Blog

Barranquilla : The Cultural Capital of Colombia

In the famous song of Joe Arroyo ‘En Barranquilla me quedo’ the lyrics speak to my experience so far in this beautiful city. Barranquilla is truly the cultural capital of Colombia.

‘Del caribe aflora
Bella, encantadora
Con mar y rio
Una gran sociedad

Barranquilla hermosa
Yo te canto ahora
Con gratitud y amor
del cantor al pueblo que adora’

The city has a huge impact on the cultural space within the country. Barranquilla is the hometown of some of the most well-known Colombians in the world. Here is a list of few of them: Shakira (Singer & Actress), Sofia Vergara (Actress), Paulina Vega (Miss Universe 2015), Nina Garcia (Maria Claire’s fashion director, Journalist/Reality TV Star), Edgar Renteria (Baseball player) and the list goes on.

If you’re ever in this neck-of-the woods here is a list of things you can do and events you shouldn’t miss in the cultural mecca of Colombia:

  1. Barranquilla’s Carnival

Barranquilla Carnival is proclaimed to be the second largest in the world only superseded by Rio de Janeiro’s. It is a four-day spectacle leading up to Ash Wednesday. The streets of the city are transformed into a unique blend of bright colored costumes, colorful parades, and energetic groups dancing to the rhythmic beats of porro, mapalé, cumbia, chandé, puya, fandango, merecumbé, and others. Also there are many cultural events, street parties and public displays. To welcome the Grand Carnival there are pre-carnival celebrations from the Carnaval de los Niños (Children’s Carnival) to the Fiestas de Comparsas, Fiesta de Danzas y Cumbias and Danza del Garabato (dance performances) to the Viernes de la Reina de Reinas(Carnival Queen Contest) creating excitement, and a shock wave of anticipation for the 4 day euphoria. La noche de Guacherna is a night parade that occurs one week before the carnival and is the last pre-carnival event. Here some of the major events during the 4 day long festivities;

Batalla de las Flores: is the first event of the carnival and last for 6 hours. It is a parade led by the Carnival Queen, who throws flowers to audiences arousing excitement and cheers accompanied by a large entourage of princes and princesses. There are huge imaginative floats, vibrant dance groups, and talented musicians.

Desfile de la Gran Parada (The Great Parade): takes place on Day 2 of the carnival and is equally remarkable as La Batalla de as Flores. This parade focuses on Colombia’s folkloric traditions such as Cumbia (dance and music), the torito folk dances, the dance of the Garabato, and the dances of the hilanderas (spinners). All are a mixture of Spanish and African styles. Cumbia is a courtship dance usually accompanied by robust drumming beats and melodious flute rhythms. These dance troupes move through the street impressing the crowd with theirs moves winning praises and cheers while being judged for prizes.

Gran Parada de Comparsas (The Great Fantasy Parade): takes place on Carnival Monday day 3. This parade is filled with vibrant colors and creativity according to its theme. More than 200 groups diced into Comparsas de Fantasia or tradición popular (Fantasy or Popular Tradition group) display their choreographies, costumes and makeup.

El Festival de Orquestas ( The Orchestra Festival): takes place on Carnival Monday day 3. It is a great event for music lovers. The audience is treated to a mixture of Caribbean and Latin America bands competing in various categories and groups for the coveted Golden Congo prize. The genre of music performed by these groups range from Reggae to Hip Pop, Vallenato to Champeta accompanied by talented local Colombian artists.

La Muerte de Joselito Carnaval (Joselito’s Funeral):  takes place on the final day of Carnival. It is stated that Joselito is a former city coach driver whose only day of rest fell on a Tuesday: on one particularly Tuesday he drank himself to death. Joselito represents the gaiety and festiveness of the carnival which unfortunately like the life of Joselito must come to an end. The parade is likened to a funeral although melancholically-dressed in black the parade widow characters are not truly downhearted and, instead, focus their attention on the privilege of having partaken in a 4-day long non-stop party.

