Mombasa was not my final trip of 2012. Now in late November, I would have time to enjoy the Costa Rica summer before the 2012 completion. Paula and I had moved in together prior to the Mombasa trip. I moved out of my small apartment in Santa Ana and we found a nice apartment with a view of San Jose.
I did have one final three day trip to Mexico from December 17-20 just before the holidays. This was a quick look at Vision Fund’s context risk ratings with Sean and Gerardo Calix. Vision Fund is a micro finance company that is partnered with World Vision. In 2013 I had more detailed work with Vision Fund, which you will read about soon.
With no other trips planned until mid-January, I planned on enjoying as much time with my new fiancée, Paula. There were a few events pre-planned for the month of December that we were looking forward to. I was also looking forward to Christmas with her family in Colombia.
World Vision Christmas Party
Shortly after my return, the World Vision LACRO office held its annual Christmas dinner. This year, we would all be going to Punta Leona for a weekend. The office would pay for our weekend at this resort, where we could enjoy the season. The dinner was a buffet style with a lot of great food. Gifts were provided to all staff members as well.
This was the first World Vision event that Paula would accompany me on. I was very happy to be able to introduce her to my colleagues. Perry and his wife had already met Paula and became good friends. The next day, following breakfast we enjoyed the beaches of this resort. But not before the monkeys decided to help us with our breakfast.
Had I planned this better, I would have put my boat in the water, as it was housed here at Punta Leona as well. With my membership, we had access to the private beach area, which was much nicer.
Every December in Costa Rica, there is a special ride for the children. This is an event where all the Harley owners purchase a toy for a child and deliver it to an event. This year, the ride was to an orphanage in Cartago, just outside of San Jose. Paula and purchased a couple of toys and made the ride. It was during this event that I met my now good friend, Mark N. We would go on to become best of friends over the years to follow.
The day for this was beautiful, sunny and hot. I did have to take care as I had just had a new tattoo put on, so lots of sun screen to protect it! The children had some performances for us as well and some lunch. This was my second time on this run having done it the year before. I was finding that riding in the Harley group was very soulful.
Christmas in Colombia
Paula and I by now have been together for seven months. Having been engaged for just over a month, it was time to meet my new family. Paula, being from Colombia meant a trip back to the country I fell in love with a year earlier. This time, however, as a tourist. The journey would start on December 22 going a longer way than usual.
We left San Jose in the morning and flew to Periera, Colombia via Lima, Peru. One would think that flying to Bogota and across would be easier, but the Peru route was actually less expensive. We did end up in Bogota from Lima and onwards to Periera, which only confused things more. Regardless, after fourteen hours of travel, we arrived. The direct route would have only been three hours, for those who are curious.
Our vacation in Colombia would span Christmas and New Years before returning on January 7, 2013.
Without a doubt, Manizales is one of the prettiest cities I have visited in Colombia. The drive from the airport in Periera to Manizales takes almost an hour. This is through some very beautiful coffee country in the mountains.
In Manizales, during this time of year, there is so much to do. We definitely had our time booked with so many activities. As I was still in my infancy with learning Spanish, conversing with my new in-laws would be the biggest challenge. Lots of Pictionary and hand gestures got me through the time. Today I am fluent and no longer have this issue!
The first impressions were great and I was immediately welcomed into the family, except for the family German shepherd that decided to take a part of my knuckle. I had put my hand gently forward for him to smell me and he figured I would make a tasty treat!
Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Rosary
Quite possibly the highlight of Manizales is the Cathedral in the center of the city. A tour of this beauty will take you right up to the top of the spire. Here you have an uninterrupted view of the city and everything around. It is the highest cathedral in Colombia at 106 meters.
Cable Aereo Manizales
One cannot visit Manizales and not take a return trip on the Cable Aereo. This is an amazing cable car ride that passes right over the city on a 2.1 kilometer journey. Starting not far from the Cathedral, it will take one down to the Cambulos station at the bottom of the mountain.
Feria de Manizales
The Feria de Manizales is one of the city’s pride events. Unfortunately during this trip, we only had two days to enjoy it. The feria is held over a week, usually starting around the 8th of January with parades and events. We were here for the vintage car parade, which had some pretty amazing old cars. In future posts, I will have more on the Feria de Manizales.
New Years – Colombian Style
If you ever want a New Year’s Eve experience like no other, Colombians know how to do it right. A Colombian New Year’s starts in the afternoon of December 31 and ends anytime from the early morning of January 1, or 2, or 3. It is the best party celebration one can experience.
Colombians have many unusual traditions for New Year’s Eve, such as wearing yellow underwear, lentils in pockets and eating grapes. But none is more fascinating than the burning of “Año Viejo”. These are dummies made completely of straw and fireworks, a pyrotechnics delight!
These are lit at midnight in the center of the street and can burn hours. Being full of fireworks means lots of explosions. We spent New Year’s at a cottage and this time I did not get to see any of these burning, but did hear them.
Baptism and Blessing
On January 4, there was a baptism for the son of my future brother in law. This was held at the Cathedral mentioned above. It was a beautiful ceremony to witness and all the family around. While we were in the Cathedral, Paula and I took a moment with the priest to have our relationship blessed. What a better place than this beautiful location to bless a relationship before God during a baptism.
Unfortunately, as January arrived bringing 2012 to a close and 2013 to a start, it was time to get back to the world of work. We departed Manizales on January 7 and flew back to San Jose, this time through Bogota. My first trip was not far off in the distance with a return to Cyprus.