Bogotá Bound

I’ve heard stories about Colombia all my life. Not the drug riddled danger zone of the 80’s & 90’s, but tales of living in a foreign land from my grandparents and aunt Lynn who lived there from 1959-1965.

My mom, aunt Lynn and grandfather in Bogotá 1959

My mom, aunt Lynn and Johnny Cash…um… I mean my grandfather… in Bogotá 1959

My grandfather was a manager at Owens Illinois Glass Company and went first to Bogotá and then to Medellín to build glass plants.   He was a captivating storyteller and would have us all in stitches about the crazy characters at work and their resourceful ways to fix almost anything.  I remember his story of the time he foiled the plan of a robber trying to steal their washing machine by hoisting it over their outer wall with a getaway cab waiting.  I lament that my grandfather isn’t alive to hear about our adventures on Neko, he would have loved it.   I find myself thinking about my grandparents a lot during our cruising and now relate to the obstacles they faced living in a foreign land.  Living in 1960’s Colombia without internet and with revolution always looming was definitely a greater hardship than traveling by sailboat with modern technology, but there are many similarities.   I remember my grandmother telling me how shopping for groceries became a whole day’s adventure and how she had to wash all the vegetables with bleach (Been there, done that).   And how she got by with only rudimentary Spanish thanks to the kindness and patience of the Colombian folks (hmmm…sounds familiar). They tried new foods, made new friends and turned what sometimes were difficult and frustrating times into positive lifelong memories. I cherish that example they set for me and I try to remember their great attitudes when we struggle with bureaucratic red tape, language barriers and improvised boat repairs.

My aunt, mom, family friends and grandmother up on Monserrate

My aunt, mom, family friends and grandmother up on Monserrate, 1959   Note everyone in skirts and dresses because it was forbidden for ladies to wear pants.


Enjoying the view up on Monserrate

56 years later, Peter and I enjoying the same view up on Monserrate, 10,000 feet above sea level (note the outerwear – our thin blood was not ready for this cold).

One of our objectives all along was to get to Colombia to honor their pioneering spirit. So as Peter and I found extra time during the rainy season, we decided to hop a plane to Bogotá.  Although it’s 50+ years from when my grandparents lived there, it was fun to see some of the things I had heard about. With great guidance from my Aunt Lynn and my Mom (who didn’t live there but visited enough to remember details), we set out to see what was still there and what had changed.

Grandparents house in 1960

Grandparents house in 1960

Their house is no longer there, but it seems they have kept the retaining walls

Their house is no longer there, but it seems they have kept the stone retaining walls

This is the spot where their house stood, now an apartment building

This is the spot where their house stood.


Sadly the house they lived in was torn down and replaced by a swank apartment building, but It does seem that the old stone retaining wall remains.  Peter and I had fun playing detective and finding their old, but much-changed neighborhood. I was hoping to see some 80 year old woman walking down the street who would have remembered them, but my life is not a movie, so off we went to explore the rest of of the city.   And what a vibrant city it is.



As always, click on a picture in the gallery below to rotate through the images.


7 thoughts on “Bogotá Bound

  1. I remember the stories about Columbia too! Carl was a master at spinning his tales. I wonder if he ever embellished a few aspects here/there? I specifically recall him talking about how he and his crazy friends would shoot off very powerful fireworks. The definition of legal fireworks in the U.S. compared to what could be bought in Columbia – were miles apart! Your grandmother was not a happy camper when those things went off in the middle of the night either! Ken P

  2. Hola from Celebration. Glad to see you’re taking the time to enjoy the region. I’ve been to Bogota a number of times (on business) and setting aside the army in the streets and the rougher neighborhoods always had a great time. There are great restaurants, good shopping and wonderful people. We can’t wait till we get to Cartegena. Cheers..:-)

  3. You are so right. Your Grandpa would love the fact that you & Peter went to Colombia and especially that you were able to find the neighborhood where they lived & explore the city. He would also have loved to sail with you on Neko for a while.

  4. How fascinating to see where all those stories took place. Will there be another family follower in another 59 years? You must have inherited your grandfather’s storytelling abilities – you keep me wanting to hear more. Hugs to you both and a big pat for Lucy

  5. You guys rock! Thank you for sharing and EEEEEEEK! on the tarantula! Stay safe and call when you enter Coakley Bay – 🙂 Scarily, today we watched a crazed mule deer swim away from the beach, heading out to sea, and then just disappear under the waves about 400 yards out. We have no idea why it did that – but called the Coast Guard who did nothing to help it. Poor deer.

  6. Thanks you Mary for such a great blog and pictures. I too remember many of the stories that Carl told. I feel that I was almost there. Keep writing, maybe there is a documentary or a book in the future.

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