Colombia, the country of which most people only know one thing: Pablo Escobar and his cocaine. However, if there is anything that Colombians really want it is to finally move beyond that period in time. If there is anything that can frustrate them it’s tourism that doesn’t go further than Pablo Escobar tours & Narcos. Therefore, I am happy to help them by saying that after four months in Colombia I have not been kidnapped and that the country has a lot more to offer than cheap drugs.
Back in February 2017, when I was thinking about making a long trip again after my studies, I noticed that intending to learn a new language is a socially acceptable excuse to go traveling and hunting for sunsets. Still, I did not want to spend my time in school benches again either, so I decided to stand on the other side of the classroom as a business English teacher in a small Colombian city called Manizales and learn Spanish ‘in the streets’ as it comes.
In the first month this decision smacked me in the face repeatedly, since it was hard to find anyone with a higher English proficiency than my duolingo fuelled spanish. For example, it is pretty hard to do your job when your boss explains your tasks by using Google translate and your colleagues are content when they can say hello in English. But, right now I could not be happier because in this way I learned the language faster than I ever could have imagined. Now, armed with my colombian ID (yes I have one), I have fooled more than one by posing as a colombian with a slight speaking problem.
So how is it to live in Colombia? Well, I spent most of my time with the teachers and students at the university. They made it a great experience for me, always willing to help, very giving, curious and full of happiness. The city I lived in is not a tourist destination, which resulted in that there was only a handful of foreigners studying or working in this city which made the experience even more special. Basically, besides the feeling that it is a very dangerous country, a lot of prejudicies can be confirmed. Yes, dancing salsa (and drinking aguardiente) is everything and you have to learn (to drink) it. Yes, everybody is incredibly warmhearted; one kiss on the cheek everytime you meet is a must. Yes, meals with fresh juice and soup can be bought at the price of two euros or less. And yes, everybody is always late for everything and completely lack a sense of time. When a Colombian tells you they will be there right now or in Spanish ‘ya’, expect them in 30 minutes. If they tell you they will be there very soon, ‘ahorita’, expect them in two hours. If they say they will be coming later, ‘más tarde’, don’t expect them at all.
In the time of now, I have already finished the work in Colombia and started traveling. First I have spent one month in Colombia, partly backpacking it with my mother who decided to join me in my quest. Then, three weeks in Ecuador using couchsurfing but skipping on the Galapagos islands because my dollar growing tree got lost in the matrix. Then, I got this idea that it would be fun to enter Peru by boat over the Amazone river and made it reality. In the last three weeks, being in Peru, I have first survived twelve days in the Amazones, then a five-day hike to Machu Picchu, four days in the deepest canyon taking selfies with condors and just yesterday enjoyed a beer at 6000 meter altitude after an incredible hike and coldest night in a tent ever.
However, the end is near. I decided that I would end my adventure for now and bought a flight to come home. Even though my time abroad hasn’t helped at all with making up my mind about the future as was intended, I would not change a thing. See you all in Groningen!