Aug 17 – Strapped in Tight!

Sunrise/Sunset:  7:02 / 8:04

Foo Song: Next Year

One of my favorite authors and people to emerge this year – at least in my view is the prolific Enrique Rubio. And this post is just perfect, really captures where I’m at, and where we’re at as a nation:

“the question of how to remain relevant in this disrupted and stressed world might come down to how we can awake and fully use our imagination and creativity. ”


Cheesy clickbait quiz:  “You are as tender as lavender and have the ability to move forward in life to achieve whatever you want. You character is strong and sweet meaning you know how to get what you want and in just the right tone. You are not afraid to be who you are and love taking on new challenges. Bold and charming, your energy pulsates to others and you encourage people around you to move forward with you.”

Foo Song: Next Yearfunny.pho.to_astronaut


Don’t let yourself die slowly.
A powerful look at street life in Medellín, #Colombia – from a country whose film and TV just keep getting better and better- and this one w/ music this old dude really digs:

Perfect song popped up on Pandora (my Dave Grohl station):

I’m in the sky tonight
There I can keep by your side
Watching the wide world riot
And hiding out
I’ll be coming home next year

Into the sun we climb
Climbing our wings will burn white
Everyone strapped in tight
We’ll ride it out
I’ll be coming home next year

Come on, get on, get on
Take it till life runs out
No-one can find us now
Living with our heads underground

Into the night we shine
Lighting the way we glide by
Catch me if I get too high
When I come down
I’ll be coming home next year

I’m in the sky tonight
There I can keep by your side
Watching the whole world wind
Around and round
I’ll be coming home next year

Come on, get on, get on
Take it till I fall down
No one can find us now
Living with our heads underground

I’ll be coming home next year
I’ll be coming home next year
Everything’s all right up here
When I come down
I’ll be coming home next year

Say goodbye
Say goodbye
Say goodbye
Say goodbye

Come on, get on, get on
Take it till life runs out
No-one can find us now
Living with our heads underground

I’ll be coming home next year

Dug this up from 2014 and my 40th b-day. Definitely makes me miss my colleagues and working together in an office / shared space (and proud of how I’ve cleaned up my mess!!):



Aug 14 -First Texas Rain, Breakfast Tacos, and Strange Brew

Sunrise / Sunset:  6:57 / 8:14

Foo Song: This is a Call

“Sunrise” pics:


Started the day off with breakfast tacos care of good old Uncle Brett, despite Alana’s protests (she ended up loving them). Rainy day and low pressure system = tired family.


Rallied the troops the head to Hyde Park Grill. After lunch, the Kramer Fountain crew headed back to Dallas, Nira was bummed about Franklin’s departure, and we hunkered down to chill for a while.

While resting in the afternoon, I had a lot of thoughts about missing Boston, what I could have done better when I was there to integrate myself into groups, missing Jamaica Pond and Arboretum, kind of idealizing a past that never was, or only partially was. I had to remind myself that we made money that allowed us to escape a cycle that was dragging us down and that we are in a new place that will require some time for adjustment. But it’s still all good. Just need time. Self doubt, if not taken to an extreme, is a motivator for improvement. At least that’s the way I see it.

Took the kiddos to see our friend Terry at Strange Brew in South Austin. I thought it was really cool for Alana to see him putting himself out there, taking a risk, opening himself up.

Fighting through torrential downpours, we ended the evening with a trip to Alana’s favorite, Lucky Robot sushi, where she proceeded to put her brother to bed on the bench seat. Good ending to the day for sure …


July 14 – Baldfaced Truths of NC Highlands

Foo Song: The Last Song   “you’ve got to walk to make any ground”  love this freaking song and its message

Sunrise / Sunset  6:29 / 8:47  (sunrise at Baldface Rock in Sapphire, NC, sunset in Highlands, NC)

Started the day with a great morning run at sunrise. 23 minutes up, 13 minutes down. Hauling booty downhill. Love that feeling of speed and the focus it requires to avoid tripping, to pop from one side of the trail to the other. Despite losing Nira and worrying a resident black bear might have snacked on her hindquarters, I found her and kept the run going. After a good full day of work back at the ranch (aka dad’s house in the mountains in Sapphire), we headed to Highlands to catch a musical and good food with some good friends of my dad’s. Good stuff even if Mateo (and admittedly I) couldn’t get into the musical and had to escape to explore Highlands’ active downtown candy store scene after intermission. Sometimes, you just have to take time to find the sweetness.



