Find your Passion, and then Live it

Medellín, Colombia

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Lives, Passion, and Culture of Latinos

Want an inside look into the lives, passion and culture of Latinos? No better place to find it, than in this music video. Check it out.

"Latinoamérica" by Calle 13.

Just your average Thursday night in Medellín

Last night can be summed up into three things: empanadas, beer and motorcycles.

Last night my friend picked me up on his motorcycle and we headed to Envigado for my favourite: empanadas and beers. We sat and chatted for a bit in Parque Envigado, and then decided to head up the mountain to Las Palmas to check out the mirador (lookout) where you can see the entire city of Medellín lit up at night, it´s an incredible view.

When we arrived at Las Palmas, we were surprised to see so many people there. The side of the road was filled with cars, motorcycles and people standing. We then found out that every Thursday night people gather there to watch other people go up and down the mountain doing various tricks on their motorcycles, everything from pop wheelies, to standing on their motorcycle, and other crazy and dangerous tricks. It was very cool to see, until we saw 2 people lose their balance and fall. :S

I also tried something new last night, brace yourself it´s going to sound disgusting: hot chocolate with melted cheese in it. I know, I know, it sounds gross, I thought so too, but surprisingly it was actually pretty tastey. It´s a common drink people will have here when they get cold. As the further up the mountains you go at night, the cooler it is. So it was 25 in the city, but about 12-15 degrees in the mountains, so the hot chocolate was definitely a comforting drink to have while we were watching the motorcycles go by.

After watching people do crazy and somewhat stupid things on their motorbikes we headed back down the mountain. It was fun to be able to see the city from a different perspective, aka on a motorcyle, and it was a beautiful night to go for a ride. I havent been on a motorbike since my trip to Spain last year, so it was definitely something fun to do again!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Differences in Culture: the good, the bad and the ugly

Over the past 7 months ive started to notice a few things about the culture here in Colombia. So I thought Id make a list and comment on each "aspect" of the culture Ive been witnessing. Please note, these are personal opinions/observations, and Im not trying to generalize, just more or less comment on what I notice and experience here! :)

- Cleaniness is next to Godliness
One thing I notice is that Colombians have an obsession with cleaning. They like everything to be clean all of the time, and will clean things more than once a day. For example, at my company and within the University of EAFIT, there are a ridiculous number of cleaning staff all over the university. There are cleaning people who come and clean our bathroom atleast 3 times a day! I mean I get there are a fair number of people using the bathroom, but still, in Canada Im sure it was only once a day, maybeee twice. Here it´s a minimum three times! As well in my gym, there are a ton of cleaning staff, that will come in and wipe down all bicycles before and after each spinning class, and sweep and mop the floors after every class in the studio. Not to mention be constantly cleaning all the mats people use within the gym, as well as gym equipment. Sometimes the level of cleaniness seems excessive or almost OCD, but I´d take that any day over ppl not being clean! :)

- Mullets are a fashionable hair style
Yes it´s true, most young guys (teens, to young adults) have a mullet. It´s like you have transported yourself back into the 80/90s, and trust me, it´s not a pretty sight. Im really not sure why they think having a mullet is so cool and/or attractive, because it´s not. Infact, it makes me cringe and laugh everytime I see one, just because they all look so ridiculous. Not to mention, there are also a lot of guys here who have rat tails (another 80s hair style for people who do not know)... yuck! I was actually warned about this before coming to Colombia via my Lonely Planet tourguide book. I thought it was joking, but alas, it´s true.

- Tardiness
This is one aspect of the culture that continues to bug me on a daily basis. As a punctual person, I find it really hard at times not to get mad, or annoyed with the fact that all my friends, coworkers and roommates are always late. Whether it be the standard 15-20 min, to 30min, or even an hour. It´s something that continues to bother me, and I cannot wait to be back in Canada, where the majority of people are punctual!

- Family is SUPER important
In Colombia, and the majority of all other Latin American countries, there is nothing more important than family. Latinos place an incredibly importance on family, and honestly this is a page North America should take out of Latin Americas book! I find that North America doesnt emphasize the importance of family enough, and no where on the level that Latin America does.

- People in Medellín are slow walkers
Call it a pet peeve, or whatever, but I find here in Medellín people do not walk fast enough. Maybe its the fast paced culture Im use to in North America, but I get super annoyed when people are just casually strolling along at an incredibly slow pacae, and Im behind them trying to get somewhere.

