05 April 2010

Guest Blog: Travelling with Kristin and Danny

Our friend, Janie, is guest blogging today:

On March 1st, 2010 my life changed. The man I had been dating for the past year and with whom I was madly in love, suddenly broke things off with little explanation and even littler warning. On March 2nd I booked a trip to Colombia to meet Kristin and Danny for two weeks. Planning the trip gave me a distraction, something to read about, something to be excited about, and something to do over spring break with the dreaded empty time. I also knew that K&D would give me back my hope, since being around people in good relationships always seems to help the rest of us see what it can feel like when two people come together with shared dreams, love, and the energy to become an "us". K&D have that feeling of "I CAN'T WAIT TO SPEND THE REST OF MY LIFE WITH YOU!", and it feels good just to watch their healthy tan faces plan the bus route together.

Traveling with them, however, may not be entirely comfortable for everyone - and I say this with complete appreciation for all styles of travel. I like a daiquiri poolside and watching american tv in the air con after a long day in the tropical heat just like everyone else, but K&D don't roll like that. You will find yourself having a great time drinking hand filtered water and eating store bought peanuts on a 40 year old schoolbus, talking about the merits of colonizing mars or how epigenetics really works, but you may not be as "comfortable" as you would prefer. We started off our trip in Bogota, at the house of an Uncle of Danny's friend. An important sidenote: they are Christian missionaries who have been helping in Colombia for 12 years.

This was my first moment of saying, "Weelllll....let's see how this goes". And wouldn't you know it, I ended up having absolutely fantastic meals, conversations, and even had the chance to go out to a farm with 24 parentless children where we helped fix bikes and played soccer. Grant, Danny's friend's Uncle, and his wife, Kathleen, gave us an insight into a world we likely never would have seen and as they prepared Colombian meals (with vegetarian options) and told us story after story, I began to feel like I had been given a completely unexpected gift. During our time in Bogota, we ate cheaply, took the local buses (another uncomfortable - but hilarious situation), and planned our trip up North to the Caribbean.

It just so happened that flights (1.5 hours and safe) to the Caribbean were cheaper than buses (22 hours and maybe not safe), and so we booked flights for 1 week of travel to Cartagena and Santa Marta, score 1 for comfortable travel and zero for getting hijacked on a 22 hour bus! When we arrived, our hostel was ok. Humid lounge area and tiny spaces, but they did have computers available, coffee around the clock, and we met some interesting folks. K&D may appear at first to be antisocial, but I learned that this is due to the repetition of the "hostel conversation", a boring list of questions referring only to where you have been and where you are going, peppered with overzealous recommendations based on dubious memories of mediocre travel destinations from people who largely like to party while traveling.

As someone who is excited about local foods, K&D appear to have lost interest and prefer to stick to to grocery store bought avocados, whole grain bread, bananas, yogurt, granola and the like. I often found myself feeling like I was missing out on some of the culinary delights, but whenever I tried them, they weren't so delightful and I felt much better eating with K&D as opposed to experimenting with street food or spending too much money for a fried fillet of white fish and rice. For those of you planning trips to meet K&D, please feel free to eat what you like and drink as much and often as you like, but be warned that you may find yourself alone for that element of your trip. I talked them into a few meals out, but our meals in were much more creative and fun (breakfast: best oatmeal ever, eaten out of a pot with 3 spoons, lunch: peanut butter & jelly, prepared on your own lap, dinner: fantastic spaghetti from minimal ingredients, cooked in a stolen kitchen in a random "ecohotel", also eaten out of a pot with 3 minimally functional forks).

When I was flying home from my trip visiting them, I felt I had learned so much and had such a great time, it was like putting neosporin on the cut of my break up. You know the commercials that show no scar from the lady that used neosporin compared to the one that didn't? That is how being with K&D was for me. It was vibrantly fun, physically strenous, financially about as cheap as it gets, and they gave me such a gift of time and great conversations. I encourage anyone looking to break out of a rut, have an adventure, heal a broken heart, or just explore a new part of the world to go visit them - and to be open to the wonders of cheap discomfort. You may have a better time than you would have with that poolside daiquiri.

Sharing photos with the boys on the farm, after a breath-taking soccer game (at 2700 meters).

Old Town Cartagena.

Old Town Cartagena.

The digs at Playa Blanca.

Just as Janie described it - making the best of what we have, in terms of food, shelter and entertainment.

Just outside our campsite at Tayrona National Park.

Sunset at Tayrona National Park.

Standing atop the Kogi ruins of El Pueblito.

Hiking through the tropical jungle to find El Pueblito, and then eventually to a small town where we could get a ride home.

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