Preparing for comings and goings

16 Dec

I’ve never taken the time to recognize this, but Decembers are traditionally months of change in my life and in the lives of others. Change and intensity, more accurately, with finals, papers, tests, travel and many, many “hello”s, “goodbye”s and heightened emotions. So many tearful holiday specials to watch, so many feelings to eat, so many leftovers to dig through; generally, so little time.

It should be no surprise, then, that the same holds true here in Medellín. Last night we said goodbye to a dear friend who is leaving on a month-long trip around the country and will depart in mid-January to return to Austria. Eva has been a constant fixture in our lives here in our outings (and innings) in the best ways. She’s creative, she’s fun/ny, super interesting and thoughtful, and it has been sort of a blessing to have someone explain to us in English when we don’t get jokes or the gist of a conversation (we’re rubes).

SO, last night we went to the aula to watch a series of skits that were the culmination of a class that was taught there, chatted for a bit and then headed off to Café Malaga, a Medellín institution. It’s renowned for a few things, but the most important are:

  1. TANGO
  2. The hours

Once upon a time, Medellín had a bustling tango scene. Now, most of the clubs and bars generally cater to salsa (or traditional dances like cumbia or porro); these styles are relatively free-form, with steps that people generally follow and a lot of personal flair thrown in for good measure. Tango, however, is a different beast altogether.

Many of the paisas who settled here originally wanted to set themselves apart from the rest of the country. While everyone else was interested in dancing salsa, paisas decided that they were, like, over it and decided to embrace the tango, instead. The tango is, from what I understand, very formal, with little wiggle room for an extra step here or a second twirl, there.

Nowadays, it’s the salsa that reigns supreme and the tango exists in small clubs that are usually frequented by old world paisas, the kind that get dressed to go out every day in suits, blackened shoes and fedoras. They go out, drink aguardiente, chat with their friends and jump up and dance when the music moves them at places like Café Malaga.

But a business can’t sustain itself on the patronage of the old world which, by definition, is passing and dying out. To cater to a younger generation they play salsa, and have a few billiard tables in the back of the club. They also have a man who sings his own brand of music, mingling with the crowd, sitting down with you to sing a verse….come to think of it, this sort of spans both generations as a vestige of years past for the older generation and a novelty act (that’s actually quite good) for the more youthful set. Don’t worry, he gave us his card…and then autographed it. You’re so jealous, but can you just stop and be happy for me?

Another bridge they’ve built between generations is the hours. They open at 7 or 8 in the morning and close around 3 or 4 in the morning. The early and older crowd sips on café con leche or jugos while enjoying the hustle and bustle of the centro (as well as a few dances) and the younger crowd subsists on ice-filled glasses of rum or aguardiente with a water chaser.

The space itself is terribly charming, another aspect of its novelty. Despite the fact that it’s horribly well-lit (not the place to come and blend in when very drunk), the walls are covered with sepia or black/white photographs from more glamorous day, showcasing the great beauties of theatre, cinema and music in latin American history. I could not name a single person on the wall (or place the namesake for a single life-sive cutout they have around the place) but it doesn’t make them any less charming.

And so, it was here that we went for Eva’s going away party, drinking rum, taking photos and enjoying ourselves. Sadly, we didn’t witness any tango (stupid old people, why didn’t you come to entertain us?!) but it was worth the trip to toast to Eva among friends and soak in the atmosphere.

On a lighter note, we are preparing for the arrival of Mari, Marc, Garrett and Torrey this Monday! I am so excited to have them here to share in what will surely be a memorable holiday. Our [kickass] apartment will be lleno with the six of us occupying every conceivable nook and cranny, but it will be wonderful. I hope they aren’t freaked out by the fireworks that seem to be going off at all hours of the night. Just wait, guys: Christmas is going to be wild.

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One Response to “Preparing for comings and goings”

  1. Lea Anthony December 17, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    I am enjoying your adventures my darling. Christmas is coming, and I do not think we will have shells this year. That will wait for your homecoming.
    Kisses, Mom

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