Hanging Around Medellin

July 19, 2012 Medellin, Colombia: Day-to-day life in Medellin, Colombia, is comfortable, pleasant, and convenient.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

"I turned left from our door today, rather than right," Harry reported excitedly when he came back from his early-morning run yesterday, "and I found another little neighborhood restaurant, a bakery, and more shops. I also noticed a seamstress," he added. "I know you're looking for someone to make drapes for the bedroom windows."

This week in Medellin with the kids, we're getting to know our new neighborhood. We've settled into a routine. Lief and I are up with the sun. We open the French doors along the terrace and the windows of our little office to welcome the cool, fresh morning breeze. We power up our laptops to read the news and check e-mails, but casually, with none of our usual sense of urgency, allowing ourselves to be distracted often by the view out over the terrace of the city in the valley below.

Harry is up next and out the door for his first run of the day. "I've never seen a neighborhood like this," he exclaimed when he returned the first morning. "It's so green. Everywhere something is growing. There's no trash, no litter anywhere. And everyone is so friendly. I passed other joggers, people walking their dogs, people doing yoga and calisthenics in the park, and they all waved and smiled. It's crazy how happy everyone seems to be here."

Kaitlin and Jackson are the late-risers. When Kaitlin's ready, Harry's out the door again to keep her company for her power walk. Each morning, they've followed different routes, and each morning they've returned to report more discoveries--cafes, parks, restaurants... We've asked them to begin taking notes to create a neighborhood guide to leave in the apartment. It'd take Lief and me months to find all these places on our own.

Kaitlin is our self-appointed chef, Jackson her sous-chef. Each day they prepare a dinner menu then go off to the market to buy what they need. In the evenings, while they cook, Lief, Harry, and I line up our wicker arm chairs on the terrace to watch the sunset. We read, chat, and sip our wine until Kaitlin calls us to the table.

By 10 p.m. we're all ready for bed. "I don't understand why I'm so tired," Kaitlin said the first night. "I just checked the time, and it's only 9, but I can barely keep my eyes open."

"It's the altitude," Lief offered. "We'll adjust."

Meantime, we're all happy to hit the sack early. During the day, the street in front of our place is busy with passers-by. People in this town walk where they're going as often as possible. Why not? The temperature is always comfortable, and everywhere you go there's something pleasant to look at...a garden, a park, a playground filled with laughing toddlers. The streets are all tree-lined, the sidewalks all even, and pedestrians definitely have the right-of-way. Drivers stop for you and wave and smile as you pass.

Come 9 o'clock, though, our street is empty. And silent. No passers-by, no vehicles. We're all sleeping better than we have in a long time.

I've been insisting that, these two weeks in Medellin, we're on vacation...unplugged. The truth is, we're more plugged in and connected than ever. We have wireless in the apartment that extends out to the terraces. Kaitlin, Harry, and Jackson are of the generation that considers laptops and smart phones like additional appendages. They're never without them. Chargers and power cords snake across every room. They're on e-mail, Skype, and Facebook. They're playing games with each other across different devices. They're watching movies on Netflix. They're downloading music and new television series.

We've got a smart TV in the living room. You probably knew that you can buy a television that comes with wireless installed, but this was news to me when the helpful young man at the electronics store here explained it to us. Now, sitting on the sofa, we can surf the Net together. Lief tests the kids with geography trivia and currency conversion questions. (I know...it's a little nerdy, but Jackson loves it.) When he's not sure of the answer, Jackson can look it up online as we all sit around watching. As Harry likes to say, "Google is our friend."

"Are we going anywhere today?" Jackson asked this morning when I told him it was time to take a shower and get dressed. "Or are we just hanging around our neighborhood again?"

"Is there anything you'd like to do or anywhere you'd like to go?" I asked.

"No, I'd rather just hang around here again," he replied. "It's nice here."

Eventually, maybe in a few days, we'll venture a little farther afield, beyond our neighborhood...for dinner at Parque Lleras, drinks with friends, etc. Right now, though, I have to agree with Jackson. It's nice here, just hanging around.

Kathleen Peddicord

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