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The Columbian Bimbo

                                                                By Diana McLeod                                          1993

        Here's one of the weirdest airport stories I have ever heard of. It took place in about 1993. I was flying solo to Bangkok, with an unbearably long layover is Seoul, Korea. I was in the transit lounge when a curious English announcement over the P.A. system caught my attention:

        "If you speak Spanish, please contact the officer at the information booth. We need your help"

        I needed a diversion, so I headed over to the information counter to see what was going on. They were glad to see me. I confessed that my Spanish wasn't very good. Nobody cared - I was the only person who had responded to their call. They sent me over to immigration, where two harried officers were trying to deal with this crazy woman from South America.

        What a piece of work she was! A bleached blonde, with a figure that had obviously been surgically enhanced in strategic places, and she was wearing all of the streetwalker classics: a leopard-print skin-tight mini dress with a plunging neckline, a rabbit fur vest, and a pair of six inch, bedazzled Lucite platform high heels. Her purse was a very expensive designer brand, and her jewelry was a combination of tawdry rhinestone chandelier junk and genuine gold chains.

       I had about ten seconds to take this all in before she started yelling at me in rapid fire Spanish. It took some time to get her calmed down and speak slowly while I explained how terrible my Spanish was. I then had to persuade her to be quiet while I talked to the two officials.

        One spoke some halting English. He explained the situation. She had flown to Korea, unaware that people from her country couldn't enter Korea without a visa. She didn't even seem to understand what a visa was.

        "What country is she from?" I asked.

       "Columbia," came the answer.

       Great, I thought, I'm probably dealing with Pablo Escobar's girlfriend! She looks like just the type a drug lord would keep around, And that would explain the way she's acting. In Columbia, she would be able to bribe or threaten her way past any legal inconvenience.

        In conservative Korea, her very presence was causing an uproar. People were staring at her, openmouthed, as they walked past.

        The poor immigration official was bearing the brunt of her wrath. Luckily, he was mercifully oblivious to all of the Columbian swear words she was lambasting him with. He told me that he could not offer her a standard visa. He could offer her a temporary visa, but only if the police in her country confirmed that she didn't have a criminal record. He wanted to put me on the phone with the Medellin police headquarters!

       It took about a half an hour to establish a phone connection. In the meantime, she talked my ear off, complaining so rapidly that I could barely understand any of it. I think she said she'd tried to bribe the officers at first and she was insulted that they wouldn't take her money. I kept trying to tell her that she would have a better chance of success with them if she would simply behave herself.

        At last, the operator contacted Medallin. The phone connection was terrible, and the echo was worse. I was also struggling with the Columbian accent. I read them her name and her passport number, but I'm not sure they understood or believed me at all. Did they even recognize that Korea was a nation? In the end, it seemed that she didn't have a criminal record, but it wasn't totally clear. Anyway, this woman did not seem to present a security risk to Korea as far as I could tell, so I thought my best guess at translation was good enough.

        The officials beamed in relief when I told them the news, and they granted her the seventy two hour visa. I told her she could stay in Korea for three days but NO LONGER. I could tell that she wasn't listening to my warning, and I was just thankful that I was going to be long gone when she overstayed her visa.

        As for Miss Columbia, she sailed off through Immigration, without so much as an acknowledgement of my help, or even thanks to the two officials who had so clearly bent the rules for her. The men were quite embarrassed, and they thanked me profusely by bowing repeatedly. As for me, it made a boring layover quite entertaining, and I was glad to help those poor guys.

        Thanks for reading, Diana McLeod

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