March 20 – Working the Nets and Happy Accidents

Sunrise/ Sunset:  6:48 / 6:56

Foo Song: This is a Call

Sunrise Pic:

Forgot to take a selfie, so I snapped this beauty (squirrel skull?). Doesn’t really fit with the rest of this blog entry, but I couldn’t foresee what kind of day I was about to have

image (57)

Today was one of those awesome days where I felt on my game. Some days I’m just head down. Other days I’m scatterbrained and get nothing of substance done or have my mind on non-work concerns and am inefficient as heck. And some days even if I’m doing my work, it doesn’t feel so inspiring. But then there are some days like today, where I’m just buzzing and the connections are popping all around, where work and “beyond work” melt into one fluid stream.  I discover connections or make introductions or have people I’ve met separately know each other. Somehow creating a great community of intersecting orbits. I find that thrilling. It’s a calling. No need for any resignation anymore (or self-doubt as to whether I should spend much time on this).

In hoops, it’s a common saying to describe selfless players who go after the rebounds and dish out passes to shooters, keeping their team in the game, as “working the boards.”  In my professional and personal life, I spend a lot of time working the nets via networking, and helping connect people to ideas and opportunities. It’s really what makes me tick. Professor Adam Grant (Wharton School of Business’ youngest ever tenured professor) is a model for me In this article from the New York Times, , the author describes Grant’s “theories about prosocial motivation — the desire to help others, independent of easily foreseeable payback …For Grant, helping is not the enemy of productivity, a time-sapping diversion from the actual work at hand; it is the mother lode, the motivator that spurs increased productivity and creativity.”

Grant divides people into Givers, Matchers, and Takers. “Givers give without expectation of immediate gain; they never seem too busy to help, share credit actively and mentor generously. Matchers go through life with a master chit list in mind, giving when they can see how they will get something of equal value back and to people who they think can help them. And takers seek to come out ahead in every exchange; they manage up and are defensive about their turf.”

Today was one of the days I was energized, feeling a lot like a Giver. I started out with a breakfast meeting, helping Anne, a colleague of mine who began her career at EcoLogic as an intern supervised loosely by me. Anne was getting excited for an upcoming trip to Colombia, so my breakfast with her was all about guiding her through some different itineraries. One of my favorite things to do is to promote Colombia and help people find engaging stuff to do off the beaten path. I still have dreams of setting up some kind of consultancy or operation that helps travelers connect to the real Colombia.

A bit later in the day I submitted an application to Vuka, a co-working space in Austin (recently merged with Center 61 to form ImpactHub Austin). In my application, I wrote that I thrive on an active environment full of white noise, with a design aesthetic that is inspiring (including standing desks, my preferred working position) and with people around me doing work that is really innovative. I would love to be able to find mentors and potential partners and to have a chance to practice new skills, make pitches in a relatively welcoming environment, and to have people to socialize with inside and outside of work. At my current organization, and, I think, anytime one is inside a single organization and steeped in its culture, it’s a bit easy to get complacent and/or not be exposed to a diversity of ideas, something I really enjoyed in my formal studies. I think a co-working environment can increase the chances for happy accidents and co-creation while preventing me from getting stale. I also particularly love unleashing and tapping into others’ talents and assets – serving as a mentor and forging connections between people and ideas. I find this somewhat intangible, loose notion to encapsulate what I’m really good at. I see connections and remember things as a creative, lateral thinker that others don’t seem able to do (or as apt to do). This often manifests itself in new partnerships and skilled use of interns and volunteers to tackle work my colleagues think is too daunting”

