Día 303: We're in the right place.

I awoke up at 5 today and was soon joined by an excited Kate for our drive to the Punte Aereo. There, we checked in and met up with Rosalia and Samuel for breakfast before our flight to Cartagena!

The flight was startlingly short, and we could feel the change in temperature, humidity, and altitude the instant we landed. Kate and I immediately ran into the ladies' room to change into more sun-conducive attire before we all scooted into a taxi and sped to our hotel!

We are staying at a 19th century colonial villa turned hotel -- with a sea of plants making up our lobby and two well-placed fans providing us ventilation.

After dropping off our things, we wandered around the old town searching for lunch and taking pictures of the stunning colors at every corner.

We slipped back into the hotel just as it started to pour, and Kate and I hit the sack -- hard. Something about waking up before dark and being accosted by humidity really takes the energy out of you!

We dragged ourselves out the (tiny) door in search of ice cream and a day tour to Barú, a nearby island with beautiful beaches.

We then joined our friends at El Cafe del Mar, a gorgeous cafe perched on the wall encircling the city, overlooking the ocean on one side and the old clock tower on the other.

We are now sitting in the park outside Pizza en el Parque, waiting in the oppressive heat for our medium margarita before we head back to 4-76 for bed, ready to rest before a long tomorrow!

Can't wait for Cartagena día dos!

Día 302: ¡La tecnología me atropella!

Colombian food will be the death of me. I ate 6 meals today; 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 2 dinners. I've truly had a tough time convincing my friends here that I usually don't eat much!

After my already-heavy breakfast of arepas and chocolate had been inhaled this morning, I arrived at the office to calls of "¡empanadas!" from Diana. We went on a mission for these crunchy snacks, which Diana eventually found at a construction site.

I somehow acquired a bag of 4 croissants on this voyage, which, I swear, I proceeded to share with my office mates.

Beyond stuffed, I spent a while exploring the conservation software Miradi further with Diana this morning, creating a fictional project #113 called "¿De donde viene la cumbia?" as an example.

I at first elected not to go out for lunch today and instead chow on some leftover pizza, but this snack left me yet unsated and so I ventured to Miriam Camhi for a wrap Mejicano and a chocolate and nutella souffle. Lord have mercy.

In the afternoon, Diana and I underwent a training by Harvard ManageMentor on creating a business plan, which was rather unpleasant in its structure and content, and solicited a few scowls from this future Harvard student.

In the afternoon, Rosario sent us a document in "Spanglish" which Diana, Kate, and I tag-teamed to get edited and out the door. Also in the afternoon, Diana and I went out for assorted errands including getting sunscreen and a 6-dollar haircut.

I left the office and met my teacher at our apartment at 6, commencing another conjugation-crazy class. I spent the last minute of this class trying to talk him out of giving me homework over the long weekend, but alas, he purveyed it, and I thought it best to complete it.

I'm now eating my third dinner, churning out this post, and preparing to polish my packing for the puente -- to be spent in Cartagena!

Día 301: "Eres muy pila."

For my first breakfast this morning, I had rice, potatoes, and Spanish homework.

When I got to work, Diana immediately started raving about one of her favorite conservation-related softwares, Miradi, and encouraged me to read the Open Standards of the same -- a series of best practices for designing, managing, monitoring, and learning from conservation projects.

We took a very sudden break from this pursuit when a craving for pan de chocolate overcame me and I had to get some. Diana and I walked a few blocks up the street to make the purchase that would cause the commencement of my consumption of countless calories for today.

Pan de chocolate, literally "bread of chocolate" is just normal whole grain bread with huge chunks of dark chocolate therein. ¡Dios mio!

Too soon after devouring this delicacy, it was time for lunch. Mauricio showed us the fancy Club Colombia today, and my collegas and I enjoyed huge portions and invasive conversation for a while before returning to work.

Upon doing so, Mauricio decided to act upon Papa's advice and enlist my efforts in a project more intellectually confounding than what I've been working on. He is to design a corporate platform, selecting around 20 organizations (from a list of 116 -- ¡caramba!) to be supporters of The Nature Conservancy's Magdalena River Project. This process is complicated slightly by the fact that the list that contains the potential organizations is entirely en Español and no criteria have been developed as of yet to actually select the supporting organizations. I guess this is my reto (challenge) for . . . the rest of my time here!

Utterly puzzled by this project, I left the office and, after convincing my taxi driver that I definitely am not from Brasil (as much as I wish that were true), found out that his sister lives in Boston! He encouraged me to check out her glass school near Harvard next year -- how interesting!

I barely had time to scarf down some pizza and review a document Elena Auntie wanted me to look at before it was time for my Spanish class. I was more delirious than usual today, as I completed my conjugations crazily and in an annoyingly exaggerated Mexican accent.

I'm now rocking out to some Reggaeton supplied to me by Diana -- Latin music makes it impossible not to move!


Song of the day: http://youtu.be/e2HQwFpdmUk

Día 300: I like to remember.

I woke up this morning and read about joy in The Power of Now. I then found some joy right away by catching up with my little sis via Skype, swamping her with stories about the last few days as she flaunted her new flute books (again).

