No Coincidences in Colombia

This post is in honor of current events happening in Colombia…

November 2nd, 2014 – Bogotá, Colombia – Casa Maria E. 

Bogota has been great, the only drawback being Transmilenio, the maze of public transportation nobody seems to be able to figure out. Dozens of lost and confused Colombians teaming up with a gringo and a chilena on a Sunday paseo…  Por allí o por allá?

Lately there seems to be a strange synchronicity happening, as if luck did simply not exist and we were in the hands of destiny.

Sometimes the world is so unusual to me, so surreal. That I’ve been enjoying the hospitality of a near stranger’s MOM we met all the way back in Peru is mind-blowing. All I can do is chuckle and be thankful, and pay it forward whenever I can. I often have been shaking my head in amazement on this journey.

Of course, lest the news outlets let us forget, so many grotesque and brutal events happen all over the world. We should be scared. We should stay indoors and tweet about it. Rant on Facebook in the safety of our homes.

Meanwhile, back in reality, there are so many beautiful people everywhere. Kind, generous, trusting, ready to adopt two complete strangers as if they were their very children.

img_7925Parque Nacional Tayrona

And still others, so frenetically energetic, brimming with ideas, neurons flying to and fro, trying to fight an uphill battle, but fight organically and peacefully, using love and fellowship and the common goals all people (whether they know it or not) share.

A few days ago, again not by chance, we met a beautiful, strong soul named Mariana. Perhaps it was a coffee buzz that got us chatting away at first, but we instantly connected, some sort of law of attraction, and she began to lay into recent Colombian history. Being a journalist and photographer it was refreshing to hear someone be honest.

Colombia seems to have many of the same problems as Chile, except on a greater scale, more drastic. Only as recent as 2008, Colombia was made safe from decades of widespread corruption and violence. (2008!!) But at what cost?

The jury seems to still be out on Uribe and Santos, but regardless of violent techniques on all sides, a relative peace has been achieved. Colombians and foreigners alike can now travel safely to most corners of the country. However, Colombia remains a corrupt place (you can see bribery and unfulfilled contracts everywhere), and typically is moving in the same direction Chile is – the pursuit of the elusive American Dream, the Horatio Alger story, malls and suburban sprawl. Thirsty neoliberals convincing people that they need everything they don’t actually need. The Mickey Mouse version of success that arguably died in the 1970’s, but still we keep allowing ourselves to be fooled, to be tricked into this supremely unnatural game.

img_7672After hours at the Bogotá airport

As I rode around the chaotic, sardine packed busses here in Bogotá, gazing out at daunting, elaborate skull-filled murals splayed on dark concrete highway underpasses, as I was constantly bombarded by beggars. Children, teenagers, adults, ragged souls with missing teeth and missing limbs; in city of ~7 million people, I thought, at what point did we go so wrong?

It’s easy to think and talk about love, but not so easy to put into practice when your supposed brother or sister is pushing you out of the way desperately trying to board a bus, ravenously eyeing your backpack wondering what material things could be extracted for any value. This could quickly spiral into a depressing, rambling essay on how shitty we all are as human beings…

But there are always shimmering points in the darkness, people like lighthouses, people like Mariana, who drip with anxious energy to create something truly beautiful, to love, to right the wrongs and sing their own songs.

Spectacular birds – heron, motmot, and mural echo

To say that Colombia is special would be a terrific underestimation of the truth. A ‘newborn’ with a dark, twisted past life. How can Colombians deal with such a fearful, violent history? How can they finally be honest with each other? How to shed xenophobic or inter-country racist misconceptions? How to root out corruption?

Hopefully someday soon the cost of transportation can decrease, perhaps through government sponsored subsidies like in Ecuador. That way Colombians can discover their own amazing country. They can see that they’re not that different from their neighbors in other regions of Colombia.

Anyways all in all, I have really felt the love here in Colombia. In Cartagena, we partied in Plaza San Francisco with a bunch of people from all over the world, but connected with two Colombianas from Manizales. They were quickly buying us big beers and snacks and offering up their home for us to stay in. And to put a last little touch on this rather bipolar entry, Colombia has one of the highest rates of internally displaced persons in the world, next to Sudan and Afghanistan.

puertas-de-salentoDoors of Salento – credit P. López

Yesterday, as the afternoon rain slowed and the sun began to dip down towards the West, I found myself with Paola, Mariana, and a group of Uiototo indigenous folk just chatting away in a traditionally built choza in the parque botanico, in the middle of an island of green in the middle of a concrete jungle called Bogotá. Sitting around a warm, well constructed fire, giving thanks to Pachamama, to the air, for letting us exist as part of nature. Something we can’t forget, that our actions do make a difference, however small.

bogota10Aforementioned choza in Bogotá

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  • We Said Go Travel

    WSGT Travel Writer

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