Quick notes from the flight home

I could and very well may live in Medellin some day.

I might spend my 30th birthday and graduation celebration in Cartagena and Medellin and will be looking for friends to join me this time.

Usually when I am coming home from a trip I’m exhausted and ready to come home. I feel like I could keep going this time.

I never really saw myself as interested in South America apart from making sure I set foot on the continent at least once. I think there is more for me here.

It is sometimes hard to find Colombian food in Parque Lleras.
Americans are sometimes difficult to talk to when overseas. If they’re expats they tend to downplay your interest in coming there to live just like them.

I’ve learned that Colombia is no more or less dangerous now than it was 7 years ago if you stick to the tourist destinations. Many locals have been surprised at the comment that Colombia is now “safer.” To them, the dangers still exist and have always been some part of life outside of the cities in guerilla controlled areas.

Julien taught me a lot about the perception that the French have of Americans. I can’t say I disagree with any of his points.

Lucy, Bob, Laura, and Jaime, thank you for the inspiration to go to Colombia. Maybe someday I’ll make it to Cali.

Tiger Paw hostel was too much fun. I look forward to making Brian (the owner) throw me a birthday party in August.

Paisas are warm and welcoming people. Paisa is the term for a person who is from and has deep roots in the valleys in and around Medellin. They are said to be pure and distinct, and an isolated population.

I didn’t eat McDonalds while I was in Colombia.

My last meal however was a burger and fries from Presto, a popular Colombian fast food restaurant.

I just flew over Jamaica.

American Airlines is terrible.

I drank a lot of tap water in Colombia. I’m still alive.

Traveling in Colombia is not that difficult.

I wish Tampa had a metro and cheap taxis.
Beer was excellent in Medellin. Just another reason to live there.

Cocaine is HUGE in Colombia. Fortunately, I’m too old for peer pressure.
I want to make a pros and cons list for living in Medellin.

It waited till the last day I was there and on my way to the airport for the sun to shine and the skies to turn blue.

I learned the basic salsa steps and can dance Salsa solo but as soon as the girl starts doing her thing I fall apart.

Tranquillo in the Sky

I’ll skip the last two days because frankly they weren’t very interesting. Football yesterday all day, lots of rain… Saturday night clubbing and a late night rave atmosphere at Club Carnival just outside of town.

Today I woke up at 9:00 after a pretty long sleep. I asked Diana, the wonderful girl who works here at the hostel to instruct me on how to get to the ParaGliding site and then I was off. I had to make my way to the metro station and take the train to Estacion Caribe where I would buy my bus ticket to San Felix. I boarded the bus which became more and more crowded as the trip continued. Eventually an older lady had gotten on and after no locals offered their seat I got up and told her to sit there. Her daughter was with her and I showed her where I needed to get off and she promised to warn me before the stop.

I arrived at the site and was asked to read the waiver just in case the winds took us the wrong way into the mountain and I was crushed. I watched a video of some other person doing the take off and then a video of someone landing. The videos were 4 second clips. Basically, I was told to run run run run on take off and then put my feet high in the air on landing. A lot of the conversing before hand was in Spanish. The person responsible for locking me into my suit and strapping the harnesses was no more than 15 years old. Ah, Colombia.

Here comes the best part. The pilot pulled a flask from his pocket just as he was strapping himself to the chute. I looked at it and he said, “Don’t worry… it is empty.” I would be much happier if he had said it was full. A shot of Aguardiente at 2400 meters high in the Andes mountains would have been fun. And that would have meant he was sober. Either way, I didn’t worry too much the whole deal and just started to run run run when I was told to.

We took off down a decline and then shot up in the air as the wind took us. It was amazing. I have these dreams where I’m able to fly but I always have to run run run run and then spread my arms and legs to sort of float up. In fact, I had that dream last night. It was so much like that. I thought paragliding was quick where you just descent slowly but the pilot has the ability to keep you up there for as long as you want. We circled around the side of the mountain for a bit and checked out a couple of waterfalls. Then he asked me to lean to the right, “derecha por favor Joseph, derecha mas.” So I did what he said and we slowly climbed higher and higher until clouds began either being at eye level or below.

It was so cool to see the tops of mountains below me. The city was down below too but we didn’t hover over it. It was difficult to see Medellin itself but the pueblo nearby was clear. Birds were hanging around us and a couple of other paragliders as well.

We spent a good 30 minutes in flight and on the way down towards the end he asked me if I wanted to do some adrenaline stuff. Even though I was already beginning to feel sick to my stomach I decided why not? He told me to shift quickly to the left and then to the right and then very quickly and hard to the left to make us lift and spin in a circle. I watched the ground and the houses below start swirling at me pretty quickly. It was quite intense but soon after landed and I was safely on the ground.

All in all it was a great experience. I loved the location with the mountains and the clouds. I went alone but that was OK since they can only take one at a time. It was a pretty personal experience. The pilot asked me if I was bored because I was quiet but I was really just taking it in.

