Colombia was all over the news last year, and for all the right reasons. The country, her leaders and her people chose to make peace with one of the country’s largest rebel groups, the FARC. There was a referendum on peace because peace was a long way coming. The Colombians had suffered too much. They felt they had enough. A new president wanted change and the rebel group was forced to comply. He made it walk the path of peace.
But a people that had long suffered were not ready to accept peace if it was not on their terms. So they voted not to accept the terms of peace set out in the referendum. They wanted at least some justice done for all the suffering they had gone through all those years. But their president did not relent. He wanted a deal so he started negotiations for a second one. That one is still in the making.
Traveling through Colombia, it is hard to believe that these are the same people that were at each other’s throats for the last decades. Colombians are a kind, peace loving people that will not hesitate to help you if you visit their beautiful country. The kindness and generosity that is shared so freely within this country feels foreign when you have just arrived from the West. This may be due to a, on first sight, more equal society. People tend to approach one another on an equal footing. This is the same in cities as in the countryside. The countryside in Colombia is the abundance of beautiful woods and mountains this country offers. Colombians are blessed they get to live in such a beautiful country as they do. The vistas are amazing and the nature is always blooming. The country resembles the garden of Eden. This is due to a climate perfect for plants to grow; many showers and lots of sunshine.
Colombians do not seem to be very poor and the country does not make the impression of being a poor one; it is well maintained. Even if Colombians were poor, they carry it well, for they seem happy. Naturally there are slums to be found on the outskirts of cities, but these do not seem depressing at all. They seem lively. What feelings best describe traveling through one of South America’s most interesting and beautiful countries? One of feeling safe and of being at ease. For young people in Colombia it is still mandatory to join the police or military forces for a few years. This makes that street corners and squares in all of the country’s towns and larger cities at most times have a few vigilant cops around. When hiking on one of the trails in the country’s beautiful mountains, one might run into an encampment of soldiers. These youngsters might just bide their time in the security forces, but for a country that just came out of several different insurgencies, their presence eases the mind.
Notable is the friendliness of the people, not only towards tourists but also towards each other. A ride to another village for a small sum might be offered without you having to ask. Would the same thing just as easily happen in a Western country? Not always for the right reasons. Westerners are often in a rush and their societies are generally focused on money and the acquiring of goods. Doing something for another person without anything that can be gotten is not always seen as appealing to most people. Also, in Western countries there is often a lack of trust in the other. The other can be seen as not worthy of trust, and this can make many Westerners seem stand-offish. Colombia is completely the opposite. A kind helping hand or directions when lost are easy to come by. And in a country where not many speak English they are patient when dealing with foreigners not fluent in their language.
The country is very large. Distances are double than what most are used to in the West, and trains they do not have. This is due to the many mountains this country has. A million tunnels would have to be created to join its many cities by train. It has no postal service. One is thus not able to send another person a letter. It is highly likely that no postmen could be found willing to make the many ascents required in a country with all these mountains. Colombians move freely on their motorbikes and they are very good at it. This is a must in a country clogged with cars. The big cities are a pain to navigate and the many cars create huge traffic jams. Medellin is a prime example. Larger cities do have a metro line. This could take away some of the pain, if only these metro lines were not as busy as the roads are.
Highly recommended are the many coffees this country produces due to its climate. It has many tasty ones. Most grow out of the coffee triangle not very far from Medellin. It is a must to take as much home as possible for personal use or to give to friends and family.
Many abhor the stigma as the country of drugs and narcos. Even though a northern neighbor has taken their throne, the stigma is still there, especially with older generations visiting the country. What is a fact is that a part of the wealth of the country has come from drugs. Drugs has sponsored this country, but Pablo Escobar is actually not all that popular. The deaths, misery and stigma that his rule as drug kingpin led to have created antipathy to his persona with many Colombians. But I also believe that there are those that consider him a Colombian hero, standing up to those cursed Yankees.
There is definitely an abundance of drugs on the streets. This might be due to the ease by which it is attainable or to its low price. One can witness people using it freely, even though penalties in Colombia are stiff. Cops can be seen chasing dealers through streets often and when going out drugs is offered way more openly than in Western countries. The average guy will tell you that casual drug use is something he finds natural. If that is a good thing I am not sure of.
But do visit this country. It is truly an amazing place.