09 June 2012

LOCOMBIA: a paradise in disguise

There’s a lot of meaning packed into my blog tagline: “A Colombian expat travels the world.” My reasoning behind this blog is legitimate: I wanted to start documenting the extent of my travel experiences--40-some countries, from the tip of Alaska, to the bottom parts of the oceanic continent, from the corners of Japan to the sands of the Sahara Desert. BUT, as destiny would have it, my most recent travel excursion (and the true driving force behind Nomadiando), was to the country that raised me, and, in many ways, shaped me into the person that I am today...one of the most misunderstood countries in the world….my beloved Colombia.

Apart from a few rare exceptions, I believe most people in the world are proud of where they come from. Most people feel like the place they were born is the most worth-visiting place on the entire earth. This "pride" seems to be ingrained in one’s DNA, like genetic coding that grows in strength as each person grows up...taking more and more pride in their homeland. Now, I would like to make the case that for Colombians, this "genetic code" gets exponentially bigger as it mixes with the environment. Allow me to explain with a story:

The first time I stepped foot in the United States was July 2, 1994. This date may not mean much to you, but for me it marked one of the saddest, most infamous days in the history of Colombia. That morning, Andres Escobar, the captain of Colombia’s soccer team, was shot 12 times outside  "The Indio Bar" parking lot in Medellin. Andres Escobar was known as "el caballero del futbol" (the Gentleman of football) , for obvious reasons. He was tall, charming, educated, and worshipped by many. But on the 22 of June, during the 1994 world Cup (held in the United States), Escobar deflected a ball into his own net as he stretched to deny a cross ball from opposing U.S. midfielder John Harkes. A fateful accident, nonetheless. The USA won the game 2–1, and as a result, our heavily favored Colombian Team was eliminated from the tournament in the first round. 

The purpose of my afore-mentioned trip to the U.S was to practice at a tennis academy for an entire month. I remember some of the other kids’ remarks when I told them I was Colombian. They'd say things like "Ohh, isn't that the country where they kill athletes if they don't perform well in international competitions?" ...Fast forward a couple of years later...in college...and the question became "Oh, so your dad is like a drug dealer or something"?  For the record, my dad was a banker for 30+ years. His retirement coincided with me moving to the States for college, which meant his banking years translated into consulting work for a flower exportation firm. Roses, to be exact. Let’s just say my dad’s newfound career in the ‘exporting business’ didn’t exactly help this unfortunate stereotype.

The late 80's and early 90's  were probably one of the most turbulent times in the history of Colombia--the assassination of Andres Escobar marking the lowest point of all. The Medellin Cartel and Pablo Escobar's (note: an entirely different Escobar) drug empire was stronger that ever. I knew that the televised news I grew up watching differed drastically from the stories those American kids called ‘news’, whose ignorant questions made my blood boil for the sake of my country. But why was my first reaction the intense desire to swing a punch toward their sheltered, blonde-haired faces?  To teach them a lesson in "cultural differences"?...But why? They were right to think that way!! Andres Escobar was shot. We did, in fact, have one of the highest kidnapping rates in all the world. Colombia did have a reputation, and for obvious reasons, whether I liked it or not. It’s then that I realized my frustration came from knowing that the playing field is never truly level... Allow me to explain

I recently learned from a clinical physiologist that in marriage, (bear with me, and my analogy, I promise there will be a point) it takes five positive actions to change one negative. And this was the ratio found in couples whose marriages actually survived. Research shows that among the studied couples that ended in divorce, this positive to negative ratio was closer to 1:1. So what's my point? 
It takes much less effort to be corrosive and destructive than to build up and create. CNN will show you the faces of numerous Colombian cops and foreign nationals that have been kidnapped; they will show you Colombian drug laboratories and thousand of pounds of cocaine being confiscated; but they will never show you the remaining 98% of hard-working, warm-welcoming,life-loving people that fill this land, and make it something entirely different than the violent, fear-ridden facade the rest of the world believes.

Life is not easy in Colombia. Buses don't run on schedule, plumbers don't show up at the time they promise, jobs are hard to find. But, despite it all, the Colombian people still find reasons to dance...reasons to open their homes...and reasons to share an unrequited happiness and passion in life with those who surround them. My country may have a dark past, and we may have a wealth of adverse challenges still-to-face, but I promise you that the number of positives far outweigh those seemingly ominous negatives. But don't just take my word for it. I'm not the only one saying it :)

Villa de Leyva, Main Square

These have been popular on Facebook so why not post it? I think they're pretty Accurate :)

Gold Museum, Bogota Colombia

Bolivar Square, Bogota

Botero's "chubby" Mona Lisa

Taganga, Sierra Nevada Region


Organic Coffee

Minca Ecohabs

Cartagena, Colombia


Cartagenas' view from "el morro"

Nemocon Salt Mines

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for starting my educational journey of Columbia...my mind is officially open!