Greetings from Houston International Airport! The horrifying George H.W. Bush statue is just down the hall, while humid air over the city itself made for a rough landing–but I’m here, I’m healthy again, and in less than three hours I’ll be bound for Canada. I know I’ve only been out of the country a couple weeks, but it feels like a lot longer, possibly because of that bonus trip to Northern Alberta, possibly because I’ve been sick since Tuesday. Remember how I said breathing Quito’s air was like deep-throating a diesel exhaust pipe? Then what does that mean about Bogota? If anything it’s even worse than Quito; throw in a city full of cab drivers who are apparently contractually obligated not to use air conditioning and who instead roll down their windows and turn their vehicles into giant diesel hotboxes and it’s a recipe for disaster. (Oh, and did I mention the altitude? Bogota’s almost 9,000 feet above sea level–so not only is its air toxic, there’s also precious little oxygen. Good times!) Given that, Trinidad might’ve actually saved my life. Yesterday, after a couple school visits, I had dinner with a group of teachers; this led to me sampling bake and shark for the first time, which along with corn soup and Stag Lager Beer (whose oh-so-politically-correct slogan is “A Man’s Beer”) comprise the bulk of the nation’s culinary delicacies. Have you ever had shark? It’s delicious.
I’ve been up since 5am this morning. On my way to the airport my driver, a gregarious sort named Tony, handed me a parting gift: a CD called Old Time Calypso Classics X Rated. I guess he’d seen me grooving to the song “The Greatest Love” and surmised (accurately, I’d imagine) that the album wouldn’t be available in Canada. The “Trinis” I met were all warm and generous, and whenever I’d tell someone it was my first time visiting I’d quickly add: “But you can’t have a second time without a first.” Neighbouring Tobago’s supposed to be a great place for diving; maybe I’ll work in a visit when I return to South America in March (yup, last year’s gong show‘s a go for 2011). But that’s for later. For now, I’m gonna grab me a Starbucks (oh how I’ve missed you!), resume reading Clear and Present Danger, and count the hours until a sucky (yet nonetheless fetching) blonde meets me at Calgary airport. See you soon, Canada! It’s been too long, even if it hasn’t really been that long at all.