I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas celebration wherever you are in the world!! I am still in Pasto, so I thought I would take this time to write a post about some of my reflections on my first five months in Colombia.
Remember in the 2006 movie Blood Diamond with Leonardo DiCaprio when he is trying to explain that things are different now, because after all, this is Africa? He uses the phrase the rest of the movie whenever something doesn’t happen quite as he thought it would.
Well, upon arriving in Colombia our first week Maggie & I began to say TIC: This is Colombia whenever something happened that struck us as unique or out of the ordinary for us Americans. Now, after five months in Colombia I feel I am coming to understand some of the things that make this country so strikingly unique. While some of these things I love about Colombia, others drive me absolutely crazy, but at the end of the day they have all in some way characterized my life here so far. So at this halfway point in the year here are, in my opinion, the most distinctive TICs.
- "Que pena" / "What a pain." Colombians do not apologize for anything, because everything is the result of our fates, so nothing is directly any one person's fault. Whether they bump into you in the grocery store, show up an hour late, don't show up at all, mix up your order at the restaurant....whatever, their consolation is "Que pena".
- Throw a party in Colombia and say it starts at 9? The Colombians will arrive around 11:30 and stay (literally) until the sun comes up.
- Colombians live by tiempo colombiano, Colombian time, and they are always late for everything. Their mindset is so different from that of North Americans or Europeans - they believe their are very few things worth rushing for, so if you are in a hurry you better tell them right away!
- Tiendas (stores) are for sitting around with friends and having a beer. Bars? Bars are for salsa dancing, always.
- When the salsa music changes? You listen to reggaeton, a genre I still cannot fully explain here but is basically a blend of reggae music with influences from pop, rap, salsa, meringue, etc.
- In need of help or assistance? A Colombian will not only help you with your problem but he/she will personally guide you along the process? And if they can't come? Don't worry - they are sending their son/daughter/cousin/friend/boss/acquaintance/neighbor to help you.
- More than half of all businesses are closed on Sunday and holidays. Colombians may work hard during the week but when a holiday arrives there is no way you are getting any business done.
- "Oooooy"/Whoooooooosh". Two phrases said with enthusiasm and exaggeration, mostly in my classroom, whenever students feel the need to be overly dramatic...which is basically every minute when you are a middle school student.
- What traffic laws??
- If you want to get a Colombian talking for hours on end, just say the word futbol (soccer). Since there are 18 national teams across the country, that should keep them occupied for a good half day or so.
- Despite any personal hardships, or the corrupt/drug-filled history of the country, Colombians are happy, joyful, friendly people. They accentuate this fact by saying "Muy amable" or "Very friendly" to anyone and everyone who shows them the slightest kindness, from taxi driver to the person who packs your groceries to good friends.
- Honking is a widely accepted form of communication when operating a motor vehicle.
- Family is the most important thing in the lives of Colombians. All holidays are spent at home with family, celebrating and sharing a big meal together.
- Machismo is alive and well in Colombia. Most men still reign as the dominating figure in relationships and quite sadly, cheating happens a shockingly ridiculous amount in Colombia. Getting a Colombian man to marry you and stay faithful seems like a very steep uphill battle.
- Aquardiente - a cheap aniseed-flavored liquor that is an absolute staple at any Colombian fiesta.
- Despite being world famous for their coffee, good coffee is shockingly difficult to locate in Colombia. Outside of Juan Valdez I have yet to encounter a delicious cup of coffee anywhere in Colombia - highly disappointing given my blog name and all.
- Colombian beer is weak, light, and overall pretty terrible. Colombians choose to ignore this and drink it anyway, usually asking for cerveza michelada, or beer with lime juice served in a salt-rimmed mug.