Oh Hey, Medellin! – Our Family Colombia Travel Part 1
Well, we ventured to Colombia. Being the first major trip with our little bean in walking, talking, eating, regular nap- and bed-timing mode, this vacation is a little different than our previous adventures. For starters, we have a lot more time where we are just hanging out while little bean sleeps. I even enjoyed some quiet time to myself lounging on the balcony overlooking Medellin this morning, while G man too Z baby out to buy groceries, which is when I wrote the majority of this post.
So I suppose I will share a bit of our Colombia travel adventure up to now. I kept a handwritten diary when we went to Thailand years ago, and I love looking back on it. You forget so much. Therefore, this is for my personal recollection just as much as it is (if not more than) sharing for future travelers and wanderlusters to get a bit of a feel for what traveling to Colombia with a toddler is like right now.
The journey to get here was insanely stressful and frustrating (thanks, Expedia and your crappy agents and customer service), but I’m not wanting to get into that whole long, maddening story right now, so I’ll share all about that when we get home. I haven’t had a chance to watch the clip of us sharing our story on CTV news yet (yea, it was so ridiculous the news crew came out on Halloween to interview us), but if I’m not entirely embarrassed about how we looked and sounded there after spending a full day on a few hours sleep fighting on the phone with a toddler running around in the airport, I’ll share the link to that later, too.
So, skipping through those two days and nights spent in transit or hoping to be (by the way, Little Z was amazing throughout – very proud of my girl), here’s how Colombia has been so far.
We arrived in Medellin around 8am Monday morning, without more than a few minutes of sleep passed out on an airport bench waiting for our last flight, feeling very tired and jet lagged (or I’m assuming that’s why we were all shaky and somewhat out of it). We chatted and caught up somewhat with our lovely friends who were so welcoming to allow us to stay in their apartment during the Medellin leg of our adventure. After laying down for a while, trying to catch up on some sleep that was a lot harder to find than I thought it would be after a little over 7 hours sleep total in the previous 3 nights (with a toddler to care for and distract from running away or kicking the seats in front of her – being a parent on little sleep in stressful situations makes everything far more exhausting), we headed out to check out some of the sights within walking distance.
We found ourselves at Crepes and Waffles for some delicious… well… crepes and waffles, filling our bellies before making the walk back to the apartment, taking in all of the sights and sounds on the way back.
Now, something we weren’t entirely prepared for in this adventure was the huge culture shock we received ever since we got to the first airport in Colombia, in Bogota, where we realized that very few people speak English. We had several mis-communicative moments there, and they have not stopped since. We’ve been very lucky to have Ziggity with us, since Colombians seem to be entirely enamored with the “pequeño bebé mono” – the little blonde baby. We get squeals and stares and everyone seems to just love her, so she breaks the tension and gets us smiles and “go aheads” in many situations (like customs when we didn’t have the proper info about where we would be staying), where otherwise I think we would have a much harder time.
So, yes, back to the language barrier. I suppose since there has been little to none tourism until the last couple of years in Colombia, English-speaking just isn’t a requirement the way it is in some other places. When we went to Thailand, almost everyone spoke at least a little bit of English, so we had a relatively easy time getting what and where we needed without having more than a couple words in Thai. Here, however, we really realize that we are out of our element. Even having taken University level courses in Spanish (and doing really well in them), I have very little success understanding or communicating with the people here. We are so fortunate to have a native Colombian as a guide, as she has been extremely helpful, and does most/all of the talking when ordering food or getting us to where we need to go. There are few things as frustrating and worrisome than trying to communicate with someone about meeting your needs (or your baby’s needs) when neither of you speaks the same language, and everything seems so different.
Beyond the language barrier (which is actually a good reminder for us that there is so much more to the world than our tiny little bubble), the experience of Medellin has been very positive. The people have been very friendly, and the city, spread far and wide throughout a valley in the mountains, offers some spectacular views. Yesterday we took the gondola (a part of the public transit system that connects the neighborhoods up in the hills with the rest of the city) up to Santa Domingo. This apparently used to be one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the world just a few years ago, but not now.
We had originally intended to go to Parq Arvi, a newer nature reserve at the top of the mountain, but it was closed (don’t go on Mondays, or the Tuesday following a holiday, apparently). so we enjoyed this community, just a stop below Parq Arvi on the cable car system. It was full of Colombian character, with plenty of locals hanging out in the streets and public spaces. The view from a little jut out near the new and impressive looking library (which was also closed, go figure) was breathtaking. You can see so far throughout the valley, spying a very large area of Medellin and all it’s red brick buildings.
The weather has been spectacular, not too hot and not too cold (this is the City of Eternal Spring, after all), with some showers during the day. They forced us to abandon playground fun and find shelter in a delicious pizza joint, though, where we bumbled our way through ordering and paying for food and drinks a lot better than I expected (my Spanish courses are coming back a bit), but didn’t last too long. The skies are always changing, and it’s so neat to look out over the city and see the different clouds come and go. Tonight we even enjoyed an amazing lightning storm, complete with thunder that shook us pretty hard and caught us off guard at one point. I just so happened to be taking a video of Z playing with her new buddy, Kobe, at the time, so you can see the flash and hear the boom fairly clearly.