“Please buckle your seatbelts as we may experience some turbulence while we descend” the pilots voice sounds over the airplane’s intercom. I grip the seat just a little tighter and chance a look out of the window. Everywhere I can see are these marvellous white cloud formations that we seem to be flying right through-a sea of deep white candy floss- and suddenly out of the mist a green forested peak arises silently. The Andes.
I let my breath out slowly as we finally land and taxi towards the terminal. I am too many emotions at once to describe properly: excited,apprehensive, grateful, happy, tired and to be honest: scared quite s$!tless.
I have finally landed on the last inhabited continent of our planet. I am damn lucky to have seen so much with my humble 23 years,mainly thanks to my parents, a handful of generous and nice people and my own determination. I am excited to see what will hopefully be the first of many glimpses of this vast and intriguing continent that in theory and practice I have been studying for the last 4 years. I am excited see,feel, hear and taste a completely new culture and to hopefully expand even more my horizons.
However to be honest I am also fairly scared; mainly because I have no idea what to expect. Somehow Bogota,Colombia has been engraved in my mind as a dangerous place. Drug Cartels, the leftist guerilla group FARC, Pablo Escobar…this country had one of the highest per capita murder rates 10 years ago. Now I have been to the city with the current highest murder rate: Johannesburg, South Africa. Let me tell you if there was EVER a time I almost considered getting the taxi driver to turn around and boarding the first plane out of there it was then.
Fortunately many of my fears have been proven to be obsolete. I am immensely impressed at how much Colombia has managed to turn itself around. Granted I have still seen little of it but from what I have seen the people are friendly, the police even friendlier and while it is still not a place to go wandering around alone after dark it is basically…like any other big metropolitan city with the added bonus that they have a delicious assortment of tropical fruits and these amazing fried cornmeal patty things called arepas.
I still wonder a bit at how much of the security is an illusion. The maid of our gracious hosts tells me a slightly sadder,scarier version of Bogota. From the southern,poorer area of Bogota she warns us about getting taxis off the street, about talking to strangers and walking certain streaches of the city. She tells stories of her mother being mugged and memories of her eldest son who was tragically killed in the “false postives” scandal of the nineties. Perhaps, as many famous authors have concluded, security really is an illusion. The obsession I have with it may just be a reflection of a deeper societal paranoia and need for control. Obviously its not completely safe, obviously I could die at any moment. As it stands, I am still more scared of being run over by the crazy colombian drivers then abducted by paramilitary groups.
But that paranoia does have an advantage. In such a beautiful,open country filled with warm people and great food we seem to be some of the only tourists. Which in the end is fine, especially if it means more arepas for me.