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Eating My Way Through Medellin

Eating My Way Through Medellin 1080 810 Greg Ellifritz
I returned home last week from a 17-day trip to Medellin Colombia.  A lot of my readers like to see the food that is common in the countries I visit.  The article below shows some of the great meals I consumed in Colombia.  While there, I ate out for every lunch and dinner.  I ate at local places and didn’t try to scrimp.

For 17-days, I ended up spending less than $600 on food and alcohol.  That isn’t bad.  Here are some of the things I feasted upon.

On my first foray walking around Medellin. I hadn’t researched the neighborhood restaurants, so I took advice from my book and looked for the place with the most locals eating there.
I found Mondongo’s family restaurant.  It was packed.  Probably 150+ people eating at a covered open air patio at two pm.  That’s a good sign.
I was not disappointed with my choice . My first lunch in the city.
Three large steak medallions with chimichurri sauce, a whole avocado, a sweet plantain, French fries, fried green tomatoes,and a glass of homemade sangria for $15.

 

The restaurant has been in business since 1976.  There are only 13 dishes on the menu.  The cooks can prepare each dish to perfection and get it served quickly.  I got my steak less than five minutes after ordering and it was cooked to a perfect medium level.  Good, cheap, and quick?  I’m all in.  That’s probably why McDonald’s isn’t so popular here.

 

I ate a couple more times there as well.  Food was always excellent, but occasionally when they were short staffed, it took a while to get your check.

Here’s another Mondongo dish.  This is Ajiaco.  It’s a traditional Colombian chicken and potato soup that comes with all the fixings to customize it however you like.  The two small bowls contain capers and heavy cream to thicken the soup.  The cookie-like object is a tostone.  It’s made of corn meal and is used like Americans put crackers in their soup.  It also comes with rice, lime, avocado, cilantro, and hot sauce to jazz things up to your heart’s content.

 

The ear of corn in the center could be eaten on the cob or shaved into the soup.  Peruvian corn is a bit tasteless and chewy.  It’s definitely not Ohio sweet corn.  The meal was so incredibly filling I couldn’t eat it all.   I gave my banana and tostone to a homeless street kid on the sidewalk outside.

 

The soup was $7.25.  I added a small draft beer for $1.00 more.

 

The pic above shows a typical lunch for me.   Served at a small sidewalk cafe without a website, it’s white fish ceviche with avocado, onions, red peppers, and cilantro. Accompanied by a tasty local craft beer.  Seven US dollars for water, beer, and the meal.  In the USA, a restaurant would likely charge a similar price just for the avocado alone!

 

Beef carpaccio at a higher end restaurant in the most tourist-oriented area of the city.  I expected prices to be much higher here, but they weren’t bad.  I ordered the carpaccio as an appetizer, but the plate was huge.  It ended up being my entire meal.  It cost right around US $9.00.

 

The restaurant was called Bonhomia and it was situated with prime real estate along one of the most heavily trafficked pedestrian thoroughfares in the Poblado neighborhood.  I ate quite a few meals there.  The food was universally good, but service was always slow and the waiters often had unpleasant attitudes.

 

I’d been eating a lot of steak and one evening was in the mood for something lighter for dinner. I thought I’d order a chicken Caesar salad. This is what came.

 

It wasn’t really “light” but was the best damn salad I’ve ever eaten. About a pound of teriyaki glazed chicken, bacon, corn, cheese, and croutons covering a bed of romaine lettuce and kale, tossed with Caesar dressing.  It was $7.50.

 

And if you are wondering, yes, you can eat salads in Medellin. The city has potable tap water and the veggies are washed in that before serving.

 

The picture above came from one of my favorite restaurants called Botanika.  It was right across the street from my hotel and had pleasant outdoor dining.  They also had the best sangria I drank on the trip.  I ate there half a dozen times during my stay.

 

Here’s their salmon ceviche, mango, avocado, and cherry tomato bowl.  It was $7.00.

 

There was a tremendous variety of restaurants in my neighborhood.  Middle Eastern restaurants, Kabob shops, vegetarian places, Greek, and Asian restaurants abounded.  Strangely enough, the most popular for the locals seemed to be the Hawaiian Poke bowl restaurants and gourmet hot dog shops.

 

Menu at a local hotdog joint. I had to order a “Park Bitch” just to see what it was.

Looking at the menu, I had to figure out what a “park bitch” was.  When I was feeling adventurous one night I ordered it.

This is the “Park Bitch.”  What makes it a bitch?  It lacks a hot dog!  It’s a hot dog bun filled with with cheese, about a half pound of bacon, onion, and potato straws.


The “Park Bitch”

 

I also tried one of the local Korean restaurants.  The photo below is a sushi roll, but instead of fish, it’s stuffed with bulgogi, and fried egg. I thought that was unique enough to order. It was pretty good for $9.00

 

One of the restaurants that ranked well in the tourist guidebooks was La Revuelta.  It was a fusion Mexican place owned by Colombians.  It was always busy.  I had lunch there once and it was excellent.  They had a large and interesting menu.  I wasn’t that hungry, so I had three tacos with fish and shrimp ceviche, pickled onions, cilantro, and black beans for $5.50.  I accompanied it with one of their signature margaritas.  It went down quite smoothly.

 

 

A restaurant that was also popular with the tourists was Masaya.  It was a large hostel/hotel in a neighborhood popular with ex-pat remote workers.  The hotel has a killer rooftop pool and supposedly good cocktails.  I went twice and wasn’t impressed.  The cocktail on the rooftop was only average and the servers seemed quite haughty and easily annoyed.

 

They also have what is supposed to be the best hamburger place in the city.  I went during a slow lunchtime when there was only about six other customers.  It took 10 minutes to flag down a waiter for my order.  The wait staff and the kitchen crew were too busy screaming at each other to serve the customers.

 

I ordered.  After waiting 30 minutes, I still didn’t even have my drinks.  I left.  It might have been a good hamburger, but it wasn’t worth that hassle.

 

The richest part of the Poblado neighborhood was called Provencia.  It had several streets blocked off from traffic that served as outdoor dining and entertainment venues.  It was fun and always crowded.  See the video below for an idea of what it looked like.

 

 

I was in the mood for pizza on the first time I walked up the hill to visit.  I had a medium, thin crust “artisanal salami,” three cheese, and onion pizza.  It was really good and just the right size for one person’s dinner.  It cost $8.00.

 

The restaurant was called Hasta la Pizza, Baby and also rented shisha pipes.  I was in heaven.

