Friday, April 16, 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

I find myself here.

I find myself here, in Denver.

As I lay here typing away past the bewitching hour in the guest bedroom - it would be hard to tell I had ever left. If not for the issue of "El Grafica" at the corner of the bed, my River Plate and Atletico Nacional tops on the floor, my Spanish/English dictionary and the chessboard from Ecuador on the nightstand, and of course the millions of words and images in my mind.

We arrived safely back in Denver nearly a week ago. The first two days I was preoccupied with feeling out of sorts. Since then Kaitlin's home has stripped me of the pensive brooding which spawned so many entries and replaced it with fine food and drink, a comfy stable living quarter, and thoughts of moving on to California..

I almost feel ashamed to come back here and write about our last few days in Colombia when I am so quickly preoccupied by new events and decisions. I am seeing, yet again, just how easy it is to forget about the greater world out there. A crime. To think that I have been back here five days and how little I have "done" compared to that stretch of time during the trip - it is bizarre.

But there are new standards now and I can't forget that I have earned a little leniency. Our trip was incredible, profound, heroic, epic, as well as, mundane, frivolous, naive, and easy. But most importantly, it was living, and we did it well. And that is enough for me to feel comfortable "wrapping it up" because what more can I say beyond the body of work before this point..

Any postulation here after returning would be unfair. I am tainted again.

I will return here to post pictures as they come in. That aside, I am done with this blog. I hope it has provided some better-than-average or at least unorthodox insights into all that encompasses a five month journey through six nations. I have no lofty ending to suit my garish beginning. Just the body of work that I hope can stand on its own.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

In the Coffee Triangle

It's now April 3rd.

We arrived in Salento via a night bus from Medellin to Armenia and then a local commuter from Armenia into the misty hills of Salento.

It's hard to say what this place is like on an ordinary day. Our hostel owner says it is very tranquil, which it is possible to imagine in the early morning hours. However, the steady stream of families from the city on holiday for Semana Santa have clogged the modest, though freshly painted streets of Salento.

Despite the massive influx of tourists, it is a place where you feel you can sense its character. Kaitlin says it's something about mountain towns. Though I don't have enough experience to confirm or deny - I do know what the sound of old wooden floors makes me feel..and it is a possible connection between this place, Kaitlin's mountain towns, and the more than century old establishments that still survive in Camden, South Carolina. We have relished such spaces in the little time we have had. Allowing the musty smell to ferment conversations in our hostel with travellers from Cali and Manizales.

Those conversations morphing what we thought would be a lazy, uneventful end of the trip - into an exciting and emotional evening - and now an impromptu change of plans.

Our new friends from Manizales (a university town in the mountains closer to Medellin) Santiago and Irene have offered to be our transportation, from Salento to Manizales, from Manizales to Bogota, and from our hostel in Bogota to the airport.

I have been equally on the fence about changing our last few days in South America from a lazy three days to a whirlwind weekend. But after my overreaction in Viedma, I'm willing to calm my doubts for the potential of one last great experience.

So, in less than two hours we leave for Manizales. Tomorrow we'll spend the day (presumably) with Santiago and Irene - seeing what there is to see on Easter in Manizales. Monday Bogota. Tuesday early to the airport to begin the journey home.

With so much movement, I can't say when I will be able to post again. Hopefully before we leave the continent, but we shall see. To the whirlwind!

Atletico Nacional vs Atletico Huila

As my last experience with soccer on this continent (not to mention the stories floating in my head from Marko's experiences in Medellin), it is safe to say there was quite a bit of anticipation surrounding this match.

That being so, I went above and beyond to prepare for this excursion. Triangulating time and place between the varying accounts listed on the club's website, the league website, and

Beyond that, I confirmed with locals that all of the soccer matches in Medellin took place at the Estadio Atanasio Girardot - a 50,000+ facility shared by Atletico Nacional and Independiente Medellin - conveniently located on the "Estadio" Metro stop, adjacent to the facilities for the Juegos Suramericanos.

Having already been to the area for the Juegos during daylight, I was unconcerned about the game being at night. I knew the area was well lit, well policed, and being familiar with the layout - I could walk the grounds with confidence.

The evening of the game arrived and though I had invited a group of Sconnies (U of Wisconsin grads) - they decided to accept my invitation but to go to the game separately?? Alas, I had so many factors in my favor, I told Kaitlin not to worry - that I would be fine by myself - it wouldn't be necessary for me to drag her along. After a surprisingly delightful Mexican dinner, I was on my way down Calle 10 for the Poblado Metro station.

