A Travellerspoint blog

Un virus esta andando!

A virus is walking...

The following is the record of our first travel illness. Be forwarned: this blog post is written in timeline form and is epically long. It is occasionally broken down into seconds.

FRIDAY January 20, 2012 6:00 AM: Wake to headache, stomach pains and dehydration.
7:30: Beg for water and lots of it.
8:30: TL returns with water and other reinforcements, then leaves to city for day with Itamar and Mateo to work on green walls.
8:35: Nausea kicks in and I see this is going to be a very long day.
9:00: Commence diarrhea and severe headache, possible fever.
9:05: Feel like shit.
9:05:30: Still feel shitty, maybe worse though.
9:06: Definitely worse.
9:06:05: My blood pressure must be low.
9:06:10: I might die today while TL is in the city.
9:06:12: Yes, I will definitely die today.
9:07:20: I can’t die, TL is already on his way to the city and wouldn’t find me for hours, and there are lots of other reasons I can’t die today.
9:07:30: Ok, I’m not going to die, I’m just sick.
9:08: Look at clock: it’s only 9:08.
9:08:10: Turn over and recount all the illnesses I’ve contracted abroad.
9:15: At least I’m not in the jungle. Si, gracias a dios que no estamos en la selva todavia!
9:15 AM- 1:30 PM: Long period of moaning, diarrhea, headache, nausea, dizziness, chills and sweat.
1:31: Enter Amalia (the woman who lives next door to our little apartment), “!Ay pobrecita, estas sola aca y enferma, te traigo aromaticas!
2:00: Return Amalia with reinforcements, the really good kind: aromatic teas made from all kinds of local plants and delicious fruits.
2:30: Still feel awful but mysterious teas and broths are beginning to work, I am convinced.
3:00: Return Amalia with her daughter Adriana to deliver rice and potatoes to the poor white woman whose husband has left her behind in such a state!
3:00-3:30: Try to eat food and speak Spanish with Amalia while the room is spinning and her daughter stares at me.
4:00: Enter TL, mi esposo (Amalia thinks we’re married) with a two different kinds of postre that I won’t be able to eat.
6:00: Grieve about illness to TL and pass out.
7:00: Arrive Itamar and Mateo with delicious meals for both of us.
7:15: Think about all the times people have taken care of me in sickness abroad.

So the illness turned out to be a virus, which we know quite certainly now, as Amalia entered this morning to tell us a few days ago that the “virus esta andando”, the virus is walking, or everyone has it: an inevitable fact of life in a small community where most everything is shared, and people take care of one another so intimately.

This brings us to Sunday: T.L.’s sick day.

