Monday, October 5, 2009

Colombia, Gem of the Caribbean Sea

I have been having the greatest time teaching ESL to a young woman originally from Barranquilla, Colombia. I've learned much about her native country during the few weeks we've been working together.

Unfortunately Colombia has the reputation as a crummy place for Americans to travel due to the negative publicity surrounding drug trafficking. Also, when looking online for great travel destinations in the Caribbean, the north coast of Colombia never shows up on the radar. Cancun, yes. Cartagena, no.

My student has lived in the three Colombian cities of Barranquilla, Cartagena and Bogota. Here is a bit about what I've learned of these cities:

Barranquilla: a tad cooler and dryer than nearby Cartagena, but still a warm and humid spot. It's a major industrial city and boasts three quality universities. Home to singer Shakira and birthplace of renown writer Gabriel Garcia Marques. Barranquilla is the port city for Colombia's major river, the north-flowing Magdalena.

Cartegena: also on the Caribbean but about 60 miles southwest of Barranquilla. Basically it's an expensive tourist center; enormous high-rises dot the coastline. It does boast an old fort which is a World Heritage Historical Site. A great hideout for pirates in days past. Ready for a sequel, Johnny Depp?

Bogota: a big-ass city high in the northern reaches of the Andes. Its innovative mayor at the turn of the millennium did wonders to make the city's transportation accessible to even the poorest of its citizens. On Sundays, the Alameda is closed to traffic and open to pedestrians and bicyclists only.

Colombians have the distinction of speaking the best Spanish second only to Spain.

Hail, Colombia!

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