/am·bas·sa·dor/ (noun) 1) an accredited diplomat sent by a state as its permanent representative in a foreign country. 2) a representative or promoter of a specified activity.
While heads of state designate ambassadors in an official capacity, we all carry this title when we explore a new region. Whether a traveler visiting a country, a local talking to a foreigner, an exchange student studying abroad, or an athlete playing in the Olympics, we represent our country and set the tone for how others view us. From the moment our kids started traveling, we have impressed upon them their role as ambassadors to the United States of America. So far, they are representing our country well.
Many, when they think of the USA, envision Pamela Anderson running down the beach to save a swimmer, a high roller driving his Ferrari down the Las Vegas strip or a politician caught in some sex scandal. It also goes the other way. My view of Colombia was that of cocaine, cartels, and coffee. After 20 days, that view is vastly different.
Much of our time here was spent with friends. One we met 12 years ago while traveling down the Yangtze River and several whom we were introduced to through friends in the States. We were invited to lunches, dinners or afternoon snacks at their homes. We were welcomed at a family farm for three days. And, we were given personal tours own around their city like no professional guide could.
Another close friend connected us up with Luis A Cano who offered to help. And help he did. Cano was a name unknown to us but known to many Colombians. Far from being an expert in jewelry — much to my wife’s dismay — I came to realize L A Cano Jewelry designs, manufactures, and sells some of the most respected bracelets, brooches, and necklaces in Colombia and around the world. All are designed after indigenous Colombian artifacts. If you ever find yourself here, I highly recommend stopping by one of his stores. Or, visiting the Bogota Museo do Oro (Gold Museum) where a third of the pieces were donated by his family. A must see.
When I bicycled across the United States, many people helped me on my journey. They allowed me to camp in the yard or invited me in for a meal. From that time, I have felt a duty to do the same for other travelers. Audrey and I have often welcomed cyclists traveling around the United States to spend a night, or two, or three and even attempted one year with an exchange student. For the most part, our travelers have been good ambassadors and have added to our life and our children’s life. Only once have we had to kick a person out.
The people we have come across in Colombia have been very generous and shown their country in a way that CNN hasn’t. Luis, Matilde, Olguita, Dario, Rodrigo, Dora, Victor, Horacio, Ines Elvira, and Leonard have all been good ambassadors for Colombia. Along with these folks, I had several people come up to us as we were walking down the street and say, “Thank you for coming to Colombia.” We felt welcomed.
Some other highlights of Colombia:
- Riding a horse and milking a cow at Dora and Rodrigo’s farm [See video].
- Climbing around the ropes course with Colin at Parque Arvi.
- Watching the boys run around Parque Explora and just be kids (similar to the San Francisco Exploratorium).
- Walking along the wall in Cartagena’s Old Town and seeing the sun set over the Caribbean.
- Climbing the 740 steps to the top of La Piedra in Guatape and being rewarded with an amazing view.
- Drinking cold lemonade after a hot day in Cartagena.
- Visiting the Salt Cathedral and salt mines in Zipaquirá.
In a stroke of coincidence and on our last day in Colombia, we were having coffee and cake at a new friend’s high-rise townhome overlooking Bogota when he pointed down. Below was a beautifully-manicured, five acre lot with a stunning residence. In the front yard flew Old Glory while two black Chevy Suburbans entered through the gate with red and white lights flashing. The US Ambassador to Colombia stepped out. He holds the title officially, we all hold it unofficially.
Click for more pictures of Colombia.
- Days on Road – 48
- Countries – 3
- Flight (Miles) – 7,025
- Flight (Hours) – 20
- Bus (Hours) – 29
- Items Lost – 2