The intro, and the good ending....
(Fort Lauderdale, FL)
El Dorado Airport
It was Christmas, my first time to travel to Colombia alone, had limited Spanish, and had heard all of the tales about security, so, I was very apprehensive. I had to fly to Bogota, change planes and go to Bucaramanga. Because of a glitch on our part, I didn't have connecting tickets, so friends of my hosts - I had met them one time before, when they had insisted we stay overnight at their apartment when visiting them - had the tickets to deliver to me at the airport. Everything that could go wrong, seemed to do so. Plane late leaving Miami, rear row, lines in Immigration, last luggage on the belt, red light for inspection, and then outside every person in Bogota, it seemed, was at the airport to meet those coming home.
But, let's begin the GOOD STUFF NOW. The Immigration people said, "Welcome to Colombia." They were helpful and quiet, as always, I have later discovered. Others helped me by watching for my bags. The young people doing the inspecting after the red light smiled, and shook, quickly looked into, handed back my luggage and said, "Run! Maybe you can make it."
I got outside to the huge crowd, all of whom seemed to be my height, not very tall. I could not see my people. Would they recognize me? Would I recognize them?
I went inside hoping for someplace to make an announcement. Upstairs! I ran, and the person wasn't sure of English. The stranger next to me helped with the translation.
Nobody could have heard the call over the happy voices, always speaking quietly, but so many of them.
I went to the ticket counter just in case they had come there. They had not, and I just wondered what the hell I was going to do. Taxi drivers were asking if I needed a taxi, and I said not.
THEN,( this is the spectacular part! ) a lady in a multicolored long sweater asked me if I needed a taxi, and I shook my head, and quietly to myself said, "No, I need help.
She looked at me, and asked in English if I really needed help, and I said, "Yes."
"Do you mind if I help you?" She asked? To which I replied that I surely did not mind.
She asked the problem, and I told her.
She said, "First, we have to make sure you have a ticket for tomorrow." We went to the ticket counter, and she said she'd talk to "this one, she is nicer than that one." How she knew this I have no idea.
She asked if I had a phone number for my friends waiting, and I did not. She asked if I had a phone number for Bucaramanga, and I did. She said, "Ok, let's call!" We went to the phone, which needed a phone card, and again I was lost. She asked if she could get me one, and if I'd trust her with money? "Of course, I'll trust you, but all I have are dollars, no pesos." She said that would be ok, took a couple dollars, and returned with a phone card - how, I have no idea - handed me the change, told me to make sure I kept my billfold and money in my front pocket, and she made the call.
She then, said, "Let's go. Do you mind if I pull one of your suitcases?" "No, of course not." And, she did. Right outside to the fence, where Martha was now standing, and asked my new friend asked if this was the right person, and I said it was.
She then said, "Stay with me, and I'll make sure you are all right, and with your friends. She did. She stayed exactly with me until I was handed off like a little school boy. No tip could have been big enough, but she smiled when she was leaving, and said, "On, my name is Luce."
Milton had gone to get the car. We went to their home, where I spent the night, and they got me to the airport the next morning early, where he made sure I was on the right flight and all was well. Then, he went to work.
That is just one of my stories of Colombia. This is the treatment I see and get every time I go. Always, threre are wonderful surprises. As the new signs in the airport now say, "The greatest thing you have to fear is wanting to stay." Exactly. I want to stay, and hope that I can soon.
Every year, I see more and more North Americans and Europeans moving or traveling there. No wonder!