Dec 1, 2006

SANTA FE DE ANTIOQUIA, Colombia – Earth claws skyward here, mounded into a spur of the Andes. The bus wends the switchbacks like a snake-hipped tango dancer. And I, somehow, sleep through the 90°F slalom.

Of all my transport-narcolepsy triumphs, this may be the finest.

I awake in Santa Fe de Antioquia, the region's oldest settlement. A market still anchors this colonial city of churches and cobbled streets.

At the Museo de Arte Religioso, I skim away from the group. No matter how passionate my guide, I can't connect with a place while being talked at.

Following a pigeon's trill, I discover two interlocking courtyards, discarded scraps in centuries of haphazard building. Monks chant over loudspeakers, solemn voices leavened by the fountain's arpeggios. On a wooden bench, I sit and grow quiet. I burrow towards the deep, centering solitude, where words bloom unbidden like tropical moss on terracotta tiles.

"You must come now," a hostesses materializes.

"I'm working," I wave my notebook at her.

"Now, please. Come."

She herds me back to the group. And who can blame her? The periodistas norteños are visiting for a few hours only and there is much to see.

Except I need to feel. And think. To simply be here.

Three times we perform this minuet, before I cave and plod behind the curator. Inspired, he displays vestments, beribboned statues of saints and the strange image of Mary squirting breast milk.

As instructed, I fill my eyes.

But not my heart.


  1. Mmmm, that's too bad. But better a glimpse than to see nothing at all, right?

  2. Time to fess up--how many times when you're ditching the program are you really just having a coffee jones, and your hands are starting to shake because it's been longer than twelve minutes since the last cup?

    I don't remember your filled bonus coffee card getting mentioned in the Norway entries.

    That transport narcolepsy is just freaky, though.

    Except when you wake up and complain about the music that's on.

  3. DB: you're right, yes. But it's heartbreaking to travel days, then not connect with the "sense of place," as we say in the trade.

    However, like the "Holy Grail" character turned into a newt, "I got better".

  4. Edward, my coffee card made the Norwegian hit parade in the crack entry where I somehow confused a bowl with a cup.

    I am a highly trained professional...

    My only music protest was against Meatloaf (fair enough, I'm sure most would agree). You, on the other hand, squealed like a sausage-bound piglet throughout that classic "Tennessee Stud".

    Shame. SHAME, I say.

  5. Anonymous2:32 PM

    A sense of place?

    You hoped to glean a sense of place on a forced-march press trip?

    You must inhabit a parallel travelwriter universe, m'dear!

  6. No, just an eternally hopeful one...