The GoGlobal Blog

Month: March 2011

Bedtime Story Becomes Reality

Bedtime Story Becomes Reality

The bedtime story is an event which occurs nightly in the bedrooms of most little girls with their mom or dad at their side and a stuffed bunny in their lap.  Most revolve around a princess in a pink gown or a unicorn in the sky, but my mom rarely pulled out the legend of the prince who saved the day. Instead, I remember her telling me about the year she left small town Minnesota and moved to Bogota, Colombia where her life was forever changed.  Ever since those stories were implanted in my mind Colombia has always been one of those places I knew I had to visit.  So, when the idea came up of taking a 10 day trip there while sitting around a campfire on the beach in Puntarenas, Costa Rica with 2 new friends I realized it would finally happen.

So two weeks ago as the school week ended and our spring break began my friend Katelyn and I sat in my room and packed our small school backpacks with enough clothes, toiletries and bug spray to last 10 days and left with our friend Eric to Colombia.  Our flight from San Jose to Cartagena, Colombia was painless and when we got out off the plane I was approached by a young Brazilian woman name Flora who asked if we could split a cab into the city.  From that cab ride on Flora stayed with us almost the entire trip and I am so glad we met her because not only was she well traveled and educated with tons of good stories, she was so much fun to go out dancing with and reminded me so much of my Brazilian sister Tati!

The only way I can explain Cartagena is a city that resembles Sevilla, Spain in the center and Miami, Florida on the outside.  The center of the city is completely enclosed in old fortress walls and inside the architecture is amazing with colorful colonial homes, narrow cobblestone streets, Spanish style Cathedrals, and horse carriages.  Beyond the city walls the city is adorned with white skyscrapers along the Caribbean coast.  We spent the majority of time in Cartagena riding bikes around the city, cooking in the hostel, taking pictures at sunset, and going dancing with the people we met in the hostel from all around the world.

After one day and a half in Cartagena we departed for Santa Marta for one night.  The city of Santa Marta has a lot more to offer on the weekend but because we were there on a Sunday the feel was pretty relaxed.  We walked along the boardwalk and ate dinner at an outside cafe.  The next morning we went to Taganga, a small fishing village on the Caribbean Sea inside a cove which was so beautiful.  Katelyn, Flora and I got a hotel room in the town and found a secluded beach for some sunbathing until sunset.  Then, we got ready for the night and went out to a restaurant for some authentic Colombian seafood fresh from the sea.

The next day Flor, Katelyn and I woke up and decided we would go meet Eric (an avid surfer from California) at a surf camp he had ventured to earlier in the week.  The surf camp was amazing to say the least.  It was located on a piece of land sold a few years ago from a para military group to a pair of Canadian brothers.  Because most of the land has remained unsold the beach we were on was deserted for miles.  All the surf camp consisted of was a few hammocks tied to palm trees, 2 outside showers, 2 outside toilets, a picnic table, a thatched roof kitchen, and a storage of surfboards.  The camp was called Costeno Beach and there were only 12 of us or so there, all backpackers from all around the world.  It felt so amazing to be one of the only people on a deserted beach as far as the eye could see.  We went swimming in a fresh water river, cooked and ate communal meals together, had a campfire on the beach, slept in hammocks, awoke to the sunrise, and Eric even taught me how to surf! The main mode of transportation was a two seater bike that could conveniently carry surf boards on the top, holler monkeys were used as the morning alarm clock, and Mario the beloved dog was the only form of security.

After a 2 days in secluded paradise we decided it was time to go inland.  We said a sad goodbye to our Brazilian friend Flora and picked up a Canadian amigo Loren who came with us to Medellin.  The road to Medellin takes 14 hours from the North coast so we opted to take an overnight bus to save some time and money.  The bus went through the mountains and the mix of high altitude as well as a blasting air conditioner made me wish I had my North Face down jacket.  It felt so good to step off the freezing bus in the morning and breath in warm, fresh air of Medellin.

