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 coast 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 I was bombarded with deja vu -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, for the second time in my life, I’d been stabbed. This time, 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 never ever wanted to go through that again. The first time I had lost so much blood and passed out, and been in so much pain, and was terrified, and after surgury was more pain, and after that pain was even more pain. Long story short, this time 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 due to location of the stab wound (in my back) didn’t even compare. 3 weeks later and I’m still healing. In the next post I’ll tell you what the next 15 hours were like for me.

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VISA’S ??!

To work in Colombia you need a TP4 Visa.

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

Because it is so hard, some jobs only sponsor your visa if you have an entry stamp (tourist visa), if you are coming from a TP4 visa, if you do not need a work visa because 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. In Colombia it is a must, or you will get robbed.

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.