Santa Marta, Colombia – 5/5.

May 20th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Part Five of a Five Part Series.

Day 5 (Monday):

It’s the last day of enjoying Colombia before heading back to the United States and it’s packed with plans. First was a trip to la Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. Did I know where I was going? Nope, but we did pass up the Exito we visited the day before. This is the death place of Simon Bolivar, a.k.a “El Libertador.” The place is now a museum and monument with an awesome garden. Paso Bolivar.

Afterwards, we visited the port again, but this time with sunlight. It’s totally different during the day…and hot. We stopped to get a cup of camaron from a well known cart near the beach. I wanted some gifts, so we walked around the streets and stopped by another Exito. We ended up back at the market street and I’m craving some more sapote, so we grab a cup…YUM! Hermanos.

After returning to the house, we rested up and I got ready to play photographer for Leah and Marcelo’s pictures, while David got ready to become the god father for his niece. Off we went, just in time for the sunset and lighting. I was a bit nervous because I haven’t shot direct sunset photos before and didn’t know what to expect. There’s a really small time frame when the sun is just right for photos and you have to make the best of it. When it was all over, it was time to head back and get ready to celebrate David’s newly baptized niece. Yes, this means more eating, more drinking, and definitely more vallenato. Photo Shoot, Done!

Despite the stomach-ache I got (probably from the camaron), I tried to enjoy the night. I ended up packing up and passing out early. I woke up in the middle of the night, still heard music and chatting, so I walked outside. It was Daniel, his friends, and his father. We just bullshitted all night and drank a little more. I said what I could and listened as much as I could. It was only a few hours until we had to leave for the airport, but Daniel and his friends wanted to eat. We went off to get arepas de huevo and some juice made from rice. Man, what a way to end the night, too.

I don’t even want to talk a lot about the trip back. We got a cab at 4:10 AM, a flight got canceled, we got new itinerary, blah blah blah and we didn’t land in Houston until 8:15 PM. That’s about sixteen hours cramped in two cabs, a bus, and three planes!

Santa Marta, Colombia – 4/5.

May 20th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Part Four of a Five Part Series.

Day 4 (Sunday):

Waking up in a bed to totally foreign to you and taking a few minutes to gather your mind with a hang over during a vacation in another country is somewhat frightening. After I got collected and realized where I was, I hear yelling, splashing and more music. I have no idea what time it is, but Daniel told me that food is being made. He said something about fried fish, fried bananas, and I hopped up, left the room and went into the kitchen. I was hungry!

After breakfast, we headed back to the house for a few more beers and relaxed in the hammocks for a few hours. We went to the mall and the Exito to get coffee and snacks to bring back. Here’s where my mind gets blurry again and I don’t remember what we did in the evening besides a well needed rest and recovery.

Santa Marta, Colombia – 3/5.

May 19th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Part Three of a Five Part Series.

Day 3 (Saturday):

It’s wedding day, my camera’s charged and time to put on my guayabera. I put on sandals…yes sandals for the wedding. You don’t know how big this is for me. This is the first time I’ll be going to a wedding where I don’t have to wear a tie, much less wear sandals! We piled up a couple cabs with the wedding cake, flowers, and much more. We finally packed ourselves in a cab and head over to the wedding location. Of course, I have no idea where it is, but all I know is that I have my camera on me.

We arrived near the beach in what seemed like a small neighborhood and arrived to a block completely gated with ten foot walls and a grand sliding wood entrance. We hop out, knock, and walk in. This place was freaking awesome! I’ll just let the pictures do justice on this, words aren’t enough. I walked around snapping some pictures, trying to find out good places to take pictures when everything was going down. Meanwhile, Marcelo was getting pimped out, Leah was getting ready upstairs, and everyone else spent a few hours waiting…and waiting…but that’s normal here, remember? A few guests arrived, and finally, everything was ready. I set my camera, snap-snap-snap. After the ceremony, the music began so did the festivities.

