Monday, February 21, 2011

Exorcism in Cartagena

I´ve decided one of the worst feelings is waiting in line in the airport check├Čn with a big backpack on your back, feeling nauseous and on the verge of vomiting, while being surrounded by people whose 1st language is your barely spoken 2nd language.

I knew i was physically struggling when I no longer could stand and the woman next to me asked ´sientes bien´as i was kneeling on the ground with my pack hanging over my head. ´Es la altura´, she said, and she helped me take off my pack. Does altitude sickness kick in 3 days retroactively? Can you get altitude sickness from 2600+ meters (Bogota)?

At this point, I knew I needed to do whatever i could to focus on remaining in line without spewing on the woman next to me. As they expedited all travelers to Cartagena to the front, I said ´obrigada´ to the woman who helped me put my pack back on - a clear sign that i was fading.

Everyone in line must have been grateful that the pale-green faced gringa disappeared. And I was grateful to escape the queue, checkin, and beeline to the bathroom where I perfectly projectile vomited into the toilet right as I swung open the bathroom door. I did not have time to commend myself on my impeccable timing and aim because it was immediately followed by 4 more rounds of hugging the toilet. Thus, beginning the exorcism.

I managed to sleep the whole flight to Cartagena where I was greeted by Lacey´s friend, Tanita, at the airport. She drove me to her house and introduced me to her mom. i managed to mumble ´me llamo jeanne. much gusto. where´s the bathroom?´ and i charged to the bathroom, making myself at home as i hugged another toilet.

My 1st day in Cartagena consisted of puking, sleeping, postulating theories for why i was puking, puking some more, debating whether to go to the emergency room and brainstorming anti-vomiting remedies with Tanita and her mom. Tanita´s mom was full of ideas - from coffee to raise the blood pressure, to lemon to cure the nausea to nutmeg for relaxation to coco cola for the classic cure for calming the stomach. I ended my night on Feb 14, 2011 with a grand finale puke. There´s something rather poetic about letting go and expunging everything from the inside out on Valentine´s Day.

While there clearly are many cons to this whole puking business, on the plus side, it allowed me to get to know Tanita and her mom more. I heard stories of all sorts - such as her 92 year old grandfaher who was kidnapped in Cartagena and released after 6 months, the adventures of Tanita´s mom living in Indonesia, Korea and Thailand, how pretty much anything someone wants to do is possible in Cartagena and about everything ´Macondo´ in Colombia. I also was able to do a night tour in the car and see where Tanita´s dad lived as a kid, where Tanita partied as a teenager and went to school, the walls surrounding the city and a man randomly getting a haircut by another man on the corner of an empty street dimly lit by a street light. The next day, i managed to walk around the old city with Tanita as she gave me the local perspective and told me stories about witch hunts and where people used to denounce their neighbors, how the devil collapsed the walls and twisted the tower of a very old church and streets where spirits remain.

I am telling you, if you have to go through an ´exorcism´ experience like i went through, come to Cartagena, it only seems like the fitting place for it to happen. Plus, being regailed with non-stop stories almost makes the whole puking experience enjoyable.

NEXT STOP: 5 day hike to La Ciudad Perdida (the Lost City)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bogota: Less than 10 hours of sleep in less than 48 hours

I am in Bogota, which is the start of my 3 week adventure in Colobmia. The capital of Bogota is much more cosmopolitan than i expected. Of course, there´s nothing like seeing a city than from the eyes of a local. L.R. who moved here in September has shown me around her favorite spots, allowing me to see places and meet locals that I would have never come across if I was staying at a hostel.

I have been in Bogota for less than 48 hours and I have slept less than 10 of those hours. I started off my Colombian experience going to a house party at midnight. Many people at the party went to the American school, so I was surprised how much English was spoken. I did tap into my rusty Spanish with the taxi driver, Nelson, who drove me from the airport to Lacey´s house. Nelson, who barely reached 5 foot, kindly offered to be my local guide for the weekend since I did not have an esposo or novio, but I politely declined and went with the nearly six foot blonde local tour guide. Lacey´s Spanish rocks and she has built such an amazing network of friends, who are completely awesome and have taken me in. I wish I had more time to meet them all!

Saturday day consisted of waking up to a view of the beautiful Andes mountains from Lacey´s apartment, aimless wandering through the old streets in La Candaleria - the historic part of Bogota -eating tamales and hot chocolate, meeting Lacey´s friend Cherry at Bogota´s version of Central park, riding buses and taxis through the largely spread out city and having my first Colombian mall experience, which seemed like the hot weekend hangout spot.

In the evening, Lacey and I prepared ourselves with an hour power nap and 2 Red Bulls and got a driver to take us to a restaurant-bar-bailadero, Andres Crnen de Res, which is an hour drive from Bogota. People normally go with groups and make it an event of over-priced food and drinks and late night dancing. Lacey and I brought back our college days and hid a bottle of vodka in a water bottle and spiked our fresh juices at the bar as people slowly finished their 10pm dinners and made their way to the dancefloor. Let´s just say by the end of the night, Lacey and I had made friends, were dancing in the aisles, and were drinking Aguardiente straight from the bottle - Colombian style.

We cured our hangover with Colombia brunch - you have to love a country that includes fresh squeezed juice and hot chocolate with their brunch. We then walked off this pile of food - bajamos el desayuno- along the main road that they close off on Sundays to bikers, runners and hung-over walkers, like ourselves.

NEXT STOP: Cartagena! I will be staying with Lacey´s friend Tanita who I took out when she visited New York and she stayed out in the bars later than me. This could be trouble - although it will be a Monday and Tuesday night, so we shall see.....