It'd been so long that I'd ben "gone" that when I put my glasses on today at work, my eyes felt strange and strained.
But I am back at work today, and, for all intents and purposes, things seem exactly as I left them. But I've been so far since I was last here!
I went snorkeling for the first time ever. Traveling abroad seems to me to be a lot like snorkeling. At first, breathing through this tube is foreign and difficult. You can't believe that you'll actually get air to breathe and you resist. But once you stop resisting, and breathe, and look down below you through the clear crystal water and watch the color fish weaving in and out of the reefs below, it's just incredible
Adam and I started off for Colombia last Saturday morning, excessively early, to catch our 6 am flight to Panama City and then to Cartagena, Colombia. We took Copa Airlines up on their offer to give us vouchers for later travel if we agreed to take a later flight, though we regretted it after they barely made us to our next flight and lost Adam's reservation. Oh, and flagged us for "random search". Hi insult, meet injury. Have a free pat-down too!
But even upon arriving in Panama, I was already glad that we had come. Warm, muggy and yet still breezy, an airport full of palm trees and sun, I felt like I was back in Uganda again. It was also really nice to take off the multitude layers of sweaters, coats and rain gear that we had donned for the freezing rain that waved us goodbye in New York.
Our later flight offered us a quicker layover in Panama, and who did we run into but the Frenches (another family that is an Epworth tradition). I caught up with Mrs. French and Adam and I tried to stay awake before our next flight. I had slept the entire way to Panama but he hadn't slept at all yet.
We got to Cartagena at last, and managed to navigate our way to our secondary hotel. They were supposed to send a taxi to come and collect us to take us to the hotel we were staying at the first night, but no taxi, and we didn't even have an address! Upon arriving at the second hotel (where everyone else was staying throughout the week) we had an additional stutter start when we discovered that we had no reservations, and even worse, the hotel manager called us liars!
It was, by no means, the way I wanted to start out my vacation. But my Aunt Martha handled it wonderfully, putting us up in her rented house next door. The room, consequently, was much nicer as were the accommodations. We had a private room and a woman who fed us and washed our clothes. AND a pool! I discovered as well that I had a depth of Spanish hiding inside. Encantado!
We started off with a bang! Well, a bang and a snooze. The rehearsal dinner was held at a charming ocean-side restaurant, with live music, a cool breeze and delicious food! I even managed to say "I am a vegetarian, I don't eat meat" and they made me, specially, some grilled eggplant with Stuff. Poor Adam, exhausted from the day, fell asleep, upright, at the table, in his suit.
Had there only been some soup for him to fall into!
Sunday was another early day, when we woke up at the crack of it to go out to an island off the coast of Colombia. We arrived at our own little private beach, complete with AYCD beer, lounge chairs, sunny beaches, coconuts to drink out of and music filtering through the air from a stereo at the top end of the beach.
Oh, and a bunch of haggard-looking locals, very keen to sell us coral and pearl necklaces.
And I did, I bought some! Some as gifts, some for me. People know that I'm usually more keen on earrings than necklaces, but maybe I'll just change it up! For a little while, at least.
We also swam, and snorkeled, and the water was so salty
! I was glad to have the snorkel masks to protect my eyes. It was like the beach at Fire Island, but much prettier, mostly because the water was so radiant.
I was the only light-skinned person I think NOT to get horribly sunburned, but I know by now from Gingers 101 what to do.
We literally spent ALL DAY at the beach. We went out with the other "youngins" in the posse to see other locations in the islands. We (foolishly) decided to jump off the boat and swim around. I didn't count on 1) Adam's trouble swimming in choppy water and 2) My inability to heave my ass back up into the boat without benefit of a ladder or anything else.
All loss of dignity aside, we still had an awesome time, and I'll admit that I was sad to have to go back to the mainland. Additionally, I hadn't gotten the camera to work yet so I had to contend with a day of no picture taking either!
We got back, pooped, and had more people over for more DINNER!
Dinners in Colombia are so late. It felt really strange to us that, while we were only an hour off of our regular time GMT-wise, things all seemed to start at a much later hour every day. Dinner reservations at 10:30pm shouldn't seem strange, I guess, coming from New York, but they did!
The company was nice too, seeing people I hadn't seen in years and years, though I've discovered that I'm pretty much set in my ways of Conservation Conversations. I've transitioned into a phase where, when I talk about my time in Uganda/Congo and the chimps and their outlook, it's difficult to not be
depressing. And really, when you're depressing, no one wants to talk to you about it any more.
I was most glad to have Adam there. He brought a sense of levity even when I was feeling heavy with family drama. He was always eager to go with the flow, and I think, for the first time, I actually had free time that wasn't parameterized. It was not "have fun for 3 hours and then go and do X."
It was "have fun..."
The relief of that was immeasurably good. Even now, despite everyone else being the same cranky people, I feel like this weight has been lifted, and I've floated through the day. One of my coworkers said I seemed "spring-y". And I feel it too.
The wedding itself was beautiful, and we danced until past 1 am. Even though we went home early, I didn't feel like we missed anything. After the wedding was over, we had three whole days to decompress. And do more nothing. We went shopping, had lunches, tasted wines and generally relaxed as though we had no cares in the world.
Manicures and pedicures are huge in Cartagena, and roaming ladies who'll come to your house, or come to the beach, or come wherever you and your hands and feet are to pamper and paint them.
It didn't feel much like I was that far away from the US, funnily. Sure, everything was in Spanish, but isn't it like that in parts of California?
Everything was clean, and pretty, and brightly colored and full of flowers and relaxation.
Getting back to New York, Adam and I were both deluged with bullshit. Fred had done a terrible, irresponsible job taking care of the cats. My mother decided to yell at me, and Adam's mother immediately tried to guilt him into visiting. I don't know how long it'll last, but for now, even when the shit hits, (like it seems to be doing right now at work) I can just imagine being in the pool in Cartagena, or lying in the hammock with the breeze gusting through, playing sudoku on my DS.
Classes tonight, work tomorrow. You can't expect the world to pause forever.
Photos are here: Flickr Set