 

My favorite Colombian dish was Bandeja Paisa. It has chicken, blood sausage, fried pork belly, and sausage with cheese accompanied by some mashed and fried plantains, a couple potatoes, and a small salad for $9.00.

 

 

Not all of my meals were opulent.  I often had simple lunches.  This one was a steak salad with plantain for $8.00.

 

I also ate the yummy empanada shop right around the corner from the hotel.   On nights when I didn’t have time to sit around, I’d pick up some empanadas to go.  Three chicken empanadas and a craft beer cost less than $3.00.

 

There were some surprisingly tasty Colombian craft beers that were often available in both restaurants and convenience stores.  My favorite was the Tres Cordilleras brand.  They had several styles of beer (including a strange “Rosada” that only contained 3.8% alcohol and tasted like strawberries).  I liked them all.  In upscale restaurants they cost a little less than $2.00 US each.

 

Some local beer options

 

One more thing for you foodies to understand if you ever go to Colombia.  Tipping more than some pocket change at a restaurant is a uncommon idea for the locals.  If you pay with a credit card, a tip of 10% will automatically be added to the bill.  If paying by cash, many places will ask tourists if they can add the tip directly to the bill.

 

Before giving your waiter a big tip, check the bill.  It was likely automatically included on your bill.  There’s lots of competition for server spots in the tourist areas.  The tourists don’t know the tip is already handled and then leave a cash tip on top of the bill.  Therefore waiters get to double their tip money as compared with their fellow servers in more local restaurants.

 

Colombia isn’t known for its food, but I ate really well when I was down there.

 

Travel Log- Colombia 2022

Travel Log- Colombia 2022 620 827 Greg Ellifritz

I just returned from a 17-day trip to Medellin Colombia.  I made the trip for two primary reasons.  The first is that it is as hot as Hades in my new Texas home.  It’s been 100+ degrees here every day for the last couple months.  I knew it was going to be hot when I moved to Texas.  I also know that I have a flexible work schedule and can temporarily re-locate elsewhere if I want to get out of the heat.

 

When I lived in Ohio, I’d spend a lot of the winter months someplace warm.  Now that I’m a Texas resident, I can do something similar by spending time in a cooler environment during the summer heat.  Medellin is known as “The City of Eternal Spring.”  It’s near the equator, but up in the mountains.  High temperatures are between 70  and 80 degrees with generally sunny weather year around.

 

The other reason I went there is that I wanted to do some more research for my upcoming book on travel scams.  I stayed in an area of Medellin that is full of expats, digital nomads, and foreign travelers.  This neighborhood (Poblado) has a lot of money.  Therefore it also has a lot of thieves and scam artists trying to separate the wealthy visitors from their cash.

 

I speak conversational Spanish and can get by in any Latin American country without problems.  Colombian Spanish is one of the most clear dialects I’ve heard.  The Colombians fully pronounce and annunciate every syllable.  They also speak slower than the residents in other Spanish speaking countries.  I find Colombian Spanish amazingly easy to understand.  That was critical for my research efforts.

 

I spent every night walking for a couple hours in the streets pretending to be a clueless tourist.  I chatted up all the hookers, thieves, hustlers, drug dealers, and scam artists I could find.  I was trying to learn how they worked their scams from direct experience .  Understanding their language was critical to this effort.  I could get scammed in hundreds of places around the world, but I wanted to be able to understand how the scams work in order to share them in my book.  I could only do that if I could talk to the scam artists.  In Colombia, I was able to do that fairly easily.

 

To better describe the area, here is a video of the area I frequented nightly.  Lots of fun.  Lots of music.  Lots of good food and drink.  And lots of hustlers/scam artists.

 

I like Medellin.  I last visited in 2012.  It’s a generally civilized place.  Most things work the way you want them to.  There is reliable electricity, potable tap water, and internet everywhere.  But there is still a very edgy Latin American vibe that keeps things interesting.  There is a lot of wealth disparity.  Both the ultra rich and the homeless share the same neighborhoods.  The streets are lined with homeless people for begging money as the wealthy folks visit the high end restaurants and night clubs.  It’s an interesting place to be.  I’d liken it a bit to Rio de Janeiro, but with a higher percentage of homeless.

 

An aware American can truly enjoy himself/herself here, but one must always be alert for pickpockets, robbers, hookers, and scam artists.  Medellin has just enough shadiness to keep things interesting, but not enough to be really dangerous (at least in the nicer neighborhoods).

 

They say a picture is worth 1000 words.  Take a look at the photos below to better understand the wealth disparity in the city.  The first shows a taxi driver stopping to dumpster dive for recyclable bottles to turn in for extra cash.  Every dumpster and trash can in the city is constantly being searched for recyclables by the poorer residents.

 

Taxi driver stopping to dumpster dive for recyclables he can turn in for extra cash

 

But there is also a baseline level of prosperity not seen in much of South America.  There is a lot of money here.  The wealthy live an amazing life.  The picture below is of a Harley Davidson store in the neighborhood where I stayed.  Unlike many poorer countries I’ve visited, business owners in Medellin use proper concertina wire (rather than embedded broken glass bottles) to secure their property.  All the high dollar businesses had razor wire like this or electric fences protecting their property.  That tells you that there is a real concern for theft, but also that many folks have the resources to minimize their losses.

 

Unlike most Latin countries that embed broken glass in the top of walls for security, in Medellin, proper concertina wire is used everywhere.

 

 

I stayed in the Charlee Hotel on the recommendation of friend who lives part time in the city.  It was a great place.

 

Here are some pictures of my room, which cost a little more than $100 a night.  It was huge and had a sitting room with large windows that open to give it an open air patio feel.

 

 

More like an enclosed balcony than part of the hotel room

 

My writing area on arrival (and that was the last time the TV was turned on).

 

 

Bathroom. The shower ceiling was mirrored. That was a bit odd.

 

View from the sitting room window

 

The hotel was centered right in the middle of the night life capital of Medellin.  It literally say between the two busiest party streets in the city.  It was noisy at night with the windows open, but the hotel soundproofed the door to the open air sitting room.  With the door shut, you couldn’t hear any noises from the outside.  For an idea of what it’s like at night, check out this video  shot from my open window on the third floor of the hotel.  This was a Friday night at about 2:00 AM.

 

The place had the best Latin American gym I’ve ever seen.  It was small but had a lot of great equipment.  The gym was on the top floor of the hotel and had large open windows overlooking the city.  To be honest, the gym and the rooftop pool is what sold me on the place.  I was happy with my stay.

