The breeze flutters through my hair as I gaze at the Caribbean from the high vantage point of my father’s balcony. The beauty and serenity of Santa Marta washes over me. A Dole boat slowly passes, its massive frame cutting through the turquoise waters. Below on the powdery, white beach a young boy rolls up his sleeping bag, after taking a bath in the nearby lake, to begin his day. Behind me is the bustle of the early morning: small outside vendors selling syrupy sodas like Colombiana and other tasty snacks native only to Colombia. Nearby a local fisherman lays out his produce, fresh fish caught only moments before. Whispers of the market place, several blocks down, can also be heard: Street vendors chanting their low prices and new products and children laughing at the oceans edge. Down the street stands the pale, pink hotel/restaurant where my father works; adorned with seashell coated lights, a gushing fountain, and the wide eyes and gaping mouths of multi colored fish and red lobsters within it’s aquarium floor it’s a pretty spectacular sight.
It was my first visit to Santa Marta, and although I’d been to Colombia several times before to visit my father and his family, this beach city of Colombia was foreign to me. I felt out of place with my clumsy Spanish and stubborn porcelain skin that refused to tan. But mainly what I felt was bored. I spent my days waiting for my father in his unfurnished condominium. And although the sight of the Caribbean was always beautiful, staring at it endlessly became dull. Maybe if my dad had bought a television or even invested in hot water my memories of that week would be more interesting. But instead I lost my favorite necklace, read three books I can’t even remember, and dropped my ipod in the toilet. But when we traveled to BogotÃ¡, the most urban area of Colombia, I was smacked with the onslaught of the Colombian city life. The traffic flow is heavier and thicker than LA with incessant honking, a subway system so crowded you can’t breath, and I swear I almost got whiplash during one cab driver’s sharp turns. But everything was exciting. The city that never sleeps couldn’t compare to the exhilaration and liveliness of BogotÃ¡. And in the outskirts of BogotÃ¡, laced between its many mountains, is the breathtaking Catedral de Sal de Zipaquira (or the Cathedral of Salt for us gringos). This structure is an underground church built within a 200-meter salt mine, and its beauty makes up for the long, hot trek within it many caverns.
However my most vivid memories are of my family in Bucaramunga. Rapid, fluid Spanish flows from their mouths, conversations still foreign and unknown to me. I remember my grandmother, with her floral perfume, soft skin, and quiet voice. But what I remember most of her is her food, She cooked the best food I’ve ever eaten: creamy soups, sweet arroz con leche, and spicy tamales. My most memorable meals are the ones I’ve shared with my father and his family in Colombia.
There was so many of them, a countless string of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. My experience in Colombia revolves around these people, but because of the language barrier our relationship was restricted. However I discovered I could learn about them in other ways; through their animated expressions, the sound of their laugh, their broad hand gestures or lack thereof. They define Colombia for me, not landmarks or the dull, generic depictions of geography books but the people within it.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.