Wandering Brooks

in South America

Month: November, 2012

Villa de Leyva

I’m facebook friends with a shaman’s assistant in Colombia. Even indigenous healers are making facebook events these days. He invited me to a ceremony this weekend on a farm outside San Gil, but I decided not to go. We only just arrived in Villa de Leyva. There is a natural flow to travelling that would be disturbed if I were to leave for the ceremony now. More opportunities will arise, I’m sure.

Some call Villa de Leyva a paradise. After the noise and pollution and anxiety (and excitement!) of Bogotá, I almost agree, but not completely. It’s a sleepy town of 9000 people where all the houses are painted white. People walk slowly. Cars can drive only 15km an hour through town. Everyone says “buenas tardes” when they pass by. It’s a nice place, but there really ought to be running water in paradise.

My first lesson about the precious importance of water was at Burning Man. I was very high on seven hits of animal crackers when the water stopped working in our camp. In my inebriated state, I was pretty sure it was the apocalypse and we were all going to die. Water is very important in the desert, after all. Here, in Villa de Leyva, my experience of water shortage is not so dramatic. It is not the apocaplyse. It is mundane. But the consequences are also more tangible. Perhaps diarrhea is technically less tangible than a regular, healthy shit – diarrhea kind of slips through your fingers – but you know what I mean. I don’t know what made me sick. My guess is that I ate out somewhere where they couldn’t wash anything properly due to lack of water.

Despite its imperfections, Villa de Leyva has been a very welcome change from the big city. Next, Kinga and I are going to spend a few days (at least) taking care of the chickens on a little farm outside town. Something is exploding as I type this. It’s fireworks. People here need no excuse to celebrate.



Pervasive is this feeling of what-the-fuck-am-I-doing. The majority of the time, I feel lost and anxious and I don’t know how to act. This morning I couldn’t remember how to fry an egg. I guess this is culture shock.

On the other hand, Kinga and I are having an awesome time in Bogotá. Yesterday we taught a contact improv class at La Casa del Teatro Nacional. In the evening we participated in a multidisciplinary (music, projected visuals, dance) improv rehearsal at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, thanks to a connection we  made with a professor in the art department. Laura, whose family is hosting us, introduced us to him. We were even invited to join in the year-end performance with the class next Friday – if we are still in Bogotá, that is.

“We.” That’s an interesting word. Initially, Kinga and I had decided to split up when we landed in Bogotá, maybe to meet up in a couple days. However, partly thanks to the advice of people sitting beside us on the plane, we decided it might be a bad idea for either of us (especially Kinga) to be wandering around Bogotá alone. So, Kinga and I have been spending a lot more time together than we expected, and we are getting along very well.

The city does feel dangerous sometimes. Kinga saw a man try to pick my pocket on the bus. I have been pretty on edge here, aware of all possible danger, but I didn’t notice the pickpocket. Another time, we let ourselves wander in the old part of the city, La Candelaria. We had been advised not to walk too far south, so when we started to approach the more dangerous area, we turned and went east, towards the mountain. As we were walking, a pair of women approached us and said, in Spanish, “don’t go this way. You will get robbed. It’s dangerous.”

Despite the anxiety and culture shock, there are some things about Bogotá that remind me of home. There has recently been a student uprising here. You see a lot of graffiti about la ley 30, a law created in 1992 to protect accessible education in Colombia. In 2011, there was a move to reform the law and remove provisions that protected student rights. The graffiti on the walls looks a lot like that in Montreal about la loi 78.

No to the reform of Law 30. Less war, more education. For peace and social justice.

I’m not thinking of home much, actually. I’m happy to be here. A week is longer than I expected to stay in a big city though, but Bogotá deserves more than a few days of appreciation. Still, soon it will be time to move on.


I have been saying my goodbyes. Jeremy read my fortune.

He spreads a deck of cards and says “pick a Susan, any Susan.” I pick a card and give it to him. He flips it over and starts reading.

“Cube Three. Superconscious plane of mind. Revelations: Chapter 9.

“One million, two hundred and ninety six thousand kin. Baktun 9: AD 41. Lords of the Red and Black Pacal Votan witness triumph of 13:20 civilization in New World, Teotihuaca and Tiwanaku, confirms teachings of Kontiki Viracocha – Babylon becomes Rome, Second Babylon climaxes as Roman Empire – matched by the Han Dynasty in China.

“Cube Three: Abundance.

“Use your warrior night abundance power to reclaim and redeem Baktun 9.” Here, Jeremy stops reading and looks at me. He says, “listen! This is your power sentence: By my superconscious warrior night abundance power, I regain telepathic 13:20 visionary power in abundance. May Truth and Peace prevail!”

Unexpectedly Cold

My South America trip is much colder than expected, especially since I’m not in South America.

This was not part of the plan, but Hurricane Sandy doesn’t care about plans. My flight was cancelled, so I’m in Montreal as Winter descends. New departure date: Saturday Nov. 10.

I think Kinga and I have split up. She was the one who invited me to go travelling with her. She’s the whole reason I’m going to South America. Should I still go? I’ve quit my jobs, sub-let my room, got a yellow-fever vaccination and polyester underwear. I think I’ve pulled myself far enough back in the slingshot that I’ve just got to let go and see where I fly. I think she will go too, but I don’t know if she’ll want to see me for a while (after we get off the plane, that is). We opted not to pay extra to choose our seats on the ultra-mega-budget Spirit Airlines, so our seats will be randomized.

About an hour after Kinga and I had “the conversation,” Dad called to tell me that George had died. George was my grandmother’s husband. I guess you could call him my grandfather in-law. They were in their 80’s, I believe, when they met and fell in love. As they got older, they moved in to an old-folks home together. She started to lose her sight, and he started to lose his hearing. She was his ears and he was her eyes, and they were each other’s hearts.

So that was another hurricane of a day. I haven’t quite recovered. It is very confusing to grieve for two things at once.

Gates, my little brother, will be in Cartagena, Colombia in December. I called to tell him about George. No one knew about Gates’ travel plans because he hasn’t been talking much to the family lately, and he didn’t know that I will be in Colombia. So maybe I’ll see him there.

I get to practice backpacking in Montreal for a while. All my stuff is in boxes in the basement, and my sub-letter moved in yesterday, so I’m drifting around Montreal ’til Saturday.

At least Bronwen’s landlord turned on the heat today. That’s where I’m staying for the next few days, in a house full of Susans who have all been to Burning Man. A pretty warm place to spend the first unexpectedly cold days of my trip.