Now, after many adventures and fun times, we return home. I cannot express how grateful I feel for having had this glorious opportunity to see dear friends and visit a new country at the same time. Jill and Don have become true Colombians when it comes to their graciousness as hosts and their eagerness to share uniquely Colombian experiences. I loved creating new memories with them and look forward to more opportunities in the future.
As for parting thoughts about Colombia itself, I’d like to start off by sharing a quote by Aldous Huxley:
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”
I can’t truly know what it’s like to live in a country that has experienced over half a century of civil war, but when I tried to imagine it, I assumed that internal growth in such an environment must be thwarted since the country’s extra resources go to fighting that war. As a result, I expected it to be less developed than its neighbors, with less visible infrastructure for things like clean water, waste management, transportation, and the like. Yet, I found it to be quite the opposite. Certainly, there is always room for improvement (when isn’t there?), but in all the major Colombian cities, you can drink the tap water. That’s huge. In addition, waste management seems relatively well controlled in urban areas (I found Bogota impressively clean considering its massive size), there are recycling systems in place, large-scale alternative transportation (though Bogota could really benefit from a light-rail or subway system), and so on. As for safety: it’s true there are places one shouldn’t go, but that’s also true in every country I’ve ever visited. Yet, I can honestly say that I never once felt unsafe. I found the people we encountered to be open, friendly, polite, and gracious.
So, in light of Colombia’s many challenges, how were they able to accomplish all of this? Admittedly, part of that answer is that they received external aid (with the U.S. being a top donor due to its interest in fighting the drug war). Apart from this, however, I think there is also a more subtle reason at play here, and it’s this: Colombia’s proud, fighting spirit. When one exists under the pall of constant strife and suffering, one either succumbs or fights. Colombia has fought—and continues to fight—to rise above its circumstances. I believe the country and its people, with their indomitable spirits, took control of what it could, did the best with what they had, and created something better out of it. This is something I can relate to.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, right now Colombia is in a time of momentous change—change that could bring an end to the war and open the country’s doors to new opportunities, one of which is to rebuild its reputation with the world community so others will come see the wonders it has to offer. I dearly hope that it succeeds in achieving a well-earned and long-awaited-for peace.
Once again, thanks for sharing another wonderful adventure. Until next time…