5:30 AM: Awake for ambitious Sunday plans to climb Juaica- the 3 hour scramble up the mountain beyond overlooking Organizmo.
5:45: Gauge clouds/weather- decide YES, we are definitely climbing the mountain.
6:00: Hike to kitchen to make breakfast, wait for Itamar to awake to join us on our trek.
7:30: Still waiting for Itamar.
8:00: Itamar decides not to go, but drives us to a different spot to hike instead.
8:15- 11:30: Scramble up smaller mountain and through long winding roads alongside hundreds of brave, incredibly fit bikers to Subacoche, another small town.
11:45: Eat a cookie and an empanada in Subacoche.
12:00 PM: Find out how to get back to Organizmo by bus. Find out the bus won’t be leaving until 1:30 PM.
12:01: T.L. declares “I feel very sick”.
12:02: Start asking people where to find a taxi.
12:15: Find taxis. Ask how much they charge: 30,000 pesos, or 10,000 more than we have on our persons.
12:16-12:40: Find bench, this will have to do for now.
12:45-50: I get hungry – TL accompanies me to an ice-cream shop. I try to break the 20,000 we have left but the woman says needs to get change from her neighbors. TL turns more colors than the ice-cream flavors they offer.
12:50: I tell the ice-cream lady, listen we really have to go, he’s going to get sick.
12:51: She magically has the right change, we grab change and ice-cream cone and take off in search of a bathroom.
12:52: A pizza shop: I duck in, TL trailing, open the bathroom door, TL looks desperately for a light that doesn’t exist and finally slams the door.
12:53: I turn to see half a dozen pizza-eating men staring in my direction. I remember my ice-cream cone with caramel and a cookie on top. I start to eat it, albeit it with mixed emotions.
12:59: I finish the ice-cream cone. TL is still in the bathroom. I try not to make eye contact with anyone in this pizzeria.
1:05: I hear toilet paper. Flush. Water running. This is promising.
1:06: TL emerges. Less green, more gray, sweat beads on forehead.
1:06:05: TL uses napkins from a table to wipe away his sweat while groaning. People stare. Man making pizza glares.
1:06:30: We rush out the door, heads down.
1:10: We return to bus station, locate bathroom and bench and sit to await our bus.
1:20: An official bus-driving looking man asks us for what bus we are waiting. He tells us the bus to Tabio left at 12:30.
1:20-1:25: I explain that all the gentlemen sitting next to him told us our bus wouldn’t be leaving until 1:30, he points to Sunday schedule- next bus 4:30 PM, other men avert their eyes. I point to TL- está superenfermo. The 5 bus men and I draw some maps and quickly devise an alternative route. I make the fatal mistake of not inquiring as to how long an alternative route will take.
1:25:30: I grab our bag and TL and climb onto a bus to Bogota.
1:30: TL is looking worse than ever and “bumpy” falls short in describing bus-rides in these parts.
1:31: TL asks if he should throw up in our backpack. I say no this is not a good idea. I ask the ticket boy for a plastic bolsita.
1:32: He searches the front of the bus and returns with a tiny, flimsy, handle-less empanada baggy.
1:35: TL starts to spit into small baggy.
1:36: Here it comes: the empanada bag fills with empanada vomit. It’s like a nickelodeon game show where you’re trying to fill a bucket with gack, it keeps coming. TL is going to win, he’s going to fill the whole thing up!
1:37: I ask the ticket boy for more bags while holding up my jacket to shield the rest of the riders from the excitement.
1:38: He returns with more tiny bags.
1:39: TL passes me the empanada vom. I double-bag it.
1:40-1:45: I tell TL that we’re close although I have no idea where we are. I continue to hold warm vomit bag in lap.
1:50: A man leans over to tell me there was a more direct route to Tabio. I say, ah, muchas gracias por su ayudo, senor.
1:55: Ticket boy sees I still have vomit in lap. He demands that I throw it out the door of the bus. De veras? Por favor, no puedo, I say.
1:56: He opens the door and his eyes say “do it”.
1:56:30: I stand at the door, look out, and drop the vomit balloon onto sidewalk.
1:57: We pass a sign posting an equivalent of $100 fine for littering.
2:10: We are on the highway, there are no highways within a half hour of Organizmo.
2:20: We are dropped on the side of the highway and told to cross the highway and find a bus to Tenjo-Tabio.
2:22: Attempt to cross highway with TL a half-conscious mess.
2:26: Highway crossed, I yell out Tabio to every passing bus.
2:30-40: There are many buses. None are going to Tabio. Everyone is slowing down to stare at the very sick gringo and his girlfriends’ fruitless attempts to get a bus.
2:40: Bus to Tabio-Tenjo pulls up. We jump on as it barely stops and sit TL in the one seat next to the driver. Roads are worse here, but the promise of home is brighter.
3:20: We finally hobble off the bus at Organizmo.

With the worst of Montezuma’s Revenge’s first strike of our trip behind us, we have both made smooth recoveries into the world of health, save for bean-eating.

Posted by AmyERichards 05:17 Archived in Colombia Tagged bus montezuma help sickness diarrhea vomit ill aromatics Comments (0)

On Movement and Migration

Finally, after much pressure, my first post to our blog!

