For most of my life I’ve been a fast walker. I don’t know if it’s because I’m highly strung (I’m NOT highly strung! Why do people KEEP ON SAYING THAT?!??!?!?); yet another weird manifestation of my Lapsed Catholic Guilt; or the fact that I always succeed in leaving everything til the minute after the last minute. Anyway, so I’m a fast walker by nature, right?
Keeping this background of Fast Walking in mind, you can just imagine the hilarity that ensued upon me moving to Colombia, and encountering the manner of perambulation overwhelmingly favoured here. It would be hard to describe the walking pace as fast, really. I just couldn’t get it: is it actually physically possible for a human being to stretch one leg and then the other so s l o w l y? If anything, it just looked a bit painful to me [I tried once. It is painful. – Paul F]. How did they get anywhere? Even in the two major cities, Bogota and Medellin, where everything else seems to bustle, the pedestrians certainly don’t. It got to the point that I’d picture the street as a footie field, every other pedestrian an opponent, and I’d dodge them all by giving them my best goose-step. Or, if the street were impenetrable, hop from foot to foot behind some blissfully oblivious señora, hyperventiliating and wiping tears from my eyes, silently screaming “just walk, can’t you?” at her back.
Then I started to calm down. It took a while (NOT highly strung, though!), but, gradually, I started to see the appeal in this different form of peregrination (can anyone tell I’m weilding thesaurus.com again?). For one thing, you get to appreciate your surroundings more. Whether this be the spectacular mullets on show in Medellin; the specific geometry of that Chapinero Hipster’s coif, or the sass of Cartagenan street vendors, you are afforded a much greater opportunity to drink all this beauty in than if you were streaming past as if all the fire and brimstone of all those catechisms past were bearing down on you.
Slowly, slowly, it began to dawn on me. A dawn as slow as the gait of that dapper old gent in front of you. Why move so fast? Are you that detached from your environment that you want to flit through it as quickly as possible? What is driving you to be so anxious about forever being somewhere else? Don’t you like where you are? Why are you asking so many questions of yourself using the second person?
Then I got it. It’s just like that song: “You can tell by the way I use my walk that I’m a relaxed man, plenny time to talk.” The thing is, the walking pace here in Colombia reflects the Colombian life philosophy. Love where you are. Take your time to be here. Don’t worry so much about the destination. It’s just like that saying: it’s not the end of the journey that cliches; it’s the cliche in the cliche that cliches. And that saying actually rings true here. I think I’m finally realising that I’m perfectly happy in not having “done” this or that particular tourist spot. I’m just happy strolling along here in Colombia, taking my time. Maybe I’ll get there: it looks pretty good. But damned if I’m not going to enjoy my amble along the way.
And then, there is the way Colombians drive cars. Let’s leave that for another day, because – wow! some kind of contrast there…