10 New Ways to Say Hello

Kenny Short and Nick Mikolenko describe how they and their teammates are commonly greeted in Barranquilla, Colombia.

Here is Adonis, the local fruit and smoothie vendor, standing proudly in front of his stand.

Top 10 things said or yelled to a WorldTeach Colombia volunteer on their walk to and from school:

1) ´Profe, Profe, Profe´ Yelled by one of the students of our school, whether we know them personally or not, as they walk to school, one hand waving furiously, the other holding the hand of their smiling mother or father.

2) ´Gringo´ Said and yelled, it is the obligatory, ubiquitous and unavoidable Latin American characterization for all things estadounidense. In Colombia and particularly in our neighborhood it is generally said with all the good intentions and wonder of a young child upon first meeting Santa Claus. Other times it is stated in passing as flatly as a fact, as in ´That is a tree´, ´Those are cars´ and ´You are a gringo´.

3) ´Hi, friend´ Said to me as I pass by the man with the grease-monkey hands and the bear-like build who fixes motorcycles and sells fruit under the shade of his one acacia tree in front of his modest, pink house.

4) ´MangoGuineoPatiaPapayaZanhoria...´ Yelled through a megaphone at rapid fire speed so that it sounds like one incredibly long Spanish word to the untrained ear. The megaphone hangs from a covered, wooden cart pulled by a sad, sweating donkey, which serve as a mobile produce stand. Generally, two teenage boys take turns advertising their stock as they ride in the shade of the cart with their flip-flopped feet dangling near to the ground.

5) ´¿Como le ha ido?´ A traditional Colombian greeting roughly translating to ¨How´s it been for you?¨ Said to me by Adonis, the local fruit, smoothie and patacón relleno street vendor, always with a brilliant smile, always wearing his traditional Costeño sombrero volteado, and always ready with a tuti-fruti drink for the next, overheated bus driver who passes by.

6) ´Good morning, how are you?´ Usually yelled by a gregarious, over-achieving student at around 3 in the afternoon as you pass the student sitting in the shade of his or her front porch. Forgetting the temporal greeting mistake, you yell back ¨Fine, thanks¨ and it is true, as you well up with pride for a second at the sounds of English being spoken in a previously Spanish-only community.

7) ´Subate´ or ¨Get on¨ in English. Said by a moto driver as he lifts the visor of his scratched helmet and gestures to the worn back seat of his bike. Occasionally, we are obliged to refuse the offer of a free ride from an unknown moto who happens to be the father of a student. Occasionally, we are obliged to take them up on the offer.

8) ´I went to US 15 years´ Said by Antonio, the local arepa street vendor, before starting in on his life story or offering you a sample of his arepas despite your repeated admissions of not caring for them personally, but thanks anyway.

9) ´Hey white girl, put on a hat´ Said in English to one of our particularly fairer-skinned, female volunteers by a local neighbor as we sweat and squint our way to school in the early morning Caribbean sun. It is a good-natured reminder of our ´gringo-ness´ and how a freckled blond can burn in the Barranquilla sun even at 8 in the morning.

10) ´Thank you, Beautiful´ Said usually in passing by a male moto driver to a female volunteer. It is occasionally accompanied by a honk, and it is generally benign and culturally accepted.

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