 

I am sorry. This is not a carnival post but is the major cultural event in Barranquilla and they spend enormous time and effort to ensure that it is executed seamlessly throughout the 4 days. I just touched the tipoff the ice-berg as there are so many other events taking place simultaneously and I’ve just highlighted the main events. Below is a link to all the events that took place in the 2017 Carnival. http://www.carnavaldebarranquilla.org/carnaval-2017/

 

  1. BarranquiJazz

You don’t have to be a Jazz lover to truly enjoy these concerts. 4 days of musical orgasm and that’s BarranquiJazz for you. Last year they took Jazz into the street with huge concerts on September 16- 18 at la Plaza de la Paz free to the public. These are some of the artists that performed: on the Friday Festen Cuarteto (France), Josean Jacobo & Tumbao (Dominican Rep.), and German Barrera Afrolatino (Colombia & Spain), on Saturday Yotam Silverstein Quartet (Israel), Daymé Arocena (Cuba), and Arnedo Family with Javier Colina. In closing out the event there were performances from Steve Turre, Greg Diamond & Hector Martignon Group (US – Colombia), Juventino Ojito y los reyes del Porro (the Kings of Porro), Carlos Piña and Ramón Benítez, Havana D´Primera & Alexander Abreu. My favorite performance was by Daymé Arocena. It was definitely a good blend of English and Spanish songs but music speaks to the soul it doesn’t matter what language it was sang in.

  1. The Old Prado Neighborhood

This is a very interesting and unique neighborhood in Barranquilla. It has wide avenues, gardens and mansions that reflect the styles brought here by German, Italian, Syrian, Lebanese and Jew immigrants. Hotel El Prado is a prime example of the Republican Architecture. The streets of the neighborhood were designed in 1920 by the Karl brothers and Robert Parrish. They are decorated with Oaks, Golden Rain among other trees. So if you’re a fan of architecture or just want good shots of well-preserved buildings from the 19 century, El Prado Viejo is the place to visit.

 

  1. Bocas de Ceniza

Bocas de Ceniza is the point where the Magdalena River meets the Caribbean Sea. At Bocas de Ceniza you can see the main mouth of the most important fluvial artery in Colombia. The site is an engineering work that was constructed with starlings that narrow the mouths of the river so that the force and the speed of the current move the sediments and allow the navigation. At the site you can take a tour by boat or take the train and walk the rest of the journey. It is truly an intriguing view.

  1. Parque Cultural y Museo del Caribe

The Caribbean Cultural Park and Museum is completely dedicated to promoting the natural, cultural and historical heritage of the Caribbean Colombian (persons from the Caribbean Coast near the Caribbean Sea). They’re both located in the Historic Center of Barranquilla. The Caribbean Museum is the first regional museum in Colombia. It shows the generation and social appropriation of knowledge (historical, anthropological, geographic, sociological, environmental, and economic) of the Caribbean Colombian as part of the Greater Caribbean. I saw a heritage listing of Jamaican people who came to Colombia and where they settled; many in San Andres, Barranquilla and Cartagena. A visit to the Museum begins with Gabriel García Márquez and ends with the music of the Colombian Caribbean. It presents visual and interactive literature, ethnic groups and folklore. It is well documented ethnographically. It transmits very well the ethnic and ecological diversity of the Caribbean.

  1. La Cueva

La Cueva is a unique and interesting bar restaurant in Barranquilla. It was an old hunters’ bar that became famous for the artists, writers, and renowned intellectuals who frequently visited it, as well as for the many events that were experienced in it. Among the most illustrious members of La Cueva are: Gabriel García Márquez, Alfonso Fuenmayor, Alvaro Samudio, Alejandro Obregon, Cecila Porras, Enrique Grau, Rafael Escalona, Orlando Rivera, German Vargas and others.  This restaurant bar is highly recommended for savory food, excellent music and overall wonderful ambience.