After dinner and a few drinks, I joined in on the fun too. I even snapped a few pictures to capture the moment. After most of the guests left, a few stragglers kept drinking and the music going. I ended up having some drinks, soup, drinks, and more drinks. I ended up passing out in some bed. I don’t remember who took me or showed me this room, but all I remember is David was already passed out in one of the beds. I don’t remember much from the night, but I do know they love their vallenato! They played for what seemed like hours, with the volume on high. David’s dad explained to me that this is how the music is best: the louder, the better. Believe me, the music was good.

The Reception Area.An Awesome Place for a Wedding.Vallenato Band + Tom.It's David!

Again, congratulations Leah and Marcelo!!!

Santa Marta, Colombia – 2/5.

May 19th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Part Two of a Five Part Series.

Day 2 (Friday):

My first morning in Colombia and plans have already been made. We woke up to more home cooking and my first time having arepas. We got ready and headed outside to catch a cab out on the main street which was less than a block away. David pointed out something to me and told me to get out my camera. I had to look twice, but there was a donkey crossing the middle of the street! David wasn’t kidding around about the stories of El Burro. El Burro.
We made a pit stop at the hotel Marcelo’s family stayed at and waited…and waited. One thing I learned (and was told) is that in Santa Marta, you wait. There’s no sense of rush, hurriedness or “on time” for having a fun. It’s what made the vacation much more relaxing and laid back. After everyone was ready, we walked a few blocks to the Rodadero beach front to catch a boat ride to the actual beach, Playa Blanca. The "Dock".
We all hopped on the boat and put on our life jackets. They had a horrible stench of old ocean, but we had to wear them. Not too long afterwards, we arrived at the beach. Right after we got off the boat, vendors from all over came selling candy, seafood, drinks, toys and much more. They kept following us and tried to sell us anything and everything they had. We bought a few beers from one guy and he just left the igloo there for us to pick at. After some playing around, swimming and catching some sun, it was time to eat. I ordered what everyone else ordered: bowl of soup and the catch of the day. It was delicious. The soup was jam packed with all kinds of seafood and tons of flavor. The plate we had was a fried fish, some plantains, and some garnishes. After a few beers and finishing up the food, we got ready to head back home. Restaurante Rancho Lindo.View from the Beach.

We went out to visit La Quinta, the main market street in Santa Marta. This place was awesome. It had tons of small vendors, and we stopped at a juice place. I was introduced to zapote zapote drink that had a unique, but very good flavor.

We got back to the house and rested up. I laid out on the hammock with a couple beers. The other neighbors were having a party and their music was blaring. I ended up passing out from all the events of the day. By the time I woke up, the front yard was full of family and friends. I passed out again for a bit and finally decided to wake up. Little did I know, they were planning a serenata for Marcelo and Leah! The band came in through the park and into the front area. Music was blasting all night from the band, it was great. After the night died down a bit, Daniel and his friends wanted to take me out. Apparently, according to Daniel, I’m a party boy.

We went to the a small narrow street filled with night clubs, people, and cars. Ironically, it was really close to South America’s oldest cathedral, built in 1766! After checking out a few places, we ended up at the Rodadero by the port for some food. David and I walked over to a cart and the smell alone made hungrier. It was a mixture of all the insides of a pig and a huge frying pan. I was digging this big time! David had the tripes and I had some blood sausages. Time to go home and rest. We got locked out, so we jumped the gate and knocked until someone let us in.

***Updated 5/19/2008: David clarified and corrected. Memories are beginning to blur now.

Santa Marta, Colombia – 1/5.

May 16th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Part One of a Five Part Series.

So far, this is one of my favorite trips and guaranteed the best vacation I’ve had to date. I barely speak Spanish and I don’t know anything about Santa Marta (except that there are literally burros in the middle of the street), but going with David to his hometown and the hospitality of his family was awesome. I have too much to talk about to just write one post. Everyday was a different adventure!