Literally just as I was typing the Vuka application, I got a call from the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation. They asked me for help vetting a social enterprise they are considering supporting – – which re-purposes old cell phones to combat illegal logging. They connected with me because one staff member is named Nathalie Laidler-Kylander, who recently changed jobs from academia (Harvard Kennedy School), and she remembered me and EcoLogic based on my earlier reaching out to her for help with nonprofit branding / re-branding. I didn’t have her as a prof at the Kennedy School, but I reached out based on that connection after reading an article she wrote ( and was able to pull her into the EcoLogic community, setting up a talk with our board and coursework/practicum work with two students in her course. I love that I can help her now in her new role and simultaneously learn about such a cool idea (Rainforest Connection). The fact that people reach out to me for advice makes me feel really good about my knowledge and reputation. I think people feel very comfortable asking for my help, and I love giving back in this way.

At lunch,  I took the friend of an acquaintance out to help him brainstorm his next steps in his career. He sought advice after being pulled out of the Peace Corps earlier this year, along with all Peace Corps volunteers in El Salvador, where the program has been shut down (I’m not certain how temporary the shutdown is). I told him about my experience moving from teaching in Colombia to the neighborhoods of Boston and then into my current focus on international development and conservation while listening closely to understand his interests. The single clearest outcome of our meeting was connecting him with Vilas Dhar, founder of the Next Mile Project (somewhat similar to what Center 61 was about as far as I can tell) and setting him up with a meeting that was sure to provide him even more direction than I’m capable of providing.

I’m definitely known at EcoLogic as the guy who always runs into people he knows. After building community outside of work over the past 15 years in Boston, I’ll be craving an opportunity to do the same kind of thing in my new city.

Later that afternoon, I spoke with a woman namedTanya Dimitrova – she has some cool stuff going on. I recently had the good fortune to meet her and learn about her organization, Earth Science Journal for Kids:  Tanya and her team select published science articles and work with the authors to adapt them for children’s education / classroom curriculum.Her mission with the Science Journal for Kids is to translate peer-reviewed open source journal articles on science topics to a student audience. For example, she took this article on “A comparative analysis of the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of wheat and beef in the US” and transformed it into “How Much Does it Cost When Cows Burp”   I had been trying to connect her with folks in the PARTNERS network. I wrote folks to tell them how impressed I’ve become by Tanya’s spirit and entrepreneurial drive, especially shown via her journal, which translates some of the most cutting edge published research into an engaging format for a high school audience- kids and their teachers alike. Tanya’s also been an author on Mongabay, which is where a former intern of mine, Julian, knows her from and how he connected her to me (and I had connected Julian to the PARTNERS network …)  She’s also written for Ecosystem Marketplace and Grist, including a focus on carbon/REDD+ in Colombia 🙂

Last but not least, I helped a kid I met in Colombia find his way into applying for teaching in Colombia, and then it turned out that a former intern of mine at EcoLogic, now based in Colombia, was going to interview him. She wrote me, “Christian just messaged me, and he is interviewing to be an english teacher in the program I work for!  You’re definitely a pro-networker. How’d you get in contact with him?”  And I responded, “Pro Networker? Ha! I listed something like that as one of my top three skills on an application for a co-working space in Austin, where I think I’d thrive (called ImpactHub, formerly called Vuka, a very Austin kinda place).  I met Christian along with his parents at the Feria de Cali (the big salsa parade called the Salsodromo). His dad actually tapped me on the shoulder, and it turned out we had a lot in common, including a mutual friend, a guy I taught with in Cali in 1998. And his company (he works in science textbook publishing) has a contract with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law (promotional videos and educational videos). I have to say I have more of these kinds of accidental run-ins than seem normal. It makes me wonder, in an existential kinda way, what’s going on.  It freaks me out and excites me at the same time!! Just last weekend, we had Jessie Norriss here for a Colombian patacon and music fest with friends and neighbors, and my neighbor cornered me in the kitchen and said “I think I know Jessie but don’t know from where,” and it turns out that Jessie was a camper in my neighbor’s summer camp for many years, the same camp we sent Mateo to last year (Jessie would come up each summer from Austin to be with her grandfather in Newton). Crazy, right? Anyway, I helped Christian connect with my former boss, the woman who hired me in 2006 at EcoLogic, who was head of training in Peace Corps in Paraguay (now heads all of Peace Corps in Panama), but she didn’t have any way to influence the bureaucracy in the Peace Corps selection process. Then he and I corresponded a few times about options. He seems like a great guy. His mom is Colombian, so he must be wonderful ;)”

