Back to the States

After the Ciudad Perdida tour, Bianca and I strolled into our hostel in Santa Marta looking like we’d just been rescued from a desert island and smelling like street dogs. The first order of business was wine. The second order of business was trying to book our plane ticket back to Bogota. Viva Colombia is a budget airline in Colombia which has excellent prices, but everything else about them is kind of a pain in the ass. Like buying plane tickets. We had been trying since before we came out to the coast, but it wouldn’t process the order online. We tried going to their offices, but it turns out most of their offices don’t actually exist. We tried calling, but their automated menu was recorded so badly that we couldn’t figure out what buttons to push to speak with an actual person. Luckily the nice lady who was selling us the phone minutes agreed to listen to the menu for us, but even she, as a native Spanish speaker, couldn’t understand what the hell they were saying, and it was like 10 minutes before she handed the phone back with an actual person on the line. This actual person was less than helpful and finally informed me that we couldn’t buy the tickets because none of our credit cards were approved for international transactions, and that I would need to call my credit card company to get clearance. Funny how that works, since I had been using the same credit card in Colombia with absolutely no problems before.

We finally ended up giving up and buying a bus ticket for Bogota. 17 hours. Oh, the dread. But, it actually ended up not being too bad. First, they played a Liam Neeson movie where he’s on a plane, and someone’s texting him threatening things. People die. Liam saves the day. Cute stewardess falls in love. All very exciting, and it killed a couple of hours. Then panic set in. They turned the air conditioner up so high that it was freezing on that bus, and I had not packed any warm clothes to take to Santa Marta, so I was in shorts, flip flops and had a light zip up jacket with me. I tried my best to curl up into the fetal position in my seat and get the jacket to cover as much bare skin as possible, but I was still freezing. It was going to be a long sleepless night of shivering in a cold dark bus. I looked around, and all the other Colombians were prepared with blankets and sweaters. Luckily, we stopped for a late dinner brake at a roadside restaurant. It seemed to be the place where all the buses stopped, so naturally they were selling blankets there, because this is clearly always an issue. Bianca and I both bought a warm blanket and when we headed back in the bus, I wrapped myself up in a cozy little cocoon and drifted to sleep. I’m not sure if the bus seats were actually as comfortable as I felt they were, or if that was just the result of having spent 3 nights in the jungle, but I slept like a baby on that bus. I woke up around 6 a.m. when the sun was coming up, watched some beautiful landscapes roll by for a few hours, and before I knew it we were in Bogota.

We got to our hostel, and then Bianca headed out to spend some time with her family before heading back to the states. I spent the evening chatting with some really nice Argentinian girls who were on vacation in Colombia, and eventually half the hostel guests ended up with us in the courtyard representing about 5 different countries and speaking 3 different languages amongst ourselves.

The next day, I got up at the buttcrack of dawn to head to the airport, and Bianca got up to see me off. (Miss you, B!)

I flew from Bogota to Houston, then from Houston to Denver. My flight from Denver was delayed quite a bit, which ended up working out, because SD was having some bad weather and my mom was having difficulty getting there to pick me up. When we did board the plane from Denver to Sioux Falls, it ended up being one of the tiniest planes I’ve ever been on, with just 1 seat on one side of the aisle, and 2 seats on the other. Which didn’t bother me, but there happened to also be an entire team of basketball players on this particular flight who were bumping their head on the ceilings and scrunching up their knees to try to fit in the seats.

I texted my mom to tell her we were about to take off and then immediately fell into an ugly-sleep.

*Ugly-sleeping is what I do in planes, buses and cars, where my head rolls back at an awkward angle and my mouth inevitably falls open. There may or may not be some drooling involved, and every once in a while, I let out a lone snore, which startles me awake and I have to try to play it cool while glancing out of the corner of my eye to see if the person next to me notices.

When I awoke to the sound of an in-flight announcement, we were sitting on the runway. Well, how convenient, I thought. I go to sleep in Denver and wake up in Sioux Falls. Then I started listening to the announcement, and it turns out I was still in Denver. I looked at my phone, and I had been sleeping for an hour and a half. The pilot explained that it took so long to de-ice the plane that they burned through all the fuel and would have to get more, at which point they would need to de-ice the plane again. Those poor basketball players, stuffed in their seats like sardines.

Five hours after boarding the plane we landed in Sioux Falls – what is normally an hour and a half flight.

It was fucking freezing.

Instantly, I knew that my decision to return to Colombia was a good life choice, and that my only mistake was not booking my return ticket for an earlier date. I mean really, what was this hellish realm of ice and snow and freezing wind chills that I had willingly transported myself back into?

We got to the hotel and I passed out. The next day, I did the most important thing there is to do when returning to the U.S. after an extended absence. I went to Target and spent a shameful amount of money. My lovely cashier found some coupons for me, signed me up for a Target card to get the 5% discount, and made me feel a little better by sharing the fact that she also had no shred of self-control and since becoming a Target employee has had an unbridled compulsion to buy every item in the store and accumulate them in her apartment.

Welcome to the U.S.A.


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