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Dear Colombia,

I want to tell you that before ever visiting you, I misjudged you. I misjudged all the things about you, and this year when I visited you again, I was still surprised. Even though I get annoyed when I see El Paso  misportrayed in movies, I still thought that perhaps Hollywood had the right idea about you. Now, I know that you are greener and richer than I could ever imagine. That while I'm there, I keep thinking, "How will I remember all of this vividly, in technicolor?"

Colombia, I love the endless green and the trees, your mountains, and roads that wrap around them like loose yards of ribbon. I love the vendors selling brightly colored fruits I'd never seen before, hotdogs sprinkled with potato chip slivers, hamburgers filled with so many things the buns are two distant cousins, golden brown empanadas stuffed with meat and potato goodness, aguacates the size of dinosaur eggs... all sprinkled on corners and sidewalks all around Medellín.  I also love the way these same vendors hug the roads on the way to other cities like Manizales, Pereira, and Aermenia. Tiny villages that I dream sprang to life because someone got tired of being in a taco (traffic jam) and just parked on the side of the road. I love the towns like Santa Barbara, Salento, and Guatapé. Each one of them "known" for something. Guatapé the town of colors and emblems that decorate every house with big bold shields, Salento the town of traditional Colombian homes with wrap around porches and hanging flowers, and Santa Barbara a mini Manizales with steep roads ending in stairs.

Colombia, you are really beautiful. It's a shame what Pablo did to you. A shame what media and Hollywood has done to you. Mostly, it's a shame what your own leaders have done to you. I'll admit there are some things I don't like. I hate your mosquitoes and their aggressive feasting of my skin. The red marks a tell to all natives that maybe I am not Colombian even though my skin is brown and hair dark. I don't like your houses without air conditioning when it's 31ºC (88ºF) and 100% humidity. I don't like that all your people eat so much meat and that it made my stomach crampy and uncomfortable even after a delicious meal. But these are little things. These are things that I forget when I take the first sip of a tinto (sweet black coffee) in the morning. I forget when I'm at my in-laws finca, (country home) and I'm napping in a hammock. I forget when my husband and I walk the streets of downtown. I'm surrounded by stands selling anything from stacks of porn to remote controls and a pyramid of leather shoes in one area. The vendors all call out "A la orden" even though the table is covered with dvd's with titles like 8 Hours of Anal. I forget when we walk to the book and music district, (yes, this exists in Medellín, and it smells like a papery open air library) and I see stores and street vendors all peddling books of every genre, old and new, wrapped in clear cellophane and dogeared edges. I forget when I dig through cartons of vinyl records and smell the dust of a possible treasure.  I forget...

So, I'm sorry I misjudged you. Aside from the havok you wreaked on my stomach, I think you've pretty much forgiven me. Mostly, I want to say thank you though, Colombia, for showing me something new each time. For always embracing me with open arms and a pico on the cheek.



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Listas de Colombia

Number of hours spent traveling: 20
Days spent in Colombia: 29
Cazuela de frijoles comidas: 2
Tres Cordillera cervezas tomadas: 15
Shots of aguardiente shots I turned away: 6
Shots of aguardiente I couldn't turn away: 4
Veces que usé tenso equivocado en español: unknown
Ceviches I ate: 6
Days at the beach: 4
Micheladas: 10
Showers taken: 58
Sunblock application: 10
Usos de la palabra chevre: 5
People asked why I was a brown gringa: 4
Times I was offended by this: 0
Times people thought I was Colombian until I spoke: unknown
Apologies made on behalf of United States for Donald Trump: 1
Explanation of the El Paso/Juarez border: 5
Uso de la frase, "ese man": 20
Photos taken: 88
Veces que escuchú salsa: infinito
Ramen from Formosa restaurant eaten: 3
Max number of hours of speaking only Spanish before mouth and brain hurt: 4
New tattoo: 1
Book read: 1
Books started and left unfinished: 1
Reruns of CSI: Miami watched on AXN: 20
Ubers rides: 15
Chicharonnes eaten: 12
Jaras de …