Everyday Joy in Medellín

    The author (middle) with friends in Medellín
    The author (middle) with friends in Medellín

    Everyday JoyEditor’s Note: What follows is an excerpt from the foreword to Everyday Joy: Or, How To Be Happier and Healthier, and Party All The Time by Zachary Stockill.

    I live in the top floor penthouse of an apartment building in the neighbourhood of El Poblado in Medellín, Colombia.

    It doesn’t feel quite as exotic or grandiose as it might sound, but it is beautiful. I am surrounded by mountains covered in green, and after it rains, which it did this afternoon, it smells as if everything is clean and new and blooming for the first time.

    The night I arrived in this city a few months ago, I attended one of the most intense parties of my life. I began writing this book at that party.

    I spent the previous evening in an airport in Quito, Ecuador, and I desperately needed a hot shower and a quiet bedroom. I was thinking about this when I arrived at my hostel in Medellín, backpack in hand, following a bus ride down from the mountains at breakneck speeds.

    It was about 8 pm when I arrived in the city. When I went to a local pub to ask for walking directions to my hostel, I could tell that something big was brewing.

    It turned out that the local football team was about to win the league championship, and the entire city seemed captivated by the action. There were huge roars when the club scored, and piercing “OOOOOOOHs” when the opposing team came close to doing the same.

    Every person in every bar on the main strip was glued to a television set, and the cool night air was charged with the energy of a massive forthcoming fiesta. I soon realized that it would be several hours before I could sleep.

    There was a pretty, though plain-looking American girl in my hostel bedroom when I walked in. I avoided the typical traveler questions when I introduced myself (“Where are you from? How long have you been traveling?”), but I could tell she was American.

    Aside from the accent, many American female travellers have an air of presumed invincibility about them, and move from room to room with the confidence of a queen who thinks she owns the place. I quickly forgave her for this, however, because she was both decent looking, and a decent conversationalist.

    After a few minutes I invited her out on the town to catch the festivities. It seemed to be one of those nights you really shouldn’t miss.

    We dined on Mexican food at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the main square as the local team clinched their victory.

    When the game’s final buzzer rang through the television it was as if every adult in the city shared one giant, euphoric orgasm; there were screams and roars and couples embracing and kissing each other, and very soon the American and I were dragged into the action on the street.

    It was a little like I imagine “V-J Day” to have been on the streets of New York City, only with more rum and less anti-Japanese propaganda.

    The girl and I began to dance with the crowd and yell with the other revellers and drink copious amounts of the local spirits being offered to us from every direction.

    I like stereotyping nationalities with positive qualities because it’s quick and easy and it makes for interesting conversations with avowed racists and bigots.

    That said: Colombians are the most generous people I’ve ever encountered, and I formed this impression in the midst of that party.

    Everyone, it seems, was toting massive bottles of rum and aguardiente (or “firewater”) and pouring it down their neighbour’s throat. My friend and I were no exception.

    The streets of the main square were jam-packed, and even the police, it seems, were taking full advantage of the moment to get down and have one hell of a good time.

    Within an hour of the football game’s final buzzer it seemed as if Medellín had been hit by a massive snowfall. The tree-lined streets, and every unfortunate vehicle parked on them was coated white with laundry detergent.

    Just about everyone drinking and dancing and partying on the street was taking handfuls of detergent and either throwing it at the people in front of them, or hoisting it into the air, watching it rain down like New England snow.

    (If you’ve ever seen photos from India during the springtime festival of Holi, you’ll begin to understand what I’m talking about.)

    Shortly after we began to walk around, my companion and I looked like we had just spent the evening with Tony Montana toward the end of Scarface.

    I struggled to see through the caked white powder covering my face. I looked to my right and saw that the American seemed to get it even worse than I did.

    I quickly became drunk, and so did my companion. I was exhausted beyond words, having not slept in two days, but somehow I didn’t care. Every face I encountered on the street seemed happy to see me; every bar we entered we found ten new friends.

    There were hugs and kisses and dancing and conversations in broken Spanish and I felt peaceful and energized and inspired.

    As the night wore on, the streetlights burned brighter, the music got louder, the girl got prettier, and I was damned glad to have landed in this city, that night.

    The author (middle) with friends in Medellín
    The author (middle) with friends in Medellín

    Sometimes the universe dumps a good party in your lap and you owe it to yourself, and the people around you, to reach out and grab it with both hands.

    In the midst of that party, I began to think about how I might experience a similar type of vibrancy, joy, and celebration in my daily life, and share it with others.

    I started thinking about all the lessons I’d learned over the past few years that allowed me to become happier than I’d ever been before.

    I thought about how most of the time we neglect the party going on around us all day, every day. We don’t realize that we have the ability to indulge in our own personal party, and share our party with others, whenever we want.

    We forget that life—mundane, predictable, typical daily life—can be a celebration, if we choose.

    I don’t need to wait until the local football team wins again to party as hard as I did the night I landed in Medellín, and neither do you.

    As the streets cleared out and the sun came up, I realized that I really didn’t want that party to stop. And for me, several months afterward, it hasn’t…


    About the Author:  Zachary Stockill is a self-published author, freelance journalist, and vocal Medellín-enthusiast. His latest book is “Everyday Joy: Or, How To Be Happier And Healthier, and Party All The Time.” Learn more about Everyday Joy at Amazon.com.

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    1. Very funny article but a correction. It was not detergent. Most probably it was a powder called “Maizena” you can get it in the supermarkets. Basically it is corn starch.