Dec 312012

From El Cocuy we made our way to Bogota with a few choice stops along the way.  Let me start by saying we didn’t come close to giving Bogota the attention it deserved.  It is a huge city with countless museums, cultural events and pleasant strolling opportunities.  We didn’t do any of this though.  We had one focus and reason for venturing into the huge capital city: to get new tires for Blue Steel.  This proved to be as complicated and frustrating as we imagined, but that ordeal is not what I’ll be writing about.   I want to tell you about the Delgados. 

While I was off gallivanting through Bogota’s many free museums, Zach was busily researching tires back at our hostel.  At some point during this process he met Edith, a manager for Michelin who proved essential to us finding the right tires.  After a full day and a half on and off the phone, we finally left our hostel at two pm to brave Bogota’s nightmarish traffic and make our way to Michelin, where our tires would be waiting for us.  Our plan was to have the tires replaced and leave the city before sunset to find a place to camp.  This turned out to be the very definition of wishful thinking.  Due to a mistake by the other distributor, we were left stranded in Bogota with our car on blocks and no tires to be had until the following day.  Left just before sunset without a plethora of options, we inquired about sleeping in the company’s large lot.  That is when Edith insisted we come and stay with her.  We didn’t know it at the time but Edith already had a full house.  She lives in a modest home on the outskirts of Bogota with her husband, three children, and grandchild and in addition, was currently housing a friend in need.  The fact that there really was no room for two weary travelers did not seem to cross Edith’s mind.  Nor did she find it necessary to run it by her family first, as if she already knew they would be just as welcoming as she.

After quickly rummaging together an overnight bag, we left our beloved Blue Steel and walked with Edith to her home.  We were greeted by her daughter Lupe, who upon our introduction was told we’d be sleeping in her bed that night.  If a moment of confusion or hesitation came over Lupe’s face, I saw no sign of it.  Instead we were welcomed with a huge smile.  Before long, we found ourselves sitting at the table with dinner before us and Lupe out the door to buy us a couple beers.  Zach and I simply stared at each other in disbelief.    We ended up staying with Edith and her family for two nights.  They gave us a warm bed, fed us meals, bought us ice cream, listened to countless stories in our bad Spanish and, perhaps most importantly, made us feel perfectly comfortable and at ease.  When our time was up, we said a tearful goodbye and left the capital city on four brand-spanking-new tires.

How we get ourselves into these situations, I do not know, but they always prove to be the most enlightening, soul-enriching and rewarding.   As Zach and I began reflecting on our experience in Bogota, we realized how much we had learned from the Delgados.  They were incredible hosts – not only generous in their offerings, but they knew exactly when to include us and when to give us space.  Without having to ask, we were fed when we were hungry, we had quiet time when we wanted it and we were always treated like part of the family.  They are an incredible family.  We were amazed at how genuinely friendly and respectful they were towards us, but more importantly, we were continually impressed with how sweet they were with each other.  Without pretense or hyperbole, they demonstrated a closeness that most families strive for.  And best of all, they truly enjoyed each other’s company.  The whole family sat down together on a Friday night (all the children are in their twenties) and played a board game for hours, laughing all the while.

The quality witnessed in them that was most significant for me, however, was the hospitality they exhibited towards complete strangers.  I often reflect on the ways in which this trip will change me.  For the most part, as with many life experiences, I believe most of the changes will be subtle and perhaps unrecognizable until a moment of clarity at some point in the future.  But this is one change – hospitality towards strangers – that I will work hard to enact, as it is not necessarily in my nature nor do I believe it is a big part of our culture in the US.  Not just any kind of hospitality but the uncompromising, completely inconvenient kind of hospitality.  Zach and I have encountered this time and time again during our travels and it never ceases to humble and inspire me.

As with so many people we’ve met along the way, we are changed for the better by our experience with the Delgados.  Our short, chance encounter is one we will never forget.

**Querido Delgados,

Gracias por todo.  Si ustedes vienen a los Estados Unidos, siempre serán bienvenido con nosotros.  Un Año Nuevo feliz y próspero para ustedes!