Yesterday, after detouring to see the beautiful church, Las Lajas Sanctuary, on the way to Ipiales, we were stopped by a man at the side of the road, standing outside of his car. He spoke to us in a slight British accent “Pardon me, may I speak with you for a moment, I want to practice English.”
Alvaro offered us a place to stay for the night and we gladly took him up on his offer.
We had an enjoyable evening visiting with his family and learning about when he studied at the University of Cambridge. Alvaro also treated us to some pictures of his hitch-hiking adventures in Europe.
He owns a local English language school, The Cultural English Institute Ipiales, and we spent the morning talking with some of his students, most of whom were in their teens.
We introduced ourselves, talked about where we were from and our bicycle trip. We expected to answer a lot of questions about our bicycles, what we ate, where we slept, etc. Instead we were asked, “Who is your favorite Mexican band?”
A high proportion of questions revolved around music, reminding us of when we were teens and nobody understood us, music had an outsized influence, and adults didn’t know anything.
We alternated talking between English and Spanish so everyone could follow the conversation since some of the students had only been learning for about a week. We told them about our experiences trying to learn Spanish, how difficult it is and was for us and that we learned a little everyday with practice and we always made mistakes.
As if on cue and to illustrate the last point, I caught some sniggering when I was talking about how we sold our house and everything we owned in the United States to travel. Apparently I said, in Spanish, “I sold your house and all of your things to travel.”
After farewells, we headed for the border. After the fiasco at the Costa Rican and Panamanian borders, we were not looking forward to this border crossing. All the worry was for naught. On the Colombian side, the border agent was a cycling enthusiast and was excited to talk about our experiences in Colombia and our perceptions of his country.
On the Ecuadorian side, I had the agent and his colleagues laughing when they asked if I was married (“casado”) and I responded (in Spanish) in feigned exasperation ” Soy casado y estoy cansado” (“I am married and tired”) pointing to my hair and asking if they can see it turning grey.