Chillin’ In Cali

Mentioned in this post
  1. Salento
    City in Colombia

    Salento Colombia
  2. Cali
    City in Colombia

    Cali Colombia
  3. Armenia (Colombia)
    City in Colombia

    Armenia Colombia
  4. Estadio Olímpico Pascual Guerrero
    Attraction in Cali Colombia

    Cali Colombia
  5. Club Campestre de Cali
    Attraction in Cali Colombia

    Cali Colombia
    (2) 3336000
  6. Solsticio
    Restaurant in Cali Colombia

    Cali Colombia
    3247459

Leaving Salento  for Cali involved another bus trip, and luckily this one was almost totally uneventful.  We did the return trip back to Armenia aboard another janky microbus that picked us up in Salento’s town square, and after arriving at the Armenia terminal were able to get seats on another (slightly less janky) bus to Cali that was leaving fairly quickly.  We were finally out of the mountains, so the 4-ish hour ride was pretty smooth.   After arriving at the bus terminal, we hopped a cab to Emily and Bry’s apartment.

So, Emily and Bry are an awesome couple from Toronto that Malia happened to meet on a bus ride in Laos back in 2008 (!!) and they did a little traveling together over there.  Due to the miracles of modern social media technology, she kept in touch with them over the years, and Malia introduced me to Emily when we were in Toronto for TBEX ’13 last summer.   Emily and her boyfriend Bry had both just secured contracts to become teachers at a school in Colombia and were heading out in just a few weeks.  Malia and I vowed we would come to visit, and (though E and B probably didn’t think we were serious) we kept that promise!

Our hosts in their futból finery, enjoying a pre-game snack (Photo Credit: Malia Yoshioka)
Our hosts in their futból finery, enjoying a pre-game snack (Photo Credit: Malia Yoshioka)

Our cab pulled up to the apartment building just minutes before E and B arrived home from their day at school, so the timing could not have been better!  They have a great place in a nice doorman building, it’s on a high floor (the featured image on this post is the view from their balcony) and (great for us) has plenty of room for guests!  We settled right in and it became clear right away (to me, anyway) that we were all going to get along great, despite having never really spent any time together before.

We enjoyed a night or two just chillin in the apartment, sports on TV and cold Club Colombia in hand (Photo Credit: Malia Yoshioka)
We enjoyed a night or two just chillin in the apartment, sports on TV and cold Club Colombia in hand (Photo Credit: Malia Yoshioka)

There’s not a ton to see and do in Cali, so Malia and I took advantage of the days when E and B were at school to catch up on things, me on this blog and Malia on her last remaining restaurant review contract holding over from Hawaii.  In the evenings though, E and B had planned some fun things outings, including buying tickets to a futból match between a couple of local professional teams, America v. Valledupar!

We were on Team America and went out to Estadio Olímpico to root for the home team! Needless to say, this wasn’t exactly the World Cup, but our seats were great and ulitmately, who needs a visible time clock or scoreboard anyway? E and B had (wisely) not purchased tickets in the mega-fan section, but rather in a section where we could watch the die-hards sing all their songs and perform all their rituals for ensuring victory.

Team America!
Team America!

The whole section remains standing through out the entire game and everyone appears to know all the songs and chants. (Any of you out there who’ve ever sat in the student section at Camp Randall will know exactly what I’m talking about). The cheerleaders seem to have missed the memo about team spirit, though. It was honestly one of the oddest things we had ever seen. They didn’t have a whole lot of pep to begin with, and about midway through the first half, they started sitting down to do their routines. That was already pretty strange, but then during the second half, they appeared to give up all together and started doing cheer routines lying flat on their backs! Completely bizarre, and excellent fodder for an inside joke that we could use for the rest of our visit!

Hanging at the game, watching the world's laziest cheerleaders (Photo/Collage Credit: Malia Yoshioka)
Hanging at the game, eating delicious salchipapas, and watching the world’s laziest cheerleaders (Photo/Collage Credit: Malia Yoshioka – check out the original @maliayoshioka on Insty to see the cheerleaders on video!)

We also adopted a favorite player, #20.  #20 was not a starter, but was on the sidelines the ENTIRE time, jogging in place, stretching, and leading the other back up players in warm up exercises. He was TOTALLY ready to go in and we started to feel bad for him as other starters were periodically substituted out while he remained on the sidelines, but he kept the dream alive! America ended up winning the match, 2-1, and good ol’ #20 got to play for a whole 5 minutes at the end 🙂

The next day, Malia and I were given a treat. The school where Emily and Bry work has an affiliation with Club Campestre de Cali, the swanky local country club, so we were able to score some guest passes and spend the day lounging poolside. We enjoyed a great lunch and some delicious fruity cocktails and had fun seeing how the other half live. After school got out, Emily and one of her fellow teachers came to meet us for a swim, and then we all got mani-pedis in the club salon. All around, a fantastic way to spend a day, and — thanks to E & B putting us up in their apartment during our visit to Cali — not a budget buster!

Living the good life
Living the good life

Later that night, we went out for a Pub Quiz at a local bar with a bunch of English-speaking expats. Those of you who know me well (or even really know me a little) are aware that I’m an absolute nut for trivia, so I was pretty excited about the whole endeavor. However, suffice it to say, our knowledge of Colombian current events and various other subjects on the agenda was…thin and our team was not in the top. Emily did manage to win a giant bottle of Absolut in the raffle though, so we still left winners!

I had a flight out of Cali on Sunday, which happened to be the day before my birthday, so Saturday night we all went out for a nice dinner to celebrate that, as well as to continue our ongoing celebration of E & B’s engagement.  After a quick stroll through Parque de los Gatos (not it’s official name, I don’t think), we went to eat at Solsticio.

There is a park full of cat sculptures.  I don't really understand it, but it's kind of fun anyway.
There is a park full of crazy cat sculptures. I don’t really understand it, but it’s fun anyway.

As it happens, Solsticio is also where Bry took Emily after he popped the question, so it is officially the “special occasions” restaurant of choice in Cali. The menu offers steak with about 12 different options for preparation, so we each got a different one and shared pieces of each around the table. A pitcher of sangria and some awesome calimari and bruschetta started things off, and, of course, my darling friends managed to arrange the obligatory “birthday candle in the dessert” to embarrass me at the end of the meal. It was an absolutely perfect night and I am lucky I got to celebrate with such awesome people.

Great food, great friends, great birthday!
Great food, great friends, great birthday!

 

Entirely too soon, I had to say goodbye to Cali and get ready to start my first Spanish immersion course in Lima, Peru. This is also the point where I had to bid farewell to Malia, my trusty traveling companion. She is going to do her own language studies and other traveling in Ecuador and we are going to meet up again in a month or two, perhaps for our trip to Argentinean wine country?  In any event, I headed out on my own and toward the next adventures that await!  Join me, won’t you?

Packed and ready for Peru!  Enjoyed one last Colombian sunset out the airplane window.
Packed and ready for Peru! Enjoyed one last Colombian sunset out the airplane window.

(Don’t forget to check out — and Like! — my Facebook page for full photo albums from every destination)

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