Micah: Unmitigated

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Not just another weblog

Posts Tagged ‘Blackjack’

Same Old Song And Dance

Monday, November 8th, 2010

In Otavalo: I shopped, caught a bit of a cold, and ate market lunches. I had one interesting night amongst locals while eating dessert Empanadas and drinking a warm berry beverage. Two giggly young woman to my right, seemed to be making fun of the fact I was dunking my emps. The young man with them and an older lady to my left, asked me some simple questions and I gave them very simple answers. Mostly just smiling and nodding, while they said “gringo” a lot and laughed. The man somewhat jokingly said that I should pay for all of their food. I showed him my near empty coin purse. Then,when I handed the server money to pay for my snack, I pointed at myself and said “Solo para me”. They all laughed healthily and I departed with a bang.

Feeling better Sunday morning, despite no medicine and little sleep, I began my journey toward Bogota. 2 buses and 2 mini-vans later, I was at the border. The skies opened up, rain poured down, lightning strikes could be seen in the distance. I should have known what was coming. My passport was handed to the man in uniform behind the window, he looked at passport, looked at screen, shook his head, showed me screen, I just nodded and said “Entiendo” (I understand), trying to explain what I went through 4 days ago. Apparently, nothing had been updated yet in the computer. I still had only an entry into Ecuador back in June listed, no exit and reentry.

I was told many things: You wont be able to enter Colombia, you will miss your flight, you need to return to Peru, wait over there, go make 2 copies of each of these 3 pages, Amigo! make sure you come back (at this point I was a flight risk, hinting to him that I may go on without an exit stamp), wait, now you need to pay money for stamp, my boss is back in town and gas is not cheap (I said I don’t want to pay), wait, maybe tomorrow. Man then takes my passport again and heads out the door with 2 other officers, they hop into a small red car and go. I wait and watch as the now undermanned station gets busy. Tourists come and go with no problems. I feel somewhat special, but also am very worried. Again, thoughts of alternative methods of getting to Bogota/Home, run through my mind: I really don’t need a stamp, do I? Would it do any good if I jumped the unattended counter and messed around on the computer? What if I physically attacked one of the officers and held him hostage, as I crossed the border? Nah, probably would have an issue later at the airport. Do they run illegal immigrants over on boats to Florida?

Just as I was about to execute one of the above plans, the 3 men return. I am waved over to the counter and handed my passport. He shows me the stamp and says go to Colombia. 3 hours after I enter the office, I can now legally leave. I still doubt the computer system is accurate, and wonder if I will ever be able to enter Ecuador again. There may be a manhunt for me in a year or so, when they look in the system and think that I am still there. If any of you are ever questioned by the authorities concerning my whereabouts, please say that I took a trip to South America and you haven’t seen me since. Thanks

Colombia was easier. After a brief 10 minute wait and being told the system was down, my passport was stamped. I again had to sort through lies from taxi drivers to get my cheap public transport. From the closest town of Ipiales, I booked my passage for the city of Cali (11 hrs north, halfway to the capital) because it is cheaper than going direct. Suffered through a muggy night bus ride, worried about bandits, but got to watch “Jaws”.

Arrived at 5 am: rain is falling, booked a night bus to Bogota, oddly combined my 2 large bags into 1 to avoid paying double for storage, killed time in casinos and walking streets. I found a cheap Blackjack table but had one of the weirdest experiences. They don’t believe in luck, and preferred to blame all of their defeats on the white guy. Whether I took 1 card too many or too few, I made an error and affected the whole table. One man lost a big hand to my left and really wanted the 10 I took, which busted me. He was visibly angry toward me. I am just glad I don’t fully understand what they said, though I do know a few of the curse words they used. They don’t like to gamble, and take advantage of the “surrender” rule frequently. I don’t agree and rarely did. That rule is not common back home and I admit that I don’t know how to properly use it. But I don’t feel I made any stupid moves. I just sat there quietly as my stack dwindled. It was fun but also very uncomfortable.

Safe to say, I am on a run of bad days. Hopefully I can get some sleep on the ride tonight and smoothly get into a hostal in central Bogota. I am looking forward to doing the city a little better these last 3 days, than I did with the first 3. ¿Dónde está el mercado central?

E = 193

2 + 2 = 5

Friday, May 21st, 2010

I have been worrying about money a lot lately. Forking over $11 for a dinner in Cabo and dropping $50 on a 13 hr bus ride to Medellin, I realize that I underestimated the costs of Colombia. I may have also overestimated my ability to haggle and patience to shop around.

I still have a lot to learn when it comes to finding the cheapest accommodations and food. Walking around with my pack after a hefty bus ride, I tend to pick a spot out of “Lonely Planet” and go with whatever price they offer me. I believe many of these hostels jack up their prices, once they see the constant flow of gringos one paragraph in a travel book provides. With my limited Spanish, I feel I lack the ability to properly scout the random non-published places. The Internet is a good alternative, and provided me with my current lodgings (free WiFi). Though, the owner said my room was double booked by different sites, thus I got a free “upgrade” to a room that was almost twice as much. When he showed me a room that barely fit the twin bed lying on the floor, I almost jokingly asked if my original room was smaller than this. The only difference I can see is that my new room comes with a 13 in., 2 channel TV.

I can’t help but feel skeptical about every price quoted to me and every friendly local. One instance in particular, a teen running a store counter in Cabo overcharged me a dollar despite my inquisitions about the price of each item. Not sure whether he added wrong or figured he could get whatever he wanted from me. Also; my hostel which had higher prices for us than what was in the menu, lemonade guy that has 2 sizes of plastic cups, and bus drivers that see how much you will pay. Those are the ones I have learned so far, but I am by no means done getting fleeced.

Today was a great exception to the life that has cost me $27 a day. Metro train to Medellin’s city center to see some sights, also led me to a massive, 2,500 stall, covered market. Many intimidating food options, packed with locals scarfing down large plates of sustenance. With no menus in sight, I almost wimped out and chose empanadas. I made eye contact with one cook and pointed to the soup in front of a man next to me. She said some things but I only heard the magic word “chorizo” and repeated it to her. The result: a huge set meal and pineapple juice for less than $2. I think the lesson here is to get away from the tourist areas, look for where the locals are gathered, and point.

Feeling good about myself and a little lucky, that night I went searching for a blackjack table. I found a $1 minimum game and settled in with my fellow degenerates. After a free cerveza, some live music, and a few fist bumps from table mates I couldn’t understand, I had won about $34 dollars. A very nice haul, amplified greatly by my current situation.

I capped the day with another reasonably priced meal, ($4.50 for pork, salad w/fruit, fries, arepa, and an Aguilla cerveza) at a non-menu establishment. Feeling pretty good right now, ready to tackle the next/last 30 days here in Colombia. Tomorrow, leaving the big city for the natural beauty around Salento. Se montó la gorda