Monday, December 18, 2017

A homely nomad

A Tiny Pirate In The CaribbeanI'm sitting in an airport lounge waiting for a flight to take me from Bogota to London. Melancholy is threatening to be my travel companion, but instead I'm trying to make him disappear via the words I'm writing to you now.

And the reason for my sadness is the fact that once again I'm leaving something I love so much. I'm sure most of us have felt like this at some point, however all of this is entirely of my own making, which negates the need for sympathy. You can all put your violins away. I keep repeating the same processes and seem surprised when I get the same results. If you look for the definition of “village idiot” in the dictionary it has a photo of my confused and goofy face next to it.

I've been blessed to have enjoyed a couple of life-changing weeks in my original Motherland, thanks to my Editor at the Cultured Traveller, an online publication I frequently write for. After months of me nagging him about producing a 'Colombian Edition' he relented, as much to shut my incessant whining up, as to embrace the spirit of adventure, which is the reason why he started the e-zine in the first place.

Pool & boots  Delicious food

The whirlwind cross-country tour took us on a magical journey to heavenly landscapes, emotive art galleries, colossal religious installations, jungle mountains, wild beaches, muddy volcanoes, Caribbean waters, breathtaking architecture and so much more. I could write a novel about Colombia's beauty. The gastronomy was out of this world too. Totty was also delicious, although this being a work trip meant I was on my best behavior. Most of the time….

A Tiny Pirate In The Caribbean  A Tiny Pirate In The Caribbean
A Tiny Pirate In The Caribbean

But amongst all this, the feeling that Colombia has endured so much hardship in the last 50 plus years of conflict never left my side. Powerful art, impactful graffiti, heart wrenching stories in every city were made the more poignant because of the kindness of everyone we met, and the noble way most people have dealt with their own tragic histories.

I don't know any other country aside from Afghanistan that has been so ruptured by a fateful combination of guerrillas, drug lords, religion and corrupt governments- their own and the US. The nation never stood a chance. Yet in spite of this, Colombians are some of the happiest and most generous people in the world, traits I hope I have retained in spite of my absence.

A Tiny Pirate In The Caribbean  Boat

My main goal was to ensure my Editor- a highly demanding and fastidious chap with the generous heart of a lion- fell in love. Not an easy task when his attention to detail and the naturally gregarious Colombian’s may not exactly be aligned. But in fairness to him, he embraced the whole gamut of experiences including a dip in a mud volcano and a taste of ‘fat- a*sed ants,’ a northern delicacy. He drew the line at Salsa so I did his share as well, leaving my toe polish on the dancefloor. Classy. And energetic!
We took a trip up to the notorious ‘Comuna 13’ in Medellin, a favela that was borne of poverty, violence and narco-wars. Less than a decade ago the government- unable to reach the fortified inner slums – bombed the neighbourhood to try and flush out the paramilitaries that had a stronghold in the Comuna. The world watched the innocent being attacked and did nothing. And the traumatised and devastated community rose up and fought back with hope and art. Residents rebuilt their homes, now painted in the brightest of colours; a rainbow phoenix rising up like Icarus in the Andean mountains. Urban warfare has not won.

That for me sums up the Colombian spirit, and this is why I’m feeling blue. Most of you will only know tragic and awful stories from my country, when there is so much more beauty to be found. And whilst I really do count my blessings because I have the life I exactly wanted and created for myself, at times like these I really wish I would just be happy to be in one place, instead of constant movement, where I’m subconsciously trying to plant roots then have to leave again; a conflicted homely nomad.

I moved to the DR because it was a ‘mini Colombia,’ and because of the fabulous people and watersports which meant I had an almost instant family, as I do in my beloved England. My business cards have printed " find what you love and let it kill you" a favourite quote from Bukowski. And I think for me the thing that I love…is love. The things that I love hurt me. The passions that have my heart are the things I hate leaving behind. So what do we do when we feel like this? Well, as I’m writing this, all I can think is about the incredible things I do have. Family, friends, love (that word again), health and optimism.

When there is real suffering all around the world my bratty moanings are self-indulgent and futile. But if my heart is telling me something then it’s because I need to address whatever issue is being raised. My time back in Colombia made me appreciate my roots, my country, my blood all the more, and its made me more determined than ever to tell the world about the uniquely fantastic country I was lucky to be born in. This is just the beginning.

Currently I look like a cross between a Botero painting (he loved the obese!) and an exploded pignata (my unruly hair!), but I’m loving every little thing I can attach to my birthplace because I realised I don’t quite fit in, and all I want to do is belong. Being away has made me disconnect somewhat- I speak with a funny accent (apparently), and when dressed as a man I look like a Cuban transvestite. (That’s another story.) Seemingly, I am also not a ‘typical’ Colombian woman, but I guess I’m just not a typical woman at all.

A Tiny Pirate In The Caribbean  A Tiny Pirate In The Caribbean

I’m now going back to London where, as much as it was home for over 20 years I also didn’t fit in. ‘Crazy Colombian’ was a description many used when introducing me to others, or trying to get them to remember who I was. Perhaps some of us are just meant to be different, right?  And to be honest I am grateful for not having just one place I can genuinely call home but three. That is an awful lot of commitment from family, friends and colleagues, who may not see me for months or even years but always welcome me as if we had said goodbye just yesterday.

Hammock with window view  Wild beach

As I predicted, writing to you this week has helped me to go from blue back to pink. I used to have a very inspirational boss who would give me the time to talk my way through any issues I faced until I found the answer myself, instead of telling me what to do, which would have saved her so much time and energy!

Thanks to my little chat with you I’ve now talked my boring travel companion Melancholy out of coming to London with me. I think I can see him at the bar, alone, and drinking Hendrix and tonic. I should probably join him for a pre-flight tipple, just to be sociable of course. As if you can’t drink with melancholy then you have no business having a heart.

A Tiny Pirate In The Caribbean

Wishing you all a smooth ride through your emotional moments!

Tooooodle Pip!


Photos by: Claudia Avila-Batchelor


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