Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín, Colombia
Ever since travelling overseas as a teenager, I have been fascinated by the world. From touring Europe as a young poet, to moving to the former murder capital of the world, Medellin Colombia, to edit my book, I pride myself my innate ability to observe things once foreign to me and find the common ground in them. This allows me to see the unseen and then capture what I’ve discovered through honest storytelling via literature, film and photography. My goal in this communicative endeavour is certainly to bring the world closer but also to re-present a place to the people who call it home but who may have stopped seeing the beauty in it. Give me a camera, a notebook and a pen and let the story begin.

Colombia Travelogue Experience​​​​​​​
In intimate detail, this Literary Exposé shares a series of heartfelt stories describing my first 6 days traveling alone to the former murder capital of the world, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia.
Mission Statement
“Distinction Delivers Peace. In Confidence There Is Contentment. For When Instinct Draws A Line, That Which You Seek Will Appear If You Follow It. But Follow Nothing Else For The Sake Of Doing So, For It Is Only In Faith That Action Realizes Dreams.” Robert Young
An irritating scratch in my throat spelt trouble. It began as I was in between connecting flights while taking an impromptu stopover in Fort Lauderdale. My trek to see the beach which was surprisingly uninspiring.

Only now has the irony dawned on me; the plane that would deliver me to my final destination to reignite my life, Flight 41 was also a number that nearly ended it. It represented the 41 Nations and Territories that were celebrated in the largest installation of my work to that date. The same work whose opening reception lifted me to the greatest triumph of my life as it fell on my mothers birthday. She would suddenly and unexpectedly would fall asleep never to awaken again exactly 14 days later.

Now, nearly three years later, as I sit in my rented accommodations staring out into the mountainside and the streets of Medellin I wonder what it means to have been brought to Colombia on Flight 41 just a few short days before my mothers birthday. It seems there are no coincidences in the universe. I guess that is what I’m here to discover; what do they mean, if anything at all.

As the sun continues to rise and gently begins to warm my face I recall what ignited me to write at 7-am this morning. Arriving at the airport at night, I met my driver who quickly explained his “English is very little”. I quickly replied, “my Spanish is even less”. He chuckled politely and our 45-minute drive into the city began. Despite an unusually anxious few days leading up to the trip, now driving through the countryside, I felt settled and comfortable. Arriving at night left me at a disadvantage, preventing me from experiencing the awe and wonder I had come to expect from arriving in a new land.

At one point my driver pointed off into the darkness and spoke with pride in his voice, “look, Medellin”. The lights throughout the dark mountainside teased at a glorious view that would certainly arrive by daybreak.

The driver did not speak much throughout the ride, but the next time he did his words were less prideful and concerning; “This place not safe. Do not come, day or night.” I looked around and the environment and then looked down at my phone only to see the GPS which said I was a mere 3 minutes from my location. I chose not to give it too much thought. After all, what exactly was I going to do about it now? Moments later we arrived at the building that would be my home for the next 32 days.

The security guard met me at the gate of the building, handed me the keys, and promptly directed me to the apartment, all in Spanish. I nod my head as if I understood and entered the elevator.

I stepped off the elevator into a cramped hallway on the 27th floor and after a brief struggle with the lock, I managed to get the door open and immediately began my neurotic examination of my new space. After hanging a few things and placing a mattress cover on the bed, I finally laid my head down. By then the sore throat was becoming unbearable and with only 2 hours left till sunrise, I doubted I would catch my first day in Medellin at the crack of dawn. I shut off my alarm and just let go of the idea and restlessly went to sleep.

By morning I was grateful I left the curtains open. In the light of day, I could see the vastness of my surroundings. Sky-rises, intermixed with small buildings, narrow streets, and graffiti covered walls, all stood in the shadow of an ominous mountain. Fog like clouds draped the upper layer of the skyline protecting me from the soon to be raging sun. It was a sight that I could feel would be awe-inspiring at any other time, except, the soreness in my throat. It wasn’t so much that I was sick, but that the sickness became the catalyst for the quickly deteriorating state of mind led by the question of why; why would I get sick now, on the first day of this oh so important trip? Then it dawned on me, much like the new day brought light upon the dark city; It is Sunday, the day of rest and had I arrived in Medellin in any state other than this, I would have missed the point. I am here to rebuild the machine that is my spirit and it does not begin with expressions of joy, but in the reconfiguration of the management of despair. It is only fitting that I am now sick. Yet still, I write.