  1. Plaza de la Intendencia Fluvial

La Intendencia Fluvial is a symbol of the glorious period in Barranquilla’s history, when the city played its best role as la Puerta de Oro de Colombia (Colombia’s Door of Gold). This cultural heritage recently reopened its doors after a restoration work was completed, that is a part of the revitalization of the Historic Center. This place was built-in the late 20’s and is a testimony of that time. An office of the Ministry of Culture, Heritage and Tourism of Barranquilla is located at La Intendencia Fluvial. This has reunited Los Barranquilleros with the Magdalena River and has become an obligatory point to visit in the sector of the Historic Center of the city. There are interesting artistic displays in the gallery from local artists.

  1. Castillo de Salgar (Salgar Castle)

The full name of this place is el castillo de San Antonio de Salgar (San Antonio de Salgar Castle) a mouth full isn’t it? Now you understand the shortening of its name. Salgar Castle is a building located in the municipality of Puerto Colombia, to the northwest of the department of the Atlantic, and 20 minutes from Barranquilla. It was built by the Spanish in 1848 on the ruins of the old fort of San Antonio, during the colonial era. Salgar Castle is located on a vertical slope, and west of the beaches of Salgar. It’s a beautiful place with a stunning view of the Caribbean Sea, with beautiful sunsets.

 

There are many more interesting places and things to do in Barranquilla to visit; I have just highlighted a few of them. What do you think? Leave a comment below.

 

Twice the Charm

In Paulo Coelho’s book `The Alchemist´ there is a quote that I hold dear to heart `when you want something all the universe will conspires in helping you achieve it`. I knew I was going to return to Colombia, but I didn’t know when or how. I had ideas of how but they weren’t coming through then I realized positive thoughts attracts positive actions. I started saying that I am going and this was the year, so said so done. 2016 I am in Barranquilla, Colombia. It seems like my heart is in love with la costa.

20160727_143215

July 27th was the day of my flight from Kingston to Panama, then Panama to Bogota. I had the opportunity to travel with some friends to Panama, who were embarking on this journey for the first time. Patrick a friend of mine travelled with me from Panama to Bogota. I can remember my first time touching down in El Dorado Airport and wondering with my shaky Spanish would I be able to communicate effectively with the immigration officer. On my first visit the immigration officer and I spoke in Spanish, felt ok a few English words inserted in the convo, yay to Spanglish. On my second visit I had a hypothesis to test: the willingness of persons interacting with foreigners to speak their target language in this case English.

My first participants in my study were the flight attendants. They were cognizant of the fact that not all persons traveling to a Spanish-speaking country speak the language. Therefore they approach each customer differently speaking the target language of the customer. I was the first person in my row and the Flight Attendant spoke to me in Spanish. I responded in English. The conversation continued in English. The person next to me spoke both Spanish and English. Their conversation was different. The flight attendant spoke in Spanish but the client responded in English, here the flight attendant didn’t switch to English but continued in Spanish. The good thing is that each understood the other and that’s the point of communication. The next conversation with the other passenger was in ‘puro español’.

My next stop was with the check-in officers in Panama. I approached the officer and spoke in Spanish, she recognized I wasn’t a native ‘accento gringo’ and started to speak in English. I continued in Spanish until the end when I needed to ask about my points and the words weren’t flowing in Spanish. To up the antics, I decided that in Bogota it was ‘puro ingles’, but I guess the immigration officer would have none of it so I had to speak Spanish. My friend Patrick spoke in ‘puro ingles’ that was pretty cool.

Some persons are more willing to speak the target language of the client; others are not comfortable in utilizing it. In comparing Colombia and Jamaica: I have never heard Flight Attendants utilizing another language in Jamaica or maybe I wasn’t on one of those flights. Our Custom Officers aren’t able to communicate effectively with persons who don’t speak English fluently. I have seen this time and time again. I had to be an Interpreter and Translator for my Colombian friend visiting Jamaica for the first time. For a tourism mecca I strongly believe more emphasis should be placed on how Immigration Officers and Flight Attendants among others are able or willing to speak in the target language of our visitors. It should be obligatory that they command a language effectively to interact with visitors to our island. In fact many port of entry officers around the world are required to speak a next language, because it is essential to their jobs. In an article published in the Career Section of the Jamaica Gleaner 2006 speaking about the career of an Immigration Officer one of the requirement was ‘ability to speak a foreign language would be an asset’. Operative word ‘would be an asset’ instead of ability to speak a foreign language is a required. I think a change is policy is required.

