Bogota and Beyond

Bogota and Beyond

A tale of a few cities.

When I made plans to visit Colombia (the country), and Seattle, Washington, within months of each other, I thought I knew what I'd write about: coffee. What could be more obvious? The country that grows the beans, and the city that made them a star. But it didn't quite unfold that way.

I was invited out to Seattle to attend my cousin's wedding, and I made a point to taste the best (and any other) coffee while I was out there. Turns out, the finest caffeinated experience that I had out there was at Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. in Olympia, Washington. In fact, for all of its grit, Olympia was my favorite stop on my entire trip. I liked it better than Seattle, even better than Portland, Oregon, with its aloofly smirking citizens and ever-drying lawns.

The Olympia experience was probably the best because we were only there for one night, and we stayed with locals who happened to be beyond cool. One of them was this beautiful woman who was dating our friend - she was like: "Tomorrow, we'll go get coffee; then I'll take you to this thrift shop where you can get your cards read. Then we'll get tacos."

She basically described my perfect day.

And it was - it was magical. The card reading was a little dark, but I had a perfect cappuccino, found two amazing tops, and had some awesome West Coast tacos. So I liked Olympia.

Seattle is a beautiful city - the moment that stood out to me the most was when we walked by a man who was playing a (small) piano on the sidewalk, and a passerby asked him something about how he's going to get his heart back into his chest. Because he was playing so soulfully.

There was that moment, and the moment I bit into a piroshky filled with smoked salmon. That was amazing. I think what made it taste so good was the fact that I had to share it with my family members. I was left wanting more, kind of like my experience in Olympia, and my time in Colombia.

My friend Annie had been in Colombia all summer, doing some work-study-project-whatever-she-got-to-spend-a-summer-in-Colombia thing. When she was done with that, we met in Cartagena, where people like to go on vacation, but we spent most of our time there on this small island off the coast that seemed mostly forgotten by humanity. We stayed at a "hotel," at which, I believe, we were the only guests, and felt like family with the owners by the time we left.

We then flew to Bogota to meet our friend Kerry. (Well, we did spend a night at Tayrona National Park, but that's another story for another time. There were a couple of nights at a hostel - Annie went half-blind, fell in love; I bled everywhere... really: another story.)

So we met Kerry in Bogota. Bogota was great - it's eternally autumn there, minus the changing leaves. I think I had altitude sickness the whole time, but Annie was donning an eye patch, so her troubles trumped mine. Kerry, as always, was a good sport, and we lived like kings because the exchange rate was a our best friend.

But the whole time, something was taunting us: Medellin. Before we left for Bogota, everywhere we went, no matter who we met, they would say the same thing: "Why are you going there? You should go to Medellin!" But we had already purchased our tickets. We were going to Bogota.

Maybe it's just that - if you're anything like me - when you travel, you're already fantasizing about the next place you want to go. It's like planning dinner while you're eating lunch. It's the American Way. The wanting of something more. I go to these places so I can feel a part of another culture, but the greed is ingrained in me. Next time I travel (in a week and a day, to Ceret, France), I will do it like it's my last trip on Earth. Looking back on Bogota, I wouldn't have traded it for anything, for any Medellin.

And the coffee was pretty good.

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