Welcome to day 1; Born Again In Medellin.


July 1, 2018
There is something about a temporary illness that just never feels so temporary. Managing my sore throat on a Sunday produced a bit of a battle in my mind. On one hand, I wanted to stick to my plan and get up and out and photograph Medellin but as the view from my open window provided the opportunity to execute that errand from inside, the need to get out wasn’t so pressing. So, I gave in to the idea of resting. All the while I kept thinking I was being lazy.

By 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I just couldn’t take laying still any more so I decided to take a walk to the supermarket to see if I could pick up a few things to cook for the week. As I stepped out of the elevator and made my way to the building exit, there was the security guard leaning on the door. As I approached I greeted him, “Hola”. He nodded his head in response. I then asked him where the nearest grocery store is, in English of course. His reaction was interesting. He clearly didn’t understand what I was saying but rather than look confused by it, he simply looked at me like I was crazy. It was a look that said, “Hey buddy, you’re in Colombia, speak Spanish.” This being my first day out on the streets of Medellin I quickly realized getting what I need may not be as easy as I thought it would be.

I used to ask my Mom what I was like when I was a kid. She would say, “Well son, one thing is for sure, you always wanted to be understood. Even if you had to explain yourself a thousand times in a thousand different ways, your goal was always to be understood.” Hmmmm. Interesting.

Eventually, the security guard recognized the word supermarket and pointed me in a direction off into the distance. I said gracias like I knew what he was talking about and just began walking, still having no idea where I needed to go.

When I got to the corner, I looked in all directions but in trying my best not to look too much like a tourist I quickly turned right. Walking down the street, I reveled in the irony of my current situation. In my mission to take a journey to get away so I may take some time out to enter into the chrysalis, break down my conscience, and rebuild my essence, I chose a place where one of my most fundamental needs cannot easily be met. No one can understand a word I am saying. The solace I have chosen is no longer a choice. Remarkable.

In hindsight and despite the difficulty and discomfort ahead, I cannot think of a better way to learn a new way to communicate honestly and intimately than to strip away the convenience of language.

It wasn’t until I got back to my accommodations that I recognized the gravity of the level of courage it takes for one to leave their homeland to come to a place where no one understands them at all. Their only desire is to attempt to begin again, take a chance, start a new life, and attempt to change their stars. In this dream for rebirth, we are akin.

I am still sick though. This damn scratchy throat is closing in on me so I continued wandering in search of a store to buy some medicine, tea, fruit, and food.

At the next turn, there was a long road devoid of cars with two sets of tracks. A modern and sleek white train lay dormant at a stop amidst a slew of pedestrians going about their day. It was an interesting futuristic sight to see juxtaposed against the older buildings and the epic mountains in the distance.
Mural by R.A.R.O
My eye caught a glance of a familiar painting on the wall. Later I realized it was a piece I had spotted from the window of my accommodations. It was striking from 27 stories up and it was certainly striking up close. As I thought I was out for a short stroll to the corner grocery and back, I didn’t have my camera with me so my phone would have to do. Moving along the wall, I got caught up in my own world reframing and looking for interesting angles as I photographed the mural.

Suddenly my instincts, or should I say my nose, told me to look down. A fresh pile of feces nearly made its acquaintance with my new white running shoes. It would not have been pretty a pretty site, the guy who speaks no Spanish in the heart of Medellin trying to find help to get smelly crap off of his shoes. Glad I dodged that one. Moments, earlier a guy on a scooter whizzed right by me as I crossed a small side street. It was as if he was trying to warn me to look where I was going. These two near accidents were enough to wake me from my curious creative coma and I once again became alert and aware of my surroundings.

