Friday, March 5, 2010

Being in the Present – Livin’ La Vida Colombiana

Being in the Present – Livin’ La Vida Colombiana

I’m here, I might as well embrace it. My friend Grace gently reminded me that life is short - live it now! In Buddhism, so much of what meditation trains the mind to do is to be in the present moment.

I realized that there were a few things I needed to do: talk to strangers and meet new people - check, talk to my boss - check, talk to Yoyi – gulp. He had apologized to me and we’d had space apart. After reading, meditating, and hearing what had been our song, now was the right time for us to reconcile. Astrologically, Mercury went direct in the middle of January, which means improved communication. The time was perfect for talking again.

When we spoke, I had forgotten just how easy it was to talk with him even though it’s all in Spanish. We agreed to meet that Sunday night because I had schoolwork to do all that day, and because I would soon be going to a family gathering in Florida. Seeing each other again was really wonderful. I felt like we could now more easily see each other for the people who we really are.

After two long days of school, regular planning, and making sub plans for the 8 days I’d be absent, I was exhausted. It was a Tuesday afternoon in the end of January, after teaching from 7:00 – 3:30, and I had agreed to meet Yoyi for a surf. I hadn’t been surfing since Panama, and I hadn’t been surfing in Colombia since December 2nd.

Saying goodbye to a sweet student, her nice mom offered me a ride. I told her I was going the opposite way, and she still gave me the lift. My student was petting her calm schnauzer in her lap, speaking with me in English, while the mom and I chatted away in Spanish.

The first glimpse of the water heading down to the Caribbean Sea always makes something stir inside my heart. I remember seeing this vista on my second day in Colombia and thought, “Wow! I’m going to have to come here often.” At this moment I was realizing just how long it had been since I been to Climandiaro, nearly 2 months. I smiled passing the familiar sights of coastal Colombia. It’s always summer here even in January.

Arriving at Yoyi’s cement house, with its white paint dirty from the bus exhaust, I was greeted with, “Amor!” and a hug. He had just gotten a very little puppy who he had named Spike. Reina, her feline majesty, was obviously disgusted with this tiny playful dog. She was bigger than him. Her look was as if she was saying, “How dare you make me share the house with this horrible canine!” They provided us with plenty of entertainment.



We went upstairs to the second floor verandah to check the ‘surf report’, meaning looking out at the waves from there. I collapsed into the hammock realizing just how exhausted I was. I noticed bougainvillea, loads of other planted flowers, and painted fish and parrots on the walls, and admired their simple beauty. Were they all here before? Somehow I hadn’t seen them. I am here now. Brightly painted buses were bustling by, filling the air with exhaust. A gecko made its unmistakable call and Yoyi and I shared a smile.

Yoyi and I gazed out at the waves while he embraced me from behind and kissed on the neck. After seeing his little brother arrive with the surfboards and a rapid Spaish conversation, Yoyi said “Ok amor, vamos a surfiar.” I went to change my clothes through the broken door into the surf museum that is his bedroom. We applied the coconut-scented wax to the boards and were off to surf.

We walked down the road past my graffiti to the beach. It was windy on the beach so Yoyi showed me how to carry the board so the fins cut through the wind. We passed the palm-thatched kioskos, boys and men playing soccer, makeshift restaurants that weren’t open, a feral beach puppy and its barking protective father, while the waves were rolling in like a carpet of slate blue. I was wearing a bikini, carrying a surfboard, and hearing the sound of the waves mixed with the cacophony of vallenato and reggatón. Walking past Aguila bottle caps, various plastic cups, and potato chip bags, it’s true it isn’t the most beautiful beach in the world, but this is where I am now, and I’m just taking it all in.

We were occasionally holding each other’s free hand. Arriving at the restaurant where we first met back in September, we stopped for a celebratory kiss in recognition for the time we’ve known each other. Nosotros brindamos. Jupiter had gone into Pisces, and it kind of felt like a hefty black veil had been lifted. It felt like new vision, and not seeing things for bad or good, but seeing things as they actually are. An outside observer might say that we appeared to be in love, but I think we were just living each present moment.

