Saturday, February 5, 2011

My Trip to Colombia

My Trip to Colombia

My son had married a lovely young girl from Colombia, South America.  We are friendly with his in-laws and we see them when they stay in the US.

My son and daughter-in-law were going to Colombia over the Christmas holidays and asked us to come along.  We agreed.

The first thing to understand is my lack of any language but rudimentary English. 

I couldn’t learn French even after 3 years in high school and 5 semesters in college.  I failed German in college (not my fault, everyone in the Beginning German Class spoke German or Yiddish except me so the class was taught wholly in German), and let’s not even speak about my five years of Hebrew.

My wife is a firm believer in my not learning Spanish.  She can speak it somewhat fluently and feels that’s enough for us.  I once bought a cassette tape of lessons to learn Spanish while driving in my car.  She conveniently left it in the back for our Grandson to destroy.   Barbara claims it was too elementary (duh) and gave her a headache.

Any way, we were going to Colombia.  My son’s in-laws had graciously offered to put us up both in their home in Bogotá and their vacation home (They are called Finka’s, literally farm) outside the city.

I was given strict instructions not to speak to anyone, make friends with anyone and under no circumstances, wander off by myself.

If anyone spoke with me I was to say “Yo soy Muta”, which means, “I am a mute”.  Kind of surprising when spoken instead of “signed”.

We arrived in Bogotá without mishap and took a few days to explore some of the sites of the city, including a mall.

I had been good about not speaking until we got to the food court.  Everyone was eating and I decided to get some ice cream.  There was an ice cream vendor in the food court and I went over to it and tried to order an Ice Cream Cone.

Using my best pseudo Spanish accent I tried to pronounce “Cones”.  Evidently it came out wrong since the people behind the counter seemed to take offense.  Luckily my daughter-in-law came over and explained to them I was just an idiot.  What I had pronounced was a part of male anatomy instead of Cone.

Back at the house, this was the source of great amusement to everyone.  I didn’t see the joke.

We left the city and went to the country.  We got there on December 24.  That night was going to be a get together of various friends of my daughter-in-law, her sister and their parents.

We went to a mall nearby to make last minute purchases.

While at the mall, I wondered off and secretly got my wife a gift.  We had agreed prior to this that we wouldn’t get gifts for each other.

That night, gifts were given out.  When Barbara got her gift from me, she started laughing silently.  She laughed to herself so hard her eyes started tearing.  People in the room (not me or my son and daughter-in-law) thought it was so sweet she was touched by my surprise gift that she started to cry.  People still speak about it today.

The drinking began.  These people can drink.  I think the Colombians started drinking on the 24th and didn’t stop until the 1st.  We went to bed about 2AM.  There were people who never went to bed, just kept on drinking.  Some of the young people took a one or two hour nap in the late morning, woke up and continued partying.

On the morning of the 25th, Barbara woke me up about 7 AM to tell me we were under attack by the Guerrillas.  She had heard what seemed to be gunshots and was convinced we were going to be kidnapped, murdered or robbed.  It turned out to be firecrackers celebrating the holiday.

The next day we left the farm to go sightseeing.  We went to the Salt Cathedral, a church carved inside a mountain of salt where everything including statues, altars, etc was made out of salt, a resort with a hot spring spa, and Villa de Leva, a 16-17th century village that was the summer vacation place for the Spanish Governors.

All were very impressive.  Villa de Leva had kept its centuries old look and feel.  We stayed in what was supposed to be an upscale hotel.  When I went to take a shower the next morning there was no hot water.  At breakfast, I mentioned it to the staff, which informed me they had forgotten to light the fire to heat the hot water in my line.  Obviously modern plumbing was not considered a needed upgrade.

We returned to Bogotá at night.  The most frightening car ride I have ever had.  We were on mountain roads with blind curves, no guardrails or lights.

Colombians from what I had observed don’t really care for Rules of the Road.  Stop signs, stoplights, right of way have no meaning for them.  They drive as if they are the only ones on the road.  Bad enough during the day, madness at night on curving mountain roads.

We would approach a blind curve with us on the outside, no shoulder or guard rail, and coming around the turn would be two vehicles, one in the lane we were on.  There is nowhere to go.  You have to hope the oncoming vehicle cuts back into the lane they are supposed to be in.  As often as not it would be two trucks or two buses heading our way.

The mountain roads are lined with little monuments signifying people who had died in car accidents on the roads

We eventually made it back.

The next morning I decided to go out by myself before everyone got up.  I found possibly the only Jewish Deli in Bogotá and bought some lox, cream cheese and bagels for everyone.  Of course everyone was somewhat concerned about my “excursion by myself”.

I actually felt very safe in Bogotá.  There were soldiers and police everywhere.

That night was New Years Eve.  We all went to a neighborhood nightclub.  We got there late and had just gotten served when The New Year arrived.  The nightclub had bags and bags of confetti suspended from the ceiling.  They let them loose.  The confetti came floating down all over everything including our food and drinks.  We couldn’t eat anything.

Now everyone in Colombia, or so it seemed to us, has straight hair.  Barbara has thick very curly hair.  The confetti was all over her, in her hair, dress, shoes, etc.  Wherever she walked she left a trail of confetti.

We got back to the house, and as she undressed, she created a pile of confetti, covering the whole room.

We had to leave early in the morning to return to Florida.  We felt bad we couldn’t clean up the mess. 

Fortunately our Daughter-in-law stayed behind for a few days so she cleaned up.  She later told us she was vacuuming for days.

All in all we had a very good time in Colombia.  We felt safe, loved the sites we saw, and would feel good about returning in the future.

I would however try to get an armored vehicle to drive around in.  Not out of fear of the Guerrillas, but rather the drivers.

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