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adventures from down south

a travel blog by kipmaddog

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weeww and i never though b.o. go this bad......

Bogota, Colombia

I wake up in a bed that is made for a smerf and a blanket that is made for a small hairy dog. I am in Particia´s casa. Patricia, or Pato, which ever you prefer lives in the northern district of Bogota. She is a fellow couchsurfing whose house I am staying at presently. She lives by herself in a three bedroom apartment on the fourth floor of a building I seem to get lost in everytime I leave her place. I have been up since 7:30 in the morning, I don´t know whether its the altitude or my my eagerness to begin my mental documentation of my philosophical journey through south america. Patricia is sweet and caring and reminds me of a grandma´s warm-heartedness. She might as well have been giving me cookies and milk and a large, itchy knitted sweater that morning. Instead she takes me thoug the city, Colombian-style.

When you wait for a bus in Colombia, there are no timetables and the bus does not stop at designated stops. Approaching the horizon one spots a bus heading at you at 50 mph in a crowded street. The bus swerves in between traffic as it makes its way toward you. Oh yeah and there dosent appear to be any lines in the road. Traffic appears to be a giant tour de france, as cars cut each other off and other race ahead. We flag a bus down, it hits it breaks and as we step on the bus, the bus takes off before you can take you second step up into it. RAGGEATONE music blasts from the speakers near the driver. One doesnt put one´s money for the fare in the slot. You actually hand it to the bus driver, and this one was driving, breaking change, and holding all of the money from the xisting fares in one hand as the other grasped the steering wheel. And were off...... I sit in the front and immediately eyes are stuck on me...I know it every Colombian behind me has their eyes stuck on me thinking "who the hell is this 6 foot 3 gringo with a flock of seagulls haircut?" and I am thinking "why is everyone looking at me like I have a pimple the size of a large mole in the middle of my forehead?"

I have never been much of a meat eater, yet that has all changed in a matter of a a day. A woman slaps down a plate of steaming hot food in front of my mug and I dig in. I have no clue what it is, Id say there was X meat, Y meat, and Z meat, with a fried egg, rice, and an avocado..I shovel the food down and dowse it all with enough hot sauce to kill whatveer is in this shit so I dont start peeing out the rear end on day 1.

That night we are walking through the center of the city with some fellow couchsurfers doing a bit of charit work. I am the man carrying this huge cooler on my back which contains a sweet tea-like substance called aguapanella. There are about ten of us and we split off into two groups, one cooler in each group and about 100 pieces of pan each. Hmmm...is this really such a good idea, strollling the streets of Bogota at 9 pm at night walking through dark alleys and pimp n. hoe street corners?? I block my doubts and we carry on. Along the trek we gave out the beverage and pan to homeless, single mothers with three teeth lying on the side walk with a baby in their arms, men with no arms, no even able to collect the change people give them, and the general homeless. I have never done anything like it before and it was quite a warm-hearted experience.

At the end of our treak through the city I am walking along with fellow couchsurfers and all of a sudden I see this shadow creeping up behind me. immediately I feel something brush the Dekline backpack I am carryng. I flip around like a damn soldier on the battlefield and this shaddy looking fellow backs off me super quick and pulls the brim of his hat down over his face...as if this fool was james bond. Anyway, he was trying to snatch somehting in my backpack and yep ill put a tally up on the board for my first time I was almost pick-backpacketed. Ha!. i suppose there is a first for everything...and I was quite lucky there wasnt seconds or thirds that night. the rest of the night went quite smooth.......i will continue.. i must go because i am about to find the house of my second couchsurfer and it is going to be dark in about an hour.....yikes!

permalink written by  kipmaddog on July 16, 2009 from Bogota, Colombia
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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the thug life, bogota style

Bogota, Colombia

Walking through the streets of el centro in Bogota, I feel as though a muffler of a car is shoved down my throat and the driver happens to be flooring the damn engine.I stop at a street side vendor and tell him puedo tener un arrepa de pollo biiaaaatch! He says queso solamente. Gosh, I need some damn protien man, I been walking your streets, can´t a brother get some nutrients for his musculos! I settle for a cheese arrepa. My body better get used to all of this bread and meat. I need to stay regular and to be honest that is not going to happen. My diet has consisted of meat, meat, bread, meat, cheese, meat, and more bread. Man, do I love being healthy! Next, i hike up to the NE to an older district called ¨Candelaria¨. It´s the oldest part of town I was toldd, and its quite apparent. Rustic buildings line, narrow cobble stone streets, old men drag their old legs down the street, hunched over old wooden canes, and children play at will, giggling as I walk by. After 30 minutes of trugging around the Candelaria district on a giant uphill slope, I stop in a restaraunt and ask for the almuerzo economico. The cost is 4500 pesos, about $2.50 (USD). A steaming bowl of green soup is slopped down in front of my mug by an old man, with a droopy, wetahered face, and a charlie chaplin'_like mustache. It tatses like a mixture between split'pea soup and chicken noodle soup with a douse of pineapple juice. The soup warms me. In between each spoonful i take a sip of juice and its also green. I have no clue what the hell it is....once again...it´s thick like a smoothie and tatses like gatorade.

