My morning walks are considerably different than ever before. Typically, I walk for over 2 miles and now it is on different streets in the center of a large city in South America. I live in a Colombian neighborhood. The streets in the early morning are filled with people walking their dogs, going to the market, and carrying on with opening their business or cleaning their walk, walkway or porch. I navigate cracked pavement and unyielding cars. I walk relatively fast but I am constantly looking, observing, trying to see into people's lives without intruding. I want to learn, understand and experience.
Yesterday, I stayed on the street where my condo is located and wanted to see where it took me. It was over two miles and crossed several busy avenues and ended at College Jesus Maria, one of Medellin's 30 universities. In that 2 miles I saw the neighborhoods change, hundreds of small shops, parks, elementary schools and many people. I have changed my habits of greeting everyone I pass and now only greet people who make eye contact. I have noticed being alone, the vast majority of people do not make eye contact. I stick out here. Even though my dress is normal for Medellin, people recognize me as a foreigner. In general, I am taller and, even tanned, my skin tone is different. I do what I can to smile and be pleasant everywhere I go.
I turned back toward the condo taking a different route - Calle 45b to be exact. It is a different road - the two-way street is divided by a greenway with a large stream running the length of it. Greenways here are tropical. There are numerous large trees, plants, wildlife and a host of homeless people. Medellin is a very clean city particularly for its size but these greenways have a tendency to collect more than their fair share of trash.
The walk way is comfortable and there is much to see - a woman walks by in normal clothing but I notice her red velvet 8" heels and it catches me off guard. I pass an stretch where there are 50 buses lined up and each one is being washed by their driver. Ladders are used to get hard to reach places, hoods are open and buckets, soap and water is plentiful. There is much interaction between the drivers and it is clearly a social gathering. I hear a teacher talking to a large classroom from behind a wall and see the faces of many people going about their daily lives.
I come on a large store announcing itself as a "Super Exitos". I walk the store to see what is so "super" but it is much like all the others I visit and even smaller than some. On exit, I notice many people walking from the side of the building so I walk 100 feet to see what I can see and it opens into a large market that is filled with meat, flowers, vegetables and vendors selling their wares. It is large with a three story roof and full of smells. On entry to Plaza de Mercado La América, I glance to my right a see two whole hogs being butchered. Life in Latin America! I am so use to the smells of meat packing so I continue down every isle. In the back, things are very tight and profiteers and customers mix. Many are seated eating breakfast much of which I do not recognize.
I see dried herbs, fruits and vegetables many of which I have no idea what they are. After completing the entire circuit, I go back to buy flowers and work through communication to get my roja and blanco flowers with added greens. The woman is very helpful and my cost is $3.20. I head to the nicer vegetable stand and get 2 avocados, a head of broccoli, a head of cauliflower, a cucumber and three large carrots. My price is $3.00. I walk back the 1.5 miles and figure out a more efficient direct way for my next visit. Markets make me happy.