The tides flow, the tectonic plates shift, the flowers open and close, the animals run, fly and swim in search of food, and all the while, people move about them. In so many ways, movement is the essence of life. We walk to get to where we are going. We run for freedom. We swim to see how long we can move without taking a breath. We dance to express. We play sports for competition. We stretch because our muscles demand it. We practice yoga, tai chi, chi gong, martial arts, as moving meditations for balance and health. We shovel, heave, lift, hammer, plant, deliver, sweep, scrub, polish and prepare, because we must make a living.

We migrate… when there is no other option.

For a very long time, migration was life: when staying alive meant having to follow the movement of animals, or scavenging for plants and berries until resources were exhausted.

As “civilizations” formed, we exchanged our portable lives for foundations laid in earth, for structures meant to last more than just a few nights. We grew plants and domesticated and specialized and so on. In the end, our lives became less governed by constant movement. But hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, draught, fires, scarcity, illness and wars kept us migrating, because again, we had no other choice.
Then in the 17th-20th centuries, the United States, the “New World”, became a symbol of choice and opportunity for many. People were choosing to migrate there, and in no small order. In the U.S. and every other country today, we continue to migrate, to move, whether out of necessity, or opportunities for work or a better life somewhere else. Often we migrate for the promise that the grass is greener somewhere else, whether we actually know that grass grows there at all.

So I guess I fit in here, a migratory person, sometimes missing routine, but more often feeling encumbered by the knowledge that I will be in the same place a year from now. My mind, body, and creative self, or whatever one may call it, craves movement. While it may seem like living a grass is greener life, traveling has shown me that the grass is never really greener…it’s just different. And so I will continue to wonder about and travel to see what people make of their patches of life, whatever grows there.

In 2009, when I began moving south from San Jose, Costa Rica, I met a handful of other travelers on the same route. As we neared the border of Colombia, but would have to return north for our return flight, I resolved to start there, in Colombia, a few years later, in order to see the rest of the continent. So this is what T.L. and I have done, and without a return ticket to halt our movement.

Our plan is not unique, like most migrations, we follow a route set out by thousands before us, although we are not confined to a specific path. We will bus, hike, and walk wherever we need to go, with all the things we need on our backs, again something humans have been doing for thousands of years. There is a quiet and constant beat to the traveler’s movement, TL and I have already begun to write our own rhythm atop this beat, here in Colombia.

I hope you all enjoy our story…

Posted by AmyERichards 05:27 Tagged travel movement travelers migration backpacks Comments (0)

Sunrise, school uniforms, and stopped on a mountain road

getting the bus from Bogota to Medellin

semi-overcast 79 °F
View To the equator and beyond! on tltisme's travel map.