The cold, dry air lifts my soul, as light sprinkles hit the pages of my diary. I am whitnessing the most panoramic view of a city these eyes have seen. Somehow 5 million people have been able to cram into this small space down below. I am about 2,000 feet above the city and I have just ridden the mosarati up to the tallest mountain in the city. What a place for spiritual bliss and meditation. i was expecting the dali lama to come walking by any minute telling my something by beginning ¨My son......¨. And now my legs no longer feel the effects of the walking from the morning. Taking an orange gonola_like cart up the mountain, 25 people are crammed into this cart and driven to the top. At the top sits an ancient church. It begins to rain and a cool, dry air chaps my face. i seem to be the only gringo up here...hmmmm. what a suprise! I like it that way though.....no meat_heads, dudemanbros, fukin_aers, or famous stars and strap wanna_be tough guys. Behind this vast expanse of the city sits mass of green, lush mountains. I was told that in Colobia, even as high elevation, there are absolutely no seasons. .....I see why.. Its now the middle of so_called winter and the trees are so green the look artifical.

permalink written by  kipmaddog on July 17, 2009 from Bogota, Colombia
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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tiajuana is disneyland compared to this sector of town........

Bogota, Colombia

Jimi Hendrix blues, "Born Under a Bad Sighn" cranking into my ears........i pound the keys..
I stop by an internet cafe and hit up some fellow couchsurfers for a possible place to crash in San Gil, my next stop. From what I´ve heard, San Gil is a bitchin little town of a couple thousand people, wedged in the center of green, lush, rolling hills. The town is about a 7 hour bus ride through the colombian Andes, directly northeast of Bogota. I call a couchsurfer named Deisy. She is a girl whom a dude I went to middle and high school with hung out with in Medellin (A town north west of Bogota about 10 hours. I plan on going here in about 2 weeks, nut I must get a head start and make plans way in advance, for the Colombians are almost too laid back and one must plan weeks in advance). I use a cellphone from a booth on the street. All over Bogota, cellphones ready for use at street vendors booths. You slap 200 pesos or about 18 cents into the palm of the street vendors hand for every minute you use is early 1990´s cellphone (zach morris style big). she answers, but speaks practically no English. I do my best to understand her and in the end I am victorious. I inform her that I will be in Medellin in two weeks for La Festival de las Flores, or the flower festival. To the average beef-cake, meat-headed, dude-bro, in San Diego, this would translate to a sketchy invitation to a homosexual parade. To the Colombians it is a celebration of the colorful beauty of nature.

My next decision is to transfrom my soul into Bear Gyrohls and attempt an "adventure" through the entire downtown city of Bogota. I must travel by foot, in an attempt to make it to Ivanosio´s pad before it gets dark, and the shadyness of Bogota will be kicked up a notch or two. He told me it woul dtake 45 minutes. No problem I think...Well actualy there is a small problem, I sure as hell am not Colombian (by blood, some might think by apperance) and I have no fricken clue how to navigate through the city yet. I pass through a large financial district with large, metallic buildings. Colombian buisness men walk by reeking of cheap aftershave and mobing wool suits from the 1980´s (in the U.S.). i pass young colege kids wearing Metallic and Guns n´ Roses t-shirts (music must be about the sound and not the lyrics...the lyrics are in English for cyring out loud!) I pass through dirt choked slums, where prostitures stand on street corners in Courtney Love-like outfits and lipstick that looks like it was put on by a two-year-old. It starts to rain and I pull up the collar around my tattered wool sweater and press on. 45 minutes into my journey and hey ivanosio, man, I still haven´t made it, are you suprised? I sure as hell am not! I have no clue where I am. I think back to every American stereotype of Colombia ans SHIT, reality hits me...I am in downtown Bogota, it´s raining, and to put the icing on the cake, it´s going to be dark in 45 minutes. I suppose arriving at my destination should earn me a blue ribbon, a trophy, or maybe even a purple heart from some get r done american military general. Another hour goes by, heaven shines it´s light upon me, and I make it! Wait there´s the fitness center, where Colombian women mob neaon spandex outfits from the 80´s, and wannabe Shakira¨s stare at themselves in the large rusted mirrors. I stumble into a local Colombian hangout on the corner near Ivanosio´s house, prop my feet up on a stool, and order a cold one for 45 cents. Nearby two weathered looking old men play a board game and sip steaming Colombian coffee. Middle-aged women sit next to me dressed up in wacky neon outfits and bright pink lipstick. They sip someting called ¨Nectar Cub¨, I have no clue what the heck it is. They pour the liquid out of HI-C like juice boxes into Ny-Quil-like plastic cups. The light rain patters the window and I take a sigh. I am the only gringo in here and I love it.

