I have been on hiatus from this blog because I went back to Colombia for vacation. Colombia is a country in which I’ve spent a lot of time in in the past few years, since living there from 2008-2010, and disconnected completely from technology. My smartphone (poor neglected thing) lay buried under dirty laundry at the bottom of my backpack and I removed my watch for the next few weeks, relying on the kindness of neighbours to tell me what time it was, when it mattered enough to ask.
Each time I venture across the Western Hemisphere to return to Colombia, it feels like trying a favourite dish in new ways; the past 11 months of life experience bring out certain flavours that I never noticed before and that add an exquisite richness to the palate of cultural experience. The more times I go, the more it feels like home, as if the culture has nuzzled its way into a part of me and I can never consider myself simply a “Canadian” again. Here are some of the experiences I had that, I believe, can only be found in this loving South American nation.
You know you’re in Colombia when…
… Pilots on national flights can’t take off or land their planes without the entire economy class erupting into enthusiastic applause.
… As soon as the seatbelt sign is turned off, 5 rows of economy class morphs into an elaborate poker ring, which ends in a fiery discussion about who is owed what, eventually settled by one of the flight attendants.
… You watch a muscle man being lotioned up by his boyfriend at the beach. Seeing the couple later, fully clothed, reveals that the “boyfriend” just happens to be a priest… who apparently cares a lot about sun safety.
… The absence of someone trying to sell you something on the beach feels odd and makes you feel strangely lonely.
… You ask the price for the night at a hostel recommended by friend and are immediately shooed out the door, where you “can find something cheaper around the corner.”
… The stray dogs have jobs as lifeguards.
… A pedestrian cross-walk can easily be converted to a parking spot at the ready.
… The eggs you buy at the supermarket are still covered in hay and dirt (and are the best eggs you’ve ever tasted!).
… You find a green worms in the store-bought lettuce, which means that, for now at least, lettuce-eating worms are still safe from Monsanto’s sticky fingers.
… No one has heard of the terms “grass-fed” beef and “grass-fed” butter. They’re just “beef” and “butter” (after all, what else would cows eat?).
… A comment about the artwork at a local cafe quickly turns into a full-out tour where the owner is called over to give you a detailed explanation about all of the decorations he’s chosen and designed, including an elaborate coin collection, a superstitious painting and this rhyme:
… When a soccer game, for qualification to the 2014 World Cup ends in a 3-3 tie (of which 2 of the goals Colombia scored were penalties), the entire country forgets about strikes, free trade fiascos and civil war, and erupts into a chaotic night-long party, complete with kids running in the street, chucking flour at cars. (Imagine actually winning.)
… Where every group event is never complete without a middle-aged man from Bogotá cracking jokes that no one understands with his booming voice.
… When driving, you get cut off by this family:
… Encountering toilet paper in a public wash room is cause for celebration.
… You ask for directions while travelling around the countryside and immediately get invited to the party in the town square.
… Not a day goes by in 2 weeks where you don’t drink rum… or aguardiente.
… You quickly turn into an “export-quality” coffee snob… and drink 3 of them a day… black, of course.
… No one needs clarification about what natural medicine is. Acupuncture? Herbs? Fruits and their medicinal properties? That’s just called medicine.
… 15+ people show up, after a last-minute invite, for sangria and a good-bye party for someone they hardly know… on a Wednesday night… in the rain.
… After spending 2 weeks in Colombia, you’re already making plans to return.
Colombia, you should go!