medellin, colombia - anonymous' thoughts after months there in their 30s

posted by anonymous on 11/26/13.

2

How much time have you spent in Colombia?

3 months.

How old were you when you came to Colombia? Where were you before?

34 - it was this past year. I was in a small mountain village in Ecuador before, again for 3 months - I was trying out what people are starting to call "slow travel" - living for around 3 months at a time in various places.

What brought you to Colombia? What made you choose Colombia over any other place you could've gone?

When I was living in China I new a lot of people who were either South American or had visited SA. When they found out that I was going to be traveling there, almost all of them suggested Colombia, which honestly surprised me because I still had that mentality that it was a very dangerous place. I do not regret it at all.

Describe the city you lived in in Colombia and your impressions of it.

I lived in Medellin, formerly dubbed "the most dangerous city in the world" - They've largely gotten over that, but they are definitely still burdened by it in terms of international travel, but I think, judging from the number of articles published this year on how it's a great place to go, they're working on that.

How does the city you lived in compare to other cities in Colombia? What drew you to the city you lived in over other cities in Colombia?

There is a sense of newness and vibrancy to the place that's very difficult to find anywhere.

What are the people of Colombia like? In what ways are they different than people in other places you've lived?

They are incredibly friendly - it was just such a vibrant city - And it's very difficult to pin down what I mean by that - there was an energy in the air - like people were all coming together and trying to make something happen - whether it be in the tech industry or business or architecture - it didn't hurt that the weather was spectacular (it's called the City of Eternal Spring) and everyone was always outside. I lived on a residential block that was fairly local and all the families would spend all night partying for any occasion complete with salsa that spilled out onto the streets and curb side cooking. Every Sunday they closed down the main street close to where I lived, and families would be biking or walking and jogging, and every so often there'd be a big group doing Zumba to loud music.

Was making friends and meeting people in Colombia in general easy or difficult?

Making friends was easy simply due to the circumstances - I was living in shared housing - a house with 5 other roommates and a rooftop with a really nice BBQ - so we would always have people over. I also ended up renting office space, and the community there was fantastic - the owners went out of there way to introduce me to everyone - they were filled with other freelancers and startup companies - all fairly young, all very friendly - a mix between foreign and Colombian.

How did your race, nationality, gender, accent, etc. affect how you were treated or how people reacted to meeting you in Colombia? Positively? Negatively?

I never had problems with this in Colombia at all.

How did the language barrier affect you (if it all)?

Their accent (and my Spanish accent) was problematic at first in terms of communicating - the city's accent is pretty difficult to understand for me. To the point where I would be waiting for a number at the cash register and I'd have no idea what they were saying despite it being a price. It wasn't just that I didn't understand the price - I couldn't even distinguish it as a number. But it got easier and in the end I had few problems with it.

What sort of work/school did you do in Colombia? What's it like working (or studying) in Colombia compared to what it was like where you lived before?

No school, but the startup industry is huge there - there's a lot of networking events, which I've never done before.

What things were more expensive than you are used to and what things were cheaper?

Everything was cheap - great produce, great local food.

Any good stories you can think of that you haven't mentioned yet?

My friend Juan's family is big into horses - they raise them for shows and his entire family was raised riding them. He invited me to a cabalgata - basically a horse ride (perhaps parade is a better translation) for special occasions. I was under the impression it would be about 2 or 3 hours total - we'd be leaving a bar, heading to another bar, and then heading back. 20 people were coming. Simple.

Well it turned out the event was a graduation, and what I went to was the Colombian equivalent of a college kegger. About a 100 people showed up, which delayed the entire ride as more equipment had to be brought in. Guys showed up with saddles with built in speakers blaring sonorous love songs and reggaeton, people were getting hammered on Aguardiente (the local drink of choice - an anise flavored vodka-like alcohol) even before they got on the horses. We started out, and people would be drinking out of the bottles, and then stopping - the stopping made the entire ride take forever, and I thought it was to let some car by. It turns out people at the front of the line were pausing at corner stores to get more bottles of Aguardiente.

Then it started raining. Hard.

No one had brought raincoats, and people started falling off their horses - and they were still drinking. After 3 hours we ended up at the bar, where more drinking, karaoke, dancing, and grilling of food started - Some really delicious food, like chorizo and orange - not a combination I would have ever thought would go together but it did.

After several hours of that, we made our way back, which took another 2 hours.

Completely soaked, we got back to the original place - which I found out was a "cowboy bar" - it had a ramp where most nights guys would ride into the bar and make their horse high step and prance sideways and whatnot.

On the way back Juan asked me how the whole night was.

I said that it was both the most miserable and awesome experience I had in Colombia.

He gave me the thumbs up and I passed out in the back seat.

What are your favorite things about Colombia? Least favorite?

I got a chance to travel a bit - I went on a press trip to the Caribbean Coast - Bogota, Cartagena, Tolu, Taganga - and it's completely different - Cartagena feels like what I imagine Havana feels like and the national parks are fantastic - Tayrona National Park was one of the most scenic places I've ever visited - it was inside a forest, but then it would open up into a stunning beach. Then you'd walk some more and another stunning beach and another.

Colombia surprised me because I really didn't know that it had two coastlines - and Atlantic and a Pacific - which is obvious if you look at it on a map but it's not something I had consciously thought about. I just went to the Atlantic, but I heard that the Pacific is equally amazing - you can go whale watching there - but I unfortunately didn't get a chance to go.

What things about Colombia surprised you?

That it was a really livable city - I usually hate that word, because it's like "vibrant" - what exactly does that even mean? And again, like vibrant, it's hard to pin down - there's a friendliness and openness that's there - and I could very easily imagine myself living there.

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