Traveling alone (Part II)

So in Colombia I was watching the news. I don’t usually watch the news, but I was eating in a restaurant and the news happened to be on. And this was a different story then the usual Colombian robbery, because this culprit was actually caught! I guess the victim had gotten the license plate in the act. How smart of him!

Of course when I was robbed, I was so close to the license place yet still did not manage to think on my feet and actually write the numbers down. I’m kicking myself now.

So after the man jumps on the back of the bike and they drive off, I realize I’ve been stabbed…. again (just like 7 years prior). I run a few feet to Calle 25 sur from Kr 11 and yell for help. I don’t have a cell phone anymore so I can’t call 911, or the Colombian version of 911, which I think is 123?

Some people came out from there makeshift apartments—in the south of Bogotá as people have children they just keep building more stories onto the apartments to make room for the extra people. Thus apartments have makeshift walls and because they aren’t really walls the inside doors can´t have locks. Roofs made of metal and styrofoam pieces and walls so thin I don’t know if I’m hearing my kitchen sink or the neighbors.

So this family comes out and they don’t know why I’m screaming. I’m wearing a black leather jacket and squeezing the wound for dear life knowing that if I let too much blood come out I’ll pass out. However, because of that, you couldn’t really see the blood or the wound. I pleaded for them to call the police and time was going by, I felt like I was there forever although who knows how long I was really there, even 10 minutes can feel like an hour when you’re waiting for help after being stabbed.

Moreover, I’m usually all about appearances but in my hour of need my intestines went haywire. I all of a sudden felt like I was boiling inside and had to fart. So I said, screw it and decided to let it rip. I thought it would be a small dainty fart, but it ended up being a loud one and it trailed on for quite a while. I thought about quitting half way through but I figured I had already embarrassed myself and decided to finish them off. I’d say probably the most embarrassing part was the smell. I had no idea where this was coming from and the family that was helping me was so close to it. Probably the worst part about this situation was that now without my purse or phone, I had no way of contacting anyone. I knew zero phone number’s by heart. I told one of the ladies that was waiting with me where I was staying and that was it. We tried logging into my whatsapp on other people’s phones but I eventually learned that whatsapp does not work this way, you have to be on your own phone to be on your account. So I couldn’t retrieve any numbers.

As time more time went by and one had come I started to panic and so I screamed in the street until more people came to see what was going on. Eventually a police officer showed up on a motorcycle. I didn’t know if this was a police officer the family had called or if it was a random one that showed up. But I thought, ‘Dear police officer, what good are you to me on a motorcycle?!’ At that moment there was so much frustration that I wasn’t able to express because soon a taxi pulled up and the good samaritan family helped me into it and told him to take me to a clinic. The taxi driver knew I had no money and he said it was fine.

At the clinic there was more farting and yes it still smelled really really bad. But I was in the clinic so it didn’t matter to me that much anymore. When I arrived at the clinic I held my wound so tight and the nurse told me to take my hand off of it, and I think I was so panicked and talking too much about how if I let my arm go I might faint because I needed to put pressure, that eventually she made me breath in something that calmed me down. She had me lean over the sink while she washed and examined my stab wound. Then I sat there for a very long time.

I was able to freak myself out by looking at my arm. It was super inflamed and it hurt to move my fingers, which where turning blue, then purple. In my mind, I was like ‘wtf!’. I kept asking the nurse if this was normal. She said yes and to keep moving my hand, which frankly was tough due to the pain. Then someone shows up at the hospital that I know. It is Francia’s—the airbnb lady I’m staying with—brother. He’s actually a drug dealer and he shows up drunk with his sister in law who is sober.

The clinic says to sew me up and give me the medicine it will cost 200,000cop. Obviously I didn’t have any money with me. The only money I had was in the house that I couldn’t get into because when the robber’s stole my purse, they also stole my keys and Francia (the lady that lived with me) was conveniently out of town.

So the brother says to get a taxi and go to this other hospital. Since it’s not a private clinic, it will cost way less and maybe his sister-in-law will pay for it. So we go to this next place and wait… again. At this point I already owe the sister in law 60,000 cop for the consultation at the other clinic and the taxi ride. When we get to the next place it turns out to be more money! Thus the doctor at the other clinic that said it be way cheaper at this clinic was wrong, very wrong, and it cost me a taxi ride. It was probably about 11pm at this point, 4 hours after I’d been stabbed and I’m still holding my stab wound shut with my hands. So they took me back to the apartment where I was staying to see if one of the neighbors had a key, or if there was some way or some window to get in through so that I could get my money and get treatment.