Many hotels and touristic centers have a greater affinity to utilizing the target language of their clients for greater satisfaction and understanding clearly what their guests want. Persons in these arenas are more willing and open to speak in a target language. A special rule of engagement as it relates to language that was ignore, somewhat in this study is that always respond in the language spoken to you, unless it case where you have no choice but to respond in another language.

Language Acquisition and usage are important to the globalized world that we live in. It is a major avenue to new opportunities, bridging the barrier of communication and makes us feel closer. It has created the space for greater commerce, sharing of business ideas, and conglomerates around the world. I recommend you learn a new language, travel the world, and make some new friends also share some ideas you won’t regard it. I strongly recommend that we create an official language policy that should be incorporated in every sector in our country. If we are truly to be competitive and expand in other markets then our people must be ready to take advantage of these new opportunities that await us. It should be a national policy of the Ministry of Education that every child upon graduating from high school should be able to speak a foreign language. Languages are the gateway to these new adventures and opportunities.

The government of Colombia has bought into the vision of creating a bilingual country. They have developed a unique program called ‘Colombia Bilingüe’, where the objective is to improve the use of and teaching of English, thus creating a bilingual country. There are two aspects of the program: the first part is that Native English Teachers and Speakers are placed in public high schools throughout to the country to improve the English taught and get people to utilize the language more in a co-teaching environment. The other part is having English Teaching Assistants placed in universities to improve the English teaching and to develop their competencies in the language. This program has had a positive impact on society, as there have been programs created to enhance the tourism sector with a bilingual objective: the training and sensitization of tour guides and service operators. Colombia’s module is working for it, due to the fact that they have become a force in the BPO industry catering to a lot of American clients.

bilingue

Jamaica needs to create its own policy that is tailored to its needs and will make it competitive with the region. Our Latin America partners are way ahead of us and we need to forge ahead to have our own slice of the pie.

8 things I Dislike about Colombia

Naturally if there are things you love about a country there are things you will hate. Maybe hate is too strong a word. Let’s use dislike instead. I truly love my country, but there are things there I dislike such as crime, poor infrastructure and corruption. Well, here are the top 8 things I dislike about Colombia:

  1. Los Amarillos (Taxis)

I am not sure if this is a thing with taxis around the world, or more so my experience in Colombia. Taxi drivers always try to rip off tourists even their fellow Colombians. If you’re not from that region and they hear a different accent automatically you’re going to pay more than the normal fare. I have had my fair share of stopping a taxi, telling them the address to where am going, and asking how much. If it is a reasonable price I will take the cab if not I will say ‘eche, no joda eso no vale 10 mil pesos.’ Afterwards, I may get a reduction. Well this is months after learning the hard way. I can recall quite vividly taking a taxi from UniAtlantico sede norte to sede centro and I was charged 18, 000 pesos. Can you imagine the heart attack I nearly had? Como Seño esta loco? (What!!! Are you crazy?), my immediate response. We argued, he called me some choice words and I returned the favor. Eventually I paid and left and told him I hope 6,000 pesos makes him richer. My mistake was getting to the car without asking the fare. Nowadays when I don’t want to argue or negotiate with Los Amarillos I just use Uber if I don’t know what bus to take. Uber is safer and cheaper. I have heard some horror stories about foreigners and locals being robbed by some Amarillos or their accomplices. My advice is to be careful and use your instincts.    taxis        

 

 