We woke up at 5:30 yesterday morning and were out waiting for the bus in front of Organizmo by 6. The sun was rising behind the mountains and the mist was heavy on the fields. We were leaving a beautiful place but we were excited to see more of Colombia out the bus window and get on with our travels. We flagged down the Bogota/Terminal bus and were on our way. Monday was the first day of school after summer vacation for kids in Colombia and plaid skirts and colored sweaters were everywhere. There was a Bolivariano (highly recommended to us) bus to Medellin leaving at 8:20. We thought we would have enough extra time to buy a cheap cell phone and snacks for the around 10 hour ride. We underestimated Bogota traffic at rush hour on a monday morning. P1000421.jpg
Normally only a little more than an hour, we rode that bus nearly three through stop and go traffic to its final stop at the bus station. We thought the next Bolivariano bus was not until 11:30 but when we got to the window the woman told us the next bus was in diez minutos. I ran to grab some food while Amy got the tickets. A couple of arepas (pancake like corn or flour cakes sometimes with cheese inside), a salami and cheese sandwich or something like that, and a random roll that I picked went along with our other provisions onto the bus. Luckily we had brought a generous amount of water and other fruit and granola bars.
The bus was nice! (Interesting security measure: an employee walked down the aisle after everyone was seated with a video camera to document faces) It was not crowded and we relaxed as we watched the development of Bogota fade into the hills.
Our route took us down from the mountain chain where the capitol lies (the Cordillera Oriental), across the Magdalena River valley, and back up into another piece of the Andes, the Cordillera Occidental.
Fields of what looked to be a red grain, quinoa I believe.
Crossing over the Rio Magdalena
Nearing sundown on a winding mountain road we thought we were getting close, maybe only a couple hours away, when the bus came to a halt. The bus had stopped a couple times earlier for a few minutes on a piece of one way road where work was being done or something but after a few minutes the engine was turned off and we knew this delay was a little different. All we could see from the bus was a line of vehicles ahead of us curving around the mountainside. After about half an hour a few vehicles passed heading the other direction but we realized they were just trucks and buses from further ahead in line who had given up to seek an alternate route. I have no idea how large a detour they had to go to get around or even if they were trying to do that, they may just have been going back, going home, assuming this road would not be passable for a while...After three hours a police car drove past, up the line of cars. I think there was an accident and in our remote location this was the first responder. Later an ambulance, other emergency vehicles...by this time I was trying to sleep so I wasn't paying as much attention. It rained for a while and I was glad that at least we had the bus to wait in. The onboard entertainment was still working with the bus off and I half watched Casino Royale in dubbed Spanish. Daniel Craig would have gotten to the bottom of this roadside snafu in less than an hour I am sure. Just after midnight the bus cranked up and I thought we were back in business. Then I realized we would be getting into Medellin at 2 or 3 am. We had arranged to stay at a girls appartment on Couch Surfers (more on this amazing network later) but had managed to email her with the kindle from our sticky spot on the side of a mountain in Colombia to say we probably wouldnt be getting in until late. She replied with concern and said to call when we got in, she would be going to sleep around 12. The bus stopped again and turned off, false alarm, just moving up I guess. Sometime around 3 or 4 am we finally began to move again and kept rolling. Amy and I had been concious of rationing our water and were down to just PowerBars and fruit leathers in our pack, we wondered how the rest of the passengers were as content with seemingly no water. In the United States it would have been a bus of very angry people but somehow everyone on board accepted this massive delay with a shrug. One of the few locals living in the area came to sell coffee to passengers at one point and it sounded almost like a party out the door of bus for a little while with laughter and friendly banter as the drivers and passengers passed the time. Anyway, we finally got off in Medellin about 7 am. This was our first glimpse of the city this morning as I groggily tried to put my stuff back in my pack and enter a new urban area. P1000446.jpg
21 hours total on the bus for what was supposed to be a 10 hour trip...yikes.

Posted by tltisme 18:41 Archived in Colombia Tagged traffic bus Comments (0)


A design school for sustainable habitats and so much more. organizmo.org

View To the equator and beyond! on tltisme's travel map.

First of all, every farm, finca, or rancho I have seen has a similar impressive gate to let the outside world know it is for real. Behind this gate is a surreal place more real than the rest.


Ana Maria Gutierrez and Itamar Sela are a young couple who have accomplished and experienced much in their thirty odd years of life. Born on opposite sides of the world (Itamar in Israel and Ana in Colombia) they met while traveling in India and went on to navigate the globe together. Ana studied architecture for three years at the prestigious Universidad de los Andes in Bogota and finished her degree at Parsons with a scholarship before doing post-graduate work at NYU. Meanwhile, Itamar completed the New York Botanical Gardens Landscape Design program and began work with a large city landscaping business. During this period Ana and Itamar married, partly to allow Itamar to remain in the country as his visa expired. A little over three years ago their daughter Illanna was born and the family left the city for Ana's parents old farmland outside of Bogota. While only 45 minutes by bus from the crowded metropolis, this valley of small pueblos and fertile farmland is pleasantly rural, quiet, and beautiful.
Here Itamar and Ana have begun their dream to create a place for education and experimentation with any and all techniques for sustainable building, growing, and living. In the past two years Organizmo has hosted architects, engineers, and builders who have led workshops on different construction methods. The results are a hay bale house,P1000331.jpg two indestructable earth domes,P1000169.jpg a wattle and daub bathroom complete with dry toilets and beautiful (but tedious to build) beer bottle shower.P1000192.jpg Ana and Itamar with the able help of their employees and students have added green roofs to these buildings (except the domes),P1000324.jpg built their own plastic bottle and plastered mud house (complete with its own green roof),P1000271.jpg and open air green roofed cob kitchen.P1000200.jpg This weekend the Climate Champions (recipients of a worldwide British program awarding individuals with exemplary environmental work) of Colombia have been provided a workshop here (Ana Maria was awarded the title of Climate Champion last year when she submitted the work of Organizmo) on plastering with lime and mud, composting, green roofs, green walls, building with adobe, and planting an herb garden.