I made my way to the Estadio stop, no problem, as we had made the trip multiple times in the previous five days. Arriving at the stop I could see stadium lights in the distance, with about twenty-thirty minutes to kickoff - I was sitting pretty. Yet, as I confidently strode closer and closer to the grounds I grew concerned by the lack of activity in the area. As I passed the last Olympic facility obstructing my view, my pregame adrenaline collapsed into despair as I could see clearly that the stadium lights were as dead as the area around the grounds.

. . .

After standing there dumbfounded for a minute or two, I found a concession stand (I'm not sure why it was open) tended by some friendly Caribbean guys. Over the next five-ten minutes (using every morsel of my intermediate Spanish skills) I was able to ascertain that there was indeed a game tonight - it was indeed in Medellin - it was indeed at 8:30 - but in some other part of the Metro line - a place called "Envigado."

So, I thanked the men and ran for the Metro station. Leaping three steps at a time I purchased my ticket and made my way to the platform. No train, so I looked at the station map. Sure enough, "Envigado" only three stops IN THE OTHER DIRECTION from my home base of Poblado.

As I made my way from the middle of the Orange line back to the transfer at San Antonio - I weighed my options.

I would surely be late - possibly missing the entire first half.
I would be in an unfamiliar area, at night, alone, in Medellin.


This was my last chance for professional futbol on this continent of passion.
I'd spent four weeks with Marko talking about his days in Medellin and the genius that is Giovanni Moreno (Atletico Nacional's highest rated player).
I was battle tested by my solo efforts in Buenos Aires - I knew what to expect, I wasn't brash, I would play it safe.

By the time I resolved to go, my connection was pulling up and I hopped on, pacing as the southern stations trickled by..

With the station name and the direction that the stadium would be "on my left" - I was anxious about what exactly would happen once I reached the stop. Perhaps out of desperation I convinced myself that two drunk girls (one wearing a Nacional top), a young boy (wearing an Andres Escobar Nacional jacket), and an older man (in his mid-50s) were a family on there way to the game, since they were conversing as if they were familiar.

So with two stops to go before the stadium I asked the man in Spanish if they were going to the game. Of course they were! And I'm coming too! I was excited by such a positive reaction and the prospect of a local guide to walk me through the process.

We chatted as much as possible (which wasn't much) until I went to get off at the Envigado stop. "No, no! Una mas!" Okay, so maybe there was a better way to get to the stadium..and though I could see the glow of the stadium lights in the sky - I stayed with this group one more stop, to the end of the line Itagüí.

At Itagüí we rushed down the platform to street-level. We were surrounded by bars filled with people in green and white watching the game. There were buses, perhaps shuttles to the stadium, but we passed them on foot without a second glance (all but me).

For the next block the girls asked me if I wanted a beer, but I declined with a laugh and tried to keep up with the little boy and older man as we ran across two freeways..

On the other side of the freeways we were in desolate stretch of abandoned urban sprawl. At this point, the boy who I had assumed was part of our group all along, bolted ahead of us out of sight - no one else seemed to notice.

So now the four of us walked quickly through the nothing, seemingly forever if not for the stadium lights gradually growing in intensity.

About four blocks from the stadium grounds, we started to pass some less than savory characters headed in the opposite direction. I tried to stay as close to our group as possible, laughing at their nonexistent jokes, trying (perhaps too hard) to look natural. The occasional police presence and the beginnings of a stadium grounds in the distance were the only factors keeping me steady.

Eventually we reached what looked to be a gate to the grounds. There were just as many police on horseback with automatic weapons as derelict loiterers scattered between myself and the ticket booth. My group continued past the booth to have a conversation with a man, they told me there were no tickets left, that we had to get them from this guy on the street.


I didn't even respond. I just turned around and went for the ticket booth. While the man behind the glass arranged his papers, my group continued to talk with the man. By the time I was speaking to the ticket vendor the older man was at my side taking over. Did I want "Norte, Sur, o Occidente" - it didn't matter to me - I knew nothing about the grounds. So I got a ticket for the North stands for 12,000 (six dollars). I was feeling better about the fact that I had purchased a ticket (and that it was quite cheap), but was still outside the grounds with no clue how to enter. I walked along the fence with my older friend in tow as they told us that we would have to walk around, though there was an entrance right infront of us.

