Colombia’s Cathedral del Sal, the saltiest church in the world

It has to count as one of the more bizarre things I’ve ever seen. A cathedral sitting 180 metres underground in the hollowed-out remains of a vast salt mine that has been in use since pre-Hispanic times. As you make your way underground, ethereal music reverberates throughout the interior of the former salt mine, while mood enhancing lighting illuminates the stations of the cross and huge chambers where the salt was once mined.

Salt and multi-coloured lighting rather than smoke and mirrors?

Entrance to the Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Entrance to the Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Entrance tunnel to the Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Entrance tunnel to the Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

It is both spectacular and the height of kitsch at the same time. Only in Colombia, you may ponder silently (except there’s an even bigger one in Poland). While services are held in the cathedral, it has no actual status as a cathedral within the Catholic Church – judging by the reverence some people exhibit en route down into the bowels of the salt mine, that doesn’t worry too many people.

Station of the Cross, Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Station of the Cross, Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Station of the Cross, Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Station of the Cross, Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Station of the Cross, Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Station of the Cross, Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

The former salt mines are located close to the town of Zipaquira. Once an important Spanish colonial settlement, it still has a beautiful main square flanked by a vast church that could have been transported directly from Spain and which physically dominates the city. The salt itself has been mined since the fifth century BC by the Musica, the indigenous group who inhabited this region. Salt is still being mined today and is used throughout Colombia.

Zipaquira, Colombia

Zipaquira, Colombia

Main plaza with church, Zipaquira, Colombia

Main plaza with church, Zipaquira, Colombia

Although Zipaquira sits in a prosperous agricultural valley, the real money earner is the salt cathedral. The cathedral open to the public today is the second cathedral to have been built in the salt mines. The first one started to collapse and had to be abandoned, but public pressure on the mining company to continue the lucrative tourist/pilgrimage trade ensured a second cathedral was constructed – there are trinket shops aplenty in the town should you wish to take home a salty souvenir.

Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

A small chapel next to the cathedral, Catedral del Sal, Colombia

A small chapel next to the cathedral, Catedral del Sal, Colombia

Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Its easy to reach the salt cathedral, its only an hour if you take a tour or cab from Bogota. We chose to negotiate our way there on public transport and caught Bogota’s version of a metro, the TransMilenio, to somewhere in the north of the city where we were told could get a bus to Zipaquira. Remarkably we managed to get there the same day – actually, it was surprisingly easy to arrange and cost a quarter of the price of a cab.

Angel, Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Angel, Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Station of the Cross, Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Station of the Cross, Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Nativity scene, Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Nativity scene, Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Nativity scene, Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Nativity scene, Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

The cathedral draws hundreds of thousands of tourists/pilgrims every year, but visit on a weekday at the start of the rainy season and there aren’t too many people around to spoil the silence and tranquility of being 180 metres below the earth. It is a peculiar experience all the same. Despite the vast open spaces of the mine, the atmosphere is airless, strangely humid and oppressive.

It is quite a relief to emerge into the sunlight back at the entrance, from where you can stroll down the hill into Zipaquira for a spot of lunch – although not before you pass an array of concession stands and trinket shops just outside the mine.

Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Cathedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Bogota’s Museo del Oro, the best museum in Latin America?

The Museo del Oro in Bogota is a magical place. It boasts a wealth of gold objects and other artefacts made from precious metals, sea shells and jade, as well as a number of fantastic pottery pieces. If its amazing that the gold pieces have survived the onslaught of several centuries of European greed in the Americas, the survival of clay pieces is almost as wondrous.

Its not just the brilliance of the items on display, or the fact that there are over fifty thousand of them; its not just that the displays are inventive and beautifully presented, or that the information that accompanies them is intriguing and informative. It is the combination of all of this that brings pre-Hispanic history and culture alive and makes Bogota’s Museo del Oro one of the finest, if not the finest, museum in the Americas.

