For Nicole and me, the travel destination of choice over the past few years has been Central America. The reasons are simple: 7-10 day itineraries are more suitable than longer ones while we have young children at home, and we can travel inexpensively in these areas that are rich with history, local culture, and adventure. For the most part, we’ve been to travel destinations where they are well-accustomed to seeing people from the United States.
But now we’re breaking the mold. Opting to bring the children, and to reach a little further south has rewarded us with something we craved at least a little bit… the awe of locals who’ve seen very few tourists over the years. Don’t get me wrong, Colombia and Medellin in particular, have a lively expatriate scene – Parque Lleras is lleno de gringos, but for the average Colombian, seeing a young family of blonde-haired, blue-eyed darlings is more than they can handle.
More than once we’ve been asked to pose for a picture. Little girls snap cell phone pictures and put them as their screen-savers. Older women and younger men just gush over my one-year-old, Claire. “Que belleza… que hermosura… que monita…” and the superlatives continue. We feel a little bit like rock stars… and the attention can be annoying, but we’ve decided to just appreciate it, because we really don’t have a choice.
The people are incredibly friendly. For a country that’s been marred by some of the ugliest violence history has recorded, you’d expect people be more guarded and reserved. Yet, it’s very much the opposite. We’ve met people in supermarkets that instantly want to associate with us. They beg to hold our children and invite themselves to come visit us in our apartment. We’ve taken a liking to this opportunity to get a genuine sense for the people and their culture. All Colombians use the phrase “a la orden” as an integral part of their vocabulary… essentially saying, “how may I help you?”
While it drastically conflicts the image of Medellin’s most infamous citizen, Pablo Escobar -the murderous godfather of South American drug-trafficking, I believe it is a truer representation of who these people really are.