We’ve been here for twenty-eight days, slowing down and adapting to a warm and quiet city life.
Every morning around 7.50 AM, an old man wearing a purple cap on a creaky bike sings out with a husky voice “Piiiña…” after three seconds of silence “Papaaayya” … he continues.
His bike is equipped with a large cardboard box reinforced with a shiny metallic frame in front of the handlebars. Behind his brown leather seat, a dark faded-grey plastic crate is strapped to his bicycle. Stopped in front of our building, he waits patiently for several minutes calling out at open windows down the street.
The box and crate are filled with sugar-paper-wrapped fruit. He rearranges his fruit, looks up at the sky for several moments, talks to the lady living opposite us through the window bars and then cycles to the next street. You hear his calls fade away into the morning bustle. The air is still relatively cool, but you can sense the heat starting to fall upon the city as the sun creeps higher.
This is the start of busy days on our street, people sell fruits, vegetables, broomsticks, flowers, sunglasses, cd’s; they collect and buy old fridge parts, they sell their maintenance services, they sell and serve hot morocho, a milky corn drink. All of this selling, collecting and offering of a large variety of services is ‘advertised’ through chants and calls, most of which are incomprehensible (often even for locals) and beautiful. The echoes of their voices brings liveliness to this tiny street as their powerful tones bounce through the shallow concrete wall canyons of Kennedy Viejo. This goes on until after the sun has sunk back behind the green hills.
Before brushing my teeth and getting ready for the day, I sit on top of our desk leaning out of the window. I watch everyone walk to work, men and women gossip outside their homes with neighbours, people take a morning stroll through the neighbourhood, often shirtless or in sweats while sipping a juice and munching on their breakfast.
After drinking a cup of tea and eating as many avocados as I possibly can, and maybe some papaya too, we walk out into the heavy and humid heat. We cross a river and enter the area of Urdesa. People are making their way to work, some stopping quickly for a street food breakfast, juice or coffee. Dotted along my path to work men with khaki coloured sun hats and uniforms are replacing broken tiles on the sidewalk. It’s dusty. The sharp sound of their chisels stings the ear as it hits the ceramic tile. The road is loud and I feel bad for the lady sitting at the corner of a polluted intersection selling flowers, cigarettes, lottery tickets and a mix of brightly coloured sweets.
The office I work in is inside a small, old fashioned and triangular shopping centre. About half of the shops are unoccupied and the interiors are being refurbished. It smells of concrete dust and toxic varnish. The office itself is the opposite of that: clean, modern and filled with bright light. The cool air-conditioned air makes you forget how hot it is outside.
I spend the day playing on AutoCad, sketching out messy ideas and jotting down numbers on scrap paper to not forget them as I try and solve spatial and math problems.
Most afternoons the warm, heavy clouds darken until it rains. The aromas of a mix of warm concrete, earth and trees spreads throughout the city. The raindrops are the size of large peas, soaking you in seconds.
When it rains through the night, relieving us from the excessive heat, I am happiest.