Sunday, November 13, 2011

Medellin, Fruit, Friends and Fun

I have so much to share - so many blessings to express.

We flew on Spirit Airlines. I have mixed feelings about Spirit. The employees were all wonderful. The airline company itself sucks. Does that sound fair and accurate? The personnel were wonderful - caring, knowledgeable, entertaining, attentive. Oh, and we got there and came home in one piece, which is always a plus. Spirit charges for every little thing: carry on bags, checked bags, a cup of water, assigned seats and leg room. The joke is that the CEO has decided not to charge to use the bathroom but he is trying to figure out how to charge for toilet paper. My friend needed a fork and they offered her a lay-a-way plan. Pre-Assigned seats be from $10 to $50 a seat. We paid $10 each to sit together in 1 row but it was row 18. The further back the rows, the closer your seat is to the seat in front of you. Of the three of us I was the tallest at five foot four and yet all three of us had knees touching the back of the seat in front of us. If the men who sat in row 17 had reclined their seats we would have been unable to exit our own seats. How bad was it? I have a regulation sized carry on bag made to fit under the seat of a plane. My seat was so close to the seat in front of us the regulation sized bag could not fit in the space between the seats in the row to be lowered to the floor. 

Arriving in Medellin we went through immigration, baggage claim and customs. Then we passed the window for exchanging money. Here I had my one and only bad experience of the trip. I was short changed 40,000 Pesos. (1,800 Pesos = $1.00 US). One of my friends who arrived earlier that morning was also short changed at that window. New Rule: Do not exchange money at the airport. 

People who came to the airport to pick us all up were waiting with signs, smiles and hugs. During the hour ride to Medellin in a nine-person vehicle, our driver and interpreter told us about everything we were seeing along the country side and roadways. We we arrived at the hotel there were guards to check out our cab before it could enter the hotel property. The Hotel Intercontinental in Medellin makes sure that the cabs that pick up at the hotel are authorized taxis and not questionable operators. The taxi drivers do not expect a tip in Columbia and the cost of the hour trip for all nine of us was less than $50 US. Try to get that here in a metropolitan area. I know in Orlando it would have been over $130.00. 

We entered the hotel and were greeted by as many as a dozen men and women who gave us hugs and kisses and welcomed us to share at their convention. We all tried our best to understand each other but I have to tell you: simple words, hugs, hand gestures and facial expressions make up for fluency when the one common language is recovery from food addiction.

The bellmen at the hotel were amazingly quick and considerate in their service to us. I was staying at some one's home in town that night but they held my luggage and would not accept a tip until it was actually brought to my room when I checked in the next day.

Then I met the lovely woman who was to be the greatest gift of the trip: Ana Sofia. Ana Sofia was the hostess for two of us that evening. We left the hotel with her and went to her apartment to drop off our things and begin an exciting tour of the city. We met several of her friends in recovery from food addiction, ate at a local restaurant in her neighborhood, traveled all through Medellin on the Metro, saw the Soccer stadium, several plazas and took the gondola to the top of the mountain and back - and that was just the first size hours in Columbia!

I went to the food store and purchased many of the nine different fruits I would try on this trip. The other day I posted this photo and asked you which fruit did not belong. It was a trick question. While the apple in the photo was an apple I brought with me into Columbia, they had the very same apples available in their stores. Their word for apples is manzana. 

Beds in Medellin do not have springs the way we are used to having in the USA. That did make sleeping a little harder at first but we were so happy to be with such a wonderful spirit as Ana Sofia it was truly a small price to pay. The next morning Ana took us back to the hotel to attend a meeting that included a sampling of recovering food addicts from all over the world. The luncheon was on a large balcony and we were told that it was the location used for a luncheon when Condoleezza Rice was in Medellin. At the luncheon they served beverages of juices that are truly only juice. The Colombian people do not see a need to add anything to their fruit juice. I tried a green juice called lulo. It was tart and tangy and had just a hint of sweet in it. After the lunch, Ana Sofia took three of us to a private salsa lesson and the Plaza Botero before we returned to the hotel. There will be a separate post on wonderful things that stemmed from the dance lesson and the Plaza Botero. 

 The hotel beds were very firm. Two beds in each room, the beds were wider than twin but not as wide as full size beds. That night the people from the group who invited us to Medellin took us to see their offices and then they took us out to dinner at a great restaurant that was prepped in advance to prepare the food according to our particular food plans. In South American restaurants the salad for one person we have here would be expected to feed a table of six, along with arapas, plantains, rice, beans and meats or fish. But since our hosts already knew our food needs all the restaurants had adequate vegetables for each one of us. 

Friday and Saturday I was in business meetings almost the whole time and there is nothing you want to know about that trust me. One important thing about coffee: in Columbia the ONLY decaffeinated coffee comes in instant packets and they are not available at most dining locations. The real coffee, fully brewed and served in small cups, is wonderful . I only had it twice because I normally avoid caffeine. It was very good coffee, as would be expected in the land of Juan Valdez. 

On Sunday there was a wonderful closing ceremony for the convention and then we went to lunch at a local place with wonderful beef and fish. Dinner was at the hotel: salmon and sea bass - fabulous and under $30.00, including gratuity, tax and beverage. 

The weather was beautiful and I took full advantage of the pool, spa, Jacuzzi and sauna. Leaving all the people we met and shared with was not easy. It is so wonderful that we have electronic communication available to us so we can stay in contact in 2011. Being in continued contact with people is more meaningful to me than a trinket on a shelf or a scrapbook of memories. I want to enjoy the now and look forward to the future. 

There is a chance I will go to Venezuela next year, or perhaps Ecuador in two years. The world is getting smaller and I like that today.

Next post: The 28 year-old latin dance instructor who helped me find my mojo.



Unknown said...

Hi Jane! Very interesting post! Did you like those new fruits you show above? What are they named, anyway?

:-) Marion

Maren said...

Love the pictures! Looks like you had a great trip!

Fatoutofskinny said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Look forward to the next installment.

Vickie said...

loved every word and picture!