A golden conch shell, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

A golden conch shell, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Musical instrument, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Musical instrument, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Clay fertility statue, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Clay fertility statue, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Clay statue, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Clay statue, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

I doubt there is a museum anywhere on the continent that can boast such a wealth of artefacts and information on the pre-Hispanic cultures that existed before the Spanish arrival in the Americas. The most fascinating part was the direct connection between the artefacts and the belief systems of the indigenous tribes that they represent. I’ve not come across such a comprehensive description of pre-Hispanic cultures before.

The tribes that lived in this part of the Americas held the natural world in awe. There was a strong belief in the ability of transformations or transmutations into beings that were part animal and part human. In part this was achieved through hallucinogens that induced a trance-like state, but also by the use of gold ornaments with images of animals on them.

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Golden sea shells, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Golden sea shells, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Decorating yourself in these ornaments helped you observe the world through the eyes of the jaguar, crocodile, bat, bird, spirits or ancestors. Essentially, society for Amerindians is viewed as being united with nature – plants, animals, spirits and humans all forming a cosmic society split into three tiers. Birds represent the upper world; humans, jaguars and deer represent the intermediate world; while bats, snakes and crocodiles represent the lower world.

The upper and lower worlds have opposing but complementary elements: light and dark, dry and wet, male and female. The intermediate world where humans live combines elements of both. Gods, dead ancestors and spirits inhabit both the upper and lower worlds.

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Golden mask, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Golden mask, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Golden mask, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Golden mask, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Golden mask, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Golden mask, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

One gallery deals with the role that powerful hallucinogens played in aiding transformations between the human and animal realms. An hallucinogenic powder called Yopo was frequently used for religious rites and was inhaled using a a small spoon or through the bones of small birds. Humanity hasn’t changed all that much really.

Container for holding hallucinogenic powder, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Container for holding hallucinogenic powder, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Container for holding hallucinogenic powder and spoon, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Container for holding hallucinogenic powder and spoon, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Instruments for taking hallucinogenic powder, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Instruments for taking hallucinogenic powder, Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

One of the final displays is like being in an immersion tank: you enter a darkened circular room, the doors close around you and music starts to play. As the music peaks and troughs sections of the walls, floor and ceiling are illuminated to highlight huge displays of golden objects. It is an impressive way to end your time in the museum, and it highlights again just how much cultural heritage has been lost since Europeans arrived in the Americas.

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia

Super-size me, the strange and beautiful art of Fernando Botero

We first came across the extraordinary work of Fernando Botero in the centre of Medellin, where his huge gordo sculptures add some much needed glamour to an otherwise dreary city centre. Botero is a Medellin native, but it is in Bogota that they have created an entire museum to celebrate Colombia’s most famous contemporary artist. Not only is it housed in a beautiful colonial building, its free.

A giant hand greets you as you enter the Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

A giant hand greets you as you enter the Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Walking through the door you’re immediately greeted by a giant bronze statue of a hand. Unmistakably Botero, and, if I’m not reading too much into it, the bottom of the palm is, well, bottom-like. The Botero Museum is packed with paintings and sculptures by Botero, but is also home to lots of other famous artists. It includes works by Henry Moore, Picasso, Dali, Degas, Miro and many others. You could easily spend several hours wandering the galleries.

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Despite the galaxy of artistic superstars on show, it was really Botero’s work we wanted to see. While many of his works are humorous – often satires on the work of others – walking through the galleries the great depth to his work is what struck me. That is something easy to overlook when confronted with so many exaggerated, oversized gordo and gorda men, women, children, animals and still life.

Giant bananas, Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Giant bananas, Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Many of the paintings feel extremely personal, almost perversely so, like you are staring into the most intimate parts of someone’s life. They are tinged with sadness, some feel tragic, even while being comedic at the same time, and some are out-and-out creepy. What is for sure, Botero captures humanity in all its raw, and frequently naked, forms – the man loves a female nude, no doubt about it.

For most of his life Botero mainly stuck to traditional topics. More recently he has courted controversy with a series of works dealing with the drug cartels, the FARC revolutionaries and, in 2004 and 2005, a series of hard hitting paintings on the torture and humiliation inflicted on prisoners in Abu Ghraib – although the latter aren’t in the museum.