Medellin is a Colombian city notoriously known for the former violence and control imposed by drug lord Pablo Escobar.  However, today the city is peaceful and I enjoyed it very much.  The city lies in a valley but as the population has grown more and more communities have grown up the mountain.  We took a metro cable car to the very top of the mountain that overlooks the city and it seemed as though it would never end.  Also, most of the homes are an orange-ish, tan-ish color so the view from the top looks like a sea of brick.  Also, while in Medellin we took a day trip to a small town named Guatape with hopes of climbing this huge rock with a killer view at the top.  The town was gorgeous with green hills surrounding clean, clear, blue lakes.  Also, it seemed untouched by tourists as the majority of people on the streets were Colombian.  When we got to the top of the hill the rock sat on via horse we saw a sign that broke our heart.  It cost 8 mill pesos (about 4 dollars) to climb the rock.  BUT due to a lack of planning we realized hiking the rock would mean forfeitting our bus ride to Medellin.  So, we had to cut our losses and give up hope of climbing the 500 stairs up to see the view.  Instead, we found an empty lot that was for sale and climbed down a path to the water to go swimming.  I don’t think I’ve ever swam in water that clean or refreshing.  We spent our last day in Medellin touring the city with a friend of my Colombian friend in Chicago and got some shopping in as well.

After a Colombian breakfast we thought we had gotten away with a flawless trip without any major obstacles.  However, we were proven wrong while at the airport.  As we stood in line to get our ticket we realized we first had to go through another line and when we approached the man in the first line he asked for our Yellow Fever vaccination cards, we all pulled ours out from our perspective clinic and got a worried look from the man at the counter.  He left us and then came back to explain that mine and Katelyn’s were not in the correct format for re-entrance into Costa Rica and we would not be let back on the plane.  A frantic feeling entered our stomach and we tried to fight it through.  Luckily, the airline workers were so helpful.  The man got us through the line, called a Dr. for us, and gave us directions to the closest hospital.  After running around the city, paying off the doctor, racing back through the ticket line, immigration line, security, and to our gate we barely made the flight!!

While I am more than happy that I made it back on that flight to Costa Rica I do feel like I am not finished exploring Colombia.  From my short time there I learned how diverse the country truly is and also how misrepresented it is. Contrary to popular belief, I personally never felt in danger nor did I see any resemblance of the FARC presence, paramilitary groups, drug trafficking, etc.  I took the normal precautions I would take as if I were in Chicago or even Costa Rica but did not feel like I ever put myself in a negative situation.  The Colombians I met were more than hospitable and welcoming.  I have a feeling that one day I will return to go beyond the tourist sights and see more of the culture and the people of Colombia.

Don’t Believe the Hype

Don’t Believe the Hype

Y’all. The protests that have been happening around the Middle East are with good reason. Mostly.

A lot of media outlets – CNN, NYtimes, Fox, etc. have been grouping Oman in with the rest of the Middle Eastern countries that have experienced protests. Although they don’t overtly say it, they promote the image of these Omani protesters as fighting for freedom against an all powerful monarch.

Don’t believe the hype.

Some of the protesters demands are legitimate – Oman does have problems with nepotism and corruption – but some of their demands are so outlandish that they wouldn’t fly in any country.

Cancelling all loans? Top-level jobs for college dropouts?

Many of these protesters are little more than 20-something year olds, too big for their britches, who have grown up in a society where the government gives you food, builds you a house, gives you medical care, doesn’t make you pay much tax, and generally helps you far more than most governments ever could. Now in the face of very tame problems, coupled with the happenings around the region – they have decided that this government is now intolerable.

Now some of the protesters are well educated people with very concise, fair, and legitimate demands. Corruption and nepotism is a pervasive problem throughout the Gulf that must be dealt with, and a codified constitution can never hurt either. But the notion that burning down supermarkets, torching cars, vandalizing property, harassing passers by, and looting (seriously – looting isn’t even a form of protest, it’s just stealing stuff!) are justified is totally unfounded. Don’t compare rambunctious Omani youth with the freedom fighters of Libya or Tunisia – it’s not the same. Don’t believe the hype.