Interwoven connections. A lot like the image on my wedding ring:

endless knot.jpg


March 17 – St. Patrick’s Texas Barbecue in Russian Jewish Neighborhood

Sunrise/ Sunset:  6:53 / 6:52

Foo Song: Times Like These

Pushups: oops, I forgot today …

Sunrise Pic:

image (47).jpeg

Today had a a great ending. I got home pretty late on my bike after some spectacular thunderstorms had cleared, and the light was amazing. Here’s a shot captured by my brother-in-law, Alex:


When the setting sun’s light gets wedged in a layer of clouds, there’s less atmospheric scattering, and we get the full brilliance of the sun. It’s pretty awesome. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera or phone handy, and I had to race home. I even saw a rainbow behind Fort Hill (Roxbury). But it was pretty cool for St. Patty’s Day and the luck o’ the Irish, especially after a mentally exhausting day.

My work was intense today. I woke up early to prepare for a performance review / discussion of my role with my boss, and my mind was racing with thoughts about my work, my aspirations, and my critiques of my colleagues and organization. And relationships with colleagues. It’s been a long time – almost 12 years since interning – and so many ideas have been recycled in my mind, sometimes festering, sometimes finding an outlet, but going over old ideas sometimes feels like opening old wounds, often self-inflicted. I’m all for feedback and review, but something about the sessions I have always leave me feeling a little odd. I’m not quite sure why. But it’s best to let it settle in and try to focus on my work in a practical way, not always my strong suit. After nonstop meetings and preparing a presentation for our Board, it was showtime, with a Board meeting in the afternoon.

So when I got home, riding through that brilliant light, I was ready to let loose. Alana, Mateo, Nira, and I went for a run (I walked the dog, the kiddos jogged) up past the field by English High (America’s oldest public high school?) and over to the school’s track, where the kids did a couple of laps and asked for me to put them through the paces with jumping jacks and stuff. Coach Dad! Then we saw an Irish marching band rounding the corner by Doyle’s Pub, and Mateo, fast little runner that he is, raced over to the fence to watch them up close.

We finished up the night with an impulsive decision to go out together to dinner in Brookline (home of a mix of ethnic groups but well known for Russian Jews, especially in the particular neighborhood we visited) at a Texas BBQ place with a Brazilian waiter and a mix of country tunes and Celtic music for the evening’s occasion. So of course I got a margarita, Caro got a corona, and the kids had fun, between coloring and playing tic tac toe and observing the progressively more drunk people at the table next to us.

Topped off the evening by adding a photo to the Facebook nature photo challenge my dad got me into (today was day 3, and I put this pic up, from Sierra Nevada del Cocuy National Park in Colombia, which I took in August 2014):


Frailejones in the Paramo

Then I started looking for rentals in Austin, finding one that I reallllly like in Rosedale right next to this park, Ramsey Park: We’ll see, but I prioritize location over size and modern features any day:


Last but not least, I finished off the day watching the Daily Show, laughing with Trevor Noah ripping Mitch McConnell for his partisan idiocy surrounding Obama’s nomination to fill the vacancy left by Judge Sacalia, with a mild-mannered judge named Merrick Garland. In this season of political circus acts, we’ll see where this goes. But the Daily Show keeps me sane.

