Pueblo Sketches

In a dream, outside my door in the hallway at Margarita’s were 3 large Aqualogic ceramic water filters I’d accidentally ordered.

What would it mean if you had a dream in which your driver’s license and credit card both disappeared, and your debit card had a hold placed on it due to suspected fraud? (Real life, true story.)

Ruben, at the market where I buy chocolate, peanuts, pasta, rice and beans, greets me by name and gives me a fist bump and a grin. He got down on the floor to help me look for my credit card (to no avail) after I realized it was lost.

Sometimes with the young male Earth Regenerators volunteers, I felt like Wendy with the lost boys. They needed to be cared for and fed, to learn their way around and speak a wee bit of Spanish; sometimes they acted obstreperous and needed limits set, sometimes they needed emotional support and I would listen with empathy to their heartbreaks, loneliness or self-doubts. And I was amused at Alpha’s Michael Jackson-inspired dance steps and Jakob’s exuberant hand-stands. I got to see both Charles and Chad with and without their beards.

“Sovereign being seeking nucleo”: Acting as hostess for a household of randomly arriving and leaving volunteers wasn’t right for me. I’ve been bounced back into the nucleo of shared purpose where I belong: with Margarita and Rafa! We cook for one another, share hugs, help each other solve problems.

Margarita made the contact with Redbiocol and Lylian Rojas, who has NINE biodigesters on her farm and has worked with the technology for 30 years! I’m about to go live there for a week and learn as much as possible.

At my favorite sit-spot, on a stone bench at the edge of the canyon, I pick up trash each time I come. Usually it’s not more than a few bits of plastic and some cigarette butts, but I always feel good afterwards. It’s like cleaning a shrine, or an altar.

A middle-aged woman knocks on my door. She’s selling freshly made arepas: cornmeal patties with cheese inside, which you fry in a little oil to heat them and melt the cheese. Sort of the Colombian version of a grilled cheese sandwich. With a side of tomato and avocado, totally delicious! She sold me 5 arepas for 7k, which is less than $2. Just two make a hearty meal. I love that people come door to door and sell things like arepas and yogurt.

Rafa sent me a present just before I moved back to Margarita’s: maracuyas and mangoes! Then, we made the most delicious maracuya juice to go with my black beans, rice, salad and guacamole. Bliss! Reminded me of last summer when I cooked lunch for Rafa and myself four days in a row while he was doing hard manual labor on the house; and each day, he made heavenly maracuya juice from the ripe fruit on Margarita’s vines!!

“Ayy, mi Caty linda!” Those words from Rafa just melt my heart.

Orange cats are my favorite, like the sweet Honeycat I left in North Carolina. The other day, sitting on a stone wall, I saw a beautiful young golden male cat, who immediately returned my fond gaze with rapturous rubs against my back, and then settled down on my lap to purr. The divine golden kitten. A little boy came up to me: “Es tu gato?” “No.” “De quien es?” “No se.” I didn’t know whose cat he was, but we were quite happy to hang out together. There’s also Charlie, Margarita’s orange cat, who is my good friend and snuggles up for petting. A tragically thin cat accosted me in the Bioparque one day, making eye contact and desperately asking for food. I had nothing for him. The next day I bought some dry cat food and carried it with me whenever I was in the Bioparque, but I never saw him again.

Clusters of teenagers in green and white school uniforms hanging out together in the Parque Central, chatting after school. One group must have been in a band or orchestra because they all were carrying musical instrument cases.

A grasshopper emphatically and boldly hops onto my daypack on my lap, and stares at me with enormous eyes; I stare back for a long moment before it hops away. These insects are like the extraterrestrials among us — such different lifeforms! A tiny fuzzy black and tan caterpillar looking like a pushme-pullyou, with apparent antennae on both ends of its short body and 3 tiny red dots on its back, explores my arm. Butterflies look like mobile, fluttering versions of the zinnias and bougainvillea they visit. One has wings of translucent green with black veins, like a leaf.

Rafa tenderly plants tiny seedlings in the crevices of rocks at the base of the cabaña he and a friend are building for his girlfriend Shona, who is in England for the summer. The house now has a roof.

Swallows dart and swoop rapidly across Carrera 8 at dusk. I see that they have homes in a dry-stacked rock wall.

Gorgeously dressed fashion models strike poses for their photographers in the streets of this picturesque town. Tourists from Bogota step out of brightly painted red, blue, and yellow tourist minibuses to take pictures of the canyon and the steep streets.

At Babá café, the language exchange, organized by Jakob, happens two nights a week. Usually there’s a big table of native Spanish-speaking people wanting to learn English, and a smaller table of native English speakers wanting to learn Spanish. But at all tables, both English and Spanish get spoken at times. It’s a great way to meet people and learn a bit about their lives. Some people are the “regulars,” others just drop in from time to time.

Old faded “Navidad” (Christmas) posters from 2021 still hang on several doors, from a Catholic school.

An ancient man with a burden of sticks on his back heads down the hill. Sweet eye contact and smiles with “Buenas tardes!” from a young couple.

Vito arranges large and smaller rocks at the top of the Bioparque into two connected spirals, with great care and artistry.

Heading home as the late afternoon clouds close in, just in time for a warm solar shower. Half an hour later, a huge deluge of rain!

Intense telephone conversations with my friend Dan Gonzales as he tries to sell his house, get free and move here.

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Cathy Holt

Cathy Holt

Cathy is a member of the Earth Regenerators Network. She’s passionate about regenerating landscapes with water retention, agro-forestry, and biogas digestors.