- Business culture is much slower paced than Canada
This is something Ive mentioned before. The business culture here in Colombia and seems for the rest of Latin America, is on a whole other level, and this level is not a fast one. In Canada I think we pride ourselves in the fact that we move at a fast paced, we get things done, and it´s ingrained into our working habits to be on time, to respect deadlines, and to keep the pace going because well, "time is money". But here in Colombia, everything feels so much more casual, and therefore for me, less professional. At first it annoyed me, but now Im use to the fact that scheduled meetings often dont happen, people forget to do things, people dont answer emails in a timely manner, deadlines arent really deadlines and its ok if you dont finish on time (actually im ok with this one), and it´s completely normal to answer your cellphone (which isnt on vibrate) in the middle of an important meeting when someone is talking to you.

- One cheek kiss when you greet or say goodbye to people
Now this wasnt a huge culture shock to me, because I did it when I was in Spain. However in Spain it´s one kiss per cheek, in Colombia it´s just a one sided kiss on the cheek when you greet people or say goodbye. People even use this in the business environment with people they´ve met before, which was strange for me at first. When meeting someone for the first time, you normally shake hands, especially in a business setting. But after the first meeting, kissing is fair game. **Please note, that the one sided kiss, is used between women, and men and women, but not between men. Between men is a regular handshake or hug.

- OBSESSED with cellphones, especially Blackberries
Now I thought Canadians were cellphone fanactics, boy was I wrong. Almost everyone here has a cellphone, and Id say 80% of those people have Blackberries, which I like to kindly remind them is a Canadian invention. Colombians are constantly, and I mean constnatly attached to their phones, whether they´re walking down the street, working, AT THE GYM (this shocks me the most), at home, or in school. People are always communicating with each other via their cellphones. As just mentioned, the biggest aspect of this that shocked me is at the gym, Ive seen people answer their cellphones during a spinning class, WHILE cycling, or while doing other exercises like on a treadmill or lifting weights, it´s actually ridiculous. Like, put away your cellphone and concentrate on your workout for an hour!

- Generally, people don´t wear sunglasses
This is something that surprised me because well, Medellín is normally quite sunny, but people don´t really wear sunglasses here! No, they prefer, it seems, to squint all the time in the sunny climate of Medellín. I personally love to wear sunglasses, and prefer not to squint while outside, but here when I wear sunglasses I feel almost awkward, and definitely easier to spot as a foreigner. :( Now Im not sure why people dont really wear sunglasses, but I guess it´s just apart of their culture not to.

- How to spot a gringo: shorts, flip flops
So Ive learned how to easily spot someone who is not from South America.... aka North Americans.... aka "Gringos". (Note: apparently Gringo is a word for Americans, and Canadians do not fall into this category. Woo! However for this example I will generalize and use the word Gringo to refer to all North Americans). When I got to Colombia, and specifically Medellín for me it´s just like a Canadian summer (minus the humidity), therefore my instinct is to break out my capris, sunglasses and flip flops, however this is a no-no for Colombians, because they dont wear things like this. The majority of people will wear jeans, and regular pants in 30 degree weather, personally I cant do it, I need something cooler to wear. I also love wearing my flip flops all the time because they´re such comfy shoes, and I only get to wear them for a maximum time of 3 months in Canada, however in Medellín, 12 months of the year baby! This is something Colombians dont wear either, is flip flops. Yes they wear sandals, and other summery footwear, but flip flops generally no, unless youre in a beachy area. So now that Ive learned this, and I see "Gringos" it makes me laugh, because I can see how easy they are to spot. Now depending on where Im going, I will dress differently, meaning I will wear flats, and maybe pants (Depending on how hot it is), just to blend in more, and not be such an obvious foreigner.

So there it is. Things ive noticed over the past 7 months. Differences in culture, it what makes travelling so fun, because for me the point of travelling is experiencing something you wouldnt normally experience in your country, and experiencing new cultures, and how they differ from yours! Another pet peeve of mine, is when people go abroad and expect everything to be the same, and when it´s not, they complain. If you want everything to be the same, then dont travel and stay in your respected country. Now granted, I know Ive done my share of complaining, or being annoyed with different aspects of the culture, but Ive also adjusted to them, and learned to just deal with it, because it´s my life here. That´s the beauty of travelling, experiencing something completely new, and living differently.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

1st Haircut outside of Canada

So Ive officially been here for 7 months, and my hair was starting to get pretty "ratty" as my mom likes to refer to it, meaning the ends of my hair were becoming unhealthy, and I was seriously due for at least a trim. So my roommate has this woman come to our apt about once every 2 -3 weeks to normally dry and straighten her hair, and also sometimes cut it. So the last time she was here, I asked her if she would be able to cut, and colour my hair, she of course said yes. So one Saturday recently she came over, I remained in my pjs, and she got started on my hair.

