An American Living in Colombia
I Love it Here!
I live in Pereira, Colombia, in the heart of coffee country, part of the year. My husband grew up picking coffee at his uncle's farm. We have enjoyed travelling around this beautiful country, enjoying the hikes through rain forests, eating a hole-in-the-wall restaurants, watching the sunset every evening, and laughing with happy, hard working, optimistic Colombians.
I hope to share a realistic view of what it's like for an American living in Colombia. Most of it will be positive, some will be not-so-positive, but ultimately I hope readers will be inspired to travel here and see a different side of Colombia.
Something I have noticed in Colombia is that EVERYONE is hard working. Even those with a disability are on the streets, selling chewing gum, pens and pencils, cell phone chargers, or anything they can get. Today I saw a crippled young man selling padlocks, a "little person" managing a newsstand, a woman who had been a burn victim selling reading glasses, and the list could go on and on. Everywhere you look, people are braving the heat and the car exhaust, trying to sell something or offer some service. In many stores, they will bend over backwards to find what you are looking for, even it means getting it from a competitor. One day I was looking for a brown handbag in a particular style. The salesperson stated that they didn't carry that style in brown, but she said "Un momento por favor!" She ran out the door and down the sidewalk a few feet to another store, and came back smiling, with the brown handbag I was looking for. I see them work tirelessly to serve their customers, and not just "tourists". I so admire the Colombian people!
I don't consider myself a tourist anymore because I live here half the year, 3 months at a time. Our marriage is somewhat unconventional-we both maintain homes, mine in the U.S. and his in Colombia, and we each take care of all expenses of our respective homes. Yes, it's more expensive this way, but we are always happy to be reunited after a 3 month separation. I think we also enjoy our times of independence! We didn't meet on the internet, but as many couples do find each other online, more and more couples are entering in a marriage such as ours, with his/hers homes, and lots of travelling! I will write a hub about long-distance marriages in the future.
I love sitting in my living room in Colombia in the afternoons, watching the sunset above the bamboo thicket, listening to the parrots who love to perch there. I love the 70-80 degree weather year round in Pereira, and I certainly don't miss the U.S. winters. I truly feel like I have the best of both worlds!
Thinks to do in "Coffee Country":
-Parque El Cafe, a thematic park, with a nice walk through the coffee plantation, with stations that explain the various aspects of the coffee production process. They have a great show with spectacular costumes, music and dancing, all centered on the history of coffee. The show is a great opportunity to get off your feet. The park has various restaurants, rides for the kids, a water park, a petting zoo, and much much more! And of course, the Juan Valdez coffee shop! Entrance fee ranges between $18-30, depending on what you wish to do in the park.
-Parque Confamiliar, 11km west of Pereira on the way to Cartago: a water park, zoo, sugar cane process, local arts and crafts, hydroponic gardening, beautiful flowers, birds and butterflies. Entrance fee: $5-7 for adults, $3-5 for children.
-Hike to La Pastora. La Pastora is a station on way to Lago el Otun, which is near the Nevado el Ruiz, a snow covered mountain near Manizales. To get to La Pastora, you drive or ride to La Florida (good bus transportation), then catch the "Chiva", the colorful OLD bus to ride the one hour ride to Cedral, where the road ends. The hike to La Pastora took us 3 hours of intense hiking over boulders, through mud, river beds, over logs, and lots of rocks. At one point a bull was in our path and we had to wait until he decided to move along. At La Pastora there is a simple restaurant and hostel. There is also a campground and many people take their tents and stay overnight on their way up to the Lago el Otun. We ate lunch and started back down the mountain. I thought the descent would be easier than going uphill, but I was wrong. The rocks were slippery and the mud was hard to avoid. I suggest rubber boots! My hiking boots got a good breaking in.
-Salento, a small town in the mountains where there are many craft and souvenir shops, restaurants, and local festivities.
My favorite thing to do in the small towns around Pereira is to sit in a coffee shop or bakery on the town plaza and watch the people!