La versión de este post en castellano aquí : http://seecolombia.travel/blog/2013/10/el-adios-de-un-ingles-que-ama-colombia/
Even as the rain dragged on in Bogota, leaving Colombia wasn’t easy.
I found out I’d been offered a job in Berlin via a Skype call. I tapped my pen on the desk. I slowly lowered my gaze down to my interview notes. I let out a long breath. I looked out at the mountains. Cried. Rarely in my life has such good news been met with such an overwhelming sadness. This, I now knew, was it. Now began the desperate scramble to cling to my last memories in Colombia. A book I didn’t want to end.
I have spent three years of my life in Bogota, scribbling away about the beauty of my adopted country – about the “spectacular” landscapes and the “mind-blowing” parties (those being among my favourite over-used superlatives). And, yet, in all that time, I never really found a way to capture Colombia and the way that it captured me. Sure, the martian sands of La Guajira are seared into my memory; undoubtedly, I felt the warmth and kindness of locals; of course, I enjoyed countless nights drinking Aguardiente and Poker in salsa bars and, despite the numerous hangovers, woke up hungry for more.
In my attempt to clarify the magic it would be easy enough to say “it’s a combination of all those things”, and that’s true to an extent. But it’s also not. These are things I’ve found in numerous other countries in the world – in places that have also wriggled their way into my heart.
The truth is that life in Colombia is slightly more complicated. It’s not a simple case of falling irretrievably in love when it comes to Colombia. The country is frustrating. It can test you. People walk at a bafflingly slow pace (don’t you have somewhere to be?). Commitments are threadbare. Time is flexible, transport is crowded, noise is inescapable, your wits are essential and drivers are, frankly, dangerous. There are times in Colombia when you feel you’ve had enough. That’s it. No more. It’s time to pack up. Head home. F@$##ng Transmilenio.
Then something happens. Something simple.
Sitting here in Berlin I recall drunken embraces over an Aguardiente shot, vallenato blaring with loving obnoxiousness; I think of a trip outside the city and those spectacular landscapes; I remember a woman in a tienda so polite that I stopped in my tracks; I look back at my girlfriend, dancing. These things could, without fail, snap me out of my malignant discontent (many a time it was my doorman’s cheer as he let me past the gate: “Pooooollllllll!”, he would shout, seemingly enthused by my foreign face, funny clothes and strange accent). These moments, despite all that frustration and exasperation I had felt, would remind me of that thing – that inexpressible thing – that kept me there in Bogota.
Colombia is a country that has witnessed the very depths of humanity. History in Colombia is defined by greed, corruption, murder, drugs and mass-murder. There’s no need here to re-tread the path that thousands have written about, and billions already know. Go read a book or watch a film and you’ll discover the legacy this has left in popular imagination. What matters for me, and for all the foreigners that set foot on her soil, is that Colombia has emerged – continues to emerge – with a smile.
Few people I know have such a capacity to forgive, move on and look forward with such an infectious, toothy grin. This is almost an entire nation. In Colombia you’ll find a whole population that, whatever happened in the past, still contains such boundless optimism and hope that even the most cynical among us are forced to succumb; a country so intense in its passions that even the most indifferent among us are caught a little – uuush, que rico este tinto!
A country so embracing that, eventually, her people feel like your own family.
There’s so much I’ll miss about Colombia (I’ve already started trying to convince my new employers at www.trip.me to send me back for an “inspection trip”). Everything from drinking a few Pokers in a Chapinero tienda to lazing on a beach in Tayrona. I’ll miss the team at See Colombia Travel, who for the past 3 years have been like family to me (thanks for that, guys). I’ll miss playing football on Fridays; I’ll miss Wok; I’ll miss Usaquen on Sunday; I’ll miss spending 5 minutes asking “how are you” in various ways; I’ll miss people getting unfathomably excited about a piece of meat, some beans and some rice; I’ll miss the opportunities; I’ll miss the coffee; I’ll miss chatting to taxi drivers; I’ll miss salsa; I’ll miss ajiaco; I’ll miss getting my alcohol in a box; I’ll miss the hope and the cheer; I’ll miss the people. So thanks, Colombia, it’s been incredible. Life-changing. I’ll be back.
We stumble out of the club at 3am. My girlfriend complains that her feet hurt from dancing too much. We consider where to go next and inevitably end up at someone’s house, where we drink more rum, more beer, more aguardiente. And, among the murmur of our exhausted chatter, the strains of reggaeton from across the road, the patter of cardboard being folded and the trot of a tired horse’s hoof, I have an underlying sense that, somehow, everyone is happy. Trying to be.
That’s how I’ll always remember my dear home, Colombia.