The Colombia Chapter Closes

“You actually die twice in this world.  Once when you stop breathing, and a second time several years later when somebody says your name for the last time.  So do things that matter and leave a legacy.  It’s never too late to start.”

I’ve never heard that quote before, but it instantly became one of my all-time favorites.

After seeing the beautiful architecture in Cartagena, I decided to head over to a tiny beach town about four hours away called Taganga.  This city turned out to be one of the more remote places that I’ve traveled to, which added to its charm.  Let me give you an idea of how things work in Taganga.

No, that’s not an optical illusion.  That four-year-old girl is using a machete as big as her entire arm to slice and dice a coconut by the side of the road.  What ever happened to playing with Barbies and My Little Pony after supper?

Taganga is divided into two beaches by a mountain.  It was easily passable though, and you can get from one side to the other in 10 minutes.  I was staying in the more developed area, and one day a few friends from the hostel and I decided to check out the other beach.  While it was more beautiful, it was also more Spartan.  I foolishly went to one of the restaurants and asked if they had wi-fi.  Internet?  Silly question, Rob.  Hell, they didn’t even have electricity.  And the food wasn’t cooked with gas stoves either, they burned slivers of wood to heat the skillets.  I’d take 10:1 odds on a Tagangan to win the next Survivor.

I was really hungry, so I decided to order something from one of the restaurants about 50 feet from the beach.  I asked for a menu in Spanish, and here is what they gave me:

The third fish from the left tasted just a little more fresh than a fish fry at Culver’s. It was accompanied with rice and fried plantains, and the entire dish only cost about $8.00. Not bad!

The beaches and landscape were incredibly picturesque.  The first snapshot is the more developed beach.  The second one was more basic where we spent most of the afternoon one day.

My favorite moment of the trip so far happened when I was in Taganga.  I was walking along the single main street with Daniel, a cool hispanic guy from LA that I had met back in Cartagena.  Out of the corner of my eye I see something zoom past.  I looked up and saw a skinny little boy no more than five years old wearing only a pair of shorts riding a black-framed bike that was easily a couple of sizes too big for him.  When he was about 10 feet ahead of us, he slammed on the pedals, and the rear tire slid a couple of feet to the side on the wet pavement.  Then he gave me a huge smile as he held out his hand for a high five, and I enthusiastically returned the gesture.  So random, but so awesome!

I had spent the past few days with Longy, a Chinese girl from Australia, and Daniel.  Here’s a pic as we parted ways when we left Taganga.  It was a blast traveling with you guys!

Here you can see me wearing my standard issue blue travel v-neck.  I swear I wear more shirts than that one.

After a little culture shock in Taganga, Daniel and I went to Santa Marta, a town just a couple of miles away.  We knew there were going to be a lot more people, and we had an awesome hostel lined up.  Well, it turns out that the city itself was kind of a s**thole, and the hostel was da bomb.  What that meant is that we just spent all the time socializing in the hostel, which was fine with me.  We even made it back to Taganga one of the nights to hit up one of the discotecas there.  The club had some really odd antiques outside, and I don’t exactly understand why.

Loser of paper, rock, scissors has to do a beer bong out of that bowl on the left?

In general, one thing that I noticed in Colombia is that people drive absolutely insanely. They don’t need any lane markers, don’t even know what a stop sign is, and they frequently blow through red lights.  I can’t tell you how many times I thought a taxi was going to nail a pedestrian or someone on a bike, but it never actually happened.

Another really random practice that seemed more common in Cartagena is that the police will just randomly stop you and search you for drugs.  Daniel and I were walking home on the sidewalk from a night out in Cartagena around 2:00 am.  All of a sudden, two police officers pull up on mopeds and ask us to stop walking.  They searched both of us really well, and I mean really well.  They actually put their hands in all of our pockets, looked between the bills in our wallets, and really gave us a run around.  Luckily I joked with them in Spanish, and they were pretty cool about everything.

I had heard of several other instances like this that went poorly.  A guy from Europe had the same thing happen to him, and the police literally stole the money that he had in his wallet, and then let him go.  He had the equivalent of over $100 US Dollars, ouch.  After hearing that, I didn’t carry much cash on me on purpose.  The police in Colombia seem extremely corrupt, what a shame.

One thing that traveling has helped me do is be thankful for who I am and what I have in the context of the world.  I just happened to come across this interactive graphic recently, and I think it offers some great perspective.  Be sure to click on all the numbers in the upper right hand corner to see more pages:

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/03/age-of-man/map-interactive

Seeing all these other countries and talking to so many people has really made me thankful for what we have back in the States.  Look at how many people can’t read, don’t have access to a vehicle, and can’t use the internet.  I think that sometimes we just assume these things are given, but in the world as a whole, that’s not true.  I try to periodically remind myself of this to stay grounded.

Another way that I think about things is this: If you could roll the dice again and have the chance to be born as any other person in the world, would you do it?  I wouldn’t, especially after seeing the information in that link.  I feel damn fortunate to have been born a US citizen and to be surrounded with an amazing group of friends and family.

“Purpose is the reason you journey.  Passion is the fire that lights your way.”

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One thought on “The Colombia Chapter Closes

  1. “Look at how many people can’t read, don’t have access to a vehicle, and can’t use the internet.”
    This is true in the U.S., too, Rob! You can meet and help these people here at home.

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