The journey begins | San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale Travel Blog› entry 2 of 8 › view all entries
October 23rd, 2009 – by: kiwicarol
I did not choose to go to Colombia. My friend, Fernando, asked if I'd like to join him and, since there isn't a country in the world that I wouldn't go to, and because I'm crazy about the guy and was intrigued at the opportunity to travel anywhere with him, I didn't have to think twice before immediately responding YES!! ... I then spent the next couple of months doing quick research on basic things like: Where In The World Is Colombia Anyway? (the northern tip of South America... NOT, as I assumed, somewhere near Mexico!); what are the unique features and highlights? (other than drugs); and what kind of cuisine should I expect? I soon discovered that Colombia is a vibrant country struggling desperately to overcome its cocaine reputation and working hard to entice tourists to visit. Listening to the encouragement of my travel-enthusiast friends and ignoring the fears and protests of my more comforts-of-home-loving friends, I was energized about visiting this country.
As a native of Argentina living in Florida, Fernando speaks Spanish as a first language, and English flawlessly. I, on the other hand - armed with all of three months of inadequate Spanish study (I got as far as Chapter 4 out of 25 in a "Teach Yourself Spanish" book and CD, and listened to a handful of Spanish Pod podcasts!) - felt decidedly unprepared, and might as well have been wearing a big "Gringa" sticker on my forehead, as I clumsily stumbled through the most basic words and phrases. I kicked myself for the entire trip for not making more of an effort to the learn the language in advance, as English is not widely spoken here, and my "Language Barrier" at times was to become a kind of self-inflicted isolation.
We flew Spirit Air from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Cartagena (CTG), a quick and painless couple of hours. After clearing immigration and customs, the first thing you notice is that there seem to be more uniforms than tourists. Somehow my "City Cynicism" had decided to make friends with my Language Barrier and they stubbornly demanded to join me on this trip. Living in a city where making eye contact with strangers inevitably invites at best a suggestive leer and at worst someone following you for a few blocks yelling, I immediately assumed these uniformed people were hawkers and 'fake' information people a.k.a the kind you find at LAX, and firmly resolved to keep my head down and ignore them. Luckily, my traveling companion brought with him an abundance of "Open-Mindedness" and a "Warm Heart" full of Florida sunshine, and was soon chatting with one of the uniforms to get the low-down on where best to exchange money (in town, definitely not at the airport) and how best to get to our hotel in Bocagrande (by taxi, which should cost no more than - I think - about 15mil pesos.) I was chastened and impressed. Lesson Number One: it's okay to trust people... sometimes people really are just being helpful.
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