Thursday, August 16, 2007

Entering Colombia

As the plane hovered over the runway for landing I looked out the window in surprise. I saw herds of cows grazing on green farmland and beautiful trees parallel to the tarmac. They were trees I had never seen before. Was this really the El Dorado airport? Was this Bogota, a city of more than seven million people...

On a tourist visa I had read and been told that 90 days was the most I'd be given at customs. I hoped to talk with a woman. I got a man. He asked me, in Spanish, where I was staying. I told him in Chia with a friend. (Chia is the first town north of Bogota). Then he asked for how long. I told him I wanted three to six months. He shook his head and said no. Then stamped my passport and wrote 60 under the word dias. I wasn't worried. I'd get a renewal. He could have given me one month if he wanted. It's a strange business with those customs agents... I'm sure they have some guidelines but no one was there to monitor their decisions. Walking out of baggage claims I passed through a security checkpoint into a room with doors along the far wall to the outside. In the room some people waited in line to have their luggage put through a scanning machine. I didn't want to wait so I just walked outside where people lined shoulder-to-shoulder, some with signs, for the arriving parties. I walked along this human wall until a short, stout man with a bushy brown mustache said, "Brett." I had told him I´d be wearing a red shirt and blue jeans. Granted I wasn't hard to find. Colombia isn´t exactly a hotspot for six-foot white white men from America. It was Luis Carlos Mejia, the cousin of my friend in Chicago. I'd be staying with him in Chia until I found a place in Bogota. It was drizzling and I was glad he was there to give me a ride.

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