WorldTeach volunteer, Kate Bailey, gives a list of ten things she has fallen in love with in Colombia so far! From endearing nicknames to delicious treats you see the small things in everyday life that only living in the vibrant culture of Colombia can bring you! Read Kate's whole post below to find out more!
10. The weather. So I hail from New England. I'd consider myself immune to the constant changes within a single day, wearing layers, and always talking about how the weatherman got it wrong. But Colombians, especially Bogotanos, bring this weather talk to a whole new level. Bogota varies between about 50 and 75 degrees. Not a huge gap considering the actual seasons New England has. But when it's under 65 it's, "QUE FRIO!" The best part is not only what Bogotanos say about their own city, but more importantly what they say about surrounding places. Apparently they all think they are weather experts because when you say you are visiting a new place, the first response is the weather and what you should wear. When I went to Villa de Leyva everyone warned me it would be freezing... It's a desert. There are literally cacti on the side of the road. This is not cold, Colombia, but your idea of weather is endearing.
9. Speaking of weather, The biodiversity in Colombia is truly remarkable. I read in the guidebooks before coming that Colombia is one of the most bio-diverse countries on Earth. Thank you Amazon, Pacific and Atlantic Coasts, the Andes mountains, plains, and deserts. That beauty is really starting to show the more I travel. Our Earth is a remarkable place and Colombia has so much natural beauty to offer.
8. Bag culture. No, I'm talking about styles or brands. There's specific gestures and mannerisms that comes with bags here that we do not have in the USA. First, it is very common for men to carry bags. Yea, murses or whatever you want to call it. But heck, they are practical and everyone is doing it. Also, it's common for men to carry their girlfriends bag for them. The final thing I find so interesting is when the Transmilenio buses are super crowded (always) people sitting down will offer to hold your bags for you. It's common practice for whatever you are holding. I don't think this would fly in the US where we are so protective and have a serious sense of privacy, but here it's totally normal.
7. All things 80s. The decade of my birth is back and as great as ever here in Colombia. Scrunchies, flippy, crazy hair, punk styles, and especially the music. I cannot tell you how many times I've been in a bar here and heard the likings of Wham! or David Bowie. I dig it.
6. So much food. I can't list all of the food I love here, but here's what the beginning would look like... Arepas, Bon Ice, Jugos, plantains, all fruits, all veggies, bread, chocolate bread, the cupcake lady, Usaquen street vendors, street corn... you get the idea. And get this folks, it's a veggie friendly place. No problems here being a weirdo vegetarian chick.
5. The national anthem. It plays on every radio station each day at 6am and 6pm. It's catchy, though the words are totally flamboyant and over the top. And I'm not sure if I approve of the Christopher Colombus shout out, but I've learned nearly all the words already. Hopefully I learn more vocabulary and don't start talking like a Spanish conquistador.
4. The Nose Wrinkle! And the head nod for that matter. This is really better demonstrated, but you really don't notice subtle body language until you are surrounded by a new culture for a significant amount of time. Instead of a "huh?" or eyebrow wrinkle, Colombians wrinkle their nose. And instead of waving someone to come over, they nod their head once. Think I Dream of Jeanie without the hand motions. It's great fun to adopt these new mannerisms and have a little secret code with your American friends here.
3. Nicknames. Colombians are SO into them. Muñeca (meaning doll) is my host mom's favorite for me. But everyone calls everyone the Colombian versions of my love, my life, little girl, little boy, my heart, little fatty, etc. Then they add -ita or -ito to the ends of nearly every word. Its a cultural way to soften words and sound sweeter I guess. So sometimes I get Kate-cita, and I'm totally ok with it.
2. Affection. I know I may be the lone American that appreciates Colombian affection (most often publicly). Sure sometimes they get carried away, but its so different from the US and I fit in much better with my fellow huggers and kissers (on the cheek) here. It's across genders too, girls hold hands, boys sit on other boys laps, and its all just signs of love and affection. Cariño or caring is what they would call it.
1. Teenagers. No, you didn't read wrong. I actually said I love teenagers. My students are between the ages of 13 and 16. Smack dab in one of the most awkward and hormonal times in life. And in many ways, Colombian teens aren't that much different than their American neighbors. But they're a little bit softer here (beneath the mohawks, heavy makeup, and leather jackets). They have more affection for each other and respectful closeness with their teachers. I've gotten to know a lot of my students well at this point, and I enjoy teaching and learning from them. I can't imagine being with any other group of kids here.
To be continued...
What little things would you fall in love with if you were to volunteer abroad? If you're interested in teaching in Colombia or one of our several other programs, check out more information at www.worldteach.org!