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Chapter 53: Colombia with Columbia, Part 1

Headed to South America with 300 of my closest friends!

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Happy Monday, to those who celebrate. I’m back in New York for the next couple of months after a fun-filled week in Colombia with 300 of my closest friends. While I normally prefer traveling in small groups, sometimes it’s good to mix it up, and I can’t deny that last week was a banger. Of course, it does help when the Colombians in your class, who planned the itinerary for a trip to their motherland, love to throw down.

For a brief recap, we left off with me feeling like death, preparing for a flight from Guatemala to Bogotá to kick off a week in South America. Night one was supposed to be a welcome party hosted by Guillermo’s family at his house before the “real trip” began on Saturday. I was supposed to stay with Guille Friday night, but I booked a solo hotel room at the Regency to hopefully sleep off this Guatemalan affliction.

This was originally going to be one long blog post, but 7,800 words later, I decided to split it up. Catch the sequel in your inbox tomorrow afternoon.

Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Friday, May 12th

Pardon my French, but I woke up feeling like shit. Cold chills, body aches, the whole 9. On a scale of 1-10, I was feeling a -3 about this flight. We ate a small breakfast at the Zedan house, said bye to Marcos’s mom, then headed to the airport.

The one good thing about this flight was that I had a front-row seat. A subpar seat on an Avianca flight would have been a kiss of death. Mr. Maye and I were seated at the front right with Brody behind us, and I alternated between reading, writing, and semi-sleeping while Maye was engulfed in a Bill O’Reilly book. I think Brody was working on some internship prep stuff behind us.

We caught an Uber to the Regency Hotel, where the other guys had also booked a large shared suite, and I slumped in the front seat, hoping the ride would go by quickly.

It didn’t.

Bogotá has some of the worst traffic in the world, and it took us a good hour to make it across town. If you’ve ever met me in real life, you know that I’m always doing one of two things: talking or eating. If there’s no food in my mouth, and I’m hardly saying a word, it’s a tell-tale sign that I’m down horrendous.

I was, at this point, down horrendous.

We got to the hotel and checked in, and I set out in search of a pharmaceutical cocktail that would alleviate my ailments. I called Guillermo and he recommended Dolex (the Spanish word for pain is dolor, so this was named appropriately). I grabbed two packs of Dolex, 3 Pedialytes, 3 waters, and some Vitamin-C tabs, then headed to the Mecca of fast food: McDonald’s.

In hindsight, it was obvious why I was sick: I forgot to test out Guatemalan Mickey D’s. After a double cheeseburger and a sweet, sweet McDonald’s Sprite, I headed back to the hotel. Unfortunately, I got dumped on by rain on the way back, and I felt like a wet dog when I finally stumbled back into the lobby around 4.

I headed to my room, hung my now-soaked hoodie up to dry, took some painkillers, and passed out.

I didn’t set an alarm, and I half-expected to sleep until the next morning, but I woke up at 6:45 feeling surprisingly refreshed.

“Damn, I guess I’m back,” I thought. After I showered, I decided to stop by Guillermo’s and at least show face for a bit. I called an Uber, and 10 minutes later, I was walking into the Campos residence.

Views from the Guille crib

Guille’s family has a beautiful apartment with a view of the city, and 25 or so of my classmates were hanging out on the patio when I arrived. I wasn’t planning on drinking, but one of the servers greeted me with a mystery cocktail, and it would have been rude to refuse. I said what’s up to the Guatemala squad and made my rounds talking to all of my other friends before Guille introduced me to his parents and sister.

I also met Guille’s dog, Ben, who will play dead if you point a finger gun at him and yell “PEW PEW PEW.”

Papa Campos was cooking up a fat spread of meat for the crew, and JC and I were the first to sample some of the ribs as they came off the grill. They were gas. Brody, who was also feeling pretty bleh, and I wanted to watch the Lakers game and get a good night’s sleep, so we called an Uber home around 10.

Brody’s TV wasn’t working (This “Regency” was not a Hyatt Regency. I think they just stole the 2nd part of the name), but mine was, so I watched Lebron wreck the Warriors before I passed out.

