Escape the backpacker bubble

I walked out of a terrible dance club at two thirty in the morning.  It had not been a good night.  We drank for a while at the hostel with a bunch of backpackers who I had gotten to know over the previous few days.  Some of them were cool but some of them I was beginning to like less and less.

As a whole backpackers and travelers can be pretty interesting and cool people.  I have met some amazing people on this trip but there are some who just want to do the same things they do back home but for less money and in better weather.  And what most of them do back home is get obliterated every night.  After a rough night on the town many backpackers feel too awful the whole next day to do anything besides sleep and then have food delivered to the hostel.  Once they feel better they start drinking again and then call a cab so that they can avoid the incredibly pleasant ten minute walk to the bars.

I knew I needed a change when the taxis showed up and there were fifteen backpackers standing around and several people started shouting “Does anyone speak Spanish, the drivers can’t understand English!”  At that point I decided to take my basic Spanish and camino mi culo blanco al bar.  Phil and I checked out several places but eventually ended up meeting some people from the hostel at the loudest, most obnoxious club that I had been to on this trip.  We hung out for a few hours but around two thirty the little bit of fun that we were having had completely evaporated so we decided to leave.  We walked out onto the street and decided to turn left, away from the hostel and towards the park and the other bars.

Not going home was a great decision.  We walked a block up to Parque Lleras where there was a band playing in the park.  It was four guys, one was playing a drum, one was playing a metal guiro and one was playing an accordion.  They were all singing.  The music was some kind of enchanting Colombian folk song.  I turned to Phil.  His eyes were wide with excitement.  “Yeah, let’s hang out here.” I said.  I ran over to the only store that was still open and grabbed some local beers and a carne empanada.  Then I sprinted back to the park and sat on the concrete steps to watch the show.

It was a beautiful scene.  The park was brightly lit and the many trees cast intricate shadows in the warm yellow glow of the street lights.  There were several groups of Colombianos hanging out and enjoying the wonderful music.  Occasionally a couple would get up and dance to the music.  A sense of comfortable joy permeated the park.  It was an impromptu celebration of the night.  I sat on the concrete steps in what must have been the most comfortable ambiance in the world at that moment and ate my empanada and drank my beer.  A sense of pure contentment filled me as I tapped my feet and bobbed my head to the music.  Every few minutes I would turn to Phil or he would turn to me and say “How great is this?”  At one point a pair of white pigeons flew behind the band.  It was the kind of symbolism that if used in a movie would be cheesy and excessive but when it happened in real life I just had to accept and cherish it.  It was a lovely scene and a great moment and then it got better.

A Colombiana came up to us and asked Phil if he had a light.  She talked to us a little bit in pretty solid English and then said “I think you would have some fun if you come down and hang out with my friends.”  It was just incorrect enough to be authentic and endearing.

We walked a few steps down and joined a group of Colombianos sitting right in front of the band.  Most of them didn’t speak any English but they were all very friendly.  I spent about forty five minutes practicing my Spanish and learning about Colombia.  One question that they asked me was “Why are you here?”  On a night like that it seemed like a ridiculous thing to ask.  I tried to explain that I was travelling and that I wanted to see the world but the real answer that I should have given was “Right now this is the only place in the world I want to be.”

Around four in the morning the Colombianos told us that they had to go.  We said good bye and began to walk back to the hostel.  For the entire fifteen minute walk I shouted at Phil and mumbled to myself in Spanish.  At that point my Spanish was really flowing.  It was a lot of fun to see Phil’s reaction to the profound truths and wisdom I shouted at him in a language he didn’t understand.  He caught one word every few minutes but laughed at my passionate delivery.  I also continued to speak Spanish because it felt like the short beautiful experience would not end until I switched back to English.  Eventually we got back to the hostel, Phil tricked me into speaking English and I went to bed.

The night left me with many unanswered questions.  What kind of amazing music did we listen too?  Are all Colombianos that friendly and interesting?  How am I going to ever be able to leave this wonderful city?  But one question that I know the answer to is; where am I going to be tomorrow morning around three.

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