colombia, travel

Like a scene from Narcos

We arrived in Panama City, our first layover (out of three) on our way home to Seattle from Colombia.

It was a Sunday morning and I was hungry.

Why was it taking us “so long” to get off of the plane?

Bryce and I were seated in the middle of the plane and finally the passengers in front of us started moving. We stepped off the plane and started walking through the ramp-way, you know, the one in between the plane and the gate at the airport.

But there was a backup.

Why are we having to wait to get into the airport? 

I’m a pretty patient person but sometimes seeing people struggle with their rolling suitcase, which holds up the line, really irritates me. (I have nothing against rolling suitcases, I own one, too!)

This wasn’t the case this time though.

Up ahead, I could see two men checking passengers’ ID and ticket.

Why are we doing this now? We’ve already arrived at our destination!

Bryce and I got out our passports out and waited for the line to move. Finally it was our turn and one of the men checked Bryce’s passport and in really stern Spanish asked where he was going. Bryce responded and the man motioned that he could proceed.

I next showed the man my passport but he didn’t even glance at it. He waved his hand and was more interested in the person behind me.

That was weird, right?

No, it was intentional. We quickly realized that the men were only checking passports of the male passengers. These undercover cops were clearly looking for someone specific. (They were dressed in regular street clothes so we just assumed they were undercover cops).

As we walked away — to look for breakfast -— we turned back around towards the gate we just left and noticed that a handful of passengers were pulled to the side. We guessed for more questioning.

This is like a scene straight out of Narcos!

Well, maybe. I’ve never actually seen the show but whenever I told people I was going to Calí, Colombia before the trip, they would respond with “Ohhhh, like from Narcos — the Calí Cartel!”

So, it was like an alleged scene straight out of Narcos.

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The sugarcane farm

The most beautiful place in Colombia that I visited was the gardens of a sugarcane farm outside of Calí.

It was peaceful. The sun was shining brightly but it wasn’t too hot yet since we arrived in the morning. There were butterflies and birds chirping. (Yes, I do not like birds, but I guess the sound of small ones chirping can be nice). And, there was just so much beautiful foliage everywhere!

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The gigantic palm trees. The fragrant flowers. They reminded me of Hawaii, which in a sense, reminds me of home. (My dad is from Hawaii so I spent a lot of time visiting grandparents on Oahu throughout my childhood).

Anyway, the gardens are part of a museum where you walk through and learn about how sugar cane is processed — and the history behind it all.

It was a nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the city. Plus, I saw the largest cactus I have ever seen in my life!

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colombia, travel

What 26+ hours of travel looks like

It took us more than 26 hours of travel to get from Seattle, Washington, USA to Calí, Colombia.

From house to house, it took about 30 hours of travel!

We left our place in Seattle around 5:30 am the Saturday morning before Christmas. We arrived at Bryce’s grandma’s house in Calí around 11:30 am Sunday morning.

Our route: Seattle > San Francisco > Los Angeles > Panama City > Cali

Dolores Mission Park
Dolores Mission Park

The first stop in San Francisco was the longest layover. We made the most out of it by actually leaving the airport and enjoying a good, real meal.

For so many flights, everything actually went smoothly. We didn’t miss any flights. Our longest wait in the TSA line was at Sea-Tac, our home airport. And even this wait was maybe 10-15 minutes at most, not bad at all!

Guess the travel gods were on our side.

We even had to wait on the tarmac for about an hour at SFO on our way to LAX. The pilot told us that LAX was experiencing “too many planes” so we’d have to wait a while before we’d be cleared to take off.

Bryce and I just put our headphones on and started season 2 of one of our favorite shows, the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Panama City airport
I think leaving Panama City, your guess is as good as mine!

I like to think of myself as a having a lot of patience.

By flight #4, I really did not have much of it at all. I wanted to be done traveling.

When we boarded our final flight in Panama City, I was really ready to be done. The flight attendants only handed out immigration forms in Spanish and when I asked in my broken Spanish for a form in English, the flight attendant replied that they only had them in Spanish.

“OK, this should be interesting …” my sleep-deprived self thought to myself.

The woman seated in front of us asked us if we needed help translating. We kindly told her we were fine. After all, you just check “no” on all the little boxes, right??

When friends and family heard of this grand voyage to Colombia, everyone asked, “Isn’t there a faster way or direct way to get there?”

There is no direct from Seattle to Cali. Yes, there are options for three flights, or even two but we would have been paying at least a grand more — per ticket. No, thanks.

All the flying is just part of the travel experience.

And, I guess I shouldn’t complain because unlike some people, I can pretty much fall asleep anywhere. Funny how an airplane takeoff can just peacefully rock a grown adult to sleep.

