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Friday, December 31, 2010

A Holiday Trip down South, wwwaaaayyy down South!

On the night of December 29, 2008 I took off for a 12 day trip to Colombia, South America joining my Mom & Dad at LAX on a journey back to the country they were born in.  This is a diary of that time which brought out the highest joys and most heart-wrenching feelings for the good times & bad times and everything in between:

I jitter with nerves & shake with overwhelming anticipation.  I am running late, but no matter what happens or whatever I forgot I will be with my family from the old country.  It's almost as anxiety, as I could just jump out of my skin and slap myself.  Had to believe it's been 25 years since my last visit, but funny enough I still have the rounded sharp nosed face i did when I was 9 & hardly spoke any Spanish at all much less understood what everyone was saying.  "Hombre no entiendes, que pena" (Man you don't understand, how sad).  Now I can speak Spanish as if I was born there, but usually when I'm pissed off or proving a point (I become my Dad...pissed off).

DAY 1 - LOS ABUELOS Y EL BAPTISMO (The Grandparents & the Baptism)

Be it cliche or a homage to grand stories  great writers like Dante & Hemingway...We arrived in the true mile high town of Bogota', altitude 2,580 meters, just after noon to the airport appropriately named "El Dorado".  Along the way the country is exquisitely green with lush valleys & luminous mountains & hillsides.  Before entering the area near Bogota' the plane must ascend to clear the Eastern Cordillera Mountains or face imminent impact into the encircling earth that rises like a shield protecting the city.  Upon the descent you notice factories, 19th century homes and before the modern city with its numerous buildings of all sizes you can catch the glare of clear plastic green houses that cultivate the thousands of orchids & roses to be shipped all over the World.  A flight over the outskirts of town then becomes a sharp right where you pass the hometown's main stadium, "El Campin", home to both Santa Fe' de Bogota, Millionarios & also the National Soccer Team for various matches.  It's huge and looks like a shortened version of the Coliseum in Rome, but white.  A good landing by the boys from just down South via Mexicana Airlines we then head down a ramp with big ads promoting Colombian prosperity & unity.  You will find 10 times as many in the lobby leading to a double line that breaks off into 6 or 7 as you enter the Immigration/Checkpoint lines stationed by the 2nd most stern  serious officers outside of the BWI (Baltimore International Airport) cops.  I came to discover this once shooting some footage immediately after leaving the airport & being suspected of conspiracy to commit a "Terrorist Act", but that's for another blog ;7)

In this line are obviously women, but not just any women and not just 1 or 2 or a few, it is about a battalion of gorgeous women and many of them have had implants & other enhancement, but at least they got good ones cause it's like being in the VIP room at a Las Vegas nightclub on New Years...GEESH!  I do notice as my friend Janeth warned me to, "watch out for las plasticas", yes you guessed it, PLASTIC!  Now it has  double meaning as they'll use you like a credit card, but I was thinking more along the lines of all the plastic surgery...we rank very high and probably the highest in the Americas.  Anyhow, the few I do talk to are pleasant and I'm here for family so I can't wait to run into them.

All of us make it out of the checkpoint and there is a wall of people waiting for family on this warm sunny day in the nation's capital.  I walk out about 10 feet from the door and I hear the joyous screams of my Tia Cecilia (Santa Cecilia we call her as all the Garcia women go to church with more regularity as they get older and she is the oldest).  She runs to my arms and I to her as she had just visited us in LA back in '05 along with her daughter Monica.  After the warm greeting her son Carlos has pulled up in his White Nissan Pathfinder and hugs me just the same.  No matter the time that has passed, it's good to see family after all these years as our last connection was 25 years ago.

We make our way through the city and past numerous monuments, a statue of Botero you see here, a huge cemetary, schools and up windy roads to the neighborhood my Aunt stays at called El Retiro. It's quaint, very city though removed from the downtown area and has a lot of condos, shops, restaurants and stores.  We immediately go to a local restaurant known for it's caldo (or soups) which is extremely popular in the cold climate of this mountain city and it is just as good as mom's home cooking.  I am full and we head back to the condo to change for a lovely baptism in a little church for Sarita my cousin Monica's baby daughter.  Pictures inside and out to capture the event is followed by a trek back to the house to catch up, tell old stories (both good & bad) of family and friends present & past.    The cousins number 6 in this family and with their children we're talking 8 more.  They hear that I am a writer and grant me permission, even plead with me to tell the stories of the tragedies that have occurred over the years.  Let's just say a lot of bad things happened to a lot of good people in our family, though sometime they deserved it, it didn't have to go to the extent it went.  I will elaborate more as I come to learn more, but for now am just enjoying the company of people I haven't seen in oh so long and I'm proud to be one of them.
The air is crisp and the climate is cool basically year round, think of going to Big Bear in California or Denver, Colorado or a big town outside Appalachia. This is Bogota' and just the beginning of my journey into numerous climates, roads, monuments, celebrations, food and family.

Much has changed, but one thing remains the same as an old saying goes that my Father taught me, "Dios hizo el Mundo en 6 dias y en el septimo dia se descanso...pero dejo su mano en Colombia" (God created the Earth in 6 days and on the 7th day he rested...but he left his hand in Colombia).  Colombia, still the most beautiful country in the World...and don't you forget it.