Thursday, August 16, 2007

Like Father, Like Son

Before I met my employer in Bogota and began my apartment search, Luis Carlos led me to his parent´s house, which was in a courtyard behind a tailor shop near the center of Chia. We walked past his parent´s large courtyard. Along one wall were large bird cages with nearly a dozen green parrots that looked alike. As I walked past them I naturally had to put my finger through the wire openings and pulled back when they tried to bite. Luis Carlos walked along the other wall, smiling.

Then we walked into his father´s workshop. The room was cluttered with hand tools and art supplies. His father, Pedro Antonio Mejia, was painting small wooden dogs with a small brush. He looked like an older version of Luis Carlos. He had the same bushy mustache, only his was white and blond. He was nearly bald except for some fluffy white hair on the sides of his head. He wore glasses and suspenders and had a potbelly like his son. After a brief chat with Luis Carlos, we walked upstairs to Pedro´s bedroom. Just outside his bedroom a diploma hung on the wall - it was Luis Carlos, who graduated with a journalism degree. Inside the bedroom hung paintings, figures, and small, ornate wooden carvings of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and other saints that he had created. He obviously was a religious man. He also liked to drink. When Luis Carlos left he grabbed a margarita bottle from his shelf and we had a shot together. When Luis Carlos returned, he laughed. It was only later I found out his father was 85 years old.

That night, after dinner, Luis Carlos poured us each a shot of aguardiente. His wife, Fabiola, had cooked us dinner as she did for every meal. She rarely drank and was upstairs. Luis Carlos sat at the dinner table while watching the Yankees playing in New York on his small television. Either the television or music always seems to be on in Colombian homes. But I´ll discuss those topics later. So aguardiente is clear and warms the body. (Aguardiente probably got its name from the words for water and hot, agua and caliente. It is to Colombians what tequila is to Mexicans. I had told him I was cold. In Bogota it is hot during the day and cold at night. Because it is 8,661 feet above sea level it doesn´t feels humid. Luis Carlos didn´t have heating. Only the cold water faucets worked, and the shower was only hot when it wasn´t cold outside. Hence, I couldn´t take a nice, hot shower. But he told me Aguardiente would warm me up. One shot truned into six shots, and we had finished what remained in the 750 ml bottle. That is when he reached on his shelf and pulled out a carton of aguardiente. It seemed odd. Why would it come in a juice box carton. The carton was one liter. Luis Carlos said it was better from the carton. Sure enough, he was right. I then excused myself to take a shower and organize my belongings. When I returned downstairs, Luis Carlos poured me a few more shots against my will. He said he had had 34 shots. Granted he wasn´t drinking alone, as a friend of his had stopped by but drank only whiskey. I grabbed the carton and shook it. It was now only a quarter full. He told me that his house was also my house and that he considered me one of his sons. He had driven me all over Bogota looking for apartments and chauffered me around. I knew he was drunk but I had to smile and thank him. He had never asked me for a thing and even though it had been difficult communicating, he never stopped trying. The more he drank the more English he spoke. I was surprised. He had only used a word here and there and was now putting together complete sentences. As I joked with him later, drinking aguardiente is a great help when learning English.