|First of all, I just have to say, this is one CRAZY place!!!! But I will get to that in a minute.
Once upon a time...
While at the language school in Buenos Aires,Argentina I met an pretty off the hook guy from Amsterdam. We didn't actually speak to each other until the last day of school. We were in different level classes, but we would see each other at the cafeteria and in the computer room and never talk but sometimes make speculations about each other. The day we started talking we couldn't stop and it was very amusing...somehow we had this very interesting and very wack connection...like two live wires touching, and like looking into a mirror and being horrified. He was crazier than me...although he will never agree with that statement. Neither of us has boundaries and when we are out in public together our dynamic has produced much laughter combined with that wide eyed look of horror in people's eyes saying something like they are fun to watch, but don't get too close!
Out of that I have no idea how we even got the idea that we should travel together, and I have complete amnesia when I try to remember how the plan evolved into us deciding on Colombia of all places! There were three weeks were we were all doing a lot of partying, going out every night and not sleeping much and maybe in an intoxicated state the plan was born and never did we question it...unlike rational people do. We just kept running with the ball all the way to Cartegena where we are now...
You all know that my energy is crazy and that I attract all sorts of strange experiences, well double that energy now and you may get the idea of how things are going here.
My friend's name is Romi. He is 30 and a walking disaster...I really don't have any idea how he has made it this far in life. I just watch him and think...is that possible? Are you really doing that? And yes, he is.......the list is long: from leaving his money belt on the plane to sliding down banisters only to bust his chin open to getting kidnapped by a drugged Colombian chica for 24 hours and taken to the favelas, this guy is full of high, high drama and frankly, I feel very boring and so adult like compared to him. He is delusional, however, and really thinks I am the craziest person he has ever met and reacts with sincere shock to many of my ways as well...so there you have it, a recipe for a great travel tale indeed!
From the get go we were aligned with the bumps and not the lines, if you know what I mean.
Neither of us went to sleep the night before our flight because we had to be at the airport at 5am. Being that my normal bedtime is 4am, it really didn't make sense for me to even bother with that one hour since I would've surely found it impossible to sleep anyway. I had met some funny guys from Canada who were on their way to Peru in the morning and kind of on the same wave-length since they had to be at the airport at 3am. That's the way it goes for the cheap flights, but it gets even better. Wait.
I had just moved to a really artsy part of BA called San Telmo. I hadn't seen Romi in over a week and so I just took it on faith that he had not forgotten about our genius plan, based solely on very random emails in very broken Spanish. I was prepared to just go alone...and now that I am here, that was just ridiculous of me.
The Canadians and I did a bit of a club crawl and the hours went by fast. It was a friday night, the places were all packed and the music sooo loud. Drinks were being handed to me, what the hell, I'll just pass out on the plane in a few hours...I'll be the better for it, what with my insomnia and all. That plan was soon to be sorely dismantled as well...little did I know.
The Canadian who was a hottie was giving me signs all night that he liked me and wanted to make-out. He was 21 and adorable, and did not seem to care that I was much older. On the contrary, he was rather turned on by the idea. Hmmm...I have noticed that my options these days are either to go with the very young guy who is all about catering to my needs and full of energy and who looks up to me like a goddess to be worshiped, or the older guy who had lots of excess baggage, around the belly and in the form of ex-wives, kids, stress of all kinds and who will never be as enchanted again with a woman like the young, unscarred guys are. So, which would you chose? Someone noticed the time, and so we all got ourselves back to the hotel to finish packing but ended up in my room listening to music. We only had 40 minutes left. Max (my eager-pleaser young seducer) and I were left alone and so he quickly jumped on the opportunity to make his move. He used the old tried and true method of offering to massage my feet, but since we were on my bed he decided to take off his shoes as well. Good manners, bad, bad, bad idea!!! OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have never smelt the smell that immediately permeated the entire room, I was traumatized and will never forget it as long as I live! I could not in the slightest even attempt to hide my repulsion, I literally thought I would vomit...I had to ask him how that happened to him, did he wear the same socks his entire 6 month trip without ever once washing them? He actually laughed and answered me, that yes, that was pretty much a true assessment. WHOA!!!! Hold up, how can you even stand it yourself, I said. " I guess I just got used to it" But shouldn't you know then not to remove your shoes and release the stink-bomb around the chicas? At this point, there was definitely not going to be a naughty quickie make-out,I just wanted him off my bed and out of the room. Everything in the vicinity would soon be contaminated, Like one of those smells that just linger and never ever go away...I had just taken a shower and I could not risk carrying that odious odor onto the plane with me. Moral of the story: Youth has its disadvantages.