Sometimes bold and at other times subtle, the creativity was astounding on the street. The mix of culture, architecture, and art, and the buzz of human activity would usually have me on an emotional high but my mood was still being dampened by my sore throat and the discomfort of not being able to communicate with anyone.
Mural by LeDania
Then I was struck by a vision as I passed an epic church nestled in between street food vendors, sneaker stores and smoothie shops. While taking in the massive structure I could see people in everyday clothes standing out front. Then my eyes caught a woman who at first seem to look as if she had caught the holy spirit but then I could hear her cries. They were not of relief that comes when one finds God but of the grief expressed when one loses a loved one. I know it, as all human beings do, all too well. She was inconsolable and in her pain, and as I realized the truth of what I was seeing the veil was removed from my eyes as I was suddenly able to see the expressions of the many in the crowd who were all focused on her and clearly feeling her pain. The sound of her voice reframed the view from my rose-coloured glasses and for some reason, I immediately thought of all the tears that have been cried over spilt blood in the region. At that moment, I couldn’t feel my sore throat. I could only feel.

I later entered the church but fought my urge to photograph the beauty I witnessed inside. People began to arrive for Sunday night mass and their statures were simply dwarfed by the height of the painstakingly built white ceiling draped with massive hanging crystal chandeliers that hung down the centre. The sides were dressed by painted depictions of the crucifixion of Christ all held in magnificent carved golden frames. Not many can do luxurious displays of art like large churches often do. It was a sight to behold.

As I walked back to my place I kept remembering the driver the night before telling me that a nearby neighbourhood was somewhere I shouldn’t go, ever. In the heart of the afternoon, I had no idea whether I was in that neighbourhood or not. None-the-less, I wanted a change of scenery so I cut back through some side streets, and by following my instincts, with a little help from my phones GPS, I found my way to my apartment.

After making a long circle around the neighbourhood I arrived back at the entryway to my building. Though my walk had produced an interesting experience, I still felt as if I failed in my mission to get something to soothe my throat. I had returned empty-handed. I decided to give it one more shot and see if I could find the store the security guard originally tried to direct me to. So I walked back down the street but this time I passed over the intersection and kept going until voila, there it was. A mere 30 steps from where I had prematurely turned right just hours before stood the best-looking grocery store I had seen all day. It had an incredible selection of fresh fruit, a pharmacy, a butcher, literally everything I need for my entire month stay. The only problem was that their credit machine was down. No problemo, it will be working mañana.

As I left the store I saw a little pizzeria on the corner. So I decided to try my luck at communicating to get some food. The waitress was kind. She seemed sorry for me almost and showed me compassion as I fiddled through a translation app on my phone to ask if she could make me a personal pizza with my favourite toppings. She understood, took my order, and I sat down to await my meal.

When the food came I took in yet another irony as I partook in this Italian dish while sitting in a restaurant in the heart of Colombia. As I was enjoying the food I thought about what a difference that last effort to find the grocery store made to on how I was feeling. It changed and uplifted my spirit so greatly. My imaginary rose-coloured glasses were back on. I was having a blast gazing around the little pizzeria, looking at all the signs in Spanish on the colourful soda bottles in the fridge and out the window on the businesses across the street. I marveled at how much I missed experiencing different parts of the world. As I took another bite of my thin crusted pizza, adorned with my chosen toppings, as well as some delicious greenish red tomato slices, something else caught my eye.
As I looked up from my seat, perfectly in my line of vision, atop a stand across the room there were three dark blocks with words written on them in English. They stood out in such beautiful contrast against the white walls and the Spanish words I had seen and heard all day long. On them were written three distinct phrases, “Truth is my energy. Allow peace in my life. Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

Day 2; Born Again In Medellin.

July 2, 2018
It is only once you have woken up, that you realize that you have been sleeping.
Seated with 5 other people, 1 colleague and 4 strangers, together we dangled thousands of feet above Medellin. This is the moment I awoke in Colombia.

Hours earlier…

Physically, I woke up in a miserable state. I kept thinking that one day I’ll have to research why you feel so much worse at night when you are dealing with a cold. Or better yet, how about I just never get sick again. Regardless, I got up to write about the day prior and it was a welcome creative distraction.

But upon the completion of my writing, the sickness took over once again and I wanted to do nothing but sit still. All the while, the sprawling metropolis of Medellín lay before me, just outside my window like a gift ready to be opened and explored.

In the hopes of getting my basic needs in order, I had reached out an expat who recently moved to Medellín from Canada. After expressing the difficulties I was having due to my lack of Spanish vocabulary and comprehension, he invited me to lunch at a tavern not too far from my accommodations.