I was actually able to eat today, and I happily sucked down some chicken noodle soup this afternoon before meditating at length. I then spent some time convincing my favorite friend to come to National Latin Convention this summer -- I think I was successful!

After some more sleep, I took a very musical shower and enjoyed some "Indian" herbal tea in preparation for my much-anticipated event of the day -- dinner with my colleagues! (Oh, and dad.)

Our dinner was absolutely wonderful, a perfect blend of jocular complaining about my lacking work ethic and more "serious" conversation about our family backgrounds and the story of Gyaan Ghar.

After tonight, Papa finally realizes exactly what I mean when I talk about how blessed I am with the friends I've made here at TNC. As Diana said, "nací con estrellita" -- I was born under a star. :)

Día 299: Development is keeping what you have.

As seems to be common in the story of my existence, I woke up this morning sick with a stomach infection (shame on me for drinking tap water at Iguaque!).

But as Kate and I were discussing just yesterday, there's a world of difference between being unwell in Colombia and in the States! I hopped on Skype for a second to let my boss know that I wouldn't be coming in, and within an instant all of my TNC colleagues were shooting me "¡pobrecita enfermita!" and "get well soon!" messages. People are so warm here. This is the life.

Diana even went so far as to order a medicine for me and have the pharmacy deliver it to my house! My day was a string of naps, crackers, and electrolyte-refreshing drinks.

Continuing to demonstrate Colombian hospitality and sweetness, Paula paid me a visit in the afternoon to chat about life, tell me all the things I shouldn't have been eating today, and aid me in making fun of my father. Her first words upon my opening the door were "you look horrible!" -- which I actually appreciated a lot. :) Papa's presence wasn't all bad: he brought me some food and an amazing present from Natalia, my "Colombian Mama."

This lovely journal held inside a note about how I should jot down my pensamientos (thoughts) here and my consciousness will grow like the arboreal tresses of the young girl on the cover. How beautiful!

For a sick day, today has really been very nice . . .


Our very own PSang is currently at Governor's Latin Academy, a place that leaves you in social confusion due to the absence of your cell phone and computer. Please help to allay this poor boy's existential crises over these next three weeks by WRITING. HIM. MAIL.

Mail sent via U.S. Mail should be addressed as follows:

Patrick Sanguineti
Governor’s Latin Academy
Randolph-Macon College
P.O. Box 5005
Ashland, VA 23005-5505

Leave a comment after your letter is in the mail!

Día 298: "I'm everyone's assistant!"

At least one of my colleagues manages to amaze me each and every day. The story we heard this morning was one of maternal resilience and strength, the history of Rosario and her precious five-year-old daughter Gabriela. Gabi was born with her esophagus connected to her windpipe instead of her stomach, and therefore at risk of choking as a result of her lungs filling with any liquid she drank. She underwent a series of incredibly invasive surgeries within the first few months of her life, and the only thing that kept her newly single mother going was the strength which her tiny baby displayed throughout the process. Gabi is a success story. Rosario learned the meaning of “hope” during this indescribably horrid phase, and her optimistic and peaceful description of the countless complications and her young daughter’s wisdom had Kate and me in tears within an hour of getting to work.

Having dried our eyes, we attempted to return to the International Climate Change Initiative proposal, which was due today. After some minor last edits and peaches from Mauricio's farm, we made our way to lunch.

As I pestered Mauricio to finish his lunch so we could get dessert (from Crepes&Waffles), he plotted my demise all the while, compiling a list of counts on which to complain when he meets my father tomorrow.

Full and feeling fatty, we returned to work. My reto del día (or challenge of the day) from Diana was to translate a three-page terms of reference document from Spanish into English. This was a really fun exercise to help me brush up on my workplace Español!

And speaking of Español, my Spanish class after work today was just rockin'. I got Mario way off-topic during our first exercise and instead of going chronologically through the book, had him quiz me on verb forms for an hour and a half, Certamen "verbal gymnastics" style. This activity was unbelievably fun, until I was hit by a wave of fatigue and semi-sickness halfway.

Despite my insistence on the same and my wailing pleas, Papa dragged me out to dinner at Zona Rosa, where I'm currently feeling too nauseous to eat anything. A night well spent to be sure and lo! Dessert approaches.

Lemonade and ice cream for dinner? I think si.

Días 296 y 297: "We're higher than the clouds!"


I woke this morning to yoga and yogurt before my friends came by to pick me up for our adventure!

It was great to meet Diana's husband Fredy, who is a professor and researcher at
La Universidad Externado, focusing on sustainable tourism, tourism research, ecotourism, and community tourism.

We had a coffee (and choco fiesta donut) at the bus terminal and then seated ourselves in our lovely "interminicipial" bus for the four-hour ride ahead.

For the first leg of the drive, Diana filled me in on environmental education initiatives in Colombia, as well as social issues such as guerrilla groups and paramilitaries in the country. Somewhere on the way, Diana acquired an adopted child (Carlos) whom she held in her lap for the ride.