Definitely “times like these” help me learn to live again. And again and again.

March 6 – Notches & Courageous Texas Talk

Sunrise/ Sunset:  6:11 am/ 5:39pm

Foo Song: St. Cecilia (because it was recorded in Austin)

Pushups: 35

Sunrise Pic:


Backyard futbol monster

Today was a good, Texas-sized day. I started the day off with a great morning run in the Arboretum, with a small side trip to Harvest Co-op to snag ingredients for making a good pancake breakfast. Count this on the “stuff I’m really gonna miss from JP” list.

After chocolate chip, plain, and banana panqueques, I got some work done and house-related organizing and email, then played foursquare (actually three square) with goobers in the “backyard.” Gorgeous sunny 40-degree day that Mateo wanted to treat by wearing shorts and long socks. Goofball. We carried books up to small little free pop up library (another miss from JP list item), then came back and bought supplies, including Stubbs’ BBQ Sauce, for Lindsay’s house.

In morning, Caro said “I’m proud of us,” while I was making pancakes after running. That we finally took the leap. Yep, me too. Yesterday, when going through all those piles and notes, I realized we’d zeroed in on something we’ve wanted for a long time. No doubt we’ll miss a ton from JP (I will for sure), but we’ve been thinking about milder climates and different, active places for a while – San Francisco Bay Area / Santa Cruz, Boulder, Asheville, Greenfield/Brattleboro, Colombia – and we finally nailed it. Austin ain’t gonna be perfect. It’s going to take adjustments. The look and feel isn’t the same as JP. But it’s gonna be awesome.

Hadn’t seen my amiga Lindsay Sobel much except for chance run-ins here and there in JP at Halloween. Turns out she and her family are moving to Austin. And her daughter Zoe is a year ahead of Alana is school and just 6 months apart in age. She works as the ED of this impressive organization:  Her husband has given up a career as a lawyer in Boston to write and perform country / alt music. That’s courage. Wow. Do something that scares you every day. I’ve heard that said. He sure is living that now! Lindsay’s been in Boston since 1998, and Terry since about 2000, even longer than us, but both seem extraordinarily ready for the move.

Their daughter Beebee (spelling?) played with Mateo while Alana and Zoe made some fancy recipe (amazing brownies), while we shot the breeze about Austin and moving from Boston and our mutual interest in Son Volt, Wilco, etc. (at least me and Terry), plus Caro’s excitement about being with a team of teachers and having a trova bar to go see Latin American protest music (without her husband, who  has a strange habit of falling asleep in Silvio Rodriguez concerts)  – plus about a hundred or so amazing restaurants they’ve already been to, Hamilton Pool, the Greenbelt, wow. Really nice time sharing notes. So similar why we want to move, what we like about the place. Lindsay’s quote, “I think it’s going to feel like we’re on vacation every day.” Not sure that’s going to be 100% true, but I like it. That’s the lifestyle versus job attitude that pervades Austin and is pretty different than Boston, in general.

We ended the afternoon with a great performance by Terry of his song Notches, about moving and leaving an old house behind, but about how memories, and the notches that mark children’s height as they grow, are forever embedded in a place, how it’s impossible not to leave a piece of one’s heart behind. Gave me goosebumps.

Texas-sized goosebumps.


Dec 27 – Burned to a Crisp and Souping it Up in Tropical Sun

Sunrise/Sunset: 6:09 / 6:05

Foo Song: Saint Cecilia

Sunrise Pic:

image (46)

Sometimes I try to create extreme adventures. Other days I just roll with it and keep it simple, though I’m not naturally good at that approach. Parenting, however, has taught me both to mellow out and enjoy the simpler things in life and also to reconnect with my own roots and childhood experiences.

