The last week has been a seriously weird roller coaster…which I mean, 100%, in the best way possible.
I had a few days where I was honestly in a bit of a funk after the New Years crew left Cartagena. I came down with a bad stomach bug and was stuck in bed unable to do anything except shiver under the covers and watch Spanish reruns of Say Yes to the Dress (can I be honest? I HATEEE that show), which seriously sucked…being sick and alone in a country is something I’ve fortunately only experienced twice, and I got 100% wrapped up in feeling SO sorry for myself. I also didn’t know what to do next re: my travel plans – I had only a vague plan of what to do in Colombia until my MEDICO trip to Honduras on January 20th where I’d be reuniting with some old friends for a weeklong medical mission trip, and was kind of stressing about what to do for my last week in Colombia.
And then, my MEDICO trip got cancelled.
Or rather, it was postponed. I’m being dramatic.
To back up a bit, MEDICO (the Medical, Eye and Dental International Care Organization) is a nonprofit group that is near and dear to my heart; I’ve gone with them as a nurse to Honduras on two trips in 2013 and 2014. Working in rural villages that receive otherwise limited access to healthcare, MEDICO sets up weeklong clinics that often see over a thousand patients in a five-day span. Both years I’ve gone it’s been extremely rewarding, and I was super jazzed to go again this year as a nurse practitioner. I fundraised my little heart out to raise the money, and based all my travel plans around the trip from 1/20-1/28.
Unfortunately, though, sometimes life happens…and long story short, the Honduran government is in the middle of a political nightmare right now. The way it was described to me (and I’m no politico, so this may be oversimplified) is like this: imagine Donald Trump ran two terms as president and then decided to run a third term. He can’t do that, right? Not under the current constitutional law, no…but what if he fired half of his cabinet and reappointed people who would change the laws to allow a third term? Basically, that’s what the current Honduran president did. Then, when elections came around there was a huge delay in the results, and the end results were…dun dun dun…Honduran Donald Trump won a third term as president.
Needless to say, a lot of Hondurans weren’t happy. Since the November election, there’ve been frequent protests and violent riots…and unfortunately, the country’s political unrest has worsened over the last few months. Add to that, the week my MEDICO group was supposed to be in Honduras is also the week that protests are supposed to be the worst YET, as it coincides with the presidential inauguration on 1/27. Local contacts said that bus burnings, road closures, potential airport closures, etc. would be almost inevitable realities.
As such, after a lot of consideration, the MEDICO leadership decided to postpone our trip to Honduras. Instead of going this week, we’ll likely go in April (so to the AMAZING people who donated to my fundraiser – your $$ will still be used for its original cause!!). It’s a total bummer…but what else to do besides move on? My heart goes out to the people we won’t be able to help this week, but I’m optimistic that the trip will be rescheduled in the spring and we’ll be able to open our clinic after all.
So, anyway. After feeling sick and being a baby and feeling sorry for myself and then suddenly having a wide open calendar until God-knows-when (which, let me tell you, is a very cool yet very WEIRD feeling)….I had a minor freak-out moment. What to do?! I honestly had no idea – I’ve always had at least a semblance of a plan on this trip around the world, and for the first time I was without even a shred of an idea of what to do next.
Fortunately, though, the universe works in some pretty effing cool ways if you let it.
I booked a bus ticket to Santa Marta on a whim, which is another coastal town east of Cartagena and the jump-off point for a bunch of other Colombian towns. Sitting on the bus, I struck up a casual conversation with a Spanish–Colombian woman named Juana, who, along with her son Jaime (who lives in Chicago), ended up being my bus buddies for the next four hours. We hit it off so well that when the bus ride ended, Juana and Jaime invited me to travel with them through La Guajira the following week…an insanely beautiful, remote desert region of Colombia that I’d never even considered visiting before she told me about it. Um, yes? Why would I NOT go?!
So, gift from the universe #1. I now had plans after Santa Marta to travel with a family I met on a bus to a beautiful part of Colombia I’d never visit otherwise. I was seriously so pumped.
Next up, when I got to Santa Marta, I ended up meeting an absolutely dope group of people at my hostel. Those who have traveled long-term or done the backpacking thing know – some days you have good hostel crews, some days you have okay hostel crews, and once in awhile you find AMAZING hostel crews that you just hit it off with completely. We had wayyy too much fun hanging at the beach and going dancing at rooftop bars every night (I’m still recovering a week later), and it totally restored my faith that wherever you go in the world, you have friends just waiting to be met.
So, gift from the universe #2. I was bumming in Cartagena after the New Years crew left, and then stumbled upon a group of absolutely stellar travelers that I’ll stay in touch with for months to come.
Finally…I may have found a way to get paid work while on the road?! I’m a little nervous to share because I’m not 100% sure it’s going to pan out, but I applied to work with International Medical Corps back in December, and I got a call from them asking if I’d be available for a nursing deployment sometime this month. Say what???! I won’t say anything else for now as I’m waiting to see if it will come to pass…but suffice to say, it would be a dream come true. IMC provides disaster relief medical care in over 30 countries around the world, and working with them would be an incredible learning experience. What’s more, they pay volunteers a small stipend and cover the costs of transportation to and from medical deployments…and seeing as I’ve been doing all of my nursing volunteer work for free up until now, it would be AWESOME to get paid (especially if it’s a dream opportunity that I’d do without payment anyway)! So, I’ll keep my mouth shut for now…but if you’re reading this, send some good vibes my way that this deployment comes to be.
And so, that would be gift from the universe #3. Just getting added to the emergency response roster for IMC is a huge deal, so I’m pretty pumped about it…and as I’ve been stressed about money, finding paid nursing work would be the best news EVER. Fingers crossed things works out!
So, that’s that. And life is back on track! It’s crazy to think that I wasn’t even supposed to be in Colombia originally. I came here on a whim, and now I may be here for at least a month. What’s more, my future travel plans are still totally up in the air…if I don’t get this gig with MCI, I’ll probably head south to Medellin and then work my way down to Ecuador and/or head north to Central America, but I’m not 100% sure yet. And for the first time in my life, I’m at peace with that. My entire life I’ve been an avid-bordering-on-psychotic planner, so traveling without a plan is the most unnatural thing I’ve ever done. But, hey…I’m rolling with it. New year, new adventures. 🙂
I just got back from La Guajira, and can’t wait to share how insanely awesome it was in my next post. For now, though, I’m going to chill in the town of Taganga on the beach and do absolutely nothing for the next two days…so, sayonara for now.