Santa Marta, Colombia – 1/5.

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.

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