I have had one of the most amazing adventures in Colombia and I have certainly had to improve my Spanish along the way which has been an experience in itself.
Quite honestly, I am not sure where to start chronicling my journey to South America. One which I have wanted to embark on for a long time now, since I was 18 years old and went travelling for the first time.
I guess the excitement really began when I met the Colombian basketball wheelchair Paralympic team at Heathrow, departing the 2012 London games for home. I suppose they were making the same journey I am now.
That feeling of reflection and wishing I had one more day here in this intriguing and colourful country, washes over me as I board my airbus back to little ol England.
My highlights begin with meeting up with my Colombian friends who I met in England and seeing their transformation from working as waitresses and bussers to hospital adminitrators, journalists and bankers. It was fascinating to see the change in their quality of life now they were back on home turf. However, my good friend Juan revealed to me that it is all relative and that whilst they may be using more professional skills here in Colombia, they are recieving lower wages for those jobs.
The interesting lifestyle choice in Colombia is to stay living with your family for as long as you can as families are massively close, important and often religious. It is not unusual for people like my lovely friend Tati who is 30 this year to still be living with her mother. For them it makes financial sense and they hold family extremely dearly that everyone just mucks in and gets on with living a warm and more properous life.
Slowly I see this patterm emerging in Europe, in Spain especially but perhaps it might spread to the UK as well as the economy slides and families decide it’s more efficient and practicle to stay living as big families under one roof. I personally think there is nothing wrong with this and would debate with sceptics who favour independence and yuppie culture to the heart of the home.
Home is where the heart is but I have played with the idea of one day possibly moving to Spain or South America. As previously mentioned, I have fallen for hispanic culture big time and a life long goal of mine has always been to learn another language fluently and as a young journalist, perhaps now is the time.
I could one day see myself living here but for now I reminicse on my incredible journey, exploring teenage pregnancy, female inequality and abortion as I documented my findings on camera.
Some of the most touching moments came out of nowhere, were not planned interviews and required a little bit of spontaneous, on the spot journalism but they were by far the best.
I remember back to meeting Julia and Vanessa on a clifftop in La Calera, overlooking the city at night.
I recall trekking up to Monserrate, a church on top of a mountain and expriencing a traditional Colombian Catholic mass.
I can’t forget my most memorable experience at one of the world’s best restaurants, Andres, that excited my senses and satisfied my pallet.
Or the beautiful baby Thomas, Tatiana’s nephew who I couldn’t stop smiling at.
What about my guide, translator and new found friend Juan Carlos, who showed me the way to Juan Felipe – the essence and heart of my story.
The rogue teacher who agreed to an interview about sex education in schools.
The human rights lawyers and stong women who were fighting for justice and womens rights in a very contraversial country.
The young mothers of my tale that were staring at uncertain but hopeful futures.
Leon, the big cuddly man who cared about women and their lives.
Dennis, the young teenage father who had only just found out at 18 he would be a dad.
Anna, the sociologist and journalist who was researching teenage pregnancy for her thesis and told of corrupt governments.
Jimena, the ex-girlfriend of my English mate and a survivor after heartbreak.
The kind and generous nature of Tatiana and her family. Her loving and funny mother who contined to talk to me in Spanish despite my mis-understanding.
And Norma, the incredibly inspirational waitress from Crepes and Waffles who be-friended us and gave me her heart neckless- the heart I brought back from Colombia.