Holiday Mail: Week 249

Fantasy Sports by Sam Bosma

In Colombia the bills never arrive in envelopes. They are left in a pile at the main entrance of our apartment building, along with everyone else’s. It’s an odd thing to miss, but I really do like receiving mail. Even when it’s just junk and bills.

This Christmas was the first one I’d had at home in Virginia for the last five years. Of course I was excited to be around my family, but I was also looking forward to collecting all the packages and mail that had been sent there in our absence.

Barret had gone on a graphic novel buying frenzy before we arrived. He couldn’t wait to curl up in front of the fire with a beer in one hand and a book in the other.

Wwake gold band ring

I, on the other hand, had made a late-night-last-minute wedding band purchase. Wwake 24 hour sale until midnight! I’d been out drinking with my friends when I saw this email, so of course I bought three rings.

The travel time between BWI airport and my house was about three hours. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so anxious to rip open a package.

BTW – they all fit!

About: Sam Bosma, author of Fantasy Sports

About: Wwake

Villa de Leyva & Terracotta House: Week 245

Villa de Leyva cobblestone plaza: Colombia

Villa de Leyva is a colonial gem several hours north of Bogotá. It was founded in the late 1500s as a retreat for the well-to-do and high-ranking officials. Because the town was not located on important shipping routes or near significant mineral deposits, the cobblestone town escaped the pressures of modernization.

Although Villa de Leyva has certainly been ‘discovered’, there is still more foot traffic than cars in the center of town. It is also possible to see a bridled donkey on a side street and know that it’s a working animal and not a photo prop.

Donkeys on the cobblestone streets of Villa de Leyva: Colombia

A small courtyard in Villa de Leyva: Colombia

One of the reasons Villa de Leyva is so beloved by tourists is because of its massive main square. At 14,000 square meters, it’s quite possibly the largest cobblestone plaza in South America. The white-washed buildings and churches surrounding the plaza were also beautifully preserved.

Virgin Mary statue in the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary: Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Statue in the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary: Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Jesus Christ statue in the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary: Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Balcony of the Terracotta House: Villa de Leyva, Colombia

On the outskirts of town is an eccentric house named La Casa de Terracota. It was completed in 2012 by the Colombian architect Octavio Mendoza. In his own words, Casa Terracota is, “a project that transforms soil into habitable architecture, by simply using the supporting help of natural resources—e.g. the other three elements of nature (air, water and fire).”

Living room of the Terracotta House: Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Studio at the Terracotta House: Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Aside from the relatively low-cost of the construction process, there are several other benefits to using soil as a building material. The first benefit being the insulation properties of soil and the second being its harmonious relationship with nature. Imagine a house that could actually become stronger after being ‘cooked’ during a season of devastating wildfires.

Bathroom mirror at the Terracotta House: Villa De Leyva, Colombia

While no one lives in the house, the rooms were furnished, wired with electricity, and the tiled bathrooms were connected to running water. I really liked how all of the textures in the house were imperfect and organic, but perhaps the nicest design element was the number of windows and skylights in the house. The warm afternoon light made the terracotta surfaces glow.

I’m not sure how durable terracotta homes are, but if one were available, I could see myself giving it a go. Especially in the desert- how wonderful to live without an AC bill!

Work bench in the studio of the Terracotta House: Villa de Leyva, Colombia

About: Villa de Leyva

About: La Casa de Terracota

Cinespiral & Independent Cinema in Manizales: Week 243

Andrea Outside Cinespiral: Milan - Manizales, Colombia

During the ‘winter’ in Manizales, it is not uncommon to have sunny mornings and afternoon showers. The dove gray clouds creep over the mountains and sink down into the valley later in the day. Some people might not enjoy the rain, but I don’t mind. Not only is it beautiful to watch the clouds roll in, but it also is a good excuse to see a movie.

The only independent cinema in Manizales is located in the neighborhood of Milan. It is a pretty tree-lined neighborhood on the ridge of a mountain. Currently there’s a lot of sidewalk construction, which detracts from the serenity, but it will make for a nice stroll when all is said and done.

Cinespiral is the name of the cinema and it is a small venue with four screening rooms and a narrow lobby. There is no popcorn, but there are small bottles of Argentinean wine. There are screening hours, but there are not any specific films that play. Rather, it is the customer who chooses what they want to watch. It reminded me a lot of the DVD bangs in Korea with their libraries of movies and their private viewing rooms.

My friend Andrea and I went during the French Film Festival, so we browsed through a list of French films until we selected a diamond heist thriller called La Ultima Diamante.

Andrea is such a frequent patron that she put her movie ticket on a tab and then lead me through a rabbit warren of passages until we reached our screen. We had the whole place to ourselves, so we stretched out on the couch and made ourselves very comfortable.

Cinespiral isn’t the kind of place you visit if you want a massive screen and million-dollar sound equipment. It is however the perfect place to hide out on a rainy day.

“Do you want to watch another?” Andrea asked me as we were leaving.

