I´ve decided one of the worst feelings is waiting in line in the airport checkìn 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)