Tuesday, October 30, 2018

21 Things I Learned About Colombia

I made it to Ecuador!!! One country down a few more to go. I figured this would be a good farewell for Colombia. So instead of the typical update, here is a list of 21 things that stood out to me during my 40 days there.

Farewell Colombia, its been real!

I may have mentioned a few of these things throughout my list of journals, but this is the official list. Enjoy!

1. Everything is Sweet
Literally everything. They make the sweetest coffee ever. Its not one lump or two. Its here let me drop this block of sugar cane in your coffee. They put caramel on a ham and cheese sandwich. They have a very popular drink called "agua de panela" it is literally hot sugar water. With extra sugar.

As a farewell gift one of the locals honestly gave me a big brick of raw sugar. If only I would have brought that recipe for coffee cake.

2. They Like Their Music Loud
Whether it's a bumping nightclub begging for attention or a little junker rattling down the road, the music is always blaring. I bet the next town over could hear the music, but they can't because their own music is up to loud. One out of three cars has subwoofers. They love their bass. I sometimes wear my headphones without any music to act as earplugs.

If the symbol and drums weren't loud enough they've got a megaphone atop the van.

3. Tons of Wild Dogs, No Other Wild Animals
There are dogs everywhere. They think they're tough, but they are all bark and no bite. I expected the dogs, but I also expected monkeys, anteaters, snakes, maybe a sloth. There's nothing here. Only some lizards, and a few birds. I've seen one squirrel, one rabbit, and no live snakes.

Let's not forget about my favorite stray.

4. It is Really Cheap
This one still shocks me. I can't believe how cheap this country is. I just stayed in a hotel the other day for $10. It was nice too. Due to the dollar to peso conversion, everything is basically 1/3 of what we would pay in the states. Homemade ice cream cones for 30 cents may prove bad for my health.

This is one dairy product they've got down.

Nada, zero, zilch. In my entire 40 days in this country my eyes have seen real milk once.....and that was when Victor was milking a cow right in front of me. They only have fake ultrapasturized milk. It doesn't taste the same, it doesn't get refrigerated, and its not as good for you. For most this wouldn't be a problem, but I am a milk aficionado and I drink a ton of it. I could pedal across an entire continent sustained only on milk. The closest thing I could find is a bizarre drink called kumis, it's fermented milk and it's strong, but I really like it. The yogurt here is not yogurt either, its barely thicker than water. In the dairy department they've got a ways to go.

This'll clear your sinuses.

6. They are Freeze Babies
In the mountains, in could be 70 degrees and sunny out and every person either has a full sized parka on, or they're rocking a traditional poncho. You may be tempted to call one Blizzard Boy. Here I am cruising around in shorts, a t-shirt, and bare feet. I get asked three to five times daily if I'm cold.

It's 75 out, and shes standing over a huge stove and she's still rocking the winter coat.

7. Everything is Fenced In
This may not be something most people would notice, or even care about, but for someone trying to be sneaky with camping spots, this creates an extra obstacle. They have barbed wire everywhere. Oh....here I have three stalks of corn growing, better fence it in with military grade barbed wire. Wouldn't want people climbing into the first soccer field either, better fence it up even though our town town 47 people.

Fences fences everywhere.

8. They Love Their Fruit
I'm an avid fruit eater. I love the majority of fruits, and I especially like trying new ones. Well I came to the right place, by day 40 there I was still seeing new fruits pop up in the shops. Maracuyaba, Lulo, and Feijoa are a few of my favorite locals.

Gotta love them fruits.

9. Every Vendor in Town Sells the Exact Same Thing
This still makes me chuckle. I kid you not, as I ride through a town, every single street vender has the exact same thing. That item is different in each town, but errebodie's got it. It could be snocones, every vendor in town sells snowcones with the same two flavors. It could be wooden furniture. Every carpenter in town sells the same three designs of chairs. The funniest one, I think I passed 30 different street vendors trying to sell fire extinguishers. You heard right, fire extinguishers. I don't know if they were born to be followers, or they just like fitting in.

I'll open up a fruit shop right next to you.