So after the man told the girls to "Wait here" we began our walk around the grounds. At this point, I will admit that the events had been a gradual progression of feeling more and more like something bad was mere seconds away. I was sure that as I turned the corner with the older man that the ticket scalper would run up behind me and take what little cash I had on me at the very least.

But as we turned the corner and just after the man had finished joking about how the girls didn't have any money to get into the game, it was not a muggers feet that I heard behind me, but the girls, running to catch up with tickets in hand. I was completely confused about the relationship of everyone involved, but I could sense we were quite close to our entrance so I was trying to stay positive.

Of course, the last corner we turned brought us to the mouth of the entrance to the stadium. A block and a half of young men, drinking, smoking, and cooking, each equally (if not more so) unfriendly as the worst of my encounters in Buenos Aires - only compounded by the fact that it was night and I was the only gringo in sight.

But I relied on the now tried and true tactic of laughing at the nonexistent comments of my "companions" and keeping my eyes riveted to their faces or the security gate in front of me.

Finally through the first wave of security and inside the grounds - my anxiety switched from potential violence to the fact that I was incredibly late and that we would have to back-track the way we had come (only this time inside the wall) to make our way to the North stand.

Practically running through security and up the steps we finally arrived at the mouth of the entrance to the North stand..and all I could see was a wall of young men in green and white.

In retrospect, it was better to be in the North stand. Though I was the only gringo surrounded by a standing room only (including the walls around the steps) crowd of young, high and drunk, locals - at least these were not the completely mental fanactics of the South stand who were jumping incessantly and screaming lyrics to the beat of their drums and the melody of their horns.

I did my best to let my worries be eased by the flow of the game. For the next ten minutes I peered through the spaces between shoulders and necks and heads - perhaps overreacting when there were even a remote chance at goal.

With what I would find out was five minutes to go before half-time my older friend appeared four rows below - calling for me to come join him. I did so.

As I sat there and he questioned me about my visit to Medellin, which hostel I was staying at, in which part of town, I resolved that lying to this man was the lesser of two evils. At least with a seat I could blend in and attempt to enjoy the game - all I had to do was give this man false information.

The fifteen minutes before half time passed without major incident (aside from some mediocre chances from the away team*). At halftime I learned that the score was 1-1. I had missed two goals, the first scored by none other than Giovanni Moreno.

*The away team happened to be mostly "black." When they would take corners or miss a shot on goal - the Nacional fans would yell the usual insults: puto and maracon - vulgar as they were they were nothing I hadn't heard grown men yell infront of their sons in Buenos Aires - but I hadn't heard "Negra!" and "Negrita!" before. I tried not to assume anything, tried to sum it up to cultural differences..something lost in translation..

Though I would witness the winning goal for Nacional in the 85th minute (which would result in my first rush down the stands) and a few moments of brillance from Moreno - the evening took a different tone after my experience during halftime.

Towards the end of the half it began to drizzle a bit. Those better prepared dawned their ponchos. My older friend purchased one and was kind enough to share. It was a double blessing because while he wore his over his head, I was able to hide under the excess not only from the rain, but from his questions.

While pondering my exit strategy under the tarp, my thoughts were broken by commotion in the stands. A vendor was selling bags of water shouting, "Agua! Agua!" only to be mocked by groups throughout the crowd. I thought it at most immature and let it go. Then about five minutes later, there was more commotion, but this time people were standing up looking behind me away from the field. So I stood and turned.

Some men in the crowd had taken the vendor's (a black man) box of bagged water. They were ripping open the bags, squirting him with water, yelling "PUTO! NEGRA!" with more rage than they had directed at the players. As the vendor struggled to escape the crowd someone stole his hat and lifted it in the air to which everyone cheered and laughed. I attempted to mask my horror as I panned the faces around me for disapproval. At most there was disinterest. At worst they were joining in.

The rest of the match was a blur, despite the dramatic finish, I was in another world. The fans had overshadowed the match and I was stuck in my head contemplating how to rectify what I had seen and my instinct to remain culturally relative.

When the game winner was scored it was announced that there were five minutes left in the match. I knew I couldn't be caught in this crowd and that I couldn't accept any offers from the "friends" that had gotten me to the stadium.

So without waiting for a reply, I told them that I was going to the bathroom (a blatant lie with five minutes left to go in a close match) and bolted for the exit. Literally running out of the stadium I could see that the first entrance that was originally closed was now open and there were taxis!