I had walked passed Mercado del Tranvia the day before. I remembered it because of the loud roar of people reacting to a world cup game being played, and it wasn’t even the Colombian team playing that day. As I entered the place, I quickly realized it was a simple but brilliant concept. It appeared to be one large restaurant from outside but housed within were dozens of smaller independent restaurants that all used one common eating space. From burgers to Colombian paella, coffee to hard liquor, this was a place where you could definitely find something to satisfy your palate. It was like a mini food court filled with culture and dressed with flags from around the world, hanging from the ceiling.

The expat arrived. He was a pleasant, unassuming man and as our lunch meeting got into full swing I could see he was somewhat of a historian and researcher. I often find, that visitors to a new land have a keen sense of their surroundings and if they are even just a little adventurous they can often provide information for you that would surprise even the most knowledgeable local. This was a man who contained within him a great wealth of knowledge about many things but it was evident Medellín was one of his favourite subjects. More than information, behind his words you could feel a love for his new home and the people that make it so special.

At the conclusion of our meal, I mentioned to the gentleman that I needed to get my hands on some pesos. Unlike many of the other countries in the world that I have visited, Colombian businesses did not take American currency. With nothing but U.S. cash and a credit card in my pocket, I found myself without a means to buy something as simple as cough medicine. I was determined to resolve that and my new colleague offered to assist. But he saw that I had a need much greater than pesos, but rather a need to see more of Medellín then the few blocks around my apartment. So he suggested I go and get my camera and that we take a little trip.

Backpack and camera in tow we got on the public transit. The train was cleaner, sleeker, and newer than any I had ever been on anywhere in the world, North America included. We travelled to the end of the line, walked off the train and on to a platform that had small pods that were hanging from a rope and being channelled through a track as people got on board. It looked like an amusement park ride but this marvel in technology was so much more than that. This was the Medellín MetroCablé, a means of transportation constructed to give the communities who live in the often hard to reach elevated regions a means of reliable transportation to get into the city, to earn a living, to live a life.
We entered the little box hanging from a wire. There was already a family inside. As the box bumped and shifted its way through the channel, much like a roller coaster climbing to its peak, the woman diagonally across from me began to share a most nervous smile as the rest of her face was covered in sheer panic. And then suddenly “woosh”, we were whisked out into the open air, climbing rapidly into the sky. I looked back, the station quickly being left behind, and then, right there, in that moment, there was no fear, no worry, no concern. All the travel advisories warning me not to come to Colombia were gone, my sore throat had disappeared. Suddenly, I was awake.
Quickly I rushed to grab my camera out of my bag and what followed were a few shots and a lot of conversation but mostly I remained in awe. As I looked out over the homes that were literally stacked on top of one another I could see the truth behind one of mans greatest needs; the need for shelter. No matter how big or how small, or how glorious or how humble, the need for one’s own domicile is undeniable. This thought literally hit home as we hovered high above Medellín. I had always wondered why I felt so lost while in between moves but in this moment, looking down over the hundreds of thousands of rooftops, it all made sense.

A change came over me and it was reflected in the balance of my day. On the train ride back into the city, I couldn’t stop expressing my appreciation for being taken on this eye-opening excursion.

What a wonder it is to be grown and still be able to be surprised and lifted up in a moment of joy like as if I was a child again.

The day did not stop there, as we headed off to the mall to get my pesos and cough medicine. On the way there I was bombarded by an assortment of sights. I felt like a blind man seeing colour for the first time. Everything was vibrant and within my grasp. The city was better, richer, brighter than it had been before.
As we arrived at the station I was drawn to words. Huge black letters were painted on a vast white wall. They simply read “Alimenta La Mente” meaning, Feed The Mind and that’s exactly what I came to Medellín to do.

Day 3; Born Again In Medellin.

July 3, 2018
My computer speaks to me. Not in a metaphysical way. On the hour every hour, it tells me what time it is. One hour behind eastern standard, Medellín, is on central time. As my mind begins to come to consciousness, raised by the daylight softly peering through the window, my eyes are already open as my computer speaks, “It’s 7 o’clock”. The window into my unit faces east here in the Medellín valley. Although it is broad daylight the city is cast in a shadow thanks to the massive mountain blocking the full force of the sun. I never bothered to change the clock on my computer so in Medellin it is really only 6 am. So I debate getting up. But the urge to write pushes me, so here I am. As I sit and look out over the top of my laptop on the desk by the window, I can see a bright outline of light on the rim of the mountain. The sun is coming. I await the light. I await its warm embrace.

