Medellin wrap up:                         thoughts on month 3
View from my bedroom

This was the first month that I really didn’t want to leave at the end of the month. Despite the humidity, the bugs (I was absolutely eaten alive), and the hills (brutal), I really loved our month in Medellin. To be honest, I wasn’t THAT excited about it before I left the US – I’d been to Colombia several years ago, and while I loved my time there, I wasn’t feeling an immediate draw to come back. But Medellin absolutely stole my heart.

First, the city is indescribably beautiful. The most prominent memory from this month was watching the sunset from the balcony of one of the apartments and we all sort of had the same thought at the same time: “Is this real life? We are so lucky to live here.” Some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen were behind the mountains of Medellin. It’s so lush and tropical there, and the mountains and neighborhoods built into the hills really make for stunning views.

Sunset watching from one of the Origami apartments in Medellin

Second, the people in Colombia continue to astound me. They are so warm, welcoming, hospitable, and inquisitive. This city has seen incredible tragedy in recent memory, and yet, their story is one of triumph. This city, once ranked among the most dangerous of the world, is one where I’ve felt safest. It’s worth making a side note here about Medellin’s tragic past, and the man who is most closely tied to it. As I mentioned here, in Colombia, and particularly Medellin, it’s not appropriate to discuss or otherwise glorify Pablo Escobar. This city’s story is one of transformation, innovation, and the future – not the past. But I couldn’t help but be amazed at how far they have come in such a short amount of time.

Santo Domingo neighborhood

Third, I loved our city team. Ana was such an incredibly valuable resource for us all month – she booked doctors appointments, hair appointments, massages, tours, birthday party reservations, and more. She opened her home, her family, and her friends to us. She organized a fantastic track event in which we were fed the most amazing home cooked Colombian food and welcomed yet again into the homes of locals. Remote Year hasn’t always had city teams, but I think it’s one of the most valuable parts of the program because they make such a difference in our experience when they are really good.

Rainbows in Guatape

Fourth, Medellin had some amazing food. In particular, I could eat at Criminal Tacos every day. There also was a place across from the workspace that literally may have had the best potatoes I’ve ever had in my life.  Medellin was missing wine though – it was tough to find decent wine in the stores, and even tougher to find wine bars or restaurants with a decent wine list.

Other things to note: the city was clean and felt safe. There were a lot of police everywhere, and I think Colombia is really trying to distance themselves from their “dangerous” reputation so you’re pretty safe there. It was also super nice to be able to flush toilet paper again (at least in our apartments) – what a thing to take for granted. I did find it incredibly difficult to find anyone to highlight my blonde hair, and ultimately decided to wait until Mexico to get it done.

On a personal note, I had a bit of a tough time this month. I felt disconnected from a lot of things this month, probably partially in part due to spending very little time in the workspace (too far away) and partially just due to the fact that everyone simply has their dips. I heard someone say recently “there’s a difference between being invited and included,” and I was feeling neither.  I also felt like a lot of our group was gone this month on various side trips so I didn’t see as much of everyone as I did the previous two months. It was just a bit of an off month, and maybe subconsciously I didn’t want to leave on that note.

Cliffside stop on the Chiva bus

I also had a birthday in Medellin, which turned out to be a crazy week with 5 people having birthdays all within a one week period. Shoutout to my roomies Alex and Nandita (and Erik) for braving the pouring rain to take me for midnight bday drinks to ring in my birthday, and to Harry and Sarah for making sure I had a great group celebration at a posh rooftop overlooking the city.

Overall, while I was excited for Mexico City, I had a hard time leaving Medellin. It’s a place I can definitely see myself returning to, and I was sad to see our time there come to an end. It’s the kind of place that makes you think often about how lucky you are to be there, and the kind of place that looks like a postcard everywhere you look. If you haven’t been, and particularly if you haven’t been to Colombia at all yet, I’d challenge you to go. Go find out for yourself what it’s like, and how it differs from the image you likely have in your head of it. Medellin was a wonderful place to spend a month, and I’d love for you all to experience it as well!

Memories

  • Drinks the night we arrived: we got to our apartments pretty late that night and wandered out around 1:30am to find some beers. It was a fun introduction to Medellin with a local gifting me a friendship bracelet.
  • Sunset watching from Alyssa/Sarah A/Mollie’s balcony: I talked about this above, but it was a such a surreal moment. Is this real life?
  • Jefferson dinner: really cool to create a space for people to be vulnerable, and talk about things that shaped them into who they are today. Looking forward to doing more of these.
  • Guatape meals: this was literally some of the best food I’ve ever had. We had locals make us this amazing meal at a Finca on the Guatape track, which also happened to be my favorite track event to date.
  • Outdoor gyms: there are several park areas with gym equipment in them, and you can always find locals there at all hours of the day and night getting their swole on. I wanted to get a pic of this, but they all watched you everytime you walked by so there was no way to capture it discreetly.
  • DVD stores: why do these still exist here?
  • Huge malls: Paisas (people from Medellin) love their malls, and nearly every one is absolutely gigantic. I avoided these for the most part, as they were an unnecessary temptation with my lack of suitcase space, but I did venture to one to find some English books.
  • Police riding on the back of motorcycles: there were police EVERYWHERE in our neighborhood, so it felt very safe, but we always got a bit of a chuckle seeing two badass police officers riding together on a tiny motorcycle.
  • Cutting my foot at the Finca for our farewell party: a less fun memory, but a memory nonetheless.
  • Gaby surprising us for a quick visit on her way home from vacation
  • Massages: Colombia had a very distinct style of massage, which seemed to be more about “touch” and less about “working out knots.” They also focused on areas not typically focused on in the US (i.e. stomach, inner thighs, chest, armpits, etc). It wasn’t bad, but it was different.

Recommendations:

  • Tabun: Middle Eastern food, tons of food, all delicious
  • Criminal: Literally the best tacos I’ve ever had.
  • Gin Palace: A must visit if you like gin, and even if you don’t. Drinks came in bathtubs, birdcages, and other fun things
  • Chiva bus: the first time I did one of these was on my first visit to Colombia a few years ago. This one didn’t disappoint. Basically, the bus drives around while you drink and listen to music all night.
  • Mad Radio: a nice, relaxed lounge type bar with good music and decent drinks
  • Gondola to Parque Arvi: Great views of the city
  • Tejo: this is a national sport in Colombia and basically involves throwing rocks at gunpowder filled packets, and it’s a ton of fun.