Without a glance at the unsavories patrolling the area I walked down the street waving at every taxi. Eventually one stopped. I was inside a cab, giving my pathetic directions, happy to have this potentially disasterous dilemma in place of the previous. Happy to be dumb, but in friendly company I chatted with the man about the directions I had given him and despite some uncertainty and a lot of hand gestures - we made it back to Calle 10. I could breathe again..

I still haven't talked to Marko about the things I witnessed. Him having lived in Medellin for some time and having travelled for Nacional matches - I suspect he won't be totally surprised. I suspect I shouldn't be totally surprised myself. Medellin and the region as a whole (Antioquia) is commonly known as one of the "whitest" regions in Colombia (while most of the "blacks" are along the coast). Still, I'm struggling to come to any conclusions - maybe with something like racism it is impossible to rationalize - it can only be erased.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Medellin: Part 2

Somehow six days have slipped by in Medellin. Kaitlin and I now find ourselves seven hours away in the coffee hills of Salento.

The ups and downs in Medellin continued throughout, but the overall impression was good. We managed some splendid weather, as well as finding the good places to eat. It couldn't be helped to feel that if Marko had been there with us from day one - things could have been totally different.

Still we soldiered on and explored. One particular high point (literally) was our trip to the end of the Metro which meant walking up a flight of stairs to the entrance for the "Metro Cable" - a series of elevated gondola lifts that took us over the destitute hills of the Medellin's suburbs to the Olympic Village built for the Juegoes Suramericanos 2010. The ride is an absolute must (and included in your Metro fare) as it offers a thorough view of the valley in which the city is situated.

Aside from a visit to the aquarium, the rest of our time in Medellin was spent with some quality Colombian cuisine, as well as pastries with coffee, and surprise surprise - a spectacular Mexican restaurant.

All told, we left Medellin with the sense that it is a quality International city. With just as much to offer locals and tourists - the key is patience and a little local insight.

There is one experience left to be told, Atletico Nacional vs Atletico Huila, that it requires its own space.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Medellin: Part 1

Well, we are safely two days into Medellin.

Funny how there can be so much build-up, anticipation, anxiety about things like being caught in the middle of a terrorist attack, shark attack, alien invasion attack. And of course, nothing happens. Kaitlin has been calling me a "fatalist" quite frequently the last few days. I'm not sure if there has been a drastic increase in my "worrying" or if we are both just a bit more sensitive to these issues as we are so near to our "safe" return in the "safe" US of A.

The truth is though, I feel quite comfortable in Medellin. Most places in SA, even Chile (which is touted as one of the most "Western" countries in SA) I felt we were followed by more lingering stares than here.

Medellin is a busy city. There is so much going on in this city that has no bonafide "center" aside from the modern, clean, quiet, metro that runs North-South through the bottom of the valley. People just seem too preoccupied here to mess around with two frumpy gringo backpackers. Not to say that the people here are not friendly - quite the opposite. Every location, whether it be a bar, restaurant, sports facility, hostel, etc... people have done their best to be accomodating and thorough. ¡Que bueno!

Our two days, have been two full days. The "Tiger Paw Hostel" was fully booked, but they recommended us to Hostal Tamarindo - which I think is ultimately more our speed and the right place for us to be at this point in the trip. Clean, quiet, organized, and thorough with all the relevant information for getting where you want to go in the city.

From this base in Poblado we have gladly made the fifteen minute walk to the metro (though yesterday we discovered the bus that eliminates the walk) to seek out just a little of what Medellin has to offer:

A staggeringly thorough and active farmer's market (where we had a deliciously unhealthy concoction consisting of various fruits, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and another mystery sauce.

Unidad Deportiva de Belen where I was able to join in on an eight-a-side soccer match in a quality synthetic turf complex with some nice and very talented Colombians who play a refreshingly thorough version of the game - PASSING AND DRIBBLING!

The Juegos Suramericano - the South American Olympics. The metro takes you literally to the door-step of the facilities that host the major indoor events. After waiting in line for a little under two hours we were able to view men's basketball Venezuela vs Brazil and Colombia vs Argentina.
Although the quality of play was a little below high school basketball in the States - the energy of the capacity crowd (particularly during Colombia vs Argentina) was quite electric and made what should have been a slaughter an entertaining match. Never-the-less, the superior size, speed, and depth of the Argentina squad allowed them to pull away at the end, but that didn't stop the home crowds chants of "Si, se puede!" and "Co-lom-bia! Co-lom-bia!" Great to see such and atmosphere for a sport other than soccer and it was free for all!

