Pereira is the capital city of the Colombian department of Risaralda. Located in a small valley in the western region of the country. Here in this city I first met my beautiful wife, Johana, in person. I arrived in Pereira somewhere around 6 pm. This is where my feet actually hit the ground in Colombia.
Now consider I didn't speak much Spanish, though not intimidated, I was struck with a curiosity that I will remember the rest of my days. The Pereira airport is an older airport and international travelers arriving pass through a basement room waiting to get the passport stamped. I was fortunate that a gentleman from Florida fluent in Spanish had gotten me through this process.
You file from this room, up the stairs and my first real sight of the military and sub-machine guns. I imagine for some this could be intimidating, but I was mesmerized just being in Colombia and experiencing a culture of my wifes. Here you collect your bags and file into another room, where now you hear the outside sounds of the Colombians gathered waiting to meet their loved ones.
No metal detectors on this side, maybe due to economics, or maybe they figure your stuff has been x-rayed prior to you bording the plane. Never-the-less you do slap your bags upon the table infront of the watchful eye and rifle carrying military...and let them search your bags.
Pereira holds many first memories of this beautiful country for me. I've been many times and my wife and I kept an apartment while she finished her employment contract at one of the cities medical clinics.
I remember waking up that 1st morning in Pereira Colombia and hearing the buses and motorcycles busy on the street below. As I peered out in getting my glimpse of the city, I saw for the first time in my life a double rainbow. I knew with my wife by my side, anywhere I would ever go, I would be in paridise.
I'd like to share with you the first note I wrote about my first experience into Colombia. I hope you enjoy!
The trip begins leaving Atlanta and the Gods would have it sitting right next to me was a drop dead flirty Cali Colombian woman and her friend. The flight into Miami flew by...pardon the pun...the conversation with these women could not end so we had lunch together and they walked me to my gate and added "hey come to Cali when your in Colombia"
When I was at the gate in Miami the women waiting to board the plane to Colombia were a feast for the eyes, never knowing the truth to come that this beauty is the norm for the women of Colombia.
Coming into sight as we were landing in Cartagena gave me the skewd birds eye view of poverty and 3rd world. Let me remind you the word "skewd." After the wheels touched down, this is my first sweet taste of a life loving people because the plane errupted in cheers and clapping. I assumed from the perfect landing but imagined these folks were home to their beloved family and country.
While sitting on the tarmac having the plane cleaned while we waited 20 minuted for departure to Pereira. This gave the older gentleman sitting across the isle and I a moment to talk. I told him of the love I had met via the internet and it was time we met. I told him how beautiful she was through her words to me and the few photos she could share. He told me of his life in America, but being Colombian his heart was in Manazales. He was good with his money to keep two homes. He was by all appearance well dressed and well spoken. He assured me I would come to love his country Colombia, the people, the landscape, and the way of life. I was in awe to here is words and I soaked everyone up. He did show concern that I might be being played, so out of frienship or maybe not wanting his country to take a black eye over a woman he gave me all his contact information in Colombia and in the States. He made me agree I would call him if something went wrong.
The sun had set when we touched down in Pereria and I didn't know you needed to fill a declaration customs form. This older gentleman asked the airline but they had no blank forms. He stuck close to me as we exited the plane and my surprise to all the people waiting for their loved ones behind the chain link fence. My new friend spotted my Love Johana and said "wow she is beautiful!" There were so many people I blew it off as a kind jesture because I myself did not see her, but I threw a wave up just in case she was really there somewhere.
When we made it to the counter at check in, I speak very little spanish. My new friend spoke for me and got me through the first check point, and then again at the second checkpoint and again at the third baggage check. We walked outside and the first person at the gate was the most beautiful woman in the world...my Johana. She was breath taking in real life, and I was so nervous and so happy all at once I dropped my bag and walked straight to her arms and tasted that very first kiss, her first whisper to me "Te amo," ...my friend had collected my bag patted me on the back said something in spanish to Johana shook my hand and was gone...I had to kiss Johana again and again before the car rental.
She impressed me enough to take control of the conversation so I was not taken advantage of....I might add the rate she got me was less than what was quoted online! I recieved alot advice on driving in Colombia and yes for the most part avoid it, but I figured it out in a hurry...drive fast, stop at will in the right lane or on side streets don't look for motocycles, they're crazy to begin with and they're looking for you, for holes to jump in and out of. Drive as fast as you want don't let pedestrians freak you out...they're just timing the street action to get across safely, and stop signs and yeids signs are just to prove who was at fault...so no stopping or yeilding! And honk your horn. oh and horns at a red light means it just flashed yelow maybe a micro second of green, get you ass on the gas buddy!! So to sum the driving up I took only two cabs, the first one learned me I will take my life into my own hands. Something I noticed as well every vehicle smokes and all the worn out old trucks of the 50s, 60s, and 70s are alive and well, with bald tires, in service in Colombia.
I was thinking about the hot water and yep there was SOME. Never before had I seen a contraption wired in and exposed in the shower before. Of course Johana had to show me a little water pressure a little hot water, alot of water pressure alot of cold water. It was interesting to notice everytime you turned the shower on, the bathroom light would dim.
The landscape and the people were so beautiful to look at. It made it easy to overlook the old worn, need of paint and repair buildings with the laundry hanging in every open air balcony to catch the beautiful sun kissed, breeze that abounds in this area. Yea, yea it rains too but luck for me was at night in the bed with the calming sound of the patter on the roof and sill. During the day it always missed me. I could see it across the countryside but like a dance it would move and avoid stepping on my toes.
I found time had moved so slow in Colombia, not like in America where it drags, but in Colombia where I was alive and well for every minute. Amazing remembrance of the drugoria dropping off two sinus tablets, the fuel islands where they pump the gas, neighborhood markets where you can buy milk or water in the bag or if you will, only two eggs. The lack of fast food, or convience stores that sell everything...how convienent to rob yourself the time to endulge a fast world and not the closeness of ones family. I hope this does not come soon to the country I now love, My Colombia.
As for Johana and I only great things for us together. I love her for the attention to detail, for me, she had shown, the little stuff you don't plan you just do because the one you love will be better for it. Together we will move forward and build our dreams together. I am proud to love a Colombian, I am honored I am welcomed, and expected back!
Te Amo, Te Amo