Not even two weeks have passed since I arrived in Colombia, yet I have learned and experienced so much. My thoughts on more serious topics have yet to coalesce into a coherent post, so here are a few initial observations and some new words I’ve picked up, complete with a couple of fotas:
1. sudor (sweat)
Inevitable. I remember complaining every day this past summer in DC about the heat and humidity. HA! (Lo siento to everyone who had to suffer my whining.) Living in a house with no central A/C for a year definitely helped me ease into Barranquilla’s climate. It’s still annoying to sweat the moment I emerge from my sheets, but I’m learning to embrace it. Next lesson: Play soccer during the day without passing out.
2. dulces (sweets)
Ubiquitous. In all forms. Café con leche, jugo (juice), candy, postres (dessert) – you name it! One of our teammates has been on a sweets fast for 1.5 years. He has amazing resolve, but we’ll see… ^^
3. japonés (Japanese)
Unexpected. Unsure of how I’d be perceived here, I’d braced myself for hearing “china” throughout the day. That hasn’t happened even once. Instead, one of the first questions many have asked me is, “Are you Japanese?” This is a new one; in the States I’m often mistaken for Filipina or Vietnamese. I had assumed that here, people would guess my ethnicity correctly – a “privilege” of being Chinese that I do not like. I wonder if there is greater exposure to Japanese culture here than other Asian cultures. In any case, I am daily reminded of my complex mosaic identity. No doubt, pieces of Barranquilla will get mixed in with it.
4. zapatos (shoes)
Impressive. One of the first things I noticed. In Bogotá, a common outfit was blazers, jeans and sneakers. Not just any sneakers, and not just the ones you wear to the gym. Nike. Adidas. Converse. In trendy colors and mint condition. Here in Barranquilla, it seems normal to be more casual, but I often feel underdressed in my plain crewneck T’s and sandals. (I’m actually borrowing my teammate’s sandals because I only brought flip flops, so after we split up to our different placements, I may need to do some shopping…)
5. amable (kind)
Incredible. I love hearing and saying Buenos días from/to strangers and hugging people and kissing each other on the cheeks. Smiles are readily exchanged. Many people are patient in slowing down their rate of speech and trying to make sense of my jumbled español without laughing or scoffing. People were not kidding when they said Colombians are known for their warmth and hospitality. I’m excited to make new friends and get to know my host family better.