Wedding Crashing in Manizales

50th Anniversary Wedding, Colombian Style

50th Anniversary Wedding, Colombian Style
“Come on Jeff.  We’re invited to the finca.”
“Right, the finca,” I replied, only pretending to know what she was talking about.  I hopped into the cab with my friend Maribel, her grandmother, and her cousin.  Just as I was about to close the door, an unknown eight-year-old girl was thrown into my lap (apparently there was not enough room in the other cab).  She looked just as uncomfortable as I was; except she actually had an idea of where we were going.
I met Maribel on a tortuous roller coaster bus ride from Bogota to Manizales, and after just a few hours of talking, I was invited to stay with her family for a week.  Maribel kindly moved into her parent’s bedroom so that I could have a bed of my own, and we spent the next week exploring town, the local markets, and the hills behind her house.  Her family gave me a lot:  home cooked meals, motorcycle instruction, and manicure lessons (never know what skills I might need in my travels).  Although I was thoroughly enjoying my stay,  I had no idea of what was coming each new day.  This was a common theme in my travels, partly due to my poor Spanish and partly due to the fact that the people here love to surprise their guests.
The taxi dropped us off at the city center, where about 100 family members were waiting for a bus transfer to the finca.  I surmised that this was a family reunion of sorts, except that it wasn’t my family nor Maribel’s.  We crammed into the bus for the hour long journey into the coffee fields of Colombia.  Having more seats than people, the driver announced that all kids were to sit on the laps of the adults.  I grabbed the two closest toddlers, and we were off.  As we fed them sugar-coated peanuts the whole way, they didn’t seem to mind that they were sitting in the laps of strangers.  I used the long bus ride to inquire about what we were doing here.
It turns out that we were going to a wedding, although whose wedding it was, was still unclear.  Maribel must have had a good connection with a pedicure client that day, as we both received an invite to her parents renewal of their vows.  It was their 50th anniversary and in Colombia, this was often a bigger party than the first wedding.  I liked the idea.  Anyone can get married and I have seen a fair number of carefree marriages in my travels (in fact my best friend from the Caribbean had been married nine times by the age of thirty-three).  But fifty years together; that’s worthy of a party.
As we arrived to the wedding grounds, I realized how unprepared I was for this fiesta.  Unshaven and dressed in jeans and sneakers, I would have to hide in the back during the ceremony.   Furthermore, it turns out that everyone but me had come with bedding to spend the night in the adjacent cabins.  Looks like I would be spending the night in the cow barn.
The wedding was not that dissimilar from one in the states, except Salsa and Meringue took the place of songs like “We are Family,” “Brick House,” and “Y.M.C.A” (gracias a Dios).  While adults were busy dancing and drinking shots of aguardiente (Colombia’s favorite liquor), the kids were executing back flips and cannonballs into a packed pool.  After the last dance, I found shelter under a palm tree (I didn’t know that palm trees existed at 9,000 feet), and cuddled myself into a ball for the remainder of the night.  Although I enjoyed the fiesta, the food, and the company I never actually met the bride or groom.

“Come on Jeff.  We’re invited to the finca.”

“Right, the finca,” I replied, only pretending to know what she was talking about.  I hopped into the cab with my friend Maribel, her grandmother, and her cousin.  Just as I was about to close the door, an unknown eight-year-old girl was thrown into my lap (apparently there was not enough room in the other cab).  She looked just as uncomfortable as I was; except she actually had an idea of where we were going.

I met Maribel on a tortuous roller coaster bus ride from Bogota to Manizales, and after just a few hours of talking, I was invited to stay with her family for a week.  Maribel kindly moved into her parent’s bedroom so that I could have a bed of my own, and we spent the next week exploring town, the local markets, and the hills behind her house.  Her family gave me a lot:  home cooked meals, motorcycle instruction, and manicure lessons (never know what skills I might need in my travels).  Although I was thoroughly enjoying my stay,  I had no idea of what was coming each new day.  This was a common theme in my travels, partly due to my poor Spanish and partly due to the fact that the people here love to surprise their guests.

The taxi dropped us off at the city center, where about 100 family members were waiting for a bus transfer to the finca.  I surmised that this was a family reunion of sorts, except that it wasn’t my family nor Maribel’s.  We crammed into the bus for the hour long journey into the coffee fields of Colombia.  Having more seats than people, the driver announced that all kids were to sit on the laps of the adults.  I grabbed the two closest toddlers, and we were off.  As we fed them sugar-coated peanuts the whole way, they didn’t seem to mind that they were sitting in the laps of strangers.  I used the long bus ride to inquire about what we were doing here.

This poor kid is wondering how he got stuck in the gringo's lap

This poor kid is wondering how he got stuck in the gringo's lap

It turns out that we were going to a wedding, although whose wedding it was, was still unclear.  Maribel must have had a good connection with a pedicure client that day, as we both received an invite to her parents renewal of their vows.  It was their 50th anniversary and in Colombia, this was often a bigger party than the first wedding.  I liked the idea.  Anyone can get married and I have seen a fair number of carefree marriages in my travels (in fact my best friend from the Caribbean had been married nine times by the age of thirty-three).  But fifty years together; that’s worthy of a party.

As we arrived to the wedding grounds, I realized how unprepared I was for this fiesta.  Unshaven and dressed in jeans and sneakers, I would have to hide in the back during the ceremony.   Furthermore, it turns out that everyone but me had come with bedding to spend the night in the adjacent cabins.  Looks like I would be spending the night in the cow barn.

The wedding was not that dissimilar from one in the states, except Salsa and Meringue took the place of songs like “We are Family,” “Brick House,” and “Y.M.C.A” (gracias a Dios).  While adults were busy dancing and drinking shots of aguardiente (Colombia’s favorite liquor), the kids were executing back flips and cannonballs into a packed pool.  After the last dance, I found shelter under a palm tree (I didn’t know that palm trees existed at 9,000 feet), and cuddled myself into a ball for the remainder of the night.  Although I enjoyed the fiesta, the food, and the company I never actually met the bride or groom.

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One response to “Wedding Crashing in Manizales

  1. I don’t know If I said it already but …This blog rocks! I gotta say, that I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

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