i’ve had the grand privilege of wandering parts of the globe from a young age. it blew my puny mind, and it still does. realizing my entirety was, in fact, a tiny little piece of existence linked within an enormous universe filled unimaginably different worlds. other than seeing really amazeball shit, that is the only justification i have for travel: consciousness blowing. aside from this, it feels too much like a bizarre colonial remnant.
primarily, people of european descent boosted by some economic benefit coming ashore for a few days, maybe a few weeks. we take pictures of the objects we see, like locals. cause they look so different and beautiful. we squander oil, go out to eat, buy water encased in plastic, consume, make waste, strut around like we know where we are, and act like we own the joint. it’s like speed colonialism. and we do all this just to know we’ve seen it. seen something; been somewhere. like that’s what we’ll care about in our last breath. well, maybe in the last few ones.
i’ve made people seriously reconsider having me as their travel companion. i tell them i’d just be a downer. i will talk about how our very presence is causing the destruction of what has supposedly awed us. i will spend most of my time thinking: why do we think we deserve to see this place? how have i earned the right to stomp loudly all over the planet? we don’t have to see everything. why has travel been rendered such a revered success? what am i doing here? i don’t belong here; it feels like cheating.
all of this spoken like someone who’s done it already, yeah? who’s doing it now. poor little rich girl. tell me about it. and like a good spoiled brat, i just don’t travel well. i always want to go home. i long for the familiar. i’m a restless nester. i hate living out of a backpack and walking around looking lost. i don’t know how to dawdle about and enjoy scenery. i’m too often underwhelmed. and i strongly, strongly dislike feeling like an uninvited house guest.
i knew a girl in high school whose mother was kidnapped by las farc and killed. her father refused to pay the ransom, or so the gossip goes, and her body was found on the side of a road with a sign that read something like, “medellin que no paga, muere.” medellin who doesn’t pay, dies. i always imagined, correctly i think, medellin to be a terribly bloody, coke filled area where you will get snatched off the street. an ex-pat told me how just 8 or so years ago most conversations inevitably led to someone saying, “did you hear fulanito got kidnapped?” being taken hostage was like a right of passage, or a tax. you spent a few weeks in the jungle or forest, hiking all day, carrying shit, and hanging with the commies. you came back thinner, buffer, and traumatized; like an extreme urban boot camp. in thinking of medellin, i didn’t even picture a city, just a dirt road near a jungle.
now i’m here and, mind if i say, “wow.” in context, this wow is coming from two plus months of small town costeño living. i feel like a country mouse in this chic city.
– my mochila makes me look quaint and provincial
– there is no incessant honking
– the streets are clean and there are garbage cans
– i now know where to send my recyclables
– they sell my face lotion for a million dollars
– still no sign of rolling tobacco
– you can drink the water
– the streets do not smell like poo
– the women are not as beautiful as i’ve been told; costeñas are far more attractive
– there are places of yoga
– i can wear pants
– the endless array of sidewalk seating seems to say, “sit down, relax. no one will kidnap you.”
– i saw tofu written on a menu at a vegetarian restaurant with vegan options; then i fainted
– i’ve only been sexually harassed twice in 24 hours
– parts of it remind me of small new england towns
– i’ve seen four! bookstores
– the sun is not trying to destroy me
– the humidity is not trying to choke me
– they should reconsider this whole 70s public housing brick building motif
– pedestrians are still at the bottom of the food chain
– stop signs and turn signals just confuse me
– the poor barrios in the mountains have paved sidewalks, streets, and electricity
– downtown is unimpressive and blah
– i miss santa marta
i don’t mean to be so linear in my description of my time here: phase two to follow phase one, to be followed by phase three, and all that jazz. but this certainly feels like the next part, or a different part. i suppose i can just say i’m in transition. things are changing. the context i arrived in is morphing into something else and i’m trying to figure out how i can morph as well so as to not be pathetic, outdated lady. nobody likes her. she’s sad faced and kind of smelly. the first friends i made here have left, the volunteer role i had is not sustainable, my first apartment was suffocating me, i have lost contact with my hometown friends and family, and my intestinal tract was trying to kill me. some folks told me much of this would happen around month three. it’s time to shake things up, and ensure it doesn’t make me vomit.
beautiful, random chance, or something else, threw lovely people my way when i arrived. i was able to adapt to this place well. being someone who is not terribly social, doesn’t intoxiparty, and finds most folks difficult to engage with, it was quite fortunate to meet these guys. i relied on them for quite some time and now i have to up my social game. and i despise organized sports. meep.
i’ve whined plenty at this point about volunteering, so i won’t delve into it too much, but… honestly, i don’t know where to put myself in that shit show. part of me just wants to get a job, watch tv, have sex, and buy shit. yeah! because now and then, i completely forget why i came here in the first place; in the in between moments, i feel ready to go back. for the first time, i’m starting to miss my city. i went on craigslist, even.
my landlord suddenly became a crazy, alcoholic, coke fiend. i think it’s coke. he could be freebasing oxycotin, which is apparently a thing. he took issue with my active sex life with my samarian, and i had to put the smack down on his paternalistic, misogynistic, xenophobic nonsense. he hasn’t looked at me straight since. his mom and grandma moved in too. grandma would randomly walk into my room and turn the lights off because she thought i’m not there. and she’d stare into my window, which was just spooky. i think she’s got a bit of the alzhies, poor thing. i moved out yesterday. i’ve now got a cute little expensive studio apartment closer to the city center with all the amenities. how very san francisco of me. i have a feeling this is not what i’m supposed to be doing. supposedly.
and now i will do the unthinkable: travel. i’m off to medellin for a minute and then wind up the coast back to santa marta. i’m hoping vacating from my vacation will trigger memories of the inspiration for my self-deportation. wish me luck. proxima estacion…