While I was back in Canada for the holidays, a number of friends asked why I’d stopped blogging. The simple answer would be that life got in the way, that I wanted to focus on writing fiction which already soaked up most of my free time. Of course, answers like this are never that simple. Admittedly, part of me disliked the possibility of classmates, instructors, or potential freelance clients reading my blog and using it to judge my writing abilities. While I try to avoid posts that are utterly illegible, I wouldn’t call my itinerant ramblings an ideal sample of my work. On top of that, I realized that a successful blog requires a ridiculous amount of time and self-promotion. I regularly feel guilty publishing my blog posts on my own Facebook profile, so how could I ever expect to expand my reach beyond a contained circle of family and friends? However, the truth is that I miss blogging. Nobody expects Pulitzer-quality craftsmanship on packing strategies for backpackers, and I don’t know 3/4 of the people who read my blog posts. As for the time issue, that’s a poor excuse for anything. The amount of time I waste getting sucked into click-baited videos and articles each day would be more than enough to write a post of my own. More than anything, I came to the conclusion that I’d lost a bit of my identity in the past year. I became so focused on school and supplementing my studies with as much work as I could handle, that I slowly loosened my grip on the other important things in my life.
After almost a year away, I’m finally back home in Edmonton, Canada. That means I’m back at my favourite watering hole – On the Rocks — where I used to go for weekly Latin nights. I used to live for salsa Thursdays.
As much as salsa dominated my life before I left, it also shaped my South America trip. Upon my arrival in each new place, I would search online for the city’s hottest salsa spots and dance schools. Most of the close friends I made, I met at salsa events, and I coordinated my trip around a couple of international salsa congresses (in Lima and Quito).
Now that I’m home, Edmonton salsa nights have taken on a new meaning. Last week, the D.J. was playing Colombian salsa songs to which I had danced only days before in the streets during the Feria de Cali. That same night, I met people from countries that I had visited, and was able to chat with them in Spanish about the neighbourhoods that they had grown up in. I recognize more songs now, and connect better with the music. Many of the songs are by bands that I’ve seen live. Others remind me of dances or moments that I shared with people from all across Latin America.
One of the most significant consequences of my salsa-driven trip is that it’s motivated me. I met, took classes, and danced with salseros and bachateros of an incredible caliber. They introduced me to new styles and types of dance (like forro, samba de gafieira, vallenato, tango, salsa caleña, huayno, etc.), and encouraged a higher level of discipline in training. I know I will never be a professional dancer, but everything and everyone that I’ve encountered in the dance world over the past year has inspired me to try to take my dancing to the next level.
A few days late… but I haven’t had internet access for the last week.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve had the privilege of attending three different festivals: the Cali Feria, the Ipiales Carnaval, and the Negros y Blancos (Blacks and Whites) Pasto Carnaval. I’ve seen five multi-hour parades, and close to 20 live bands. This girl was one of the thousands of participants in the “Cali Viejo” (Old Cali) parade I caught just after Christmas.
While the dancing and music at all of these events has been fabulous, what has most captured my attention about them has been the rainbow of bright colours that worked its way into every float and costume. From neon green to fuchsia, Colombians wear all sorts of colours that I rarely see at home. Maybe it’s the climate, or maybe it’s their darker skin that makes the difference, but even in their day to day routines, they pull it off spectacularly.
Besides colour, the other thing I’ve appreciated about the costumes has been their connection to Colombian history, ethnic groups, and traditions. After a few weeks in Medellin (a modern, “Americanized” city), it was refreshing to finally see a desire to preserve Colombian culture amongst the younger generations. While some costumes in the festivals showed different indigenous groups, others, (such as the one pictured here), acted as a nod towards Colombian food and resources. This girl is wearing a pile of coconuts as a hat, but I also saw people dressed as sugarcane products, exotic fruits, and baked goods. All in all, these costumes have given me a fuller understanding of Colombian culture as seen through the eyes of the locals.
If you’re ever in Colombia around the end of December or the beginning of January, I urge you to attend one of these festivals! (Another option is the Feria de Manizales, which runs the first week in January.)
This is my last Photo Friday post from South America (for now). This coming Friday, I’ll be writing to you from back home in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada!