Friday, 19 November 2010

Puente Trip: Neiva and San Agustín, The Series- Part 2: SAN AGUSTÍN

On to the next town people...... San Agustín also located to the south of Colombia boasts picturesque mountain landscapes where history and eco- tourism are alive.

The day was Saturday 13th November, 2010, the place was the Bus Terminal in Neiva, the time was 2:30AM and I was sleeping on myself like a drunken old man. What happened was that we wanted to take the 2AM bus from Neiva to San Agustín because we wanted to have an entire day of adventure in SA. Being the smart people we are, we decided to do an all nighter, go straight to the Terminal and sleep on the bus. The 2AM bus didn´t come on time and thus, I was sleeping on myself in the people Bus Terminal. Finally, about minutes to four the bus showed up and by this time I was extremely tired, annoyed and grumpy. There´s nothing to say about the bus ride except that I slept for five hours under a thin coverled on an airconditioned bus.

I was awaken by a woman´s voice asking for the coverleds and announcing that we were in San Agustín. With sleep still evident on my face and "yampy" in my eye I had my first view of SA- lush, green mountains against a clear blue sky- simply marvellous! Suddenly, this guy comes out of nowhere and starts talking to us. I immediately entered a state of "pissivity" because I had just got up and it was too early to be talked to in Spanish by this really annoying fellow who had us standing there for like five minutes. Looking back at that incident, I could understand why he was so... ahm, enthusiastic about us renting his horses. Tourism is the main source of income for people in this town, he was just doing his part to ensure that his family had food on the table. So Enrique* (not his actual name), Garvin´s World salutes you and your work ethic!

With Enrique behind us, we made our way to El Jardín/ The Garden, a quaint hostel where you pay 12,000 pesos a night to rest your head. On entering the hostel, I noticed that the courtyard was filled with an array of plants and colourful flowers as well as some noisy birds- I think they were parrots- in a cage. The owner of the hostel was a short woman who seemed to be well mannered and pleasant. She carried us to our room which had six beds and a private bathroom. It was really cozy albeit a little small with scratchy sheets, a door that wouldn´t lock properly and the little "towel" they gave to all occupants. As we were settling in, Olga- our friendly, neighbourhood tourist actitivy planner person- graced us with her presence. A squat lady with short hair and toes that hung over her shoes with a face that screamed, "I LOVE MONEY!" Olga´s main purpose was to tell us about the fun activities we could do and to organize said activities for us. The activity for Day One would be a Jeep Tour and the activity for Day Two would be a Horseback Tour.

The Jeep Tour cost us 30,000 pesos each and Olga busied herself with the preparations. As we were waiting for the jeep to arrive, we had the pleasure of meeting Ray, a retired Norwegian viking. Ray actually knew where Trinidad and Tobago was, having been there himself and he would be going on the tour with us, so why not be amicable? Ray was a really cool, entertaining guy and I liked the fact that he had travelled to different Latin American countries, something that I would like to do one day. Ray spoke only a few words of Spanish and it was hysterical the way he tried to communicate with the natives. However, Ray´s views were very Euro- centric in that he believed that everything was better in Europe and he had no problem voicing his opinions. One would think that if everything was better in Europe he would travel within Europe. Anywho, enough about Ray, I should talk about the Jeep Tour and what I saw before this blog post goes on FOREVER!

The first stop on the Jeep Tour was the Río Magdalena, the biggest river in Colombia that runs through a lot of cities. We visited what you would call a stretch of the Magdalena where one could take photos, climb on the rocks and just take in nature´s beauty. I really wanted to take a swim but my friends pointed out that that would be almost impossible given the fact that the river probably has some really strong currents. Ah well, it was just wishful thinking. The second stop was an Archaeological Park where we had the opportunity to see some tombs from the times of the indigenous peoples that occupied the region. In the museum itself, there were different relics from the indigenous times as well but what really stood out to me was a mural that was painted on the wall of the museum. The mural depicted the lives of the indigenous, before and after the arrival of the Spanish. Basically, at the beginning of the mural one could see that the indigenous lived a life in harmony with nature, worshipping their statues and being happy. As the mural progressed it depicted the lives of the indigenous and of course, the eventual arrival of the Spanish. The artist used fire, blood, tears, skeletons, animals and men, all intermingled to show the destruction that the Spanish brought upon the indigenous peoples. I spent a long time looking at this image because it was so vivid and as a History student, I appreciated this piece of art for what it showed. The third stop on the tour was to another museum where we had to hike to the top of a hill- mountain. Hiking to the top was a pain but the view at the top was worth every drop of sweat. Words can´t truly describe how amazing that view was but a few come to mind like majestic, breath- taking and inspiring. We froliced under the San Agustín sun, taking photos, jumping around, enjoying life and looking at tombs and statues *insert moment of nostalgia* The last two stops were to two waterfalls, they were just as beautiful as everything else in San Agustín.

The tour ended at 6PM and we returned to the hostel. I felt so inspired and refreshed from my tour. There´s something about culture that enriches your life, makes you reflect on everything that you´ve been through and gives you impetus to go on and conquer the world. My next blog post speaks about one such "life changing" experience. Until next time!!!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Puente Trip: Neiva and San Agustín, The Series- Part 1: NEIVA

To the south of Colombia lies a little town called Neiva where the climate is very similar to the Caribbean, the people are warm, welcoming and wear short pants to school and ride motorcycles. *insert moment of nostalgia* Living in this town is a fellow Trinidadian English language assistant named Lisa* (not her actual name)
who was nice enough to invite us to her home away from home- props to you :D

The day was Thursday 11th, November 2010, the time was 5:30pm and the place was aboard the Coomotor bus on its trip to Neiva. I knew this bus ride would be an interesing one from the get go since five minutes into the trip the bus driver crashed into this guy knocking him off his motorcycle (Oh, the horror!) All "man jack"- Trinidadian and Colombian alike- got out of their seats and poked their head out of the windows to see exactly what happened to the poor guy (apparently macoing is universal). The icing on the cake was when the bus driver looked out the window and asked his co- pilot, "¿Lo cogí?" or "Did I hit him?" Well, I buss out one laugh, fully aware that this was not a laughing matter but then again I have my schizophrenic moments. I wanted to yell at the driver and tell him, "Of course you hit the guy! Did you think the guy just likes lying on the ground, holding his head with his motorcycle on its side?" Shock does make you ask some stupid questions yes but then again some people do that even without being in shock. Eventually, the whole commotion was taken care off and after thirty minutes in bumper to bumper traffic we were finally on the open road to Neiva.

One hour into the trip this aroma starts to creep through the bus. Apparently, Mr. Toilet decided that he wanted to grace us with his pungent smell and make our noses explode. Hours Two and Three were spent catching up on my "handsome" sleep, I mean all this- meaning the fineness that is Garvin- takes time and rest. By Hour Four I was hungry, restless with a numb butt and wanting very much to reach my desination. Hour Five was spent in wonder as the bus had stopped on this DARK, EERIE stretch of road quite similar to Wallerfield in East Trinidad to pick up some construction workers with their dusty slipper- clad feet. I mean, REALLY? Then I´m further shocked as the driver stopped again, this time to pick up a woman with a bread basket and a tub of gaseosas (soft drinks). Naturally, Ms. Lady started to walk down the aisles selling her products. I was perplexed because, 1) she looked really sweaty as though she had been sitting under a tree for ages, 2) her fingernails looked as though she had been digging in the various orifices of her body for the whole day, 3) her clothes were tight thereby accentuating all the rolls in her body and 4) her hair was loose and kinda dirty. I´m not scornful eh but when you have to buy something to eat from somebody you have to be careful. By Hour Six I had had enough of this bus ride and was over the moon when the bus slowed down and the co- pilot said, "¡Neiva!"

My first few moments of enjoying my first view of Neiva were cut short as an old man who had been on the bus with us went running behind the bus screaming, "¡Aye, Aye, Aye!" *insert giggle* Apparently, poor Gustavo* (not his actual name) had got off the bus to pee and took too long so he missed the bus. It was a sight to behold, poor Gramps running as fast as his old legs would carry him, yelling for the bus and the people in the Terminal laughing at him. I swear I only laughed as I was writing this blog post (starts to hear the lyrics of that song, "Teacher Percy say if you tell a lie, yuh goin´ to hell as soon as yuh die!"). What an ending to an interesting bus ride.

After two hours of sleep, I got up the next day for a little "tour" of Neiva as my friends and I accompanied our friend Lisa* to her University. The first thing I noticed was that the climate in Neiva was very similar to that of Trinidad except for the lack of breeze and unnatural humidity. My only problem was that after three months of cold, cold weather in Bogotá my body had started to acclimatise after three months meaning that the heat in Neiva was sooooooo unbearable at the beginning. I was sweating, hyper- ventilating and I was just out of my element, so much so that I was fishing for words when the students asked me questions. *Just take a moment to understand the GRAVITY of this situation. I, Garvin Tafari Parsons was at a lost for words.* It struck me how different Neiva was to Bogotá. The people are so much friendlier and so much more welcoming than the majority of people here in Bogotá. The "busetas" (little buses) cost 1000 pesos (cheap over here). More surprisingly was the fact that if every seat in the bus is occupied the people- Neivans, I suppose- don´t enter. Believe me after three months of being in a city where every bus is usually FILLED TO CAPACITY, this was a welcome surprise. Overall, it was just amazing being in another part of Colombia for the first time.