Amy and I have been here for nearly two weeks now. We have eaten lots of delicious fruits and vegetables, had lime plaster eat our hands, worked a lot with mud, gotten sick, and walked many kilometers. It has been hard work and we are ready to see what comes next in our adventure but it has been inspiring to see what has been done and what will continue to grow here.
The greenhouse with adjacent hay bale construction green roofed bedroom/bathroom where Ana, Itamar, Illanna, and Asia (pronounced ah-see-uh in spanish) live, eat, and play.
An amazing all purpose space. Kitchen with adjacent herb green wall (brilliant!), low dining room table on crushed stone, raised wooden deck living room with overhead lounge area, large concrete wash area mostly used for children's play and bathing, grass sitting/yoga area and plants growing in the ground and pots everywhere!
Almost forgot the hammock area/sandbox playroom
The brightest rainbow I have ever seen occurred here the day before my birthday!
Amy and I hiked Jueca which overlooks this valley but that is for another post...

Posted by tltisme 18:29 Archived in Colombia Tagged building sustainable Comments (0)

Seeing the sights

being a tourist in Bogota

semi-overcast 69 °F
View To the equator and beyond! on tltisme's travel map.

On our first day in Bogota Amy had an appointment at the U.S. Embassy to get more pages put in her passport. I always thought filling up your passport was an awesome thing and I was supremely impressed but in fact it cost her eighty dollars for the friendly Embassy workers to simply tape in 24 more pages for customs officials to stamp. Claire took us to the Embassy and showed us around as she had worked there this past summer and was evidently missed. I took a picture of the front gate as we were leaving but the guard politely told me no pictures so I showed him that I had deleted it...Amy reminded me that it probably isn't a good idea to take any pictures of government buildings. I made sure to ask Claire if taking pictures of the residence would be a breach of security but she assured me it was fine.

Amy tells me that Bogota is the museum capital of Latin America and we certainly visited some good ones:
Simon Bolivar's house and gardens. The 'Liberator' of Colombia from the Spanish Empire. He was also instrumental in the independence of Bolivia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela.
The Fernando Botero Museum. He is the most famous contemporary Colombian artist, his work is everywhere. The museum also boasted work from some big names: Picasso, Renoir, Dali, and others.
History of Colombian football exhibit in the National Museum. Andres Escobar scored an own goal while playing the United States in the 1994 World Cup. Colombia went on to lose the game 2 to 1. It is widely believed that he was murdered due to his own goal, which supposedly would have caused gambling losses to several powerful drug lords. Andrés was nicknamed "The Gentleman of Football" and is remembered fondly and mourned by Colombian's to this day.
Museo de Oro (Gold Museum) I have many more pictures from this, tons of shiny artifacts! This was the only museum we went to that had English and Spanish information. Actually that is not true, I saw a few English translation cards for certain exhibits in the National Museum. My Spanish vocabulary is growing everyday and I can understand most simple conversation but I still have a long way to go when it comes to forming my own sentences. As I write this Amy and I are at Organizmo, an amazing place which I will share more of next post. Our fellow WWOOFer here, Mateo (a very generous and funny guy who also finished university last spring), is from Belgium and is studying Spanish across from me. He has been in Colombia for five weeks and speaks quite well enough to get around and converse. My inspiration...though his first language is french which probably helps and he is studying now while I write...

Posted by tltisme 17:31 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

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