Sunrise/Sunset: 6:08 / 6:04
Foo Song: DOA (Star Wars animation) here at this link
Today got off to a slow start, but it was a pretty cool Christmas Day in a really warm place (see my Dec 24 post) nonetheless. After opening gifts last night and staying up late (including sparklers of our own and neighborhood fireworks shows, as Xmas here is more akin to July 4th than its staid and relaxed cousin in the north), we went to the movies and took a divide and conquer approach.
We went to see Peanuts and the new Star Wars flick (the ladies decided to stick with the kids to see Charlie Brown and Snoopy and company, while I went with my father- and brother-in-law – Eugenio and Alex – to see the new generation of Star Wars). The Force definitely awakened in me – Han Solo is a badass, Chewbacca rocks, and X-wing Fighters and the Millennium Falcon are awesome – but both Alex and Eugenio fell sound asleep. And there weren’t even subtitles. That’s right, I had to see Star Wars dubbed in Spanish. But it was still great, between their snores and guttural grunts. They sounded a bit like Jabba the Hut, but I was the one decimating the giant vat of popcorn in my lap and gulping down a half gallon tub of soda.
After eating ice cream at Ventolini (again, this time in a different shopping center), and all turning into blobs like Mr. the Hut and getting wired on sugar, Alex, Lauren, Caro, and I were off to the Salsodromo. At this iconic and surprisingly well organized and safe event, we successfully snuck in a bottle of wine after sacrificing two cans of Club Colombia Roja (yes, finally some decent beer here – beginning to take off worlwide – but I begrudgingly took one – ehh, two -for the team with these diversionary tactics tricking the deft hands of the event staff).
Cali has become more and more infested with, eh, I mean alive with, gringos like me. So lo and behold, I met a gringo who works for a publishing company called Cengage and is based in San Diego. He and his Caleña wife moved there after several years in St. Louis, MO (when he had the option to interview for a job in sunny and mild San Diego, his wife made it clear that this was the lifestyle change they badly needed). Turns out he knows a guy named Mike Schille, a former teacher at Colegio Bolivar, where I taught in Cali from 1998 to 2001, and with whom I’d play basketball every Friday after classes with teachers and high school students. The gringo’s name is Bob Schuh, and he mentioned how he’s dying to move here one day (soon) and start a business to bring more gringos here (!), and this rang a bell, struck a deep resonant chord with me. His son was also in attendance with him, and we chatted, as we waited for the parade to ramp up, about his post-graduation options. He’s finishing a degree in recreation and tourism. Got my wheels really spinning. Such a small world, but so cool to feel solidarity, too. Our ideas may not be completely unique, but they can be validated by others. Pretty cool.
After the salsa parade was nearly over, and all kinds of characters from the history of Cali came strutting down the streets and flying in the air, I was “attacked” – more like accosted – by drunk woman. A little weird and embarrassing. My mind was racing about dancing and insecurity, lack of love for salsa but clear respect for this talent. And then she jumped me. But I quickly evaded her and ducked under the fatherly cover and safety of Tio Alex. Definitely a weird moment but one of those hilarious memories, too.
We went ouut to dinner with Alex and Lauren afterwards at DeLulus near my in-law’s house, and we had a major case of our ojos being way more grande than our estomagos. On the walk home, we bumped into Alex’s old boss, whom Alex referred to as the architect behind his master’s degree in Spain, a time in his life that was so pivotal and led to the success he has experienced in breaking free of Cali (yet ironically, just like Caro, is always drawn back here). And then we bumped into a Caleña friend of Alex and Caro who lives in Boston). Small mundo in word and indeed.
The best sight ever greeted us when we got home, pretty accurately reflecting our own state of mind and physical / gastronomic exhaustion – Mateo was spread eagle and sound asleep on the bed.
Too often I stress about the amount of $$ we spend visiting Cali, as does Caro, but besides the exchange rate being absurdly in our favor, it’s also impossible to put a price on this stuff. Money will work itself out over time, but the clock is ticking so fast as these kids grow up and we all get older, experiences like this are truly priceless.