Steve was born in Colombia, but moved to the US at a very young age. He was always brought up to appreciate Colombian culture, but didn’t have the opportunity to visit until May 2010, when he came here for one week. It was enough to convince him he wanted to come back again, and in March 2011 he came to Bogota for an indefinite amount of time.
Now, almost a year later, he’s entering his final few weeks in Colombia, and we spoke to him to hear his reflections on his time back in his country of birth.
“I see my time in Colombia as having been a real chance to grow on a well-rounded basis,” he starts. “I’ve enjoyed a good lifestyle, but I’ve also worked hard, and when you work hard here you really start to see rewards.” For sure, Steve has not only managed to find work as an English teacher, but also conducted a lengthy analysis of public schools in the district of Meta, and played professional football with a 2nd Division Bogota Club – opportunities which might be impossible in other countries.
These aren’t, however, the things that Steve has most valued in his time here. Nor has it been the opportunity to return to his country of birth. “For me, the things I’ve really taken from this experience I think are things that are applicable to anyone, and especially people fresh out of university, looking for something a little different to do. I’ve found I’ve grown and developed in many ways: professionally, personally and even in terms of healthy living. Colombia is a great country to live well in, since fruit is fresh, food is healthy and you can get involved in a lot of sport.”
“But that’s not all. I’ve managed to get a fresh perspective on things like politics; I’ve been able to see things from a different perspective and understand things differently. I wish, actually, I could have studied here for a semester to understand even more. Being here has allowed me to see first-hand how the world is changing due to globalization, both in terms of stuff coming in and going out. It’s been a fascinating learning curve for me, and I’d love to learn more.”
Steve spent most of his time living and working in Bogota, but found time to travel Colombia, too. In his time here, he visited Santa Marta, Taganga, Tayrona National Park, Tunja, Meta, Bucaramanga and Medellin. His favorite of all? “Medellin. I love that city. It’s so beautiful, the weather is great and it just feels like a really healthy place to be. With regard to productivity and work, I think maybe Bogota is a better place to be, but in terms of lifestyle for sure Medellin was my favorite place, closely followed by Bucaramanga, which I felt was like a ‘mini-Medellin'”. Despite all that traveling, Steve still felt he could have done more, and laments that he couldn’t visit the Pacific Coast, Cartagena and the Coffee Region, places which he says “looked beautiful,” but he just couldn’t fit them in.
Now as Steve plans a trip home through Central America, he says he’ll always look back fondly on his time living here: “Honestly, I recommend it to anyone. There’s a different pace of life here, even in Bogota, and it’s great to take that time to take a step back and try new things. I’d love to get more people to come here like me, who are in their early 20s, and get to experience Colombia. The style of life, the ins-and-outs of business here, the culture… It’s all fascinating, and I’ll take the experiences of this year with me in the future.”
If you like the photos, you can check out more from our very talented friend Bill Jarrell over at Crowd of Clouds.