Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Another Week on a Colombian Island in the Sun

Me: Super tanned
Sorry for not updating in awhile. I’ve been gone to a Colombian island in the sun in the Caribbean again. Same one I went to with Tobi and Alex. As you remember, I had no internet access last time. Even though I have some internet access now, it’s still really limited, and I have to go into town to update my blog, which I’m doing now. Because I can only update infrequently, I have to combine my updates, which would usually be separate articles. Enjoy.

Day 1
Colombian Island in the Sun in the Caribbean
Photo shot by Tobi Hoffman
I arrive at night into the island, because I wanted to enjoy the food in Cartagena before I left. I ate 
the most wonderful risotto and drank two beautiful glasses of red wine, at the same place where I had my favorite blackened chicken. I didn’t like one of the guests at the hostel I was staying at.
I think she was doing cocaine. She was some European girl, maybe 26, who tried to look like a hippie, but I’m sure had rich parents. She braided her hair in dreadlocks. She had tats everywhere and always smelled of cigarette and marijuana smoke. She would go in and out of the room, while I was trying to sleep.
I counted once. She went in and out of the room five times in one hour. I was pretty sure she was high on cocaine – like a good number of people in this city.
When I arrived to the island, I was stopped by two police officers. One was Hispanic and the other one was black. I got into argument with them. They asked to search my stuff. I had no choice.
I said, “You have no reason to search me.”
The Hispanic cop said, “Identification.” He could see I was American. Then he said, “In Colombian, we can search you anytime.”
No you can’t. You have a Constitution. [I know; I checked, remember the raid at my last hostel?] You need a reason to search me.” (A reason to search someone is called probable cause, and I was actually good at probable cause analysis, and as a law student with the NLG, I won a number of cases for my clients to get back their property – arguing the cops had no right to search.)
He said, “We can search you, because it’s night time. And at night, it’s dangerous.”
I seriously thought to myself, This guy isn't that bright.
He continued searching my stuff and getting more aggressive. I was getting annoyed. I remember that the hostel owner told me once that Colombian cops aren’t that educated, and they only pretend to know what they’re talking about.
So after he searched me, I told him I wanted their names. They both hesitated to give it to me. I told them I was going to write a complaint against them for searching me. The black cop looked nervous.
The Hispanic cop said, “It’s night time. We can search you at night. It’s dangerous.”
I said, “It’s not illegal to come to the beach at night. Can you tell me which law makes it illegal?”
He said nothing. Then I said, “You just stopped me because you wanted money from me.”
I can’t really tell you what emboldened me to talk back, but I think I had enough of these Colombian cops, which have to be the greediest cops I’ve met in South America so far. And I’ve been to Chile, Ecuador, the Galapagos, and Peru. I was stopped at the airport, and a woman cop asked me how much money I was carrying. She searched my stuff – convinced I had tons of cash on me, which is typical of Chinese nationals, because of the heavily regulations regarding cash flow. (But I’m American: Hello.) I’m convinced that’s why they raided my last hostel; the cops wanted a bribe. And now, this again.
Excuse me,” he said. He pushed a finger against my chest and said, “You have to show respect.”
Don’t touch me.”
He backed off, not expecting that.
He really wasn’t used to someone talking back to him, firmly. I was very mindful to be respectful, and to bite my tongue often, because I wanted to call him an “Idiot” a number of times. He also had a pistol, and it was very visible. This was the kind of cop who engaged in police brutality (also known as excessive force) because he had some kind of self-esteem issue.
Then I added, “And you were respectful to me?”
I got their names and walked away. The Hispanic cop turned back and said, “Hey!!!”
What?” I said.
I could stop you, because it’s night time and it’s dangerous.”
Again I thought, This guy doesn't know anything. I ignored him and kept walking to my hospedaje. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so harsh – but what am I supposed to think about this bully – who only stopped me in hopes of finding drugs, like marijuana, in further hopes that he could extort a bribe out of me? How are you supposed to feel about people who abuse their authority like this? I know the Scripture says to be respectful to these authorities, even when they’re behaving abusively. I just find it hard. (But in this case, I was respectful and showed self-restraint.)
