I am in Colombia (Cali, to be exact) where I am beginning my 4-6 month experiment in location-independent working in South America. And it is not so easy, as the beginnings of most big adventures often are not. I came to Cali for two weeks before heading to Buenos Aires. I first discovered tango here, and that’s an odd thing because Cali is the world capital of salsa. I wanted to see my old tango teachers, who teach in a more playful, freewheeling style than teachers in San Francisco or Buenos Aires. I wanted to feel the vibe of this magnetic, jolie-laide (ugly-beautiful) city so that I can write about it with more color in the memoir I am working on.
The real reason–the most important reason–which I did not admit to myself until I got here is W. The whole trip would feel empty without seeing W. again. W. was my boyfriend at the time I lived here two years ago. W. made me feel extraordinarily, calmly happy when we were together. We felt oddly meant to be together, despite the fact that we come from different worlds. He did not go to college. He worked in the military police until he was able to retire at 41, recently. He doesn’t go on the Internet at all these days.
When I was in Cali last, he was willing to move to the States. I put on the brakes. I needed to come home to the States for various reasons, including the fact that I was sick (later I learned the cause was celiac disease). It took me two years to return to Cali because I have been healing from the ravages of undiagnosed celiac and quite nervous to travel internationally, especially to a country where people don’t even know what gluten is, let alone celiac disease. I’ve since realized that my eating practices in Colombia must change beyond strictly avoiding gluten. I need to wash my fruits and vegetables almost as if I am doing a chemistry experiment–with a water and peroxide solution–and avoid tap water even in small amounts in ice cubes or coffee. My system is too vulnerable to risk getting a bacterial infection or a parasite. So that cup of coffee in the picture will be my last one. Sniff.
W. told me it was a “tormenta” (a torment) when I left. He has forced himself to move on. He told me, “You helped me dream, but now I am over the illusions, I am in reality. Life is routine everywhere, so why not here in my country where I have everything I need?” He will stay in Colombia. It is very hard for a Colombian to visit the US in a post 9/11 world. And for me to live in Colombia is difficult, considering my celiac.
I feel very sad. I have been sobbing intermittently. I just want to be quiet. No big socializing, just my tango lessons and preparing my food. We get this message that when you feel love, you are supposed to just go for it, no matter what, but going for it in this case feels like it comes with too high a personal cost. That my health would be compromised, that certain parts of me would be erased in a world so unlike my own if I were to live way out in his working-class neighborhood near the airport in Bogota.
I am sure there is a reason I have come back to Cali; it’s just that right now the reason is not yet clear.