Today is Pope Francisco day. This city and country have been going crazy with excitement and anticipation for his arrival. It is so interesting to watch the people get geared up to see their idol. His image is almost everywhere you look!
I’m going to see him at Parque Bolivar with another fellow. The soldiers I work with are given tickets on a lottery basis in the VIP section in the park, but not being enlisted, I don’t get one of these tickets – fair enough. Although this is a free event, they have a limited space, so one needs a ticket to enter. Because there are so many people who have come from all over South America to see him, as well as Colombians, there has to be a limit to who can enter and this is one of the most fair ways of doing this.
My supervisor has a friend who has some extra tickets that he will give me. I just have to go up north to get them. Obviously, not a problem! I am so excited about this opportunity. I get there and pick up my tickets and see that my entry time is 5:00 am. The pope doesn’t give mass until 4:30pm! That’s a long time to wait for him!! Again, because of the amount of people, there is a staggered entry.
So we get up early. I take an Uber to the Transmileneo Marly station to meet my friend and we take a taxi to the park – or as near the park as we can get as the roads all around the park are closed off. So we walk the 20+ minutes to our entrance. There are people everywhere. We get in line and are fairly far back. People try to go to the front and make a new line are yelled at and shamed until they admit defeat and go to the end of the lines.
The gates open and we enter. We walk about 5 minutes and find more entrances where we are checked again and they take our tickets – we are through and now racing to find the best vantage point. We find a great place where we can see his platform as well as a large screen showing all that is happening. I have water, a book and some snacks. I didn’t bring that much as the last time I came to the park for a show, they took most of my stuff. Apparently today one could bring much more – people had whole picnics. This was good for them as there were not hot drinks – no coffee! – and only snacks like chips.
We made friends with people around us and chatted and watched each other’s spots and told people off for trying to shove past us. Then it began raining – we had to close up our space and stand and cover our things as our space got gradually smaller. More and more people were pouring into the park and looking for somewhere close to stand so they could see the pope. We were being pushed and shoved and invaded upon. It was frustrating and understandable at the same time. Colombian personal space is very different than that of Americans!
By this time it was 2:30pm and beginning to rain again. Candis and I are introverts and neither of us Catholics. We were losing the excitement of the whole, ‘Let’s see the pope, ” experience. She had been sick and tried sleeping on the ground for a couple of hours but kept being stepped on. We were also trying to hold our need to use the bathroom at bay. I had used them about 10am and they were bad then, so now, I shudder to think of the state of the porta potties!
We called it a day and decided to start to the edge of the park about 3pm where we could see him drive by and maybe some of the mass depending on the rain. Well, we made it a little ways and the heavens opened. A deluge started. We encountered more and more people on the way out of the park as we kept walking. The whole way we were asking for forgiveness as we walked past and over people and their picnics. There was no path, just person after person as far as we could see. I began to despair of ever getting to the edge of the park.
I had put my phone in my bag as it was crowded and many people have their phones stolen here. But as the rain continued, my bag began to drip with water as it was thoroughly soaked. I was afraid to put my phone in my jeans pocket because it could get wet there too, so I put it in my water-proof jacket pocket where I kept my hand over it.
The crowd of people starting to leave began growing. There was a crush of people and we were carried along with them for a while, then they were pushing and pulling and I began panicking – we were literally unable to move. A lady starting banging into me and I put out my hand out to hold her back. I fought being crushed by the crowd and then there was a release and we were able to move out of the crowd. I felt for my phone again and it was gone.
I was hoping that it fell, but unsure about getting caught up in the throng again – Candis urged me on and took off to look for it on the ground – there was no way to see – we tried and all we saw were feet and puddles. I am sure that someone in the crowd saw it and grabbed it from my pocket in the crush of people.
I was gutted and panicky – I felt vulnerable and naked and wanted to be home immediately. But…. we were still trying to exit the park and plus, the streets around the park were closed AND without my phone, I couldn’t use Uber! We made it to a path that was closed for the pope-mobile. The Swiss guards were sweeping the path and there was no way through. The guards and the police were not allowing people out that way. We were told that the park was closed until after the pope-mobile went by and the pope got up to speak. Again, the panic rose in my throat.
People began to riot and shake the barrier calling out, ‘derechos’, ‘policia’, ‘dejanos pasar,’ ‘somos gente,’ and other like phrases. It was getting ugly as people became desperate to leave the park. They opened up an exit to the park finally and routed us around to that exit – about 20 minutes away from where we were. With my phone gone, I lost my interest in seeing the pope drive past in his little car. I was wet, tired, cold and panicky. We left the park.
I then realized that all my pictures and snaps were gone – the snapchat couldn’t send as I took them because so many people were in the park on the signal. I had had no reception all day. I felt upset over that as well – there went my memories. I realize that I am way too attached to the little hand-held device!
We made it home – I was thankful that I had my computer and could talk on Facebook Messenger – all in all – life was not over, but it sure felt like it. This day started out so very hopeful and exciting – a chance in a lifetime and ended up quite the opposite. Perspective – that’s what I need – perhaps tomorrow!