You Know You’re in Colombia When…

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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.

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… 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.

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… 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!).

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… 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: 

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… 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:

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… 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.

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… 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!

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6 thoughts on “You Know You’re in Colombia When…

  1. The young Columbian woman who has recently started helping us keep our house clean is one of the healthiest, happiest, positive thinking and cheerful people I have ever met. Meeting her has made us think about visiting her country; your blog entry clinches it. We’ll try to go! Meanwhile, I’ll try your salsa recipe.

  2. Hi Talia,

    I enjoyed this post so much. I’ve been dreaming about visiting Columbia (instead of studying for the NPLEx actually) so I really need to visit this country. Can you share what steps you took to visit. Did you use a particular travel agent etc. I have visited other countries but someone else always took care of the details so, I’m researching what others did to go. I would like to visit Columbia even if I travel alone, which, by the way, you can share your opinion about if you would like. Thank you for your post too. I’m using your NPLEX 1 strategy. Can you share you’re NPLEX 2 strategy as well? That seems to be more of a mystery than NPLEX 1.

    Buenos noches, Doctora Marcheggiani! (I’m preparing for Columbia! )

    PS you can email me if the info is too long for this post as well.

    1. Hi, Iris, thanks for commenting! I went with a student work exchange program called AIESEC and while there worked for 2 years. Colombia is much safer to travel these days, especially for women. Email me (via contacts page) and I’ll give you some ideas about where to go. But, as always, lonely planet is a great place to start!
      – Talia

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