I’d like to take a moment to recognize the late great Billy Mays, who will always be mighty and leave my heart like putty. Okay that’s a lie, I’m not here to honor Billy Mays. However, I would like to honor the great moments and people I’ve met on this trip. I’ve made so many memorable connections and memories, and also seen some things that are quite ridiculous, and there’s nothing I love more in this world than ridiculousness. So, in no particular order, here are some of the things I’ll always remember so far that I’d like to share.
Night one: dinner in Cartagena. I can confidently say this was the best dinner of my life, and it had nothing to do with the food. It was simply one of those moments in time where the emotions, the company, and the setting lined up to create a sliver of perfection in such an imperfect world. Jordan and I arrived at the hostel in the afternoon and quickly found ourselves in the pool, which was really more like a bath, but still better than baking in the pure Cartagena sun.
Mangos in the pool: A quick detour here because this was one of the silly and unique moments most people have probably never experienced. This lukewarm pool in Cartagena is situated neatly beneath a sprawling mango tree, and these mangos be droppin. They aren’t the mini mangos, either. Legitimate, sexually mature mangos will fall on your head if you’re not careful. One of them landed inches from a guy’s shoulder and plopped into the pool. Ten minutes later, the same thing happened over his other shoulder. We laughed. I cut the mangos up and we ate them.
I would consistently yell “mango party!” every time I went into the pool, and most of the time nobody knew what the hell I was talking about, but they would always find out. Once a mango dropped in the pool I would again yell “Mango party!” and it was then understood. There are more mangos than people can eat here. In Minca, when the mangos fell on the tin roof above the restaurant, they sounded like gun shots. We debated weather it would be worse to die from a mango or a coconut falling on your head. We agreed a mango would be worse because it seems a bit pathetic.
Circling back to dinner in Cartagena. Jordan and I met a few new friends in the mango pool, and we all agreed to go to dinner. A couple hard partying Americans, a beautiful Belgian girl, a couple British boys, and a 19 year old from Amsterdam who we somehow always lost but all grew to love. The restaurant was stunning: dimly lit with proper candle placement, and the best DJ we’ve had so far on the trip. Colombia knows how to set a vibe.
Something that’s also hilarious as an American is that you can just walk into a nice restaurant with a beer you were already drinking and sit down. Or at least you could with this one, because the other Americans did exactly that. One of them was the generous type who likes to party and will let you know about it. At first you might think he’s a bit too much of a bro, but then you hang out with him and grow to love him for the wild person he is. He bought a bunch of appetizers for us all to share, and they were delicious.
Jordan and I sat on the side of the table with the two Americans and the Belgian girl, who is one of those women that makes you feel like you’ve wasted your time admiring anyone else. She’s traveling all around South America by herself and has no problem hanging out with the guys. She’s cool, fun, and down to earth and enjoys even the most offensive and ridiculous jokes thrown about. Not to mention looking into her eyes is like seeing the forest for the first time. It was my first night in Colombia and I was struck by the fact that women like this even exist.
I think that’s one of the best things about traveling; stepping into a new world and realizing there’s a lot more out there than you could have ever been exposed to in your little bubble at home. Whether it’s a career, a culture, an experience, or a person, there’s always someone or something that will shatter our preconceptions of what we understood beforehand.
There was a lot of that at this dinner. The experience in total opened up a whole new world of possibilities, and my eyes have continued to be opened by the days that have followed.
Boat ride to the islands: Somehow, some way we were able to get 12 people to agree to rent a boat for the day and all 12 showed up. Most of the time it’s hard to get anyone to agree to do anything and if they do, they may or may not show up. The spirit of Colombia seems to create an abundance of outliers.
Instead of doing a guided tour with a bunch of old people for $75, each of us only had to pay $35; and we got to bring our own booze, play our own music, and dance to the beat of our own hearts. The two drivers sped us out to the islands, where our first stop was to see Pablo Escobar’s old house and then snorkel in the water where we got to touch his sunken plane. One of the guys knew how to dive and swam all the way underneath the plane. I’ve never had so much salt in my eyes. One of my favorite songs is called “Salt Eyes,” and this will definitely create a new memory to picture with the tune.
We ended up going to four or five islands in total, one of which was a sprawling sea party of locals, tourists, vendors, and fish. We ordered fried fish from the “restaurant” which again we had no idea where it actually was… but they brought the fish straight out to our ocean hut and by the eyelids of Billie Eilish was it delicious. I bought a turquoise necklace because it brings out my eyes even when they have salt in them.
At some point the twelve of us did a Congo line of front flips off the boat. There’s a video of it somewhere but I don’t think I’ll ever see it. One of the guys was a 19 year old who had never drank alcohol before, but he agreed to have his first ever shot. Then he proceeded to take two more back to back, which was hilarious because we all knew what was in store for him. He ended up handling it really well and gave us all a good laugh every time we looked over at him goofily bobbing his head around to the music. “Kevin” was also there being his suave British self, along with a few guys we had dinner with, a couple of American girls who organized the whole venture, and the group of younger dudes. We all got about as burnt as a piece of copy paper in a fire storm, especially the British guy. You can’t fight pale.
Horse hilarity in Cartagena: While Kevin was getting a gun pointed at him by the cartel, Ben and Jordan and I were eating dinner when all of a sudden a man on a horse had to stop because of the traffic in front of him. Then he proceeds to audibly yell “beep beep” while sitting on this horse, which put all of us in stitches. One thing about Colombia is that taxi drivers absolutely love their horns. Everyone is always honking here. So to see someone pull up on a literal horse and go “beep beep” was one of the funniest and most Colombian things I’ve ever seen.