After a somewhat displeased reader sent me an email telling me to move to Venezuela if I didn’t like Colombia, I got to thinking about what exactly I am doing here.
The email wasn’t very long or shocking.
“leave colombia if do not like it.
always negative press from you.Never positive. HUGO LOVERS.
But the email gave me food for thought, on top of a few things that have happened to people around me and seriously affected me and my happiness.
- A friend of mine was murdered a few months ago.
- The husband of a woman I know (was) disappeared, leaving his family in despair about his fate and whereabouts.
- A girl I went out with told me she lost her ex-boyfriend to a stray bullet.
- A friend of mine sought refuge in Spain after a rival paramilitary group pumped six bullets in his torso.
- One of my dearest friends is receiving death threats after she filed charges against a guy who she says kidnapped and raped her.
As you will understand, these kind of events don’t make me any happier, but – as I told the angry reader – I wouldn’t be living here if I didn’t love it. Colombia, apparently, is somehow compensating for all these bad things and making me a considerably happier person than when I was living in my home country the Netherlands.
So what is it that is making me so happy despite the horrible things I see happening around me? What makes me prefer this country, so full of violence and poverty, over a well-organized, peaceful and rich country?
I know it is not Colombia’s “Passion®,” because this is too easily translated into soccer riots, rape or murder. It isn’t that “the only risk is wanting to stay,” as I and other gringos know very well that we also run the risk of getting mugged, ripped off, or harassed, and we still can’t travel half the country safely.
What makes Colombia so special is that it has shown me how to be happy even though my life isn’t perfect. It has shown me to pull through when times are hard. It has shown me how to appreciate the beauty of love and friendship. It has inspired me to work harder than I ever have before. It has taught me not to be so quick to judge. It has humbled me. It has made me feel an overwhelming respect for those around me. It brought out the survivor, the fighter, the friend and the lover in me. Colombia has awakened in me feelings like those of a parent dealing the growing pains of his child. Colombia has broken my heart, but it’s like the best bad girlfriend that you just can’t leave. Colombia has made me into a better person.
All the bad things you read about on Colombia Reports and all the bad things that have happened to me have been made up for by the country.
So, yeah, if I don’t like Colombia, I will go away and I will move back to the Netherlands or to some beach in the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico.
But I don’t want to, because here I have found a happiness I have never felt in my life. I also believe that my humble contribution to the country is constructive and that I help make it even better by criticizing what is not yet perfect.
I am asking Colombia to become a better country, just like Colombia asked me to become a better person. I am not asking this of Venezuela or even the Netherlands, because I don’t care for these countries the way I care for Colombia.