At least this incident, reminded me why I keep going against those in Baldwin Park; God save us that our country, state, and city doesn’t turn into a police state like Colombia.
(And yes, I will be writing a letter of complaint. I often advise people to do so, even though a remedy isn’t likely. It’s so at least there’s a record for the future.)
At the hospedaje – I met my hosts. We were happy to see each other. I told them my encounter with the cop, and they assured me it wasn’t illegal to enter the island at night. They suspected he was only after money too.
I’m sure. I slept well that night.
Days 2-3
I wake up in the mornings and swim in the turquoise Caribbean Sea. After my morning swim and breakfast – I read. Anyways, since I’m by myself, with not much to do, I read. That’s one reason I came to the island. I felt like I needed to get more reading done.
When I tell my friends I’m reading, they’re always haunted by the fact that they should do it too. I point this out only to show that it’s a discipline, just as it is to go to the gym or go running daily. I intentionally set aside some time and told myself I’m not leaving the island until I finish this novel or decide the novel I’m reading isn’t worth finishing.
In the early afternoon, I read a book on nutrition. I find it fascinating.
I have to read it slowly, because he has a lot of insights that make me pause and think and digest. During these breaks, I text a number of my friends. They write back. They must know that I have time on my hands.
In the later afternoon, I find out that my hosts have left me. I’m left alone with one of their fathers. They went to Cartagena. The father is old and doesn’t seem on top of it as the hosts, though he’s a nice man.
After, I go back to my room and read a Latin American novel called Savage Detective. It follows Robert Belano’s passion to start a literary movement in Mexico City. It’s rather vulgar and deeply Mexican (even though the author is Chilean). I think it’s the Mexicanness that keeps me reading; oddly enough, it makes me miss Baldwin Park, the people, and certainly not our elected officials, like Lozano - who doesn’t even live in the city. I’m glad it’s easy reading, because it’s over 600 pages.
There’s a story behind getting this book. I only got the book, because I was with my friends on one of my worst birthdays in Santa Monica. One of the friends was a bibliophile, and I said we should go to the used bookstore. Of course, him and his wife purchased a number of books. I refused to buy anymore books. I said that I had too many books to finish (which is the truth). I also already selected the books I was bringing with me to Peru.
Somehow I got suckered into buying a book, and I asked the clerk what book I should buy. He looked like the bookish type – except I wasn’t too impressed that all he wanted to do was get published. (I told him working at a bookstore probably wouldn’t land him that gig.) But he recommended Savage Detective, and when I saw it was a Latin American story – I thought I could make room in my luggage for this one. It’s not the kind of book that I couldn’t put down (though for some it would be), but I enjoy it the more I read it. I keep thinking of a friend, every time I read scenes; I’m sure he’ll enjoy it more than me.
After reading, I run on the beach for about an hour. It’s at sunset. I like the red sky in the background. I like running on the wet sand, and I like when the waves crash against my ankles and sometimes my thighs.
While running back, I meet one of the former guests of the hippie hostel I stayed at in Cartagena. He’s name is Herman, and he’s from Argentina. He’s really tall and has vitiligo (a skin disease) on his ankle. He’s happy to see me and gives me a warm hug and smiles brightly.
I liked Herman, because he was one of the first guests to introduce himself to me at the hippie hostel. I could tell he wanted to learn English from me. He doesn’t know I know his story – but I heard he was asked to leave Cartagena, because he owed some people some money, and they were looking for him. Also, he was having sex with several girls – who were partnered to friends and guys he was working with. When they found out, they wanted to pommel him. So, he ran away to the island. Again, he doesn’t know I know any of this.
I just told him I got into argument with the manager of the hippie hostel.
He asked why.
