Last night was a late night trying to get the bike video put together and uploaded. Today I found an internet cafe downtown that seems to be working a little better for me.
Yesterday they had elections here in Colombia. No candidate got more than 50% of the votes, so there will be a run-off on June 20th between the top two candidates: Juan Manual Santos and Antanas Mockus. Most the people that I have met here support Mockus, the son of Lithuanian immigrants. A philosopher and academic, his opponents say that while he seems intelligent that he doesn’t have clear ideas, has flip-flopped on ideas, and isn’t capable of being a strong leader. On the other hand, those who support Mockus say that Santos is too much of a military-style leader. Serving as President Uribe’s Secretary of Defense, he has been very aggressive toward neighboring Ecuador and Venezuela. I think Santos will end up being elected as it will seem like the safer vote for many Colombians. Just like in the US, people were glued to their TVs and radios following the results. Anyway, back to last Monday where I had a busy day getting ready for my trip to come here to Manizales. On top of everything I had to do, I was foolish enough to get locked out of my apartment and lost several hours waiting for the locksmith company that said they would be there in 30 minutes. I should have hung up with this company after the following conversation:
Me: Hi, is this the locksmith company on New Hampshire Avenue?
Me: Yes, hi, is this the number to the locksmith?
Woman: What do you want?
Me: I’m sorry, is this the locksmith on New Hampshire Avenue?
Woman: Why are you calling?
Me: I’m looking for a locksmith. Have I called the right number?
Woman: What do you need?
Me: (now a little frustrated) I need a locksmith…am I calling the right place?
Woman: I am not a locksmith, but I can have a locksmith call you back….
Well this went on for a while, anyway I finally figured out that I did have the right number and she was going to send a locksmith. It would cost $29 to come out to the house and then an hourly labor fee for the work. I asked how much the hourly rate was and the woman said that the only the locksmith would be able to tell me that.
So the locksmith arrives and assesses my “simple lock” at $199 plus the $29. I asked how long it was going to take and he said he didn’t know. He also wouldn’t tell me what the hourly rate was, but $199 seemed insane. In the end, I negotiated it down to $29 plus $71 to get the door opened. He had it open in less than five minutes.
Ok, enough venting…but hopefully you learn from my experience. If you haven’t already make sure one or two people have a spare key to your home and if you have to call a locksmith remember that you can probably negotiate with them.
Later that night I was walking through Dupont Circle and saw a couple that seemed to just be enjoying the beautiful night sitting near the fountain. I stopped to talk to them. It turns out that Julia and Ken became my first recipients from Canada! It was not easy at first convincing them that there was not catch to the ten dollars. Ken was particularly suspicious. “At the end of all this you’re not going to try to get me to join some church are you?” Afterall, we were sitting a couple hundred yards away from the founding Church of Scientology. I assured them that there were no conditions related to my gift and that I just wanted to take some time to get to know them. Ken cautiously agreed to proceeded.
Hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, they had been in DC for 5 days and were leaving on Tuesday. They came to DC for a small wedding but managed to extend the trip a few extra days and make a mini-vacation out of it. They were staying a stone’s throw away at the newly renovated Dupont Hotel. After a full day of visiting the Air and Space Museum, Museum of Natural History, Museum of American History, and the National Art Gallery, their tired legs and feet were enjoying a peaceful moment in this urban respite. They really enjoyed the wedding. There was a musical group made up of several Ukrainians who were excellent. “They were only supposed to play three songs but they played all night,” they told me. While they were at the wedding the met a man who was from Winnipeg as well. After talking some time they realized that he used to live in the same neighborhood where Julia and Ken also used to live. After a few more questions they realized that the man actually used to live in the exact same house that they did. Bizarre right. What are the chances to run into someone who used to live in your exact house, especially in a different country! Well this couple is no stranger to coincidences. As we sat on the bench, another Winnipeg couple from the wedding strolled by and said hello. They weren’t staying at the same hotel even, but they happened to be walking through Dupont Circle after getting turned around after dinner. The $10 they assured me would go to someone else or some organization. “I promise you it wont be spent on anything for us,” Ken assured me.
If I ever get to Winnipeg, they gave me a few pointers on what to see and do there. Grand Beach, a very shallow sandy beach, is a very nice place to visit in the summer they told me. Ken added that this beach was once rated on of the top ten beaches by Playboy Magazine (Ken only read the magazine for the articles apparently.) “You should also go to Kelekis and get a hot dog, they are the best,” according to Julia. They also have wonderful theaters, symphonies, operas and even the Royal Ballet. I particularly enjoyed a story that Julia shared with me about leaving Kelekis one time and seeing an old man walking back and forth looking confused. She approached him and learned that he was looking for the bus stop. Well, Julia recognized him as Leo Mol, a Ukrainian (they seem to like Ukrainians!) born artist that achieved worldwide notoriety as a sculptor and offered to give him a lift and he accepted. He was already in his 90s and still working regularly. There is a sculpture garden in Winnipeg she told me that has several pieces of his work.
I asked if there was anything that we could help them with, but they couldn’t think of much. “Perhaps some tips for our son who is going to travel through South America for six months,” Julia mentioned. If anyone has some tips on making the best out of a six-month backpack style adventure in South America, leave a comment for Julia and Ken.
We said goodnight. I made a quick joke that I wanted Ken and Julia to join my church and went on my way.