Oh, and the best part… the afternoon of paragliding in total cost me $40. :) (80,000 pesos)

Hosteling

I must apologize for the slow updating. Things have gotten into full swing here at the hostel. Large groups coming and going, people getting to know each other. There was a mixer last night, the hostel did a beer pong tournament. I was paired up with a Colombian girl named Sandra, we lost but then I filled in for a player who had to leave and then won the tournament with my partner who was another Colombian guy who shows up every Friday and usually wins. It was a lot of fun. People of all different nationalities, some learning the game for the first time. I’ve only played it two other times. Since I lost first and then luckily paired up with the best player I decided to donate my small winnings back to the bar. The 25,000 peso pocket was enough for 8 shots of aguardiente that I asked the bartender to pour.

Most of you that know me pretty well, know that I don’t typically go out that often, especially to night clubs. Thurs-Saturday is big for the nightlife in Medellin so a group of us have been going out. I’ll spare you all the details of every night but it has been a ton of fun. The best part is that by the end of the night my wallet doesn’t feel any lighter. We did a college-type club on Thursday night called Babylons. You pay 30 mil pesos which is about $15 for cover then have a seat at any number of tables. The waiter eventually shows up and brings you bottles of whatever you want until you don’t want anymore. The popular choices are aguardiente, rum or vodka. You get free mixers all night. So once you pay your cover there is no reason to open your wallet again. I was with Tyler, an American from Indiana and Johnny, an Australian-Ghanan guy. The experience was a lot different than at home. Within a few seconds of sitting down a table with three girls made eye contact. Johnny and I speak very little Spanish and the little bit that I know is difficult to use in a club with loud music. Tyler took the lead and eventually we sat with them, drank, attempted dancing salsa, and just had a general good time. It was pretty mellow overall.

Yesterday morning I woke up and wanted to go to the metro cable which is a “skyride” of sorts like at an amusement park. The metro cable was meant to service the slums of Medellin that are spread out across the foothills near the outskirts of town, but now it has become a popular tourist attraction. I paid about 1500 peso (.75) for a ticket from Poblado to Acevedo station and then changed to the metro cable line that runs east-west. There are about 3 stops that drop you off at Santo Domingo station where you can get off or just circle back around. I decided to get off and have a coke and check out the views. The weather has been overcast all week so i haven’t gotten any really good photos yet. I also lost all my photos from the day yesterday when I tried to transfer them over to the computer. I’m not too upset about the cityscape pictures because I can go back and take them again when th sun is out but I took a bunch of photos of graffiti that I don’t think i’ll get back to. The afternoon in total cost me about $2. Can’t beat that.

I had a late afternoon snack at a Lebanese restaurant in Parque Lleras. I just had some pita and hummus and an orange drink. Every place in Parque Lleras has wifi so if anyone wants to visit Medellin who is self employed and has to do business, this is a good place be.

I made my way back the hostel where the beer pong would eventually start. It was a pretty good deal. The buy in was $5 and they filled the cups halfway with the micro brew that they have here from the tap. Which reminds me, I never made it out to the beer brewery the other day. There are three types of the micro brew, Cordilleras, an amber, pale ale and wheat. All three are very good. After the beer pong it started pouring so we sat around and waited and then most of the people in the hostel headed out to a club called Blue. The hostel is really cool in that it has some backpackers, some ex-pats that come here and then a mix of locals that enjoy it too so even though I’ve spent some time here I’m still getting to meet a lot of good people. I’ve gotten some good advice on working and moving and made some friends that would be a good source of info in the future.

There is more but I am tired of writing. I’ll probably do another “quick notes” update either today or tomorrow. They work better for getting out the little things that I don’t remember when I’m writing. The weather is looking pretty dreary today and I’ve done most of the tourist things inside the city. They’re throwing a birthday party for a backpacker that is here and we’re probably gonna watch some bowl games.

Tyler and I are trying to get a group together to go to this soccer match tomorrow. It is a playoff game and might actually be the final. We may go down to th stadium and get tickets for tomorrow.

Paragliding Monday probably.

An American an Englishman and a Frenchman Walk into a Bar

Last night after uploading photos and blogging I headed down to the hostel bar. When traveling solo it is a necessity to strike up conversation with others so that you don’t spend your evenings by yourself. I asked what they were drinking (rum and cokes) and joined them. The Medellin Anejo is a pretty good rum in my opinion. I’m considering updating my Beer and Pizza reviews to include Rum. Beer, Pizza and Rum reviews.

After about an hour of talking and the usually travel pleasantries like where are you coming from, where are you going, how long will you be here, we started to plot the evening. The French guy, Julian has been going back and forth between Colombia and Central America while the Brit, Guy, is heading home in a couple of days. Since Guy is leaving tomorrow night he wanted to check out the Luces de Navidad last night. I planned to eventually go see them but joining along with two others was a better idea.