permalink written by  kipmaddog on July 18, 2009 from Bogota, Colombia
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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rollercoaster bus ride, farm life, despues paradise in 79 degreee water

San Gil, Colombia

After Ivan drops me off at the bus station, i go walking confidently, chin up, chest out, eyes on the horizon, into the Bogota bus terminal. You see, one must always act like you do this on a daily basis. If not, herds of youngsters hound you selling decorative bracelets, packs of middle-aged men come at you screaming "Santa Marta Aqui!!", Medellin Aqui!"...yada yada.. These men want you to go with their buses. You see, they get a cut for the kaniving manipulation of an invitating you to their bus. If one does not play their cards right, one could easily pay double the price that a local would pay for an average bus ride to their city of choice. I pay my fee of 30.000 mil pesos or about 14 US Dollars and sit to wait. My bus leaves at 1145 at night, and its now 845. I sit, take my sweat boots off, peel my sticky socks off my feet and crack open a Howard Zinn book. Howard Zinn is a historian, political scientist, and in a nutshell he is a liberator of the unspoke, the underdogs, the stepped-on people of all societies. In a nutshell he argues, why we must admire national heroes from 1st grade that are actually tyrants, murders, malicious greed-filled, war-mongerers, and wealthy landowners who set out to fulfill their own interests? Instead why not look to humanitarian-like people, cures of diseases, and donators of the good cause? Freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..If a government does not meet these minimal standards for the masses of people, then it is up to the people to use the means necessary to make sure that these needs are met. You see a government is only in place to fulfill the needs of the people..... He goes on with more interesting points but the main conclusion is that the Declaration of Independence actually states that it is up to the people to make sure their needs are met, not the government. The documen tthat our general rights and liberties rest on to this present day and people must come to recognize what they have a right to. They must not only have an opinion, but turn that opinion and or intellectual knowledge into a form of action...anyway interesting shit....

After a 7 hour bus ride through the night to a city called San Gil, I arrive. The entire bus ride was filled with roller-coaster-like turns, pot-holes in the road the size of a small kiddies swimming pool, and what seemed like mass amounts of drunk-drivers on the road. By the way, along the journey, my bus driver actually side swipped another bus, and straight up scrapped against it, and all one could hear was the sound of one of the 2 busses mirros exploding in the night. The lady sitting across from me screams, "Vamos rapido!" yeah, no shit lady, ill be lucky to make it out of this one alive! I wasnt able to sleep at alll through this madness. Th bus driver pulls up to San Gil just at sunrise and drops me off. Last night I had contatced a fellow couchsurfer named Andres. He said I could stay at his place, a farm located up in the Colombian hills of rolling, lush and green jungle. I walk about 2 miles with a good 45 pound pack to the main part of town. I call Andres, and he tells me to call him back around 930. At the moment Im dizzy and fog-eyed. I havent slept in 24 hours (lets jut say as an understatement it was partly the bus-ride!) i walk to the center square where there is a large fountaun. I fall asleep on a bench as morning and the heat progresses. I wake up 2 hours later to a mass of locals in the center square. toothless old men are sipping coffee, vendors are setting up their stations of jewlrey made of cheap fishing line and scrapped beads, children are playing with the birds I am so damn delirious, I need to find a place to crash now! I throw my pack up on my shoulders, take a breath, and set off for 2 possible hostles. I think, how do i know this guy Andres hasnt changed his mind? If he has, Im screwed. I make my way up 2 incredibly steep hills...Both hostels are booked. I walk back down to my bench and does off again. I soon wake up, cotton-mouthed, and trek over to a place to call Andres. He tells me to wait there and he will pick me up on his motorcycle. Andres shows up 45 minutes later and Iknow immediately this is one of the most kind man I have ever met. His grin is from ear to ear, he is laughing as he talks to me, and I almost feel as though this man was paid to show this form of kindess. I soon learn I am wrong. He is a simple man who lives on a farm with two dogs, and his daughter. He is an Electrical Engineer and teaches at a smnall university in town. He throws my pack on his motorcycle, I strap on a helmet, and were off to his place. I have never ridden a motorcycle before. With the wind nipping at my clothes, my arms around Andres waist, I experienced a feeling of comlete useless helplessness. Riding a motorcyle, at least for me as a first-timer, felt like the feelin gone would get in the face of a bear in the woods, or in the face of a robber at ones door. I was helpless, alive and the motorcycle was taking me through life. I had no control over whether we crashed or someone hit us as we halled-ass through winding roads. We turned off on a dirst road and followed it one mile up into the rolling hills. Andres house is located on a farm. He has an electric shower, two dogs (one of which needs to go to rehab for her addiction to fetching sticks), one motorcycle,and that is all he needs. A realization came over me that this main had the most basic, bear-necessities, and he could not stop laughing or smiling all day long. That night I lay in his hamoc, not a light of civilization around, thunder approaching on the horizon... Soon it began to rain, and slowly dozed off to an enternity of noise-less comfort.