Today, all we did was go to a pool. Just as I did so much at the old Tuscawilla Country Club in Winter Springs, FL, back when diving boards were still permitted and Jimmy the short order cook begrudgingly dished up food to a bunch of smartass, ketchup packet-smashing goons like me and my amigos. Somehow, perhaps because swimming practice became more like a military drill and extra time in a pool seemed about as fun as a soup sandwich, recreational goofing off in pools lost its luster by the time I was in my early teens.

Here, at a Santiago de Cali city recreational facility (not a country club), I reconnected with my inner child. Today included five hours of tossing children in heavily chlorinated water, multiple (at least three, I swear!) generous applications of waterproof bay-butt protecting sunscreen, and a generous lunch (and making sure not to heed the old wives’ tale that you can’t swim right after eating a meal).  In fact, I gulped down five bowls of soup – sancocho (I love that stuff) and cazuela de pescado – fish stew) and plantains two different ways. Man I love the fresh food here.

So awesome playing in the sun, but ouchie on sunburnt skin later on. Tropical sun is picante and bravo (spicy and mad, or a I guess we’d say in Boston, mad spicy, or wicked spicy).

The evening was mostly at home, just watching tube, working on this blog, cleaning up digitally. Plus a brief outing to Cosmocentro to find aloe vera and take a short stop at Juan Valdez Cafe with my wifey. Amazing music was booming in the center of shopping mall. Everybody crowded around. Not some bland crappy production. Shopping is so different here. You don’t just go to get what you need, you take time and enjoy the people you’re with, spending a little extra in the process, but with the dollar so strong right now, I can afford the time and expense. Real genuine energy around.

Looking back, this was my first night of real digital overload since starting vacation, but I was not randomly surfing, and it was fine after such a long day of play and child tossing (and discovering soreness in small long neglected muscles). I was working with a purpose, dreaming of ways to make enough money and pull together all he ideas I have about Colombia and our future living in the US and Colombia. Now that Mateo has reached five years old, it seems easier and easier to live this way, stretching ourself between two places, two cultures, and two languages. Where it used to feel as if I had no home and no center, I am beginning to feel good just knowing that I, and my entire family, is mastering this international life, tied deeply to multiple places.




Dec 26 – Running Wild in Melendez and La Buitrera

Sunrise/ Sunset: 6:09 / 6:04

Foo Song: Iron Rooster (because I can only stand so much salsa!!!)

Sunrise pic:  image (52).jpeg

Awesome morning run with clear view of my favorite place on the planet, Farallones National Park. Can’t keep my eye off those mountains. First time it’s been genuinely safe to go there but no time to hike up there this time around 😦   Ran through Melendez at the far end of my out and back run. Just inspired to check out the old hood. Kept thinking this is the real Colombia for me, warts and all. Ran up a mini mountain on trail that kicked my rear end. Felt great but also bittersweet. Seeing old house in its condition now. Seeing mountain get literally eaten by housing development. Accelerated sprawl. Pretty uncontrolled. Just hurts. Almost as much as it hurt after 70 minutes of running and deciding to stop and walk the rest of the way home. Ouch.

Then we took an awesome little  trip up to old stomping grounds in La Buitrera. Thought a lot about my old dog Doah. Felt good to  be waiting outside the Carulla grocery store with kiddos, just like we used to do and from where we started our hitchhiking trip to San Agustin 18 years ago. Definitely feel rooted here. Like a Yarumo tree. I love Yarumos. My dad would definitely say, “you are a Yarumo face,” if he’d heard of a Yarumo back when I was growing up. (As it is, he stuck with calling us Mugwumps and Gorbachevs while throttling our shoulders and necks in a loving fit of harassment, and I guess that’s why I always mess with my kids about George Stephanopolous and Orville Redenbacher). Some things change a lot. Others not so much. I like that.