The rest of the time, she pointed out certain ecological features of the ecosystems through which we passed on our beautiful drive to Villa de Leyva.

After purchasing our return tickets from the reggaeton-filled terminal in Villa, the three of us enjoyed lunch in the pleasant Plaza Mayor, where Diana was even more uncertain than usual about my state of sobriety. What I love about Diana and Fredy is that when they hear music, they dance.

We ambled after our afternoon almuerzo to a cafe called Galleta, for post-prandial coffee and desserts. The place was most agreeable indeed to our taste buds.

It was now almost 5, and time to make our way to El Parque Iguaca (a semi-sacred nature sanctuary nearby).

The 15-minute all-uphill walk left me heaving such heavy breaths that I was dubious about my level of mobility for tomorrow. But the clearing to which we came served to clear my mind. We are nestled in the middle of nature.

After checking out our charming lodging, we headed to the dining hall, where Diana and Fredy again enjoyed the heck out of teasing me, and I found no way to take a break from the ridicule (and the Spanish) but to start writing my blog entry for the day.

Just minutes after I had begun writing, the facility lost power and we found ourselves without electricity, but for the power of the stars.

I'm off to look straight up at the sky again -- it's moments like this that remind me what I'm out to save.



We rose at 6 this morning to bundle ourselves in layers and commence our climb to Laguna Iguaque. This lagoon is from where the Muiscas indigenous tribe believes all life originated.

At first, the climb was complicated not by the terrain but by the altitude. I didn't realize that the entrance itself of the park was 100 meters higher than the city of Bogotá, and we would climb to a spot 1,000 meters higher! (I also didn't know my lungs could work this hard!)

It's difficult to sum 6 hours of tough climbing into a few words of a blog post, but I'll try. A very wise person (ok, Ben) said that one should do at least one thing each day that makes him/her uncomfortable -- this hike was mine for today! (It's lucky that I didn't see the sign that effectively said "turn back now if you're having trouble breathing.")

The first third of the walk up was cloud forest, with a soft soil trail interrupted by only occasional huge rocks and roots. I would realize only later what a luxury this ground was, after encountering "the wall."

This was an endless sea of crumbling boulders that started after the forest ended and changed to sub-paramo, an ecotone between forest and paramo (Diana distracted me from my fatigue with ecological tidbits throughout the walk.)

The "wall" of huge and steep rocks lasted for what seemed like forever, and sometimes what kept me going was the view. Nature is just grand, and we simply must keep around places like this, where it feels like one can be alone nothing but nature.

The last third of the walk couldn't come soon enough. What is referred to as the "plain" is actually just a less rocky uphill slope. It was comforting, though, to catch glimpses of la laguna toward which we were headed as we mustered strength for this last leg of the hike.

The lagoon itself (situated at 3,700 meters above sea level) was both frigid and serene.

 After a snack and some snaps, I found a nook for myself and meditated for a spell.

When we started our return journey, we were ahead of schedule. But we somehow found ourselves midway through "the wall" with little time to spare before our taxi back to Villa was to arrive. Perhaps this was due to the fact that Diana had to hold my hand all the way down, as I counted how many times my right knee made a "crack!" sound while walking (the grand total was 23).

We ended up almost jogging the last stretch of the return, before bolting to our cabin, changing hurriedly, paying the bill, and piling into the cab.

Utterly exhausted, we've been wandering Villa de Leyva for a while now, eating fritanga, drinking refajo, and treating ourselves to ice cream.

Our bus back to Bogotá leaves in 20 -- I'm tired, aching, and totally satisfied.

Día 295: I miss everything that wasn't said.

I started my penultimate chapter in The Power of Now this morning, and my yoga was augmented by exercises taught to me by my Tia Elena.

Upon arriving at work, I asked Diana what our plan for this weekend would be -- this is the itinerary that she whipped up for me.

Today’s was the last round of copy-editing for the TNC’s International Climate Initiative proposal, so it was high energy and required a lot of café Colombiana.

Over lunch, Diana and Mauricio introduced me to Wok, where we enjoyed some scrumptious sushi.

We also took a few moments to review the various nicknames I have accumulated from my colleagues over the last two weeks:

Irrespetuosa - disrespectful

Grosera - rude

Maleducada - badly brought up

Consentida - spoiled

Malcriada - badly behaved

After lunch, I finished up my last look at the proposal and then made my way to the World Bank office in Bogotá. Here, Papa introduced me to his wonderful colleagues Daniel and Natália, whom I look forward to getting to know better over the next few weeks. Their office has a spectacular view!

I arrived home breathless, just a few minutes ahead of my Spanish teacher, and enjoyed my lesson, during which we reviewed numbers in Spanish. What Mario doesn’t know is that it’s not the Spanish that gives me trouble -- numbers seem to be my weakness in every language.

We enjoyed some Tia-made pasta for dinner and it’s now time for me to pack! Diana, Federico (Diana's husband), and I will be making our way tomorrow to a nearby colonial town called Villa de Leyva, and spending the night at the Iguaque Sanctuary of Flora and Fauna -- forgive me if I have no internet access and am not able to post tomorrow!