Sorry for the delay in posting. There have been challenges in getting connected to the internet. But here is the update:
Flight from Nashville was uneventful. Landed in Houston and made my way to my Gate. I believe I landed in terminal B (which appears to be somewhere in Egypt) and had to make my way to terminal E1. It was a hike to get there but I made it with much time to spare. Houston appears to be a melting pot of Latin and American cultures. It reminds me much of my days in South Florida.
When I entered the airplane ramp to board my flight to Bogota we were greeted with drug sniffing dogs and were questioned by the police. This is standard procedure as they check your passport and ask how much money you are carrying into the country. It is apparently illegal to carry more than $10,000 US into Colombia.
On the airplane I began to get settled in and prepare for the 6 hour flight. I often look at flights as God appointments as I never know who I will be seated next to. On my flight into Bogota I happened to be seated next to the President of Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura (yes I did get his business card!). His agency is under the Ministry of Transportation for Colombia. Luis was educated in the United States and speaks excellent English. We had many great conversations about the country and what I could expect. He mainly spoke of the challenges Colombia is facing regarding their highways and infrastructure. He was honest and forthright about those challenges in Bogota and the country but he was also gracious in his welcome to the country.
Our flight landed in Bogota about 25 minutes early. I actually found this to be humorous because much of what you hear about Latin culture is that they are “fashionably” late. Customs was uneventful, even though I only understood about 5% of what the agent was saying. A few minutes later, an official stamp and a smile I was on my way to baggage claim. Once my bags were collected I was on my way through customs, rather quickly I might add because I had nothing to claim. I would imagine this process is likely more complex leaving the country than coming in.
I and the rest of the arriving mass exited out onto the sidewalk and here I am in Bogota Colombia. For the first time ever I am standing on South American soil and my hosts are not here. Remember when I said we landed 25 minutes early? My hosts had checked with the airlines and they told them that I would be about 30 minutes late. My cell phone did not work, so I couldn’t call anyone. I was tired, thirsty and to be honest could use a restroom! Not to mention the fact that I was asked about 50 times if not more if I needed a taxi or a hotel. I felt pretty safe on the curb of the airport as there were police everywhere and the people were generally friendly.
Finally I met my hosts and I was whisked away from the airport. It is now nearly 10 pm and my hosts took me to, of all places, a McDonalds. Now, before you laugh… this McDonalds was nicer than any I’ve been in back in the states. I had a Coca-Cola (that’s how you say it here). Speaking of McDonalds, there appears to be one on nearly every corner here. And they all are really nice – I’m talking upscale café!
We finally made it to the apartment I would be staying and I was anxious to email back home to let them know I was safe. Unfortunately I could not get internet access and my hosts had already gone to bed.