25 September 2008

The Car Blew Up

Well, sort of. We think it's going to be ok, but it sure wasn't fun last night.

Here's the story:
We get home from school to find that the dog had gotten into something and has some strange swelling on the right side of her face. We walk down to the nearest pet place, which advertises a vet, to get her checked out. Of course, the advertisements mention nothing about the vet only being in on Saturday.

So we walk home and head off to another vet, not knowing exactly where it is. Mind you, this is around 5:30 pm, right during the heart of rush hour. Traffic is ridiculous.

So we drive over to where we think the place is, but we don't see it so we continue up the hill (err..mountain) thinking it must be farther. Traffic is insane, we're stuck at stoplights, it is not pleasant.

We get to the top of the hill (probably a mile or so) and decide that the place must be back down at the bottom near the first turn that we weren't sure of taking. Now we have to head back down the hill, but the city has so many one-way streets that this is a major production. We essentially 'go around the block'--a very large block--right in our own neighborhood.

So we're chugging along (which is normal for the car), about 4 blocks from our apartment when we hear this really loud 'pop.' The car dies and I turn the wheel hoping to coast out of traffic. I can't see a damn thing for steam in front of me (which at the time I wasn't sure was steam or smoke) and I tell Jenna, through the laughter, that the car blew up.

This is when the panic hits me. It's no longer funny. The car is dead, and I don't have any idea who to call or what to do. These 2 nice guys on a motorcycle, though, do know what to do. They point out a hose that looks like it's supposed to go from the water reservoir to the engine. But there are at least 6 inches of hose gone. And the street is flooded beneath the car. The guys tell us that our hose is very common and they can fix it. So they hop on their bike and take off, telling us 'Stay here. We'll be back in 30 minutes.' (all of this 'communication' is occurring with our bad Spanish and one of the dudes' little bit of English) Where are we supposed to go? And how? The car is stuck on the side of the road! We can leave it there with the keys in the ignition, wash our hands of it, but we'd still have to pay for it.

So we wait. And sure enough, the guys come back, put the new hose on, fill the reservoir up with water, and we're good to go. The guys were really nice and helpful. We tried to give them money when they left to get the part, but they wouldn't take it; we could pay them when they got back. We paid them $25 for the part and their help. They almost wouldn't take extra money, but we made them.

We never did make it to the vet. We came home, ordered pizza, and went to bed. And Charlie's face is fine today. Go figure.

22 September 2008

New Mailing Address!

I keep forgetting to mention that Jenna and I have gotten a Mailboxes Etc. box. Which means that we have an address in Miami where mail (and packages) can be sent, and then it is forwarded here to the MBE office for us to pick it up. Mail is actually guaranteed (or at least insured) this way, which is much nicer than the former method of crossing our fingers that it makes it to our house.

I'll send out an email with the address. If I miss you for some reason, let me know.

21 September 2008

Pictures Link

Hi Again, everyone! Here is the
to my pictures. Please let me know what you think.

Sunday Laziness

I'm having a hard time getting moving today, despite going to sleep nice and early last night (before 11). At least sitting on the couch has given me the chance to catch up on some blog and online photo stuff. It's about time, right? I'll post a link to my pictures as soon as I can get it to work for me.

Things here have been pretty ordinary. School is going pretty well, although not without problems. Administration continues to be less than effective, and my kids are far from angels. But overall, I think things are better than they were last year (or at least, the end of last year).

Have I mentioned that Jenna got a puppy? She's a beagle named Charlie. She likes to chew on stuff, including my toes and much of Jenna's skin. She has a pretty big bark, but I've found that barking back helps to put her in her place. I'm not sure how much I like having a puppy around. I don't hate her by any means, but I sure don't love her. And I am annoyed by her. I don't think I'm really a pet owner.

Next Saturday a bunch of us are going out of town to Santa Fe de Antioquia, a small colonial town not too far away. There is restaurant there that is hosting a wine tasting event which should be a pretty fun time. Apparently the weather there is really nice, so I'm planning to spend a lot of time poolside. As rainy as it has been here, I'm needing the sun.

