This time last week I was sat in Bogota airport feeling a bit sorry for myself and telling myself to be careful not to hope for too much in Medellín. I had heard a lot of good things about the city but after a cold, grey and quite lonely few days in Bogota, I didn’t want to be disappointed again.
The flight was brief – 27 minutes from take off to landing – but the difference between the two cities is vast. As my cab pulled out of the airport and onto the winding roads of Antioquia, I sat back in my seat and felt the sun on my face and the oxygen in my lungs (Medellin is at a lower altitude than Bogota) and was revived. The taxi wound its way leisurely up and around the mountains. Everywhere was lush and green and tranquilo. About half an hour into the journey up, we took a bend in the road and all of a sudden there was Medellin laid out beneath us – a sprawling city basking in the warmth of a valley. That evening I sat out on the terrace of my hostel with my book and felt like my trip had truly begun.
This week has been a whirlwind of getting to know the city, or a small corner of it. Technically, I am staying just outside of Medellin. The apartment that I’ve moved into and my Spanish school is in a neighbourhood called Envigado. It’s safe to walk around at any time of day or night and filled with people going about their ordinary lives. There are bars and restaurants of every type, their fronts strung with fairy lights and open to the warm evenings.
What else do I like about it here? The weather is clearly a plus. Not ever worrying about taking a jumper when I leave my apartment. Having all the doors and windows open. The inexplicable fish mural dominating the main room of my apartment. Huge flashes of white light that fill the night sky without warning, bone-rumbling thunder and torrential rain that clears the air. Walking around and feeling safe. Never paying more than £3.50 for an uber. The incredible variety of food available in the fairy lit restaurants that line the street. Juicy hamburgers, pizzas, tacos, noodles, vegetables. Not a potato soup in sight. The views of the mountains. Old people dancing.
What don’t I like? Aguardiente – Colombia’s answer to Sambuca – seems to be compulsory at every social occasion and leads to nothing but a hellish guayabo every time.
Language lessons have been a large focus of my time here. My Spanish is grindingly slow. I’m still not used to having to think so hard to say the simplest of things. If anything though, I’m already a lot more comfortable with the thought of Spanish conversation. Before this week, I was terrified of initiating a conversation in Spanish because I knew I’d be met with a rapid torrent of unintelligible sounds. That still happens, of course, but it doesn’t send me into wild panic. I can ask what certain words mean, I can start to form a response. And if all else fails, I can resort to elaborate mime.
I had originally planned to spend a month here before heading on my travels, but I can’t really imagine leaving this city in just three week’s time. I may have to do some reshuffling of my plans…