I spent last week in Cali, Colombia for work and here’s what I ate: fried stuff (mostly cassava, plantain and potatoes) and meat (mostly beef and chicken). I also drank a LOT of fruit juice.
Long-time readers may recall my obsession with Indonesian fruit juices. I now have to say that the Colombian offerings blow the doors off their Asian cousins, which celebrate delicious but fairly common fruits like pineapple, watermelon and mango. Colombian juices by contrast are based on indigenous fruits that you will be hard pressed to find outside of the region: guanabana (a flavour like strawberry plus pineapple with an underlying hint of coconut), lulo (a combination of rhubarb and lime), maracuya (aka passion fruit). So good.
Our last night in Cali (I was there for a workshop), we went to Delirio, a circus/salsa show/spectacle. There were like 150 salsa dancers between the ages of 7 and 50. You can check it out here. Don’t operate any heavy equipment after watching the video. I enjoyed the show at first, although I found it a bit difficult to follow the plot. Apparently a native girl named Mary married a British lord who descended on her village with apparent colonial intent. I really don’t recall that part of Colombian history. There were lots of dancing animals.
At a certain point a salsa homage to Michael Jackson was introduced into the story. Fine.
Certain aspects of the show reminded me of 1950s Havana complete with Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, cigars and chorus girls. I’ve been reading a lot about that era and it’s pretty fascinating. Round about hour 3 of the spectacle I started to fantasize about going to Cuba
That got me thinking about Cuban handsome man/cultural curator Andy Garcia, which started me wondering whether Kevin Costner has made any movie since The Untouchables that didn’t made me want to poke him in the eye. And that made me wonder if Susan Sarandan is still dating that young guy and playing table tennis. Is it true her kid was really conceived on the Spanish Steps? Spanish Steps. Keats. Shelley. Frankenstein. Why have I never read that book? Shelley drowned on his way way from Livorno, called Leghorn in English. Foghorn Leghorn. “Go away boy, you bother me.” You see how my mind works? Monkey, monkey, underpants.
Round about hour 4, the entire workshop was fast asleep, heads on the tablecloth strewn with bits of fried cassava and pork rinds. Meanwhile, the rest of the audience was taking advantage of one of the many intermissions to engage in a bit of salsa madness of their own. We finally prevailed on the evening’s organizer to let us go home at around 1:30 am. The spectacle was still going strong. I must say I did enjoy the show. But I would have enjoyed it much more if it had finished about two hours earlier, perhaps just after the MJ medley.
Now here’s a thing. I went to a bank machine at some point during the week, thinking I might need a few pesos just in case. The bank machine turned me down, as I find often happens when I try to get money outside of Italy. The alternative was filling out a lot of paperwork at the bank and waiting overnight — something about how it’s difficult to exchange euros. I had just resigned myself to doing just that when my phone rang. It was my bank back in Rome! “Are you in Colombia” the charming man said. “I am.” “Are you trying to get money from a bank machine?” “Yes.” “How many times will you need to do that?” “Just the once.” “OK. you should be able to get the money now.” And I could! Just like that! It may seem odd to be telling you this story. But believe me, as anyone who has ever done any business with an Italian bank will readily confirm, such a level of responsiveness and professionalism is downright unheard of. It was my own little Lenten miracle.