 

View from the hotel gym

 

The hotel had a nice touch of hospitality in that every evening a hotel bartender would knock on your room door while pushing a drink cart.  He offered completely free cocktails to each guest every night.  I often ordered a mojito.  The bartender usually said “You’re big.  You need two.” and would make me an additional mojito or margarita.  It was a nice touch, but daily free cocktail deliveries may have diminished my writing production a little bit.

 

Every night at about 6:30 pm

 

One of the outside walls of the hotel. An appropriate destination for a Gorillafritz.

 

A Deeper Look at Colombian social Issues

 

I saw lots of shocking things during my stay in Medellin.  My entire experience was quite educational.

 

The craziest thing I saw were boxed babies.  While walking to lunch one day, I came across a naked little girl (I would say around two years old) sitting in a cardboard box on the sidewalk. There was a dish sitting next to the box with a few coins in it.

 

I looked around and found mom about 50 yards away. She had two other kids less than 5 years old, each naked in their own cardboard boxes strategically located at various places on the sidewalks along a popular tourist walking route.

Mom was sitting in the shade watching her naked, boxed kids generate income for her.  I didn’t take photos for obvious reasons.  That level of poverty and abuse is abhorrent in America, but is considered “everyday life” in the developing world.
I mentioned that I spent most evenings strolling around the popular tourist spots trying to get scam artists to engage me for book research.

 

One night I finished my stroll and went to a corner grocery store to buy a couple beers to fuel the night’s writing effort. Two little girls followed me into the store and approached me begging for me to buy them food. That’s really common in Medellin.

 

I would guess that these sisters were 12 and 10 years old. When I refused to buy them food, the older one pointed at her little sister and said in English “You can have her. She will do anything you want. Cheap. Cheap.”

 

A 12-year old was pimping her 10-year old little sister. I’ve traveled a lot in places like Thailand, Brazil, and Cambodia where underage prostitution was rampant but I’ve never seen anything like that.

 

Most people have zero idea about the level of depravity that makes up everyday life in many parts of this world.

 

I would have loved to help these little girls (and the kids in boxes), but there are significant hurdles in doing so.

 

1) The scale of the problem. While on my two hour walk  one night, I passed several hundred starving kids begging for money in the streets. I was solicited by probably 20 underage prostitutes in the same time frame. None were as young as these, but being hit up by 14-16 year old girls selling their bodies on the street has happened dozens of times a day for my entire trip.

 

With so many kids needing help, how do you triage your efforts? It’s impossible. I would be bankrupt in a week if I tried to help all the kids down here who truly needed it.

 

The other issue is that my helping them in any way is a tacit reward for the choices they are making. If they successfully appear weak and helpless they get more money. That only encourages them to prostitute themselves/beg more.

 

It’s harsh, but if there were no one down here trying to “help” these kids by giving them food or money for sex, the kids would have to do something more legitimate to generate income. The kids need to be going to school rather than begging/prostituting themselves on the street. If tourists keep giving them money, they have minimal incentive to improve their lot in life.

 

Remember that a lot of parents force their kids to beg because tourist donations are an easier way to make money than picking up a minimum wage job. Many of these kids’ parents don’t want to improve the lives of their children because those kids are often the most reliable sources of household income.

 

2) Zero community support networks. There is minimal government assistance going to the poor. There are relatively few charities. There are no resources locally to refer these people to.

 

The hotel employees despise these kids because they often steal things to get money to eat. The hotel staff don’t want their customers ripped off by the street urchins. They run these kids off their property mercilessly. They absolutely wouldn’t be helpful if I showed up with these two kids. They wouldn’t let the kids inside and would probably evict me.

 

There is simply no place down here that helps these kids.

 

3) Personal risk. What does it look like when a 50-year old man brings two pre-teen prostitutes back to his hotel room to “help” them? The hotel staff would likely call the police and kick me out of the hotel.

 

These kids aren’t dumb. Even if your intentions were nothing but honorable, there is nothing to prevent them from lying to get paid.
In countries like this with overtly corrupt police forces, some of the local girls are in cahoots with the police to scam tourists. If I help the girls by getting them off the street, they can call the police and claim I raped them.

 

The cops will show up and demand a $10K bribe to avoid jail. Of course you’ll pay because you don’t want to end up in a third world prison. The cop will give a little money to the kids and pocket the rest. The kids hop back out to the street to work the scam on another gullible tourist.

 

While I would really like to help all of these kids, it’s logistically impossible and places me in great risk of false accusations that could potentially ruin my life or completely drain my bank account.

 

There’s no way someone like me can realistically help these kids. The only thing I can do is to support the “Mom and Pop” groceries, restaurants, and vendors with my money. If those proprietors are successful, there’s less of a chance that their kids will end up on the street.

 

Beyond the beggars and hookers, there was a tremendous problem with homeless folks called “indigentes” or “gente de la calle” in Spanish.

 

Hookers approaching dudes on the street

 

Medellin is a city of contrasts. Right by my hotel there is a beautiful urban park with trails and waterfalls. That’s unusual in many Latin American cities.

 

The beautiful little creek in the park near my hotel

 

But walk a little further upstream and you see that this beautiful little river is also where all the homeless people bathe.

 

 

It’s stunning to see such abject poverty in an area where the richest people in the country live.  I think that’s part of the reason I like Medellin so much.

 

Police and Security Interactions

 

I didn’t see many police on patrol  during the daytime.  The national police carry SigPro 9mm pistols in Blackhawk Serpa holsters.  Unlike the cops in Bogota, I didn’t see any cops carrying long guns in Medellin.  All the cops are also armed with a PR-24 style baton, handcuffs, and a radio.  They wore external plate carriers and always patrolled in pairs.  They generally looked fit and alert.  They weren’t hassling folks or shaking down people for bribes.

 

Police patrol in pickup trucks here. If I had ever become a police chief, I would mark all police cars like this. “Tactical Black” is stupid. Cop cars should be visible like this.

 

Despite the lack of daytime police presence, there were, however, lots of security guards.  Some were armed  and some were not.  Whether or not they were armed seemed more to be dependent on the individual rather than the job.  The daytime hotel security guard was about 35 years old and wore a nickel-plated four inch S&W Model 10 in a nylon flap holster with five extra lead round nose cartridges in loops on the outside of the holster body.  The late night guard was younger and only carried a PR-24 baton.

