Couchsurfing in Medellin often means meeting people socially, versus staying with them as most Colombians live with their families until marriage.
I arranged to meet Jesusa from Couchsurfing downtown one afternoon. She was going to take me on a walk past some of the sights I hadn’t seen my first few days. I was late because the taxi driver didn’t understand where I wanted to go. As we speeded past the city center, I realized the confusion and had him exit the highway immediately, and drop me off at the Universidad metro stop (so at least I recognized where we were). I got in another cab and was able to communicate where I wanted to go more effectively.
The meeting spot was Ermita de la Veracruz, a church near the Botero Plaza, but I failed to realize there are a lot of churches in the city, and I was standing next to one in the right area but not the one I suggested to Jesusa. The park and streets were crowded with people, and by a stroke of complete luck, she recognized me after having decided to check the second church since I wasn´t at the agreed upon meeting place.
We walked down a crowded pedestrian-only street to the Park of Lights, which consists of vertical poles which light up at night. During the day, it is a drab display in front of a modern library. Next, we walked through the city´s government buildings, just as it began to rain. We passed a convention center where a textile show was occurring (I think). Textile manufacturing is one of Colombia´s biggest industries. At one of the many small restaurants opposite the imposing Intelligence Building, we stopped for a light bite to eat. I had a little dish of empanadas and a caipirinha, while Jesusa went with ice cream, before we shared a taxi back toward El Poblado.
The next evening, I met Sirley at the Poblado metro stop. Sirley is one of the moderator´s for the Medellin Couchsurfing group, and she had the extensive list of references to back up her involvement. She was with two friends, Paola and Catalina. All three were biomedical engineers, and there would be more on the way.
We took a cab up to Parque Lleras and got a table at one of the many restaurants surrounding the park. It was happy hour time, though deals on food and drinks exist all day at a lot of the bigger places. The deal was two for one cocktails, so we began ordering mojitos. Or at least I did at first while the girls stuck to beer, but as more people arrived, mojitos took over!
Everyone spoke English, though some were more confident about it than others. Sirley´s friends continued to arrive, bolstering our numbers. Among the arrivals was a girl with her new boyfriend, who they were all anxious to check out in person and Marcella, who was leaving for a year or more internship or study abroad program in Zurich, Switzerland.
There are a few questions I had to ask, such as what the girls thought of living at home with their parents until marriage and whether Shakira was a force for good or bad. On the former, they appreciated the family support which cut down on their living expenses, but felt it could be a bit stifling as well. On the latter, Shakira being from Barranquilla (on the Caribbean coast), it was thought that she didn´t give back to the Colombian community as much as some of the other successful artists.
It was a fun night, and I stuck around until midnight with some of the people after Sirley left, including a Colombian business owner living and working along the gulf coast of Mississippi.