Medellin, Colombia was a long way from home but it also became a second abode after living in the “City of Eternal Spring” for several months. It was where the unknown became familiar, the acquaintances became family and the new territory became a path to a new adventure.
Medellin, the capital of Antioquia in Colombia, will surprise you in different ways. It’s surrounded by mountains with its vast flora and fauna where the Medellin River runs through. They say you’ll never get lost in this city if you follow this river.
It’s been a long time coming since I’ve decided to finally write about my time of living in this country. I wanted to do it in a way that I remember it to be. So yes after much thought, here it is on my website, The HodgePodge Lifestyle.
Here begins the series on Colombia which will feature different places to visit, local culture, Latin music, authentic Colombian food and of course, the locals themselves. Though I already wrote about Guatape, Antioquia a few months ago, which you can read at Visiting the Beautiful El Penol de Guatape, this will continue what I started earlier this year of 2015.
So hopefully, you’ll enjoy reading and travelling with me virtually through my experiences and photography of Colombia. See this beautiful country through my eyes, my writing, and my memories. Let’s begin first on how it all started…
What led me to going to Colombia was through my international organization called AIESEC. I had the opportunity to go abroad and represent the Philippines while working for a company and attending events to talk about your own country in a new place you’ve never lived before. At the same time, you learn about their local culture, traditions and way of living as you go along the way meeting locals and foreigners.
After several months of trying to find a good opportunity that fits my education and work background which was mostly in Journalism in Philippines, I found one in Latin America. I worked for a language school Fundacion Censa where I had the chance to teach locals English and at the same time, I learned Spanish and a lot of things there is to know in this Latin American country.
Courtesy of Procolombiaco
I’ve watched this video promoting the Latin American country so many times before deciding to finally fly there alone. It was fast after the interviews, the selection process, obtaining the papers, which flights to take, buying a plane ticket, where to get the visa and taking care of other things needed in order to haul myself to the other side of the world.
It was one hell of a ride because everything was happening so fast and before you even realized it, you were already at the day you were supposed to leave. So a deep breath, a lot of guts and support from your family and friends until you finish ticking of that travel check list before your trip to a foreign land.
You have the choice to either fly via US, Europe, Middle East or other Latin American countries. I chose to take a flight via US because the flights were cheaper compared to transiting via other countries but I had to get a transit visa. Flying via other countries was more expensive because of the airfare. Some countries require transit visas while others don’t so it really depends on you which choice to make.
I got my visa upon arrival in Colombia since I was only staying for a couple of months. It was easy as long as you have the complete documents needed and also my AIESEC friends were there to accompany us at the immigration. Better to have a Spanish speaker, if there’s anyone you know, to go with you just to ensure there’s no miscommunication. But if you’re good in Spanish then you’re lucky!
Only a month after I had to fly across the world to reach my new destination. It was a scary and exhilarating thought yet there was something about going there that made me feel curious and excited. I’m about to find out in a couple months why they say, “Colombia es Pasion”.
So yes I packed my bags in huge suitcase, a backpack stroller and a handbag trying to put several months of my life–enough to help me survive living in a new country for the first time. With my plane tickets in hand, I bid goodbye (or shall I say see you later) to my family, friends and AIESECers from Philippines who wished me well to this new adventure.
My flight involved transiting in three different countries. I left the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila and boarded Cathay Pacific to make my way to my first layover in Hong Kong for a 2-hour flight early morning in October. Waiting alone in the huge airport was alright since there were also other travelers flying alone.
Afterwards I boarded again Cathay Pacific en route to New York for a 16-hour flight. Pre-occupied with good food, wine and TV or movie marathons, it helped me survived the long flight despite the allergies that caught up with me during the long travel. Arriving at 12 midnight in New York, the lines were very long at the immigration since there was also another plane which arrived from London. After immigration, I had to get all my luggage from the conveyor belt since I was taking a flight with a different airline, Avianca, which will take me to Colombia. I was hungry so I was thankful after getting all my things, checking in at the Avianca counter with all my things, I can finally have some food while waiting. But then since I arrived in the wee hours of the morning, most stores were closed except for the convenience stores and kiosks at the John F. Kennedy airport. So the snacks at the nearest convenience store was the best place to purchased some quick meals which was fine since I can eat at the plane en route to Colombia.
