“It’s not the destination, but the journey that counts.” Such like the journey that took me in the winter of 2011 from snowy New York to the beautiful South American country of Colombia. The trip was rough, with setbacks that would deter the normal person from ever going forward. Luckily, we are not normal.
Our travels started right after Christmas on Long Island. The night our plane was scheduled to depart from JFK airport happened to be the night of the biggest snowstorm New York City and Long Island had seen in decades. The three of us, my father, his girlfriend and I got caught right in the middle of that blizzard. On our way to the airport we spun out twice and got stuck in an intersection with 25 others – everyone lending others shovels and sharing coffee and edibles as if they were attending a lovely garden party. It was peculiar seeing jaded New Yorkers doing such acts of kindness, but alas, with the help of two other people we managed to get out of the intersection after an hour of work.
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Once we arrived at the airport at around 1:00am we learned that our plane was inevitably delayed. Assuming that it would have been at least another 24 hours until our departure, we decided it would be in our best interest to find a hotel. The airport would have been a better option. In search of hotels, we were barricaded by snow banks the size of minivans and unplowed roads. We turned on a side street in the middle of industrial Jamaica, Queens where we became trapped in eight-foot snow drifts. Ten hours were spent there spinning and digging without food or water. Coming on noon, our luck changed as two workers from the industrial plant next to us got a team of workers to get us out.
When we returned to the airport we found chaos. The large space was filled beyond capacity of people waiting for flights. We were then shuffled around between gates and check in stations for two days until our airline, Aires, finally set a departure time. However, our nightmare wasn’t over. We got in our seats and many simply fell asleep before we got off the tarmac. All of the sudden we awoke to the sounds of screaming and sobbing. The airline attendant had announced that the plane would not be taking off until further notice and we would be led back to the airport.
160 sleep deprived, sobbing, starving passengers chanted things in Spanish I would probably never want to hear again and many refused to get up. Security swarmed the plane, and with the help of intimidating semi-automatic weapons, everyone was escorted out. The riots continued. Aires scheduled another flight that night, and luckily we got out of there as soon as we could. I was told later that because of that incident, Aires no longer flies out of JFK.
Once in Perdeira, Colombia, I was fascinated by the culture. It was the complete antithesis of New York. The extreme class differences were astonishing. Literal and metaphorical barbed wire parted the rich and poor. There were natural hot springs and waterfalls near checkpoints to control drug trafficking. I experienced natural resources, food, religions, and people that were amazing. Those that had nothing gave everything. There was such a sense of pride and hospitality. It was like nothing was what it seemed; you scratched the surface and found another experience, another story. That’s ultimately what this trip was: assumptions and realizations. I don’t know if I’d ever be the same.
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