I feel very lucky to have met so, so many lovely friends in Colombia who made my birthday weekend a particularly delightful one. The festivities began on Friday at 9.a.m. in room 301 of the Colombo. The bell had rung for class to start, but my students were nowhere to be found. A few minutes later they all burst through the door singing “Happy Birthday” with a handful of balloons. It turns out they had been waiting for their friend to bring a birthday cake, but he never showed up. They did, however, gift me with the giant sparkler candle that was intended for my cake and a few candy bars. After class I came home to the sounds of a salsa version of “Feliz Cumpleaños” being blasted from the stereo and the smells of a savory lunch being prepared by my host brother Andres. While I was lamenting the fact that my giant sparkler candle was without a cake to stand on, Andres surprised me with a special birthday dessert made of apples, carrots, cheese, oatmeal and brown sugar. It was his interpretation of the quintessentially American apple crisp I have made twice now for my Colombian friends.
In the afternoon I headed to the Modern Art Museum for Salas Abiertas – an event akin to Denver’s First Friday artwalk that happens every three months. Different cultural centers have art expositions as well as dance performances, music and a traveling theater troop that performs short plays in each gallery.
After that it was time for salsa class – my favorite event of the week – and then my evening conversation class at Colombo. After class at Colombo I was able to catch one more exposition of Salas Abiertas in a dilapidated old theater called Teatro Santander.
With an air of triumph before our smiling, cultured city, stands this beautiful building on the southeast corner of Parque del Centenario.
Art has been worshiped here since Feb. 23, 1932, a date which can be considered the true inauguration of the theater with a concert by conductor Andres Dalmau.
Thanks to its lovely, stunning exterior and the elegant style that it boasts with its theater boxes, balconies and orchestra section, the Teatro Santander has always enjoyed the fondness of Bucaramanga’s public who have never seen their hopes dashed with the variety of shows that are developed here in accordance with the highest forms of culture.
In all fairness, the Teatro Santander can be considered one of the greatest prides of the capital of Santander.
A group of folks are working to restore this gem to its former glory and in roughly one year the theater will again be hosting operas, orchestras and plays. Right now the building is basically an open construction sight and was decorated with catawampus black and white photographs of Barichara – Santander’s most beautiful city. With my love of nostalgia, history and old theaters I had a lovely time wandering through this old building.
Afterwards we went next door to Centro Cultural de Oriente to take a few spooooooky photos.
The rest of evening was spent with a few friends at the local hostel, Kasa Guane, a favored spot for my friends to go out on the weekends. Unfortunately, though, my looming Saturday morning class hastened the evening to an early end. The following night I headed to my home away from home – the salsa club named Calison. We danced and danced and danced!
On Sunday afternoon Alejo and I headed to Girón, a colonial town that’s just 15 minutes from Bucaramanga, but had somehow managed to remain unexplored by myself for the last 4 months. The central park was full of people and a special feeling of community that is ubiquitous in the small towns of Colombia. Our stroll around town turned into a gastronomical tour of Girón which included grilled corn on the cob, mantecado ice cream, toffee with peanuts, a super sweet anise-flavored taffy and Colombian coffee. We enjoyed the relaxed ambiance of the quiet town and I savored the final moments of my delightful birthday weekend.