  1. Borrowing Sin Vergüenza (without shame)

There is a misconception that all foreigners tend to be rich or have money. I can understand this faulty premise; if you’re privileged enough to get the opportunity to travel you would’ve used some funds for the trip and not everyone gets the opportunity to travel outside their own country. Back home for someone to ask you for money, you must be a family member, a best friend or someone really close. I find it quite shocking that you would meet someone for the first time and the second time of the encounter they are asking you to lend them money (puede prestarme/me puede prestar 50 mil pesos) and this is always accompanied by some long, sad stories. Where do you get off asking someone you just met a day or so ago to lend you money? Maybe we have “tonto” written on our foreheads. The list of persons who will ask you to lend them money goes on from the landlord, to people you work with, to people trying to be your friend. I have heard too many sad stories of foreigners lending Colombians money and when they are to get it back they change completely. Your messages and calls aren’t being answered; all of a sudden the phone is unavailable and number change. They become scarce commodities and you used to see them every day. They avoid you at all costs and the relationship turns sour when you finally see and confront them. Save yourself the drama and heartache and don’t lend at all. But if you find that you’re a warm and kind-hearted person and this is someone you trust and have an awesome relationship with knowing their details (cedula #, address, next of kin etc) then you can risk it. My advice is to only lend an amount you’re willing to write off as bad debt or lose.

 

  1. Excuses (Es que, lo que paso es)

If excuses were dollar bills they would be filthy rich to the amount of excuses I hear on a daily basis. The simplest of things such as calling or texting someone turns into this long drama, and if drama for the small things imagine the big things. I just get turned off when I hear es que, and lo que paso es.  Immediately I start zoning you out and everything after that sounds like gibberish blah blah blah. What is annoying is when people make plans with you and on the day, even an hour before you leave out or when you are at the meet up venue and you decide to text the individual and you get no response. So you give them the benefit of the doubt and call and they don’t answer. You give them a few minutes you text and call again no response. Then it hits you, you’re being stood up. Imagine the person reads your text and could’ve said to you ‘hey, I can’t make’ and save you the embarrassment, time and money you wasted, but have the audacity to text or call you the next day. BLOCK AND DELETE. There is no reasonable excuse for that, but to them it’s always justifiable. I always say to them imagine if you were in a foreign country and met a friend, colleague etc. and you guys made plans, you left your house and are at an unfamiliar place calling or texting the person who you are supposed to meet there with no success. How would you feel? All of a sudden everything changes. What’s nauseating is when professionals do it. We are supposed to have a meeting and you’re having a WhatsApp convo with the person in charge of the meeting hours before the time of the meeting. You get ready, leave home and get to the meeting place. Just to find out that you’re the only one there, so you text to find out if the meeting location changed only to be informed that it has been canceled. And you’ve to be diplomatic and not show how upset and frustrated you are. Seriously, when did you discover that this meeting was canceled? A couple of seconds ago. No Joda!!! You need to practice better interpersonal and communication skills. Another thing ‘Te aviso’ means next to never though the literally translation in English ‘I will advise you or I will let you know’, so if you make plans with someone or vice versa and the time for the encounter you hear ‘te aviso’ immediately make other plans because you will not hear back from that person in regard to the that subject. There are some who know about these bad habits and correct them. God bless those few.

 

  1. Si Si Si Inability to say No

It seems like Colombians don’t like to disappoint people, so they will move heaven and earth to tell you YES. In this they create false hope and unrealistic expectations thus in turn disappointing you. Why would you tell somebody yes? When you know you mean no. you’re only making yourself look bad. Come on, I know you trying to be nice and all that, but if I ask you for assistance with important stuff or for you to recommend someone and you volunteer I’m expecting you to meet those expectations if you tell me yes. You put your credibility and character on the line when you’re not able to deliver on what you promised. What’s even ridiculous is when they didn’t come through for you the first time and they ask for a next chance and you say there are human, so ok fine and they don’t come through for you the second time. What’s more depressing in when you have no other option and the person is acting in a professional capacity and you have to follow-up with them every day until the issue gets done. How exhausting! I can recall going to the bank to resolve an issue. I spoke with the manager and was assured that YES within 24-48 hours we will resolve it. YES we will call or email you during that time. 48 hours had expired no call or email. I went to the bank to check up, met with the same manager and had explain the issue over again to initiate the action he was to do 3 days ago. Long and short of it, the issue was resolved two weeks later, after constant follow-up and calling the office. In the end I lost my patience and money due to his inaction and being a YES man.

