For my first post I have decided to write about one of the big reasons that makes Colombia such an amazing place: the people of Colombia. The people here have a joy for life that is amazing. Their country has obviously had many tough times in the past, and I am not going to sugarcoat things and say that everything is perfect now either. However, in despite or maybe in small part because of the trials and tribulations of their country, they prevail. It is amazing to me how many times I have been thanked for coming to their country. When was the last time you heard a/an (insert nationality here) thank a visitor for coming to their country, with no ulterior motives in mind. In many countries a tourist/traveler/foreigner seems to have a large, green tattoo of a dollar sign on their forehead. This is just not the case in the places I have visited in Colombia. (I have heard that it is different in the more touristy Caribbean coastal destinations.) For example, here in Medellin I pay the exact same price for a mango at the market as the Paisa (person from the Antioquia department of Colombia) next to me. This comes in handy for a foreigner trying to learn the language and culture. The people here are extremely patient with my fumbling Spanish, and surprisingly praise it occasionally. To be able to learn and practice a new language in an environment where you feel comfortable making mistakes is a huge advantage for the learning process.
Here’s a shortened and translated example of a sample conversation with a cab driver here in Medellin.
Cabbie: Good evening.
Me: Good evening. How are you?
Cabbie: I’m doing well. Long day, but it’s almost over. Where are you going?
Me: Parque Laureles.
Cabbie: Excellent. What are you doing in Medellin?
Me: I’m studying Spanish, and I work from my computer.
Cabbie: Your Spanish is very good.
Me: No, I’m just tricking you because the subject right now is very simple.
Cabbie: No, it’s good. How long have you been here?
Me: 3.5 months.
Cabbie: Why Medellin?
Me: Perfect weather, great parties, friendly people of Colombia, who live in a beautiful and clean city.
Cabbie: Very good. I like it here. I hope that you do too. Thank you for coming to my city.
Meanwhile there is a huge smile on his face, and he is excited to welcome me to his city and country. This does not just apply to the cabbies either. For example, I have become a regular at a coffee shop near my place. The family who owns it welcomes me every visit with a big “Hola, Brice! Buenos dias!” And since there are four family members that work there, I receive this very warm welcome four times every time I visit. Very nice.
Before arriving in Colombia I had the pleasure to get to know a number of Colombians; all of whom have been fantastic. This was a major reason why I had the desire to visit, live in, and learn the language of their country. My closest Colombian friend, Juan Carlos Prada Mantilla, was my former roommate and co-worker in Canada. Since arriving in Colombia I have had the chance to spend time with some of the family members of Juan’s. I had the privilege to be hosted by Juan’s family in his hometown of Palmira over Christmas and New Year’s. The warmth of which they hosted me was spectacular. It truly made for an unforgettable holiday season. I now have a better understanding of why Juan is so amazingly warm, helpful, funny, and friendly. Using an English idiom: the apple does not fall far from the tree.
People here truly want your time in Colombia to be a great experience. They do not want their country to be seen around the world as a war-torn, drug-ridden, dangerous place. They have a lot of pride for their country, and want to share that with you. They have convinced me that their country is amazing, and possibly with this blog I will convince you. Of course the only way to truly find out is to come to Colombia and experience the amazing warmth for yourself.
For more on Colombia, it’s beautiful people and place’s follow me here!