What do you think when you think of Columbia?

  1. I had one Luna bar for emergencies and I ate it my first day here because it was an emergency. I was hungry after dinner.
  2. I read Poets and Writers on the way here and I thought about being in exile. If I ever go into exile, I’m thinking France or Costa Rica. Not Columbia.  Greece would be good. Or Italy.
  3. On the flight from Bogota to Monteria, I watched the movie Lucy which was kind of cool. Scarlett Johansen being all ninja and righteous like the Matrix meets Robocop meets all the Terminator movies.
  4. We went through a thunderstorm and there was a lot of lighting and the plane was tossing all over the place like a kite in the wind. I threw myself into the arms of the woman next to me, a poet from Argentina.  She was nice and understanding and I don’t think I tore her shirt.
  5. When we finally landed, we just stopped on the runway, everyone deplaned by stairs and then walked to the airport. It was very hot and I wished I were not wearing tights.
  6. It is hot and muggy like Hawaii but with no breeze.
  7. In the parking lot, I was shaking with hunger and fatigue.
  8. There was a long wait, a reporter was interviewing the poets.
  9. Everyone speaks Spanish very quickly and with an accent, I am lost half the time.
  10. We gave up our bags to a guy with a pickup who brought them to our hotel.
  11. In Central America, Mark and I stayed in a lot of hotels like this.
  12. It’s a noisy part out of town and you can’t go out at night.
  13. They gave us rice and beer and a banana for dinner. The rice was good.
  14. I like visiting Third World countries with Mark because then we’re always having a good time.
  15. It’s very hard to be in a country where you don’t know anyone and everyone speaks another language. At dinner, everyone talked all the time, at the same time, it was dizzying.
  16. Activities are planned for us Wednesday-Saturday. There are poets from Spain, Cuba, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Colombia.  I am the American.  “How old are you, California?” one poet asks me in Spanish and I tell her.  She nods.  “California,” she says as if that explains everything about me.  I’m not sure what this means.
  17. Sunday I take a plane home.
  18. The showers are cold.
  19. Americans are spoiled.
  20. I’m spoiled. When I wake up, there will be four more nights before I go home.

Day 2

Breakfast—scrambled eggs and bread.

Lunch rice with meat balls so I had rice but then someone got a huge avocado and gave me a delicious slice.

Hot sauce is not used here.

So far we have been interviewed by the newspaper and by every television show and radio station in the area.  Just like in the U.S., the media shows up for poets. Kidding.  I have been “California,” so far, every poet is from a Spanish speaking country except me until we were reading poems, and then I read “The House that Jack Built,” in English and the everyone cheered. After that, they all talked to me.  I can understand if they don’t speak too quickly and all at once.

On television they all asked where I was from and about my experience writing poetry.

One asked what I think about people coming across the border illegally into the U.S. and what do Americans think.  I hesitated and then said that I feel it is important for people to move toward safety and work for their families and that I have written poetry about this.

One asked what Americans think when they think of Columbia.  The idea that many Americans think Columbian drug lord was clearly not the right answer.

I said, We think of Columbia as a beautiful country where one could have many exciting adventures.  That seemed to please them.

I’m off for some more of those adventures.

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Published in: on November 5, 2014 at 12:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

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