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

A recurring theme in his paintings is that the artist appears in the paintings, sometimes more subtlety than others. It is like a voyeur peeking through the window into a room that they shouldn’t look into.

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Botero Museum, Bogota, Colombia

Getting high in Bogota

First of all, apologies for the unnecessarily juvenile title. Just because Bogota is Colombia’s capital city and Colombia has been synonymous with the international cocaine trade for several decades, there is no justification for such a childish title.

That said, if you want to see Bogota in all its glory you really have to get high. The city has a location as dramatic as most I’ve seen – La Paz may just nudge it into second place. Bogota was a subdued backwater for a long time after it was founded in 1538. Not any more. It seemingly spreads out for ever across a long and broad valley, and is buttressed on its eastern side by high Andean peaks, including the 3152m Cerro Monserrate which can be reached by cable car.

The best place to start your arial overview of the city is from the 48th floor of a downtown office block which is home to the Mirador Torre Colpatria. The mirador offers incredible 360 degree views of the city and surrounding mountains, including some of the less salubrious and secure neighbourhoods to the south that are crawling their way inexorably up the mountainside.

View toward Cerro Monserrate from Mirador Torre Colpatria, Bogota, Colombia

View toward Cerro Monserrate from Mirador Torre Colpatria, Bogota, Colombia

View over Bogota from Mirador Torre Colpatria, Bogota, Colombia

View over Bogota from Mirador Torre Colpatria, Bogota, Colombia

View over Bogota from Mirador Torre Colpatria, Bogota, Colombia

View over Bogota from Mirador Torre Colpatria, Bogota, Colombia

View of the bullring from Mirador Torre Colpatria, Bogota, Colombia

View of the bullring from Mirador Torre Colpatria, Bogota, Colombia

The church on Cerro Monserrate from Mirador Torre Colpatria, Bogota, Colombia

The church on Cerro Monserrate from Mirador Torre Colpatria, Bogota, Colombia

What is so striking about the city, is the contrast between the skyscrapers, and the upmarket residential districts that stretch to the north, compared to the poor barrios spreading up the hills to the south. At ground level one day, I found myself wandering by accident into one such barrio only for a police motorcycle to come whizzing up to me to warn me away. A shame, there seemed to be a nice colonial church nestling in the barrio but it didn’t seem advisable to risk it.

View over Bogota from Mirador Torre Colpatria, Bogota, Colombia

View over Bogota from Mirador Torre Colpatria, Bogota, Colombia

View over Bogota from Mirador Torre Colpatria, Bogota, Colombia

View over Bogota from Mirador Torre Colpatria, Bogota, Colombia

After that introduction to Bogota-from-above, it was time to walk over to the cable car station that would carry us to the top of Cerro Monserrate. Home to a church containing an important ‘fallen Christ’ statue that is subject to devout pilgrimages. On the top of the mountain we watched the sun set and the lights of Bogota spring into life.

It was an extraordinary sight. Roads suddenly became serpent-like, snaking their way through the city, office blocks were illuminated and changed colour and the city seemed to stretch to the horizon.

The cable car to Cerro Monserrate, Bogota, Colombia

The cable car to Cerro Monserrate, Bogota, Colombia

The church on Cerro Monserrate with Bogota in the background, Colombia

The church on Cerro Monserrate with Bogota in the background, Colombia

Bogota illuminated, seen from Cerro Monserrate, Colombia

Bogota illuminated, seen from Cerro Monserrate, Colombia

Bogota illuminated, seen from Cerro Monserrate, Colombia

Bogota illuminated, seen from Cerro Monserrate, Colombia

Bogota illuminated, seen from Cerro Monserrate, Colombia

Bogota illuminated, seen from Cerro Monserrate, Colombia

Bogota illuminated, seen from Cerro Monserrate, Colombia

Bogota illuminated, seen from Cerro Monserrate, Colombia

Bogota illuminated, seen from Cerro Monserrate, Colombia

Bogota illuminated, seen from Cerro Monserrate, Colombia

Bogota illuminated, seen from Cerro Monserrate, Colombia

Bogota illuminated, seen from Cerro Monserrate, Colombia

Bogota illuminated, seen from Cerro Monserrate, Colombia

Bogota illuminated, seen from Cerro Monserrate, Colombia

Guinea Pig gambling, the most fun anyone can have in downtown Bogota without alcohol