Moving right along...the buzzer rings and Romi has arrived with the taxi and so I run down and see that he looks like shit. What has he been up to, I don't even want to know. So off we go to the airport and for a minute I just looked at him sitting next to me and thought who are you? And what the hell are we doing? I began to laugh hysterically and couldn't stop...so delirious and freaked out by the whole situation.
We get to the airport and then go through the most ludicrous security I have ever seen in my life. I had left the scissors in my carry on and when they saw it as it passed through the ex-ray machine they told me, "Señorita, you have scissors in your bag." Being used to US security, I imagined all sorts of scenarios ensuingg from there, none of which went down. I saw the box on the table where people were supposed to dump their weapons, but no one told me anything. Then I just took them out and looked for prompting, but no one even looked in my direction. Romi was cracking up because I just took my scissors and put them back in my bag and kept walking to the gate. Oh-kay...
So then we get to the gate and start boarding...
We get on the plane and are both just dead tired and completely starving. Romi asks the flight attendant if we will be getting a meal...she told him yes, very soon after we take off. We took off almost 24 hours later! After sitting on a plane stuffy plane for over an hour, the captain announced that we were being delayed because of electrical problems...we wait another hour. There is no air coming in, the vents are not on and air is running out, I am about to panic. Being trapped on a plane with no air and no option to get up and get out is not fun at all. Then finally we get another announcement that we must disembark because the plane cannot be fixed. That was the absolute last communication we got from anyone for the next incredibly stressful and frustrating 10 hours. We get out and then are just left in the gate waiting area with no instructions. Many of us have connecting flights to catch in Bogotá. Remember the state I am in? All-nighter, slightly hung-over...anyway, people are just sitting assuming that we will be on another plane soon. I watch the sun rising out the window and think that it is the first time I have seen a sun rise in a long, long time...Then an Italian man with a hot high-maintenance Colombian girlfriend, begins to shout at the top of his lungs across the waiting area where half the people have already fallen asleep, "Es una Basura!!! ES UNA BASURA!!! BASURA!!!" His girlfriend hides herself in embarrassment, but then I begin to encourage him by laughing and in some way my mannerisms may have transmitted approval and agreement...He begins telling me all about the failures of Avianca and how this happens every day with them. He speaks loudly and in Spanish of course so that all could hear even though he knew I could speak Italian. With that came many more laughs and he was becoming more and more a character, an ambassador, and entertainer and savior. Other people began to yell out and vent their frustration with him and soon there was a riot at the desk. A huge crowd, led by the Italian, formed around two poor little Colombian Avianca employees and demanded an explanation. This was a very tired and hungry crowd in a hot blooded country and I was imagining all sorts of things happening. Now I am all jacked up on adrenaline and beginning to translate and get into the action. But hours and hours went by and we were all trapped. Some people wanted to just forget the whole trip and leave, but could not get their baggage. Avianca would not assume any responsibility for our lost time or money, flight connections or anything...they not so much as even offered us coffee in the waiting area and we had no food or water or anything. It was an imposed fast, and every time I would attempt to rejoin the mayhem at the desk I would notice people's breath getting more and more sour. I was a little shocked and worried that any airline company could be this incompetent. There was never once an announcement made all day, not one time did anyone come out to handle the situation and all we had were two 20 yr old girls who were practically being eaten alive by the crowd. When the sun went down and we were still awake and had not eaten and not been put on another plane, Romi and I decided this was not a good sign and we did not want to go anymore. We just wanted our backpacks. We tried to sneak out and get them but it didn't happen. Then everybody began demanding their bags and it was so chaotic...the girls were putting some people on planes to Cartagena through Verig, but they would have to fly from Buenos Aires to Iguaçu to Rio to Caracas to Bogotá all with layovers...and yet, some people did indeed find that satisfactory and left. The Italian was outraged and told them they were ignorant criminals and this was so inhumane. How could an airline leave us with no food, water, trapped in a stuffy immigration room all day and night after we payed $450 for out ticket and not even have the common decency to offer any explanation or compensation?? That was the question which was burning on everybody's acid stomach. I was quite involved but ran out of energy when it was going to be another all-nighter. I had no option to take care of any of my needs. I have never had that experience in all my years of travel. I really was a captive hostage and there was no way out except to try and run passed armed guards at every exit. Everything was so unstable and out of control. It was one of the only times I indulged in patriotism in my life. I was proud to come from a country that has a standard for service. I knew that if this happened in America I would be getting fed, free flight vouchers, shuttled to a nice hotel and all with courtesy, decency and prolific apologies.