 

The security guards could be sharp.  On my second day, I ate lunch at a large outdoor restaurant frequented by mostly locals.  I had my flashlight in my front pants pocket (not clipped, that draws too much attention).  It was daylight, so I was carrying it primarily to use as a small impact weapon.  As I was eating, the guard walked over to me and bent over to better inspect the bulge in my pants pocket.  He quickly determined it wasn’t a pistol barrel, smiled, and moved on.

 

I suggest that you become friends with the security guards at your residence in Latin America.  My hotel had a very high end rooftop bar that attracted a lot of prostitutes and other shady characters.   It’s almost exclusively rented by wealthy foreign travelers. All the local hookers and hustlers try to get inside to run game on the clueless Gringos.

 

As such, security was tight. Three security guards at each door. Metal detector wands for everyone going in at night. If you know me, you know that going through metal detectors is hazardous to my health.  Social engineering is a thing.

 

On my very first morning there, I brought coffee back from a local shop for all the guards and front desk staff. Every time I walked in and out, I talked the the guards in Spanish for a little while, asking about their lives and families. All of the other Gringo guests ignored them.

 

Within a day, they no longer wanded me with the metal detector and waved me in without any security screening. I was a good guy and no longer considered a potential threat. Over my stay I brought the door guards some food, coffee, and soft drinks. My total investment during my time there was about $25.

 

Near the end of my stay, the hotel staff upgraded me to a much more expensive room. The door guys got me the “local” price for a haircut at the barbershop down the street. They took me to a laundry place that only locals know to get my laundry done for half the Gringo rate.

 

They all called me “Mr. Marine.” I kept telling them that I’m just a writer who likes to work out. They didn’t believe me, but they played along. It’s was fun.

 

For the cost of a couple coffees and hotdogs, I became friends with all the staff and they were more than willing to take very good care of me.  Personal relationships are far more valuable than money in much of the world. I urge you all to cultivate these relationships when you travel. They will enrich your life and make your stay much more enjoyable.

 

Outside of the hotel, I was staying in one of the safest parts of the city.  Lots of security guards everywhere.  At night, plenty of cops on foot and motorcycle patrol.  Unlike many South American cites, the locals don’t seem to be too concerned about getting jacked.  People count money out in the street and walk around holding expensive cell phones with no worries.

 

The security guards all carried very strange weapons in my neighborhood.   I made friends with a local security guard and he let me take a photo of his shotgun.

 

It was a 16 gauge break top single shot cut down with pistol grips. Loaded with birdshot.…in a super crowded outdoor dining venue.   This video gives you an idea of the area the guards were patrolling.  It was two blocks away from my hotel.

 

The sticker on the gun says “Royale Express” with a logo of a bull.  I saw lots of these, some nickel plated.  I only saw one other pistol gripped shotgun.  A convenience store guard near my hotel carried a chrome plated Winchester 12 gauge pump with pistol grips. It reminded me of the store guards in Honduras.

 

I needed help identifying the pistol in the guard’s flap holster.  My friend Will Peck and some of the other authors from The Firearms Blog helped me out.  They did a great job of identifying the pistol as an early model of the Colombian Cordova 9mm auto.

 

That was the only semi-auto pistol I saw security guards carrying.  Almost all the guards in my neighborhood carried the sawed-off single shot shotguns or .38 revolvers.

 

My weapons

It’s important when you are outside the USA not to have any visible indications of carrying a weapon.  Having a pocket knife clipped to your pocket goes unnoticed in America, but will attract a lot of attention in the developing world.  I mentioned my flashlight earlier.  I carried it in my right front pocket, next to my money clip.  The money clip contains less than $100 in local currency and one credit card.  I don’t take my wallet with me when going out in public.

 

I had my Spyderco Salt knife clipped to the waistband of my pants in the appendix position.  If going to a bar or club with pat down searches, I moved it to my underwear just behind my belt buckle.  I carried my POM pepper spray in my left front pocket with my cell phone.

 

The most common attacks here are street robberies.  In the event of multiple attackers or loaded guns, my plan was to give up my money clip and phone.  But a lot of these robberies are committed by unarmed punk street kids.  In that case, I had a weapon right next to each valuable item I carried.  If they demanded my phone, I feign compliance and go for the pepper spray.  If they ask for my money, I feign compliance and then hit them with my flashlight.

 

The knife is a last resort.  No one will care if you beat the hell out of a criminal down here, but if you stab someone, you’ll be in a lot more trouble.  Besides surviving the attack, you’ll also want to avoid a long prison sentence in the developing world.

 

Activities

I did one tour while in Medellin.  It was a free tour of Medellin’s Poblado neighborhood provided by Beyond Colombia.  The tour guides work for tips.  These are a bit of a crap shoot and really depend on the individual tour guide.  I’ve had good ones and bad ones.  This one was horrible.  The guide gave us a little history of the neighborhood and the park where we met.  He then showed us some graffiti walls before taking us to the rooftop bar at Masaya for “a break.”  After 40 minutes in the bar, I grew bored and left.  I can go to bars on my own.

 

I also took an Uber (20 minutes, $3.00) to the Medellin botanical gardens for a stroll one afternoon.  Entry was free.  It was more like a large, well maintained city park than a nature exhibition.  There were tons of plants, but none of them was labeled.  When I was there on a Sunday afternoon,  hundreds of families had  just thrown down blankets and were spending a lazy afternoon in the garden eating picnic lunches with loved ones. I wish more Americans would embrace that lifestyle.

 

 

After strolling through the gardens, I wanted to visit the downtown park where all the Botero statues are. According to my phone, it was two miles from the gardens. I wanted to walk, so I asked the garden security guard if it was safe.

 

His reply? “More or less. The neighborhood is ugly. Lots of homeless and street people. Guard your money and your cell phone.”

 

The perfect challenge. I made the trek. The guard was right. It was ugly. I would have taken photos on the traverse, but my phone was hidden down my pants. Lots of poverty and chaos.  A fascinating piece of abandoned land that was taken over by shade tree motorcycle mechanics.  Only there was no shade. so each group of mechanics set up a big blue tarp for shade and worked on the motorcycles people brought them.  There were dozens of these “shops” on a piece of abandoned property about two acres in size.  Lots of them were keeping busy.  The true “underground economy” at work.

 

I was most certainly the only gringo around. I got some strange looks, but emerged unscathed.   The picture below is the famous downtown park.  While there, I was treated like a wallet with legs.  It was great practice for improving my situational awareness and learning some more scams run against travelers.  Hustlers everywhere.

