Micah: Unmitigated

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Posts Tagged ‘Medellin’

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Monday, June 14th, 2010

(Editor’s Note: This is a seemingly random post that I punched into my Ipod a couple weeks ago. With the more socializing I do, I find less time to just kick it at internet shops. Thus, I have a few in the chamber that shall be released in the next 24hrs. For those playing the home version of Micah:Unmitigated, this wont make much sense chronologically, but please try to enjoy anyways.)

Memories of being scammed in Bangkok still linger in my head. Every kind person who offers help, I keep at arms length, carefully processing every move in my head. I believe this is the way to go when traveling overseas, but also worry I may miss out on making a new friend or might offend an innocent stranger.

Like the little old man in Cartagena, who reminded me of Jackie Mason. He approached me on my first day in town, trying to dispense hostel advice. Quickly moving his little legs to keep up with me, he swore his places were cheaper but I playfully ignored him.

The next time I saw him was 48 hrs later, during the low point of the trip so far.  I had just been told by my hostel that the city buses stopped running at 6 pm and that an expensive taxi was my only option to the bus station. Feeling lost and tired, I took to wandering the streets aimlessly, looking for some form of transportation. He saw me and warned me about walking the streets at night, offering to help. The small funny man was wiser than the hostel and flagged down a passing bus for me. It was a long sweaty ride to the station, trying not to knock anyone out with my pack, but I felt lucky to be there.

Another encounter was with an odd man who approached me in the Medellin bus station, while I was bargain hunting. He happened to already have a ticket in the same direction and aided me in my purchase. The man said he was born in the US but his family moved back to Colombia when he was 2. His English was decent and he seemed harmless, but he was a little too eager to help and he strangely showed me both his passports, with the US one containing a fake $100 bill.

During our trip, I kept a close eye on all of my stuff and maintained a ninja like awareness, waiting for the trap to be sprung. In the end, he was nothing but helpful in making all of my connections. I feel bad doubting his intentions, knowing now that he was probably just a quirky, talkative guy.

Those are just two of the many helpful Colombians I have come across. Everyone has reacted to my broken Spanish with smiles and patience. Even at the bus station, I know that the men shouting destinations at me will point me in the right direction, even if their company doesn’t service that area. With only a few days left here, I hope the people down closer to the equator are equally kind. La gente es extraña cuando eres un extraño, rostros se ven feos cuando estás solo.

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