The first month of what was supposed to be a month-long expedition went perfectly. Danny and I initially met with our mutual friend, Michael, in the mountains of Santander. Santander produced a couple of small connections for Danny, but the week was unfortunately fruitless for me. However, you can never go wrong with spending an amazing week on a beautiful farm with incredible friends. Michael had taken over a dilapidated 27-bed hotel, and the entire week was more reminiscent of a high school camping trip than a supply expedition. Thankful for a week with friends but still searching for the fruits of our labor, Danny and I traveled back to Medellin to meet up with Miguel’s associate. Miguel’s “associate” ended up being a near-identical cousin of Miguel. The two are so close in appearance I called him Miguel the day Danny and I met him at a coffee shop in El Poblado. After an awkward introduction with a good laugh, Jamie pulled out his map and began detailing his farming operations and partnerships throughout all 5 of Colombia’s major cacao production zones. The professional manner in which Jamie discussed his operation made me smile inside. I had spent my first week with friends, now I was going to get some work done. The three of us spent the next hour huddled over Jamie’s map. As Danny and I sipped our coffee, Jamie enlightened us on ‘Cacao Fino de Aroma’, Colombia’s premium cacao gown differently and producing different flavors depending on the region. Jamie laid out several potential routes to visit all 5 cacao-producing regions and the likely duration of each trip. Danny’s eyes were already glazed over. In Colombia to find a coffee supplier, I could tell he had already checked out. Danny was just nodding his head, sipping his coffee, and going through the motions to be polite as Jamie proudly rattled off fact after fact about Colombian grown cacao. I was only one week into my trip but I knew this was no longer a one-month expedition. Jamie seemed equally as competent, motivated, and trustworthy as his cousin Miguel. If the farms he had access to were equally ethical, certified organic, and offering a better price than Miguel’s, my backup location was on the verge of becoming my primary export country.
Jamie estimated 10 days in each of the 5 cacao-producing regions. We were finishing up our trip to the third region and right on schedule when Jamie came to me and said he needed 10 extra days before we traveled to the next region. I didn’t think anything of it. My father had been asking if I wanted to meet up for Thanksgiving, so I was happy enough for the break I didn’t even ask Jamie why he needed the time away. I told my father to buy a ticket for Colombia, parted ways on great terms with Jamie, and happily headed back to Medellin for a much-needed family Thanksgiving. Tee was not happy the trip was getting extended for a second time, but she was glad my father and I were able to work out the time together. My father had been working in India since early February of the same year, and he and I hadn’t seen each other since before he left. He had enjoyed two weeks relaxing in the Himalayas during the time, but I was still taking overnight buses and discount, somewhat sketchy, international flights. Two weeks lounging around the Himalayas definitely was not within my budget, but I figured Thanksgiving in Medellin would suffice to impress him. Plus, not wanting to tell him over the phone, he was still unaware he was destined to be a grandfather in less than 6 months. While I figured he would receive the news well no matter the setting, over Thanksgiving dinner was definitely the most traditionally American family environment I would be able to accomplish with both of us working overseas. Remembering the decade of horror stories revolving around Colombian Cartels and kidnappings, Dad was slightly timid about his first trip to Medellin. However, he had been hearing good things about the country for a couple of years, and he was eager to spend a Thanksgiving with his only son. He booked his ticket, I rented us an Airbnb for a week, and our Thanksgiving plans were officially set.
Violent protests erupted throughout the city 3 days before my father was set to arrive. Events transpiring throughout my trip instantly made sense. I understood why the President displayed such a mighty show of force while he was in the city. Jamie randomly needing time off all of a sudden wasn’t so random anymore. Colombia was entering the beginning stages of a revolution. Described as “student protests”, National Police were keeping the chaos away from any tourism zones. With 2 National Police officers on more or less every street corner, El Poblado was incredibly safe. My father kept his original itinerary and easily made it safely into the city and to our Airbnb in Guayabal without incident. We were forced to miss out on several of the city’s major tourist attractions, but we were able to walk freely around El Poblado and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Medellin’s most affluent district. Having never been there before, my father was pleasantly surprised with the sheer beauty and modernness of Medellin. Making the best of a bad situation, the City of Medellin has invested the financial rewards they’ve reaped from their years held captive under Escobar. Now, the “City of Endless Spring” capitalizes on their violent and bloody past, while leading Colombia headfirst into their future through modernization and innovation. The neighborhood where we stayed was only encroached upon once by the city’s protests. We watched from our 8th-floor balcony as the streets instantly flooded with thousands of protesters. We saw no violence. Groups chanting political slogans in Spanish, Colombian flags, and countless metal pots being beaten with wooden spoons. The size and volume of the protest were impressive, and there was no question they were serious about their cause. However, my father and I never felt endangered. The protest we saw seemed peaceful. Seeing the protests for himself eased any concerns Dad still had, our Thanksgiving Day reservation was set at a local expat restaurant, and I was genuinely happy with my Colombia expedition so far. Now, I just needed to tell Dad he was about to become a grandfather.