Wednesday, March 25, 2015

finishing up

At the beginning of the trip,
in Cartagena
In many ways we travel like children. Our other-language skills are rudimentary at best, restricted to please and thank you, yes and no and I don't understand. This can lead to all sorts of experiences, some good and some bad, and sometimes just very confusing. When we were at the airport in Medellin, after we checked in we were directed to the tax desk. In many countries we have to pay to leave the country, so this wasn't confusing -- but as US citizens, for some reason we were exempt from paying the fee to leave Colombia. We weren't at all sure why we had to go to the tax desk, but we went, and the guy did whatever he did and sent us back to the ticketing agent.

When we got there, she gave us a bunch of money, $75 more or less. We had NO idea why. No idea at all. If we are asked to pay money, we don't know why, and if we receive money we don't know why. The money confuses us, and if we get too overwhelmed during an interaction we simply hold open our wallet, our open hands filled with coins and bills, and trust the person not to cheat us. Children.

Our experience was that Colombians were friendly and kind, and helpful to us. They didn't seem to understand that we had no idea what they were saying no matter how many times we said no habla espanol, but we were always able to get what we needed. Alexis, at Hostal La Finca, used a great word when he was talking about the small town of Sopetran; he said the people there were very authentic, and that perfectly fit our experiences. Of those we met on our trip, no one seemed concerned about putting on airs or a false front. In fact, this was something that struck me whenever I talked with Alexis, who is half Colombian: my own false, glib social self didn't work. When we returned from seeing Sopetran, for instance, he asked how we liked it and I said something vague and generic and superficial -- it was great, we liked it very much. With a big smile, he asked what specifically we liked about it. A real engagement, not a top-level bit of nonsense.

We think the primary reason for our deep enjoyment of this vacation was our time at Hostal La Finca, rather than an overall feeling about the places we visited, but that's often the way it goes when you spend only a week in a place. Cartagena was lovely, and the surprise of those dancers in the square still delights me; Medellin wasn't at all what I expected if I only relied on the news reports of the last couple of decades -- it was a vibrant, energetic city, and the cable car trip we took was great fun (although for me, it's stained by my terrible trouble driving through the city); Santa Fe was a disappointment to us; and San Jeronimo, Sopetran, and Mathilde and Alexis were simply wonderful. If we could still be at La Finca we'd be very happy. (And if you ever make a trip to Colombia, find your way there!)

Here is the full set of photos, 171 of them. The world is big and there are so many places to see, so this may end up being our only trip to Colombia -- but if we ever go back, we'll definitely return to La Finca.

Adios, Colombia.


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