After a 14 hour day of ridning buses I eneded up on the Carribean coast. Yes, pirates do live here, they like to drink rum, and they have gold teeth. I arrived in Santa Marta at 11 at night, at least the bus station. I ended up walking 5 miles with a 45 pund pack through the stickiest heat I have ever encountererd. I encountered a local boy in an alley along my journey who ened up walking with me most of the way to show me my hostel. I awoke this morning to a liter of water, 5 oranges, two cups of coffee, and a piece of bread for about a dollar fifty. Now I feel like Hemmingway in THe East Of Eden...just went for a swim in almost 80 degree water, took a nap, layed in a hammock, and cracked open a Spanish novel....I am living a life of Kip Madden.

permalink written by  kipmaddog on July 21, 2009 from San Gil, Colombia
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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Pirates of the Carribean 4

Santa Marta, Colombia

For my own peace of mind and others readin.....I got the right cable for the camera, pictures will be up in the next day or so. Woke up to fresh slices of papaya I knabbed off a street vednor for 40 cents, a cup of steamming Colombian coffee (negra of course), and a piece of bread that more or less tasted like a buttery criosant. Today I met two girls while reading in a hostel. One of them was a shorter half Japanese half Peruvian lady. The other was a an Irish girl with a lightly freckeeld face. They both happen to live in California; quite the small world! They were young, giggly, and didnt seem like they had traveled much even though they had claimed to have been all over much of South America. They kept complaining that they needed to shower every half an hour and much of the food wasnt good enough for them. Overall they were quite niave and much too idealistic.I hope they dont ened up in a situation where they need to call mommy and daddy at home. Every city they planned on going to was made out to be like a vacation in a 5 star resort in the Bahamas: "We¨ll buy dresses , get our nails painted..." im thinking, listen, you are traveling off of mommy and daddys money, through a third world country, wearing pink flip flops, flashing your camera around in barrios pobres, and could be on the next missing persons list if you are not careful! Not that Im a jerk, but you girls need to cut the mall-girl attitudes and tuffen the heck up.

That night I went into a local eatery on a hot sticky night. It was at least 95 degrees, I felt like I was in a steam room, but instead of the fresh smelling eucalyptic oil, its carne saturating my pores.

Along with some other people from the hostel, I prop down in a cafe on one of the busiest street corners in Santa Marta. A wild-fire -like grill is roaring 10 yards away , as 40 plus chickens roast on sceewers. I begin to pour sweat. Im thinking, "if im in this shit-hole for more than another 15 minutes, im going to see stars and faint."
I was sweating more fluids than I could drink. I walk up to order and a the workings of a Colombian brawl were in the works. An old man, eating with his family had apparently gotten in a dispute with the chef right before we arrived. A two year old child had more teeth than this dude. All of a sudden the old man stumbles out of his chair, the smell of rum and stale cigarette smoke on his breath, and swings a right hook! The chef ducks, luckily the old man was too drunk and couldnt hit a damn thing. Immediately all hell breaks loose. the old man starts spitting an cursing at the chef. The chef attempts to Bruce Lee jump over the counter, cooking thongs in hand, reading to beat the crap out of this old man, and make this 2 toothed old man become a one toothed man. All I hear is abunch of "pinchi mierdas!" 3 kitchen girls try to restrain the chef as the old man continues to taunt the chef. Theres a look of a blood thirsty pit-bull in the chefs eyes, and im thinking, if this chef gets over the counter, shit is going to his them fan. Luckily the cops show up (yes, in Colombia they do have some order) and it works out. From what I could make out of the Spanish it appeared as though the old man felt the chef had jipped him on his portion size and he didnt want to pay the full price for his meal.

