In Bogota, Colombia, Jisel Perilla saw a burgeoning middle class and a global restaurant scene. (Jisel Perilla)

Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.

Who: Jisel Perilla (the author) of Arlington and her sister, Natalie Perilla, of Centreville, Va.

Where, when, why: We went to Bogota for 10 days in February to visit our 82-year-old grandmother, Conchita Jimenez. I lived in Colombia for nearly three years and hadn’t seen my grandmother in two years. I also wanted to see how Bogota had changed since I left in 2011.

Highlights and high points: The sight of the majestic Andes Mountains framing the chaotic and beautiful metropolis 9,000 feet in the air is awe-inspiring. Inside this frame are dilapidated colonial and Tudor mansions and rickety old cars crawling alongside late-model BMWs in traffic conditions that make Washington look good. Also, modern skyscrapers, parks and plazas; flower stalls selling roses of all colors and sizes; and streets teeming with people, some in designer suits and others begging for change to buy an empanada or a coffee. It is amazing to see Bogota life unfold so loudly and unapologetically from high in the sky.

Cultural connection or disconnect: There’s something about being in my grandmother’s small, stuffy apartment that makes me feel like I’ve come home. Every afternoon, she would play old-timey Latin music on her ancient sound system and invite all of her old-lady friends over to discuss the weather (always cloudy and rainy), the lack of safety (“Bogota is getting more and more dangerous by the minute!”) and, of course, to show off her grandchildren who came to Colombia just to visit their grandmother.

She’d make Colombian-style hot chocolate, put out campesino cheese and bread rolls, and tell her friends about her time in los Estados Unidos, when she babysat her grandchildren and basked in the tranquility, beauty and, well, boredom of the suburbs. Without fail, my great-aunt, who lives in the apartment next door, would let herself in halfway through our afternoon snack to ask whether we were cold, hungry or otherwise uncomfortable. She’d offer us scarves, gloves, juice and more bread rolls. There was always an unspoken rivalry between those two, each attempting to out-host the other. It still makes me smile to think of those visits and wonder whether this is what my daily life would have been like had my mom not moved to the States in 1980.

Biggest laugh or cry: Whenever I visit my grandmother, we always spend the last night going through her briefcase of old black-and-white photos. She’s never put any of her photos in albums, and there’s always something very final about pulling out that briefcase. In fact, it’s become something of an unofficial tradition: my grandmother in her nightgown and her two granddaughters sitting on either side of her on her tiny wooden bed. We slowly thumb through pictures we’ve seen dozens of times: my grandmother, young and beautiful, dressed in a black gown and flirtatious hat at an embassy party; my grandfather, handsome and serious on his wedding day; my mother and aunt, impossibly young, staring seriously at the camera, with no idea that 50 years later they would be living in the quiet suburbs of Washington, far removed from the noise and chaos of Bogota and their mother.

I cherish this time with my grandmother, but looking at the images also creates a deep and heavy feeling of sadness and nostalgia. One day, my mother, siblings and I will be going through this ritual on our own, without my grandmother.

How unexpected: The city has changed so much in the three short years that I’ve been away. Foreigners were once a novelty; now it’s relatively ordinary to see them, and not just in the historic district. A restaurant scene has also emerged. You can get Thai, Italian, Indian and “gourmet” Colombian food; you couldn’t eat this well when I lived here. A growing middle class inhabits new high-rise apartment buildings and drives Hondas and Kias, a lifestyle that was just emerging when I left. Everyone has smartphones, and my grandmother is the high-tech guru of her building ever since my mom sent her a computer and taught her to use Skype. Although she only knows how to make video calls on Skype, she tells all her friends that she is an Internet expert.

But some things stay the same: The city’s peripheries are still poverty-ridden. The hundreds of thousands of tin-and-wood shacks make the mountainside look like a gigantic nativity scene at night.

Fondest memento or memory: A picture of my grandmother wearing a flirty black dress and white hat surrounded by two suitors and looking as vivacious and elegant as always.

Enter the What a Trip feature

In Colombia, herding cattle like a real llanero

In Colombia, the estate of the late drug lord Pablo Escobar is now a family theme park

Medellin, Colombia, from drug violence to tourist destination

To tell us about your own trip, go to and fill out the What a Trip form with your fondest memories, finest moments and favorite photos.