10. They Put Cheese on Everything
I've already hit their dairy pretty hard, this ones not an insult though. First off there is one kind of cheese in this country. If mozzarella and feta had a child this would be it. It's almost tasteless, though not bad. They put it inside their pastries, they shred it and put it on ice cream, and the kicker, they love to drop a big chunk of it in their coffee and stir it around. Yum!

There was a fruit salad hiding under that cheese!

11. It's Cheaper to Eat at a Restaurant Than Buy Food Unprepared
I still can't wrap my head around this one. It is literally cheaper for me to get full sized breakfast, lunch, and dinner at local restaurants than it is for me to buy bread and fruit at the grocery store. I can live with that. Sad part is it took me nearly a month to figure it out.

$2.50 US dollars, smoothie and hot chocolate included. Nuff said.

12. They Honk Like it's Their Job
Car horns were invented for a reason. Colombians discarded that reason and came up with 101 new reasons. A honk here may mean hello, goodbye, hurry up, get out of me way, or I'm just bored so imma honk. The list is never ending. I don't think five cars pass by without one of them honking at something.

This was supposed to be a one lane road. Colombians don't follow the rules of the road.

13. Let's Hurry Up and Wait
I think they still use sundails there. Nobody is in any type of hurry. The sign says it opens at 8. Well we can open up at 8:45. We agreed to practice volleyball at 4. We should get the first serve in by 6. They act as if time is irrelevant.

Just one of the many hour long construction stops. At least I could weave my way to the beginning.

14. Washing Cars is the National Pasttime
I'm not sure where this even spawned from, but for some reason every other house along the highway has a sign advertising that they will wash your car for you. I've seen more kids here washing cars than playing soccer. Hey daddy wanna go wash a car with me?

They were busy cleaning on this day.

15. They Were Never Taught Not to Stare
Didn't yo momma tell you that's not polite? Either they have never seen a white man before or they're just don't have much else to do. They stare......old men, little girls, couples holding hands. They all stare at me. I find it very bizarre. If you see a humpback whale with an eye patch walking down the street on crutches, now that's something to stare at.

I couldn't find a good picture of people staring at me, cause every time I get the camera out they get bashful.

16. They Don't Know How to Drive Motorcycles
In my entire life in the US I think I've witnessed a single car crash and zero motorcycle crashes. Here in Colombia it's a weekly occurrence. I've seen five different moto wrecks, and heard about five or six others. They must really want to perfect that wheelie.

This guy got my lunch. I reckon he knew how to drive.

17. Colombia is Filled with Venezuelan Refugees
This one's not funny so I won't crack any jokes. It's not as obvious in all parts of the country, but along certain roads I've ridden past hundreds in one day. Mostly teen boys or young adults, walking with a backpack or two, trying to hitch a ride to get a bit closer to Ecuador. Venezuela is having a rough time right now if you didn't know.

Just one of the many clusters of Venezuelan refugees.

18. Domingo (Sunday) is a Day for Getting Drunk
Every Sunday like clock work, every table in town is filled with 20 empty beer bottles. By 8 o'clock the locals are already blind. I don't know if they drank all night or if they are just getting an early jump on things.

Hard day of drinking, means a hard day of sleeping.

19. They Love to Bike
There are two types of Colombian cyclists. One has a sombrero on, work books, and a three foot machete bungee corded to his bike. He bikes out of necessity. The other has a waxed bike that he probably cleaned with his son, spandex, a baggy biking shirt that was supposed to be skin tight, and only a water bottle for gear. He bikes for fun. I love seeing both on the road, but there is a clear divide.

Colombian biker gang.

20. It is Filled with Police
The USA has a lot of police on duty, but Colombia takes it to a whole other level. If I was within 10 miles of a city, I would see a cop every ten minutes. Not just regular cops but military police are everywhere. On average I'd cross three or four military checkpoints daily. Talk about secure.

In case you try anything, they've got tanks on stand by. No this was not a museum. These were real active tanks.

21. They are Extremely Welcoming and Generous People
The thing I'm gonna miss most about Colombia is the people. They really helped make me feel at home in this distant land. I can't even count all the times someone stopped to give me a mango or some water. In the 40 nights here I stayed at a Colombians house 15 of those nights. That's how welcoming they are. What a great country Colombia is!

Gotta love 'em.

Off to Ecuador!

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