There wasn’t. Giovanni the neighbor at the top floor had tried everything. Francia’s brother said I should sleep in his house until the morning and obviously I knew that I would never feel safe in the drunk drug dealer’s house so I said no. No brainer, I rather sit in the hall all night. Eventually him and his sister-in-law left because they had been with me for hours and hours, none of which were remotely fun.

After about an hour of Giovanni trying to do what he could to open the door or make calls etc, it was basically tough luck, we weren’t getting anywhere. Since the stabbing occurred at 7pm and it was now the middle of the night, I felt like I’d waited enough and so I did what any sane person would do and I went downstairs and started screaming at the top of my lungs in Spanish and telling God to send me an angel. I didn’t scream because I felt like screaming. I screamed because apparently this was the only way to get things done. When you tell people you need help, nothing really happens, but when you scream at the top of your lungs at 1am, stuff starts happening.

Some ladies that lived in the apartment building came out of there house and neighbor’s from next door knocked on our door. Then trying a little harder this time, Giovanni said he had a friend with a taxi and he could take me to this other clinic that allows you to pay later since I didn’t have access to my money. By the time we got to the third clinic it was 1am. 30 minutes later they called me up when I was in the bathroom. Thus my punishment for not being ready, was they didn’t see me until an hour and a half later. It’s now like 3 am and I’m still holding my wound shut. Ridiculous, right? When they finally see me, they say that they can sew me up now, but I have to wait there until 8am to see if I qualify for this program to get the cost taken care of or reduced. I obviously don’t want to pay but to wait that long in the hospital was not an option. I’d been up all night and I still wanted to go to my CELTA course in the morning. They told me that yes, I could get help and pay after, but the catch was I  had to stay in the hospital until I paid. Yippie, another obstacle in my already spectacular night.

Giovanni said that he’d walk to his friends house, which would take 15 minutes and he’d borrow money from the friend to pay my hospital bill (and I could pay him back later). I felt bad for Giovanni because he was literally just a neighbor and he’d been with me for hours. Also at that time it was super dangerous to walk outside for any reason but I did need the help, so he went.

While he was doing that, I was let into the hospital room. It was unsanitary and gross. They actually put me on a bed which already had blood all over it in various spots. I was not feeling good about this. I looked at it disgusted and I made sure the doctor saw my expressions. I don’t know if that’s why the doctor hated me, or if it was the fact that I had been begging for so long about trying to get help even though I didn’t have money yet, but he definitely had it out for me. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t give me any shots to numb the pain or offer me anything, he didn’t prescribe anything. He just grabbed my arm and stuck a sewing needing in it raw and squished it together to tie it. When he was first about to put the needle in and I looked at him horrified and asked, “Wait! Aren’t you going to numb it!?” he just ignored me and used an aggression that he seemed to rather enjoy. Then He put this 3x3inch square gauze sticker on the deep cut to close the wound and walked out of the room coldly. So I didn’t know anything about when I should take it off or if I should take something to prevent infection. I was just sort of left in the dark.

When I got back to the apartment, it was like 7am. I literally slept maybe three hours in this nice neighbors house (these 2 women that had come out when I started screaming hours earlier). Surprisingly, I still managed to make it to my CELTA course at 10am although I didn’t get much work done because I was busy canceling credit cards. Francia didn’t get back from her trip until Monday and the incident had happened on a Thursday, so I had to stay with a friend that weekend and borrow clothes and money to get by until my new debit card came. Moral of the story, if you’re going to Colombia, don’t keep valuables in your purse. Keep your money in your shoe and keep your cellphone in your bra. Also thank you to Ben, Laura, and Xiomara who nicely lent me money until my debit card came. I made sure to pay them back. A Clark always pays her debts.

 

 

 

 

Traveling alone

Traveling alone isn’t all its cracked up to be. On one hand you have the flexibility to work and go where you please because not every hostel excepts couples. On the other hand it can get lonely and can also be pretty unsafe, especially for women. My Mom always told me that if I’m going to travel I need to hide my money, hide my passport, don’t look rich, if someone ever tries to rob me, just give them what they want. It’s better to loose materialistic things than to get hurt. These are all things I’d been told throughout my life, and I guess I listened, but didn’t understand. I had never had to guard my things so tightly before. I had never really been in danger. I just didn’t get it… until now… until it was made real. Now I understand.

In January of 2017, almost 3 weeks into my CELTA course I was robbed. I was in Bogotá, specifically Barrio San José Sur. I was walking down a busy street-calle 27, Kr. 10. I stopped at one store along the way and bought an avocado.