Immigration finally came with our bags and then we had to give over our passports again and get everything checked. The thought that 24 earlier we had checked in and were getting on a plane that would have landed hours ago in Colombia and yet now I am still in BA getting my backpack handed pack to me again and the feeling that I have been traveling for literally days and yet have not moved more than a few meters was really starting to make me crazy. How is this happening in the free world today? I resigned out of complete exhaustion to my fate. I found a place to lay down on the ground and just waited. At first people looked at me funny because I was laying on the ground, but then next time I opened my eyes I had ten people laying all around me. An Israeli guy had taken to me during the day without my notice, and he never wanted to leave my side. He relied on me for everything. I was surprised because, well, you know my thoughts on the Israeli travelers...he was alone, and he was actually interested in a non-Israeli, incredible. We became fast friends and talked for hours and laughed. Finding laughter in situations of major stress is such a relief. Once we started laughing though, we could not stop. It was the hysterical laughter of delirium and everything had become so surreal suddenly. I really felt high, drugged, something had intoxicated me...and it was contagious. I was making friends faster than a newborn puppy. Of course, a group like that would have to eventually do some bonding...
Now that we didn't care anymore and had begun to party, one of the girls came to tell us that she would be able to put some people in a hotel for a few hours and that a flight would be going to Bogotá in the early afternoon. There was shouting and a huge rush to get on the list. The others would have to get on very bad flights with terrible routes. I just wanted to eat a horse, an elephant, and a couple hippopotamus. Everyone was relying on me to get them into the hotel. I spoke to the woman calmly and tried to explain that we could all share the rooms and it would work out, blah, blah, blah...I really don't remember now, but soon we all went to the hotel, got fed and had showers!!!! Thank you very much. Moral of the story; Nothing is fixed or final. Elastic is the word, all things are bendable,liable to change,open to challenge, especially in South America...
The Israeli guy, Romi and I shared a room. We ate for hours and then went to the room to shower. Then the Israeli guy leaves for an hour and comes back with a fat joint. I wasn't going to ask any questions. I tried to sleep, but now my body is so confused and jacked up with adrenaline that it is just not happening. We have only a couple hours anyway before the shuttle comes back to take us to check-in again. Can you say Groundhog's Day boys and girls?
Israeli guy (IG) is coming closer all the time and wants to kiss me. He is full of curiosity and asking me so many questions. He thinks I am an angel, not from this planet...never met anyone in his life like me. He wants me to tell him what I think of him. I tell him a lot, we talk about everything. He is genuine and sincere, and in the whole situation, having him around was really nice.
I had almost completely forgotten all about the days disadventures and even that I was en-route to Colombia I was having so much fun listenting to music and dancing on the beds in our hotel room with the guys when our phone rang and we were instucted to get downstairs to the shuttle bus ASAP. It was 3am.
From there we checked in, got on the plane, everybody passed out and soon we were landing in Bogota. IG was by my side the whole time and very sad because we would be separating. I said, honey, you've come this far without me, you will be fine. He said now that he knows me, he wouldn't be fine anymore. He told me he was going to book a flight to Cartagena right away and come find me. I asumed it was one of those vain threats, but in fact he proved to be true to his word...and completely irritating to Romi.
Romi who had told me that the guy was obsessed and kept calling me bruja which means witch in Spanish, was so worried he would never see me again. I liked the IG, but not more than as a very cool distaction from the hellish travel episode, and certainly not to take too seriously. He was also much too young and getting way too attatched which would soon have become annoying. Small doses, I always say small doses is the secret to good relationships. Some smaller than others and this was one of those. Our moment was sweet, but over, and now IG wanted to make that moment into much more. Everytime I checked my email, he was there. And next thing you know he was in Cartegena.
Gotta go...I hate to leave you hanging, but I will finish the story later. Lots more to tell!