Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Third Month In Colombia

Our third month. My brother congratulated us by letting us know that we are 1/12 of the way through this assignment. So, we celebrate today with our first "term month" completed in Colombia. It feels like eternity.

This month, we wanted a home-made cake, and since we have an MCC friend who is also an accomplished baker, we asked them to come celebrate this "term month" with us.

Here are some things that we have learned this month about Colombia.

When scripture is read here, there is a strong sense of reverence. People use scripture AS prayer.

We have already stated that greetings and salutations are so important here in Colombia. In the morning you say "Buenos dias," the afternoon "Buenas tardes" and the evening "Buenas noches." There is not a clear steadfast rule about when you change from one to another. What is interesting is that often the second word is simply dropped, so whenever you see anyone (whether you know them or not) you just say "buenas." I find joy when my day is filled with people saying "Good" to us.

It is pretty common in little bakeries here for people to purchase an extra roll or side dish to give to a homeless person on the street. We have seen this happen several times, and started to do it ourselves.

Music in Colombia is always loud.

It is pretty common for offices to have a "mesanjero" who is hired to run errands, deliver messages, and do the mail. It is also pretty common to have a person in charge of delivering coffee, tea, water, or other drinks. This person is sometimes call the "senorita de la tinta." I was surprised to be sitting at my desk at Justapaz and have a nice woman come by to ask me what I wanted to drink that afternoon.

When writing numbers, Colombians reverse the , and . signs. For example, four thousand is written 4.000, and four and a half is written 4,5.

Marshmallows have a slight lemon flavor.

People talk into cell phones as if they were walkie-talkies. You put the phone up to only your ear, then shift to your mouth when it is your turn to talk. Aaron and I both do that now.

Colombians find great value in stretching. They stretch before doing anything strenuous, including bowling and swimming. They even do group stretching.

A person from Bogota is often called a "Cachaco" because it is common to wear a coat here. We are told "Cachaco" is some form of a local word for coat or jacket.

You call a very familiar friend a "chin@." I don't know why.

When people say something will be ready in a week, they say "de hoy en ocho dias." (which really means 8 days...if you are lucky).

Eggs are sold individually or by the pound.

Many here in Colombia revere Mary, the Mother of God, as is consistent with the Catholic tradition here. Mary is represented all over the place. Abby was so taken by this fact, she thought she might like to be Mary for Halloween.

When you answer the telephone, you say a version of hello which sounds like "Ah-low?" Andy and Abby both do this now.

There is a type of juice box called HIT, which we all find very refreshing.

Hot chocolate is made here by melting a bar of chocolate (sometimes with and sometimes without sugar) into warm milk. It is delicious!

We found coconut and passionfruit popcicles, which we love, especially when it is hot.

Pretty much any kind of body type can work with any kind of swimsuit. Modesty is not common here in Colombia.

When you get the hiccups, you need to eat a teaspoon full of sugar.

It is pretty common when taking a hike to hire a guide who shows you around and tells you stories about plants and the area where you are hiking.

Pedicures, manicures, and haircuts are extremely cheap.

When a girl does not get asked to dance, or does not dance well, the other women may say that she must have eaten turkey.

The use of the word "Man" has been adopted into the local Spanish here. For example, they might say, "Este mancito" (litterally: this or that little man)when referring to a person in conversation.

We have heard at least three different songs for selling avacados on the street. Andy and Aaron can sing them all.

When I attended a recent meeting there were THREE ROUNDS of introductions made with the same group of people.

It is pretty common to have more than one cell phone.

Colombians serve a really good type of tea with fresh lemongrass, mint, and sometimes chamomile leaves steaping directly in hot water.

Security is very big here. In most large stores, people examine our bags upon entrance and exit, and must approve the receipt. We are often walking through metal detectors. At a recent Embassy visit, there was three sets of security stations to go through before getting to our meeting.

There is a long history here of connections to Communism and the Soviet Union. We see remnants of that in many places.

Yucca is not "yuck-a."

Bogota uses hydroelectricity, so the more it rains, the more power we have. If it doesn't continue to rain here, which people are worried about, we may have electricity rationing. Lots of rain is also dangerous, with more frequent traffic accidents.

When you have coffee here, it usually means you sit down with someone and drink coffee. It is very rare to see someone taking coffee "to go." In fact, we have never seen a person with a to go mug from home. Only occasionally from the main Juan Valdez coffee shop (the Starbucks equivalent).

We have seen people playing an interesting game where you kick a small soccer ball over a volleyball net. It is kind of a combination between volleyball and hackey sack.

With food, the presentation of it is more important than how hot it is.

In food courts you do not clean up your own trash. People come by to take care of it. Also, it is pretty common for people to come up and "recruit" you to come to their food booth, or give you free samples of their offerings.

There is a phrase here which says "no hay que dar papaya" and "una papaya partida es una papaya comida." They literally mean, "you do not have to give papaya" or "a papaya divided is a papaya eaten." This basically means that you should not make yourself vulnerable. Why take risks when you know you could be hurt? Don't make it easier to be a target. We have no idea why "papaya." The second phrase means "don't let a good thing go to waste."

Nutella is cheaper than peanut butter (uh-oh...)


  1. Love these glimpses into your everyday experiences! Andi

  2. Jen, I love reading your monthly lists of the things you have learned. When your term is up, you'll have an amazing cache of memories.
    The girls want to write to Abby this afternoon, so expect a message from us.

  3. Oh, I miss saying "Buenas" to my co-workers! And, I miss hearing my friends answer their cell phones, "ah-low?"

    And, I was trying to think of HOW you can make cabin fever bars and thought Nutella???????? Then I thought, SURELY that is expensive there, too, just like pb!

  4. i agree. these lists of what you have learned make great posts! thanks.

  5. Wonderful blog, Jenny! I LOVE THE TOE NAILS!!!!! Is it Abby's foot??? Sounds like everyone is doing better in Spanish that I'd previously thought. I am try to learn a few phrases -- have a children's Spanish book, and Marta is going to help me along the way. Your blog makes me so excited to GET there! Love to all you guys!

  6. Love love love this!!! Oh, and I want video of Aaron and Andy singing ALL the avocado songs!

  7. I love these lists! Fascinating. I too want to hear Aaron and Andy sing the avocado songs : )

  8. what a wonderful window into your world, jen!

  9. oh, i love these lists.

    first of all, i am going to start talking into my phone like a walkie talkie.

    and it shouldn't surprise us for you to know that eliza is planning on being mary (the mother of god) or a dog groomer.

    she thought jerry should be joseph and sally should be the donkey.

    we'll see.

  10. Can you explain the cell phone thing further? I mean because it seems less efficient to use it in a walkie-talkie style? So curious!