Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Recapping the week

It’s a gorgeous morning here in Bogota and instead of sitting on a balcony somewhere in the sun and sipping coffee while I write, I’m stuck under sterile florescent lights in a cramped office currently being dominated by a loud and serious argument among four of the team members. Instead of resolving their dispute by looking at source materials (contracts, the law, etc), they choose to disrupt the work space and potentially create further rifts within the team by their aggressive attacks. I find it all terribly distracting and more or less impossible to work through, so instead of continuing to translate, I’m going to drink a cup of black coffee and spend the next 15 minutes writing this blog post.

I had a friend from the US visit over the last week. He came for my wedding and enjoyed it so much that he decided to come back. We were glad to welcome him, but I don’t think Colombia opened its arms for him this time. It started with a water problem. On Friday, a water main burst in my neighborhood. That made taking showers or doing anything else, more or less impossible. (There was some flow, but not enough to make the hot water heater kick in and cold showers in Bogotá are basically suicidal.)

But, we dealt and overcame. There are some in this city who never have running water, not to mention hot water, so this wasn’t much of a crisis.

On Saturday, we packed up the car and drove to Villavicencio. Since my mate had already gotten to know Bogota, we wanted to show him something just a bit different and what’s better than the Llanos after all? Of course, we didn’t get going until 2:30 in the afternoon, a full 2 hours late, which meant we lost a full day in the Llanos. But at least we arrived safe and sound.

Sunday morning, disaster struck. My wife awoke with muscle spasms in her shoulder and neck. She had that happen once before and I drove her immediately to the hospital. (Fortunately, I was in the car with her that time.) They had to give her a shot as well as other medications and she did physical therapy for 6 weeks or so. This is the second time she’s had this problem and while it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, it was pretty bad.

Around midday I took her a pharmacy about 20 minutes away (we were staying in the country). We missed out on horseback riding but my concern was for her so I didn’t mind too much. After all, I can go horseback riding at any time here in Colombia.

The meds she got from the pharmacy didn’t help much so by late afternoon we made the decision to drive into Villavicencio and take her to a clinic. We all piled into the car and headed off. Things were going well. She got into the clinic, my buddy and I took the two children that were with us to get some ice cream while my wife’s friend waited with her. My wife got a shot and some meds (although we couldn’t find one of the medications in any of the 6 pharmacies that we visited – i.e. the difference between Bogota and Villavicencio) and we were ready to head back to the finca.

But then.

The car wouldn’t start. A nice ambulance man tried to give us a jump but that didn’t work. We judged it was the battery since hooking up the cables did give power to the car so we called our insurance company and they sent out a tow truck. While we were waiting we sent the rest of the group (the friends and kids) to a local shopping mall to get some food and wait for us there). The tow truck driver got it started and we thought we were good to go. He told us not to turn off the car because running the engine would charge the battery. He then led us to the shopping mall (as we weren’t totally sure where it was).

On the way, we lowered the windows, eschewing air conditioning as an energy hog. The moment at which we pulled up at the mall and the tow truck driver left, the car died. And then it started raining. With the windows down. At this point, my wife and I burst out laughing. It was just too funny.

We managed to get the tow truck driver on the phone relatively quickly and he came back to help. The rain was mostly straight, so not much came into the car, and by the time the tow truck arrived, it had tapered off. Our friends, thinking we were good to go, appeared laden with bags of El Corral (hamburgers).

Then the tow truck driver informed us that the battery was not holding the charge and there was no point in trying to start it again. We would have to tow it back to Bogota (we have to get it fixed by Renault to keep the warranty intact). After some serious maneuvering (we had “parked” in the taxi line and that was a whole ‘nuther problem) we got the car on the flatbed and the guy took off. We had a quick dinner in the mall (where are friends had returned after awhile) and then took taxis back to the finca.

On Monday, my wife and I rode in the tow truck back to Bogota. The insurance company only provides one car (taxi) so the rest of the group had to cram together in a mid-sized sedan. We got back first as they left 3 hours after us (so they could enjoy the finca a bit more) and when we arrived we found the house still without water. Ouch.

The rest of the group arrived around 7 pm, tired and desirous of showers. They were disappointed. My friend left on Tuesday, still not having showered. We did buy some water at the local Carulla so that we could “wash” the best we could.

All in all, life happens, just not usually all in the same moment. So, I don’t know if Colombia was giving my friend the brutal reality after treating him so well the last time, but either way, his experience was quite different this time around.

But at least I got to eat Mamona before I left the Llanos.

(Mamona is meat, slowed cooked in the ground, and indescribably delicious.)

Next time, I think we’ll just have to meet at the coast. Maybe Cartagena will be more welcoming.



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