Category: Colombia, 2020

Departure and reflections on Colombia

February 10.

On our final day, we eat breakfast in the lovely hotel courtyard and then take a short walk around the area with a view towards possibly doing a little last minute shopping, on quaint streets that house touristy shops and reveal the ubiquitous presence of KFC. We do not purchase anything, but return to the hotel and are picked up to go to the airport for our flight to Panama City, and then on to Chicago.

Big success at the Cartagena airport. I convince them to let me keep my belt on by telling them, in Spanish, that my pants will fall if I take it off. Four years of high school Spanish is worth something.

This was really an excellent trip. It’s worth reflecting on what made it so good.

First, Brian did a terrific job of putting together a diverse trip according to what he understood (correctly, as it turns out) would appeal to us.

Certain of the things we saw would probably be considered “must sees” for a trip to Colombia– the gold museum in Bogotá, the Botero Museum in Medellin and the fort in Cartagena. All of them were worth seeing, especially the Museo de Oro, which is quite spectacular. None of them, however, is what we will remember most about the trip.

The really outstanding memories are of all the people we met and the personal experiences that we had–the flower carrier (sillatero) in Medellin, the flower farm there, with the creative gardener who we initially underestimated, based solely on his looks, meeting Federico, the art dealer in Bogotá, and later having dinner with him in Cartagena, the day on the coffee plantation near Fredonia, the young people who gave us the tour in the barrios (Columa1) and especially the day at the music school and the evening dinner and concert in the botanical garden in Medellin at which we met the founder of the music school, Juan G. We enjoyed taking our hand at creating some ceramics at the ceramic factory in Carmen and at designing t-shirts or playing the bongo drum and making appetizers in Palenque. These are the memories that will live with us long after we unpack.

The young team that Brian has put together consisting of himself, Ana, Laura, Juan Camilo and Santi were all terrific and added to the flavor and our enjoyment of the trip. Just being able to interact with these energetic, enthusiastic young people was energizing for Carol and me. All of the places we stayed at were either good, or better than good, the best being the Casa Agustin in Cartagena. Seeing the lodge that Brian and his team put together at Cannúa was excellent. He justifiably takes great pride in what they have accomplished.

Though neither Carol nor I is a foodie, the dinner at Cielo in Medellin has got to rank as a highlight of the trip and perhaps the most outstanding and memorable meal we have had anywhere in the world. We had other good dinners as well, including last night’s dinner at Casa Agustin, the interesting dinner at Celele, the fusion Japanese, Peruvian and Colombian dinner in Bogotá and the meals that we had in Cannúa.

We are constantly reminded of the smallness of the world when we travel. Happening to be in Bogotá at the same time as our friends the Christies so that we could have an otherwise unmemorable dinner with them and see their son, Than. Connecting Federico, the art dealer in Bogotá to Albie Sachs, the former Constitutional Court Justice in Johannesburg South Africa, to explore the possibility of arranging for the sculptural pieces by Federico’s brother to wind up in the collection of the Constitutional Court. While this is by no means assured, the mere possibility and exploration of it is exciting.

Being able to see the connection between the development of the music school by Juan G. and the work that Carol and I are trying to help with at FreshLens in Chicago, and being able to discuss those similarities with Juan G and his daughter, Daniella, was a great treat. We were able talk with the musicians in Palenque about how their approach to playing very lively funeral music in their culture is quite similar to what we experienced in funeral processions in Ghana. We’re happy to introduce Jean, our friend, folk art enthusiast and travel agent in Santa Fe to Elizabeth’s stunning ceramic plates made in the small town of Carmen, Colombia.

Witnessing and participating in all of this is exhilarating. Forging new relationships and trying to connect folks in different corners of the globe is both a privilege and a joy.

8 comments to Departure and reflections on Colombia


    Arnie and Carol, I am so glad you had a wonderful trip.
    I have always loved Colombia and its people.
    As you may remember, I worked there for years in the textile world producing sheets for the American market.
    Colombia was very different in the 80’s so I am especially happy to read all of your updated news. I look forward to information on Elizabeth.

  • Bob Heywood

    Thanks for sharing you travels with us! Columbia is angreat travel destination, with wonderful and welcoming people.

  • Barbara Sahdler

    Welcome home, thanks for sharing anther awesome trip.
    Looking forward to our next adventure with you to Japan!

    See you soon, love to you from your baby sister!

  • Robert Cook

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog. Thank you for sharing.

  • arnie

    Dueling blogs soon, in Japan.

  • Eve Levine

    Thank you! I am so glad you enjoyed your fabulous trip! I enjoy your blog!

  • kay Osborne

    Thanks for sharing the journey that I thoroughly enjoyed. Your wrapping up comments are especially wonderful. I’m so glad I stuck around for the entire thing.

  • D. J. (Jan) Baker

    The posts and photos, as your fans know well, were all stunningly vivid and quite extraordinary.

    Your summary captured, I think, the distinction that so often occurs in travel – we think that we go to see the great monuments of the past, for which the place is known, and they are always very interesting, to be sure, The enduring memories with which we return, however, are much more likely to relate to the people with whom we have interacted on the trip and their lives and day-to-day existences.

    Thank you again for this window into such a fascinating place and people.



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