My visit to Colombia has been about 10 years in the making. One of summers that I worked at Camp Chingachgook I met some Colombians and have wanted to go to Colombia since then. The Colombians who worked at camp were so friendly and they always encouraged me to come and visit. I studied in Costa Rica for a semester during my junior year of college and considered visiting then. In the end the idea of missing Christmas with my family was more than I was ready for. As my grandmother would say, patience is a virtue and finally, 7 years later I finally made it to Colombia!
Lucky for me I got to travel for work and still got to have a partner in crime! Katie works at another local university and we also have a good time together. Katie and I flew into Bogota for a night and then traveled up to Barranquilla for 2.5 days. Barranquilla is on the Caribbean coast and I was so freaking happy to escape cold and snowy Baltimore for hot and humid weather B/Q. In Barranquilla we visited a crazy nice university – Universidad de Norte. The university was so nice that we started to question where all that funding could have possibly come from?? I have my guesses.
It was great to be back in a Spanish-speaking country and after a somewhat stuttered start I was able to speak quite clearly and understand what was happening around me for the most part.We had a little time to do some exploring but not much. I would have liked to spend more time and getting to know the city and surrounding areas better. At night Katie and I did do some exploring primarily because our hotel bar was way too nice for our travel budget! It really does speak to the local hospitality when you explain to the bartender that you can’t afford to keep drinking and they point you in the direction of a 24 hour grocery store with booze! We found our way, bought a “juice box” for $4 and ended up back in the outdoor lounge with our fancy drinks. Super classy.
Overall I did like Barranquilla and I think I would have enjoyed to studying there. Considering my limited time the city didn’t hold a huge appeal for me. That said, I would absolutely like to get back for Carnival in the future. I think it is the second biggest Carnival celebration in the world, second to Rio. The decorations were bright and fun – the music, dancing and parties of the actual celebration sound fantastic!
After our 2.5 days in Barranquilla we headed back to Bogota to attend the annual AAPLAC conference. AAPLAC is the Association of Academic Program in Latin America and Caribbean. I love the conference because it is super small (50ish people) the people are very interesting. We were primarily hosted by Universidad de La Salle and they did an amazing job. The conference was filled with interesting presentations, good discussions and hilarious dinners. This is an organization I plan to stay connected with in the future, all the easier now that Katie has been named Vice President! The next conference is in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic so of course I want to go there. Ojalá que si!
As for Bogotá, it gets a bad rap! I was maybe a little more cautious than I usually am but I never felt unsafe. There is some amazing street art but most of my opportunity to take pictures was at night and I decided that taking out my brand new cell phone wasn’t the smartest idea. The city is huge and I want to go back to explore more. We did go to the Botero museum and I loved it! After the museum we did a little walking around the Candelaria area of the city which was beautiful. I would love to go back there when I have more time. On our final day we went to a Salt Cathedral outside of the city and I must say, its totally skippable.
On our last night Katie and I found a super funky bar. Our menu was a sexy fairy/butterfly which was bizarre. Each room had slightly different decoration and music. Our room had hearts, butterflies and Chinese astrological decorations. The music was 90s pop. Hansen came on after we had several drinks so claro, we totally rocked out!
Not my craziest travels but it was a wonderful trip. There is so much more of Colombia to see and I look forward to exploring it more in the future! Katie made for an awesome roommate/travel buddy so we will for sure have to repeat that in future travels!