Sep 8th, 2008
The Flickr set for this post is here. It has a bunch of pictures in it and is probably worth your time.
A Month in Colombia
Today is my one month anniversary of being in Colombia. I love Medellin. People are consistently welcoming, nice, and helpful. Going out in the evenings (or anytime, really) inevitably leads to fun interactions with new people. The climate is perfect.
My time here is passed exploring the city, meeting up with people I’ve met, and outings on the town in the evening. It’s really fun.
The one thing I’m missing at this point is something more to do with my time. Pretending to be a doctor in Peru was awesome. I’d like to come up with something along these lines to be doing here as well.
For example, I have an idea that I’d like to pretend to be a reporter for Rolling Stone when I go to Dark Blood Fest and get interviews with Colombian death metal fans. Mark (Beck) would be the perfect person to do this with, but, unfortunately, he leaves to go back to LA on Wednesday. He has a video camera, too, which is also a necessity. We might get together in the next two days to go run around and do interviews with people anyway.
I Could Live Here
I want to live in Colombia. I also want to live in Peru. That makes two countries visited, two places I’d like to live.
Beck (Mark, pictured right) does this. He owns an apartment here with three rooms; two of which he rents out. He comes to Colombia for a few months, then he returns to Los Angeles for a few months to see friends and family as well as work as a radio DJ, substitute teacher, and English teacher to immigrants. With the money he makes working in the States, he doesn’t have to work here.
I could see myself doing this. Or perhaps trying to find work doing compositing and motion graphics here if I could get my Spanish comprehension up to the next level. Based on conversations with people that do it, it also seems fairly easy to work for a school. Something to keep in mind for the future.
What will happen when I can’t talk to the people?
What I’m really interested to see, though, is how my trip experience will change when I don’t speak the local language. For example, right now if I want to ask people questions, directions, how much something costs, or have more complex conversations, I can. I can share the day with someone who speaks no English and have a good time. I am not confined to talking to the English-speakers at the hostels. My experiences traveling thus far have gone beyond surface level and touristy.
However, what will happen when I’m in Brazil and don’t speak Portuguese? What about Turkey, Lithuania, or Cambodia?
I get the sense that I might be less inclined to stick around so long in one place. Or perhaps I’ll spend more of my time trying to learn the local language? Will things be more confusing or frustrating? Time will tell. What i do know right now is that the ability to speak Spanish makes this place really fun. It’s obvious that the experience wouldn’t be nearly as cool otherwise.
Tidbits and People from around Town
As an example of how speaking Spanish makes this “cool,” here are some noteworthy things I’ve been up to and people I’ve met. None of this would have gone down as well without the ability to talk to people.
I met the son of Juan Valdez at a party at Mark’s apartment. I only have one blurry picture of him, but he was there. Nice guy. His wife stopped me saying, “Wait a second, I have to translate your story to Spanish for him.” I said, “Oh, no problem,” and just re-told the story in Spanish. Also in attendance at the party were a bunch of English teachers from the AEFIT University here.
After this, Mark and I went to Parque Poblado where I ended up getting welcomed in a to big group sitting around a table. We walked over to another park after this. There are a bunch of pictures of this on the Flickr set for this post. Really fun group – three of the girls are pictured to the right.
I have also gone on a couple of tours around the town with friends I’ve met here. Ana, who works at an employment agency, took me to her hood up the Metrocable. The Metrocable is a cablecar extension of the regular train Metro line that goes up the mountain. There are two of them. It’s quite an easy and beautiful way to see the city.
From there, we continued on to a park in the middle of the city called “El Parque de los Pies Descanzos,” which means, more or less, “Barefoot Park.” There are little pools you can sit around next two with your shoes off and stick your feet in and relax. Good scene. That’s me and Ana in the park.
The next day I got together with my friend Luisa (pictured left), who I met with the group from Parque Poblado to have another walk around. Luisa is a fashion design student. We walked around her part of town, then hopped on the Metro and passed time at a mall and wrote on a wall (wall-writing pictured below). Girls here seem to love going to malls. Then we took the other Metrocable at night up for another spectacular view of the city before she needed to get home.
On the way back down, two little old ladies got in the cablecar with us. A younger woman was scared of the Metrocable (it’s pretty high up) and used a cuss word at some point. This prompted laughter from everyone in the car and confusion from me. The best part, though, was when the little old ladies continued on to teach the gringo a few cuss words in Spanish: “hijueputa” and “malparido.” According to the ladies, “Malparido” is the worst thing you can say to a Colombian. Instant laughter amongst everyone ensued when I repeated the words back. I love a place where grandmas get a kick out of teaching foreigners to swear in the language.
On the next train, I sat next to a little kid that playing some “get the ball on a string to land on the end of the stick” game. I very unsuccessfully tried the game. We continued on with this group on the next train and by the end of it, everyone around was laughing at/with me and the dad gifted me the kid’s game. I tried not to take it but Luisa insisted I should.
Last week, Brent and I went out to a different part of town called Envigado to walk around. We only went to one bar and a pool hall. After leaving the bar to go to the pool hall, a table of girls sent a bum after us to tell us that they wanted to talk to us back at the bar. We went back and shared some rum with them.
Next, over at the pool hall, we were mobbed by drunk old men who all wanted to talk to us at the same time. We stood there for one minute before I asked how to play the weird, pocketless pool game they were playing. This lead to a deluge of people talking to us. All old guys. All at once. All in Spanish, and all drunk. There was only one guy that actually seemed aggressive towards us.
It was surprising because he looked and dressed pretty much like Mr. Rogers. His breath stunk like he’d already puked once that night while he yelled incomprehensibly in my face. “What? What?” I would say after almost everything he yelled to me. I’m not sure what Drunk Mr. Roger’s grievance was specifically, but I think he was mad that another group of men stole us away from him.
Drunk Mr. Rogers aside, it’s hard to believe how kind everyone is here. They’re outgoing, fun, and super-welcoming to me as a foreigner.
Thanks, Colombia. Guarantee I’m coming back some day.
My Apartment in Medellin:
For the curious, here’s a a quick video walk-around of where I’m living in Medellin:
Again, here’s your Flickr set.