Anyway, back to the day’s events. When we got to La Buitrera, we were greeted by the best of Colombian hospitality, but in a different, non traditional way. Full buffet spread of healthy food and omelette. Thankfully, no pan de bonos.

Then we had a home-based “tattoo parlor,” where the kids got their arms painted with a home-mixed extract from the jagua fruit, from the rainforest tree Genipa americana. After the body art, we hacked around with bamboo sticks and hammocks, pet Gorky, an old chocolate lab doing his best to sprawl on the cool tile floor, and played several rounds of Uno while drinking good wine and pure lemonade. Then Mateo and his friend, Zoel, played soccer (with a neighbor’s kid named Sony – or Zony, or Zoni? – apparently named after a DVD player or Walkman …) until they were covered in dirt and about to drop from pure exhaustion.

The best way to explain the day is in pictures. Still need to get me an iPhone to take better pics, but these will do for now:




Dec 25 – Star Wars Snoopy Salsa Small World Christmas After All

Sunrise/Sunset:  6:08 / 6:04

Foo Song: DOA (Star Wars animation) here at this link 

Sunrise pic:

image (25)


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.

Dec 24 – Dreaming of a Cali-ente Xmas

Sunrise / Sunset: 6:08 / 6:03  (Hahaha, cheating time with a few extra hours of light!!)

Foo Song: All My Life, Salsa-ized Version: Watch it here. Es excelente!

Sunrise Pic:


Christmas in Cali is hot. Damn hot. Like upper 90’s hot and brilliant sunshine. But I’m not complaining. Plus, the 24th in Boston is apparently setting high temp records, too.  Today I slept in until 7:30 and then took Mateo out to the park down the street from my suegros’ (in-laws’) house in Cali’s Camino Real neighborhood. I wore my fancy new trail running shoes, and he wore high socks and cleats. That kid can chuck a football in full spiral really far. Good stuff.

Then I took off after a good breakfast of buñuelos, almojabanas, and a more diverse array of fruit on one plate than is possible to find in all of Boston. I walked alone down the street snapping a few pictures of life in Cali – funky street art, weird and bad taste, and depressing scenes.

When I’m in Cali, I feel untethered in a good way. My cell phone doesn’t work. I don’t run my life from my Gmail inbox, and I take crazy long naps. And Caro runs the show. I like it like that 🙂

After a good lunch of Chinese rice and homemade avocado-based hot sauce – kind of a watery super spicy guacamole that is actually awesome – I headed over to Palmetto Plaza with Alanita and Caro in search of our family tradition McDonald’s. We found Mickey D’s, and despite Alana’s protests (she’s been brainwashed into thinking fast food is evil, which it kind of is) to the contrary and appeals to Grandpa Reed’s past self, we got the grub, with a little McColombian flare:

This evening is a night of revelry, with sparklers, visits with family and friends. The emphasis isn’t on an endless stream of presents to open but on enjoying each others’ company. Sometimes it feels odd, as I don’t really get into the religious stuff at all, but the idea that it’s a shared cultural experience is pretty amazing. I do miss some of the cozy aspects of Xmas back home (not Xmas eve church candlelight Bible beating, though) and the adventure-seeking that comes from not having set norms to follow, where we’re like “let’s invent something to do” versus here in Cali where everyone follows a script that everyone understands – the definition of culture?

Most importantly, the fact that my kids are exposed to these differences and this tension, able to identify what they like better in each place, is pretty neat. And they can see this country in a way that so demystifies the Global South. They’d definitely read “Third World” and think it makes no sense, have a better sense about geography than 90% of well educated adults who always ask me if it’s Colombia’s winter in June (never winter here, as it’s right by the equator, not way far south just because it’s in South America – a distorted mental map many seem to have of the world), etc. And this all must go a long way to helping them consider other people, cultures, and races are not so very different from themselves… So, in a Christmas roasted nut shell (chestnut or otherwise), to paraphrase a popular credit card commercial from a few years ago, that’s priceless.