I told him: “Because she wouldn’t call me by my name and instead kept calling me Chinito (Chinaman), like I was a dog. I told her to stop, and when she didn’t, I called her a racist in front of everyone. That made her stop.”
Oh,” he said. “I know she has problems.”
Tell me about it.”
In truth – I don’t think Erika was a racist, and I called her that to make a point. I think she just had issues respecting men (yes, more than women). She had problems in the past, apparently with men. (I found that out too.)
Then I told him I got into an argument with someone else and Herman said, “Him too?”
Yeah. I told the guy not to go to Venezuela, because he’s a father, and he was putting himself at risk. It’s a stupid idea, because he’s bored. And he’s not thinking about his children. Of course, he didn’t want to hear it.”
After some more small talk, I said good bye to Herman and ran back to my hospedaje. Running back, I wondered if I was a disagreeable person because of my training in law school, or whether being disagreeable enticed me to go to law school. (Nevertheless, it’s my view that we’re approaching a time, in which we’ll need more prophets to speak truth to power – not less.)
At night, I would watch the Fox television series – Gotham. It was entertaining enough to watch, even with its terrible script. I finished it, but I decided not to watch the next season.
I’m officially boycotting Gotham, because of its negative stereotypical portrayal of minorities. For instance, Gotham portrays blacks as dumb. Fox, a black technician for Wayne Enterprises, is corrected by a 15 year old Wayne a number of times. Why can’t Wayne ever be wrong?
Then, there’s the Chinese Hugo Strange – which makes Asian people look like calculating, emotionless, heartless, achievement oriented cruel sadists. And he has a black assistant, Ms. Peabody – who comes off as dumb and angry woman, ready to get back at the world. Even when she suggests that the solution to defusing the bomb is water – the director suggests she’s dumb, only cares that she’s thirsty – and it’s the white James Gordon who is the brilliant, all-American hero, for correctly interpreting her request. Theo Galavan’s sister, who is also African American, is portrayed to be a sexual animal.
And in contrast, the Irish Harvey, the English Alfred, and the all-American James Gordon are brilliant and awesome heroes.
And what about Latinos? The new Latino rookies end up getting killed, because they’re not capable enough. But the show’s message is clear – this is what happens to affirmative action hires. (Remember, the Latino cop gets killed by the white villain, because he’s only interested in watching television. He was dumb, not ready, and fell for Nygma’s trap. Maybe he would have been ok, if he was training harder, as Bruce does in boxing?) And the Latina girl – Firefly – loses her mind and becomes a psycho villain, which is predictable because she was raised in gangsta family anyways.
Now it makes me wonder if portraying more minorities on television is a good thing when they’re casting only perpetuates and reinforces negative stereotypes. In any event, I think the creator of Gotham have issues.
After some mindless entertainment, I sleep well.
I feel at peace. It’s a carefree life just to read, swim, run on the beach, and eat and drink.
But one night, I have a strange nightmare that a demon was trying to kill me. It was in the form of a giant tarantula that was larger than me. We were face to face. I could see my reflection in all 8 of its shiny red eyes, which looked like ruby orbs. In the dream, by some strange reason, the tarantula couldn’t kill me, but it moved its fangs several times at me, while staring at me.
What a strange nightmare.
Day 4
My host comes back. They bring a boy back with them. He’s about 5 years old. They went to Cartagena to get the kid, who was living with his grandparents at the time.
Last time I was here, the guy host told me he only had one kid. Now I found out he has two. He said three at one point, but changed it to two. That makes me wonder.
The guy tells me other stuff – mainly sexual in nature. I raise my eyebrows and wish I didn’t hear it. I make a joke about the whole thing and tell him I need to sleep.
He respects that.
Day 5
I wake up in the middle of the night and diarrhea. I have food poisoning and don’t feel so good. This is the second time I got food poisoning at this place. It must have been the cheese again. I forgot not to eat it!
