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WHAT I FEEL LEAVING COLOMBIA FOR A TRIP IN THE MIDDLE EAST

I should have learned by now that I always get like this when I have to leave...

How people used to travel around (and flee) Colombia. In my mind Avianca is pretty much the same experience.

Whenever I have to leave Colombia, I enter a strange kind of depression. It starts the moment I know that the ticket has been booked, and it doesn't cease until I am sitting in the departure lounge waiting for my flight to 'José María Córdova Rionegro'. This viscous melancholy encompasses moody episodes and fits of nostalgia, and I find myself watching endless videos of Silva y Villalba, bulk eating bocadillo and crying at the sight of a banana leaf battered by the prettiest of storms. Last night, I even found myself oddly watching montages of Colombia losing the 2014 World Cup, and as we say in English, this is indicative of someone who has 'got it bad'.

The door to my casa campesina in the Valle de San Nicolás.

To top it all off, the internet in my casa campesina was blown by a thunderbolt this afternoon. It was the kind of ray that sizzles past my window blonde and brutal, and it splashed all around the grass narrowly avoiding decapitating my frogs in their pond. I accepted this fate, the ensuing lack of communications and inconvenience, but I paid attention to its symbolism - that of my being cut-off from Colombia and everything I love inside of her for at least a few weeks. It was as if life was saying 'prepare yourself, Emma, you are going far, far away, and we are going to sever you from your touchstones gradually, so that the shock is less when you are sitting on your plane on the tarmac, buckling up, and ignoring the safety message which only provokes more anxiety than it ever reassures'.

Yarumo leaves in the afternoon sun in Las Palmas, Antioquia, Colombia.

The worst part is perhaps this taking off from this very same airport as I depart, flying over Antioquia's mountains and her villages; soaring above yarumos I can no longer touch with their different greens and even silvers. They begin to become smaller and smaller and until they seem ungraspable, and it is like letting go of the hand of the person you love hoping you will see them again and soon but never really being sure. Their hand becomes an absence, and then their absence becomes a pain, and as they fade into the distance, their face becomes merely a color against the sky, and then their entire body merely a dot, until you can only hold onto a vague sketch of them and all that they symbolize inside the back of your eyes, sewn into your DNA.

Photograph of a document (taken by and belonging to Carlos Andrés Zuluaga Marín)

It was an oddly similar and yet in many ways reversed experience that I had when I first came to Medellín back in 2011. It had been a trip of only forty-eight hours, unplanned and carried out in a merry rush, and as my plane flew in over the flightpath passing the eastern Antioquia villages Santuario and Marinilla, I felt ill in the way you do when you realize that you are about to fall in love but you don't really want to. That day there had been a dense magic carpet of mist over the valley, and as our plane ducked in and out of the whiteness, I caught sight of the places that seemed to whisper to me their history with a paranormal and single beckoning finger.

The mist over the Valle de Aburrá; the view from my house each morning which reminds me of my first flight into Antioquia.

When the plane had finally came to a stop, it had been the moment that I finally accepted my life was about to change. Until this point, I had still tried to persuade myself that I was on holiday in Colombia and however I felt I had to return to my life back in England. Walking into the arrivals lounge of the airport, I looked around at this place which felt like home, but which I had never been to, and shared not one connection with, but for a feeling of something that was to come.

Conquered by Colombia looking miserable and grumpy: 'griserable', in fact at the prospect of foreign travel away from Colombia

Even in my face I see the sadness that takes over me as the days come closer to my departure. People say "aren't you going on holiday soon, 'qué rico'!", but I only feel regret for having decided to go in the first place. It has been like this since the first time I came to Colombia in 2011, and I never quite learn my lesson. Others even remark, "but why do you look so sad? Aren't you traveling in a few days time? What a privilege!" I only start to mourn the loss of all the tones of green you find in the valle de Aburrá.

It is hard to explain perhaps, but I have the feeling that if I die here in Colombia, in whatever circumstances, then all will be well. The thought, however, of crashing in a plane over the Atlantic and disintegrating over coral reefs and seabeds which I feel nothing for becomes a scary prospect. This is all sounding quite dramatic isn't it? But these are the kinds of thought I have as I avoid packing my suitcase, or delay reading the pre-ordered guidebook which only collects dust and humidity, curling and twisting without having so much as been thumbed.

They won't put panela in the coffee where I'm going. The peasants won't wear a fraying a ruana or make fires in the darkness in discarded oil drums. The village festivals won't have cocks all plumed and caged under the staging and there will be no smell of roasting corn nor of incense melting into the sunsets. No one will sing trovas. Who will wear unsightly lycra? Why on earth did I think I could live without Antioquian sunsets with their odd mixture of green, pink and purple for a single night let alone an entire three weeks?! However beautiful it is where I'm going to, it won't be home, and leaving your home behind, be it a place or a person, is a kind of amputation without acceptance, a need to search for your missing part endlessly and in everything, so that going away becomes entirely pointless.


I'll be back...