I wrote the following as a reply to a friend who asked me "What was the best part of my trip so far?" His world is a little topsy-turvy at the moment so I decided to be a little introspective. Given the fact that tomorrow is September 11th, I thought it fit well. I do hope that my friend doesn't feel that what I wrote is any less directed to him alone, because the words did enter my mind as a result of his question, and my answer was sincerely directed to him and for him. I just feel it might be a modicum of help gaining insight to a view from another pasture.
"The best part of my trip so far?"
Well, I think it it was coming to Columbia. The "part" of the trip that I liked most, was coming here and witnessing the people in their struggle as they climb into a new dawn . It was not so long ago, say five years, that Columbians from all walks of life were caught in the cross-fire between the guerillas and the Government. They couldn't leave their homes for fear of loosing children or loved ones via kidnapping, or land mines or just plain ol gunfire. They lost their ability to sustain their lives, and their hope for decent lives. The current president "Juan Manuel Santos" is a heavy handed mother f***er, but he had effectively dealt with the FAR and other so-called "freedom fighters", driving them deep into the jungles, almost to non-existence. This has, within the last five years mind you, enabled optimism amongst the citizenry, allowing them, for the first time in the current generation's lives' an ability to venture out of their homes. To open small shops, to send their children to school. To invest in their future.
Now, the very GOOD thing I've been able to experience from this, is to bear witness to how they're handling this change. There's plenty of room for their hearts to harbor revenge toward life's passions lost, toward the maiming of their brothers and sisters through the loss of limbs and the the loss of hope. There's plenty of room for anger in their hearts for the wrong that's been done to them for, not just the recent years through the Medellin cartel period, but also for the last 500 years since the Spaniards arrived and enslaved them for centuries.
But, that's not the heartbeat here. They are embracing their newfound happiness with the same passion and intensity given to that of a newborn child. The same kind of hope has arisen too, a hope looking forward, not backward as would be so easy to do. It truly humbles me. And actually, humility in that sense is a wonderful thing. The people are smiling, compassionate and more than willing to share it with whomever will listen. I AM truly humbled and that alone has given way to an entirely different way of looking at things. I'm totally in love with this part of Columbia. There is an EXTREME disparity between rich and poor. This is leftover from the dark times. But boy are they trying! Those you do see begging on the street, are not just pan handlers, they are proud individuals who are often minus most if not all of their limbs. Lost from land mines so insidious and mean. There are mothers who are begging to provide for their child, who's father was taken during a period, remember, only five years ago, by ruthless bandits who had convinced themselves of a cause that they allowed to outweigh the value of human life.
For Columbians to resurrect themselves with a sense of optimism and warmth and graciousness as I've witnessed, can only humble oneself and provide one with a great opportunity to reassess one's value system, and recenter one's sense of purpose and existence. And that it has, and for me, this has been the greatest experience and gift I could have ever hoped to achieve. That's why this has been the best part of my trip so far. Even though there are circumstances beyond our imagination here, these Columbians -will- make it! And for that I a glad. It actually gives me, albeit small, sense of optimism regarding America.
Sorry for the long-windedness, but it's one of those things that can't be described in a few words. I think it would do good for everybody to venture out and see what's going on in the rest of the word. It's good for the soul.
Gotta run now, I have bollos de masorca in the oven. We'll talk about that a little later. Cause I want to eat one now.
Ciao for now,