I realise the whole concept of using guinea pigs as a form of gambling seems absurd. What can a guinea pig offer the gambling addict when compared to horse racing, cock fighting or just plain old roulette? Well, I’m here to let you know that guinea pig gambling is as nerve-rackingly, heart-pumpingly exciting as much better known ways of being separated from your money.

The Andes is the birth place of the guinea pig, so it seems fitting that an Andean country should have invented a ‘sport’ involving a hand trained guinea pig, upturned plastic bowls and a PA system. Its probably a better life for the guinea pig than the fate that awaits them further south in Peru, where they end up roasted and served with a side of potatoes and veg.

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Strolling down a busy street close to Bogota’s Candelaria district, a small crowd of people, curiously gathered around a semi-circle of upturned plastic bowls, caught my eye. A man was spinning some yarn to them and as I got closer I realised that the man with the microphone was in possession of several guinea pigs. My eye was no longer caught, I was hooked.

So these are the basic rules of guinea pig gambling: arrange a semi-circle of plastic bowls with a hole cut out of the front of them; take to the microphone and attract a crowd; encourage people to place money on top of the plastic bowls; build the excitement to fever pitch while choosing a guinea pig; and, finally, when the crowd is in a frenzy, release the guinea pig.

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

The furry little critter will dash towards the plastic bowls at full speed and, amid much excitement and hilarity, will go into one of them. The person who placed money on top of that particular plastic bowl wins and receives a cash prize.

Retrieve your guinea pig from the plastic bowl and start again.

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

Guinea pig gambling, Bogota, Colombia

I take my hat off to the person who invented this new sport, and I’m sure it is all harmless fun, but what happens to the guinea pigs once their gambling days are over? I doubt they are put out to stud like race horses…probably shipped to Peru.

Weird and wonderful Bogota, a walking tour

There is so much street life in Bogota that at times it feels a bit overwhelming. The old colonial district of La Candelaria and the business district that stretches around it are fascinating places to walk: there are street performers doing some truly odd acts, loads of interesting street art, endless street vendors selling just about everything you can imagine and a sea of people going about their business.

The street life both defines Bogota and defies the all to common stereotypes of the city as a drug-fuelled, crime-filled, danger zone. I love it and I hope these photos give a clue as to why…

