Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Autograph Line Starts Over There

¿Me Recuerdas?

A year ago, upon returning back to Cali from summer vacation, I had just finished a trip to the grocery store. After getting into a taxi and greeting the driver, he turned around and asked, "¿El Ingenio?" which was the neighborhood I had lived in during my first year here. I thought it odd, but plausible, that, of all the taxis in Cali, I had gotten some guy twice to drive me somewhere. It was also conceivable that he remembered this freckly red-headed gringo; there're aren't a lot of us running around these parts. What I found weird was that he remembered where I lived! He looked a little disappointed when I told him that, no, I had moved.

Later that month I was riding in the elevator in my apartment building and a girl who also lived in the building got on and asked me if I had been at Tin Tin Deo, a well known Salsateca in Cali. I had been and was a little embarrassed to be that easily spotted. It made me wonder if I've got some name the locals that see me out and about have for me. "Look! It's the pink one!" I can hear it now.

Well, this week I went to the bank to pay my very truant cell phone bill. At banks in Colombia there are usually two lines; one is for people who hold accounts at the bank and the other is for those who do not. The thing is that there are usually several tellers for the non-clients and one or possibly two for those belonging to said financial institution. Unless there is an enormous caravan of customers in the line for those who are not clients, it doesn't really matter which one you go to. Also, although I'm a client at my bank, if I'm there to pay a bill in cash to a third party, I'm not sure where I'm supposed to go. That and I'm paranoid of waiting twenty minutes to be kicked out of line and have to start again so I usually bring a book and err on the side of caution.

As I entered the snaking line for "non-members," the [very attractive] teller calls out to me to get in the other line. So, as the rest of the tellers, guards, and scores of customers turn to look, I did an about face, followed the zig-zagging path out of one line and into the much straighter "member" line.

When I got to the front of the line and was called forward my face was still a nice shade of red; the teller told me so. I asked her if she remembered me and she said yes and looked at me like that was a silly question as if I had asked if there was a big safe in the back room. I suppose it was a little silly. I'm in the bank probably once a month and in June of last year, this same teller was very helpful in helping me deal with another bank over a computer problem and she was the same one who deposited my last paycheck last year. I guess it's not too unbelievable, I mean, I remembered her...

Regardless, in a city of 2 million people, I still find it strange to be recognized by relative strangers. Nice, but strange.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dusting Off

Every time I fly back into Cali, I feel I have to mentally prepare myself. Are my passport, Colombian ID, and customs forms ready and together? Where is my baggage claim slip? Do I still remember Spanish?

Before I left for the summer last June I moved into a new apartment. It is the upstairs of a house near to where I lived last year. I had only spent two nights there before starting my summer vacation so I had tried to get as much of the place "together" as possible so that I wouldn't walk into a sea of boxes in August (now) after a long day of traveling. I knew there was still plenty to do once I returned: find a new maid, get a washing machine, hang up curtain rods, find someone with a drill so I would be able to hang up the curtain rods, and on and on.

It takes me five keys, two doors and two gates to finally reach the inside of my home. After using three keys and opening a gate and a door, my landlady, who lives downstairs with her husband, noses out to greet me and tell me something about not using the gas. I didn't really catch why but if she doesn't tell me any differently in a few days, I'll ask again. There is a cord running through my kitchen that wasn't there before and, although I'm pretty sure gas does not flow through electric cords, I'm going to assume there is some relation and not touch that for now either.

The apartment is very dusty right now, surprising since it was pretty well closed up the whole time I was gone. This is why I need a maid. The dust here from the streets and air can get a little out of control very quickly and I do not wish to be spending two nights a week dusting off every surface in sight. Also, I was not pleased to find a dead cockroach in the middle of my bedroom floor. Happy, though, in a strange way, that it was a dead cockroach.

There were a couple good surprises though. The aforementioned curtain rods, which I was convinced would become part of the Great Window Covering Saga of August 2009 were miraculously installed! I can only assume the landlords had something to do with this. If I have apartment elves that do nice little favors, I would have appreciated them cleaning the inside of my refrigerator as well. Another fantastic surprise was that I have internet! More accurately, one of my neighbors has really good internet and I am able to "co-op" long as I'm in the bedroom or out on the patio. (This is actually a relief because I had no idea how long getting internet hooked up would take.) I hope this lasts!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some cleaning to do.