Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'm Feelin' Hot Hot Hot!

This past weekend we finally had our first three-day weekend of the school year. I believe this is the longest stretch we need to endure without a tiny break; glad that it is behind us!

My friend Tina and I took two of the new import teachers, Carrie and Tara, on a short little road trip to show them how the insanity of the bus station works and how the general concept of reservations is irrelevant most of the time. After all the weeks without a break from the students we all agreed some rest and relaxation was in order so we headed for the tiny hamlet of Santa Rosa de Cabal in the coffee-growing region about four hours north of Cali.

Santa Rosa is great because it is quaint, up in the mountains so that the temperature is comfortable sweater-weather but not snowing cold (not ready for that yet!), and near a bunch of thermal hot springs. All perfect for a weekend of decompressing!

We arrived in the mid-afternoon on Saturday and found a hotel near the town square. Normally, this would have been fine, except the town was having their 164th Anniversary celebration so when the revelers were leaving the party at all hours of the night, roughly one fourth of them staggered past our street-side room. Tina and I scouted out other lodgings the next morning and found a colonial-looking one near the edge of town owned by a nice couple who spoke English and had lived a time in Miami. (If you should end up in Santa Rosa, stay at the Hotel Cohiba - that's my plug.) He was from Cuba originally and was nice enough to drive us to the very best thermal hot springs in the area and pick us up when we were good and relaxed. That's hotel service if you ask me!

They had a great backyard with a high stone wall, chickens, a rooster that is lucky to be alive after waking us up much too early the next morning, and a nice little green parrot named Pacho who asked "¿quiero cacao?" Perhaps the Colombian version of "Polly wanna cracker?" Cocoa is a much better request than a cracker if you ask me; I think these Spanish-speaking birds are on the right track. He was my favorite, obviously.

The springs were amazing. We could tell we were getting closer as we drove, not only because of the increase in other weekending Colombians and the smell of sulfur, but because of the steam rising from the green leafy mountain ridges. There were several waterfalls at the site of the thermal springs, some fresh and freezing from streams higher up and others boiling hot originating from deep underground. As the pools got more crowded and the day progressed, we took the opportunity to get a massage at the on-site spa. I've never had a professional massage before but I could get used to this luxury! The best (and most surprising) part was when my masseuse began digging into my gluteus muscle. I could go for just one of those next time; its like walking on air afterwards!

That night we partied with the locals in the main central park and ate the regionally famous chorizo sausage among other meat products. It really is impossible to be a vegetarian in this country. I don't think anyone would laugh at you, you'd just end up starving after all the mangos, pineapples, oranges, avocados, and cilantro have bored your stomach to tears.

Things that will continue to amaze me about living here: grocery store "hoes." These are the girls that certain brands pay to stand all day in grocery store aisles and pimp their product while wearing apparel usually reserved for "women of the night." Well, the grocery store off of Santa Rosa's town square had girls serving customers shots of whiskey as they came in and out of the store. Classy, no? Only in Colombia...


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