Palm Sunday processions with palm fronds, olive branches, replicas surrounded by young and old that can only make me think of my mother and how she would love South America.

And each night finishing with a ride through the valley surrounded by the twinkling yellow lights that make Medellin a beautiful glimmering bowl. ¡Que lindo!


Today we should be off for another full day of activities..

Starting with my last camiseta search on the continent. Then we're off to the farmer's market to haul home sundry ingredients for a king's dinner, then hopefully we can catch women's rhythmic gymnastics, and finishing the day with a pint or two at the Tiger Paw microbrew!

Tuesday should be another packed day as we have heard that there is an exceptional aquarium here with a botanical garden next door.
Wednesday is my Atletico Nacional match..and I'm sure by that time Thursday will be packed full of activity as well.

It's busy, but good, we've found that the little down time we have had so far has allowed us to start thinking of home and how these five months are coming to an end. It's a mixed bag of emotions which has us a little nervy.
For so long we've been in this mindset that there is an unknown "next destination" and to now be looking forward to Denver-USA is good in that it is familiar and we are excited to be with Kaitlin's family again, but also a disruption in that it is familiar and we know what to expect - which breaks from our five month routine.

Alas, we are making the most of Medellin while we can. I am making up for my long drought in drip-coffee and last night I had a wonderful "mulata" beer from a local brewery. It's almost enough to make a smooth transition, but with Semana Santa and the Juegos Suramericanos and varios barrios there is still much of unique Medellin and Colombia to see..

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Idols, Ides, or Idiosyncrasies

It would be unfair to say that we have been "disappointed" with Cartagena. Far from it. However, I would feel more comfortable with a synonym for "disenchanted." Of course, this sense is a combination of factors - I don't mean to condemn Cartagena as a whole, but let me put down my jugo de zapote and back-up a little.

I should begin with our last day in Quito.

You would have to try very hard or have very little time to be unimpressed with Quito.

With less than twelve hours left in the city we managed to fill up yet another day and marvel at what a quality place Quito is (and Ecuador as a whole).

We started with an attempt to find various embassies scattered throughout the Mariscal (new town). This being largely a failure, we abandoned the search for a new search - coffee. Near Parque La Carolina we found a nice little international café with a good latte and a crazy-delicious donut-sandwich hybrid. From there we made our way through the park to the Jardín Botánico de Quito which boasted tons of orchids, carnivorous plants, and bonsai trees (not to mention tons of roses, cacti, and trees)! I don't ususally enjoy botanical gardens (WHERE ARE ALL THE ANIMALS!), but the collection was so diverse that each plant seemed to take on a character of its own allowing my imagination to thoroughly enjoy itself.

From the garden we headed up-town on one of Quito's clean and efficient buses (costing a quarter) to an outdoor market it in a plaza that I have forgotten - hurray! With most family members now covered in the souvenir department and Kaitlin making marginal progress in the haggling department - we could move on to other things.

Another bus ride took us into the old city center and after hoofing it a few blocks on foot through the Plaza Theatro we were on the steps of Quito's Mercado Central. Walking inside, I immediately had the sensation that I was in a 1920s-30s hospital. High-ceilings, lots of natural light, stalls randomly dispersed through the space, people shuffling in and out around corners and down the aisles, colors, and noises. As if it could be any better, we were joined by only one other pair of gringos which made us think that this meal had potential to be quite special/authentic.

And in good-ole Quito fashion, it did not disappoint. My dish consisted of rice, hard-boiled egg, a massive half of avocado, and stew topped rice with big chunks of potato and miscellaneous beef bits. DELICIOUS. Top it all off with a healthy pitcher of blackberry juice - all for under $6 - good times.

Content we were off to the nearby Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena. For three dollars our tour included a healthy showcase of tons of morbid-gory religious art and artifacts, topped off by a spiral staircase leading to a rather perilous view of the city from the monastery roof.

After the tour, we were closing in on four hours before it was time to leave for the airport, so we decided to head back to the hostel for some pre-flight rest and relaxation.

Around 8pm it was time to head to the airport. Twenty minutes later we're in the main lobby of Quito's Mariscal Sucre International Airport about to embark on an all-night-flight-othon that would take us from Quito to Cali, Colombia - Cali to Bogota - Bogota to Cartagena. No flight lasting more than an hour, but the entire ordeal lasting from 8pm in Quito to 10am in Cartagena. Built-up by myself as our most perilous journey of the trip - I was pleasantly surprised-amazed-in awe when we landed in Cartagena, safe with all of our luggage. Incredible.

