The Red Zone

Trip Start Sep 02, 2005
Trip End Sep 02, 2006

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Where I stayed
Laura's home

Flag of Colombia  ,
Friday, October 15, 2010

Chris and I spent little time learning about Colombia before this trip--rather typical for us. Instead we made a last minute purchase of a Lonely Planet book and started reading on the flight over.   What struck me was a fact that had completely bypassed me in my own knowledge of world poverty.  According to 2008 UN statistics, Colombia has more displaced people than any other country except Sudan.  How did I miss that­­­?  I knew that the drug cartel and guerrilla shad caused overwhelming conflict but I had no idea that 1 in every 20Colombians had been driven out of their homes, mostly at gun point, to take their land.  Now with over 3 million displaced and 860 displaced daily, the cities are filled with rural farmers with no skills and little hope of returning to their land.

Yet, even in a country faced with these tremendous obstacles, there is something special behind barbwire's and walled-in homes.   There Isa spirit and love found in family often lost in the States. Because we are staying with a family in a small town, we are seeing Colombia from quite different view than that of a tourist. It has been a crash course on learning names of all the relatives who come in and out during the day. The noon time lunch feels like a Thanksgiving dinner with between 7 and 10 on any given day.  The kitchen is the size found in a small condo but somehow they are able to produce enough food to feed everyone including Chris who they watch over like a newly arrived son.  

Much of our day is spent eating and walking through Popayan and practicing Spanish.  Our Spanish progress is slow but Laura will not let up since we are her students and she is not someone who fails easily.  We will surely be a test of her resolve.  In making plans for what's next we look through the guide book and suggest locations to visit.  Usually our ideas are rejected by Laura’smother who quickly states, no that is the red zone—too dangerous.  Then we make another suggestion and learn that too is in the red zone.  We have begun to realize that travel is limited in Colombia and there is good reason to be watchful.  Life in the red zone is filled with a complex mix of warmth and fear. For now, we feel the warmth of a family that has embraced us. 
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