Welcome to Colombia – No Entry for You

psWith a bit of sadness, we left our studio apartment at Al Sol in Oaxaca. Veronica and her team made our stay most pleasant. What we will really miss are the restaurants. What great eating we enjoyed.

So transitioning yesterday from Oaxaca, Mexico to Bogotá, Colombia was a bit stressful with the flights. When I first booked the flight, I did what I thought was a direct flight between the two cities, but there was a credit card glitch. Trying to re-book it on the Interjet website, it no longer showed any direct flight, but two legs. I called their US office, but this was the only possibility. The agent then told me we would have to pick up our luggage in Mexico City, get our new boarding passes and drop off the luggage once again. This was a major concern; the time between the two flights was minimal.

Twenty-four hours before the first flight, the boarding passes were available for the first leg of the trip. I downloaded them and tried getting the second leg. International trip boarding passes were not available. We had to wait to get to the airport to get them.

When we went to drop off our luggage, we asked if the bags could go all the way through to Bogotá. I also explained I could not get boarding passes for the continuation of the trip. I showed the agent our confirmation on Interjet for Mexico City to Bogotá. This is when things started getting hairy.

The agent asked if we had a return trip ticket. When we said that we did not, because we were going on from there, he needed to see all of our other flight reservations. He typed each one of them into the computer, before the system would allow him to print our boarding passes. This makes me wonder how people do travel on one-way tickets without an issue.

Then the gnawing concern whether or not we would make the connection still hung over our heads, but it turned out to be fine only because we had the boarding passes in hand. Mexico City has a huge airport that is not pedestrian friendly. The halls are narrow without many moving sidewalks. You hare struggling past people who are arriving as well as others trying to make it to their gate. If we had to pick up our luggage and recheck it, it would have taken hours to accomplish.  As it was, our next flight left from the gate at the very end of the terminal. Strangely enough, we never went through Immigration leaving Mexico; there was no passport control.

The flight to Bogotá was four hours. Interestingly, Canadians have some special agreement with Colombia. There are special lines for them at Passport Control.

Ron and I went to the Immigration officer together. He processed Ron’s passport rather quickly, but then kept rubbing mine against his leg. He then came out of his booth, told me to follow and we went to another agent who had a sign that said ‘Graphologist’.  This agent inspected my photo and passport with a jewelers’ loupe and then gave the okay to the officer. Instead of taking me back to his booth, we continued on to a supervisor who confirmed everything and stamped my passport. Finally, I was free to leave.

Next were problems with the ATM in the airport. The first one cycled through the usual process without ever asking for my PIN, but obviously did not give me any money either. During this commotion, it refused to release my card, causing me to have an anxiety attack. At 11pm in the airport, whom do you turn to for assistance? A second machine would only give me 300,000 pesos, which is $94; this just about paid for a taxi and then our first two nights lodging leaving us with slim cash. Since this machine was a success, I tried it a second time, but at the end of the transaction, it proclaims total ignorance about dispensing cash. The display showed it would only take deposits and make transfers. No more money!

The place we booked for our stay was not available for our first two nights, but the host arranged for us to stay at a friend’s apartment; he is out-of-town. Gay men own both apartments. The driver took us to the address provided, but when we arrived, the driver could not find the doorbell. Fortunately, I had the host’s phone number since he was meeting us to let us in. The driver called him, but it was a wrong number. On the verge of panic, I checked the number again. Though I was holding the pad with the number on it, the driver transposed two of the numbers. He finally got through. When the driver spoke to our host we found out the address he had given us was incorrect. With the clarification, the driver delivered us here in five minutes.

Here is hoping the rest of the time in Colombia goes smoother.

After completing my Ed.D., the frustration of finding a teaching position where I was willing to live, led to Ron and I leaving the country. We intended to travel for a year before settling somewhere in MA or RI. We left the US without any credit card debt, no car payments and our house mortgage paid by renters. We had $10,000 in the bank to make our way through a year.