I'm also looking forward to our October break coming up soon. I'm going on a little bus trip with my friends Jen and Tina. We're going first to Rio Claro for 2 nights (which I don't actually know much about aside from it being on the way to Bogota), then on to Bogota for 2 nights where we will certainly enjoy some great food, then to Villa de Leyva for 3 nights of relaxation (apparently it is a colonial village also, with some sort of fossil museum and a spa). We've decided to splurge and fly home from Bogota to save the 9 hours it would take to bus back.

I guess that's it for now. I'd like to say that I'll be better about updating more regularly, but that would be a hollow promise.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Vacation started with staying up half the night with Sarah and Jenna before a crack-of-hell trip to the airport to send Jenna on her way back to California. That day I got to spend one last day with Sarah, who has moved on to greener pastures in China. The next day I hitched along for the ride to take her to the airport, and I did cry some on the way home. It's been a few months since she left, and I do dearly miss her.

A few days later, I made another trip to the airport, this time to pick up my very first visitor to Medellin. My drive up was uneventful, until I missed my last turn and had to take an extra trip around the roundabout ('Look kids: Big Ben, Parliament'). No problems, though. I got off at the right spot the second time and made it to the passenger pick up area with plenty of time to wait for Brian to get through security and make it out.

We spent a few days in Medellin, which included checking out the Botero statue plaza outside Museo de Antioquia, riding the metro cable to the new library on the hill, showing off my school grounds, typical lunch, and sangria followed by Ron Medellin in the park (Parque Lleras) with Tina H.

We took a night bus to Cartagena, which was a much more pleasant experience for me than for Brian. I took one of the super-duper sleeping pills I'd picked up (only ONE each day) and crashed. Poor Brian was in a jenky seat that jerked back and forth with the acceleration and braking of the bus. Oh, and don't forget that it's windy mountain roads and he got a little seasick. He was a little worse-for-wear when we got there.

We spent 4 nights at this great little hostel/motel within the walled city of Cartagena, Casa Relax. We spent our time tooling around and checking things out. The walled city is amazing--the architecture is just beautiful--and we walked up to the castillo. One of the days we tried to take a boat trip out to the Islas Rosario with our hotel owner and other guests there, but we got totally rained out and had to turn back. I was soaked to the core and will never again ignore the 'wash before using' warning on a brightly colored towel (I was also blue from the dye). The following day gave us much better weather and we were able to get on a boat to the islands with tons of other tourists. The boat ride was fun, but the overall trip was less than spectacular. We ended up at a beach, Playa Blanca, which was touted as the best beach in Cartagena. It was disappointing; the beach itself wasn't that great (I've actually been to so many better ones just in my travel here) and it was saturated with vendors. Vendors who would NOT leave us alone. Apparently 'no gracias' doesn't actually mean anything. One guy, I finally had to basically say that I didn't care how cheap his bracelet was, I did not want it. It was less than relaxing. In fact, much of Cartagena was full of these vendors who were very pushy and would not leave us (allegedly) rich gringos alone. Some of the highlights of Cartagena:
  • Sunset drinks at Cafe del Mar, on the wall overlooking the ocean.
  • Awesome eating, most notably Pelikanos, where we got a full meal including appetizers and dessert and a full bottle of wine each, for roughly $40. Total. And that is actually pretty pricey for Colombia.
  • Views from the top of the Castillo.
  • Museum of Modern Art, where we got in for $1 each.
  • The beautiful churches and the unexpected wedding we got to witness.
  • The emerald salesmen-lord, they were everywhere! And there were promociones (sales) all the time!
  • Running all over the walled city looking for a bottle of wine that wasn't 100 degrees.
  • Buying beers from the only street vendor who kept getting in trouble and being asked to leave the area by the police.
  • Unexpectedly running into Daisy and Luke and getting great advice on where to eat and where to stay next on our adventure (keep reading for more info).
From Cartagena we took a collectivo (smaller bus that moves faster and doesn't take as many passengers) to Santa Marta/Taganga. There, we met up with a travel agent (recommended by Daisy) who booked us for two nights at one of the most amazing places I've ever stayed. We stayed at a house named 'Barlovento' which is on the coast of the Caribbean, just on the outside of Colombia's Parque Tayrona, near Venezuela. The house is on a cliff over the sea, and all of the rooms have at least one completely side in order to hear and see. It was truly amazing. It was actually hard to sleep for the crashing of the waves on the rocks. The first night we were the only people in the house, which was very strange and isolating. The second night there was another guest at the house we got along with really well, and the 3 of us talked and drank into the night in the blackness that was the power outage that hit the few houses in our area. The place is, as Daisy so eloquently put it, Casa Fantastica. Although it was a tad-bit unnerving to be so isolated, it was perfect for some relaxation and I would totally go back there.

