I'm writing this is in the airport during our layover from Bogota, Colombia to Santiago, Chile. Six weeks ago we were wandering off the plane dazed and confused into what initially seemed like an overwhelming situation. Ask us today and its a completely different picture. We now realize that just because somethings different, doesn't mean its bad or dangerous. Coming to Colombia was an amazing addition to our trip and I'm so happy my friend told me to visit. If I hadn't trusted her opinion (she visits her family who lives here) I would have played it "safe" and only visited the "developed" countries that the US portrays in a positive light. And that's not the big picture, its one cultures view of the world.
After visiting several cities in Colombia I can confidently say that everything we are lead to believe about Colombia is no longer true. The dangerous drug wars, cartel, murders, and kidnappings are no longer a reality. Yes it happened. It was a bad moment in the countries history, one of which is mirrored in countries the world over both in the past and currently. In Rincon Del Mar, we learned that the manager of our hostel experienced that reality first hand. When FARC was active in the area they would go through the tiny village at night banging on doors and searching homes for black people. He survived many of his friends during that horrific time. When you speak with him now, he is nothing but smiles and a helpful personality.
It is a new Colombia. There is joy and growth everywhere you look. Today all you will meet are people who love life and want nothing more than to prove to you that their beautiful country has changed for the better. An employee from our last hostel in Cali drove us to the airport this afternoon and you could hear the pride in his voice as he talked about HIS city of Cali, where he was "born and raised" he quickly clarified. He told us all about the salsa dancing, festivals, food, and agriculture in the area. Although there were a few things he said that needed improving - like the need for more culture and better architectural design ("the developers just throw up an ugly building without thinking"). It was nice that he was proud all the while acknowledging that things weren't perfect, reminiscent of my feelings about the US.
At no point in our travels (cities, small towns, countryside, public bus rides, taxi rides) did we ever feel unsafe. There was the drunk guy down the street who was a little annoying and the taxi driver that charged us unknowing gringos an extra $2 above average for the cab ride. But can you really say that even in our developed, sophisticated country that you haven't seen or experienced something similar? I know that I have personally felt more unsafe before in Miami than I have here in Colombia. Its interesting to note that although the US is a world player and influences countries the world over, we hardly met any fellow Americans in our travels. In fact, more often than not, we got the comment "oh wow, you don't usually see many Americans traveling". Its a real shame, because both of us have grown so much from our experience here in Colombia. We have both grown to be comfortable with being in new places, situations, and cultures. We have dropped the elitist/assumption driven attitude about other places until we have seen it ourselves or at the least heard it from a reliable source. I highly suggest to all of you to explore, there is so much to see and experience out there! Thank you to all the wonderful people that made our time in Colombia so memorable!Now, onward... Chile here we come!