Coming to Colombia was an experience that I have been waiting for for as long as I can remember. From childhood, learning that my dad was from another country, had an accent and had very different childhood experiences from me (being raised with maids and attending a Seminary school to become a priest for the majority of his adolescence). When I was old enough I started to wonder about the country he was raised in, and would ask him about Colombia and his different life there (preceding immigrating to Canada when he was in his mid 20s). He rarely spoke Spanish to us in the house, I think it was because he wanted to perfect his English. The only time I heard him speak Spanish is when he was on the phone with his sister or other relatives in Colombia, or when we were on vacation in Puerto Rico. I always wanted to travel to Colombia with him, but it wasn’t until the year before his death that he started talking about it as being a real possibility. I have always felt connected to Latin America and Latin culture, even though I look 100% Canadian and speak limited Spanish, I can feel the Colombian blood running through my veins. So when Ryan and I decided to come traveling in Latin America, it was not a question that we would come and visit Colombia. We saved it for the end of our trip, but after the months of relaxing beaches, surfing, sun and yoga this country was quite a culture shock. Although I didn’t consciously have expectations in coming to this country, I feel they were rooted deep within. Colombia plays a large part of where I come from, so naturally I expected to feel at home the second I stepped on this Colombian soil. But in reality it could not have been any more opposite. We flew to Cartagena first, expecting a cool Caribbean feel, but it was crazy! I always heard my dad talk about Cartagena as if it was a holiday destination (which I’m sure it was is the 60s), but it was loud, dirty, sketchy, and smelly. Disappointed with this first impression I had of ‘my’ country, we left the next day for another “beach town” called Santa Marta. We found a nice hostel in an outskirt neighborhood which we settled for a while. But we still weren’t crazy about this city. That being said, we did still enjoy ourselves and had some great experiences, hiking through Tayrona national park, shopping in the local downtown Santa Marta, and eating the local fare.
The next step of our journey was Bogotá, we arrived about 5 days ago and so far I love this city! I know this is the city that my dad called home, I even passed by his Seminary, where he spent all of his school years. Although I did not instantly feel “at home” arriving in Colombia, I have the home feeling in Bogotá, the feeling I have apparently been longing for. This city is colorful, artsy, friendly, creative and it actually reminds me a lot of Montreal, with the mountains in the distance, the mix between ugly, dilapidated buildings built in the 50s and the charming old buildings surrounded by cobblestone streets and covered in colorful graffiti.
On top of loving this city and wandering the streets, I have had the pleasure of meeting many of my fathers relatives; great-aunt, cousins and second cousins. It has been an amazing experiencing meeting these friendly strangers I call my family. They all have wonderful stories and memories about my dad, despite him leaving this country in 1972 never to return before he passed away.
All in all I have experienced what I have always wanted to experience, coming to this country where my last name comes from, walking in the streets that my dad walked down over 40 years ago and feeling his presence in certain places I see or even just looking at the sky and mountains. I am happy and proud to say this is where 1/2 of me comes from. xo Lia P.S. If you want to follow my travel photos on Instagram, follow me on @emiliavida