Big City Trouble

I woke up grumpy and as these things go, negative energy attracts negative energy – my camera broke (although hopefully, it’s just the battery) and it was rainy. Saige, meanwhile, is a handful. She is a bundle of energy, running away from us without even looking back. Keeping her safe here, with all the cars on the road, and all the colorful garbage to pick up and stick in her mouth, has been a real challenge. She has also been asking to nurse constantly, literally every hour, and I am feeling tired and used up. Luckily, Esteban was in a good mood so we balanced each other out (and it reminded me to use my skills to improve my mood).

Rain or no rain, we set off to explore Medellin with our active toddler and two fighting older sisters in tow. We started off at the aptly named Explora center, a science complex with an aquarium, a science museum, brain teaser games for kids and a 3-D movie theater. The kids really enjoyed this!

Then we headed off across the street to the Botanical Gardens. They were small and very green and while walking Saige for her nap, I saw a huge iguana just strolling around. It was over four feet long – a real treat!

At this point, the family was tired but I am pretty insatiable in my curiosity and desire to see everything, so I dragged them all to a nearby plaza famed for its 23 statues by Colombia’s most famous, and internationally renowned artist, Fernando Botero. When we arrived there, we discovered that the plaza is also home to a gorgeous cathedral and the Museum of Antioquia (as this region of Colombia is called). The museum was free during the holidays and I was trying in vain to convince the family to check it out. Jade was game but I wasn’t having much luck with Esteban or Siena when a woman who works at the museum came up to offer us some tickets. She shamed Esteban into accepting them by telling him that “it’s a sin to visit Medellin and not go to its best museum”. Divine intervention!

The museum was very nice, with a great collection of Botero’s paintings and sculpture, but the best part was that as we were leaving, a guard said to us. “Do you want to meet Botero? He is here.” Seriously? The man spends most of his time between his houses in Paris, New York and a small town in Italy. He visits Medellin once a year for a few weeks and we happen to be here at the museum while he is here visiting his own collection?!!!! It was really cool! Even the kids were excited. To them, only dead people’s paintings hang at museums, so to see the famous Botero, whose art work they have been seeing all over Colombia, in person was a treat. Esteban was really excited too (and very happy that he was shamed into coming to the museum). He talked to Botero and took several pictures of him to share with friends at the office.

As an aside, cities are hard with kids. Developing country cities are especially hard with kids. Medellin, however, is probably the nicest developing country city we have ever been to –not only does it have perfect weather year around (the temperature is in the mid to high 70’s all the time, earning it the moniker of “City of Eternal Spring”) but it is also pretty, with some interesting contemporary architecture and good museums, lots of green spaces and trees everywhere, the only metro system in Colombia, clean with very little trash on the ground, good restaurants, and surrounded by beautiful mountains. And the people here really live up to their reputation of being super nice and friendly (Bogotanos on the other hand, have a reputation of being cold and stand-offish). People from Medellin also seem to take real pride in their city, which is really great too.

So after a long day, we finally arrived at a Tex-Mex place for dinner, satisfied and exhausted… and in want of a cold beer… badly. In my exhaustion, I was not amused when a pimply faced eighteen year old waiter told us that it’s against the law in Medellin to serve alcoholic beverages to people who are out with children. Seriously? We had never heard of such a thing. And I thought we lived in a Puritan country! Plus, I have seen Colombians drinking everywhere with their children! But no matter how much we debated with him or told him jokingly “how else are parents supposed to get through raising their children if not by drinking beer?” he was not moved. Apparently, it’s the law and we weren’t getting a beer tonight.

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