When you move through difficulty, it will lead you to guidance.

It’s game day. Long before arriving in Colombia the one thing I was truly looking forward to was watching their national team play in the World Cup. I saw it as a remarkable opportunity to experience Colombia’s national pride, live and in living colour, up close and personal. As I stepped out of my place to take in Colombia vs England match the buzz was already in the streets. Yellow jerseys graced the backs of almost everyone. I walked straight to the tavern I had visited the day before expecting it to be packed but it wasn’t so I walked down to the plaza, an outdoor meeting place in the centre of the city with a few covered bars and an open area filled with massive Botero sculptures. Men, women, children all dawned their team’s national colours. At one moment I paused to reflect on a mother I had once filmed in Barbados whose daughter was completely paralyzed. I remember her love for her daughter all balled up into the pain she felt for her. The spark for this off-topic thought was the sight of another proud mother I witnessed pushing her paralyzed daughter across the busy downtown Medellín street in her horizontal wheelchair. Both of them were donning the nations yellow fútbol jersey. The pride in the air was simply palpable.
People watched the game, everywhere. On my way downtown to find a crowd to watch the game with, I saw that every business, every store, every restaurant had the game on and packs of people were huddled around tv’s watching their nation at play. It was national pride at it’s best, beautifully and naturally integrated into society through art, commerce, and philanthropy and all in the name of sport. It was a sight to see.

The crowd was quiet though. The first half came to an end with the score tied 0–0. Then England scored. Still, the crowd was quiet. As the game entered into extra minutes, a carefully placed cross came into the box and with a skilful header, Colombia tied the game with only a minute left in regulation. And there it was, the eruption I was hoping to witness. The crowd lept to their feet cheering, screaming, clapping, crying. Hope was still alive. Colombia was still in the game. One young man ran over to me yelling joyfully in Spanish. Not understanding a word he said but in full comprehension of the joy what he was feeling I raised my hand and we gave each other an emphatic high-five. The place was simply electric. At that moment I imagined all the incredible moments of joy that had been taking place around the world in the last few weeks. No pain, no suffering, no worry, just pure joy. It was cathartic.
*Insert matchday video here*
The overtime was hard-fought and neither team could pull out the victory so it went to shoot-outs. The rest is history. As England’s final goal went into the net, suddenly there was that silence again. It was over. Colombia had lost. Slowly, people got up from their chairs and quietly dispersed. And just like that the regular hustle and bustle of the city returned.
I began the walk back to my place feeling numb. I had my camera with me and there were some things I saw the other day in the area that I wanted to capture but I just wasn’t in the mood.

As I walked, I pondered what it meant to lose after coming so close to winning; an experience I had suffered nearly three years earlier when my Mother passed away just two weeks after my YOUNG WORLD FACES exhibit for the Pan American Games opened on her 84th birthday. I never did come to grips with the idea. But there was no deep contemplation. The idea just kind of lingered around the surface of my mind, neither providing sadness nor joy. Simultaneously, I felt immersed in the culture; the smells, the sights, the sounds of Meddellín. This numbing internal thought, juxtaposed against the intense outward stimulus of my surroundings made for an almost balanced state. I was neither happy nor sad. I just was.

Before me on my right was a simple building that drew me in with its clean lines and muted colour palette. The sun was high enough in the sky to clear the building in front of it but low enough to hit it straight on with perfect full light. At the bottom, there were a series of blocks with carved music symbols, ballet shoes, and paint brushes, all placed in a repeated pattern. I could no longer resist the urge to shoot. I sat down on a yellow bench just in front of the subject and captured it.

I got up to leave and then Immediately sat back down. I pulled out my pen and travel notebook, opened it to a blank page and, nothing. Normally words come spewing out of me in moments like these but at this moment, nothing. I stared up patiently at the building I just photographed knowing it would reveal the words within. I let my eyes wander until I saw something at the base of the building, a series of words randomly written on the wall. I followed them with my eyes down the right side of the building until the came to the destination that it seems I was always meant to witness. There in the corner were three letters written in graffiti, “MOM.”

Suddenly it all made sense and the words I needed to write, poured out of me:

“Distinction delivers peace. In confidence there is contentment. For when instinct draws a line, that which you seek will appear if you follow it. But follow nothing else for the sake of doing so, for it is only in faith that action realizes dreams.”