si si si

  1. Traffic Disorder Las Busetas (Buses)

I think the Coaster bus drivers in Jamaica are related to the bus drivers here in Barranquilla. That can be the only logical explanation as it regards to the observance and respect to the road code. They stop anywhere and any how impeding traffic to the detriment of other drivers. They stop in the middle of the road to have casual convo with another driver to pick up a passenger. The ride I find to be uncomfortable and pose physical strain on one’s body, these buses seem to not have shocks to absorb any force so you feel every ups and down on the road. I have a friend who developed kidney and back injuries from traveling on these buses. By the way they are made here because the designs are so interesting and I’ve not seen it anywhere else. Two ways are conveniently transformed into one way for the buses. Breaking the stop light is not a big deal other drivers just have wait on until the bus passes. Dear to complain and you will get a verbal trashing. Traffic tickets seem to be only a concept on paper. I’ve never seen a police officer enforcing the rules or issuing a ticket to a bus driver. There is a lot of disorder. People do what they like on the road without penalties, parking and stopping anywhere that’s convenient to them. When I see a truck or car parked in la esquina (corner) of an already narrow road the words that come to mind is self-centered and selfish. I must state that Medellin is not like that. It is the most organized, developed and cleanest city in Colombia. No pregnant woman should ever take a bus here!!! I don’t care how early in the pregnancy you are. Despite the ill-mannered road etiquette some drivers will spare time to tell you if the bus is going in your direction.

buses

  1. Personal Space and Privacy

I guess it’s a cultural difference and in the Colombian context they are very close to their families, friends and even strangers. I live with a family. I have my own room but I quickly realized that personal space and privacy are concepts unknown or not practiced by them. I find that they would enter my room (technically their room that I’m renting) without knocking. Just bust open door, so I had to sit them down and explain these concepts to them. A door is closed for more than one reason such as; I maybe naked in the room, I don’t want to be disturbed, I am sleeping, I am busy doing something and the list goes on. I have my stuff here and I don’t want any and everybody in and out of my room. Soon things will become missing and no one took them. And believe me I have lost stuff. Personal space doesn’t exist at all in public; you’re in the line at ATM, to order food, to cash items and the person behind you is breathing down your neck. You turn around and look at them or give them the eye but it doesn’t connect so you have to say something. You in the street speaking with your friends and random people walking by just stop very close to you or nearby staring and t listening to your conversation. With a ¡ A la orden! Some smile and move on, some start a conversation and others just continue to stare and listen. For them they like to de close to people it brings a sense of warmth and friendliness for us it more of breach of security and personal space. We’re not accustomed to that.

  1. Inquisitiveness and Curiosity

They say curiosity kills the cat, but it seems like that cat has been dead from birth (Was never born? Never existed?) and thus nothing is off-limits for a complete stranger who just met you. Once they realized you aren’t Colombian prepare for a string of questions such as; where are you from? What are you doing here? Where do you work? How much are you getting paid? Where do you live? How much are you paying for rent? Do you have family, boyfriend/girlfriend here?  Why Colombia? Are you single or married? Do you like it here? Would do you stay here? Would you marry a Colombian? Does your country use US$? Do you have dollars? Do you miss your family? How long is the flight’? And how much does it cost? Yes, no topic is out-of-bounds and some questions are so bizarre even for friends yet alone for a stranger you met a few minutes ago. First of all why would I discuss my salary with a stranger or colleague? That’s a no no no. Why would I tell you my address and how much I’m paying rent for you to set me up to be robbed. Be careful who you complain to especially in a professional environment, not every listening ear has good intentions. Same for individuals who are keen to ask your opinion about where you live, about an individual, about a problem everyone is facing, because words gets around and you don’t know who knows who. And before you know it you’re in this culebrón and don’t know how to get out. In professional settings they are always curious to what you think and ask you opinion. Don’t fall for it. It a trick!!! I find that they don’t like honest opinions. They can’t take constructive criticism and there is a passive- aggressive mechanism they have developed and perfected. So now the problem is not the problem but you are. No one likes someone who is constantly complaining, but if there’s a situation that needs to be address, deal with it and move on. It saves time, energy and money. Nope not them they would just sit and whine about it day in and day out without addressing the issue and dying slowly on the inside.