I couldn’t stick around because I had some work to finish, but I knew exactly what I’d like to do the next time the clouds rolled in on a Saturday afternoon.

How to get to Cinespiral: Cr 23 #75-200, Milán, Manizales, Colombia

Catedral Basílica de Manizales: Week 237

Sculpture outside the entrance of the Manizales Cathedral: Colombia

Overlooking the massive Plaza Bolivar, in the heart of downtown Manizales, is the Catedral Basílica de Manizales. It is a massive concrete structure that is both raw and refined at the same time.

In fact the architect who won the design contest in the 20s believed that the raw concrete was the soul of the building and was something to be celebrated instead of covered.

Due to the rough nature of the material, it is also possible to see the repair work from several major earthquakes. The most significant damage occurred in 1962 when one of the towers collapsed.

Cute cafe inside the Manizales Cathedral: Colombia

The cathedral entrance off of Calle 23 has a small elevator that leads up to an open-air cafe. Dainty colonnades surround the cluster of tables and the north side of the cafe overlooks Plaza Bolivar and the buttercup yellow Gobernación de Caldas building.

View of Plaza Bolivar from the Manizales Cathedral: Colombia

Tile mural from the Plaza Bolivar: Manizales, Colombia

Aside from people watching, the plaza is also enjoyable for its sculptures and tile murals. This part of the city also has the oldest buildings, which make for an interesting architectural stroll.

View from the Manizales Cathedral: Colombia

There is also a tour that departs from outside the second level cafe and continues up into the highest tower. The tickets are sold on the ground level and initially I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to pay the $10,000 peso entry fee. However, the view from the top is really something else.

View of Chipre from the top of the Manizales Cathedral: Colombia

One of the most memorable parts though was the old wooden staircase that led up to the tower. This part of the cathedral is called el Corredor Polaco. Although only small portions of it were left for display, the reason it was replaced was quite evident.

For starters, the staircase had been extremely narrow and dark. It had actually been completely enclosed in wood and for this reason it resembled a large, upright coffin. If there were more than one person on the staircase, the structure creaked and trembled.

Staircase inside el Corredor Polaco at the Manizales Cathedral: Colombia

To make matters worse, the staircases were in segments (these are the tiny rectangular platforms above). This meant that one exited the staircase on the right hand side of the tower and then slid along the wall to the opposite staircase to continue the journey.

Of course there were no guard rails then to prevent someone from slipping off the landing and plummeting to their death. For safety reasons, this part of the church was actually closed to the public between 1976-2008.

Now that secure metal staircases are in place, it is a much more enjoyable walk up el Corredor Polaco. The only obstacle that remains in the way between you and a beautiful view of Manizales are 456 steps. Bring some water.

Swweping view of the city from the top of el Catedral de Manizales: Colombia

How to get to the Catedral Basílica de Manizales: Carrera 22- between Calle 22 & 23, Manizales

View of the street from el Catedral de Manizales: Colombia

Manizales Book Festival: Week 235

Soma - Tyrannus Melancholicus - Screen Print from the Feria del Libro de Manizales

It was that time of year when ambitious students print up their zines, tastefully display their most shocking art, and try to earn a bit of beer money. It was time for the Feria del Libro de Manizales.

The Manizales Book Festival had its main installation on Santander Avenue, outside the Palogrande Campus of the University of Caldas. Along the large, white building were tents and book vendors from all the main bookshops in the city. In between those were stalls of secondhand and special interest books.

However, my favorite part of the book festival were the student stalls in the courtyard of the building. There were around 15 of these little cardboard stands filled with cleverly designed notebooks, buttons, and zines.

Buttons from Tyrannus Melancholicus - Found at the Feria del Libro de Manizales

The first purchase I made was a screen print of a burning car from a vendor named Tyrannus Melancholicus. I was kind of surprised that even though it was an original piece of art, it was still cheaper than a paperback book. The same designer also had a zine about bread and a corresponding collection of cute buttons.

Larva graphic anthology - Feria del Libro de Manizales

Another exciting discovery we made was of a publication called Larva. Barret had been wanting to find graphic novels in Spanish to practice reading, but the hardcover volumes we found were a bit too pricey to justify their purchase. Larva, however, was not only on sale but it was also a sample of some of the best comic artists in Latin America.

Notebook by La Libreteria Ediciones - Feria del Libro de Manizales

The last purchase I made was from a Medellín-based designer called La Libretería Ediciones. At first glance, the cover of the notebook appeared to be a watercolor of a very busy public square. Then I noticed the dead man leaking blood on the cobblestones while two soldiers looked on. I loved the contrast between the softness of the media and the actual content of the imagery.

I hadn’t bought nearly as many books as I had hoped to, but I did walk away with a lot of work by Colombian artists. And I count that as a definite success.

About: Feria del Libro de Manizales

About: Tyrannus Melancholicus

About La Libretería Ediciones: lalibreteria@gmail.com

About: Larva 

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