Well, in Colombia, they speak Spanish. However, depending on what part of Colombia you are in the dialects of Spanish are different. An appropriate analogy would be to compare the different dialects of Californians, to midwesterners, to people in the south, to someone living in the ghetto in New York City. So right, now I am staying in Santa Marta, righ ton the coast. In Bogota, the spanish was slower and easier to understand. However, on the coast, there are Spanish words that do not exist in translating dictionaries. The Spanish from Bogota drives a ford pinto, almost out of gas. The people of the coast, or the Castellanos ( i think the splleing is right?) Spanish, drives a well-greased ferrari engine. My Spanish felt on the level of an intellectual in Bogota, here I feel like a retard.

permalink written by  kipmaddog on July 23, 2009 from Santa Marta, Colombia
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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I met Mr. Does Equis, "The most interesting Man in the World"

Taganga, Colombia

I stumbled across the Dos Equis man, or better known as the most interesting man in the world. Sitting back, calm and relaxed with narrow intelligent eyes, salt n´ pepper hair, and smooth porclain-like skin, with a simple ordinary name of Brian. With only the bottom of his shirt buttomed and his khaki pants rolled halway up his calfs, this man gave off the aura of a sophisticated Ivy League graduate, the confidence of a gigalo, and the weather-worn secrecy of a retired CIA spy. Somehow this dude was sitting in my hostel, crossing the same space, at the same time. He was amongst a hostel of youngsters, yet he appeared to be 50. He was rapping it up with a local man who owned the place. Slouched back in a chair, slowly nodding his head as he spoke to the owner, he conversed. It was something in his eyes that intrigued me. In them appeared to be reflections of a harsh past not too many war vetrans can compare to. I started conversation with him when I he over herad me speaking to someone about a city, Cartagena, which is quite near Santa Marta. "Cartagena", he looks at me....you want to go there? Ive been there a couple of times he says with confidence. I had been there for maybe 60 seconds top and immediately I was sucked into the layed back, weathered, sophistication this man emitted. I knew he was in a category of people I had never met before. He went on to tell me he made a living making maps. He made maps for GPS systems and he was able to travel the world doing it. He soon began to tell me a number of stories that an ex "blood" from LA would have. Locked in a paddy wagon in Mexico City about to be excecuted for simply being in the wrong part of town at the worst time. Or when his girlfriend tried to stab him. Or when he was kidnapped near Rioacha Colombia and escaped. Or when he became responsible for the largest drug bust of any foreigners in the ancient town of Cartagena. This man was a humanitarian, bulldog for the good cause and had a stream of endless stories that could go on long after the last embers of the camp fire vanished. Or on that day I met him, both of his neighbors were shot point blank in the temple at noon, 10 blocks away.

I am highly interested in teaching some English in exchange for being taught Spanish in the town of Medellin, an artsy, somewhat sophisticated town tucked in the green hills of the northwest of Colombia.

Secondly, I might volunteer in Ecuador, outside of Banos. There are kids. They are poor, malnourished, might need a little help from a white boy from San Diego, and will get some of it if my patience dosent run dry with the little rascals!

permalink written by  kipmaddog on July 24, 2009 from Taganga, Colombia
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Culture is progress

Santa Marta, Colombia

I have been taken by a waterfall of exhilarating tastes: tradding coins for empanadas and arrepas in the streets....tasting homemade, salty Colombian soup followed by meat and more meat....juicy papaya in the hot afternoon sun.."fast-food", Colombian-style: a mess of people in red plastic chairs, sticking out on a street corner in the middle of the night, making sumani pizzas with hotdog toppings...juice green and chunky, looking like barf, yet tasting like a two glasses of heaven in one...learning to eat meat like its a dman vitamin (at least 1-2 times a day)...sleepless bus-rides, smeeling exhaust, with neck cramps and crying babies......body jerking with the switch of the rusty clutch into 2nd gear..staring out at the sea, 7 floors up..walking through alleys of quiet streets, the shade of night pulled tight...

