Colombia – more than just coffee
After falling in love with Peru, I was sad to leave for Colombia. After all, it’s not on the water and the only thing I knew about the country was they grow coffee and have a reputation for drugs. I reluctantly packed my bags and boarded the plane for the three-hour flight.
After spending two weeks here, I can honestly say I love Medellin!
True, it’s not on the water but it’s surrounded by mountains, full of palm trees and lush green plants, with a river going through the city and a consistent spring-time climate. Plus, the people are so friendly and the food is delicious!
But the final piece that makes me love this city?
They love Christmas as much as I do!
There are extensive light displays in every neighborhood, much bigger than anything I’ve seen at home. Nearly every house and apartment building is decorated, fireworks take place each night and Christmas music proudly plays in stores, offices and streets.
We heard about a holiday parade taking place on Friday night and headed out. We arrived just in time to see a marching band, including flag bearers and gymnasts, performing under thousands of strings of lights. We followed along, clapping and singing and taking photos.
I couldn’t stop looking around – there were families and children enjoying the festivities, food trucks and stalls with Christmas cakes and cookies, street vendors selling toys and whistles, and lights everywhere.
We followed the path and discovered lights hanging from trees, lights in the shape of cupcakes and candy canes and hot air balloons, lights covering the grass and river, lights on the fence and street posts, lights, lights and more lights!
I smiled and laughed and giggled as we strolled along. I couldn’t get enough of the Christmas spirit. People asked me to take photos of them and I asked others to take photos of me.
Why is it everyone is so much more friendly this time of year?
I realized we were making a circle around a lake and in the middle was a big stage and light show set to Christmas music. I stopped to soak it all up – the lights, the music, the night sky, the people surrounding me.
And I started to cry.
There is just something so terribly romantic about the holidays and I longed to be strolling along holding hands with the man I love.
(I haven’t found him yet but he’s out there somewhere…hopefully dreaming about holding hands with me and strolling along under the holiday lights…)
When we decided to head home, we couldn’t find an Uber or taxi! There were too many people, too many vehicles, and roads closed for the parade.
As we stood there waiting, our toes started tapping and we realized all of us were grooving to the music pouring out of a nearby bar. We decided to go for one drink and then try to find a ride home.
We walked over and sat down on the chairs outside. People were standing around, cooking over an open fire or setting off fireworks in the street.
An older gentleman brought over four beers and set them on our table. I tried to explain that I didn’t drink beer and he directed me to a fully stocked cooler inside the front door.
As I went over to see what they had, I realized there was a bedroom across the hall…and a living room…and…wait a minute!
We were in someone’s house! This wasn’t a bar at all!
We had just walked up and sat down at someone’s house and they served us drinks and food – as guests! We laughed at our mistake as they warmly included us in the festivities.
The older gentleman invited each woman to dance and we took our turns dancing and laughing and watching the family celebrate.
We said our goodbyes and hopped into a taxi, marveling at the generosity of strangers and the random adventures that happen when you say “yes”.
One of the other things I love about this time of year is giving back, in whatever way I can. So when we heard about an organization looking for volunteers to work with kids, I jumped at the chance.
We met in the morning and took taxis to another neighborhood, where we then hopped on a bus and headed straight up the mountain.
We arrived and were taken to a small building, which turned out to be their community hall. Children were lined up against a wall and looked up at us with big eyes.
Oh my goodness, I wanted to scoop them all up!
Our goal was to make a traditional holiday dessert, play with the kids and then give each child a present. A few people headed outside to build a stove to make the dessert and I sat down near the kids.
We were in an empty room – no toys, no books, no balls, nothing at all to play with. The children were three years old or younger, some still in diapers and a few still holding their moms’ hands.
A little girl came over and sat near me.
I love children but I wasn’t sure how to communicate with this little girl. My Spanish is basic, and she didn’t know any English. The only thing I could think to do was play “patty cake”. Her eyes lit up as we clapped hands and soon she began singing. She had the sweetest, softest little voice and I encouraged her with smiles and laughter as we clapped our hands together.
Someone found paper and crayons and we started drawing Christmas trees, tracing our hands and making paper airplanes.
When I got to present her with a gift, her brown eyes got even bigger and she wrapped her arms around my leg. (I almost cried but hugged her back instead.)
As our group left, she stood there waving her little hands and my heart hurt it was so full.
Full of love for this little girl who shared her morning with me and reminded me we don’t need language to communicate love or joy.
Full of love for my little ones back home, who I miss every day and I know miss me too.
Full of joy for this adventure that causes me to shift my perspective, to experience new ways to live, and gives me the opportunity to be open and kind.
Merry Christmas from Colombia! Wishing you love and joy, wherever you are in the world. xoxo