I recently and randomly decided that it was time for a change, and I didnt want to have dark hair anymore, and go back to my more natural hair colour, which is a sort of dirty blonde. I was super blonde as a child, then progressed to just a simple dirty blonde as I got older. ANYWAYS. So the basis of the story is that I was able to get my hair cut and coloured all in the comfort of my home! Here are some pics of the process:

So the final cost to have my hair cut, coloured and highlighted all in the comfort of my apt? $60.000 pesos, which is about $30. Aka ridiculously cheap! Definitely a huge difference as to what I would pay in Canada! And the final result? ... check it out!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Día del Amor y la Amistad (Colombia´s Valentine´s Day)

Not everywhere in the world celebrates the infamous Feb 14th day of "love" like we do in North America. Last year in Spain I learned that April 23rd is the Spanish equivalent of Valentine´s Day, known as St. George day, and now ive learned the Colombian equvialent:

On the 3rd Saturday of September, Colombians celebrate "El Día del Amor y la Amistad" (The Day of Love and Friendship). During the month of September before the 3rd Saturday of the month, many Colombians take part in a tradition which is similar to what we do in December for Secret Santa, but is called "Amigo Secreto" (Secret Friend). Basically you get a group of friends, coworkers, or family memebrs and have each person choose a piece of paper from a hat which has another´s person´s name written on it. This is their secret friend for the month, where each day or week they will give them a small treat (normally is candy, chocolate, food or flowers) until the actual "day of love and friendship" where they are normally presented with a small gift. This whole time the person receiving these little gift, they have no idea who is sending them, and on the day of "amor y amistad" they have to try and guess who their "secret friend" is.

So this a tradition that Ive seen observed between my group of friends here (which ive taken part in), as well at my workplace. I almost like it better than Valentine´s Day in North America, because it focuses more on the "Friendship" aspect, than the "Love" aspect. It´s all about appreciating who you have in your life, and is way less of a Halmark holiday than in North America. :)

Quick life update

Hello blogging world. Ive been lacking a bit on blog posts for about a month, oops, but i promise to get back into the swing of things again.

The month of September hasnt been overly exciting, as I havent travelled anywhere due to the fact that there are no festivo days (long weekends) in the month of September. However my life between Oct - Jan will be filled with excitement and travel.

In October Ill be travelling to the beautiful city of Cartagena with my friend Leo. We´ll be going during the festivo long weekend in the middle of the month, and be staying for about 4 days.

First of all November is going to be a kick @$$ month for 3 reasons: 2 long weekends in the month, a visit from a very special friend, and a trip! At the beginning of November (during the 1st long weekend of the month) my best friend Lauren will be coming to visit me in Medellín!! Im very excited to see her, as this is the longest we´ve ever gone without seeing each other. Im also excited to show her around the city, and some places just outside of Medellín. Then during the 2nd long weekend of the month Ill be heading back to the caribbean coast with Leo and my friend Sara to visit Santa Marta. A popular beach destination especially for Colombians, since it´s pretty cheap (Cartagena is not).

Then comes the best month of all for me here: December. December is going to be an amazing month for a few reasons:

1. Christmas celebrations in Medellín are incredible. The city decorates itself with thousands of colourful lights, especially along the river, where the entire city is lit up during the month of December and a part of January.

2. I get a month off (paid) from work. booya. Ill be off work from the 17 of Dec and til the 10th of January. This is due to Christmas vacation, and since I work within the university, the university is closed during this time, and we are unable to work (what a shame... haha).

3. San Andrés & Seeing my mom. During my month off in December/January Ill be spending 2 weeks on a Colombian island with my mom! My mom is going to fly down and meet me in San Andrés, so this will be her first time in South America as well as in Colombia!

And finally, as of yesterday I know the date when Im coming back to Canada! Ill be flying back on the 9th of February 2012, and since it´s an overnight flight, ill be back on Canadian soil on the 10th!

So that´s it for now, a quick life update of whats to come over the next couple of months!