Saturday, May 13th

Today was the first official day of the Colombia trip, and pretty much everyone that wasn’t at Guille’s the night before was en route to Bogotá. I grabbed breakfast in the hotel restaurant with Ben and Tanmaye, packed my bags, and prepared to Uber to the Hilton.

We would be spending the next two nights in Bogotá before three nights in both Medellín and Cartagena, and our travel group had arranged blocks of rooms in 2-3 hotels per city.

Brody and I were roommates on the trip (or at least we were supposed to be roommates), but I noticed that Antonio had a solo room for the whole trip. The thing is, Toni flew back to NYC for his girlfriend’s graduation when we flew to Bogotá, and he was planning to meet us in Medellín on Monday, but he still had a room reserved for himself in Bogotá.

Me, being the savvy, observant young man that I am, called him up and asked if I could scoop his room. He didn’t even know he had a room in Bogotá, and he gave me his blessing.

I got to the hotel early to make sure I wouldn’t have any issues with the room change. Nacho, the director of Wonder (our tour group), happened to be one of Toni’s boys, and he handled everything with the front desk folks. I hung out with Ani in the lobby for a minute, then headed to my room, took a fat bath (the tub was insane) with a new book, and passed out for a couple of hours.

Hola Ani

When I woke up, I headed to the basement to get a workout in at the gym. This may have been the best hotel gym that I’ve ever seen: it literally had a full bench press with free weights. I got a solid pump in, then headed upstairs to shower before dinner.

We were taking shuttles to a place called “Andrés Carne de Res,” located an hour north of our hotel, for dinner. Andrés was a wild place: it consisted of two massive buildings: the first was very open with tons of tables for dinner patrons, as well as 3-4 (?) different bars with a massive dance floor in the middle. Across the street, the other half also had some condensed dining areas, as well as multiple dance floor areas more secluded from the rest of the establishment.

Slumped pre-dinner

I hung out with Bhavin, Adam, and Brody on the bus ride to the restaurant before making the rounds to say what’s up to everyone once we arrived. Adam and I grabbed a table with Vince, and then we hit the bar for drinks. I was starting to get over my plague infection, and I knew I was a few cervezas and Aguardiente shots away from freedom.

Dinner with Adam and Vince

We sat back down for round after round of meats and fried breads, Adam and I reminisced about our favorite digital marketing class that we loved so much, I said hey to Steph, my favorite class and cluster president, and then I headed back to the bar to continue my self-medicating spiral.

I ran into Ellie and JC (now officially dating ❤️❤️) and Ellie informed me that I needed to quit force-feeding JC a steady diet of Gen-Z vocabulary words, because he kept telling her to “take the L.”

I will continue to feed my favorite Córdoba chico a steady diet of low-IQ vocab terms, no cap.

I hopped in the drink line with Kevin, Jack (Gorman, there were three Jacks on this trip), and Emma (who I decided to hit on shortly thereafter), and I informed Kevin that he would indeed be included in this travel blog addition because he had grabbed Aguardiente shots for the squad.

Welcome to the blog, Kevin.

Emma and I grabbed another drink (well, we tried to grab a drink and a shot, but they gave us two mixed drinks, which made us look like double-fisting alcoholics, but everyone knows you can’t actually be an alcoholic in college) because grabbing another drink is kind of what you do when you’re hitting on someone, and then I continued on my journey to say “what’s up” to every single acquaintance I had in this bar.

Around this time, exotic dancers came out in colorful costumes, and I swear that some of them were twirling torches/flames, but also, I could have completely imagined the whole “fire” thing in my Dolex/Aguardiente-filled state of being.

I said “Hola” to Caro, my favorite Puerto Rican, and linked back up with the Guatemala boys to head to the other part of the bar across the street. In here, on the dance floor, Nina Falcon-punched (accidentally!) my near-full tequila soda out of my hand, and we embarked on a failed mission for her to grab me a replacement (a week later, she made up for this transgression by buying me a milkshake at a cash-only ice cream place).

