Thursday, September 03, 2009

My Month in Colombia Begins

I tapped a little something out somewhere over the United States. "The plane just went over some heavily populated area. It's something like looking into a computer's mind. So many lights, densely packed in lines and grids. Bright veins spider out into spindly branches. You can't see a city's problems from up here, just the light."

The first thing that I always notice when I come to Colombia is the traffic. It is insane. I used to be frightened by the constant honking, death-tempting near misses, and the swerving due to moon craters in the pavement, but now it's all become pretty funny. Sure, if I had to drive through it myself I would probably cry, but I trust my Colombian companions to safely deliver us through the madness. Traffic lights seem to be obeyed fairly well, but not much else. Stop signs are entirely optional. At a red light it is routine to have people walking amongst the stopped cars selling all sorts of things. Flowers, cleaning equipment, and fruit pass by my window while I try to look as uninterested as possible. Yesterday a man stood on another's shoulders and they both juggled while we idled. The trick then is for them to stop their performance soon enough so that they can bob from car to car to collect donations through car windows opened just a crack. Traffic have never been so exciting.

I went to the American Embassy in Bogota yesterday and today. The Japanese government mercilessly stickered and stamped my passport a total of 25 times during my two years in and out of Japan. Add to that a couple recent little excursions and my passport was filled thoroughly. The addition of another set of pages to a passport is a free service that the embassy provides. I went in and dropped my laden passport off for it's upgrade without any difficulty. I went through three checkpoints with two metal detectors without much fuss, completely contrary to the hellish line waiting that Angelica has had to endure several times. I even got to see a motorcade leave with what must have been someone important. My second visit to pick my passport up, though, was pretty awful. The guard on the outer gate spoke crap English, while the guards on the inner gate spoke none. When I left I was told something like "come back at three". Coming from the nice lady who worked at the embassy, this seemed a loose guideline. Coming from the staunchly monolingual guards outside, though, this was a one minute window of entry opportunity. From the lengthy Spanish diatribe I received from multiple guards I gathered "this card says 3, and now it is past 3, so come back tomorrow." Someone told Angelica "3 means 3. Not 3:05 or 3:10". I'd say a same certain someone is confused about where their arepa money comes from.

Well I'm leaving for Peru today, so I did "come back tomorrow". But I can't say I was happy about it. I've never written a letter to an ambassador before. I'll tell you how that goes.

Here's my not-so-official looking ticket to getting my freaking passport back.

I took a couple of pictures of the embassy compound out the window while we drove off. We were stopped less than a minute later by police, who questioned us about why I would do such a thing. I'll be happy if I never see that place again.

I had a lot of fun yesterday, too, though. Angelica's cousin had her birthday party yesterday, which was pretty cool. It was a pretty lively party. A band played right in the living room and lots of people were dancing. It was a nice little peak at Colombian culture.

The snack food here is really good. These Maizitos are the same thing as Fritos in the US.

I love the packaging. Don Maizito says "We are fried!" The four squares show the correct way to open the bag so that the chips explode out.

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