The total land area of Columbia is 439,737 square miles, or roughly the size of my friend’s ranch in Montana (just kidding). The population is 45.2 million, with a literacy rate of 90.4 percent. Life expectancy, surprisingly, is 75 years. Bogotá is the capital, perhaps too well-known to those of us who thing of nothing but drug cartels in Columbia and the rather infamous Pablo Escobar. It is only a 3.5 hour flight from Miami.
While Spanish is the native language, another 65 indigenous languages are spoken. The population below the poverty line is 45.5 percent. Yet the gross domestic product is $467 billion (based on 2011 data). They have oil, among other exports, I hear.
Perhaps the most endearing feature of Columbia is that nature lovers will love it here. There are more bird species here than any country in the world. Additionally, hikers love the mountains, with adrenalin junkies like me looking for extreme sports.
But the feature most irresistible and infectious is the music and dance. To prepare for that, the afternoon siesta is highly recommended. The notorious nightlife should fit in well with my travel mates, Mr. Mike, and Barry the V. My only request is that they get me back to my hotel by midnight! I know I do not possess the fast paced salsa skills that fit so well into Columbian nightlife. They call it a non stop Calliope of festivities, passions, and bashes.
That said, there are a number of cultural faux pas that must be avoided here. First, no shorts for males, as it is considered improper. This will be difficult, with the average temperature running about 45 to 64 degrees F, and 11 inches of rainfall. Medellin is slightly warmer.
Since Columbia is the home of both Juanes and Shakira, I do expect the music to dominate the nightlife here. Of course, on the downside, the diet is made up mostly of rice and corn. Oh well! I would expect both goat and fish to rear their ugly heads, along with banana, papaya, mango, and papaya, some of my all time favorites from Hawaii.
The national sport is not chasing women, but instead, futbol, pronounced, foooootboll. But I did find out they are quite good in roller skating, being a perennial power in the World Roller Speed Skating Championships. How about nine out of the last twelve years? Powerful!
Baseball is also big, in that several players have made it to the major leagues. One in particular was Edgar Renteria, the 2010 World Series MVP of our San Francisco Giants World Champions. Boxing, cycling, and motor sports are also playing a bigger role in international professional sports.
So, we shall see what we shall find here. No matter, it will be a great time! Just watch out for Barry the V. and Mr. Mike. I will do my best to keep them out of trouble.
Now to the reality of our situation here. The Novelty Suites Hotel is quite nice, though I have not a clue as to where in the city we are. Second, we left Quito around 1:30pm, and arrived here, in our rooms at 1am. Our total time in the air was much less than three hours! encountered at least an hour delay in Bogotá, after going through customs and immigration. Barry and I got the proverbial pat down, Mike breezed through.
Then, when we got shuttled from this beautiful new and sleek international terminal to the old and grungy domestic terminal, I realized why some of you choose not to travel. The waiting areas were a madhouse, so we finally found the United (Star Alliance) Club Room lounge. It was the worst Club Room Mike and I have ever visited, including the one in Addis Ababa last summer!
But, we rejoiced philosophically, we travel because we want to, not because we have to. We knew we did not have an early morning business meeting or family waiting for us. So what if we were just a little inconvenienced? That is part of travel, we agreed, after our third free beer in the Club Room. I am sure there are more tales to tell, and challenges to seek. Welcome to Columbia!