inquisitive

 

  1. Food

Being an island boy seasons and spices are the order of the day when it comes to food. Jamaia is a culinary melting pot. We have some many cultures blended into one and that create a unique and exquisite culinary experience. I find the food here very bland much to my disappointment. We were taught (cultured) that Latin food is very picante and rico. So here whenever someone tells me a dish is muy rico or picante I don’t get my hopes up because I have been deceived many times. I am not saying that there aren’t dishes here that are not delicious, because I love arroz con coco (Coconut rice), chorizo, and patacones among other dishes. Some persons and restaurants on the coast do use some mild spices and seasons. You can definitely note the difference as it relates to taste when compared to other parts of Colombia.

 

Although I have highlighted some negatives, they are outweighed by the positives. If you’re curious to find out what they are see the previous posbelow.

 

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below. Dale!!!

 

 

8 things I absolutely LOVE about Colombia

This is my second time around in Colombia. Yay me!!!  Many of my friends and family are intrigued as to why I am in love with this country and why it is on my list of recommended countries you need to visit. Well here are my top 8 things I love about Colombia:

  1. La Gente (The People)

As cliché as it might sound, coming from an island boy whose country prides itself on being friendly, warm and welcoming to foreigners. Colombians are among the friendliest persons I have interacted with, especially on the coast and interior region such as Medellin. As for Bogotá hmm, I don’t know if it is the insecurity but I find the people there cold as the weather. There is a genuine happiness among Colombians in spite of the difficulties they face day by day. No wonder why Colombia was the Happiest Country in the World in 2013, 2014, 2015 and continues to be among the happiest in the world according to the annual WIN/Gallup International poll .  Colombia fans

  1. Diversity

Colombia is a diverse country. You will find diversity in fauna and flora, in la comida (the food), in the climate, in the regional cultures, in the music, in the landscape just about everything. From the cold region of Bogotá and Tunja, to the cool region of Antioquia, to the warm and sunny coast with beautiful beaches the diversity is noted. You will notice the diversity in Arepa: Arepa on the coast is different from arepa from Medellin and Bogotá. I just could not understand and it is the same ingredients they use in all of them. I find the coast to be the cultural capital of Colombia, with a wide range of traditional and modern cultural event you can immerse yourself in. But cultural events vary across each region and department, as a foreigner I truly enjoy cultural patronage of each region to have an encompassing context of the Colombian Culture. As for music from Salsa to Merengue to Reggaeton to Vallenato to Cumbia to Champeta (PS I couldn’t stand Vallenato labeled as country, imagine me now dancing and singing along to it).

  1. Festivos (Public Holidays)

I think this right here helps Colombians maintain their happiness and rank in the world index. Colombia celebrates over 20 festivos (national and paid holidays) and these don’t include impromptu festivos such as tarde civica when there’s a football match and regional celebration such as Barranquilla’s 4 days Carnival. Who wouldn’t want to work and live in such a festive environment?

