Since we're all under lockdown, I might as well travel in my imagination. Before this global health crisis struck, we had plans to travel to Colombia for a few weeks (which is where I'll take you with me, today, virtually :)
One of the minor miracles in Colombia is their flowers. Chances are the flowers that you’ve purchased, for Mother’s Day or Valentine’s, were imported from there! And, it’s not just the remarkable variety, but their art of arrangement that is awe-inspiring.
There is a Zen proverb that suggests that the stranger of flowers also arranges our mind and mood.
Below, are some truly creative arrangements —in the shape of moving waterfalls, graceful women and giant bees— from a day trip we took to the Botanical Gardens in Medellin, Colombia. I hope that they might brighten your time indoors & uplift your spirits.
This one, above, was actually composed by a family friend who joined us on this outing.
The work of art, below, is my favorite arrangement; and an enlarged, framed picture of it hangs in our patio in Maryland.
But, Botanical Gardens, aside,
The pride and joy of Medellín, Colombia is their Feria de las Flores, an annual flower festival that first took place on May 1, 1957.
The sumptuous parade, which features Colombians carrying on their backs elaborate (and very heavy) flower arrangements represents the end of slavery, when slaves carried men and women on their backs up steep hills.
Feast your eyes on these bouqueuquets! 💐
This is not a flower arrangement, but still 👇🏼ttt still 👇🏼
Back at the farm, spending some time with this beauty...
Medellin, where my wife’s family is from in Colombia, is known as The City of Eternal Spring:
Born and raised in Egypt, the tropics is, probably, the polar opposite of my dry, desert experience.
Here, in this lush land with its ambitious soil, it seems that the volume of life is turned up a few notches: fruits are like flowers, flowers are like trees, and frogs... the size of small chickens!
Not neglecting to mention, of course, their justly-famous coffee. Below, are a few pictures from a field trip to Eje Cafetero — the coffee zone where The Bean, pride & joy of Colombia, is grown :)
Traveling through Colombia in the coffee district, where their world-famous beans are grown and brewed, we stopped to use the bathroom. Instead of male & female symbols on the doors, this is how they were identified:
The coffee shop owner told us some customers had found this joke sexist and tasteless, but our mixed group found it amusing.
Below, are a few more pictures from our day trip to learn about how coffee is harvested and made:
And this is our view from the farm where we spent the night with some friends:
Typical Colombian dish (lunch or dinner) made of rice, beans, pulverized meat & plantanes.
My favorite exotic fruit:
My animal-loving niece makes new friends:
Finally, my wife and the family that helps us out with the farm:
These liple celebrate every chance they get — salsa music is never far and if you’re invited to one of their ‘fincas’ you’re lucky to be invited oin offered a glass or two of the lo’re bound to be offnown as fire water
It’s a real pity that negative news travels first and fast, with unfortunate stereotypes overshadowing the richness of this culture.
I will say that, over time, all the facile jokes regarding Colombia, about drugs and violence has begun to pain me—since I've seen, first hand, how much this place has to offer, and how this perception shortchanges both the people and culture.
I might also add, I’ve been to Colombia for (extended) visits 12 or more times in the past dozen years, always without incident.
My 1st trip, over a decade ago, I was fortunate to attend a city-wide poetry festival.
What impressed me was not only the massive turnout (larger than any I'd see elsewhere) but also how poetry belonged to the people - not just the academy or special few.
Subsequent trips I was marked by how well they knew how to live, fully & share what they have (little or much).
Parallels to my (Egyptian) culture began to emerge: they love to eat, dance and family is paramount.
Even by night, Colombia has its secret charms. Here’s a short poem I wrote:
*Here, in Medellin, what night lights--
like a resplendent necklace, glittering
against the bare throat of the mountains*
*Softly, coming in and out of focus
as though the mountains were breathing
between sharing a tender memory
of the city, with the valley and themselves.*
Thank you, for joining me on this virtual tour. (I said I'd return for another post, @invisusmundi, but I didn't realize the quarantine would last this long!) If anyone is curious to learn more about what Colombia has to offer, don’t just take my word for it, check out this video and see why it is referred to as Heaven on Earth
To share your love for your hometown, see contest guidelines, here and submit your entry before the 13th of May. Good Luck!