Ireland and Colombia: So Different, Yet So Much the Same

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

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Tags: Colombia, Latin America

Comment by Ryan O'Rourke on June 10, 2014 at 6:48am

Very interesting, Caroline.  Always neat to hear how places so far apart can be similar in some ways. I'd enjoy a visit to Colombia some day.  I'm an über "coffee snob," so I'd love to do a tour of some of the Colombian coffee farms.

Comment by Caroline Doherty de Novoa on June 10, 2014 at 11:28am

Thanks Ryan. You might like this video 

It is a 1 minute video in English showing Colombian coffee farmers at work and their reactions when they are handed Mocha Vanilla Caramel Lattés and the like. It's called Respect the Bean. 

There's also a place in Bogotá where you can learn to be a barista ( although they won't teach you to make a Mocha Vanilla Caramel Latté that's for sure! 

Comment by Caroline Doherty de Novoa on June 10, 2014 at 11:29am

Thanks to the New Wild Geese for featuring the blog :) 

Comment by Jim Goulding on June 10, 2014 at 9:05pm

Thanks Caroline for your piece. I am staying in the US at the moment but live much of the year in the coffee region of Colombia. After my Colombian wife's first trip to Ireland, we were seated together on the plane lifting off from Shannon. She leaned over to me and said : "My dear, I really love the beauty of this country. I think that Ireland is more beautiful than Colombia!" Wow, what an admission! The following year we were in another plane landing in her city of Pereira, looking out at all the coffee plantations in the distance. Again she leaned over and said: "My dear, I think that Ireland and Colombia are tied (in their beauty)!" Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. We have travelled to many countries, but the green fields of Ireland and the flowers of Colombia are both unsurpassable. And Caroline we must meetup at that Irish pub in Usaquén when we get back. We have friends who live not far from there where we often stay in Bogota. 

Comment by Ryan O'Rourke on June 11, 2014 at 2:39am

Thanks for the link to that excellent little video, Caroline.  I couldn't agree with those Colombian coffee farmers more.  I roast my own coffee beans in my own roasting machine at home, grind them freshly, then brew the coffee and drink it BLACK without a drop of milk or a grain of sugar.  Only way to go.  :-)

I've shared that video with the home coffee roasters group I'm a part of on Facebook.  Hope to make it to Colombia for a coffee tour soon!

Comment by Caroline Doherty de Novoa on June 11, 2014 at 11:16am

Jim, please do let me know when you are next in Bogotá it would be lovely to meet up. I think your wife is right. Colombia might have the variety that we don't have in Ireland - but we still have plenty of stunning countryside that can easily hold its own against any Colombian landscape. 

Comment by Caroline Doherty de Novoa on June 11, 2014 at 11:18am

Ryan - you really are a purist! When you do get round to planning your trip to Colombia please do let me know. I have lots of recommendations. And of course am always happy to show you around Bogotá if you pass through here. 


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