 

colombia

Colombia and its plastic bags

It was the night before our flight multiple flights back home. Naturally I was packing and didn’t think it would take long since we weren’t bringing too many newly acquired or purchased items back from Colombia. Just some coffee and candy as gifts for my parents and friends.

I was pretty much done packing when my mother-in-law mentions something about plastic bags and how we can’t take any back to the U.S. She explains that sometimes the plastic bags can be made of cocaine and that the drug can later be extracted from the bags.

Bryce’s aunt starts gathering clear plastic bags for us to use to pack dirty clothes, shoes, etc. in, which apparently are OK to use. It’s just the grocery bag-type that are white or colored plastic bags that are a no-no.

Who knew? I didn’t.

“These plastic bags I brought from home are OK though, right?” I asked.

Bryce and his family all gave me a “no.”

“But this Safeway bag says ‘made in the USA’ on the bottom of it!” I pointed out.

“Anyone could have just printed that on it,” Bryce said.

OK, fair enough. Time to repack!

I suppose Customs wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a real made-in-the-USA grocery bag and a grocery bag made outside of the USA with those same words printed on it.

To not cause problems, I left all plastic bags in Colombia.

You always learn something new while traveling, huh?

colombia

Strangers talking to strangers

There were a lot of qualities of Calí, Colombia that I appreciated and enjoyed. When I returned on New Year’s Eve, one of my coworkers asked me what my favorite part of my trip was.

That’s always such a hard question for me. I hate playing favorites. I like multiple things for different reasons.

Other than the gigantic, delicious avocados, I really appreciated the camaraderie between individuals that I noticed.

It’s a place where the milk delivery man will stop to chat with your aunt for a solid 10 minutes — or even more!

It’s where people make eye contact with you as you walk by, acknowledging your existence! Not like in Seattle where strangers will do anything and everything in their power to avoid you. Here in Seattle, we’re all just Zombies starring at our cell phone screens … texting our friend, or playing Pokemon GO. The Seattleite may have even faked a phone call just to act like he or she was too preoccupied to look at you.

But Colombia is where a driver will pull over and ask the young boy doing chores, or the woman selling snacks from a street-side cart, directions to the next destination. Yes, they all have cell phones and use them for navigation, but sometimes the quickest way is to ask a fellow human. I think it’s also just in their nature to stop and ask a person, calling out “Hello, friend!” to a complete stranger. (And by “Hello, friend!” I obviously mean, “Hola, amigo!”)

In Colombia, it’s strangers helping strangers. Strangers actually talk to strangers.

Or, maybe they don’t consider anyone a stranger at all. They’re all maybe just one friend away to arriving at their intended destination.

 

colombia

The milk man

I was half awake still in bed as I heard a man’s voice coming from the front door. It was towards the end of our Colombia trip and I guess I was still trying to catch up on sleep. (It took us more than 24 hours to travel to Colombia from Seattle, Washington!)

Bryce poked his head into the bedroom to see if I was awake.

“Who is that talking?” I asked.

“The milk delivery man. He’s talking to my aunt,” he replied.

“But I only hear the man talking.”

“Everyone talks here!”

He didn’t mean it in a negative way. It was a friendly fact. Everyone talks to everyone as if they are old friends, even with the milk man!

It was around 8 am and I finally got out of bed and Bryce’s aunt walked by with a pot. The milk was inside.

I asked her in my broken Spanish if the milk man delivered in a car or on a motorcycle. She said on a moto. He has two canteens strapped to the back, full of milk, no biggie.

A friendly, and well-balanced, man! I mean, I’m assuming you’d have to have good balance to be able to drive a motorbike with canteens of milk in the back!

Just another morning in Cali, Colombia.

colombia

The avocado man

The street outside Bryce’s grandma’s house can be lively during the day with cars rushing by and honking their horns, or people calling out to each other. She lives in Cali, Colombia.

The other day as we ate breakfast, I heard someone yelling through a loud speaker outside.

“Is it something political?” I asked Bryce.

“No, it’s a man selling avocados. Come look!” he replied, as he peeked through the blinds of a window facing the street.

I walked over to the window just in time to see the man pushing his cart, and surprised to see he only had like four avocados!

He also wasn’t yelling through a microphone. He was playing a pre-recorded recording to make his avocado sales.

We were unsure if he perhaps already sold most of his avocados, or if he just didn’t have a lot to sell to begin with.

All I know is that I would love to have an avocado vendor walk the streets outside of my house so I could have the opportunity to buy fresh avocados. That’s pretty much the dream. For those of you thinking it: Amazon Fresh doesn’t count!

Aguacates! Aguacates!