My parents are world travelers, but they never expected to go to Colombia. I am lucky and proud to say that when I told them that I would be going to Colombia for my Peace Corps service, I don’t remember them saying anything indicating that they had any judgement of the country. Still, what they knew of the country was similar to what Americans presume to know: drug trafficking, kidnappings, and maybe coffee. Their trip here was a major step outside of their comfort zone, and my mom even managed to face her fear and brave the cable car in Manizales (see picture above).
So what were their impressions of my second home?
- Despite everyone back at home telling them to “stay safe,” the only time they felt unsafe was in vehicles. As I’ve mentioned before, the rules of the roads are more like suggestions. A double yellow line means nothing, and rather than stop at octagonal red signs, you usually roll by while laying on your car horn.
- There’s an incredible volume of manual labor happening in this country. Roadwork and construction tasks that we in the U.S. would typically see executed with large machinery is often done by hand here. It’s hot and grueling work.
- The differences between the coast and the interior are striking. The coast is not just hotter, it’s dirtier; littering isn’t yet a bad word here, and there are so many street dogs that garbage bags just get ripped open anyway, so there’s garbage everywhere.
- People are very curious about foreigners. A great example of this: in Manizales we stayed a hotel with thermal pools, and it was a popular day trip for Colombian tourists. While we were relaxing in a hot pool, some kids heard us speaking English. One of them said “hello” to my mom, and her being the kind woman she is, she responded in kind. Before we knew it, about 15 people (adults as well as kids) were gathered around us. They were curious, but also didn’t really know what to ask us, so it was mostly just a lot of strange looking between our two groups.
- People are warm and welcoming and most of all, proud of their country. Multiple times we were approached on the street and welcomed to Colombia and thanked for our visit.