Oct 02

Why I love Colombia – a Farewell Letter by Paul

Paul Fowler bids farewell to his beloved adopted home, Colombia

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.

See Colombia Travel Team Cartagena
It begins…

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.

Paul dance Cumbia
Paul tries his hand at some cumbia

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.

Friends and Beer
Friends and Beer

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.

Paul and his Colombian girlfriend
Paul and Valentina

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.

Paul and his brother travel to the Amazon in Colombia
Paul and his brother travel to the Amazon in Colombia

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.

Paul in La Guajira
Paul in La Guajira
 
 
 
 
Paul Fowler

24 thoughts on “Why I love Colombia – a Farewell Letter by Paul

    Ginna on

    In glad you see how Colombia is. And how much of a beautiful country it is and all it has to offer.. Thank for opening your eyes to a new land and for expressing yourself of Colombia this way to others!!! De una colombiche a otro colombiche!!! 🙂

    Reply

    Kate Robson on

    Colombia is a difficult country to leave – as the saying goes ‘el riesgo es que te quieras quedar’.

    Reply

    Pável on

    I’m glad you liked it. I’m sure whenever you’re ready to visit, Colombia will welcome you back as if you’d never left. Good luck wherever you are.

    Reply

      Paul Fowler on

      Yup, I’ve no doubts Colombia will, as always, welcome me with open arms! That’s why we love it so much, right?

      Reply

    Dina Adib on

    Seriously beautiful piece. I spent 2 weeks in Colombia last summer and cannot stop thinking about it, and you have really captured its essence beautifully.

    Reply

      Paul Fowler on

      Aww shucks, thanks Dina!

      Reply

    Michael on

    Good luck in your future travels and stay safe!
    I was in Colombia for only two months and I miss it.

    Reply

      Paul Fowler on

      Cheers Mike. Colombia seems to have that effect on people, even if they don’t stay there as long as I did! My parents came for just two weeks and still talk about how great it was for them.

      Reply

    Wendy on

    Awww, me too I ve got something in my eye, this is wonderful how you think about my beautiful country and City, Una chimba!! As you know Mi casa es su casa, Hope you will enjoy Colombia Soon. Love the way you write!

    good luck,

    Reply

      Paul Fowler on

      Thanks Wendy, it was my secret intention to make Colombians cry and I seem to have done a good job!

      Reply

    Draise on

    Dude, sad to hear you are off! But great article, thanks for the input and the highlights, love this place also for the same.

    Have a good one in Germany!

    Reply

      Paul Fowler on

      Very sad to be leaving! Thanks for the kind words, always pleased to hear from another colombia fan!

      Reply

    Richard on

    A wonderful piece of writing, truly inspirational, this is what makes this website stand out from the rest.

    Reply

      Paul Fowler on

      Thanks Richard, I appreciate it!

      Reply

    Andrés on

    Por suerte para ti, somos muchos los colombianos viviendo en Berlín! Así cuando te de nostalgia, nos podemos tomar unos guaros aquí… Saludos y gracias por el post!

    Reply

      Paul Fowler on

      Haha, es cierto. En mi primer dia encontre una tienda Colombiana al lado de mi trabajo que vende Club Colombia!

      Reply

    Paul Giles on

    Ahhh… I think I´ve got something in my eye.
    Miss you already, you…
    Can´t say that here, can I?

    Reply

      Paul Fowler on

      No you most certainly caaaaaaan’t Gilesy.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*