Friday, October 16, 2009

Quick! To the Batcave!

Last I heard, Batman wasn't Colombian. However, if he were, I am pretty sure I know where he would hide his ride, and it's not in Bogota.

Last weekend we went to San Gil, which is known for extreme sports and outdoor adventures. Being the intrepid explorer that I am, I'm always ready for anything that involves waves, "gear", or a required waver-signing before attempting it.

San Gil is about 14-16 hours away from Cartagena, depending on how generous your bus driver is feeling to roadside travelers, and how long your transfer is in Bucaramanga. We left Friday night after classes, and got into San Gil about 2:00PM on Saturday. After a much-needed shower and teeth-brushing, I caught a bus to a town just outside of San Gil where I could go cave exploring. I just made the last trip of the day. Julia had gotten to San Gil a few days before, since she had a week off from work, and the other people in our group had decided to stop at a park. This meant it was just me and five 17-year-olds, who turned out to be good sports.

Once outfitted with our helmets and life-vests, (life-vests? really?) we set off. Our guide took us through dark caverns. We ducked under stalactites and turned off our headlamps at certain points so as not to "freak out" the bats. Right. It was seriously cool slithering through tunnels or wading through pools of muddy water. At the end of our trip, we reached what looked like a huge diving board...if oil tankers came with diving boards. The board was over a huge pool about 15 feet below us. We were supposed to jump off and swim across the pool. A ha. Hence the life-jackets. One by one we leaped off into the blackness. It seemed like an awfully long time before the others hit the water, but hey, what the hell. The water was definitely cold, but I was laughing as I swam to the other side. This would SO never fly in the United States...

That night the whole group headed to an outdoor Vallenato festival in a little colonial town next to San Gil (Vallenato is a type of Colombian music). The town was beautiful, and it's always nice to practice my Colombian dancing skills, even if I am still rhythmically challenged. Maybe I'll get the hang of it in the last three weeks I'm here. Ok... so there's not a future spot for me on "So You Think You Can Dance."

Next morning Julia and I went down to the river for rafting. I found that our guide was none other than one of the guys I had danced with last night! Well nice to see you again, too. Rafting was great fun, as always, and afterward we headed out to lunch with some new rafting buddies and drove out to the hill where people can go paragliding. I was so excited to go, and started taking pictures of all the paragliders, knowing I would be up there in a minute. Alas, the wind didn't feel like cooperating, and died about two minutes after we got there. So much for that.

Monday morning I chose to leave earlier than the rest of the group, because I had to be back by 7:00AM on Tuesday morning, and I didn't want to be late. Last time three of us had been 15 minutes late for class, and it was a big deal. I work at a private language center where students pay very good money to attend classes, and it happens to be one of the few places in Colombia where it actually matters if you're on time. Because of this, I missed the waterfalls and hike through the forest that the rest of the group took that morning. I wish I'd planned better and gotten a substitute for my Tuesday morning class, but I didn't, so I sucked it up and headed back on the 2:00PM bus instead of the 4:30 from Bucaramanga.

A few hours into the trip, Julia texted me to say that they hadn't gotten to Bucaramanga in time, and would have to take the 6:00 bus. I certainly thought that the other girl who teaches with me would be late for class. I'd warned her what our boss had told me, but she'd still decided to take the late bus. My bus took exactly 14 hours from Bucaramanga, and I got home at 4:00AM. For some miraculous reason, the other bus took 12 hours and got back at 6:00AM with enough time for the other girl to get to Centro Colombo on time. I was pissed, but I realized something important. I value my work extremely highly, and if someone thinks I am not taking a job seriously, that's a problem for me. There was no way I was going to make that phone call telling my boss I couldn't make it to work on time. It's stressful trying to fit everything in a 3-day weekend here, and truthfully, I don't have nearly enough time to see all I want to see. However, I learned this weekend how highly I value others' professional opinion of me, which was a good affirmation to make. If I have to sacrifice a waterfall to learn that lesson, then so be it.