At the end of the poem, I decided to write down the name of the building that had just given me such a gift, “Fundación Universitaria Bellas Artes.” Not knowing Spanish I had no idea what it meant and assumed from the symbols that the building was a ballet school. After arriving back at my place I searched for the name of the building online only to find it is the University Foundation Fine Arts College in Medellín.

Imagine that.

When you move through difficulty, it will lead you to guidance.

Day 4; Born Again In Medellin.

July 4, 2018
There’s always a calm before the storm. It’s been one of those types of days.

As fate would have it, now that I’ve knocked out my sore throat from the plane, my allergies have decided to make their appearance.

The day was spent lying still. A great man once said, “You have to take care of yourself when you travel”. I could not agree with him more right now. I rarely get sick while travelling and dealing with these last few days has been a chore, to say the least.

But still, we move forward. By the end of the day, I managed to muster the energy to go to the grocery store on the corner. Lesson quickly learned; do not go grocery shopping after business hours in Medellín. Good thing I didn’t have anywhere else to be.

But in the end, being out even for that short period of time provided another lesson about the value of things. I bought 8 bottles of water, a large pack of peanuts, and 4 apples and then I walked over to the pizzeria and got myself my favourite personal margarita pizza again with my special toppings and another cold bottle of water. My total spend on groceries and dinner was 34,000 pesos. In case you don’t know the exchange rate that’s basically $11.80. Yep, less than 12 dollars. In America, the 8 bottles of water alone would have cost me 8 bucks. I wondered how a city that is so incredibly inexpensive to visit, has such a remarkable modern and efficient transport system. The place just never ceases to amaze me.

At the end of my lovely meal, I went back up to my apartment and sat by the window. The night had fallen and the magic of the light illuminating the mountainside appeared once again. I simply sat and stared and imagined what tomorrow would bring.

Something wonderful, this way comes.

Born Again In Medellin, Day 5

Day 5; Born Again In Medellin.

July 5, 2018
If someone doesn’t understand what you’re saying, speaking louder will not change the outcome. Euphoria is better sought through a calm disposition.

I was off to take my first taxi ride to another side of town called Laureles. Known for its flat streets, neighbourhood feel, and fresh air, Laureles is a popular alternative to living in the most popular travel destination in Medellin, El Poblado.

I stepped out of my apartment and headed to the elevator. When it arrived I was met by a woman speaking in complete Spanish of course. She tried to tell me that I couldn’t use the elevator. From her demeanour and hand gestures, she seemed to be directing me to take the stairs. The place I am staying is a 27-story skyrise and I’m on the top floor. Suddenly the language barrier became quite irrelevant to me and I told her in plain English, “I’m not walking down 27 flights of steps.” I could tell she understood I wasn’t having it. She quickly retorted in Spanish, still blocking the doorway to the elevator. I told her plainly, “No hablo Espanol”. It was at this point that she repeated the same exact sentence to me but only this time she said it louder. I couldn’t help but laugh aloud. I simply looked at her like “really”? As if saying it louder would suddenly make me bilingual. That moment provided some levity as I thought back to how many times I had been in an English speaking country and watched someone repeat something in English in a louder voice to someone who just doesn’t speak English thinking somehow the volume would equal comprehension. It’s not that they don’t hear you, they don’t understand you. Entiendo?

Realizing we weren’t getting anywhere, she held up her hand gesturing for me to wait a moment. She placed the elevator on hold with a key, headed down the hall, and when she reappeared she was with two older ladies trying to move a little dresser into the elevator. It turns out she came up to assist them so the could move a piece of furniture downstairs in the elevator. She was actually suggesting that I take the stairs in order not to have to wait for them.

It was a lesson on how easily miscommunication can take place when two people don’t speak the same language. Lesson learned, I enjoyed the ride down the elevator.
My car arrived and I hoped in. “Hola, señor Robert!” “Hola”, I said in response. The driver spoke a long sentence in Spanish and closed it with Laureles. As his ended the sentince with a high inflection I took this to mean he was asking a question related to my destination and simply responded, “Si”. Just as I was starting to feel good about my communication skills, another long sentence in Spanish came spewing out of the driver’s mouth. I was left to fall back on my increasingly frequent retort, “No hablo, Espanol.” The driver smiled and said, “Oh, your Spanish is very good!” We both looked at each other and laughed aloud as we rolled through the busy Medellin streets. We spent the ride exchanging the meaning of words and thanked each other for the opportunity to learn new languages together.

