The sonographer was Cuban. He was one of the few health care professionals that ever dared attempt to pronounce my very long Portuguese last name when calling me from the waiting room and the only one who ever pronounced it perfectly.
By the time I had the ultrasound of my kidneys, the stone I had been dealing with the week before had mercifully already passed. He told me I was among 15% of people who pass stones with minimal or no pain.
I prepared to be on call the next few days for work. At around 9:30am on the second day, I got the call.
I had not been there in at least two years. I have avoided going there because of the high altitude of 8,300ft (2500m). Memories of my last couple of trips there still resounded in my mind. On one of those trips, I was pregnant with my son.
Not a fun way to spend a layover. I was thankful however, that this trip was on my schedule and not something more difficult.
I whisked the kids to the sitter, returned home to get ready, and headed to the airport in the afternoon.
I still remember the first time I landed in Bogotá. Upon exiting through the airport doors, the scene was exactly like what you see in Romancing the Stone. Mobs of people everywhere. You had to push your way through to make it to your car. I wished that we all had a rope to hold on to like in elementary school.
This trip, however, was different. I arrived in a beautifully renovated terminal. It was clean, well organized, and easy to navigate. Our time going through immigration was briefer than I had remembered, and there was no mob waiting for us on the curb.
I made it to my hotel room and took a little time to unwind before bed. Our stay would be brief so I needed to rest well.
I woke up one hour and a half before my alarm feeling completely drained. The lower concentration of oxygen in the air is difficult to adjust to if you normally make sea level (or close to it) your home.
When I moved to New Mexico for college years ago, it took about six weeks to adjust to the altitude. Until then, I coughed all the time with congestion in my lungs and had to come home to my apartment and rest after short periods of exertion.
I haven’t figured out the secret yet to surviving these short trips to high altitude locations. (Aside from being in great physical shape with regular exercise). I honestly wondered how I was going to have the strength to get ready to go downstairs.
As I had heard that staying hydrated was key, I downed the entire of the large unopened bottle of water I had with me.
I prayed on the armor next. By the time I was through, I felt physically transformed. I felt strong enough to make all my preparations before heading downstairs for breakfast.
I had no idea what awaited me downstairs.
As a Spanish-speaking flight attendant, I have seen some good breakfast buffets in Latin America, but never anything quite like this. In addition to the traditional breakfast ham and cheese, there was also turkey ham and chicken ham!
There was something called oatmeal smoothie. I was unable to discern what its American equivalent would be (I don’t think there is one). Check out this great website for a recipe for this drink as well as other Colombian delicacies.
There was a separate bar area only for any type of sweet bread you could imagine.
There was a selection of fruit-flavored yogurts on ice as well as tropical juices.
There was an omelet station.
There was a large pot of creamy oatmeal.
There were several cereals available for the more gringo taste.
Breakfast meats such as bacon and ham. Chicken and mushroom pie. And a mixture of seasoned beef and chicken (my personal favorite of the morning).
Arepas, of course. I have had these in Venezuela, however, the Colombian version I had here was white, and with no seasoning whatsoever, just a deliciously tangy white cheese for dipping. As I savored all these brilliant assaults on the palate, I wondered if the average Brazilian would find Colombian food quite lacking in salt. Although the food was delicious and savory, it was not salty.
Then there was the coffee.
Although caffeine and I aren’t friends, it’s almost impossible for me to resist the mixture of fresh Colombian coffee mixed with piping hot steamed milk poured into my cup at the table. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t ruined it with Splenda. I had come this far. Why not put real sugar in it?
I was inspired enough to seek out some Juan Valdez coffee in the airport. Even my Brazilian friends rave about this stuff. I thought I remembered paying around $7 for it in the past; however, it is now $14. I skipped it.
I was relieved (as I always am) once we were in the air and headed home. I am very grateful to have had the experience of enjoying Colombia and her people again.
I probably won’t seek out one of these trips in the near future. I will allow time to pass again so that I may savor each and every one of Colombia’s charms again next time.
Note: This has been a very tough week in the aviation family. My heart and prayers go out to the loved ones of MH17, GE222, and AH5017.