permalink written by  kipmaddog on July 25, 2009 from Santa Marta, Colombia
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The city made in defense of ´pirates

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartegana is a highly diversified architectural town, tucked right along the Carribean coast. During the time of Spanish colonial rule, the city was used as storage grounds for large amounts of gold that the Spanish Conquistadors found in the area. Over a couple of years Cartagena became known as having the largest stockpile of riches along the entire Carribean coast. Soon, word got around and pirates began to steal the gold and send black-flagged fleets to Cartagena to rape, pilage and burn all that they could. In defense, the Spanish enslaved many of the local indigenous peoples and built large walls, say 60 feet high, so that the pirates would have a tough time attacking the city. Every 100 feet, sticking out of these large stony walls were cannons, aimed and ready to defend the Spanish gold. SO, in present day when one is walking around Cartagena many of the buildings have a Spanish-colonial look to them. They are colored in dulled yellows and oranges. Balconies overlook the thin, narrow streets below. All in all the city is built like a giant labyrinth-maze, sort of fortress. King Arthur could have lived here.

I arrived in Cartagena at about 11am, after a 2 hour bus ride from Baranquilla. Boy, was I glad to leave that hellish couchsirfing expereince, the only bad one so far, thank moses. A nerdy-weirdo who couldnt hold a conversation with an orangatang. Mickey was his name and he was dating a 20 year old Colombian girl whose family desperately wanted her to marry him (gee, go figire....citizenship baby!). I"m sure sshes dump his bald ass before they even left the Catholic Chapel after the ceremony. He claimes, as I was using his computer, that he could hack into just about anything and it was quite easy to obtain personal information, passwords of any kind. He could read someones most personal stuff, if it was ona computer he claimed. He knew how, but couldnt prove it to me, nor did he seem like he wanted to. i left it at that. He ddint speak a word of Spanish and his girlfired hardly spoke a word of English. This intenfified the wierd factor. Hmmmm 50 year old, computer nerd, who didint leave his house for days, was in Colombia dating a 20 year-old girl. They could hardly communicate, at least verbaly. for crying out loud! On top of all this he says that his Visa was expired and yet he was still living in Colombia. He gave me another one of those..."o yeah, its possible, but Im not going to tell you how".... Yeah right buddy! He was like Napolean dynamites dad, yet more dorky. His voice sounded like a robot. When he looked at you, you felt like you were looking into the small black eyes of a crow. I would say, "So Mickey, what do you do for fun?" He"d respond by saying, "I dont know, why do you want to know so bad?" (im just trying to make conversation a-hole!). 10 more minutes of silence would go by..."so, Mickey, if I need to go to the store, where would be the closest one?" He"d say "its close..and why do you want to eat right now?" Right, so to get to the store I just go to "close" and ill be there...thnaks for the directions dude!! Id ask him for a pot to cook something..Id go up to him and he would be playing video games, drinking cool-aide, eating cheetos (keep in mind hes 50 years old) he would ignore me for a good 2 minutes, as I stood there waiting for a response, hed moan or grunt, turn to me and go "WHAT?!!"...yeah sorry buddy, i interupted your wall-street trading online (aka mariocart for this tool).

I have never met someone so weird

I ended up getting the hell out of there. I packed all of my clothes that night and went to bed quite early. I was up at 530am and wrote a note, puttin git on the bed, thanking him for officially creeping me out of my skin. I B-lined it out of there without verbally saying good-bye.

I had one of those novel moments, which im sure most everyone who goes to school can relate to. Remember your first day of school when you are a kid........You get to school on your very first day and you dont know anyone. You have on the dorkiest outsfit, that your mom made you wear beacuse she thought an embarrassing first day of school was all one needed to break the nervous ice on the first day. All of the kids are standing around nervous and expecting to find a pal.you kind of just turn to the guy or gal nect to you and say "hey, do you want to be my firend?" Its not a matter of credentials, interests, sexual preferences, hobbies, or resumes... Being someones friend is just a matter of turning to the person closest to you, popping the question, "do you want to be my friend?", and booooom, you were mates. Well, keeping that in mind, I walked into Casa Vienna, a hostel in a seedy district known as the Gestamani district in Cartagena. The outside of the building was a sun-bleached red and in small letters read "Casa Vienna". You push a buzzer, which serves like a door-knob. This is connected to the front desk. You push it, the attendant peeks their head out from behind their desk, they give you one look over and zzzztt, the door buzzes open and you rin. I walk in panting like a thick-haired dog on a warm summers day. I pay the dude and he shows me to my room. I walk in, and boom, just like on my first day of school, theres my future pal. I happen to have that, confused, cant find my sun-glasses and they are on my head the whole time-sorta look. There was only one other guy in my room. H ehad the extact same look. I turn to him. he faces me, and zabam, we were friends. This dude went by the name Ezekial. He was from Argentina, liked architecure (he was an architect by trade though). We both gave each other the look of a loner and zaabam, we struck up conversation that would never end becaus eof the excitement we were exchanging for having a cool pal to chill with. Within minutes wer were cracking jokes, high 5ing, and talking about the adventures to come. We eded up walking the entire historical district of Cartagena. A hot stickiness enclosed the whole town that day. As we walked we kept switching to the other end of the street, in an attempt to stay walk in the shade.

