Rineicha Otero – UConn Extension Fellow in Colombia

Saturday 8/17/2013

Rineicha Otero

I finally arrived in beautiful Colombia! After much-anticipation, the visit has come and the expectation of reconnecting to the different cultures around the world has increased even more. As soon as the airplane touched the ground in Bogota the crowed cheered with excitement to be back in their homeland. I remembered the times I returned to my own land of Puerto Rico and the inexplicable excitement that I felt about being back home.

Thinking all I had to do for my connection to Cali was walk out of the jet bridge and find the gate, I soon discovered I had to go through immigration, find my checked bag, recheck the bag at the national airline and take a shuttle to the next gate. I was sweating drops and hoping I didn’t miss the connecting flight. During this journey I met another American who is also in Colombia to complete a fellowship.

Ginna (the Colombian Fellow) met me in Cali’s airport with our driver, which opened our first conversation about Colombia. I learned that Colombians are proud of their culture, heritage, homeland and the diversity found in their country. Arriving during a holiday weekend was quite evident when we headed to the center of Cali, Colombia. The traffic composed of many scooters, motorcycles and shift-stick vehicles. Vehicles ranged from Toyotas to Mercedes.  Nonetheless, the drivers drove as if there weren’t any other cars on the undefined roads. Let’s just say I had a very exciting commute to my final destination.

Cali is known for Salsa and that’s apparent when walking around the city. You can hear music from classic to current artists in the salsa industry. Women in Cali are very elegant; while walking in the shopping plaza I noticed their behavior and outfits. I was amazed as to how their hairstyles, makeup and physique were so perfect but they were so humble and friendly.

I met some of Ginna’s friends during dinner and realized that the passion they demonstrated for helping their own is so immense. It made me feel as if they were of an older age but in reality, they’re of my own generation. It was captivating to see how involved they truly are in seeking positive social change. These young adults fight for the rights of their communities without the support necessary and they continue to be resilient. In Ginna’s group of friends there are three industrial engineers, one psychologist and one publicist. All are focused on the changes needed to improve lifestyles in Cali and not money. Impressive, wouldn’t you say?