When I woke to my first St. Patrick’s Day in Colombia, I grabbed my laptop before I’d even got out of bed and Skyped home. Through the magic of the Internet, I was suddenly transported to my parents’ dining room table. My mother and aunt, resplendent in green, with shamrocks pinned to their chests and large Irish coffees in hand wished me a Happy St. Patrick’s Day and chatted away about the dog, Mass and that week’s births, deaths and marriages in my small hometown.
Feeling very much like E.T., I said my goodbyes and rolled out of bed feeling very despondent. An hour later, I muttered to my husband eight words I’ve never before uttered in my life: “I want to go to an Irish pub”.
Walking in to the pub, taking in the sight of the green bunting, silly Guinness hats and Yeats quotes on the glasses filled with green beer (all cheesy St. Patrick’s Day things that I’d loathed in Ireland and London), my spirits started to lift.
The place was packed but we found a table on the terrace. I ordered an Irish coffee still wishing I were back in Ireland at my parents’ dining room table. When the coffee came, it was the most perfect Irish coffee I’ve ever had, the ideal mix of warming whiskey and smooth coffee, with just the right amount of cream on top.
Sitting in the sunshine in the beautiful old barrio of Usaquén, I was suddenly thrilled to be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in my new home of Bogotá where outdoor dining in March is an actual possibility.
In that moment I resolved there’d be no more nostalgia for what I’d left behind. I should make the most of all the great things Colombia has to offer.
Since then, I’ve eaten roasted ants, stumbled across an alligator on a secluded beach, taken a mud-bath inside a volcano, ridden horseback in the mountains of Bogotá at nighttime, with the endless city twinkling below like a reflection of the starry night sky, and so much more. All things I could never do in Ireland. So, whilst I still miss Ireland from time to time, I also feel very blessed to call Colombia home.
Colombia is vast and diverse. It’s hardly surprising that Colombia offers so many experiences that you simply can’t have in Ireland. You could fit Ireland into Colombia fourteen times. But despite the obvious differences, as I explored in my first novel, Dancing with Statues, the two countries also share many similarities
The main character in Dancing with Statues, a Colombian living in Northern Ireland, notices the same warmth in the people, their shared love of partying, the similar passionate debates they have on a daily basis, the resemblances in the melodic, often poetic way people speak, the parallels in our conflicted history and how Ireland’s quiet, rolling countryside is so reminiscent of the Bogotá Savannah.
I hope that the parallels continue to grow stronger and, as Santos and others have said, that Ireland’s successful peace process can serve as a model for Colombia. And I hope many more Irish people are encouraged to come here and see for themselves the marvellous delights of this country that is so like theirs and yet so very, very different.
Read more about Caroline and her first novel, "Dancing with Statues," here.