Grid Systems

14 Nov

I met a woman from Colombia yesterday at the Global Dialogues event that AIESEC co-sponsored. She has been living in the States for seven years but is from Bogota originally…so we of course had the obligatory “Rolos son frios” conversation (translation: people from Bogota are cold–that is the rumor/saying within Colombia). Of course, because she is Colombian her warmness was actually overflowing…in the fifteen minutes that we chatted we exchanged emails and planned to get together to hang out and cook Colombian food (read: arepas, yay!!). Apparently her friend sells arepas, postobon, etc. etc so I’m pretty pumped about that.

It was funny to read Katy’s blog about Colombia (she’s studying in Ecuador right now, but took a weekend trip to Bogotá)…”The city. It tops my favorite latin american city i’ve been to thus far. There is a grid system- streets were numbered and made sense.”

It made me think about the street system of Medellin. I remember reading in Lonely Planet before leaving that all calles ran in one direction and carreras in the other, and they were numbered increasingly or decreasingly depending on direction. I thought, “Okay, I got this, it seems easy enough.”

When I got to Medellin I was initially frustrated to discover the simplicity of the system was not as Lonely Planet had described, especially because directions are not one of my fortes. There really is nothing systematic about Calle 42, having Calle 42A, Calle 42AA, and Calle 42B after it and before Calle 43…especially since the very next block could very well just be Calle 44. Who’s deciding which streets will be lettered, and with how many letters, and where do I find this information out?!

I learned that I had to start drawing my own little mental map, or be content with wandering around Bello for an hour to find my house, because it took me awhile to realize that the street that connected to the street I lived on had a random gap in the middle, where you needed to walk up 1 street and over 2 to get back on it–always an adventure.

Now that I’m back in Madison, one of the things that I miss most about Medellin (and other places I’ve visited) is the lack of organization, the absence of a perfectly functioning grid system. I like the chaos that comes with not being able to walk around “the block.” I miss the freedom of being surrounded by my favorite 4th grade geometric shapes, because sometimes I just want to walk around the hexagon, rhombus, or triangle.

Katy was pretty right on when she said: “I swear its the people that make the experience…I didn’t just fall in love with city, the food, the countryside- but i feel in love with the warmth of the people and i know i will return.”


2 Responses to “Grid Systems”

  1. Frank D November 15, 2007 at 3:48 am #

    I haven’t posted anything in along time, been sooooooo busy with school! anyways I found a few websites about Colombia that you can look at and bring back memories or you can show it to your friends. ta!

  2. Katy November 15, 2007 at 12:55 pm #


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