 

 

Then I got to see the only artistic statues that reinforce my positive body image.  I love Botero.

 

 

 


 

 

 

One of the reasons I enjoy third world travel is that lots of things are amazingly cheap.  I stayed 17 days and needed to do laundry midway through.  I went to a wonderful place called “Laundry and Beer”  recommended by my hotel security guards.  They took a week’s worth of my dirty laundry, washed, dried , and folded it in less than two hours for the equivalent of $4.50 US.   I got a haircut for $5.00 and an hour-long massage for $20.00.  Most of my meals were less than $10 each.  Draft beers at a bar were about $1.25 US.  It was a nice escape from the ever increasing price inflation in the USA.

On travel in general

 

I can confidently state that travel is continuing to get worse. While waiting on airport delays during my flight home, I looked back at this year’s travel. I’ve thus far flown 36 flights in this calendar year. Twenty-eight of those flights have been delayed or cancelled.

 

Flying to and from Colombia in the last few weeks has been illustrative of the entire process.

 

My flight down to Medellin was delayed 2.5 hours, meaning I didn’t get to into my hotel until 3:00 am.

 

Coming home, my flight left Medellin on time. I arrived in Miami with a two hour connection to go through immigration/customs and board my plane to Austin.

 

I was flying at the front of the plane and had Global Entry, which meant I entered the country with a line of only three people ahead of me. It took less than five minutes to get processed through immigration. The folks that didn’t have Global Entry were looking at a 90+ minute wait in line.

 

Then I had to collect and recheck my bag. It took 1.5 hours for my bag to arrive on the conveyor belt. When the bags arrived, there were only four of us from the flight (all with Global Entry) who had made it to the baggage claim area The rest of our flight was still waiting in the immigration line.

 

As I was picking up my bag, I got notification that my connecting flight was delayed 30 minutes. I was glad. I wouldn’t have made the flight if it had left on time. I had to walk/sky-train 50 gates in Miami’s D-terminal to get to my connection. I arrived four minutes before my flight boarded.

 

The flight landed in Austin. We sat on the runway for 50 minutes after arrival. The pilot explained that the airport was operating with a “skeleton staff” and there were not enough employees on the ground to guide the plane to the gate.

 

That “skeleton staffing” was also evidenced in the baggage handling. After deplaning, it took another hour for the bags to arrive on the baggage carousel.

 

I’ve been traveling a bunch in the last nine months. Most of it has been flying around the country to teach classes, but I’ve made a couple international trips now. All have been utter chaos and getting continually worse.

 

Things don’t seem to be improving.

 

Despite the travel delays, I enjoyed Medellin.  I think I will spend even more time there next summer.  If you are interested in some more information about my stay, I will be posting some more articles about my trip on my Choose Adventure website next week.

 

Even though travel right now is a massive hassle, it still beckons to me.  I hope articles like this one make you more interested in seeing the world as well.

 

 

 

 

Medellin at dusk during a thunderstorm edited by my friend at Magellen Photography https://www.facebook.com/magellanphotos/

 

Drugs in Foreign Countries

Drugs in Foreign Countries 532 496 Greg Ellifritz

American media has been reporting incessantly about the American basketball player who has been imprisoned in Russia after authorities found some marijuana vape cartridges in her luggage.

This is far from the only case when Americans have been punished in foreign countries even if they did not bring or consume any illegal drugs in the country in question.

 

Read this article.

American Arrested In Dubai For Smoking Pot Before His Trip – In Las Vegas

 

This guy smoked pot legally at home before flying to the UAE.

“The 51 year old was a day into his visit when pancreatitis sent him to the hospital. His urine sample showed traces of pot in his system. And the hospital reported it to police. After 3 days in jail the man is confined to his hotel, pending charges.”

 

You should also read the linked article about the flight attendant going out on a date on a layover in the UAE.  Police raided her date’s apartment and arrested both of them after they found two joints.

 

“People can still be charged and convicted in the UAE even if substances were taken outside the country, “as long as traces are still present in the bloodstream upon arrival in the UAE.”

 

Even worse, you can be arrested for having a speck of weed on your shoe.

Dubai Jails British Man with Bit of Marijuana on Shoe

 

I’ve also seen tourists rounded up in Bangkok bar areas and forced by police to submit to instant urine drug tests.  If any level of drugs is found in the urine the tourist is either arrested or fined.

I don’t care if you use drugs, but I don’t want my readers going to jail.  Be very careful with your drug use if you are going to be visiting Asia or the Middle East.

 

 

Where to Travel Based on Your Myers-Briggs Type

Where to Travel Based on Your Myers-Briggs Type 1854 2560 Greg Ellifritz
This is kind of a fun idea that I haven’t seen before.  Have you considered matching your travel goals with your personality type?

 

I’m an INTJ and I would certainly enjoy their recommendation of a solo drive around Ireland.  I haven’t done that yet, but would book that trip in a heartbeat.

 

Interestingly enough, I’ve done about 3/4 of the trips she suggests for other personality types and I enjoyed all of those as well.

 

So it might all be crap, but it’s an interesting amusement for travelers.  If you know your personality type, check the link below and find out where you should be traveling this year.

 

 

Where to Travel Based on Your Myers-Briggs Type

 

 

 

Avoiding Prostitutes

Avoiding Prostitutes 1195 1593 Greg Ellifritz

I enjoy a relatively mundane existence in a generic American suburb.  In my normal life, I simply don’t encounter prostitutes at home.  All that changes when I travel in the developing world.

 

I wrote a whole chapter in Choose Adventure about dealing with prostitutes.  For the record, I actually think prostitution should be legal; but it’s not for me.  I have zero interest in banging a woman who is likely an abused drug addict.  The disease risk is too high for me.  Besides that, lots of prostitutes are opportunistic thieves as well.  While you are resting in your post-orgasmic bliss, she is taking your wallet, passport, and phone.

 

No thanks.  In more than 20 years of serious worldwide travel, I’ve never once hired a prostitute, even in places where such conduct is legal.

Some countries are prime destinations for sex tourists.  Guys schedule entire vacations around finding as many call girls as they can.  In countries like this, prostitution is far more noticeable to the uninterested traveler than in other places.

 

I’m in Colombia now.  It has a lot more prostitutes than most of the places I visit.  In fact, when I discuss “running the gauntlet of whores” in my book, I was in Cartagena, Colombia.  Other countries where it’s more obvious are The Dominican Republic, Brazil, Costa Rica (especially underage sex trafficked girls), Thailand, and the very poor countries of Africa.