So, luces de Navidad, what can i say… they are by far the most incredible display of Christmas lights that I’ve ever seen. Cities within Colombia compete but Medellin always win. The river that goes through Medellin is light up and has fountains and lights that stretch as far as the eye can see. There were water fountains with children playing in them and families just having a great time. We took some photos of each other and headed to the bridge for a better look at the river. We were standing there for no more than a few minutes and a family came up to introduce themselves. A man with his wife and his mother were enjoying the Christmas lights as well and offered us some shots of Aguardiente (think Ouzo or Sambuca for Colombia). The people in Colombia are so incredibly friendly. I am having such a good time meeting locals even if I can only understand 1/4 of what they say.

After the lights we headed back to El Poblado where the hostel is, in order to change into clothes to go out. All three of like electronica so we tried to find a place to go. Unfortunately, Wednesday night isn’t very happening so we ended up staying close to the hostel and ate at a really good Mexican restaurant in Parque Lleras. It was perfect timing because Medellin was playing a huge soccer match against another Colombian team in a final of some tournament. Medellin won, 1-0 and the party started. The entire Parque Lleras turned into a festival with flags waving and people chanting, it was quite the experience. We had a few beers and wandered around a bit. Guy ended up going to sleep but me and Julian wanted to head out again and some of the other people at the hostel, including the owner also wanted to go out. We ended up at a bar in Parque Lleras where we hung out for a little bit and I decided it was time to head back around 3am. I figured we’re probably going to hit up a late night club at some point so I wanted to save the money and didn’t want to risk seeing sunrise and wasting away today.

That being said, I still wasted today away. That’s OK though, I needed a down day. Guy is heading out on a night bus to Bogota tonight but Julian is staying a bit longer. The big group that just showed up last night includes a few Americans and Canadians who have either met up along the way in South America were already together.

Executive Decision

So I made the executive decision to stay in Medellin for the rest of my time in Colombia. It is just too nice and too relaxing to leave. I’ll be missing some of the smaller towns but something tells me I will be back to Colombia soon. Medellin has met and exceeded my expectations as a cool city to be in. It is so easy to get around in and the people are so nice. There is a lot to do no matter what you’re into. On my way to this little café with wi-fi I saw a trendy little delivery Sushi restaurant. Now, I’m not saying I like sushi but that has to be a sign that your city is pretty cool. It kind of has a Holland V feel from Singapore. Now, this is just the El Problado/Parque Lleras region. There is still a lot more going on outside of this upscale area that I’m currently in.
Tonight looks to be pretty fun. A bunch of us from the hostel are doing the Medellin micro-brewery tour. 15 mil pesos ($7) for samples of their wheat, pale, and amber ales. It is supposed to be really nice. I had planned to do the Pablo Escobar tour today with Guy and Julian but that never panned out. I’m getting kicked out of my private room on Saturday and will be moving into a dorm. I’m actually looking forward to saving money by doing this. The dorm is $10 per night with a locker under the bed for my personal stuff. I’ve made friends with a few people so it won’t be as awkward. I’m not usually a dorm person but in this case it’ll be fine.

Quick notes…

I’m back in the hostel getting ready for an early sleep. I have to catch a bus to Medellin in the morning. I just wanted to run through a few quick notes.

I’m really enjoying having access to wifi like this in the hostels. I was talking to a couple of other people who have been traveling South America over the last 3 months and said it’s pretty standard now. It makes staying connected and sharing travels really easy.

I love arepos. Arepos are these small pancake like snacks that you can get just about anywhere. With cheese or ham or just plain. I have been doing a lot of snacking and not so much eating big meals.

I ate meat on a stick tonight. It was delicious.

I have only seen one western fast food restaurant and that was a McDonalds in downtown Bogota.

Laptop and a cerveza

I’m leaving Bogota tomorrow but I feel like I was just about to get settled in and comfortable here. It has been nothing special though.

I realize that it takes me a few days to adjust to traveling alone. I am never comfortable until the 3rd or 4th day. I even thought to myself in bed last night, why do I do this to myself, what am I gaining? And then eventually a day comes along and you get smacked in the face with a reminder… I haven’t quite had that night yet but I’m gradually getting there.

This hostel is ridiculous with the noise at night. However, it is what it is and I learned tonight that I need to let it happen. I can’t complain. People are just having a good time, even if those people are the employees.

Colombia LOVES Guns ‘n Roses. I have heard more GnR in the last 3 days than I have heard in a long time. Use Your Illusion 1&2 are practically on repeat in the hostel and street performers and easy listening stations love to play “Patience.”

I am surprised at the music choice of Colombians in Bogota. I expected to hear a lot more hip-hop and reggaeton. Instead, I find that rock music is far more widespread.

Christmas is huge here.

I’m tempted to sit down to some video poker at a casino if I can work up the nerve to walk in.

I accidentally ordered a hot dog as my first meal. I asked for empanadas and they didn’t have any so I panicked and pointed to “perro caliente,” After taking a second to read what I just ordered I realized it was just a hot dog. It was interesting though, it had salsa and cheese on it with fried plantain chips underneath it. At least it was something different.

Tinto and aromatica are good. I’ll have to talk more about that again.

Colombians are incredibly diverse. Everywhere I look I see someone that doesn’t look like the next person. It’s crazy.

I think because it is so diverse I haven’t really felt out of place yet.

And yes, the women are beautiful.

Buenos noches!