Fenton Grad Falls in Love in Colombia

Fenton Patch blogger Joe Kershaw shares his experiences in South American Country.

The U.S. State Department highly recommended that Fenton native and all other Americans avoid Colombia at all costs, Kershaw said.

But Kershaw was in search of some interviews for an article he was writing seven years ago. A writing contact recommended he meet up with a woman in Bogota, who would be his bilingual executive assistant.

“After being the only gringo face on the flight from Miami to Bogota I exited customs, walked past the military guards at the airport, saw the lady and it became the old cliché of love at first sight,” Kershaw said about his future wife.

At the time, the two were in their 50's, both had been divorce for a few years and they were definitely not looking for a significant other. Kershaw’s article got pushed to the backburner and he spent three weeks touring Colombia.

He never looked back.

“Since she had her work and family in Bogota and I could write pretty much anywhere, within the year I sold my house in California and we purchased a home in a small town an hour from the capital,” Kershaw said.

Now Kershaw continues his writing career in Colombia and is also in the Fenton Patch Local Voices section.

Kershaw said in many ways Colombia is similar to the United States with large malls, fast food and the same style of clothing.

“Forget Starbucks though as this is the land of Juan Valdez coffee shops,” Kershaw joked. (You can read .)

But the country also has its differences.

He said the food is more flavorful, including the beef, because he said cows are mandated to be grass fed and most is cooked over an open flame. He added that social status is more prevalent, corruption is more prominent and things are a little more unorganized. Oh, and the men love to dance.

“My wife frequently gets invited to dance by other men, because she is very good and I think they feel sorry for her because when it comes to salsa and meringue, I have what they call, ‘Gringo rhythm,’” Kershaw said.

Oh and did we mention the women?

“Colombian women are beautiful both outside and inside. Just sit at an outdoor coffee shop sometime in Zona Rosa of Bogota and you think it is a beauty contest constantly passing in front of you,” Kershaw said.

While the 1968 Fenton graduate loves the beef, women and scenery, he said he often misses home.  He walked from North Lemon Street to State Road School for his elementary education and delivered the Flint Journal seven days a week. He credits teachers for helping shape his life.

“Fenton existed as a much different place during my childhood,” he said. “I remember police walking the sidewalks talking with residents, raking leaves to burn them in the street, everyone leaving their doors unlocked.”

Kershaw has tackled such topics as , and in his Fenton Patch blog posts.

To join the Fenton Patch Local Voices team, apply here.