 

Many other places have their various “Red Light Districts” but you don’t see many streetwalkers outside those spots.  Most of my readers likely have no experience dealing with prostitutes, so I’m going to outline a few ways you might pick up on the fact that there is sex for sale.  Why do you care?  Because where sex is sold, so are illegal guns and drugs.

 

Some Red Light Districts are easier to spot than others.
This is the “Love Time Hotel” in Rio. I wonder what happens there?

 

The same pimps running the girls are also selling drugs and organizing theft rings.  There is an entire economy based around the sex trade.  Dudes who want girls often also want drugs.  When you watch the ecosystem of a place ripe with prostitutes, you can observe the hookers, the “Johns,” the pimps, the dealers, the pickpockets, and a whole other class of folks looking to prey upon any of those people when they become distracted.

 

Two Colombian women appearing to be prostitutes approached three guys in the street and organize a deal. Viewed last weekend from my third floor hotel balcony.

 

The dudes looking for sex in these areas are perfect victims.  They are often impaired by excessive alcohol and/or drugs.  The bad guys also know that a guy picking up a hooker isn’t likely to call the police to report any type of crime out of fear of being arrested himself or having his activities outed publicly.

 

These sites are really not the safest places to be. They’re probably not where you want to spend much time unless you are looking to be victimized.

 

Many tourists are completely clueless about some of these issues and unintentionally put themselves or their families in danger because they didn’t recognize the subtle indicators.  Let me use my trip to Colombia as an example to provide an education about some of the things you should be paying attention to.

 

Amsterdam’s Red Light District

 

As I was in the taxi going to my hotel from the airport at 2:00am on a Thursday night, I saw a massive number of street prostitutes.  Probably close to 100 girls in a 20-minute ride.  I asked the cabbie about it.  He said that they were a huge problem in the city.

 

The cabbie told me that in Medellin, they call the prostitutes “mujeres divinas,” or “divine women”.  He said the term comes from an old Spanish song by the same title.  Check out the video below.

 

If you don’t speak Spanish, the song is about some guys drinking and talking about all the women who had wronged them in the past, inspiring the creation of some drunken anti-female song lyrics.  In the end, the singers declare that despite all the ways women have wronged them, all women are divine creatures to be adored, no matter their faults.

 

So if you hear the words “mujeres divinas,” the direct translation may not be quite correct. I’d never heard that particular term before.

 

I arrived at the hotel safely.  I was staying at a very trendy and expensive (by Colombian standards) place.  It wasn’t a cheap hourly rate motel in the ‘hood.

 

At registration, the desk clerk warned that the hotel does not allow guests to bring girls under 18 years old back to the room for overnight stays.  All overnight guests must show identification to ensure that people aren’t bringing back underage prostitutes.  The hotel wouldn’t need such a policy if there hasn’t been a problem with it in the past.

 

When you hear of such things, your guard should go up a bit.

 

When I got to my room, I had two more clues that there was a lot of “pay for play” going on in the neighborhood.

 

I don’t ever remember seeing condoms (extra secure at that) available right next to the M&Ms in the hotel room mini-bar in any of the US hotels where I’ve stayed.

 

I then went into the bathroom.  They have a special separate trash can for disposing of said used condoms.

 

Another thing I’ve never seen in the USA.

 

During the weekend, you might see even more prostitutes trying to sell themselves.  I’m staying at a ritzy hotel in the most expensive neighborhood in Medellin.  The security guards chase the hookers away from the entrances so they don’t harass the guests.  So then the women line up on the sidewalk just out of sight of the hotel guard and go to work.

 

Last Saturday night I walked to a restaurant about five minutes away from my hotel to eat dinner.  On my short walk home, eight different hookers directly offered me their services.

 

Another clue that there is a lot of prostitution going on is seeing old Gringo tourists walking hand in hand with very young local girls.  As I strolled the city yesterday I saw an American guy who appeared to be between 65 and 70 years old.  He was holding hands with a local girl who looked to be about 15 as they were walking down the street.  He stopped at a street vendor and bought the little girl a long stemmed rose.  This is very common in Thailand as well.

 

Besides the street-walking prostitutes, a lot more women meet their “clients” on dating websites.  Guys who get a sudden burst of online attention from young, hot women want to believe that they have stumbled upon a dating paradise.

 

Sorry, dude.  That hot 20-something doesn’t really think you are cute, she’s just looking to get paid.  A high percentage of women on dating sites in busy South American tourist towns are working prostitutes.

 

Take a look at the photo below.  She liked my Tinder profile.  It’s funny.  I never have 24-year old girls interested in my profile at home.  I’m more than double her age and live in another country.  Do you really think she’s looking for a relationship with a dude like me?

 

At least this one is honest about what she’s doing.  Read her bio.  “Busco” means “I’m looking for” in English.

 

A lot of your online dating matches will be prostitutes. Not all of them will be this obvious.

 

The issue is so common down here that the locals have a term for a woman who trades sex for favors, travel, or expensive presents.  They call that girl a “prepago.”  It means “pre-paid” like a pre-paid credit card.

 

It denotes a woman who doesn’t directly demand money for sex like a regular prostitute, but instead will gladly provide sex to a man who “pre-pays” her with expensive dinners or gifts.  “Prepagos” are so common that women who are not prostitutes will often note they aren’t “pre-paid” directly on their dating profiles.

 

Here is another woman who swiped on my Tinder profile.  Note what she says in her bio: “no soy prepago o amigos con derechos.”  It means “I’m not “pre-paid” and will not be a “friend with benefits.”  That shows exactly how common prostitutes are using dating apps to get their clients.

 

 

If you are single and in the dating market, be extra cautious about your online dating matches.  Down here some of the girls use scopolomine to knock out their dates and rob them blind.  Others will lure them to a secluded location where they are robbed by the hooker’s friends.

 

Meet all your dates in a public place.  If you are going to get intimate, take your date back to your hotel or rental rather than going back to your date’s place.

 

One other good thing to do is to ask your date if he/she has identification.  You can tell them (whether true or false) that the security in your building is strict and won’t let anyone in without an ID.  Criminals don’t want you to know their true identity.  If they don’t have an ID, that should be a real warning sign.  If the name on their ID is different than on their online profile, that should also worry you.

 

Dating in other countries can be really fun, but there are a lot of pitfalls to avoid.

