Bogota where Diana's parents are from and where they still have a small farm house and a some milk makers.

It had been about a year-and-a-half since my last trip and I was excited to be back. A few minutes after arriving, I wanted to see the family's donkey, Pepe, who sometimes acts like a big dog. Being that so long had passed, I figured he wouldn't remember me. Umm, I was wrong.

As I walked around the house, I saw him up on the hill. He took a quick break from eating and glanced my way and actually did a double take before running down towards me while making that donkey hee-haw sound. The family was a few steps behind and couldn't believe it. Apparently, this wasn't standard Pepe behavior; I was honored.

The view of Rancho Grande and its immense herd of cows as seen from Pepe's favorite hang out:

Pepe is now retired. Normally, on a farm, animals have a very short "retirement" (read: maybe one day), which, while I understand the cost and upkeep, especially for older animals, is still sad. Well, Diana's dad had decided that, because Pepe means so much to the family, he would get a nice long retirement instead. Thanks Juaco!

Happily hanging out with the farm's new pet "dog":

Pepe's pre-retirement job was to cart cans and other supplies at milking time. Diana's dad mentioned during a call a few months ago that he had hired Pepe's replacement. Breaking with family-donkey tradition, he contracted Lucero who, as you can see, is...a horse. Gasp!

Maybe it's farm life, or maybe being in Chiquinquira, but Lucero is every bit as mellow and friendly as cousin Pepe. It was funny to watch Pepe watching Lucero get tied up to the cart at milking time as if Pepe was thinking, "hey, that's my job" before turning back to his current position of watcher-of-all-things-going-on and maintainer-of-short-grass.

One of the things that's great about being out at the farm is how time changes. No longer are we controlled by the every-15-minute ringing of Barcelona church bells, but rather it's the twice-daily milkings. Other than that, nothing usually happens. Usually.

But we woke up one morning to some excitement. Diana's mom was on the phone yelling, which is HIGHLY unusual. It took me a minute or two but she was clearly upset and was "telling" whoever was unfortunate enough to be on the other end that they needed to immediately come out and resolve whatever was going on. Diana, still with pajamas on, was already putting on her farm boots so I did the same.

On the hillside above the house, not far from Pepe's hangout, we found the following scene. Apparently, one of the neighbors from the other side of the hill had contracted with someone to do some work with a digger on their property and, as they had come sometime overnight, the digger went off the side of the road. They already had it secured to another backhoe and were waiting on a large tow truck to arrive.

It took them much of the day to recover the digger and, by the time we went back later, they had repaired the road. For a place where basically nothing ever happens, it was a big deal.

After the excitement died down (and a nice lunch), I put my boots back on and went to visit the cows. While taking pictures, I noticed one of the cows seemed to be in a bit of distress. She was making usual noises so I went to see what was wrong.

As I got closer, it looked like she had a small blue bag stuck to her backside. Figuring maybe she had eaten some plastic or something, I moved in to see if I could help. When I was about three feet away, I could make out a cow nose and hoof inside the "bag". Being a city boy, it took a few seconds to process. Yes, this cow was having a baby! Right there and right then. In front of me!

It was amazing. And scary. Was she okay? Should I help? There's always a blanket and water in the movies. Should I get those? No, better to get Diana. She's smarter than me; she'll know. I yelled up to the house and Diana came running. We immediately told her parents and called her cousin and his wife who are the part-time caretakers and keepers of the cows.

We kept watch, both not really knowing what to do - oh well. Her cousin arrived about five minutes later just as the calf was almost fully out and just as it gained consciousness, an moment which, on its own, was quite a surprise. He tore the placenta and both mom and baby looked around.

The only thing faster than your baby growing up and heading off to university is the speed at which the calf managed to get up, wobble around a bit, and start nursing. Total time, maybe five minutes. Again, amazing.

Baby's first steps:

Postpartum photo with Diana's cousin, his wife, and some locals:

What excitement! Between that, a bunch of Colombian coffee, and a couple of Arepas Boyacenses, it was a day I won't soon forget. The next day, it was back to Bogota to spend my last few days in town with Diana's family.

Dual-birthday celebration for Diana's dad and nephew:

Diana's nephew asked me to take a photo of him and his grandfather (Diana's dad), which I did. The problem was that her dad's always wearing some sort of hat so his face was all dark in the first photo. I went to take his hat off and, for some random reason, turned it around like her nephew. The result is one of my favorite photos I've ever taken.

As we had been super busy, I mentioned to Diana on my last morning that I hadn't eaten a Bandeja Paisa the entire trip. She immediately set about rectifying this extreme oversight by organizing family lunch at a nearby place with excellent BP.

If you don't already know, Bandeja Paisa, which means basically 'country tray', is one of my favorite Colombian meals. It has all the important food groups including such delicacies as chicharron, sausage, beans, eggs, ground meat, avocados, and fried plantains. Can you say 'yummy, yummy, I'm gonna' put you in my tummy'?

Sadly, it was once again time to say goodbye to Colombia and Diana's family. Thanks to Diana's mom, dad, sister, brothers, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, donkeys, cows, horses, and everyone/thing else that made it (as always) a great trip. Nos vemos pronto!

A small side story for this trip. I flew Air France and my return flight from Paris to Barcelona was canceled due to one of France's regularly scheduled labor actions. As compensation, I got three 'extra' hours in CDG, and a bonus six-hour layover in Amsterdam, which I happily took advantage of.

A few euros and a half-an-hour later, I was eating real Belgian-style french fries for breakfast while overlooking canals. The only bummer was that I, unable to think after my red-eye, ordered ketchup instead of mayo ensuring everyone knew I was an American tourist. Ha! Not important, I was, ten hours after leaving Bogota, in Amsterdam on my way to Spain!