I think it was when I was in Costa Rica that Jessica started talking to me about visiting me in Bogota. It was hard to estimate how much time I would need to get there, so that she could buy a flight with enough time in advance. And Jessica struggled with the safety issue. Her parents freaked out — since Colombia’s had a bad history, they assumed it was still a war zone. After lots of consideration, Jessica decided to just do it. We set the date, and she bought the ticket. I was pumped.
I had busted my ass riding through Colombia to get to Bogota in time to meet her when she arrived. I did lots of over-80-mile days, and a few 100-mile ones. I didn’t want the possibility of not being there when she arrived.
Before I took the bus out to meet her at the airport, I bought a mango as a welcoming gift. Mangoes were kind of a symbol for me — an exotic, sweet treat that was a rarity in my old life, but I’d been able to find on the side of the road on this trip.
I waited at arrivals with a lot of anticipation. When I saw Jessica, it was unreal! An old friend in a foreign country — now an International friend. It was a great moment for both of us.
We took a taxi back to the hostel, and Jessica wanted to take a quick look around before going to bed. We stepped into a small convenience store that had tables and chairs set up, and ordered a couple of beers. An old man came up and greeted us. He laid out an essay he’d written, and then returned to his table. He was a professor, and his paper was written in Spanish. I took a quick look and couldn’t read it but when he returned, I congratulated him on it. The professor’s mind was weird — he was all over the place. The store keeper yelled at him to not bother us anymore — the professor took his essay and recoiled into his lonely corner.
It was great to have Jessica around so that I could take some time off my bike tour. It was like a vacation from this year-long journey of not working. We toured the city seeing lots of sites and having treats along the way.
We did have some conflict though. When we were looking for a place to eat for dinner, we were in a ritzy part of town. The prices were around $10 per meal — cheap by American standards, but I’d gotten used to Colombian prices. I resisted those places and assured her we could find somewhere better. But we didn’t, and she got frustrated. Jessica said she wanted to enjoy herself and just spend some money on a nice place — “It’s my vacation!” I felt bad, and cheap, but I realized later … “Hey, it’s my bike tour!” I was on a budget and got used to a certain style of living. I probably shouldn’t have been difficult, and the prices weren’t really that bad, but it had been a while since I’d had to compromise.
We reconnected over jugoes naturales, “spreadables” (wafer sandwich of arequipe (caramel), blackberry, and more!), and native hot chocolate. And Jessica and I got out of the city one day. We took a day trip to a village outside of Bogota where there were hot springs. On the bus, a Colombian took an interest in us, and spoke really good English — he turned out to be an English teacher. We hung out with him, and when we arrived in his village, he treated us to a classically Colombian lunch; I just remember a lot of meat — I usually finish meals but it was too much, and kind of gross. Our Colombian friend brought us to his house, which was right across from the hot springs. We had a tour of his house, and he told us that if we wanted, we could stay the night. Readers may think it sounds creepy, but he was genuine and kind. There is nothing sweeter than a stranger’s kindness.
Jessica and I left our friend to go to the hot springs, but it turned out to be disappointing — a developed facility that catered mostly to old people. And it was expensive. We opted out. We had gotten an authentic experience instead.
Being together for over a week took it’s toll though. Our relationship definitely had highs and lows. I want to remember a few of the lows.
As we were walking through an underground bus transfer station, Jessica was taking some photos. A security guard gave her a stern look and a wag of the finger. I thought it was stupid and I wanted to support Jessica’s side on it, so I scoffed at it as we walked on. Jessica cut me off immediately — “Don’t make that face! You’re so skeptical of everything, Eoin!”
Jessica did a great job of documenting the trip. She had her camera out a lot of the time. On the few occasions I was in a shot of a street scene, I gave a corny peace sign. Just having fun. Being lame. Kind of a call-back to times with Ryan. This will come up later.
One night when we were looking for a place to eat, Jessica spotted a place that served soup. I don’t really like soup because it doesn’t offer a lot of food bulk — I like low price, high volume. I didn’t really want to eat there, but I was indecisive. Jessica called me out and said “Lighten up! Let’s just eat here.” I was offended because it seemed like a rude comment, so I told her, and that led to a heated session of letting out our frustrations. One complaint she had was that I was being disrespectful of her photos by always doing that stupid peace sign. I hadn’t realized it, but it was definitely annoying. Jessica and I let it all out and then we made up. Reaffirmation. Although it was a negative time, I felt a lot closer to her afterward than I had before. Bonding through conflict.
Although Jessica didn’t want to CouchSurf, we met up with Julian and his friends a few times. We also attended a couple of CouchSurfing meet-ups. One was for practicing English speaking. We could do that! By the end of it, Jessica had a crowd of Colombian guys gathered around her, enthralled. It was bizarre, and there were a couple of creeps in the mix. The other CouchSurfing meet-up was to attend this seemingly traditional Bull Fighting event. It was strange though. The shape of a bull was traced with gasoline and set on fire. Then after it had burned out, a guy came out with a broom and swept the sand along that tracing. All he did was sweep in that same loop. Countless times and there was no sign of him stopping after about 30 minutes. People started leaving, so we did the same. Performance art gone wrong — does it ever go right?