 

Here’s the bottom line.  Even though I don’t partake in prostitution, I don’t judge.  I think consenting adults (not trafficked children) should be able to make an agreeable business relationship, even if it involves sex.  That doesn’t diminish the potential dangers of being around a bunch of prostitutes, pimps, and drug dealers.

 

Where people are openly selling sex, it’s an indication that the people in your location likely abide by different social norms than what is common in the place where you live.  You should be alert to the fact that if some social norms are drastically different, it is likely that other norms are different as well.  That makes social situations harder to judge and places you in a bit more danger.

Be extra careful in these areas.

Street Meat

Street Meat 960 717 Greg Ellifritz

 

In the developing world, street food is often safer to eat than food in restaurants.  I eat at places like this as often as possible.  The food can be absolutely amazing and you have a very low chance of getting sick if you follow the tips in this article.

How to Eat Street Food Anywhere in the World Without Getting Sick

 

This is a salad containing cooked pig lung over a bed of chilled duck blood. It’s a traditional breakfast meal in rural Vietnam. I don’t recommend it.

 

General Hotel Safety Tips

General Hotel Safety Tips 300 300 Greg Ellifritz

My friend Annette Evans has penned two excellent articles on travel safety in hotels and airports.  The information in these articles is valuable both if you are traveling out of the country or staying stateside.  Check out the articles linked below.

 

Travel safety: hotel and vacation rental edition

Thoughts on airport safety and security

v

“15 Safety Lessons Learned from Terrifying Travel Experiences”

“15 Safety Lessons Learned from Terrifying Travel Experiences” 730 484 Greg Ellifritz

I read lots of travel safety articles.  Many are utter bullshit written by people who don’t actually travel.  I recently stumbled across an article that was very different from other pieces I have read and wanted to share it with you.  I think you’ll find it both valuable and entertaining at the same time.

 

15 Safety Lessons Learned from Terrifying Travel Experiences

 

 

“How to Survive a Monkey Attack”

“How to Survive a Monkey Attack” 800 534 Greg Ellifritz

Two weeks ago, I shared a couple articles about defending against shark attacks.  I admitted that I hadn’t thought much about the issue of shark attacks despite swimming with sharks all over the world.

 

When I saw this article about monkey attacks, I realized that unlike the shark attack, I had seriously considered defending against a monkey attack.

 

In 2008, I was hiking alone in a wildlife preserve in Kenya.  As I was walking on a remote trail, I encountered a troop of baboons walking the opposite direction towards me on the same trail.  What do I do?

 

I stepped off the trail about 10 feet to allow them room to pass.  That wasn’t far enough.  Several charged me.  I kept slowly backing off while drawing my blade.  For awhile, I seriously thought I was going to have to stab a baboon.

 

Imagine getting charged by a couple of these

 

In 2019, I was camping in a large safari tent on a South African photo safari.  It was the middle of the afternoon when I heard one of my camp mates screaming.  I ran over to the deck in front of her tent where she was completely surrounded by a troop of menacing little vervet monkeys.  I yelled and stomped my feet.  I charged them.  They were completely nonplussed.

 

I ended up drawing my OC spray and aiming for the nearest monkey’s eyes.  That finally drove them all off.  Those monkeys are such a menace that park rangers there and in places like India use slingshots and paintball guns to drive the monkeys away from the tourists.

 

Nasty little bastards

 

Don’t be like me.  Read the article below and learn how to deal with monkey attacks before you have to do it for real.

 

How to Survive a Monkey Attack | Primates Survival Tips

 

 

Thank you to John Motil for sending me this link.

Travel Log- Mexico

Travel Log- Mexico 620 349 Greg Ellifritz

I have some travel plans for this coming summer.  I’m worried that the long-Covid I’m still suffering might negatively affect my travel abilities.  I haven’t traveled internationally since I almost died from Covid in Ecuador last year.  Quite honestly, I’ve been avoiding international travel out of fears that I’ll have another near-death experience.

 

Since the Ecuador trip, most of my travel has been to various teaching venues across the country.  While I don’t have any significant problems teaching, the classes and associated travel stress absolutely exhaust me.  When I teach a two-three day class, I generally spend the following day almost bed-ridden with zero energy.

 

If a two day class does that to me, how could I take a two week trip out of the country?  I decided to do a trial run with a solo trip to Cancun last month.  I stayed six days at an all exclusive resort with the goal of minimizing stress and avoiding days of being stuck exhausted in bed.  I’m happy to say the trip was successful.  No exhaustion and no days in bed once I got home.  What follows  are the details from my Mexico trip in late April through early May this year.

 

I flew to Cancun on American Airlines.  I’ve been flying them more frequently since the pandemic began.  They seem to have better routes and fewer cancellations than my previous favorite, Delta.  As I wanted to treat myself for my first international trip in almost a year, I booked business class.  My flight down there had a connection in Dallas.

 

I was surprised when I went to board the plane from Dallas to Cancun.  American is doing a facial recognition boarding pass on that leg now.  I had never seen that before.  Instead of scanning our boarding passes, we stood in front of a computer screen as it scanned our facial features and identified us.

 

I wonder where American is getting the data for this facial recognition technology?  I had never submitted photos for them.  In any event, that seems to be the way of the future.  It worked fine and I walked onto the plane.

 

I was shocked to see that the business class had lay-flat seats within their own individual “pod.”  I’ve flown in these cabins before going on 8+ hour international flights, but I didn’t imagine they’d use them for a 90 minute flight to Cancun.

 

Business class to Mexico usually isn’t this nice.

 

I was also surprised that American is now serving real meals now.  This lunch was a salad with shrimp, cheese, tomato, and street corn.  It was accompanied by some tasty orzo and a small cake.  Not bad.

 

Real meals are back!

 

The flights arrived on time and I didn’t have any difficulty with my luggage.  The wait for immigration in the crowded Cancun airport was only about 10 minutes.  The government has done a lot of work to speed up this process over the years and I greatly appreciate it.

 

I got my bag, and walked out to meet USA Transfers, my favorite transport company at that airport.  I strongly urge you to pre-book your transportation before you arrive in Cancun so that you aren’t mobbed by taxi drivers and transportation company reps as you walk out of the airport.

 

Because this was a short notice trip, none of the hotels I usually frequent in Cancun had any available rooms.  Cancun is now one of the most popular worldwide tourist destinations.   When I was there last month, only 13% of area hotels had ANY available hotel rooms.  All the rest were fully booked.