Very few people were on the beach, and surprisingly I recognized one as an extranjero taking pictures. Was he German? Yoyi was keen to show me the improvements that had taken place outside Hotel Prado Mar. I found it to be no coincidence that Climandiaro now has a Buddha statue and prayer flags. Yoyi knew I would like this a lot. He was correct.

Entering the sea with the sun setting and the gibbous moon rising in the sky, I felt extraordinarily lucky. It seems that no matter how often one goes surfing, it’s hard not to smile at the moment of putting on the leash and assessing the sea. You have to be in the present moment when surfing, it’s kind of the ultra meditation tool. The waves were coming in fast and the current was strong, but Yoyi and I laughed as we swam together. He said, “Las olas estan perfectas para ti.” I’d forgotten just how much fun it was to be with him. He coached me on which waves to take, and what to do when I caught one. He always cheers for me with genuine excitement when I do actually catch one.

"Vamos a surfiar, amor."

The ultimate antidote to hectic school days? Surfing. That’s it, I’m going to buy a board. I now realize that I do like the shorter boards in the 6 – 7 foot range, definitely not 5’5’’, but 6 foot 8 would be perfect. The way the current moved us, we surfed to the beach in front of his house. How convenient! Yoyi said this was my ‘secret spot’.

In his backyard we held the hose shower for each other while we rinsed off the saltwater. The hose water had been warmed by the sun. When closing my eyes, I could still see the waves approaching; this almost always happens when I’m in the sea and I’ll never tire of it. We giggled at hearing his little brother singing his heart out. My life here is all in Spanish with Yoyi, but he has tremendous patience with my trying to speak and my constant vocabulary questions. I appreciated the sweetness of being given a towel and gently patted dry. I had missed him.

His mom was making deditos, which are a phyllo or crescent roll dough wrapped around costeño cheese. I couldn’t understand every word she said to me, but I understood enough to know his mom was glad to see me. Something about my presence being a gift.

(A side note for the linguistically inclined: Sometimes, I think, in our efforts to be overly polite to someone we use vocabulary and verb tenses that are actually harder fro the non-native speaker to comprehend. Think about it, “It has been a pleasure to have made your acquaintance,” is probably incomprehensible to a non-native speaker who knows perfectly well what, “Nice to meet you,” means.)

The hot deditos fresh out of the oven had the succulent smell of baked bread. I almost burnt my mouth on the melted cheese inside the dough, but they were definitely the best deditos I’d eaten in Colombia. Being worn out from a long school day and surfing, my eyes bleary and red from the salt water, I was thrilled to have any food I didn’t have to make, especially when it was still warm from the oven.

After the deditos, we rushed out of his house to board the bus. It was dark now, and having Yoyi’s arm around me felt like protection. With the latin mix of music, bright colors, and fringy curtains of the buses here, I have told Yoyi that he would be bored with the buses in the US.

The bus to Barranquilla from Prado Mar

Getting off of the bus, I always enjoy having the ever-present hand to help me. As we began walking down Calle 100 towards my apartment Yoyi stopped me. He gave me a huge hug and kiss and told me that he had missed me so much. All I could think is that I am right here right now. I am in the present moment. I am Livin’ La Vida Colombiana. As the song says, “Yo no se mañana,” I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Right now I am here. What can I do but sigh?


  1. That is an absolutely beautiful, inspiring tale. I'm so glad you're enjoying your moments again E!

  2. Glorious! I'm playing with the idea of teaching in Venezuela...or some such place, in 2011. We'll see, I just recently decided to "live in the moment" here myself. I was way too worn down by the past and future. You are an inspiration! Take care and have fun!

  3. A nice reminder to enjoy this time while I have it. Mil gracias!
    -Marilyn (one of the 7 WorldTeach volunteers here in Barranquilla)