So, before I write anything, I want to start off and say that I've never felt unsafe in Colombia, generally, and more specifically in Barranquilla. Yes, there is still unrest here and there are places that I would never go in this city alone after dark, but as a general rule, Colombia has come incredibly far in the last 10-15 years. There are places that I wouldn't go after dark in Peoria or Bloomington-Normal after dark as well, so you'll find places like that where ever you are.
I had just gotten back from a great time in Quito, Ecuador visiting David, Alyssa (both MMN workers in Ecuador) and my friend from Barranquilla, Wendy. Alyssa then decided to take advantage of my last few weeks in Colombia to come and visit the coast.
We went to my favorite hostel in the world, The Dreamer, and stayed there and I was able to show Alyssa what a real Caribbean beach looks like in Colombia! We went to a place called Bahía Concha (Shell Bay) and it was beautiful.
Another attraction that we were able to see was La Victoria, a coffee processing plantation. This place is one of my favorite places to take people when they come to visit. It's all 100% organic and they use and reuse every part of the coffee bean and plant. Not to mention the fact that the coffee is just out of this world!
Ok well, the most exciting part of our trip to Minca, the small village on the mountain side where La Victoria is located, was the trip down the mountain. We rented to motorcycle taxis and they were driving us back to Santa Marta, where our hostel was located. During the trip two police officers on a motorcycle stopped us and told me that they would need to do a "routine check" on me. They patted me down and then wanted to check my bag. Since I had/have nothing to hide I told them that would be alright, but I kept a very close eye on my bag, because I've heard of situations like this before.
It's a bit of a long story, and I don't want to feed too much into the stereotypes, because like I said previously, Colombia has changed quite a lot and it has become my home for the last two years, so I don't want to make my home look back. However...
When the officer opened one of the pockets in my back pack, I noticed that I had some American money that I had forgotten about so I was excited to see that. I looked up at the first officer (who was asking me lots of question [distracting me]) for a fraction of a second and then looked down again and the second officer had found a small bag of marijuana in that same (previously empty other than the US cash) pocket.
I don't want to speculate, or anything of that nature... but I don't smoke marijuana, so I have no idea how that would have ended up there (note: in my previously mostly empty zippered pocket).
The officer and I had a long conversation (after a quick silent prayer on my part) that ended with nothing happening. We spoke both on the road on the side of the mountain, and outside of the police station in Minca. They asked if I would rather just "fix" things on the side of the road *rubs fingers together in the universal sign for money*, or go to the station, so I requested the police station. I also made a phone call to the hostel owner (who is incredible by the way) and asked her to talk to the officers for me. She is also a foreigner, but Spanish is her first language, and she's been here longer than I have, so I thought that she would be able to help me out hopefully.
Well, after about 30-45 very very stressful minutes and lots and lots of quick Spanish, Alyssa and I were told that we could leave. I didn't give them any money, or my passport information (which they were threatening me with, to call immigration) and in turn, I tried to respect them as much as possible. So, thankfully, all is/was well.
On the motorcycle trip back down the mountain there were so many things going through my head. That situation could have gone much much worse. I know that in the States, I've had friends get beat up just for the few dollars that they have in their wallets at the time. There were no guns involved, there was no force what so ever, only words.
Situations like this make me wonder a lot about our world. There are so many people in positions of power who, at least I think, can take advantage of people and situations. But, luckily, sometimes honesty prevails. I told the officers that the pot wasn't mine, which it wasn't, and everything worked out fine! Plus, now I have a fun story to tell all mine friends!