I've blogged about the annoyances of taxi drivers who hound you moments after stepping out of a third world airport. It creates a terrible first impression for visitors.
Imagine the sense of relief I felt, then, when I stepped outside of the airport in Medellín, Colombia this evening, prepared to not look any of the drivers in the eye (what I learned in Dalian, China is that if you give a driver eye contact he won't let you go), ready for an onslaught of "Taxi! Taxi!"…. and instead encountered a pleasant, quiet, area with taxi drivers patiently waiting for customers.
I love this city already!
When I arrived at my hotel the check-in process required my limited Spanish and the desk agent's limited English.
I gave him my American passport for the check-in. He studies it, opens it, looks at it. He asks me where I'm from. I say USA. His eyes widen with surprise, "Oh ok, USA."
I get my room key and ask if the restaurant is still open. He says no but he can order food from a local restaurant and have it brought up to my room. I say ok. He asks what I want. I ask if there's a menu. He says no. Silence. I'm not sure what to say – my food vocabularly in Spanish was escaping me. He asks if I like meat, I say yes, and he nods and says he'll take care of it.
30 mins later the desk agent and the restaurant dude show up at my room with two plates of thin steak and fries. It reminded me of the type of steak that's served as "casado" in Costa Rica.
He tells me I need to pay in pesos. I don't have pesos. Only credit card and dollars. Shit. I go online and check the currency conversion – 15,500 pesos into U.S. dollars. They stand there waiting for me and talking in Spanish as I figure out how much to give in dollars.
The whole meal comes out to US $6. I feel a little guilty at how cheap it is. I give the agent a $20 bill and say, "Give me back $11 and give the rest to the restaurant." They trust my conversion numbers. I get change back in pesos.
Tomorrow, I must go to an ATM and get the local currency. In the meantime, I feel lucky that the U.S. dollar still has street cred.