Each airport was so small and easy and clean, it was hard to believe how smoothly everything was going. Compared to most airports in the US and especially to Buenos Aires - these guys really had their act together.


I will start off by saying, "We are not Anthony Bourdaine."

In Buenos Aires, the combination of cabin fever, Marko's enthusiasm for Colombia, and this episode of "No Reservations" put us on a crash course with reality.

The truth is, Cartagena is VERY touristy. This morning, I went to get a shot of espresso from one of the men in the Plaza del Reloj and had to wait to cross the street as a train of more than ten horse drawn carriages full of beige and white clad seniors turned left - for each tourist a camera waving in the air that could feed a family here for over a month. I don't mean to digress into the economics, politics, ethics of the situation - suffice it to say..I know enough after five months down here that "touristy" places aren't necessarily where you want to be.

Though we haven't encountered anything like the persistence we saw in Peru, street vendors are eager and it's impossible not to feel that local eyes are always watching. Tourists come and go - these people stay behind and have to make a living chasing down Nikon toting gringos.

It's also very hot here, which would be okay, if there were a proper beach nearby. The old city (where our hotel is located) is surrounded by walls (originally built by the Spanish to protect the vital port from pirate attacks). Once the aesthetic wears off - it can be a bit claustrophobic and oppressively hot and confusing just trying to get to and from the grocery store.

Lastly, possibly our last meal in the market in Quito has afflicted Kaitlin with a stomach illness that has rendered her more or less bedridden. Thus, it is likely our plans to snorkel are scuttled and with one day remaining in the city - I'm not sure there is much opportunity left for our impressions to change.

No doubt there is much to see, do, and eat here in Cartagena. But without a local guide or a private vehicle - even under the best conditions it would be difficult for us to have had the time of our lives.

Alas, all is not negative! How could it be when we are so fortunate to continue our travels to yet another beautiful country!

Easily the highpoint of our time in Cartagena has been our ability to reunite with Rob and Blanche - the Australian couple we met in Puerto Natales and hiked Torres del Paine with. It was again, the refreshing couples dynamic that has been so nice after months of one on one interaction. We sat for hours in different parts of the city, eating, drinking - discussing our travels, pending reintegration into our respective societies, and if that were even fully possible considering all that we had experienced and where our priorities now lie.

As with Antti and Laura in Finland, it has been a reaffirming and inspirational gift to know that there are other couples/people out there with similar priorities, "fighting the good fight" all over the world.

Of course, the other side of the coin is that with these near-chance encounters across the continent, there is the bitter-sweet farewell. With only an afternoon together, Rob and Blanche were now off to Santiago where they would stay for three days before flying back to Melbourne.

Just the two of us, again.

Today has been a rather lackluster day, which is quite alright by me. Kaitlin has been hydrating and resting. I have been reading articles, making brief excursions into the city for breakfast, coffee, or lunch, but mostly attempting to plan our exit from Cartagena.

With the anti-climax of the flights from Quito to Cartagena past, our bus journey from Cartagena to Medellin is our last great logistical hurtle. Consensus is that with rebel groups and paramilitaries beaten back into the jungle/hinterlands, the route is safe to travel. Still, there are no guarantees in Colombia and when it comes to my personal safety and especially the safety of others, that isn't good enough.

Suffice it to say, with Kaitlin unable to assist with speaking to locals, I am a little uneasy about our journey on Saturday. Everyone has said that there are no problems, that there will be plenty of buses, that it's okay to go through the night. Still, I'm waiting for advice from a (strangely enough) Clemson native who runs a hostel in Medellin before I sit back and relax.

Of course, like nearly every scenario where I have played the paranoid-cynic, I'm expecting, I'm hoping, to be proven wrong. But, sadly for Colombia, I think it will take the lift-off from Aeropuerto El Dorado in Bogota on April 6th for me to breathe that final sigh of relief and tell people, "Yeah, Colombia is not what it was. I traveled there for two weeks and had no problems at all."

In the meantime, I'll try to muffle my paranoia as much as possible. I'll slough off the breaking news bulletins that the US has been inundated with since my childhood. I'll minimize. I'll drink lots of fruit juice and coffee. I'll eat lots of beans and egg and avocado. I'll watch lots of soccer. And read. And talk to Kaitlin. And maybe that will be enough to wake-up on April 7th in Miami International Airport bound for Denver and a completely different journey.