After spending a few extra days scuba-diving in paradise (see previous post), Luke and I hopped on a bus back through Santa Marta, Colombia, and on to Medellin. Medellin is, supposedly, one of Colombia´s gems. But given our Cartagena experience, Luke and I decided to head out of the city immediately and wound up, mostly by accident, in a village called Salento.
Located in the middle of Colombia´s coffee zone, Salento´s main attractions are a marvelous hostel and access to hiking, horse back riding, and some of the most beautiful scenery (and people) I have laid eyes on. As in Taganga, Luke and I doubled the amount of time we had planned on staying in Salento, and were there through Christmas.
At this point, mind you, my parents did not know I was in Colombia. I told my brother, and Luke´s family knew. But I was not willing to have my mother lose two weeks´ worth of sleep just because some guerillas used to like snatching gringos in Colombia (they only snatch rich locals now). So, aspiring CIA operative that I am, I lied to the folks about being in Ecuador, until Christmas Day.
Christmas at the hostel was wonderful – we had a genuinely cross-cultural Christmas feast and Secret Santa gift exchange, and Luke and I even cooked up some sausage jambalaya to share with the others. I was explaining all of this, vaguely, to the parents, when I began to describe my Secret Santa´s gifts:
Me: “Really cool, it almost feels like Christmas. I got this little pen with a flashlight on it, and a Colombian poncho, and-”
Mom: “Is that a hint, Mark?”
Me, to self: *$¿%! Maybe I can wiggle out of this one…
Me, to Mom: I´m in Colombia. But it´s really safe, I promise! They haven´t kidnapped any Americans since 2003, and those guys were probably in the CIA anyway.
Mom: Mark, if you got kidnapped, it´d be like The Ransom of Red Chief all over again. They´d be paying to give you back.”
Merry Christmas, Mom.