Day 1 (Thursday):
After landing into the tiny Barranquilla airport, going through customs and immigration, I finally realize I’m on vacation. We took a one-hour plus ride from Barranquilla to Santa Marta. We initially took a cab to get to the “bus station”, which isn’t really a station, more like a line bus on the side of the road next to a row of never ending mom-n-pop shops. We dropped by one of the shops for a drink: Pony Malta. I’ve never had it before, but if I can find these in the states, I’m getting pack of it! So we hopped on the empty bus expecting to take a straight shot there. We were going down the streets, and one of the guys kept yelling out the window, “Santa Marta! Santa Marta!” while the driver slowed down. They were filling up with bus with people in Barranquilla who were heading to Santa Marta too. We made a few stops, a few times people would jump in, and when we got near the end of the strip, they collected our money, pesos.

By this time, the bus was somewhat (American) full (American “full” and Colombian “full” are totally different!). It didn’t take long at all for me to realize I was the only Asian person; not just on the bus, but everywhere I went! Not bad, but it just made me giggle inside; I was an outsider, a foreigner, an alien…hehe. One of the guys on the bus just blatantly stared for a good fifteen minutes, he knew I knew he was staring, and yet he continued. It is just amazing to realize the diversity Houston has and the great appreciation I have for being exposed so much variety and cultures.

David explained to me that we were taking a toll road and we made a few stops. There were armed military men with shotguns, M-16s, and I think I saw an AK. I didn’t feel uncomfortable, why should I? This was the way of life for them and it was just quite an interesting sight to see. Next thing you know, a bunch of street vendors attacked our bus with foods I can’t even start to describe much less name. One thing David did buy was, “queso”: two goat cheese balls with some sweet candy thing. Sadly, that’s the best way I can describe this, but it was DELICIOUS!

The first thing I realize about the drivers in Colombia is the bigger the vehicle, the more priority you have. Then I realize some don’t care and just have bigger balls than others. Going SPEEDING down a two-lane two-way street, we passed up anything going slower than us, even if there was opposing traffic. According to David’s theory, this is where whoever has the brighter headlights has right of way, even if you’re in the wrong lane. There must be some competition for passing vehicles because we seemed to be passing everyone, often times crossing double yellows and close calls. That didn’t faze anyone out, and surprisingly I wasn’t scared either. I think Sao Paolo prepared me for this. The swerving, sudden stops, speeding up, flashing headlights, and honking continued throughout the ride.

So by the end of the bus ride, we stopped at the “bus station”, which was yet another place where taxis lined up along another strip of mom-n-pop shops ready to take passengers directly to their destination. Very efficient, very effective, and most of all, very quick compared to the states. The only waiting we had to do was to get our bags from the trunk. How awesome is that? More swerving, honking, passing, and flashing of headlights got us to the front door of David’s family’s house. We hopped out and immediately we were greeted by his family.

We brought up all of our stuff, got comfortable and man, this house was awesome: hammocks in the gated patio, mango trees right on the other side of the fence (where there’s a little park) and people. I can’t stress the total shock I had when I saw neighbors talking to each other, music playing, drinking, and just a sense of community that existed on this little street. I have never seen anything like this were I’ve lived. Everyone knew each other and everyone knew what was going on.

We were off to bed and I hear someone blowing a whistle outside. I don’t really think of it as anything and just ignore it. David wonders if I’m curious about what that is and explains to me that it’s the security patrol going around on bicycles. It lets the citizens and potential criminals know they are there. I never know when our security cop goes around our neighborhood, how genius!

I don’t remember anything else besides eating my first homemade Colombian dinner I don’t remember the name of and hopping into bed.

Pictures? Yeah, they’re coming soon. There were so many things I could take pictures of, but soaking it in and allowing myself to just be in Colombia was more important to me. I think this is what made this vacation…a vacation, rather than a tourist-trip.

Where am I?

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