“You got worries you can drop ’em in the blue ocean”
Colombians have an endearing (albeit sometimes irritating) tendency to get really, really excited about EVERYTHING! The typical animation and expression present in everyday conversation just about triples when a Colombian is talking about their country because EVERYTHING! IS! BEAUTIFUL! Diversity! Oceans! Deserts! Mountains! It is, of course, not a total exaggeration, but one can never be too sure just how accurate their descriptions are.
In addition to being so! excited!, Colombians agree without fail on a few things in life: 1. Agua de panela con limon cures all ailments; 2. One must never work on a festivo; and 3. The ocean in San Andres has seven colors. Did you know that? You can COUNT the colors from the plane. Or your hotel room. Or the beach. Seven! Seven colors!
San Andrés is a very small island off the coast of Nicaragua that, while being entirely unique in everything from language to customs to identity, is politically part of Colombia. The population speaks Spanish as well as a fascinating English Creole. Colombians are fiercely proud of their island, evidenced by national outrage last year when fishing rights in the surrounding waters were granted to Nicaragua. Therefore, when your conversation with a Colombian inevitably turns to the places you have visited, want to visit and will visit in their country, they nearly always bring up San Andrés and THE COLORS.
Naturally I was a little skeptical about all of these colors, though outrageously excited for a very affordable trip to a Caribbean island with some great friends. Then, the plane landed and I got a glimpse of the ocean. And my eyes practically burst out of my head. They were not kidding about the colors.
San Andres was never on my unwritten list of places that I need to visit in this country for a few reasons, mainly that it seemed expensive and not much more than a cliché resort vacation. However, being The Luckiest Gringa, opportunity presented itself. Long story short, I am forever and ever and ever indebted to the rugby community in Barranquilla and all of Colombia.
The island is tiny – only about ten square miles in area – and consists of one big town, El Centro, and a few smaller neighborhoods in between tourist spots, white beaches and stretches of coral. El Centro is block after block of hotels and duty free shops. After the sea, San Andrés is mainly known for the shopping: dirt cheap booze, cosmetics, electronics and all the imported U.S. candy you can imagine. If I hadn’t just returned from a trip to the states I would have been wiping away tears of joy with Reese’s wrappers.
Since I was there to cheer on the Atlantico department selection rugby teams (though not playing due to my lack of Colombian nationality), I didn’t do much of the typical tourist stuff but there is nowhere I would have rather been than watching my friends play beach rugby with the Caribbean in the background (except, of course, out there flinging sand with them.) Even in the midst of rainy season there was a perfect, sunny day to enjoy the beach and the downpours held off long enough to tour the island via golf cart another afternoon.
Sun, ocean, rugby friends new and old, constant music and laughs – San Andrés was worth it.