A Travellerspoint blog

Calle

sunny

So I finally made it to Colombia. Now what, I thought to my self. My first night had been as good as I could have

hoped. I had arrived safely and gotten to my hostel in one piece, all without being robbed. I sat on the side of my

bed and thumbed through my Lonely Planet travel guide looking for something to do; it was full of all sorts of

museums, bars, places of “historical interest,” and some other useless facts. I had never really liked traveling with

guidebooks it seemed to me like it was planning my trip for me. Going to the same museums and restaurants as all

the other tourists or going to the same restaurants to get a hamburger and fries didn’t seem like something I

should be doing half way around the world. I ripped out the city map grabbed a card with my hostels address on it

and headed for the door.

Usually hostels, hotels, and pretty much anything involving tourists are in the safer, more glamorous parts of

town. I felt generally safe, maybe it was the Colombian army standing on nearly every corner armed with automatic

weapons, or maybe I was just delusional. It was about ten in the morning and the fog that had encased the city the

day before had lifted and turned to bright sun and blue sky. The city was surrounded by lush green mountains

capped with snow off in the distance, the jungle almost spilled down to touch the towers of the tall buildings below.

The streets were crawling with people some in business suits talking loudly on their cell phones others in colorful

native clothing selling freshly squeezed orange juice on the sides on the street. The street vendors were grilling

their food giving off the strong sent of burning wood, charcoal and simmering meat.

Its funny what helps you remember sometimes, when I travel to different places I can take a thousand photos or

write enough to fill ten journals but the thing that brings back the most vivid images is the different smells. Whether

it is a street market in Asia filled with the smells of strange spices and fruits or the salty air of fish markets on the

beaches of Cape Cod. When I am home and smell a strong spice or fruit drifting in the outdoor air, I am immediately

transported back to a street market in Chang Mai, or the strong odor of low tide I’m back walking through

Provincetown.

I put in my headphones and put on some Credence Clearwater Revival and started walking. I walked around for

a good hour taking in the different landscape, people and letting myself get lost within the city. I stumbled across a

large crowded street marketplace I thought it would be worth checking out, and maybe get something to eat. I

made my way across the street and looked inside; it was filled with hundreds of what I assumed were counterfeit

soccer jerseys, bags, and all sorts of different clothing.

As I walked through different hawkers shouted and waved their poorly made t-shirts at me, I smiled and shook

my head while I continued to walk forward. I heard more than a few people laughing and yelling “gringo” mixed a

few other words I couldn’t quite make out. I got the feeling that I was not putting myself in the best of situations,

but I didn’t feel unsafe.

A few minuets passed and I had made my way to the food. It was about noon and the entire area was packed. I

started to walk through to find something I could or would want to eat. The stalls were set up along the walls and

had cheap plastic tables and chairs with plaid plastic table covers weighted down by dispenser that held waxed

napkins. The food for sale did not look too appetizing they were selling everything from pizza to fried frogs on

string. I thought to myself my stomach had not fully adapted to the food just yet to take a chance here.

I kept walking and glanced at a rather old obese woman sitting in front of a stall, I smiled and tried to make my

way to the door. From my side I could hear someone loudly try to clear their throat almost instinctively I turned my

head to look back. Just then I felt a enormous gob of mucus hit me in the right in the back of my neck, I had never

been so repulsed in my entire life. I wanted to vomit I was in so much disgust.

I noticed the whale like older lady started to laugh and point her finger at me I assumed it had been her. A

younger woman came up to her and started yelling at her, while three or four people came to me and tried to help

me clean up. They gave me a handful napkins and some dirty water, I angrily muttered “gracias.” I had decided that

I had had enough of the market and needed to go back and take a long hot shower.

I got out to the street and jumped in a taxi, I gave him the card with my hostel address on it. I sat back in the

seat to think about what had just happened to me, unbelievable I thought to myself. As we approached my hostel I

reached in my back pocket to get my wallet, I felt around and quickly discovered it was not where I had left it. My

stomach dropped and I felt sick again, I couldn’t believe that I had actually been robbed and spat on in the same

day.

I had 15 pesos in my front pocket left over from breakfast, and my ATM card in my locker in my room. I figured I

might of lost all of forty dollars. I handed the rest of my money to the taxi and got out. I assumed that the entire

incident at the market from the spitting to the three “helpful” Colombians had all probably been in on it. All for forty

dollars, why didn’t they just come at me with a knife? I thought to myself, I have got to get out of this city.