This post more or less focused on the bus ride to Neiva but the truth is that the majority of my trip was spent in San Agustín. The adventures from my two days in San Agustín would include three blogs. YIPPEE!!! God bless everyone :D

Puente Trip: Neiva and San Agustín Series


This weekend I had the luxury of having four long days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday) to myself. So like any foreigner in another country, I packed my suitcase and left Bogotá to have fun with my fellow Trinis (love all yuh) and to seek adventure in another part of Colombia. Naturally, I have to share with you, my fellow readers the adventures I had during these four days. The problem is that sooooooo many things happened during my trip and it´s almost impossible to include them all in one blog post without boring you to DEATH- although my life is anything but boring- I should be considerate to your needs.

As usual, I had a BRILLIANT idea and decided to create a series of blogs to describe everything that happened. The series will be called, "Puente Trip: Neiva and San Agustín, The Series" and it will include about five blogs over the course of two weeks.

Hopefully, you guys would read the blogs in the series and share in my experiences. I´m EXCITED, are you?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

I LOVE my Job!!

I have the GREATEST job in the world! I mean it from the bottom of my heart. No, I`m serious- I absolutely LOVE my job!

What´s not to love about a repetitious job? I mean I get to do the same thing from Monday to Friday, five hours everyday. You must be CRAZY if you`ll get bored and frustrated by all this in three months. I get to see the same people everyday and I get asked the same questions- "How are you?", "What did you do this weekend?", "Did you get enough rest?" and the million dollar question, "How are you coping with the weather?" Who needs excitement at their job? Who needs to feel the desire to get off their beds at 6AM in the morning to go to said job? Who needs to feel a sense of purpose at their job? Surely I don`t and that´s why I LOVE my job.

OMG, I absolutely enjoy teaching/ tutoring unenthusiastic students, the majority of which can be found at this University. They`re just so adorable with their Longman Dictionaries suitable for Secondary School level Spanish and their failure to understand that at the University level a higher level of work is required. They are a teacher`s DREAM! Going to classes is even more FUN, who wouldn`t want to stand in front a class explaining their heart out about a completely boring topic whilst trying to make the class interesting and have some students completely ignore you, others whispering about you and the rest looking at you with, "I am lost" evident in their facial expressions? I envy people that don´t have a job like this and in the words of Harry Potter after he was possessed by Lord Voldemort in the last few chapters of The Order of the Phoenix, "I feel sorry for you!"

The opportunity to work alongside some of the most deceitful people in Bogotá has always been a dream of mine. From their fake smiles to their mock concern for your well- being to their backstabbing ways- I LOVE it all. I mean if a woman can use a simple, fun Karaoke party as a means of having a student banned from entering "her" office again, she most definitely must be my hero, I can learn so much from her. I LOVE it here.

Oh and if you missed it, SARCASM was most definitely intended! Although it´s obvious that I "LOVE" my job, I must say that being in Bogotá is a great opportunity to broaden my horizons and improve my Spanish. I thank God everyday for this opportunity and Shubh Divali to all :D

Tricky Tricky Halloween

Woohoo, my trip to Bogotá is like a gift that keeps on giving me new experiences and last week was no different as I attended my first Halloween party.

Before I even thought about attending a Halloween party I had to come up with a costume. The problem was that Halloween fell on a month end and this Afro- Trinidadian had NO money to spend on a costume that I was only gonna wear once. As such, I had to resort to my creativeness that comes with being a Language student and make my own costume. I started to think about different costume ideas that I can put together with the clothes I had in my suitcases and a needle and thread. After a week of "ponderations" -yes, I know this is NOT a word- I had three finalists- a baby costume (cloth diaper with safety pins, a vest, a bib and a hat), Harry Potter (a black version)or a nerd (tight pants, white socks, mismatched shirt and tie, suspenders and glasses). Eventually, I decided on the nerd costume since I had most aspects of the costume and I kinda look like a nerd already. The only thing missing from my costume were the suspenders so I grabbed an old sweater from my suitcase, a pair of scissors and I got to work.

About two hours later with my suspenders sewn onto my pants and my nerd costume complete (look to the top of the blog page for a visual), it was time to party. The party was GREAT, there was a Vallenato band, lots of Salsa music and of course, my favourite Reggaeton. I partied the night away with my fellow Caribbean langauge assistants who were dressed as an angel, a witch and a cowgirl. Oh yes, good times!

Another aspect of Halloween that I got to experience for the first time was the actual Trick or Treating. Sadly, Apt. 202 didn´t have one sweetie to offer the lil children from around the apartment complex. However, our lack of sweeties didn´t stop them from ringing our doorbell AND knocking the door several times apparently, they really wanted those sweets. Our dear, old land lady Maritza suggested that we turn off the living room lights so as to fool the kiddies into thinking that there was nobody at home. How mean! Luckily, they had some luck with our neighbours, whom I have never seen since I´ve been here, because I could hear them singing, "Tricky, Tricky Halloween. Quiero dulces para mi." OMG, if this isn´t the epitome of cuteness I don´t know what is!

Well, well, well I must say that my first Halloween was quite interesting. What shall I experience next in Colombia? You´ll have to keep visiting my blog to find out.