I don’t feel good at all. I have a slight fever and slight chills, but it’s not devastating. I could move, but I feel weak. I go back to sleep but wake up to diarrhea again.
I feel weak. It feels like I have to use a lot of strength just to get up and use the restroom. I can walk at least. I think I’m sweating a lot, because the flies are landing on me often. Or maybe they can just sense I’m not in full health? Maybe they’re attracted to the bacterium that’s inside of me, the same kind that’s probably on rotting food?
I’ve observed that food poisoning is common on the island with us Westerners. My host said five people (four Europeans and one American) were at the local hospital because of food poisoning, recently. At the hippie hostel, another guy got sick from food poisoning too. There’s no electricity here, which also means no refrigeration.
Bed-ridden, I just read my nutrition book. I finish it. It makes me conclude that one of the underlying causes of all modern chronic disease, with the exception of HIV, is hormonal imbalance or hormonal dysfunction.
I research what kind of bacteria I have with my limited internet capabilities. I’m pretty sure I narrowed it down to the right one. It’s useful to know, because it’s salt resistant. The cook often washes his hands with saltwater but not soap. Also, certain ethnicities tend to be unaffected carriers of such bacteria – which explains why the locals don’t get sick from it. Typhoid Mary is a good example of unaffected carrier. Finally, it also likes to grow on cheese. It all fits together. The research passed the time.
While reading my book on nutrition, I get news that Baldwin Park’s Council Member Ricardo Pacheco is on the news for silencing people at the Council Meeting. It upsets me, because he’s one of the biggest violators of our Free Speech Rights. (We already sued him once about his retaliation and bullying of citizens who protest him. He tried to destroy their credit by sending their fines to the collection agency. But we stopped Pacheco and won. And yet, he persists to shut people up.) It’s good the Tribune wrote up the article.
Looking at his new pictures, I noticed he’s gotten laser eye surgery and some new suits. Must be all the new marijuana money he’s received. He’s so corrupt and greedy. I seriously doubt he was elected legitimately. I wonder why nobody looks into the real origins of our Baldwin Park officials. They all seem to come from the Tex-Mex border.
I have to go to the toilet probably four more times that day. I just feel weak.
My hosts feel bad for me. I ask for coconut water. I eat some potatoes but not much. I drink a bottle of water. I drink a beer. (Beer probably isn’t ideal, but I don’t want any more water.)
I sleep. I wake up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet. I’m able to go back to sleep.
When I wake up, I figured out what I should have done to get over the food poisoning faster. But, now, I’m already feeling better, and it’s not worth the extra effort.
I have another strange dream. I’m trying to drive a huge truck I can’t control. I can’t even park it. What a strange dream.
Day 6
The next morning, my host brings me some coconut electrolytes. That’s kind of him. The hosts really are taking care of me, but I’m almost fully recovered.
By midday, I’m fine. I look in the mirror though, and I’ve grown a lot of facial hair fast. I don’t like how it looks. I have to shave soon.
I have a chat with my brother over text. He updates me about what he wants to tell me about – and not more.
After, I call Mom. She tells me my cat Jeh Pan is fine. She says he’s getting heavy and big. I want to see him, but it’ll have to wait. She says she’s been filling up my aquarium with rainwater she’s collected from the Los Angeles storms.
Mom also tells me about some horrific news story. Some children were chained up and starved by two obese parents for 29 years. I told her I’d look it up, later. She said, “How could this happen in America?” (Remember, she’s an immigrant – who was led to believe this kind of stuff doesn’t happen in great America.)
I eat my first full dinner in two days. It’s good. I hold it down. No more problems. Knock on wood.
Day 7
I have my first uninterrupted sleep in awhile. I go for a swim in the turquoise sea again. After, I eat some fried eggs and drink some black coffee.
I ask for a cup of freshwater. I shave, using the window for my reflection, because there’s no mirror. It works. I’m happy after shaving. I look a lot better.
I’ll have to publish it and run soon.

That’s it for now. Write more later. 

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