Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Our new Colombian family

The Ricaurte Family at Chicamocha Canyon:
Catalina, Lilia, (Chris, Kristin), and David

One of the best things about Colombia has been the Colombian people themselves. They are extremely friendly, always asking us if we are enjoying their country and then offering suggestions as to what we should see next. When Marcelo, a colleague of my father, found out we were traveling in his home country, he suggested that we visit his family in several cities across Colombia. While we have never met either Marcelo or his wife Vicky in person, we were warmly welcomed by Vicky's parents and sister when we entered the hilly green city of Bucaramanga. Staying with the Ricaurtes for 3 days, we were introduced to a city not often visited by foreign tourists, but with plenty of wonderful attractions. The city clings to steep and forested hillsides, spreading across a lush valley, and is known in Colombia for its excellent universities and beautiful parks. We visited the old colonial city of Giron, with cobblestone streets and whitewashed buildings that is quite typical of Colombia. We also took a very interesting tour of the local district's water purification plant that has been turned into a beautiful parque del agua (water-garden park) open to the public. Since David is close friends with the president of the water district, we were able to get a private tour of the park on a day it was closed to the public. We were also given lavish gift bags complete with samples of water and a beautiful picture book of Bucaramanga. On our last day with the Ricautes we visited the spectacular Cañon Chicamocha, the beginning of the Andes mountain range.

Chris and David relaxing on the ergonomically designed bench,
enjoying the sounds of water falling in front of them.

We had a great time visiting all of these sites, but our favorite part of Bucaramanga was getting to know the Ricaurtes. Vicky's parents David and Lilia made us feel a part of the family while we stayed in their home, introducing us to several Colombian delicacies and speaking in Spanish very slowly so Chris and I could easily understand them. Catalina, Vicky's sister, was the perfect host and tour guide, helping translate when Chris and I became confused (a frequent occurrence) and providing a great history lesson on Colombia. Words can not adequately describe how welcoming and friendly the Ricautes were to people with only the most tenuous connection to their family. Every time we thanked them for their generous hospitality, they sincerely responded 'con mucho gusto' (with much pleasure). We can't wait to arrive in Bogotá to meet more of the Ricaurtes, Vicky's other sisters Karina and Susana.

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