It was around 7:15pm. I then turned the corner on Kr. 11 (only 2 or 3 blocks from my house). This street wasn’t so busy and there were way less lights illuminating the streets. It’s funny because a few days before I had been walking home and I heard this car. This car had given me terrors since the day I arrived in Barrio San Jose Sur. I thought maybe it belonged to a local gang because it has these bright purple lights and as it would drive it would play a recording of a little girl screaming. It always gave me chills. I knew it was a local car belonging to someone living in this neighborhood because I could hear the little girl screaming everyday at around 2am, etc. One day when I was walking home I heard it, and I ran like a bolt of lightning into a nearby fruit store (in Colombia there are 4 fruit/vegetable markets on every block). I asked them about the car with the little girl screaming, and they seemed confused. So I described it as the car with the purple lights and they said not to be scared, that it’s just a car and the lights are just a design. Yet still I waited in the store until the cost was clear and I preceded home with caution.

The reason I remember this encounter with the car with the purple lights is because I now commend how careful I was that day. As time went by and I became more comfortable with the neighborhood the fear I had in the beginning was less prevalent. It was easy to let go of the fear when I saw so many people, woman and children on the streets at all hours of the night, even at nine and ten pm.

So back to the original story I was telling about this particular night when I was walking home… I had my huge purse and I was just walking with it like I had no cares in the world. I looked nice. I had my hair down and curly and I wasn’t hiding from anyone. I was just walking home from the bus stop. However when I turned from the busy street onto the smaller street leading to my apartment, I saw a bad omen. It was a very sketchy car. It had absolutely no lights on and was pitch black. Why would a car not have any headlights on on a dark street? It was stopping on the street in front of me. My original instinct would have been to run back to the busy street. That’s what I would have done a week or two ago. However I convinced myself that I was over reacting and proceeded crossing right in front of it. Before I got to the end of the next block I heard a motorcycle a distance behind me.

Okay a motorcycle not so odd, I thought. Should I turn around? No that would be over reacting, I thought to myself. So I didn’t. However as the sound got even closer I turned around to find someone 3 feet away and running closer. The guy on the back of the bike had jumped off to snatch my purse while the guy on the front of the bike-motorcycle-turned the corner to wait for all of this to take place and for his accomplice to jump back on the bike.

Now I regret not just letting him take my stuff, but in my head, in the bubble I grew up in, he didn’t have a knife, he was just some ‘tonto’ trying to take my purse, and I was athletic, I could grab it back. I didn’t think the person was dangerous. I thought it was just some harmless robber. So I tried to grab it back as he was running to jump back on the the bike. When I reached out for it, he made a swift motion towards my arm. It all happened too fast and I was never quite able to grab ahold of my bag. I didn’t even try to get the license plate, which I now regret. When I saw him hop back on the bike I knew it was hopeless. It had all happened too quickly and they were going so fast. He wouldn’t be caught.

Then suddenly I remembered an experience from my past. I wasn’t in any pain at this moment, but in this experience from my past, I had been in a car and I was suddenly in danger so I jumped out of the car to escape, but I was holding my side and I didn’t know why. I guess my body was telling me to hold my side, but because of the adrenaline I didn’t know why. Why was my hand wet, I thought. When I looked at my hand it was bloody. At that moment I thought maybe the person in the car had injected me with something, but it turned out later that I had been stabbed.

Now thinking of that experience I immediately thought Oh no. That robber better not have stabbed me. Like I said, I wasn’t even in pain at that moment but rather a lightbulb of caution went off in my head from the experience before. I searched myself, and low and behold, yes, I’d been stabbed in my arm. I was scared because the first time I had gotten stabbed it was by far the most painful experience in my life and I thought I never ever wanted to go through that again. I had lost so much blood and I passed out, etc. Long story short, it wasn’t the pain that scared me the most, it was knowing how much pain I’d been in the first time and thinking I would have to go through that again. Now looking back on it, it was nothing like the first time. Looking back, the pain and trauma of the first accident which was so bad because of where I was stabbed the that time doesn’t even compare. I’m still healing 3 weeks later. In the next post I’ll tell you what the next 15 hours were like for me.

VISA’S ??!

To work in Colombia you need a TP4 Visa.

If you have a TP1 or TP6 visa it is VERY complicated to pass from one of these visas to a TP4.

Some jobs only sponsor your visa if you have an entry stamp (tourist visa), if you are coming from another TP4, if you do not need a work visa (ie. if you are married to a Colombian), or if you do not hold any type of visa.

Just in case you wanted to know.

I don’t have a VISA yet but I want one. That way I can get a bank account, because not having a bank account is pretty much like putting all your money in your shoe, and hoping for the best. And yes, I really do this.