The party at Andrés raged until well after two, but Ben texted me that he, Ryan, Chrisa, Rachel, and Adam had gone to some club called Kaput a few blocks from the hotel, so Emma and I linked up with them there.

This club felt like it was straight out of Berlin: it looked grungy as hell, and the downstairs rooms were blaring heavy techno and house music. However, as we walked around, we realized that the venue was freaking massive. We eventually posted up in a disco room for a bit (the DJ was playing bangers) before linking with Ben and company on the rooftop. Ryan gave me one of the more interesting compliments I’ve ever received, saying that he thought I would be “the man” when I was 30 (thank you, Ryan).

Disco szn

We kicked it at Kaput until 3-something, then I dropped Emma off at her hotel so she wouldn’t become the latest white girl to disappear in a solo-Uber-gone-wrong story from South America, and I headed back to my hotel to get into some shenanigans with Tanmaye and Ben.

Sunday, May 14th

I was supposed to go horseback riding today. However, I woke up feeling terrible, probably because of a night of heavy Aguardiente consumption on the tail end of a bug, and literally nothing sounded worse than horseback riding. Combine that with the fact that Ben and Tanmaye had flipped their tickets and Brody wasn’t going in the first place, and I really didn’t want to go.

I am completely incapable of thinking for myself and always succumb to groupthink. Obviously.

So I went to breakfast, where I was joined by my favorite English student JC. While we were having another vocab lesson, someone informed me that Steph was looking for a horseback riding ticket. The timing couldn’t have been better. Ticket: sold. Jack: happy.

After breakfast, I got a brief workout in, then headed upstairs to chill in the tub with a book, again.

I had also decided that Bogotá would be a good time for me to get ahead on all of my work for the week so I could go full-send in Medellín and Cartagena, as we had an action-packed week planned, so I spent most of the afternoon typing away on my computer.

I did take a stroll around the neighborhood, stopping to grab a rather interesting burger at one point.

Later that afternoon, Juanma texted us about buying tickets to a fútbol game in the city that night. Having not done anything all day, I was 100% in on a sporting event.

I was supposed to head to a dinner with Tanmaye and co later, but I skipped it to finish up some stuff. I did, however, finish in time to grab a drink with them, but when I walked outside to meet them, I ran into Krishna and Paula, who were hopping in an Uber to the stadium. They told me to just ride with them to the game, so I just headed straight to the stadium as well.

We were sitting near mid-field, when Krishna and I decided to grab some drinks. It was cash only, so we got two beers for us and a water for Paula. The rest of the fútbol crew arrived about 10 minutes after the game started, and we linked with them.

We decided to grab more beers, but at the concession stand, I came to a shocking realization: these were non-alcoholic beers. What a waste of a stadium beer. Apparently, Colombians get too rowdy when they’re drunk, so they banned booze in the stadiums. Thank God I realized it after 1 drink, because Ben and Brody were going to try to gaslight me into drinking 10 to see if I acted drunk.

The home team waxed the floor with the visitors, and we decided to leave with 10 minutes left. While we were waiting on an Uber, one of the security guards started chatting with me to practice his English. I obliged and started whipping some Spanish.

Once we got back to the hotel, I passed tf out.

Monday, May 15th 

After a pretty chill Sunday, I woke up at 9 and headed down for a hotel breakfast. I sat with Adam and Chandler, who were about to hike Montserrat, then headed back up to my room to pack/knock out the rest of this week’s blog. Trying to clear out the schedule for a big week in Medellin and Cartegena!

But before the blog, I hopped in the tub and read another chapter of my new book (Don’t Trust Your Gut, for those curious). Reading in the tub has been a decade-long guilty pleasure of mine. Huge, unashamed bath fan here, if you can’t tell. It’s like having a hot tub adjacent to your bedroom.

Checkout was at 12, so I took my stuff downstairs and posted up in the hotel coffee shop until we headed out at 2. The shuttle back to the airport was much, much faster than our Uber into town on Friday, and we made it to the terminal in 30 minutes. Because all transportation for the rest of the trip was booked through Wonder (our travel group), I had no idea where my seat would be on the Avianca flight to Medellín.

