Medellín: My Beautiful New Home

I love this city. The People. The Weather. The Location. The Food.

It’s the capital of Antioquia and about 3 million people. The colorful neighborhoods, bustling city streets, and savory and sweet foods make this a paradise to explore and adventure. The city is situated in a valley and is completely surrounded by towering green mountains. The city lights up at night when the villages in the mountains illuminate the surrounding landscape. By 6pm music starts playing in the discotecas and bars, flooding the streets with Salsa and Reggaeton.

Inside the city are countless parks, Parque de los Deseos, de los pies descalzos, Berrio. All of which have their own different mix of markets, people, and speed of life. Walking downtown to work on La Playa is always an adventure with the numerous stands of fruits, DVDs, electronics, books, and clothing. People strolling in and out while you’re surrounded by empanada and panzerotti tiendas, flower shops, palm trees, and textile factories.

Exploring the city is even easier with the metro, the only one in Colombia. It’s fast and reliable; and always completely filled. Every hour is rush hour and as the door beeps to close, people sidetackle you further back into people. I can’t say it’s enjoyable, but it’s an experience. And like I’ve said before busses are scary, but they’re getting better. Aside from getting stuck in a taco for an hour and a half on my way to work, I much prefer the busses. Finally, taxi’s are incredibly cheap. The furthest I’ve gone has only cost 12.000 COP, about $6 USD and that’s after 20mn.

And of course, the nightlife is great. 3 prime locations include: Parque Lleras, Barrio Colombia, and 33 Avenida. They vary from place to place, but the music is always reggaeton, salsa, or vallenato; with a little international mixed in like Rihanna or Pitbull. And Colombians LOVE to dance, and never get tired. It’s always a good time.

Excited to further explore this weekend, possibly starting with Parque Explora: a massive aquarium, museum, planetarium, and one of the best technology centers in South America.

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The Language Barrier

So it seems my 6 or so years of High School and University spanish hasn’t really prepared me for actual conversation in foreign country. I still can read and write excellent, but speaking and listening is a totally different being altogether. Coming to Colombia I thought people spoke really clearly and annunciated well. Well, some. For the others, its like a train wreck in my mind, I miss one word and I’m out of the game. I’ve gotten better at listening, but it takes so much concentration and effort. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been asked a question and just nodded and smile as they waited for my response. I’m deciding to put everything I speak into the present, ir a form, or imperfect, and that’s treated me pretty well so far. But, for describing things, forget about it! Take for example last week, I accidentally got ahold of the wrong set of keys for my apartment. They weren’t wrong exactly, but I just didn’t know how to use them. So, as I return back home, I spend 10mn trying to jam this unknown key into the front door of the building. Finally, two women come down to help me out. I’m trying to say, “mi llave no funciona” but they kept replying in undistinguishable sentences and so I therefore basically walked with them to my apartment door and kept saying, “gracias, chao.” But the 1-person conversation continued and continued. When in doubt smile and nod.

Another example? I made pancakes this morning. As I read the Spanish directions I ask someone for a taza (cup) for measuring, but I was given a bowl. I ended up measuring the mix with a spoon, and kept adding things so it looked better. Ehh, they were alright actually. I say job well done this time. Even though I spilled the mix on the counter and forget how to say towel in Spanish. Yeah, that wasn’t a fun part.

Buses in Medellín

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How I feel riding the bus some days

We’re not in the US anymore. The busses continue to amaze me everyday. I’d say it’s like a video game swerving through motorcycles, people, and various forms of transportation. But, that sounds too fun. The first day that I rode the bus with my then roommate, Mayi I was shocked to find out that the door of the bus stayed open while I attempted to salvage through foreign bills of Colombian pesos. I desperately cling onto the railing trying not to fall out the door into my ultimate death but thankfully I make it in time to find a rocky seat. For about a week I’ve avoided taking it again at all costs, but since the metro is dangerous at night, I had little choice but to become accustomed to the ways. Each time I am still staring out the window looking for an familiar point, I’m not sure what I would do if I got off at the wrong stop, because even if I got off at an extra block, I’d be done for, if you told me I was in a different part of the city I’d believe you. I’m getting better I swear. Even though it is a 40mn ride to work everyday, the view is relaxing with the mountains and the river. But, today I had to ride it again and I basically got a foot of air going over the several speed bumps, note of advice, don’t ever sit in the back of the bus. And don’t fall out. That is all.

Everyone’s Staring at Me

Random Man Staring at Me

So this could be obvious to a lot, but I never realized that so many people would be staring at me. I mean, I’m going to assume it’s because I’m tall, white, and have light hair and eyes, but it could be how I walk, dress, and speak. But everywhere I go, it’s people who stop in their tracks to take a look at the extranjero. Take for example last night, I was starving for some delicious Panzarotti, so while we were at the National University we took a stroll to the school’s cafeteria, two groups of tables with about 8 people just stopped talking and took a moment to marvel at me. I mean it makes me feel special, but it’s a bit awkward because it happens so often, whether it be the metro or on the street, or where I work. The other day I was practicing my Paisa walking to look less foreign, because I mean this will be my home for the next three months. I was with one other American and a Colombian but their help was of little to no avail . And since then, no one’s agreed with me that I can pass as a local. But! I try harder everyday, and one day I will fulfill my Paisa dream of blending in, until then I have much practicing to do.

The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique.
– Walt Disney