For every person visiting Cartagena, there are 5 vendores. Whever you are in town, within 5 minutes of being in the public eye, somene is houding you for a buck or they are trying to tell jewelry or give you a massge (the girls, yo). After awhile, saying No Gracias gets to be quite repetitive and tiresome. So after exhausting all of my "No, Gracias", I began to not even respond to people, look at them, or even acknowledge that the person was in my presence. Apparently in Colombia two things happen as a result of this. Firstly, by not responding, some vedores take it as you didn hear them or you ddnt see them. So by not resonding, one could keep walking down the street, turn around and baaaam, there would be 8 vedores that have been following oyu for a mike. Secondly, for some people it is taken as highly offensive if you dont respond. The Argentina fellow informed me of this, as a guy came up trying to sell soccer jersey"s. He was houding the crap pout of my as Ezequial and I rest at a park bench with a brew. After 2 minutes straight, of him going hey amigo, hey amigo, hey amigo, hey amigo (like a damn nat buzzing in my ear) he threw his hands up, gave me an intimidating glare, and cursed at me. The Argentin informed me the guy said he wanted to give me a woopen for not ebing respectful. I thought this was quite hilarous...people harrass me all day long on the street and if i dont give them the time of day and acknowledge that they are bugging the crap out of me...this is offensive to them?!!! Ha, they would have to deal with my offensive behavior then.

For two days I joined up with some Austrilians and went to playa blanca, off of the coast of colombia. it was paradise, easliy comparable to the best beaches of hawaii. there were no bathrooms, it was hot. lots of mosquitos, and we slept in hammocks. there was no town or covilization for at least 30 miles in each direction. lots of readin, lounging, and story-telling.

Im not in Medellin, where I plan to teach English if I can find some willing students.

permalink written by  kipmaddog on August 1, 2009 from Cartagena, Colombia
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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this could be the heart of colombia

Medellin, Colombia

medellin is a town of 2.5 million people, resting in an enormous, lush valley, in pretty much the center of colombia. as one approaches medellin by bus, one cuts through these giant green mountains, downward to an open valley below. once the town of medellin is in ones sight, it loos like a giant open hand: there is a cluster of barrios in the center of the vally, looking like an giant palm. Then there are about 5 barrio groupings that trickel away from the center of town like 5 fingers of a hand. this town almost looks like a ski town in the rockies, minus the pine trees and elevation of course.

this town is a bit cleaner, and more maintained than the others I have visited in colombia. public transportation is efficient, there are several universities, giving this place an air of sophistication. this own also has a metrocable, which is this giant gandola looking box car. the metrocable runs from one side of the city to the other and fits about 8 people at once. i happen to ride the thing for the first time with a couchsurfing mate named santiago. we rode it at night, about 60 feet up, all of the city lights shining bright below. the meterocable gives one a birdseye view of the city and one is able to see the contrast between the rich and poor. we head over one mountain on the other side of the city and immediately, i realize that nobody should go in these neighborhoods below, at any time of the day. you dont eneter these bad boys unless you live there yourself or you no someone that lives there. these neighborhoods look like hoovervills: they all have a cardboard color to them. some of them have roofs and some do not. families of 10 or more live in these 1 bedroom apartments. it was really hard to believe that actual people lived here. the buildings looksed more like prisons, than houses. there is only one area of town that is like this. all one needs is a little common sense and it is quite easy to avoid these areas of town.