  1. Fruits, Vegetables and Affordability

If you know me well, you will know I am a fanatic for healthy eating and living. First and foremost the variety of fruits available is mind-blowing. I doubt that some exist outside of Colombia. This variety is not readily available in Jamaica and if it did it would cost an arm and a leg. I find fruits and vegetables here dirt cheap, but local don’t think so. In comparison to Jamaica and the USA the prices here are super economic and the lowest of the three. Fruit such as grape that I don’t buy on regular basis in Jamaica I buy here every week between 1 and 2 pounds. A downside is certain vegetables are not readily in local supermarkets.fruits

  1. The Cost of Living

Whether you earn the minimum basic wage or more you are able to survive. Though I think it is grossly inadequate with basic salary one is able to pay for rent, food and transportation. My taste and lifestyle don’t allow me to survive on basic salary but many Colombians are able to do so. You can find furnished and shared apartment in good neighborhoods starting from $US200 and up including services of light, water, gas and sometimes internet. I consider this to be very reasonable compare to back home. If you want to live by yourself in a studio apartment then prepare to pay more. I find food here very cheap and with $US150 you can obtain grocery for a month depending on your taste bud. Transportation is relatively cheap. A pass on bus will cost you less than US$1. I spend around $US50 a month on transport to and from work. It may go up to $US 100 depending on many times I go out during the week or on the weekend. Dining out, going to the movie and shopping is very reasonable. All in all as a foreign you can have a decent lifestyle earning 2 or more basic minimum wage.

  1. Las Fiestas (The parties)

There needs not to be a special occasion for a party here. Every day is a good to go partying and have fun. There is something about partying here. Colombians would be partying late during the work week and better believe it they will be up for work the next morning without being late. Many others can’t keep up and falls in this trap and wonder how Colombians do it (They seem to have a cure for hangovers, but are keeping it a secret). Drinking cervezas (beers) is their favorite pastime. Every bloc has a tienda (shop) that sells beers and once they do there will be chairs and music. Therefore having a small get together is very easy and inexpensive, thus you find people drinking beer every day of the week with friends and having a good time.  The fiestas may vary according to your city and region but you will always find entertainment that suits ones desire.

  1. Their Colombian-ness

Yes I said it, their Colombian-ness. Yes I am from Jamaica and I know we are proud of your country and present no matter what (Try diss us on fb or twitter and feel our wrath haha).  Colombians are very Colombian. There are more Colombian brands here than foreign brands: we see this in the Colombian chains of supermarkets such as Exito, Olimpica, Metro, and the list goes on. There are more Colombian restaurants than foreigner ones. In Fashion as well, there are Colombian brands of clothes that are of quality and standard compared to international brands and are well known.  Their Coffee Juan Valdez proclaimed to be the best in the world (though debatable I think the Blue Mountain Peak Coffee from Jamaica is definitely one of the best in the world). Want to test their Colombian-ness? Let there be a football match. The entire country is in a pandemonium. Everyone will be wearing their tricolors of the Colombian flag plus white. Most activities are halted to give way to the festivities. Streets are block off and turned into viewing parties. People get time off to watch the matches. There are a lot drinking (cervezas galore) partying win or lose, but the party goes on longer when there is a win. All problems and worries are forgotten for this event and everyone is happy and so proud of the country.

  1. The Spanish Language

I do believe that Spanish spoken here is one of the clearest and easiest to understand in the region. In general that’s the case for most of the country. I definitely believe Los Paisas (people from Medellin and the interior) speak the clearest and easiest to understand Colombian Spanish. I find them to be very melodic and the flow is very captive. Followed by Los Rolos or Cachacos (people from Bogota) in second place. Last but not least Los Costeños (people from the coast) I LOVE mis costeños, but you guys are the hardest to understand; the missing letters and sound, also a whole new dictionary of words to convey feelings and actions. My initial month in Sincelejo was difficult but I got accustomed to it, improved and adapt quickly. Now in Barranquilla I do speak and understand costeñol and consider myself to be a costeño hahahah. ¡Que viva la costa! ¡Que viva los costeños! ¡Que viva Colombia!

That’s my top 8 things I LOVE about Colombia.

PS. I know there are so many other things I could write about and the list goes on on on…. So comment your top things that you LOVE about Colombia and let’s see what we have in common.