I get a lot of crap from one of my co-trainees about how every time I’m asked where I’m from, I answer differently. Half the time I answer Wisconsin, the other time I say Minnesota. This co-trainee found out that I was born in South Dakota and actually lived there longer than either WI or MN and said that’s what I should claim. Regardless, in each place, there was always a lake nearby. In South Dakota, the lakes were in the Black Hills, which just made them 100 times better. In Wisconsin, I lived within a mile away of Devil’s Lake, a small but beautiful and hallowed place to me. In Minnesota, I lived in the City of Lakes and spent a lot of time walking, reading, and biking by the lakes and the Missippi River. I love having water nearby. It gives me a sense of revitalization. That makes sense, given that it’s a symbol for purification.
Living in this super hot region that is going through a drought makes me yearn for water even more, and each weekend I jump at the chance to get to the water. Here are a few of the ways one can see the water in this drought-filled coastal region.
In the neighboring town, there is a gated community and country club (minus the golf). If you live there or have a membership, you can enter and have access to a fitness center, a soccer field (with grass!), a sand volleyball court, a tennis court, massages (which I need to look into), and a pool complete with a swim-up bar. One of our group members’ families have a membership, so we checked it out the first week. We had to stop at the guard station and the guard carefully reviewed all of our names and eyed us up. Now I’m buddies with one of the bartenders, so we’re hoping to get in easily again in the future.
We are in the Caribbean coastal region of Colombia, so there are beaches within a bus ride’s distance. The best beaches are a bit of a hike. A few weekends ago, a few of us opted for Santa Veronica, which is one of the closer nice beaches. It was about a 2 hour trip (an hour north to Barranquilla, and then an hour west to Santa Veronica). As soon as we got off the bus, there were a couple of men vying for our attention. These men owned nearby homes and managed the beachfront properties where we could take shelter under a palm roof, sit around a table or lay in the hammocks, and order beer and lunch. The beach was clean, though the water wasn’t necessarily clear. Santa Marta, which is about a 3 hour bus ride away, reportedly has some of the cleanest beaches with the clearest water in the area, alongside the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Supposedly my community has a pool, although I have never seen it and have no idea where it is. However, for our Valentine’s Day party a few weeks ago (yes, the one I took the cake to), we went to a pool in another municipality where our group has trainees. There was a shallow wading pool, and a larger, deeper (although never more than 5′) pool. There was also a large area for eating and drinking beer out of one of those beer rocket things. Most of the adults that were there were just eating and drinking while their children swam. By the time we left (around 4pm), a large group had gathered, as is evidence by the large number of motos that were parked inside the entrance.
Outside of many of our communities are fincas (farms) which, besides having actual farm-things happening, have pools, hammocks, beer, and kitchens. The finca we had been intending to go to was closed the day we went, because it was over Carnaval weekend. It had multiple pools and a waterfall and from the closed gate where we peered in longingly, looked lovely. However, we found an open finca with a pool and beer (which were our 2 real requisites) just a couple minutes down the road. After we’d been there a bit, the owner came around and asked if anyone wanted any asada, grilled meat. I turned it down, but once it started cooking was regretting my choice. Everyone that partook had to put up with my drooling over their perfect-smelling meat and even their bollo de yuca.
My training site is just 15 minutes off the Magdalena River, the principal river of Colombia. It flows about 949 miles northward in the eastern portion of the country. Of the bodies of water that I’ve mentioned in this post, this one has been most impacted by the droughts, as have the economies surrounding the water source. To be honest, though, I haven’t seen this river by my site. I’ve only visited it in Barranquilla, on the Avenida del Río, where there’s a newer tourist attraction which includes some very nice shelters and pretty benches along the river. Here it reminded me a bit of the Mississippi in Minneapolis – wide and muddy, and there was even a strong breeze that cooled us.
The biggest thing I’ve noticed at each of these places is that adults don’t swim much. And women don’t seem to take off their coverups. I would hypothesize that this is skin protecting, since women otherwise generally wear tight clothes that reveal their shape, but I don’t actually know the reason yet. What this means for me is that wherever I go to swim, I’m a double-rarity: not only am I that blonde gringa, I’m that blonde gringa doing something strange.