Ichigo Ichie from Cali

Ichigo ichie is a Japanese concept of treasuring the moment. It is an art of seizing what’s now, as it will never happen again. It is also the way to say thank you to people you shared that moment with. I am currently enjoying the book about this concept, and it struck me how many of Ichigo-ichie moments we experienced during our travels. Moments so precious, unexpected, and unplanned that you stop your life to enjoy it to the full. 
Let me tell you about one particular Ichigo-ichie…

It happened in Cali

Cali in Colombia is not a destination that we put intentionally on our way. Cali has a reputation that doesn’t seem appealing to the traveling family. Even Colombians warned us about it. You might say that it is the world capital of salsa. Sure, I would travel for good salsa in the blink of an eye, but we are traveling with the Kid, and the Kid didn’t enjoy nightclubs as much as he probably will in 5 to 10 years from now, so me traveling for salsa has to wait. 

The idea to visit Cali came up spontaneously. We realised in the middle of Colombia, that traveling 100 km to Bogota would take way longer than 250 km to Cali. Our goal was city of Pasto. After a few weeks of traveling by bus we realised that 100km through the mountains would take (if we were lucky) a day. Cali was a more reasonable option in spite of its reputation. At that point we didn’t believe in anything people said about Colombia. From what they told us we should have been dead (or at least kindey-less) as soon as we stepped on Colombian soil anyways…

Day in Cali

Having one day in Cali we took Airbnb in the old town, to feel the vibe of an artistic district, nearby San Antonio park and maybe visit Tertulia – museum of modern arts. San Antonio was indeed full of people, street art, music and food. Tiny old church on the hill, people sitting on the stairs… Walking around the neighbourhood we stopped by the small, old house. What drew our attention was the mural on its walls. Message was a clear, persuasive, rough unsweetened voice against women abuse, violence and injustice. I like that kind of art so we spend some time walking around that house, admiring details, taking photographs. I found it extremely interesting that on the very same wall, was a print by famous Colombian artist, Antonio Caro Lopera. We came across this artist in the Museum of Modern Art in Medellin two weeks before we came to Cali. His art too is very rebellious, and intelligent. Seeing people sitting on the front porch, I asked if they were somehow related to the artist. It turned out that they were. 

Todo esta muy Caro*


It was a warm Saturday afternoon. The couple was sitting on the front porch, enjoying their drinks. As soon as I asked about Caro (remember, Spanish is not my strongest suit), they asked us where we were from, and it turned out that Poland was the key to open their doors. 

Eugenio and Maria. It turned out that Maria had Polish roots. They were both quite surprised that people from Poland knew anything about Colombian art scene. We started a very interesting conversation. As we couldn’t find one language to communicate, we used all of them. Eugenio knew Antonio Caro personally. He showed me more interesting pieces from his collection, spread all over the house, but the house was also a piece of art.

*Todo esta muy Caro – it’s a wordplay: Everything is very expensive/Caro. Created by Antonio Caro, who synthesised the context, capturing the feelings of the nation. It was in 1970, but the message still reflects the Colombian reality. A bitter statement of the artist: Everything is very expensive for people who wander the streets trying to survive. Everything is appraised highly, except for human life. 

The house

This is where you have to use your imagination, because I have only one photo of the interior. I found it rude to take pictures inside the house. I might or might not regret it now, but I was busy listening to the stories, and Eugenio loved his house. We were welcomed by two big dogs and Vincent immediately started to play with them on the floor.  


The house was a corner, single-story, building, just at the brim of San Antonio park. It did not really present itself as a mansion. Rather regular townhouse, similar to others in this neighbourhood. It was built in the mid-18th century. The exterior was quite modest. Front was painted white with the porch guarded by heavy steel bars. Impressive mural shouted at us from the side wall. Most of the houses in this part of Cali had bars in the windows, porches and doors. Was it for safety reasons? Back in the old days the houses were built to protect the inhabitants. Like castles. Mi casa es mi castillo – my house, my castle. Barred entrance, and small windows, to the street, and heavy gate from the carriage room, all prepared to defend the property.

The interior was impressive

Huge open space with a grand patio filled with plants and a tree in the middle. Eugenio showed us the entire house. He was very proud that he kept the style and amenities as close to original as possible. The house wasn’t big. As far as I remember, it had 3 bedrooms, two separate bathrooms for ladies and for men. When I say bathroom, I mean a bathing room, built to enjoy the bath to the fullest, with marble bath tubs, plants and carpets etc. At the very end of the house was a carriage room, adapted to the art studio/garage. Inside, the light was coming mostly through the open roof patio in the middle of the house. Red-brown tiles on the floor only enhanced the darkness of the interior. Spotlights illuminated only the art on the walls. All made for a dark, but cozy and magic space. This is pretty common, especially in the hot climate, where you’d rather look for shade than the sunlight.
The art was everywhere. Paintings, sculptures, graphics. Black’n’white photo shots, suggested the love for cinematography. More of Caro and some other big names came up in the conversation. It was clear that the owners were not the regular 9-to-5 people…

Eugenio y Maria

The conversation was far from being normal. Everybody knows that artists are special people. It never goes linear, predictable or conventional. And so it was. Kinda wild, not to mention, they were already deep into Saturday night mode. Maria was a poet, free spirit with immense energy. Eugenio was also a poet and film director (at least this is what we understood then, and that made perfect sense). They both resembled colourful jungle birds rather than people and our conversation was kind of the same: loud, colourful, quite wild, a bit absurd… “Monty Python-ish” and funny like hell. We could probably go on for the rest of the night. 

But that’s not what makes this story memorable

We hugged goodbye, and guess what? Next day, already in Pasto, we couldn’t remember their names. Maria left her Instagram on Marcin’s phone, but we couldn’t recognise her. Two years later, I was looking for some photos from Colombia and I found the house and them. Names were fogged. I went through all our followers to find Maria on Instagram, to learn that she moved out to Italy. I decided not to give up on Eugenio, so I put all I knew about him in Google and, pure luck, the first thing Google returned was the museum La Tertulia in Cali: director of the cinematographic division. Lost in translation “Director” – I thought he was a director as in movie making. I found a photo, I found the name, and I found the… obituary. Unfortunately Eugenio Jaramillo Londoño died in January 2023. I learned who he was and he was indeed an extraordinary person. Director of the department of cinematographic division at Tertulia which he led for 34 years, connoisseur of cinematography, movie critic, expert in his field and on top of that: published poet…


I am happy to have finally found them, because it was a memorable day, true ichigo-ichie. This is what makes traveling so amazing and enriching. I dare to say that we should live to experience moments like that. I am sad to learn that he passed away.
R.I.P. and thank you. Ichigo-iche, to both of you for that day, Maria and Eugenio. We will remember it forever.

greetings from cold Mexico, where we get grumpier and grumpier waiting for the sun

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