On to the next destination, Bogota, Colombia! My flight was bound to arrive in Bogota during sunrise so I tried to get some sleep during the flight. It was colder than I expected when I got there as I was in my sandals and most travelers were prepared already wearing their boots. Oh well, it was still bearable so I just decided not to bother changing. Only a few hours more for a quick layover in the capital of Colombia until I reach my final destination of Medellin.
It was a bumpy ride because the rain from Bogota to Medellin so sleeping again was out of the question. I was a bit nervous because of the turbulence and perhaps the entire long journey wearing me out. The thought of arriving in one piece in the new city was something I look forward to. A breakfast, hot cup of coffee, a warm bed and a hot shower was so appealing but I had to wait until I actually get there.
Arriving from a 36-hour flight from Philippines, I landed at the Jose Maria Cordova International Airport where my friends from AIESEC picked me up early morning of October. Jet-lagged and hungry at 7am, still blurry-eyed from the very long flight which transited from Philippines to Hong Kong to New York to Bogota before finally landing to the final destination of Medellin.
I still remember a local friend who fetched me from the airport telling me once we were riding the car to go to where I will live for several months that we were actually not yet in Medellin. My brain froze for a moment then suddenly my thoughts fast forwarded and my tongue spilled the words before even realizing that I’ve spoken out loud, “What do you mean we’re not in Medellin?” Did I mistakenly boarded the wrong plane from New York?
A sigh of relief when he explained further more and turns out we had to travel down from where the airport is which is in Rionegro to reach the city of Medellin. We were in Antioquia which is quite big. Imagine it as Metro Manila. Quezon City or Makati City are part of Metro Manila and the same goes for Medellin which is part of Antioquia. So the airport was in another city.
The way down was quite a treat as you’ll see the beautiful view of nature, lush greeneries, mountain side, birds flying around and such–definitely a major depart from where I grew up of in the concrete jungle with a lot of tall buildings, malls and sadly less nature that is called Manila.
As we come nearer and nearer, buildings made of bricks greeted us along the way. Definitely a different architecture from where I come from which is a city of concrete jungle full of malls and skyscrapers called Manila.
Upon reaching the area where I will live in the next few months, the buildings become less as we enter the residential area of La Floresta. The houses were side by side done in bungalow or apartment style, still most were made with the bricks and paint, tiled roofs, some with terraces and such. There were parks with trees to hangout in front of the rows of houses.
I’ll always remember the house where we lived which was owned by a local Colombian family. I started as the only foreigner living there during the first few weeks but we grew to several foreigners from Brazil, Germany, Czech Republic, Belgium and US.
It was fun and we all learned a lot from each other as weeks became months of exploring the city together, learning Spanish, eating Colombian food, partying until we had no energy left, dancing Salsa, drinking Aguardiente (a local drink), teaching each other our own languages, telling stories from back home, becoming familiar with each other, meeting new people and latter on becoming a second family in a foreign land.
I’ve never posted my own photo at The HodgePodge Lifestyle but I’ll make this an exception. Here are a few of the photos I had with my friends in Colombia. Memories of being together living abroad, growing up out of our comfort zones, becoming independent but also knowing how to rely with each other in times needed, making several mistakes, figuring out how to deal with obstacles, gaining new skills and basically surviving a life outside our own countries.
It was more than simply working abroad but experiencing new things abroad and establishing new friendships that hopefully will be there for a lifetime despite the distance after coming home. Being here, living here, knowing these people and becoming a part of my life was and will always be a part of who I am, of who I became and who I can become for years to come. I miss them but I know they will always be around in other parts of the world. Who knows when and where we’ll all meet again but perhaps one of these days, it can happen again. Thankfully Skype, Facebook, Viber, Whatsapp and all these new technology bridges the gap around the world, making it easier to communicate with each other. So a bit of a tribute as I continue to write about Colombia are these wonderful people I met in this country.After all the story about how Colombia came about through AIESEC, hopefully you’ll find a little bit of your time to read the next few articles I will feature at The HodgePodge Lifestyle as I go deeper into showing you the side of Colombia I saw and experienced during the time I lived there.
I will be writing about the The Streets of Medellin, Colombia: Spanish, Casa, Transportación y Calles next so please stick around for more adventures in this Latin American country. Watch out for the places to see, food to eat, where to party, the neighboring towns of Antioquia and other more things about this beautiful country. As they say, “Colombia es pasion”.
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