So firstly, everyone go and see The Life of Pi. Precisely two moments in cinema have ever made me cry like a horrible baby selfishly craving his mother’s breast even though she’s sore and tired and needs a bath and a nice massage and maybe a weekend in Paris. They are:
1) Bicentennial Man. A film ahead of it’s time, this story of Robin Williams’ robot servant slowly learning what it is to be human over 200 years ended with him marrying the great-great niece of his original owner, having blood injected into his circuitry and dying just before the UN grants him humanhood. Fuck you, it’s better than it sounds.
2) Sylvester Stallone’s Judge Dredd movie. Just…all of it. Fuck you Rocky.
Now there’s a third. For a hardcore atheist like myself, the kind who kicks dust at priests on general principle, a film about faith and multidisciplinal religious types might not at first glance be the sort to make me squeak through my fingers and snot in my popcorn. But it did.
Apart from being an almost unbelievably beautiful film* it was oddly appropriate for the context in which my shapely posterior sat before it. It was you see, my very last night in Bogota, a city I had called home for the preceding month. Why was this relevant? Because dear reader, towards the end, after all the hyper-motherships were defeated and the evil Zorgan Empire was confined to the intergalactic history books, a character spoke thusly:
“I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go.”
The waterworks were in full flow at this point but even though the film had me well ensconced in it’s steely grip this line lifted me from the haze of unreality and plonked me back to real life. It was odd. I took a moment to consider my location, the people I was with and the life I had been leading for the previous 4 months and I thought to myself; “That’s really quite insightful. Also this popcorn tastes funny.”
Letting go is the theme of this particular entry. I haven’t thought of a title yet but it’ll be something relevant to this general idea just you wait and see. The Life of Pi was a perfectly perfect way to end my time in Bogota, much more so than getting pissed on the local grog and messily hitting on anything with two legs and long hair (sorry again Hugo). Even better, I saw it with a fantastic bunch who were soon to comprise my first Letting Go experience for quite a while. It wasn’t easy and indeed it never is.
So Bogota was the first to go. My final stop in Colombia however was to be further afield, far to the south. For 363 days of the year Pasto is your typical Colombian town: life is lived, people bustle, cars honk and that one guys gets annoyed about his neighbour’s parking habits. For the other two, everyone goes fucking mental, flour becomes the most precious resource in town and foam spraycans outsell food. This is the Carnival de Negros y Blancos and I’ve never, ever seen anything like it in my short, short life.
I have no idea what it stands for or what exactly is being celebrated. What I know is that literally thousands of people flood the streets armed with bags of flour and talc, foam and paint and set about dirtying anyone who looks even slightly cleaner than themselves. Although this is a huge deal in the area, it’s not so well known internationally. It’s not even in the Lonely Planet. The result of this relative anonymity is that any and all gringos become Public Enemy Nos 1, 2, 3 and possibly even 4. Within seconds of stepping foot outside of our hostel the air was thick with screams of “Ey gringoooos!” followed swiftly by more flour than Gordon Ramsey could handle. This at 9am. By 10 I resembled a particularly crappy Klu Klux Klanner and by 11 I had transmogrified into a floating cloud of dust, meandering aimlessly around the grand plaza magically consuming any beer it came across. Unfortunately at around 12 some little brat threw a handful of what felt like gravel into my eyes and I spent the rest of the day suffering pain surely few humans have ever dreamt of. How I survived I don’t know but I’ve already sold the narrative rights to a particularly enterprising Colombian filmmaker.
This was my final snapshot of Colombia: wandering the paint streaked streets stalked relentlessly by locals intent on attacking me with cooking products. It was a fitting end to my time in a country I now count as one of the finest I’ve ever visited. Without wanting to recreate my wet-nosed cinema sniffling, some of the best experiences in my life have occurred within the last 3 months. I’ve a whole collection of memories I can’t possibly forget, a plethora of new friends I genuinely believe are for life and a dyed-in-the-wool conviction that my decision to leave England was the best I have ever, ever made.
Travelling long term, you assume the simple act of saying “Goodbye” will get easier with time, that the coming and going of people and places will stop being so gut-wrenching and that you’ll learn to accept the missed connections and failed reunions. You never really do. Instead you create alternate realities to counter the brevity; realities where you don’t leave, where you return to the same groups fully intact, where you all move into a house and get a cat. At the end of the day though, real life always wins through. You grit your teeth, say your farewells and realise how blessed you are to have met the people you have. You accept that life is indeed the act of letting go and you move on to the next adventure.
So yes. Ciao for now Colombia. Hasta pronto (tal vez).
Now for a song that sums up my time here. Yeah, wasn’t hard.
*It even had a sloth. A SLOTH! I think that’s when I started welling up.