I walked up stairs took a long hot shower and fell into my bed. Following in my plan to leave the city I opened my

guidebook and looked at cities to the south, one stood out in particular, Cali. That’s where I was going to go. I

would go to the bus station the next day and get my ticket. After a long and terrible day I headed down to the bar

to get a Andina cervesa and tried to find someone going in the same direction I was.

Posted by TylerJames 09:41 Archived in Colombia Tagged foot Comments (0)

Extrano

Semi fictional free write

Extranjero

"Hola, quieres un taxi?" Someone shouted as I stumbled past the taxi stand in front of the arrivals gate at the international airport in Bogota, Colombia. I shook my head and smiled understanding the words taxi and hola. I stopped for a minute, put my backpack on the ground and lit a cigarette. I gazed through the crowd and the surrounding area outside the airport gates pointlessly looking around for a familiar face or some sort of a landmark.
"Your going to be robbed the second you get off the plane" I remember one of my friends said to me when I was first thinking of going to Colombia. To be honest those kind of comments actually fueled my desire to go to places that many people would never even consider going. Maybe it was the sense of adventure or even to an extent I was looking for something a little dangerous.
I flicked my cigarette to the ground, got up and started to walk to the waiting area where friends and family would meet. Knowing nearly no Spanish, I had arraigned back home for my hostel to send a taxi to pick me up. I walked forward and stood in front of the taxi drivers holding signs for various people. I noticed one short man dressed in clothes that looked like they have seen better years, he wore a hat tilted up and his messy hair was pushed forward hiding the majority of his forehead. He was holding a sign that read,"Platypus Hostel" with my name written wrong underneath it. I figured that this was my ride, I walked up and said one of the two words I knew in Spanish, one being hola the other cervesa , "Hola" I pointed to myself and said "Tyler." He smiled.
The man took my bags, put them in the trunk and said a few things in Spanish but I understood nothing, I just smiled and said "no habla mucho espanol." I got in the taxi and we took off toward the city. The taxi driver tried to talk to me saying,"England?" I said no and tried to explain that I was from the United States, but he didn't understand so I said Boston, still no luck, finally I said New York and he smiled and said something about George Bush. I laughed and figured out that he was probably not a fan of Bush, some things don't change no matter how far you are from home.
The conversation soon died off and I was left to myself. Neighborhoods or barrios as I came to find out later, around airports in poorer countries are usually where the poorer population of the city live. I have been through other "third world countries"and all of these neighborhoods have similar qualities; Dirt roads, houses put together with cement blocks and scrap metal and the occasional wood posts forming goals at each end of a dusty soccer field. We stopped at a intersection and I saw a few children running along the street kicking a plastic ball made up of a few bags wrapped tightly together. The children looked as if they didn't have a care in the world and the smiles on their faces were brighter than most you would find on any child in a more "fortunate" part of the world.
Soon these barrios turned into high rises and paved roads with heavily armed police dressed in fatigues on the corners. The city itself was dirty and a low fog trapped between the mountains surrounding the city sat at the tops of the buildings, blocking out the sun and sky. The streets were lined with people walking back and forth between small make shift stalls, selling colorful clothing, food and playing loud Spanish music. It was not a city I could see myself living for an extended period of time.
We approached a park lined with shops, restaurants and people with their families walking their dogs on grassy fields. The taxi stopped and the man pointed to the door and said, "hostel, hostel" I smiled and said okay. I got out and handed the man ten pesos, about 3 dollars, he seemed overly pleased with the tip and I got the feeling that people may not tip as much as back home. The man handed me my bags from the trunk and nodded his head as if to say good luck or good bye and he got back in his car. I stood on the corner and watched the as taxi drove off and I started to walk up the stairs to my hostel.
I rang the bell and was buzzed in. I said, "Hola" and they replied in English, so much for getting to use my extensive Spanish vocabulary. I was able to get everything sorted out with the front desk and was shown my room, it was a six bed dorm with a shared bath, kitchen and tv/bar/library all in one room, it was about five dollars per night. I jumped on my bed and thought about what had happened since I left home early that same morning. I was now a half a world away, on a different continent where not many people spoke my language and I had a year in front of me to play around with. I had that funny feeling in the pit of my stomach, the kind of mixed feeling of excitement for the year ahead, exhaustion, and I had the brief feeling that maybe I made a huge mistake.
I put all that aside, locked up my stuff and went down to the bar to order a beer and try and meet some other people.

Posted by TylerJames 13:56 Comments (0)

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