Arriving in Medellin, One Year Later

Barrio San Diego
View toward the San Diego neighborhood in Medellin.
View toward the San Diego neighborhood in Medellin.

A year and three days after leaving Medellin in 2009, I once again rode a shuttle bus from Jose Maria Cordova International Airport down into my favorite semi-tropical valley.  Unlike my first visit, I was arriving in the evening, so instead of being greeted by green mountains and blue skies, I saw twinkling city lights all around.

It was the eve of Colombia’s bicentennial Independence Day celebration, and I missed by a few hours, what appears to have been a breathtaking fireworks display.

As the bus winded its way down the mountain roads, we passed people who had driven up to scenic viewpoints to watch the pyrotechnics.

The Aries shuttle dropped us off at a taxi stand near the regional Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport.  The scene was chaotic, as tired passengers matched up with drivers anxious to earn some money.

I got in the first cab, and presented the driver with the Itagui address of my friend (and Go Backpacking contributor) Troy.  The driver seemed to think either I, or my destination, was too much trouble, and kicked me out.  A second taxi also declined my fare.  The third time was a charm.

Upon reaching Troy’s apartment, I took the cash out of my wallet and peeled off enough pesos to cover the fare, plus a friendly tip.  I must not have put my wallet back in my jean pocket, because by the time I got up to Troy’s place, and dropped my bags in his room, I realized I didn’t have my wallet anymore.

Ironically, I had placed the wad of pesos in my pocket, leaving only my E*Trade ATM card, health insurance card, and Virginia driver’s license, along with a business card in the actual wallet.  Realizing I’d dropped my wallet, I looked down on the street from the balcony and didn’t see anything; the taxi was long gone, and I didn’t have a record of its license.

I cursed, and beat myself up for such a silly mistake.  I’ve never (ever) lost a wallet before, and suddenly I was experiencing deja vu, as last year when I arrived in Medellin, I didn’t have my ATM card as it had been stolen in Barcelona a few weeks prior.

I met one of Troy’s roommates, Wilson, his dog Toby, and his friend from Cali who was also visiting.  After a beer or two, and Troy’s offer to lend me money until I could get a replacement card FedEx’d to me, my blood pressure began to decline, and I spent the rest of the night exchanging stories with my future roommate.

July 20th - Independence Day concert in Itagui.
July 20th – Independence Day concert in Itagui.

The next day, being a national holiday, meant a lot of shops were closed, however I made my way to Santa Fe, Medellin’s newest, and largest, mall.

Inside, I eventually found my way to an internet shop where I was able to send an international fax to my bank, E*Trade, authorizing them to reissue my debit card (what a pain, right?).

On my way back to Troy’s apartment that afternoon, I stumbled across an outdoor concert in a nearby park to commemorate Independence Day.

A large crowd was hanging out, watching and listening, as the sun went down.

It felt good to be back.

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