Street art, Bogota, Colombia

Street art, Bogota, Colombia

Street art, Bogota, Colombia

Street art, Bogota, Colombia

Building, Bogota, Colombia

Building, Bogota, Colombia

Musicians, Bogota, Colombia

Musicians, Bogota, Colombia

Restaurant in La Candelaria, Bogota, Colombia

Restaurant in La Candelaria, Bogota, Colombia

Protester in Plaza Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia

Protester in Plaza Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia

Sculpture, Bogota, Colombia

Sculpture, Bogota, Colombia

Stall selling sweats and phone calls, Bogota, Colombia

Stall selling sweats and phone calls, Bogota, Colombia

Food stall, Bogota, Colombia

Food stall, Bogota, Colombia

Street performers, Bogota, Colombia

Street performers, Bogota, Colombia

Protest in Plaza Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia

Protest in Plaza Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia

Puppeteer, Bogota, Colombia

Puppeteer, Bogota, Colombia

Coconut seller, Bogota, Colombia

Coconut seller, Bogota, Colombia

Bogota, Colombia

Bogota, Colombia

Plant pot street art, Bogota, Colombia

Plant pot street art, Bogota, Colombia

Car as corner shop, Bogota, Colombia

Car as corner shop, Bogota, Colombia

Street art, Bogota, Colombia

Street art, Bogota, Colombia

Religious window, Bogota, Colombia

Religious window, Bogota, Colombia

Bogota, a city breaking free of its past

I have a confession. I really like Bogota. It is a weird, fascinating and vibrant city that has seen terrible times and now appears to have faced-down its past and is looking to the future with renewed confidence. Still, there is no way around the fact that Bogota has a reputation that would give pause to even the most hardened traveller. A reputation for violence, drugs and crime that is well deserved. Except these days, maybe that should read ‘was’ well deserved.

My first visit to Bogota was several years ago for work. During a free afternoon I took a cab to the historic colonial district of Candelaria. I walked around, strolled up and down streets and at one point a policeman came over to me and asked where I was going. I pointed up a street that looked fairly nice and he simply shook his head and drew his finger across his throat mimicking a knife. I didn’t need to be told twice.

Cathedral Primada in Plaza Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia

Cathedral Primada in Plaza Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia

Colonial buildings in the Candelaria district of Bogota, Colombia

Colonial buildings in the Candelaria district of Bogota, Colombia

Bogota 2013 seems like an entirely safer place. Not a single policeman drew their finger across their throat or warned us we couldn’t walk down a particular street. The city was alive with activity and I didn’t once feel threatened; although judging by one review of the hotel we stayed at, violent crime does occur all too often. Perhaps that’s why tourists still seem few-and-far-between, or maybe its because this is the low season.

There are safer and wealthier districts to base yourself in the north of Bogota, but we decided to stay in the old colonial heart of the city, La Candelaria, centred on Plaza Bolivar. Here you can wander streets – with one eye open – full of glorious colonial architecture, pop into student bars full of people dancing tango to pumping music and watch street vendors weave their way through the crowds with any number of unlikely items.

Plaza in the Candelaria district of Bogota, Colombia

Plaza in the Candelaria district of Bogota, Colombia

Church on the edge of the Candelaria district, Bogota, Colombia

Church on the edge of the Candelaria district, Bogota, Colombia

Street art in the Candelaria district, Bogota, Colombia

Street art in the Candelaria district, Bogota, Colombia

Sculpture in the Candelaria district, Bogota, Colombia

Sculpture in the Candelaria district, Bogota, Colombia

Street art in the Candelaria district, Bogota, Colombia

Street art in the Candelaria district, Bogota, Colombia

Food stall in the Candelaria district, Bogota, Colombia

Food stall in the Candelaria district, Bogota, Colombia

The other benefit of staying in La Candelaria is that pretty much everything culturally worth seeing was within a short walk from our hotel: the Museo del Oro and the Botero gallery being the two highlights. The whole area does still have a slightly down-at-heel feel about it, which is part of its charm, but it probably makes it feel more intimidating than in reality it is.

To me, the real joy of being in Bogota is the human life that goes on there. It is a joyous place to be at times, and on odd occasions I found myself thinking I was back in La Paz.

Sausage seller, Bogota, Colombia

Sausage seller, Bogota, Colombia

Doorway in the Candelaria district, Bogota, Colombia

Doorway in the Candelaria district, Bogota, Colombia

Cake shop in the Candelaria district, Bogota, Colombia

Cake shop in the Candelaria district, Bogota, Colombia

Balloon seller in Plaza Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia

Balloon seller in Plaza Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia

Mobile tienda in Plaza Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia

Mobile tienda in Plaza Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia

Candy floss seller in Plaza Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia

Candy floss seller in Plaza Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia

Feeding the pigeons in Plaza Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia

Feeding the pigeons in Plaza Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia

One thing is for sure, Bogota is a surprising city. Ringed by mountains, full of history and culture, outrageous street art, welcoming and friendly people, bizarre street performers and any number of excellent restaurants. It feels like a city waiting for its moment, and that moment seems to have arrived. That makes me happy.