It was coming on to rush hour, something I had heard was quite treacherous in Medellín. Maybe it was because I wasn’t rushing to get to a job or home to a family, but to me, the rush hour was a beautiful and poetic dance. Cars jostled for position, not for a moment giving up even a square inch of space. What little space was left between cars was filled by “muchos motos”. A steady stream of hundreds of motorcycles and scooters filled every nook and cranny of any available road. The feet of skilful riders rarely touched the ground as they carefully manipulated the play between the throttle, the clutch, and the brake to masterfully bob and weaved through the gridlock, all the while maintaining their forward motion.

Eventually, we broke through the heavy traffic. As we continued west the bright sun, now low in the sky, cast a majestic haze over the city leaving the motorcycles, cars, mountains, and people in a rich silhouette.

As we crossed over a long stretch of a major road, Medellín’s ingenuity was introduced to me once again. In the centre, they had built a wide bicycle path protected by barriers, so instead of subjecting riders to the treacherous traffic, they were safely and fluidly moving down the middle of the 8 lanes of easterly and westerly traffic. It was such a simple idea but so brilliant and effective.
“Mucho gusto”, I expressed to my driver as I arrived at my location and got out of the car. I was there to meet a friend of a friend of my Canadian colleague who had introduced me to the incredible MetroCablé only a few days earlier. The expats’ friend was interested in subletting her place while she was away so I was taking a look in case I decided to extend my stay to continue to study and enjoy Colombia. I waited patiently outside the security gate for the friend to come down and meet me.

After viewing the apartment, the kind woman, an attorney and a bilingual native of Medellín, invited me to home to sit on the balcony to chat about my experience in Medellín thus far. One thing I quickly noticed is the people of Medellín are extremely proud of their city and are always curious to hear how you feel about it as a visitor. As we walked in I immediately saw through her living room to the stunning view from her unit and we were only on the 6th floor. As we stepped out I was again in awe. Medellín being built into a valley just didn’t seem to have a bad view from anywhere. I looked down and I could see and hear the neighbourhood people chatting and laughing below. I looked up and once again the incredible juxtaposition of buildings, houses, trees and mountains were abounding. As the cool breeze blew across my face I reflected on how this place was like looking at life in a perfectly balanced harmony between the mind of man and the hand of God.

The attorney and I got to talking and in the midst of our conversation, I reservedly shared how, last year at this time, I was also travelling to honour the transcendence of my dear mother. Just then a bird flew fast and close right past my head. She said, “What was that?” I responded, “A bird.” She then said, “Ah you just received a blessing.” I paused and smiled. She had no idea that I often see my Mom in birds. They are one of two creatures who I feel her spirit appears to me through. Birds and monarch butterflies.

The attorney could see I went somewhere else in my head and got up. Upon excusing here self she asked, “Would you like some coffee?” I immediately replied with excitement, “Yes please.” I explained to her that I had not yet had a cup of Colombian coffee and would be honoured to have a homemade cup. As she stepped away, I continued to look at the magnificent view until I finally looked down and there on the table was a small plant sitting in a clear glass of water with no soil. I hadn’t seen anything like it since hanging out with my mom in her sitting room where she kept and nurtured plant so of all shapes and sizes. There, she kept one in a clear glass of water just like the one before me. All I could think of was that within its simplicity, today has been a beautiful day.

Dusk was slowly beginning to set in as my new friend returned with a dark cup of coffee in a white cup. As I took a sip I flashed back to the first time I ate a croissant in Paris, France or watched a dancehall competition in Kingston, Jamaica or saw traditional acoustic musicians playing in string instruments Shanghai. Drinking Colombian coffee in Medellín Colombia, sitting on a balcony surrounded by the mountains and crisp fresh air, I had arrived at nirvana.
Day 6; Born Again In Medellin: The Finale…for now.

