One night when I was five years old, I woke up since there was something going on.
The phone had rang and now my parents were talking in a serious manner and clearly upset. I found out that my uncle in Colombia had died (mom’s brother) and my mom was figuring out the details to go to Colombia right away.
My parents had shared many stories with me about Colombia and all of my relatives. They had shown me pictures, I had talked to them on the phone and I knew a lot of their names. They had also helped me memorize two of my aunt’s phone numbers in Colombia, since they would come get me in Canada if something ever happened to my parents.
But I hadn’t yet gone to visit the country that my parents were from. A couple of days later after my uncle’s death, we were on our way to my first trip to Colombia. I had a LOT of relatives to meet.
Although I hadn’t visited, I was well aware of the culture.
Spanish was the first language I learned at home, my parents had Colombian friends and we all got together for the holidays. Their goal was to celebrate them the way they had done growing up in Colombia.
We ate Colombian food when we could. It was hard back then to find Colombian food in Canada, so it was a real treat for my parents when they discovered more food products at Latin food stores as the years went by.
I don’t remember much of the trip getting there even though it was my first time on a plane and we were finally going to Colombia.
Memories of my first trip
My first memory was arriving in Bucaramanga, Colombia and it was nighttime. Two of my uncles were waiting for us at the airport.
They had come to pick us up and take us on a four hour car ride to where my grandparents still lived. The family had all gathered there from other cities of Colombia because of my uncle’s death.
There are many parts of Colombia that are mountainous so the roads connecting different cities include driving on edge of the mountain on roads that swirl a LOT. It can feel like a roller coaster!
It’s normal for people to get motion sick. I thankfully didn’t and just remember sitting in the backseat of my uncle’s car and looking out into the darkness and seeing the HUGE mountains up ahead.
Hours later and tired out, we arrived and I met my grandparents, uncles, aunts and some cousins.
I don’t remember all of the details but even through there were rough times with everyone grieving, I have an overall great impression of Colombia that began with that trip. I remember there always being relatives with us and although there were some fighting over toys with my cousins, I bonded with them all and felt the closeness that’s important to our families.
It took some get used to, but my mom told me that any of my aunts, uncles or grandparents could scold me if I was misbehaving. It seemed strange to me since I was used to getting into trouble by just my dad and mom (I was a bit stubborn at times….).
I remember when all of the cousins were running around the house too much, one of my uncles would announce it was time for an outing since they all took turns helping take care of all my cousins and me.
When I was little, I would sometimes mix Spanish and English but I soon found out that in Colombia most people didn’t speak English. I picked up even more Spanish along with learning the slang.
My grade one teacher and principal had thankfully agreed that it was okay for me to miss the first month and a half of the school year.
They pointed out that a trip like that would bring more learning and life experience during that time period than I would learn in school (I couldn’t agree more!).
The teacher gave us some learning material to learn while I was away. My mom had been a teacher in Colombia before moving to Canada and had learned more English throughout the years, so we worked through it together.
That trip ended up being three months long and my dad was able to get time off work and came for the last few weeks so we could travel back to Canada together.
Coming back to Canada was hard for me, I felt lonely and sad not to be in Colombia still with all of our relatives but our lives were in Canada. My parents allowed me a couple of days to adjust when we got back and then I was off to school.
As the years went by, we went to Colombia as a family when we could and I travelled there on my own later on. The number of relatives that I now have is 95, and that includes my 95 year old grandpa (mom’s side) and 91 year old grandma (dad’s side). I have visited different cities and always have more to see.
I fell in love with Colombia on that first trip and it’s always been my favorite place to visit. If I could visit every year, I would.
Where was your first trip to?