If I Had An Orchard, I'd Work Till I'm Raw

The bus will be going up, if it is going down you have missed your spot. ... Buy a coffee and an arepa before starting your final half hour of walking toward dumpa. The bus will be going up, if it is going down you have missed your spot. ... Buy a coffee and an arepa before starting your final half hour of walking toward dumpa.

The above is an excerpt from a Google doc sent to me by Juan Calderon, aka Dumpa, containing directions to his house from Bogotá. I made the journey last Sunday. A regional bus took me some 700 meters up from Bogotá to the appointed bus stop where there are two little shops tucked into the mountainside at 3200 m above sea level. The walk on the side road looks like this.


I made it to the gate as night was falling and Dumpa was riding in on his Enfield motorcycle. It was then that casa de Dumpa began to feel like a hobbit-hole in the Shire. Dumpa is on the shorter side, generously bearded, and a little soft in the middle but clearly active. The cozy house was filled with country nick-nacks like ceramic chickens. But in the kitchen stood the wizard to Dumpa's hobbit. Milo, a 6 foot 4 Norwegian man, was fussing over some lentils. He had to bend over because the ceiling was not built to Nordic proportions. In place of a wizard hat stood his signature grey beanie, but he did sport a proper wizard beard, with flecks of white poking through.

Milo and I settled into an easy rhythm while Dumpa spent his days at work in the city. Yardwork in the mornings, a midday lunch break when Milo pulled a fresh loaf of bread from the oven, time to dream up projects and tinker in the afternoon. Dumpa, you see, is a hacker. He has a tech/innovation consultancy, runs with the Bogohack makerspace, and encourages the volunteers who stay at his house to hack on personal projects. If requested, he'll gladly ride in from the city with PVC pipe or a Raspberry Pi. This is how he attracted an American software developer and a Norwegian petroleum engineer to a secluded, internetless house in the highlands of Cundinamarca.

Then, around 3:15, we'd set out for the highlight of the day: English lessons with Sofia. We joined our 7-year-old student in the back corner of her mom's shop by the side of the main road. Locals making a pit stop at the tienda would almost always ask us something like, "Are you... lost?" or "What are you doing here?" Milo's towering stature gave us away as foreigners at once. Sofia's mom told me that I could pass for Colombian at a distance as long as I never open my mouth.

The lessons really were a two man job. Sofia's willful little sister loved to pop in and disrupt class by shrieking, throwing our books on the ground, and any number of other tactics toddlers use to get attention. So while one of us coached Sofia, the other would distract Manuela. Because Milo was the more naturally gifted teacher, that duty often fell to me. I give solid piggy-back rides, so it worked out well.

Although we had both planned to spend two weeks at Casa de Dumpa, an unexpected business trip for Dumpa cut our stay in half. For me, that week was dreamlike. Out in the mountains we had almost Walden-like isolation. We had the full day to work, think, cook, and practice our bad Spanish on each other. It was a glimpse at a simpler life. Not a life I life I would choose for myself, but a nice life nevertheless.