 

I ended up staying at The Royal Sands All Inclusive Resort & Spa.  The resort got 4.5 stars on Orbitz.  It was OK.  Most certainly a step down in quality from the hotels I preferred, but adequate.  Unfortunately, because things were so busy, I had to pay five-star prices for a three-star hotel.

 

Please keep in mind, I often sleep in jungle hammocks and rent rooms that cost less than $20 a day in third world countries.  I’m used to roughing it.  This was not roughing it by any means, I just hate paying really expensive prices for an experience that is only adequate.

 

Here are a few pictures of the hotel.  It was on a quiet section of the beach near downtown (where I prefer to go out at night).

 

Hotel pools

 

Looking north from my room

 

View from the room balcony

 

There was a long wait at the reception desk to check in.  The hotel (like most places) was severely understaffed since the pandemic.  The front desk clerk informed me that since the hotel was a “time share” hotel, everyone must check out on Friday.  I was staying until Saturday.  The clerk informed me that I would have to check out and get a new room for Friday night.  That was never noted when I booked the room.  What a pain in the ass.  I had to wait in line again and then move my stuff to literally the room right next to my previous room for my final night.

 

I got my keys and the clerk pointed to the building that was farthest from the lobby.  I walked the nearly half mile to my room.  The key didn’t work.  I walked a half mile back to the lobby.  They gave me new keys.  I walked back to the room.  The new keys didn’t work either.  Back to the front desk.

 

The clerk informed me that the battery in the card reader was likely dead and he would be sending a maintenance man up to the room to change it.  I trekked back to the room and waited 20 minutes for the dude to come change the battery.  Not a great hotel experience.  The staff didn’t seem to care.

 

I finally got into the room and found that one of the bed pillows had a blood stain on it.  Nice touch.  At that point I was too tired to care.

 

Bloodstained pillow cases aren’t a good look

 

I had a relaxing stay.  The hotel had a great pool and workout facility.  I read and wrote and worked out.  It was uneventful and nice.  The only downside was that the gym required masks during the entire workout.  Another pain in the ass, but that was the law in Cancun at the time.  Now all mask restrictions are done.

 

For my last night, I decided to go into downtown and eat at one of my favorite Italian restaurants (Rolandi’s Pizzeria).  After eating nothing but Mexican food for a week, I was craving something else.  As I was staying in the Cancun hotel zone, I chose to ride the local chicken bus into downtown to get some good food.

 

The restaurant didn’t disappoint.  I’ve probably eaten there 10 times and always had a great meal.  I started with their beef carpaccio and then had a wood fired pizza.  Everything was excellent.  I highly recommend the spot for anyone who wants to leave the hotel zone.

 

mmm…raw meat

 

Better than pizza in Austin

 

I ate my meal and took a walk around the Parque de las Palapas, a local park that has food vendors, live music, and handicraft artists. It’s always a chill place on a Friday night.

 

Parque de las Palapas

 

Parents rent these little electric cars for their kids to ride through the park as youth groups perform song and dance routines on the stage.

 

I’ve been to Mexico about 25 times over the years and lived down here for a couple months last year. I’ve never seen any kind of violence until this trip.

 

I picked up some gifts for friends and then headed out to the Main Street (Avenida Tulum) to catch the bus back to the hotel.

 

I noticed a dramatic uptick in number of homeless people on this trip as compared to when I last ventured into downtown Cancun about 18 months ago. Lots of beggars pushing shopping carts full of belongings now. In my previous visits, I never saw that.  The pandemic hit the tourist areas very hard.

 

As I was making my way to the bus stop, I heard a crash and a bunch of screaming behind me. I turned around and saw a shirtless homeless dude screaming at people. He had broken off a four-foot section of a wooden parking barrier and was swinging it at everyone walking on the sidewalk. He had a six-inch bladed kitchen knife in his other hand.

 

He was about 50 yards away and closing the distance swinging the wooden club at everyone on the sidewalk. He missed most of his shots, but hit a few of the slower people.  He kept the blade near his waistline and didn’t try to stab anyone.

 

I started thinking about my response options.  His movements were uncoordinated and he appeared to be really drunk or on drugs.  I was reasonably sure I could avoid his wild swings, and he didn’t seem to be doing much damage to the people he hit.

 

I had pepper spray and a folding knife, but wasn’t going to involve myself in that mess in a foreign country.   So long as no one was getting seriously hurt, my motto “Not my people. Not my problem” would be great guidance.

 

If he had started stabbing people I likely would have interfered.  I had my POM pepper spray with a range of about 10 feet.  The least I could do if he began using the knife would be to give him a face full of spicy treats.  I was reasonably certain I could do that without getting stabbed.

 

As the dude closed the distance without using the knife, I decided to get out of the area.  I  changed plans and flagged down a cab in the street. I hopped in and gave the cabbie the name of my hotel. He quickly left the scene saying “Que loco!” If a Mexican cab driver calls a situation crazy, you can bet it is truly crazy.

 

Problem averted. Back to the hotel and unlimited margaritas without interacting with the Mexican police. I’m calling it a win. Nothing about the attack made the local news in the following days.

 

Everyday carry in Cancun. Glad I didn’t have to use some of this stuff.

Be more careful walking around downtown Cancun. It’s more like Portland, Atlanta, or Austin now. Lots of crazies.

 

On a side note, I recently replaced my ASP Street Defender with the POM Unit for everyday carry.  The ASP is great, but only sprays about three to four feet.  I wouldn’t have wanted to get that close to the crazy guy with the knife.  That situation gave me a greater appreciation of the POM’s more extended range, so I began carrying that one.  I’m happy with the change.

 

POM pocket pepper spray

 

 

My flight home was a direct flight to Austin.  It ended up being two hours late (such is the reality of today’s air travel).  It was a more traditional plane and the business class didn’t have the lay-flat seats.  That first flight spoiled me.

 

I had never arrived in Austin from an international flight.  The process was smooth (thank you Global Entry), but the luggage took almost an hour to arrive on the carousel.  Apparently, that isn’t unusual for international flights.  One more facial recognition encounter and I was walking to the parking garage with my bag.

 

The feds were able to recognize me even with this blurry photograph.

 

 

I have a couple more vacations planned for the summer.  I’m heading back to Ohio for a few days to see friends and family in early July.  After that, I’m taking off to Medellin, Colombia for a couple weeks.  Then in early August, I’ll be visiting Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.  I’m looking forward to traveling again.