After 2 nights at Barlovento, we packed up our stuff and hiked out to the highway in hopes of caching a bus to the entrance of Parque Tayrona. The bus never came and we ended up walking the whole way, which was maybe 5 km total, but which felt like AT LEAST 6 km. It was damn hot and humid, and we both had all of our stuff for roughly 2 weeks. It was a good time.

When we got to the park, we rented horses to carry us and our stuff the 45 minutes into the area where we planned to stay, Arrecifes. The horse ride was uneventful, but it was definitely less than comfortable in the shorts I chose to wear. Once we got there, we booked a small cabin for the night and headed off for the beach. The area itself is more of a surfing beach due to the currents and big waves, but there is a decent swimming beach about a 30 minute walk away. We spent a few hours on the beach, but that was pretty much the excitement of our time there. I've heard that there is great hiking around the area, but we didn't have enough time there to do much adventuring. I think I'd like to go back and spend more time there. After one night there, we grabbed a taxi into Santa Marta to catch our plane to Bogota.

Bogota was so different in comparison to the week we had just spent: big city, faster paced, not to mention much cooler weather. We stayed at my favorite little motel, La Casona del Patio Amarillo, and explored the city. We checked out the Botero museum, part of the Gold Museum (which is currently undergoing reconstruction and only part of the collection is available for viewing), La Candelaria, Monserrate Cathedral (and the fantastic view of the city), and a really fun dance club--it was like a frat party: pay to get in and get unlimited drinks until 2 am. It was awesome. Made for a rough morning the next day, but also made for a really fun night.

I'm having a hard time remembering what else we did in Bogota (Brian when you read this, feel free to add in the comments). We decided to take a day time bus back from Bogota, which took way more time than we expected. As soon as we got back to Medellin we took a cab to McDonalds for some good old American food and called it a day.

Brian's last day in Medellin we did some last minute sight-seeing and souvenir shopping, where I randomly met a woman who sells AVON here and a man selling his own cds. The next morning we both left town on a flight to Panama City, Brian on the way to Denver and me to Wyo for some much needed family time.

My time in Wyoming went by much too fast, but it was wonderful. The highlights:
  • 4th of July at the Cabin with mom and Dad, Jason and Christy, Terry and Renee, and Christy's folks.
  • Seeing the cousins at South Pass (missed you Jill and kids!).
  • Sleeping in my bed at home.
  • Dinner with the Gray family.
  • One day with Lindsay, Jeff and Rebecca (ending with being locked out of my own house by Kemmerer's finest).
  • A quick trip to Denver for some live music (Mile High Music Fest) and visits with dear friends-and awesome homemade fish tacos at Brian's.
  • Dinner with Jana and Greg and a trip to Wal-Mart to stock up on necessities.
  • Good, familiar food.
  • Good beer.
  • Wonderful alone-time with mom and dad.
  • Taco Time,
Unfortunately, my time away didn't last long enough to be as restorative as I needed it to be (my favorite thing to do when I'm at home is to sleep in and stay in my pjs all day for days on end--seems to recharge my batteries as needed), but every minute was wonderful and I'm thankful that I was able to go. While I love living here and seeing all of the places and things I never imagined I would visit, I really do miss my family and friends in ways I never thought I would. But that is another post on its own, so I'll end for now.

And that concludes 'How I Spent My Summer Vacation.'