I’ve been here for over 3 weeks and I’ve noticed a lot of little things about Colombia that stand out as unique to me as a North American. These are my thoughts on interesting things about Colombia.
1. Cell Phone “Borrowing”
All around the cities and pueblos in Colombia are people with makeshift stands renting out cell phones for use right then and there on the corner. It’s the modern day replacement for a pay phone, and very popular.
It seems as if you go up to the person with all the phones, tell them the number you’re calling, or maybe what phone service the person has who you are calling, and they give you the appropriate phone. Because here if you have Claro, you get a better deal calling others with Claro, and same with Tigo and Movistar. A lot of people may not have minutes left on their plans or not have a plan at all, so they go to these street vendors.
These are not smart phones they are lending out, good old fashioned cell phones. And you can’t walk away with the phone. You stand right at the table to make your call because the phones are usually tied down somehow! It’s a great idea! I personally have Tigo, if you were wondering, and I have used up almost all of my 3MB of data in 3 weeks but it only cost me 30,000 COP so I am happy to buy more for my last 2.5 weeks.
2. Bus vendors
Every bus I have been on has at least had a guy trying to sell cold water. But there have been so many more fun experiences with interesting items for sale on the bus.
The local buses in Cartagena stop wherever people want to get on or off, and at some of those stops, random vendors will enter the bus. I have never seen these people pay a fare, maybe because they are providing such a service to the riders. LOL.
Some of the things I have seen sold on city buses: chocolate bars, water, cola, vitamins (I think), cocoa leaves (this was just this morning) and gum. The vendors will hand people on the bus the items in the hopes that once they’re holding that chocolate bar, they won’t want to let go. Usually that is not the case.
On the longer distance buses, the offerings get even more interesting! Between Cartagena and Tolu and back, guys sold beer and pop, sandwiches, and even arepas and chicharrónes! Smelled good! You definitely don’t see that back home.
The horns honk so much I barely notice anymore. It’s just background noise.
Really loud music blares from buses, boats, backyards and front yards. There seems to be no point in playing music if you can’t play it for everyone in the vicinity. I don’t think I’ve gotten used to that. I enjoy salsa music though.It’s upbeat and fun. Everybody loves it and sings along: all ages, men, women, children. I like that. We certainly don’t have any genre that universal back home.
I could do without the loud conversations at all hours right outside my window. This morning at 6AM, a couple were having an argument – you guessed it – outside my window. It continued even after I pulled open the curtain and looked at them for a few minutes. Yup. This is not considered an issue here. Not at all. Maybe I was the rude one for eavesdropping?
Did I mention the roosters last weekend? They don’t wait until dawn to crow. They just do it all the time. Fortunately there aren’t any I’ve seen in Cartagena, but they were in Tolu and Mucura. Oh yea. Noise is definitely one of those things about Colombia I won’t forget.
I love the fresh juices here! They are incredible. I’ve tried mora (strawberry), fresa (watermelon), lemonade, tomate de arbol (never heard of it before but delish!), guanavera (soursop!), corozo (berry), cana azucar (sugar cane), lulo and coconut. I have kind of made it my mission to try any new juice flavor I hear about. You can get juice in the stores or from vendors on the sidewalks, usually for 1,000 COP which is a way better deal than back home. They do grow the fruit here though so it’s much more plentiful and accessible!
There’s a lack of green veggies but lots of starches. I am having a very tough time with this one. I think it’s partly because I have no control over my meals: breakfast and dinner is part of the homestay, and lunch is at the school. There was one 24 hour period where I was fed sandwiches for all 3 meals. I rebelled at breakfast and ate some watermelon instead.
I have been fed a lot of rice, yucca (very starchy), ground meat, bread, and tiny salads consisting of shredded lettuce and one or two tomato bits. I’ll survive but after Wednesday, it’s yogurt and veggies – and fish – for this girl.
6. Where’s the spice?
I seriously needed my own personal bottle of hot sauce because all the food is pretty bland, which surprised me! I thought hot climate = hot dishes but sadly no. Even in restaurants they only have a salt shaker and no pepper. Weird.
7. Supermarket Security
I’ve only been in a few supermarkets, but they all have security at the door to check your receipts. Like Costco! I guess there’s a lot of theft in supermarkets here. It’s fine. The security people are generally very polite.
I am sure I will think of other things after I post this but I can add them later. All cultures are different; not better or worse. I just thought it would be amusing to mention the things about Colombia that stand out as different to me. Have you been to Colombia and noticed any other unique differences in their culture?