Thursday, November 5, 2009

El Fin

These past four months in Colombia were incredible. At times I grew tired of the high heat and humidity. At times, I really, really, didn't want to get up at 5:30 to go teach English in an animated fashion for a few hours. But hey - heat and sleep deprivation aside, can one really complain when there is fresh mango juice on every corner, there are at least three different beaches within busing distance, and even the citizens still in diapers have killer dance moves?

Colombia gets a lot of flack for a reputation it doesn't deserve. Everywhere I went, Colombians constantly asked me what Americans (or 'North Americans' as they call them in Colombia) think of Colombia. They laughed when I described the land of drugs, sex tourism, kidnappingm and guerrilla warfare that Americans had in mind. To those Americans who remain doubtful - Yes, there are a lot of men and women in uniform in Colombia. Yes, they are there for security reasons. No, I never felt in danger wherever I went. No, no one asked me to traffic drugs back to the United States.

Colombia's government has been on a vigorous "rebranding" spree, painting Colombia as the country of flowers, not the country of guns. Everywhere I went, I saw people with heart pins and bags or t-shirts with the phrase "Colombia es pasion." The phrase works as a response for many situations, such as:
"Why is this guava juice so amazing?" - "Porque Colombia es pasion!"
"Why do we need to keep dancing?" - "Porque Colombia es pasion!"
"Why won't my students just sit still and be quiet?" - "Porque Colombia es pasion!"
But seriously, all joking aside, there is some truth to the statement. The picture in the top left corner is of a traveling dance troop that stopped in Cartagena. To me, the group epitomized the general spirit of Colombia, as well as of other countries I've visited in South America. I've found the people to be open, joyful, and eager to share their country with me. Yes, poverty is rampant throughout Colombia. Yes, prostitutes and drug dealers were certainly not far away from where I lived. My roommate got a lot of money stolen from her. We saw a student protest in Bogota with plenty of armored tanks just in case things got ugly (they didn't). These things are present in Colombia, but the country is no longer fighting the war against the FARC to the degree they once were, and militism is just one of color in the background - the country is no longer monochromatic militia green.

At the end of the day, I made some fantastic friends, saw some beautiful places, improved my Spanish, and developed a slightly unhealthy obsession for Reggaeton. Colombia is a HUGE country, and I was only beginning to experience parts of it. I will miss the people and places I knew, but I know I'll be back. It's good to be back in DC, but I know that within a month or two, I'll get the fever to jump over an international border or ocean or two. Here's to the next great adventure.