July 6, 2018

Closing note: The next day July 7, 2018 was my mother’s birthday followed by the 3 year anniversary of her unexpected passing two weeks later. That time was spent continuing to explore Medellin. What was originally a one month trip to Colombia to complete the layout for Daily Inspiration in honour of my Mom, became a 4-month experience living in the former most dangerous city in the world. Inspired, I would continue to photograph and film the city, its people and culture including the famous Master Silleteros at Feria De La Flores. Before my departure, I curated and exhibited En Medellin, in a gallery in El Poblado Medellin. The series features images I captured during my stay.

*Insert Master Silleteros video*
Since its inception in 2009, YOUNG WORLD FACES has been a transformational movement. It is now over 40 Nations strong and still growing. Through digital display as well as engaging large-scale physical experiential installations this unique contemporary photography series has been the featured visual art attraction of the 2015 Pan American Games at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce headquarters in downtown Toronto and the 2016 Island Soul Festival at Harbourfront Centre. In 2017, special editions of the series were created for Canada’s 150th-anniversary celebrations at the Royal Ontario Museum as well as El Clasíco Miami at the Fontainebleau and Hard Rock Stadium, where two 60ft tall Faces adorned the facade of both of these legendary South Florida locations. Installed during Art Basel Miami 2019 and showcased into 2020, the series covered over 3000 square feet of glass on the exterior of a 1900’s historic theater in the heart of Miami.
*About Medellin, Colombia | Source: Wikipedia
Medellín (Spanish pronunciation: [meðeˈʝin], Spanish pronunciation: [meðeˈʎin]), officially the Municipality of Medellín (Spanish: Municipio de Medellín), is the second-largest city in Colombia and the capital of the department of Antioquia. It is located in the Aburrá Valley, a central region of the Andes Mountains in South America. According to the National Administrative Department of Statistics, the city has an estimated population of 2.5 million as of 2017.[1] With its surrounding area that includes nine other cities, the metropolitan area of Medellín is the second-largest urban agglomeration in Colombia in terms of population and economy, with more than 3.7 million people.

In 1616 the Spaniard Francisco Herrera Campuzano erected a small indigenous village (“poblado”) known as “Saint Lawrence of Aburrá” (San Lorenzo de Aburrá), located in the present-day El Poblado commune. On 2 November 1675, the queen consort Mariana of Austria founded the “Town of Our Lady of Candelaria of Medellín” (Villa de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de Medellín) in the Aná region, which today corresponds to the center of the city (east-central zone) and first describes the region as “Medellín”. In 1826, the city was named the capital of the Department of Antioquia by the National Congress of the nascent Republic of Gran Colombia, comprised by present-day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama. After Colombia won its independence from Spain, Medellín became the capital of the Federal State of Antioquia until 1888, with the proclamation of the Colombian Constitution of 1886. During the 19th century, Medellín was a dynamic commercial center, first exporting gold, then producing and exporting coffee.

At the beginning of the 21st century the city regained industrial dynamism, with the construction of the Medellín Metro commuter rail, liberalized development policies, improved security and improved education. Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute have lauded the city as a pioneer of a post-Washington consensus “local development state” model of economic development.[3] The city is promoted internationally as a tourist destination and is considered a global city type “Gamma -” by GaWC.[4]

The Medellín Metropolitan Area produces 67% of the Department of Antioquia’s GDP and 11% of the economy of Colombia.[5] Medellín is important to the region for its universities, academies, commerce, industry, science, health services, flower-growing and festivals.

In February 2013, the Urban Land Institute chose Medellín as the most innovative city in the world due to its recent advances in politics, education and social development.[6] In the same year, Medellín was announced as the preferred corporate business destination in South America, and won the Verónica Rudge Urbanism Award conferred by Harvard University to the Urban Development Enterprise, mainly due to the North-Western Integral Development Project in the city.[7] In September 2013, the United Nations ratified Colombia’s petition to host UN-Habitat’s 7th World Urban Forum[8] in Medellín, from April 5–11, 2014.[9]

The most recent survey on the global status of the Smart Cities by Indra Sistemas catalogs Medellín as one of the best cities to live in South America, sharing first place with Santiago de Chile, and alongside Barcelona and Lisbon in Europe.[10] Medellín won the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2016. The award seeks to recognize and celebrate efforts in furthering innovation in urban solutions and sustainable urban development.[11][12]
Copyright © 2023 Robert Young/Raconteur Seven LLC. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of any content on this website archive, in whole or in part, without the express written consent of the copyright owner is strictly prohibited.
Back to Top