i am staying with a guy named santiago. he works the graveyard shift at a charity organization. during the day he sleeps like a bear. he lives with 3 girls. they all study at the university and have been helping me a great deal with my spanish. i plan on staying here for quite sometime. first on my agenda is to become fluent in spanish. i will stop at nothing. i will drive my brain engine into the ground until i master this secret language. i plan on meeting up with a medical student in about an hour. hes going to teach me spanish and im going to improve his english. its as simple as that.

i need more time to write. i have been so occupied by a new a new culture. i never though buying a mango or trying to make a phone call could be so diffucult at time. i will become the master of a new latin reality though. once i settle in a bit, the writing will come

permalink written by  kipmaddog on August 2, 2009 from Medellin, Colombia
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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medellin, where its spring all year long

Medellin, Colombia

I awoke the other morning realizing that everything in Colombia is built for people five foot seven and under. I was thinking: everytime I am in a public place I am bumping into someone, hitting my head on a damn door frame, getting stuck in a computer desk at an internet cafe, or having to sit sideways in just about every mode of public transportation. Just after this though occured to me, as I was leaving Santiago"s apartment (the happy-go-lucky, yet quite loco Colombian I am staying with for the time being)....BAAAMMM...there goes my head one more time, smacking a wooden pillar that hangs down by his front door. Man, these Colombian architects need to accomodate tall, gangly, large-headed people too. The day was Sunday, and as I left his apartment building it appearded as though there was a giant dog parade. A couple thousand people were walking the streets, in a giant parade-like line, all with a dog. It appeared as though there was a giant Colombian dog parade (wow, the people at dog beach in ocean beach got nothin gon these folks). Every person was walking at least one dog, some had two or three. Boy o boy though, was there a bit of poopey-doopey in those streets. Maybe the Colombians dont believe in carrying plastic bags when they take dogs for walks. Since this is a city known for flowers, I assume that they just let the crap slowly make its way towards the soil, and BAM, they got perfect fertilizer. Nutrients for some of the the best looking flowers in the world. Ha!
I was going to teach my very first english lesson today. His name was Cesar and he happened to be a medical student at a local university. I met him at the hospital estacion, a metro stop nearby. He looked nervous, but underneath it all he had intelligent eyes, and a permanent little grin on his face. I had posted an a request on couchsurfing to see if anyone wanted to learn english in exchange for some spanish lessons. Cesar took the bait and today was our first meeting. He took me to these botonaical gardens. These gardens were absolutely incredible. It appeared as though someone had down-scaled the amazon rainforest and placed it in the center of Medellin. There were lush, green plant with their leaves in full-extension. Boy, these plants were alive, one could almost see the chlorophyl in the leaves.
We plopped down on the nearest bench and I began to go over the basics..nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, greeting, present tense, past tense, future tense, the alphabet. All of these brought back memories from kindergarden and my teacher Mrs. Sofe, helping me make pronunciations through my pudgy cheeks. Cesar seems to be digging every minute of it. He was a medical student in a local university, but apparanetly his grades were good enough to allow him to go to Harvard in two years. The only catch was that he needed to learn English within those two years. I would be his first teacher. It me me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to give these guy a tool which he would utilize for the rest of his life. He wanted to learn English like a toddler wanted to learn to walk. Even though I was his teacher, I had to let many of his wrong pronunciations, slide by, uncorrected. He was so damn determined, that he would blab words that were neither English or Spanish. I wanted to give him some confidence though. He didnt need a damn german nazi as an english teacher, especially on his first round. Round two though and I will definitely have to get my ruler out for a couple of slaps on the wrist!
Its 85 degrees all day long, with constant sunshine. All of the people are constantly grinning and smiling. Salsa music is blarring from just about every corner of the city, day or night, rain or shine. One"s diet consists of a whole lot of grease and a whole lotta fruit to ocunter to grease. Most everything that isnt fruit in colombia is fried. Empenadas, arrepas make up the bulk of th grease. Most Colombians seem to have one of these bad boys with every meal. Empenadas are like the american version of a hot pocket, only they arent filled with a bunch a preservatives, made to last until the next ice age. they are fresh, little bread pockets filled with your choice of meat, egg, or cheese...with maybe some diced onions in these sucks...boy o boy are they good. Arrepas look like english muffins. they are made from corn and filled with cheese. Both of these tasty treats are gulped down with a whole lotta hot sauce. and there you have it: the bulk of a colombians diet. the rest of the diet is completed with fruit. mangos, papayas, and about 50 other kinds of fruits that does not exist in the states. ill get the names of these sweet colorful treats some day soon.

permalink written by  kipmaddog on August 3, 2009 from Medellin, Colombia
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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