Please Let me in Your Country

Getting to Colombia was definitely one of the hardest things I did. I didn’t know what would happen with my phone service once I crossed boarders, I had a spare phone sitting in a repair shop in the US, and I had a car parked in a bad neighborhood. All these things I knew I’d eventually have to deal with and not having a lot of money really does make your life harder. Because of that, I decided to go with the cheapest flight, which included a layover.

Getting on the plain at LAX in the USA was a breeze. I quickly felt stupid because the hours I’d spent weighing my carry-on–which was supposed to only be 6.6 lbs by the websites standard–was in vain because it turns out, they weigh all your luggage except for your carry-on. Darn it, my mother was right. All those things I wanted to bring but left behind flashed before my eyes. After my experience in the US, I thought every airpot would be a breeze but when I arrived in Mexico City, it was hell from then on.

I had 5-7 hours to spare so I took my time. I got some food in the airport. A little later I got a coffee. Then when I had 2 hours left I thought, ‘Now I’m going to walk to my departure gate’. WRONG. I couldn’t find it. I spoke to every airport worker I saw and every single worker sent me to a different place. It was like it was everyone’s first day. How is this possible? At some point, maybe after the 10th person I’d asked, I was sent through some other security place that lead me to a different half of the airpot. I didn’t even know there was another half of the airport! Who designed this thing! Anyways, on the freshly discovered new half of the airport I had just as much trouble trying to find my departure gate. At some point, someone told me I had to take a shuttle to another airport and I almost cried.

After a 20 minute shuttle ride I was in another airport.  I had trouble in that airport too, but eventually I got to my departure gate about 25 minutes before the plane was supposed to depart. I quickly went in the line to board and when I got to the front, the lady coldly said, “No, we didn’t call you. It’s not your turn. Sid down.” She was very smug, and I think she rather enjoyed putting me in my place. When the next group was called up, I got up again. When I got to the front, the lady said “We’re letting the C-D’s up right now,” she grabbed my ticket out of my hand, gave it a look, then handed it back to me and said, “your not a C or a D. Sit down please.” She rolled her eyes at her co-workers and when I sat down they all had their laughs. ‘How rude,’ I thought. I searched my ticket to try and find out what letter I was. I read every word on the ticket but I couldn’t find it. Perhaps it was an invisible letter that only rude airpot workers could read. I was no Rosa Parks, I just made the decision to sit down and wait until every last person had boarded so I would be the very last in line.

When I gave the airport attendants my ticket and proceeded to board, someone held their hand out in front of me and said, “Wait”.  I thought to myself, ‘Oh lord, what now’. They asked me why I was going to Colombia. I told them I was going to go to school to learn to teach English. They asked me who I was staying with. I said a lady I found on AirBnB…and yes that was really fun to try and translate with my sub-par Spanish skills. They asked me for her address and phone number. And of course, with the luck I was having, my phone was no longer working at this point and thus I had no proof of anything. After 3 minutes of interrogation I started to worry and I asked, “Is there a problem, am I going to be able to get on the plane? I paid a lot of money for this course and I don’t want to miss my flight!” They could probably see the panic on my face and they said, “Usually people have a ticket back home, not a one way flight.” It was like there was a jury and I was on trial.

Finally, one of the workers let me through and I walked on livid (after holding up the whole plane). I sat down and I didn’t want to talk to anyone; I’d just been through hell. Then I heard on the intercom that the plane was going to be held up for some reason. I got really nervous thinking that someone would come to my seat and escort me off, but it wasn’t me after all. Two hours later the plain took off and later on the next day, I was in Colombia.

I was happy to be here. I was happy to be in a place that looked different then where I was from even though getting their wasn’t easy.

Politically Correct

Today I graduated the CELTA program. Wow, what an accomplishment. It was funny having these professional trainers all throughout the program and then after you invite them out for drinks you really get to see their wild side. I believe the highlight of the night and possibly the entire CELTA program overall, was when my tutor ripped off her tights and said, “I’m free” when she got really hot after dancing in the living room. She was so personable and really knew how to have a good time, yet still keep it pretty classy. The male tutor danced with all the woman in the program and kissed me twice, albeit in friendly places, it was kind of unexpected. Maybe it’s a British thing? Maybe it’s a him thing? On third thought, it was probably the alcohol.

First blog post

Im my country I was a bit of an introvert. I had a few friends, but nothing major. I was working as a waitress sitting on my business marketing degree. So I decided 2017 would be the year to finally make something of myself. I figured I wouldn’t be in my 20’s forever. While I don’t have a husband or children, what better time to travel and learn Spanish by full immersion. So January 8th, I got on a plane and now here I am in Colombia taking the CELTA at IH bogota, Colombia.