What do fashion models, children living in poverty, river bathing, and getting body-checked have in common? They were all part of my abnormally entertaining weekend!
Starting Saturday, my roommate, Nira, and I went to an event to benefit CreeSer, a foundation aimed to help children living in areas of Cali below the poverty line with schooling and getting a good diet. It was started by a recent graduate of Colegio Bolívar, Mariana Cobo, who now attends the University of Virginia and continues her work with the organization from afar.
The event turned out to be a fashion show with collections from three Colombian designers: Hugo Puentes, Lulu Borrero, and Jhon Mesias. I've never been to a runway show before, so I didn't what to expect, other than the fact that Tyra Banks would be judging the models afterward and one of them would "no longer be in the running for America's Next Top Model." What I did not expect was to see some of my current and former students in the show! Sitting there on the side of the catwalk looking down it's length, the first one emerged from behind the wall and I thought, "Wow, that looks a lot like...is it?...it is!!!" Fortunately, none of them were hired to model the barely-there "beach-wear." Some of them were really nervous but no one fell and they all looked great! Also, note to self, everyone looks taller on a runway.
On Sunday, in the wee hours of the morning (try 3:30am) I got a cab and headed to the house of my friend and counselor at school, Adriana, to head to the small city of Pereira to run a 1/2 Marathon with her brother and a few students. Two of the students, Camilo and Juan Sebastian, both seniors, were already in Pereira. The other two, Diana and Manuela, both juniors, rode from Cali with us. I ran the full marathon in Calima with Adriana and the boys back in October, but this was the first road race for the girls who are basketball and soccer players, respectively. Oh, and there were the three body guards too; one was driving our car and the other two followed in another.
The course was all through the city, across the famous Viaducto César Gaviria Trujillo (the longest cable-stayed bridge in Colombia), into the neighboring village of Dosquebradas, and back to Pereira. Traversing the bridge (at right - I stole this from Wikipedia) was by far the best part of the run, with the exception of the exhaust from the buses passing by. Unlike the marathon in Calima, this one was not through the country-side so there were plenty of spectators along the entire route; since running is not a popular sport here in Colombia they could be considered "gawkers" as well. Because of this, I lost count of the number of times I got called "mono" or "gringo" along the way. As my eyes were fixed to the road ahead, I would undoubtedly hear "Aye! Mira! Es un gringo! Vamo' mono! Vamo'!" I kept thinking how weird that would be in the States if an Asian man was running down the street and someone started yelling "Look at the guy from China! Go Asian man! Go!" I just can't see it!
I finished in 35th place with a time of 1 hour 28 minutes 22 seconds. The course was quite hilly and the elevation higher than that of Cali by about 400m. Also, this guy that I had passed about 2 km from the end came sprinting back right as we rounded the corner for the finish and completely body-checked me! Running is not a contact sport last time I checked and, if you are going to pass someone, the proper way to do it is to go around the outside, not squeeze in between the curb and the runner, shoving them in the process. Regardless, it was a personal best by over seven minutes; I'm looking forward to the full marathon in Duluth, MN, when I get back Stateside at the end of June!
In the end, everyone finished, including one of the body guards, in one piece, and we all had stories to tell. The crazy drunk lady, the black dog that tried to attack everyone, the lady who cheated by cutting a block, the "spitter," etc. After the run, we went and found a spot in one of the many mountain rivers to wash off in and then headed back to Cali, completely spent!