photos from cartagena, old and new
Recently, a sweet reader emailed me to ask if I could write some more about being Colombian, and travelling in Colombia. It's something I've been meaning to write about anyway, so I'm thankful for the encouragement! Today, I'll share a bit more about my family and our story and next week I'll write my Colombia travel tips.
My mom grew up in a big Colombian family in Bogota. Educated at an American school run by nuns, she was basically fluent in English and decided to go to university in Canada or the US. She somehow ended up under the impression that Vancouver was "practically tropical" (we tease her about it to this day) and decided to do her undergrad at SFU. There, she met my dad, a Canadian from the other side of the country.
Over the next decade or so they moved back and forth between Colombia and Canada. My dad learned Spanish and fell in love with a continent that, to this day, is his favourite place on earth. When I came along they were living in Vancouver, but the three of us moved down south when I was only a couple of months old. They never did live in Bogota though; both preferring the tropical climate and pull of the coast. For my first few years of life we lived in Cartagena, in the historic old city.
Cartagena is like a fairy tale city. Surrounded by la muralla, a huge wall built in the 16th century to protect the city from pirates, it melds colonial architecture with lush tropical colours and Caribbean influences. It is so, so hot but my dad loved it and would regularly be out riding his bike at midday when everyone else was having a siesta. I don't really remember living there, but I'm pretty sure we were having a good time. My dad leading scuba diving tour groups and my mom teaching English. But it was the 80's and the height of the drug wars. Cartagena became more and more dangerous, and a car bomb exploding near our house while I was outside playing was the last straw. We moved back to ever-so-safe Vancouver.
The funniest part of this story is that when we got back to Canada, I didn't speak any English. My Canadian grandmother remembers me as a toddler, yammering nonstop in a language she couldn't understand. Apparently I didn't mind. And I did learn English, pretty quickly.
Because my mom is the only member of her family who ever left Colombia, we went back to visit as often as we could. My brother and I loved going to Bogota to hang out with our cousins, even though he doesn't really speak Spanish and I stuck out like a sore thumb thanks to my glaringly white skin and green eyes. Nevertheless, it's a place that feels like home, every time I arrive.
I haven't been back in over 5 years now, mostly because Australia is damn far and I've been focusing on seeing this part of the world. I miss it though. Every time I hear someone South American speaking Spanish I think of my mom and her family. I can't wait to go back someday and show my husband around; I know he'll love it.
my family, vintage