Thursday, January 27, 2011

Colombia - It's a Whole Other Country

Vienes feliz! Feliz fin de semana! My apologies – my keyboard doesn’t have upside down exclamation points to make my greeting punctuationally correct. Oh, what a fun week I’ve had! I had the opportunity to do some international travel and it was very exciting! Let me tell you all about it! (As if you could stop me!)
My new, and very handsome friend, Radames, invited me to South America to visit him and learn about his country. Being the adventurous gal that I am, I jumped at the chance to learn about another culture. I did some tippy tapping on the computer to help me figure out what to pack and what to expect in this foreign land.
I spent last weekend packing and trying to learn a little Spanish. Mom and Dad surprised me with a brand new suitcase of my own! Even though it was a good size, it was a tight squeeze to fit all my hats and accessories into it. I prayed that security wouldn’t open it to check out the contents – I pictured some official looking person opening it up and having compressed hats come bursting out all over the place. While it would be amusing, I didn’t want to risk anything slowing me down and making me miss my plane.
This was my first flight and I was a little nervous. Mom and Dad took me to the airport and Mom cried when it was time to say goodbye at the security checkpoint. I hugged her and told her I would be fine and I would be back in no time. I breezed through security and turned to wave one more time before trotting down to the gate.
The flight attendants were very nice and made sure I made my connections in Charlotte and again at Dulles International airport in Washington DC. It was a long trip, but I knew Ramades would be waiting for me when I landed at the El Dorado International Airport in Bogota. Ramades thought we would have fun spending my visit in Bogota, the capital city – and the largest city in Colombia. That sounded very exciting, so we made plans to stay in the heart of the city.
It was a smooth flight, but I must admit it felt good to put my paws back on the good solid earth. I became dizzy watching the luggage go round and round on the carousel, but I found out that Mom and Dad knew what they were doing when they bought me a zebra print bag. I couldn’t get over how many people had the same kind of black suitcase. I don’t know how they knew which suitcase belonged to whom! I found mine easily - though I was dragged several yards while trying to get it off the carousel. Some kind gentleman grabbed both me and my bag and placed us gently on the floor. I thanked him for saving me and then headed anxiously out to the airport.
I was relieved to see my friend coming down the hallway. I must admit I was a little afraid he wouldn’t make it, or be late, but he was a man after my own heart by being right on time! I waved to him and he headed my way!

Radames had a good friend whose human drove a chiva, which is a special, festive looking bus. It used to be used for transportation in the countryside, but now it was a fun way for people to get around the city. His friend’s human had volunteered to chauffer us around for a couple of days in between taking some paying fares. Radames carried my bag out to the chiva and we climbed up on top as to not take away room from any people who might need a ride. It was a great vantage point to take in the scenery – plus the wind felt good ruffling my fur!

We took the long, scenic route into town and Radames was a great tour guide – who spoke excellent English - pointing out items of interest. I was quite tired from the long trip so we decided to stop at the hotel and change before meeting up for a nice dinner.
I was glad I brought along my good hat and silk scarf as Radames looked quite dapper when he came to my room to pick me up for dinner. He was so handsome, he made my heart go pitter patter. He offered his arm as we headed down to the chiva.
We sat inside the chiva this time and the driver played some tradition Colombian music as we slowly made our way through the beautiful city. He dropped us off at a very jazzy looking restaurant where Radames and I were seated at a lovely table. Radames took the liberty of ordering dinner and when the main course came I was pleasantly surprised. It was called bandeja paisa and it was delicious. We toasted our friendship with fluted champagne glasses filled with ice cold milk!

Of course, after such a big, wonderful meal I was very sleepy. I felt bad being a party pooper, but I needed to recharge myself for all the activities we had planned for the next day. We took another fun chiva ride back to the hotel and said goodnight. We agreed we would get started very early the next morning.

Radames had told me how beautiful the beaches of Cartagena were, so we took a long chiva ride out to the coast. I loved the beautiful mountains and lush green countryside of Colombia. I felt like I was in another world. And the beaches – unbelievable!! It was a little chilly so there would be no splashing in the water, but it felt good to bury my paws in the cool sand and feel the sun warming my ears. Radames had brought along a refreshing bottle of milk and some fluted champagne glasses ( He saw how much I liked the glasses the night before – everything tastes better in a pretty glass!!) We sipped milk and listened to the water lap up on the beach.

We both fell asleep and awoke refreshed and ready to head back to the city. We didn’t have to wait long for the chiva to return. Radames’ friend had picked up some passengers that were heading to Bogota, so we took our place on the roof and enjoyed the ride back.
We decided to do some walking around the city. I was amazed to come upon a giant guitar much like the ones I had encountered in Nashville. I wanted to try and play this one and Radames tried to lift me up to it, but it was just too big and high up!

As I slid back down to the ground, I noticed the golden arches of McDonald’s. I couldn’t believe it – a McDonald’s in a foreign country! Oh, I just had to go there! They had menu items like the Cheddar McMelt, the McNifica and the Quarteirao. Radames and I split a McFish sandwich and some fries. We hadn’t realized how hungry we were, so we were now refueled and ready for some shopping!
Radames knew of a place I could buy some traditional Colombian women’s wear and of course some hats – though I don’t know how in the world I was going to fit anything else in my suitcase! Trusting I would figure something out, we headed to seek out some street vendors.
We came upon a place with wonderful, colorful clothes and accessories. The nice senora there picked out a lovely outfit for me that I just loved. Radames made me blush when he told me how beautiful I looked in the bright colors. He is such a gentleman!

Radames paid for the outfit, which was very nice. I put my old hat in a bag and wore my new outfit. I felt so pretty! We window shopped and I purchased a few souvenirs for my family and friends. I also bought a small bag in which to carry anything that wouldn’t fit in my suitcase. We came upon some street musicians who were very patient about me joining in on their performance. I was in the latin spirit and kept perfect rhythm with the maracas. Radames was very patient and he danced along with the music.

I have seen street performers before, but this was one sophisticated bunch of musicians! It must be tough schlepping a piano from corner to corner!
After my performance we headed back to the hotel for a nap before dinner. We had yet another lovely dinner that night, and spent the next day going to museums, amusement parks and shops. Radames surprised me with a picnic lunch in the countryside which was one of my favorite things we did.
Time flew by and I had to head back very early Thursday morning. I had to fight back tears as I said goodbye to my new, dear friend at the airport. We had such a wonderful time that we promised each other we would do it again very soon. Maybe he could come to the U.S. to visit me! He gave me a big hug and waved and waved as I walked down the terminal to the gate. I peeked to see him one last time before I headed for the plane. I continued to wave and search for him through the airport windows – I don’t know if he could see me looking out the little airplane window – but I'd like to think that he could.
I cried a little as the plane took off, but then the distraction of food, drinks and bad movies took over and cheered me up.
Mom and Dad were waiting to pick me up at the teeny tiny Fayetteville airport. It was great to get back home to my own bed and familiar surroundings - and a familiar language. I e-mailed Radames and thanked him again for a wonderful time, and then promptly drifted off to sleep to dream of colorful chivas, beautiful beaches and McFish.
Adios a mis amigos!

Amor y lame,

No comments:

Post a Comment