I ended up in 29E, a middle seat in the back. (Luckily, our total airtime was 25 minutes, and my man Alex, who was supposed to be in the window seat next to me, just took the middle and let me scoot over to his seat. A man of the people. I also sat behind Ben, who I pestered for the entirety of the flight.)

I grabbed a crepe and some ice cream for lunch in the airport, ate them in the reverse order of how I just listed them, then boarded the plane. After the shortest flight of my life, we were touching down in Medellín. The sun had set by the time we boarded our bus to the hotel, and the views of the city were beautiful from the road down the mountain.

Brody and I were off the bus quick, hitting the front of the line for the hotel check-in. This was our savviest move of the trip: the hotel check-in was moving at a snail’s pace.

We showered, changed, then headed to the lobby to hang with everyone. We played a quick game of Harmon Killabrew, I changed pants after JC beer-tapped my Corona causing it to spew everywhere, and then JC, Alex, Tyler, Brody, and Agustin (aka Bebé Normal, as opposed to me, Bebé Grande and/or Bebé Gigante) headed to town for dinner.

I said we could just walk to El Poblado (the neighborhood where we planned to dine), but I didn’t realize the first 10 minutes of the walk would be on a sidewalk running parallel to a highway.

Oh well.

We strolled around El Poblado until we found a spot that looked decent, where we ordered rounds of chicken fingers, cheese sticks, and empanadas to go with our cocktails. Super healthy, classy food choices here. This is health.

The tour group had given us braided wristbands for identification purposes, but mine was completely frayed and looked like a Chia Pet gone rogue, so JC borrowed some 15-year-old kid’s lighter to burn off the excess strings.

I thought he was going to burn my hand off in the process.

After dinner, we hit another bar nearby that was absolutely, positively dead, then we headed to Perro Negro for the night’s events. Perro Negro is Medellin’s go-to nightlife venue, and we had rented it out this fine Monday. It’s normally closed on Monday, so I’m sure they were happy to have our business.

The line was like 95% CBS people (obviously, because the bar was supposed to be closed) but some 60-year-old and his 25-year-old date who was totally not an escort were in line too. I jumped in front of them, signed off on my name, and was promptly greeted by a bottle of Aguardiente in my face, courtesy of Majo.

A few minutes later, I believe Majo also told Dollar Tree Hugh Hefner to go somewhere else.

I had been to Perro Negro a couple of times during my last trip to Medellín, and I can honestly say we packed out the venue as much as I’d seen it on a November Friday night.

I was making my way through the VIP section of the club, which really just meant I was in the area behind the DJ (can you imagine how pretentious it would be to have an actual VIP section at a private business school party?) when I stopped to chat with Hannah and Ben.

One of us made a joke about three-picos, which is a party bit that the Latin crew does where they say “three-picos!” and do a three-way kiss. And for a second there I thought we were going to rip a three-picos, and I think they also thought that we were going to. The sexual tension in that triangle was insane.

But then we didn’t.

So Hannah walked away, but then Steph walked up, and we made another three-picos joke, putting us right back in the exact same scenario that we were just in, with all three of us thinking, “Are we about to have a three-piece mouth high five?”

But then we didn’t, and Steph walked away.

So now it was just me and Ben looking at each other, playing chicken, seeing who would take the bit further. Fortunately, there was a silent, mutual agreement to abort mission.

We both busted out laughing and continued to the bar.

Every Colombian in this club was fully armed with a body of Aguardiente, shoving shots down the throat of anyone unfortunate (or should I say, fortunate?) enough to catch their eye. While waiting on my cervezas, I was ambushed by Antonio, who, now back from NYC, wanted to ensure that we didn’t remember this fine Monday night.

And Toni succeeded.

The night progressed as you would expect: dangerously. But what else can you expect when you have an open bar at Medellín’s premier night club?

All in all, not a bad way to kick off Medellín round two.

- Jack

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