[In our series of blogs from RPCVs around the world, we have this update from Colombia, sent to us from Bob Arias who is in country now as a Peace Corps Crisis Corps Volunteer (now called the Response Volunteers) and was a PCV in Colombia from 1964-66). He recently attended the swearing-in of the new PCVs to that country. We asked Bob about Christmas for him this season and he sent us Papá Noél in Colombia, 2011]

Hey…Feliz Navidad they yelled to me as the bus came along side; they reached out to greet me, a stranger on the street in the coastal city of Barranquilla, Colombia. They were happy and wanted everyone they met to enjoy this holiday…so, Hey…Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo 2012 I shouted back to their smiling faces…giving me the thumbs up as the bus traveled down the street.

I have spent the Holiday’s in several places throughout the world, but what gets my attention is the dedication to making a holiday that children will enjoy…it should be for them! And in Barranquilla, Colombia on the Caribbean coast, everything is for the children. The city parks have been made over into “its a small Worlds” that Disney would approve of. Some streets near parks have been closed to allow children to ride their bikes, skates, and even skateboards…yes they ride skateboards in this coastal community. And almost every major street has festive lights adding to the holiday spirit. The majority of the holiday displays tend to be of Santa or Papá Noél, with reindeer, snowmen, and elves everywhere…and Barranquilla is a tropical port city with temperature in the 90’s, yet they want to have a white Christmas! In the capitol of Bogotá the city brings out a snow making machine for the kids everyday at noon…this is summer vacation for the kids! And a visit to any of the Malls and you feel the spirit and happy faces. Merchants give out balloons to the children not candy…and then in the evening groups provide holiday music as they walk through the Malls. What makes all of this better, everything stays in place until the 6th of January…so we have been in the holiday spirit for a month and a half! Today being the day after Christmas and Chanukah last week…everyone is showing off their gifts with pleasant and warm smiles and hugs from strangers…Costeños or Coastal folks, tend to be warm and friendly normally…but more so during the holidays! Hey…Happy New Year Feliz Año Nuevo!

Bob