Wednesday, July 20, 2011


There's one aspect of air travel that I've always found a bit jarring, and it is this: how is it possible to get on a plane, sleep for a couple of hours (I fall asleep almost instantly in moving vehicles), and wake up in a different time zone, climate, country, language, with no apparent trauma to your brain or body? Isn't is just a little bit off? Shouldn't something happen? I guess I feel like you should have to earn it, and perhaps that our bodies should need time to adjust gradually, not just in the sense of jet-lag, but in the same way that your body has to adjust to higher altitudes. I feel like it's kind of like skipping chapters in history books; you end up confused as to how you got there, and a bit at a loss.

Going to Popayán was the opposite of this. It's only a 2-hours drive from Cali, but it feels worlds away, or more accurately, countries away. If I didn't know where I was I could have sworn I was in Peru. The all-white architecture is preserved from Spanish colonial times, and the people are generally shorter and darker with indigenous features. There was a llama just chilling in the center square. And I haven't seen skies like that since Cuzco.

Popayán has its own version of the tamal, called tamales de pipian, which are much smaller than valluno or bogotano tamales, and are made without meat (I'd like to say they are vegetarian but I'm not sure they don't use some kind of meat stock in the preparation). Along with the corn masa, they are filled with a peanut and potato mixture, and served with a peanut ají (sauce). We had them with cafe con leche as an afternoon snack, along with a peanut cookie, a weird donut-powdered sugar thing that I liked more than Felipe did, and, um, a small piece of head cheese, which definitely tastes a lot more like some kind of animal's head than it does like cheese.

We left before sunset, as the road in between Cali and Popayán-- closer to Popayán than Cali-- has a history of guerrilla activity. Yep, still in Colombia-- as much as I wish that association-- and reality-- didn't exist. 

All of the delicious comida típica (local food) left me, already prone to sleeping, comatose on the way home, like my buddy la llama. 


  1. My wife is from Popayan, and we were married there in May. I spent a week there in August, and I'll be back again in four days, and can't wait.

    I would be happy to live there permanently, but I need to learn Spanish so I can get around without family helping me, and to find something to do for work.

    After several weeks in Colombia (one in Bogota and the rest in Cali and Popayan) I have never had a bad experience there. I see there are issues with guerrillas and crime, but I lived in Israel and while terrorist attacks happened at the time, I was lucky not to be where it happened when it happened. The same for Colombia so far.

  2. It's funny you mentioned being surprised when landing in another country/culture. My wife, Romy, always says I look like I'm anxious and out of sorts when I get to Colombia.

    Everyone's different, and I think I adjust to new places rather quickly. But after waking up at home in Augusta, Georgia, at 7:00 a.m., stopping in Charlotte or Atlanta and then Miami (but never leaving the airport), it's only natural to land in Cali or Bogota and feel a little like I woke up on another planet ;)

    I'll have to show her this post.

  3. I´ve never had a bad experience, either. I have Israeli cousins who always used to tell us that the reports were exaggerated and/or far away from where they were, and anytime I´ve been in Colombia I´ve had to field the same kind of questions from people in the states. It´s rather ironic given that Israel and Colombia are two of my favorite places in the world.

  4. Mine, too. I'm in Popayan now, I saw the llama last night, on Xmas.

    There are some frustrating things here, but I like it, and can see myself living here one day, hopefully soon :)