the risk of wanting to stay
Okay, I had to steal the official slogan from the Colombia tourism department “Colombia – the only risk is wanting to stay”. This is how I feel right now and if I had not bought my ticket, I might have been tempted to make Colombia my home for the next couple of years…………though I would have problems choosing between my two favorite cities -Cali and Medellin!!!!
My 4 month stay has unfortunately come to an end, I leave to begin my Central America adventure for the next 6 months. Colombia has been great and I’m very glad I choose this country……Below are the things that gave me sooooooo much joy and others that irritated me severely…
The Joyful Memories………….
Medellin: I picked this city to start in because I thought it will allow me to settle in easily than the capital and I’m so glad with the decision. My first impression was like -wow, this is just like the States, very developed and modern. The water is even safe to drink and I drank directly from the tap for the first time ever (I always bought bottled water in Houston), the transportation system (Metro, Taxi & Bus) is well organized and efficient, there is always something to do and the night life is awesome. Medellin is also very environmental friendly – there are recycling bin & trash cans almost everywhere in the city, plus the city is close to some of the best get away spots like Guatape, Santa Fe, Manizales & others. Make sure you ride the metro cable at the Acevedo station. What more can you ask for in a city? Medellin has it all!!
Universidad EAFIT:I was not sure about this decision but very grateful I decided to take Spanish lessons in a university setting instead of somewhere else. This experience has made it possible for me to participate in the Colombia culture, have Colombia friends and much more. The program is so organized and the coordinator -Juan Fernando is so cute and helpful, if you have questions about anything -just ask him & it will be solved. Also with the Spanish program, you can sit in two undergraduate classes to help with your listening skills, be pair up with a conservation partner, get help with DAS, get help with choosing home stay & other accommodation options and meet real Colombians.
Food & Jugos/Juice: SanChoco is the best meal in my opinion and jugo de Mora (blackberry), de Maracuya (passion fruit), de Lulo, de Tomate (different from the normal ones, these are special breed) and many more are available and they are fresh too. Usually the tipical foods consist of rice, beans, salad and meat/pork/chicken. Also Coca cola Colombiana is great.
Host family & Friends: I stayed with two great family while in Medellin, if you are interested in home stay program, contact me and I can forward you any of the two families. Awesome friends both gringos and locals, am glad to have met them. My Colombian friends made it possible for me to appreciate the culture.
Arepa: a staple in Colombia especially common in Medellin however I hated it with a passion. You might like it, so please try it before you make your decision. In Cartagena, they are fatter and have eggs, cheese and meat inside.
Plastic Surgery: OMG, this is like the fashion trend in this country. Okay, it seems like a huge percentage of females has a fake boob and a lot has undergone nose job. I was told by a Colombian friend that girls get that silicone breast while in high school – now for me, that’s plain disgusting.
Now I’m off to Panama and beginning Central America……wish me luck………..
Chévere is another slang word for cool in Colombia.
So I didn’t blog last week, I was so busy trying to finish up my Statement of Purpose & other supplementary essays for Graduate school – Guess what, I finished all the 14 essays on Wednesday. This week has been a productive one. We are learning how to express emotions, opinions, suggest this, recommend things and health issues in my Spanish class. There was a Health Fair on campus this week, we went as a class, I did an eye exam, paps smear and breast cancer exam -all for free, is that not awesome? We also watched a documentary about conflict & violence in neighborhoods in Colombia – the title is ‘La Sierra’. It’s very interesting and educating – I recommend you all watch it, its subtitle in English and you can find it on YouTube -just type La Sierra in the search button.
Colombia just like any Latin America countries eats a lot of eggs & cheese and drink chocolate a lot. In Central America, the staple food is tortillas but here it’s AREPAs -and I hate it so much. They also eat a lot of pork, fruits, soups, rice, mushrooms and salads.
Breakfast and dinner is always very light and lunch is always the biggest food of the day. Since I’m very picky about the food I eat -I always end up either not eating much or forcing myself to eat the food. There are some things I don’t eat at all like mushrooms, cheese and broccoli. Meat, pork and soups – I avoid eating them. So far I have lost about 4 pounds since I have been here, a combination of not eating and walking a lot. For lunch at the university’s cafeteria – I usually buy Thai food or chicken sandwich; sometimes I buy the day’s menu depending on what they are serving. I always drink Jugo de Mora (grape juice) – that’s my favorite drink. The lunch cost about 8,000 pesos which is like USD$4 – isn’t that cheap? The ice-cream here is good – my favorites are chocolate, arequipa and vanilla.
Scary Lexie: ever since I met this girl, she’s always talking about how she wants to go on a roller-coaster – you would think she is not scared of flights and likes adventures. On Saturday, after belly dancing class we went to ride the metro cable. They are small ‘cable trains’ that lets us see the city from above. Anyways, Lexie was so scared, she screamed, claimed she was going to be sick, her color even changed -she became so pale like she just saw a ghost. The funny thing was that there was a little girl about 4 years old in the metro cable with us and she was very calm. After that we went shopping in an outlet and I bought this really cute purple top which I paid with my VISA – I suggest next time I leave my Visa & MasterCard at home so I’m not tempted to use it. We went out Saturday night – first to club Sam Pues, where they wouldn’t let Juan David in because he was 17, the music was great but we left about 12.30midnight to another one -B Lounge- because a lot of students at EAFIT were there, it was super fun as well.
The next day, I stayed in, woke up at 11.30am, took a shower, had breakfast and went back to sleep till 6pm.
So I have been in Colombia – in the city of external spring (Medellin) – for 3 weeks now. Colombia is the first stop on my one year travel across Latin America. Before coming here, I assumed the country was going to be similar to Guatemala. Boy, was I wrong! The city am in -Medellin- is way more developed than Xela (the city I stayed in Guatemala) – it can easily be compared to the states. The water is safe to drink, the transportation system is very easy to navigate and is hard to pin point who is a tourist and who is not.
Well, when I arrived on the 14th of August, I stayed in this very cool hostel – it’s my first time staying in a hostel. The hostel is called -Hostal Tamarindo – I shared a room with 9 other strangers, the room had its own bathroom and a patio. The hostel had its own kitchen (to cook your meals), a reading room, a TV room and another patio downstairs. The owner – a Colombian-American is very cool, nice and helpful with information, plus the hostel is only 5 mins walk to Parque Lleras (the IT place for young people) in Zona Rosa area.
Also I started Spanish class at a university here a week after I arrived – Universidad EAFIT- this school has a very good reputation especially with its language program and International Business program. By the way, I’m in level 4 (they use the common European framework -so level 4 is the last level in the beginner’s stage). The teacher is good and speaks only Spanish in class – which is great I suppose. With the Spanish program, we get to sit in two undergraduate classes to help with listening skills, have a conversation partner and do sports if you want. Anyways, I tried ‘tae kwan do’ and decided it’s not for me. I like the geopolitical class I sit in, I understand most of what the professor teaches – last Wednesday, they were talking about Fukuyama, Kissinger and economic routes.
So the first friend I met is Lexie, she is from Scotland – we met at the university when I went to take a placement exam. Together we met Steve (from Austin) and others frds. These other frds are Colombians -they are very nice, cool and fun (I know that because we hung out with them this past weekend). They also speak English and 98% of them lived in the USA at some point in their lives.