Tuesday, December 27, 2011

'Twas a green Christmas

So, the first thing was to rent a car in Bogotá and drive it back to the apartment.  No problem!  The nice lady at the National Car Rental place asked for our cédulas (national ID card), passports (both of us), credit cards, and no kidding, made Paula put a fingerprint on the form.  However, nowhere in this process was a driver's license of any sort required.  That explains a lot about driving in Colombia.
However, our 993-cc Chevy Spark (GM Korea) ended up safely in the garage under the apartment building, it's little teeth chattering.
The next morning, we drove north through the beautiful Colombian countryside with our friends the Boulters, who are heading home in a few days at the end of their mission.
We stopped along the way for lunch, and the arepas were so tasty that Paula immediately enrolled in a short course at Mama María's University of Roadside Cooking.
After about a three-hour drive, during which I felt pretty comfortable, realizing that no one else had a driver's license either, and after the Boulters were only stopped once at a Military Checkpoint, we arrived at the Hotel Sochagota in Paipa.  By the way, the Boulters speak bad enough Spanish that the soldier finally just laughed and waved them through.
The Hotel, on the lake of the same name, was built at great effort in 1969, and was quite nice.  The killer feature, however, was the view across the lake.

Killer feature #2 was the silence.  We realized that since October 21st, we had not experienced such.  You could hear the birds and the breeze, and no car alarms, motorbikes, buses, horns, etc.

On Christmas Eve, we went to a really old hotel and enjoyed a late lunch.  No kidding, Simón Bolívar slept there - for TWO nights.  As it was explained to us, George Washington was the Simón Bolívar of the United States.

Being a rich guy´s plantation in those days, it had its own church, which you have to admit is a great feature to have around your house, and probably contributes to resale.

Later that evening, we hired a van, and visited some of the more outstanding Christmas decorations in the little towns around.  Oh, and I almost forgot, we got to meet Simón Bolívar himself at the Monument to the Fourteen Lancers.  The policeman at the right was a nice guy, and gave a 20-minute explanation of the very pivotal battle fought there.  He said that the monument only had the figures of the Fourteen Lancers because it would have been too big with the other 800-some guys in the battle.
The several town plazas we visited on Christmas Eve were enthusiastically decorated.

One had an extensive display, with moving figures depicting Bible scenes.  This shows Moses with the Ten Commandments.  In the foreground is the (not real) golden calf.  We were impressed by the lack of Political Correctness about such things, and found it refreshing.

On Christmas morning, we attended church in Duitama.  On the way there and back, I saw at least three bright pink bikes with excited little girls, and smiling dads standing by.  

We also strolled around a picturesque little village, now populated by artist types and visiting blondes.
What would Christmas be without Skype?!  We were able to talk with Mike in England, as well as everyone else except Laura, who was in a yurt in the Owallas in Oregon with Ben, snowed in for the weekend, and blissfully out of communication with the world.
The day after Christmas, we took a five-mile hike around Lake Sochagota (try saying that five times fast). Luckily, the associated waterworks are watched over by a famous South-American revolutionary.
The hotel is built on the site of hot springs, and the pool is filled by them.  This is great, as the altitude is still 8,000+ feet, and the air is cool.  And so is the Hotel Sochagota bathing cap I had to buy and wear!
Paula looked better in hers.
It was a totally relaxing Christmas weekend, though different than the usual.
Admitting finally that we needed to return to reality, we packed up and headed back to Bogotá, stopping for arepas, sausage and baked plantains with cheese, a pretty typical roadside offering.
As we returned to the edges of the city itself, our route took us through a poor section with crowded streets and big potholes.  Paula wisely suggested, "Try not to look so white!"  I tried, though I'm not sure with what degree of success.
Presents were not a part of Christmas this year, and that was OK.  We spent some good time together and with friends, and talked with family, including our twice-annual conversation with Mike on his mission.
I also had some time to just sit and ponder, and what I seemed to hear was that, as complicated and desperate as the world may seem, there is still peace to be found individually through doing the right things, and following the path defined by the Savior.
We hope that you got through all your military checkpoints smoothly, and that your Christmas was likewise satisfying.

Dave & Paula


Angela said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences! I've enjoyed every one of your posts. I was sad to see that we cannot send snail mail as I made an awesome Christmas Card this year. In no way does it rival your past creations, but pretty cool just the same.

We miss seeing you two at church, however you are MUCH more interesting now that you are serving a mission:) J/k

Janine said...

Loved hearing about your Christmas! As my mother would say "it was a journal entry"! We miss you too, but are so happy you can have this amazing experience dedicating this time to serving the Lord.