Mary Miettinen January 05, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Reading your article was such a pleasant change of pace for me this morning. It is not often I sigh over a love story and consider making beef for dinner in one thought :> In the same respect, you make me want to move to Columbia, and at the same time...stay in magical Fenton. What a wonderful writer you are! Mary
Michael P January 05, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Colombia is a much better place than is portrayed in movies and books. It has come along way since the early 1990s drug violence. I adopted three girls from the city of Medellin in 2007. It was a wonderful beautiful city with very warm and friendly people! Michael
Jason Alexander (Editor) January 05, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Where did you meet the love of your life?
Bev Fitzgerald January 08, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Such a sweet story. Beautiful.
Mario January 10, 2012 at 06:46 PM
This article begins with lies regarding USSD advisory information regarding Colombia. For the actual USSD advisory: http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5531.html Another example of "you can't believe everything you read". Journalistic FAIL.
Jason Alexander (Editor) January 10, 2012 at 09:31 PM
That advisory may not have been the same years ago when Kershaw first visited the country, which is being described at the beginning of the article. He actually encourages people to visit the country and has written about it, http://patch.com/B-z7T.
Joe Kershaw January 11, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Jason is correct. As recently as two years ago the State Department was still issuing warnings. Please note that the USSD page referenced by Mario states, "Kidnapping remains a serious threat, with two kidnapping cases of U.S. citizens reported since August 2010." If there was a fault in the beginning of the article it would have been mine and not Jason's as he correctly wrote what I gave him during our interview. And Jason correctly use the past tense of the verb and not the presence tense. From my experience, I have more reason to believe in the State Department not giving the correct truth (in fact it has gotten worse under the current administration). For if I had believed them many years ago, I would never had come to Colombia and found the love of my life.
Mario January 11, 2012 at 08:21 PM
The State Department will always issue warnings (because parts of Colombia will always be dangerous), but since December of 2004, when I bought my first of many tickets to fly to Bogota, Colombia, they haven't said "avoid Colombia at all costs". For all intents and purposes, there should be similar warnings for every large metropolitan city in the U.S. and elsewhere. I have a good friend (ex-pat_ living in Medallo (Medellin) who keeps me posted in the goings on between my trips. The report of "two kidnappings" is something I would assume to be a gross understatement based on what I've been hearing, and it's very true that Uribe had much better control over security than Santos has had. Thank you both for your replies, and Mr. Kershaw – have a refajo for me.
Joe Kershaw January 12, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Mario, you are correct that the kidnappings are probably understated. In fact, according to one of papers not run by the family of the country's president, a Russian this last week was kidnapped out of a gringolandia area of Bogota and found murdered in one of the poor areas of the city. I remember once when they had reported that no bombs had gone off in Bogota for over a year, and I knew of 8 in just the last 6 months. Please let me emphasize though that Bogota and many other places in Colombia are very safe to visit and I recommend that people do that. Now, As many people do, we can argue the difference in effectiveness of previous President Uribe and Current President Santos when it comes to security. And yes, there are some cities in the USA (like Flint and Detroit) that have statistics showing higher crime rates than those in some Colombian cities. But there is a difference from the USA. In Colombia the cities are actually the safer places. No problem drinking a refajo for you. And for those who want to know what it is, it is a 50/50 mix of a beer called Club Colombia and soda that is a cousin to ginger ale called Colombiana.
Mario January 12, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Mr. Kershaw, I've been a proponent of all things Colombian since I first visited in January 2005. Bogota and its people made a wonderful impression on me, and at times I felt like I was in Italy. Some of the countryside between Bogota and Zipaquira was reminiscent as were many of the shops and markets. Every time I return from there I'm ignorantly asked if I "smuggled any coke", and find myself educating yet another of many, many people here who share the stereotype perpetuated by North American media. The truth of the matter is that every Colombian I ever spoke with on the topic of drug culture was adamant in their complete disgust with the stereotypes as well as a genuine disregard for any type of drug, including tobacco. I've seen very few Colombians smoking cigarettes, and all one needs to do is look at their smiles. Pearly white teeth everywhere. Another stereotype of Colombia is that it's a Third World country and everyone lives in huts with thatched rooves. It may be a Third World country, but in Bogota, I saw (as of early 2005) the most sophisticated public mass-transit system anywhere. Use of infrastructure at its best, as opposed to what's seen in the city of Houston, Texas where I live. And how surprised were you when you saw that the TransMilenio buses were either Mercedes-Benz or Volvo? And what of the banks with the secure turnstile entry and exit? Bank robbery isn't possible in banks with those in place. Has anyone seen those in the "1st World" USA?
Mario January 12, 2012 at 04:45 PM
You may be interested in a social networking site related to Colombia. http://colamigos.spruz.com/ It's fairly inactive these days, but it rose out of the ashes of poorbuthappy.com which is now living on as a read-only blog. I'd encourage you and anyone you know who may be interested to become members and breathe a little life back into it. I'm listed there as El Padrino. When I return to Bogota I'd be happy to meet and share a bottle of Chilean wine at my favorite restaurant in La Candelaria. Best regards, Mario
Joe Kershaw January 12, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Mario, Thanks for the info. I have been familiar with the Colombia sites for several years now. It is hoped that my writings on the Country dispel many of the beliefs by North Americans about Colombia that you mentioned. And the Candelaria area is on my list of things to write about,. it is a wonderful place though many parts of it still remain a dangerous place to be when the sun goes down. Yes, Chile has some of the best wine in South America. And perhaps I can introduce you to a Colombian wine I found. Unfortunately when you really take a hard look at it, the Transmilenio is not as great as it seems. Hmm Houston, Texas - you might be one of the oil guys I met while doing some consulting work for an engineering firm here. You and I can debate about the banks in Colombia. Actually a Davidenda bank got robbed a few months back.


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