Dreaming of Colombia

{Photo by Dan Brooke}
Yup. I get it. Not everyone dreams of living in Colombia.
I lived in Cali, Colombia during 1993 and 1994. This was an incredibly tumultuous time in Colombian history. Andrés Escobar, a player on the Colombian national soccer team, accidentally scored an “autogol” on his own net during a World Cup match against the USA. A few days later, on July 2nd, he was killed, execution-style, in the parking lot of a bar in Medellin. The drug lord Pablo Escobar and his bodyguard were shot and killed by Colombian National Police as they tried to escape in a middle-class barrio of Medellin. After Escobar’s death, the Medellin Cartel became increasingly fragmented and the cocaine market soon became dominated by the Cali Cartel.  These events served to reaffirm the popular notion that Colombia was a country blinded by violence.
Sometimes I was afraid.  {In retrospect, this seems like a perfectly logical emotional response.}
Confession: I often wished that I was at home in Canada.  {This is, perhaps, one of our greatest failings as humans. We spend so much time wishing that we were somewhere else… doing something else… that we forget to fully inhabit the space and time we’re in.}
Here’s the twist. Although I felt seriously homesick and ovewhelmed by cultural difference, I have rarely felt as alive as I did during that year.  My Cali memories are as vivid as things that happened to me yesterday. The city was colourful and lush and filled with music. The empanadas, arepas and pan de bono were to die for. Most Colombians were incredibly kind to us. Even a trip to the movies felt exotic.
In many ways, Cali was the city where I came of age. 
I’ve decided to write about my year in Cali.  Once a week.  Here.  The series is called Eleven Months in God’s Apartment.  I hope that you’ll join me by commenting and that we’ll begin an honest conversation about the complexities of travel and living overseas.

Visit The Mother of All Trips for more Monday dreams.


  1. Sounds like an interesting place to visit, but I don't think I would want to live in a country where I would be killed over a soccer game. Reminds me in Argentina when you went to a soccer game you were asked what team you were going to root for. Then you would be given a ticket to come back to the stadium at specific time(with a one hour window) and the two sections were divided by barb wire.

  2. @JohnThanks for your comment. It's always going to be complicated when we decide to live abroad because the people of the host country do not share all of our cultural norms and values. Poverty and corruption also have a direct impact on what people are forced to do in order to survive. Honestly, I loved aspects of my year in Colombia and, generally speaking, did not feel unsafe as I went about my daily life. I think it's also significant that you almost never hear of school shootings in Latin American history. (I have only ever heard of one.)

  3. You describe it the way I think of India- a place that I wish with my whole heart that I had visited, but not a place I want to visit. I want the memories, but not the experience. I wonder how I can manage THAT?

  4. @Nancy KHi there. It's interesting that you would mention India as we've been talking about India quite a lot recently. DP and I have several friends and colleagues here who have lived in, or visited, India and we are trying to decide whether we have what it takes to visit. (The jury is still out on this issue.) Have you read "The White Tiger"? It is an amazing read (with a really compelling narrative voice) although it is not necessarily persuading me to visit.

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