Cali es Cali! Lo demas es loma! Sept. 20 – Oct. 18, 2011.

Cali.  I’m still in Cali.  It’s been 28 days since I first arrived on Sept. 21st and took my first private salsa class with Vanessa, my instructor.  I had no idea that I would like salsa as much as I dd.  And after a great deal of soul searching and cost-benefit analysis, I even paid the fee to change my return flight home so that I could stay two weeks longer than I had originally planned.  It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Vanessa and me

What can I say about Cali other than I am content learning salsa, practicing my Spanish, and really happy about how the last 6 months on the road and my life in general has been going.
Of all the wonderful places I’ve visited, Cali is the one place where I could see myself living- and I really mean living and being happy.  The next time I retire, I think I’d like to live in Cali.  It’s not the prettiest of cities, but it has become my favorite in all of Colombia.
Cali has been one of those places whose novelty hasn’t worn off on me and probably never will.  The style of salsa, salsa caleña, is unique and cannot be found anywhere else in the world.  It’s a lot faster than the salsa that we are accustomed to in the United States.  Here’s a video that I took during the first night of the Festival Mundial de Salsa Cali 2011:

See how fast they move their feet?  I think it’s incredible.
Here’s another cool one that I found on YouTube:

Salsa is the dominant form of music and dance in Cali, hence its moniker as the “Salsa Capital of the World.”  The entire city is about salsa.  You hear it in every taxi, in every restaurant, in every dance club and on every street.  It is everywhere and everyone listens to it.  Young people listen to and dance with the same enthusiasm to the same music that their elders listened to when they themselves were young.
Fortunately, I arrived around the time for the Festival Mundial de Salsa Cali 2011, Cali’s World Salsa Festival.  What’s interesting is the few couples and groups who are here from other cities within Colombia and even from the United States have noticeably less spectacular dance routines compared to the Caleña groups.

At the Festival Mundial de Salsa Cali 2011

That's my adopted, Colombian sister Francy dancing front and center. She is indeed a world-class dancer!

Francy and me. She and her group Fiebre Latina won third place in the Festival Mundial de Salsa Cali 2011, or World Salsa Festival in Cali! Congrats, Francy!

Several times a week, travelers from the hostel go out with local friends to go salsa dancing.  In the beginning, I’d mostly watch in awe as the locals did their turns and pasos Caleños. It took awhile, but, thanks to the patience of all the dance partners I’ve practiced with, both Colombianas and fellow travelers from the hostel alike, I was finally able to put everything I learned in class reasonably well out in public.  I am especially thankful for all the Colombian girls, like Monica and Francy in the picture below, who would ask me to dance when I was still a beginner.  I always enjoyed dancing with them because they would lead me since I didn’t know what I was doing.

With two local friends, Monica and Francy, at Tintindeo salsa club

At the World Salsa Festival with friends

So, I’m leaving Cali and a really great group of Colombian and international friends behind tonight.  After spending nearly a month here, I’ve learned how to dance salsa and I’m really looking forward to trying my new moves back home in the U.S.A!
I’ve had so much fun in Cali.  Thank you to all my friends here.  You made my visit unforgettable and one of the highlights of my entire 6  months in South America.  I’ll never forget you.  I love you all.
Me diverte mucho en Cali.  Gracias a todos mis amigos los que encontre aca.  Lo hiciste mi viaje en Cali inolvidable y uno de lo mejores de mis enteros 6 meses en S. America. Nunca te olvidare.  Los quiero mucho.
Cali es Cali.  Lo demas es loma. (Cali is Cali.  The rest is hills.)

I ended up changing my plan in order to stay an extra night in Cali!  Tonight, we are all going dancing at a salsa club named Siboney for my last hurrah.  I love Cali!