I arrived in Bogota from Canada early January and after two week’s of training there, I landed in the vibrant city of Barranquilla. Coming from Bogota, I was really excited to be in the city of heat, rhumbas, and supposedly, the nicest people of Colombia; a much-needed change from the cold (ish) people and even colder weather of Bogota. My time in Barranquilla is now, unfortunately, coming to an end, and after my wonderful six months of living here, this is what I am going to miss the most:
Sheer, genuine kindness to strangers: I take the Transmetro everyday to and from work and everyday brings a new act of kindness. My most favourite (and the one I try to partake in the most) is when a stranger sitting down offers to place the bag of the stranger standing next to him on his lap, no matter the size of said bag. The first time I encountered this act of kindness, I just figured the two people were friends as I would never see this in Canada, but quickly learned otherwise. Since then, I make it a point to offer the same. I love to see the surprise on the standing person’s face when a “mona” is partaking in this tradition.
My second favourite thing to see, on and off the bus, is the responsibility that people accept to take care of their own. On the days that I take the Cooasoatlan instead of the Transmetro, I always witness vendors coming on the bus to sell small sweets to make a living. Even if you are not planning on purchasing said sweet after hearing their life story, it is still kind of you to take the sweet into your hand. As much as this can be taken as a false promise, I believe it is a sign of ongoing encouragement.
Expressions of love: Where I come from, if a person, man or woman, referred to me as their queen, their life, or their heart, just for buying a mango off of them, I would be extremely taken aback and worried that my mango contained illegal drugs. In Barranquilla, however, it is one of my favourite things to hear. Not everyone may agree with me as the intentions of many men’s cat-calls may not be innocent. However, the way I feel every morning when Maria, the door lady at my school, kisses me on the cheek and says “Buenos Dias mi Vida” reminds me of the innocent affection we are all capable of sharing. I truly believe this world could use a little bit more of this kind of friendly exchange.
The relaxed way of life: I was warned many a time that Costeños can be quite lazy. After being here for six months, I now consider this laziness to be one of the biggest causes of their happiness. I am much less stressed here and much less worried about what may or may not happen in the upcoming hours, days, and weeks.
The parties… Oh the parties: Let me get one thing straight; Barranquilla is not boring-quilla as I had read many times before arriving here. That horrible title was given to it by the travelers coming through the city on their way to Cartagena or Santa Marta; they obviously didn’t stay, otherwise they would have had their facts straight. The restaurants here are abundant and offer exquisite food. The nightlife is unlike any I have seen in all of Colombia so far. It has everything from fancy rooftop pool parties, to a Vegas-like strip called “La Ocho”. You can always stay out to 5 am and there will always be people wanting to stay out with you. There is no need to get drunk off your face here either. You can be sincerely entertained the whole night solely by the rhythm of the music and the dancing. Oh the dancing… How I will miss the dancing…