On Monday, April 13, 2015, Linda and I flew non-stop from Dulles International (Washington, DC) to Bogotá -- a five-hour flight. I chose Avianca in preference to U.S. airlines, believing its service would be as good or better. As it turned out, there were no extra fees for anything. In Tourist, dinner was served and drinks were free. The staff both on the ground and in flight were pleasant and helpful.
Avianca stewardesses still wear the iconic red Colombian cape -- "la ruana roja" -- that the airline has always been known for.
I lived and worked in Colombia from 1965 to 1971, and until now had not been back. Linda had never been. In order for her to gain a sense of the country, we planned a twelve-day visit -- six days in the capital city and six days in Cali, the second city.
I was braced for the inevitable changes there would be, after almost fifty years. As will appear, some things had changed very much; others not at all; and the Colombia of today that we found would have made the Colombia of back then a proud parent.
A month before the trip, I got in touch by email with the local bridge people, thinking they would prove useful contacts while we were there. They responded promptly and helped make our visit a memorable one.
There was little chance, after so much time away, of finding any of my old friends. On-line telephone directories had been no help, and once there I discovered why. From the dark days of terrorism and drug wars, the phone company for security reasons had stopped publishing white pages. Colombian phone books have only yellow pages; they list businesses but not residential subscribers. Thus in order to find people, I would have had to try my luck at their former places of work. It would have needed more time than we had.
This was one of several facts of life we found that affect Colombians' lives, yet without concerning them overmuch. Even though security and law-and-order have greatly improved, everyone's cautious habits from the years of violence are ingrained, and linger.
That did not, however, seem to diminish the optimistic, cheerful attitude that we found everywhere.