Here we are on our walking tour of Medellin. From left, that’s me, Roxana, Lynn, Daniella our guide, and Ricardo. See how sunny it is?
The sun didn’t last. On our walk back from the Metro to Park Lleras, it began to rain buckets. I was glad I had my packable poncho from the UK—and that I had actually brought it along.
As I write this, the sun is out in St. Paul and it’s supposed to hit nearly 60F/15C today. Six days ago, we had a record-setting blizzard with 14 inches of snow that closed schools and businesses for the day. I spent hours shoveling wet heavy snow and trying to get my car moved because the city had declared a snow emergency and there is a complicated set of rules for where you can park or you will be towed and have to pay a nearly $300 ransom to get your car back. I found a spot to park four blocks from my house then had to wade home through calf-deep snow. The next day I had to move it again.
A guy who lives a few houses from me, and his adult daughter, came and helped. He wore New York-style tortoise shell glasses and we made small talk about how the post office had accidentally delivered my issue of Foreign Policy magazine to his house. He was wearing gloves so I couldn’t see if he was wearing a ring or not.
My car was parked on a slight incline and the spinning tires had worn into shallow grooves of sheer ice. It wasn’t just my car; there were people stuck kittywampus up and down the street. A plow truck was jackknifed across the street, spinning its tires. After an hour of shoveling and pushing back and forth with no results, another neighbor came along—a large guy with missing front teeth and a cigarette dangling from his unshaven face. “It’s a Mini!” he pronounced, as if we didn’t know that. “Just push ‘er from the front on the side and spin ‘er around 180 degrees into the street!” Which is what we did and “she” was free 30 seconds.
“I know cars!” the big guy crowed. “I’m from Chicago, Illinois!” I don’t know what being from Chicago had to do with car knowledge, but the next time I’m stuck, I’ll seek his help first.
Later, I helped another neighbor move her car. When she lowered her window, a billow of pot smoke hit me in the face. That evening I was so exhausted I could barely pour myself a drink, but at least I had waited until after the herculean physical exertion of car pushing and shoveling.
I got to my yoga class a few days later and realized I had no mat—because I had shoved it under one of my tires to get traction. It hadn’t worked. The spinning tire had just sent it whizzing through the air into the street, covered with black tire marks, blue ice salt, and crusty snow.
The point of this long detour of a story is, we Minnesotans tend to idealize the weather everywhere else and arrive unprepared for the fact that it can be bone-chillingly cold in San Francisco or Mexico. Maybe, in my late 50s, I was finally gaining some common sense. Still, the poncho didn’t save my feet from getting soaked.
We made it to the Park of Bars, as Park Lleras should really be named, soaking and laughing and ready for some drinks and dinner. We tipped Daniella generously (I hope she thought we were generous). Roxana’s daughter Gabriella joined us, and we had a great long dinner with fantastic Peruvian-Venezuelan-Colombian food and several pitchers of Sangria. Ricardo kept refilling my glass. Look how happy we all look!
When it came time to pay the bill, the tab was something like 350,000 pesos. “I know it’s real money,” I said in a low voice. “But it feels like we’re playing Monopoly.”
“Just take off the zeros at the end and divide by three!” Gaby kept saying, exasperated. We eventually figured out we each owed $25 for a three-hour-long, fantastic meal.