Memories from Four Months in South America

Jul 18, 2019


Old Town / Cartagena, Colombia
Old Town / Cartagena, Colombia

Instagram may have ruined it for me. I used to write a lot, I used to be able to write many thoughts, stories. And yet here I am, intimidated by a whole blank white page, with just two lines written. Instagram has made us share a lot, and share quickly. I miss reading travel blog posts. Those lengthy ones with lots of photos, like you’re there with the writer experiencing it with them.


Communa 13 / Medellin, Colombia
Medellin, Colombia

Well, here we go. Let’s see where this will go. These will all be random memories from random places. They will make no sense, some will be long, some will be short. But it’s how my days in South America have been. One day it’s slow and I’m lazy to go out, and some days I’d just walk around aimlessly.

Getsemani / Cartagena, Colombia
Getsemani / Cartagena, Colombia

It still feels surreal. It feels like a different life. A different me. How can four months of adventure end just like that? Almost six years of planning, hoping, detours, and then it’s done. It’s over and I’m back home with my old routine.

But what really remains after all of that? Memories. A lot of times I find myself smiling after remembering a certain moment, a certain feeling like I’m suddenly transported back to South America. I may be feeling down for another reason, people around me may bother me, I may be tired from doing something, and yet a certain moment would remind me of the continent, and I’m suddenly calm and mesmerized again.

Communa 13 / Medellin, Colombia
Communa 13 / Medellin, Colombia

Riding the metro would remind me of the river in Medellin. That long walk from my hostel to get to the metro line. All the empanada stalls along the way. That one time it suddenly rained so hard, and then it hailed. The station was full of people, everyone seemed worried. I laughed then thinking how unused to rain the Paisas were given that Medellin is the City of Eternal Spring. Meanwhile, I’m from Manila and Baguio and grew up so used to rain.

Jardin, Colombia
Jardin, Colombia

The courtyard in my office would remind me of Jardin, that small pueblo in Colombia. It still feels crazy how I was able to spend almost a week in that small charming town. If I was a novelist, I’d definitely write about that town and its people. How tinto may be the worst black coffee I’ve ever had, and yet I’d frequent the small cafes in the Plaza just to people watch. Oh I remember the colorful cafes around the plaza. The little boys playing with the dogs, the father and son laughing while feeding the pigeons. I fell in love with that small town.

Centro Historico
Centro Historico / Quito, Ecuador

I remember waking up in my homestay in room in Quito for the first three weeks, buried under layers of comforters and to my left is this big glass window with a view of a mountain covered in fog. I’d take a shower and go down to have breakfast with my host mother, Maria. I remember feeling so intimidated in the dining area because I couldn’t speak Spanish yet. I remember religiously watching the news at night during dinner while I was being fed healthy vegetarian food, I probably had quinoa every day.

Every day I’d walk the same route going to school. I remember panting and out of breath as I go up to the third floor of the building for my class. Altitude – something I had to deal with almost the whole four months I was there. I remember getting so nervous when I’m asked a question in Spanish. The overthinker in me panicking that I might make a fool of myself. I’d look forward to the 15-minute break to talk to my boyfriend back home. Yup, let me just slip that out for a bit. Quick lunch break would mean going to the same almuerzo place and having to google the menu del dia to find out exactly what I was about to eat for lunch. I can’t be having pollo the whole week, right?

I remember all the mundane moments, the routines I’ve built, the cafes and restaurants I’ve frequented. And yet when I remember all of them now, they carry a magic that just suddenly makes me feel grateful. 

To have lived that kind of life.

Getsemani / Cartagena, Colombia
Getsemani / Cartagena, Colombia

To have walked the colorful streets of Cartagena. Kartahena, is how it’s pronounced. Say it out loud. Kartahena. I miss speaking the language. I miss the first few days getting used to the heat, the humidity, the normal oxygen level, sweating so much, and yet loving the feel of the sun on my skin again. Finally being able to practice the little Spanish I know. Walking into this packed restaurant, immediately loving the reggaeton being played, the many ‘Amor’ you will hear from the women taking orders and serving food. Finally understanding the words in the menu and knowing what I’m about to eat. Cazuela de mariscos con patacones – or seafood stew in spicy coconut sauce with fried plantain. The random men in Panama hats sharing tables talking about Venezuela as news from the country plays out in the tv. These men who welcomed me and smiled at me as soon as I sat down. The people, the children, suddenly dancing to the music. Colombia! Everything I’ve imagined it to be. The passion and intensity you’ll feel when you walk into places like these, from the people dancing at night at the Plaza Trinidad and the loud street food vendors making the place so alive.

Old Town / Cartagena, Colombia
Old Town / Cartagena, Colombia



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