Friday, 11 October 2013


Ten things you instantly notice about Colombia as an Indian :

1. They just love their dogs here. Walking on the streets here is like walking the sets of Beverly Hills Chihuahuas. There are so many dogs, it feels like everyone has a dog and its even true. When I asked my class how many of them had pets with the show of hands, about 80% of them raised their hands and many had 2-4 of them. I live in a house with two dogs and two cats myself. Even the airports are filled with dogs. When I first arrived I was waiting for my baggage and people were waiting for their dogs because they fly with their dogs. The main street in the town by the river, more like a stream that flows through the town, has people skateboarding, roller blading and biking with their dogs all sundays. For me, coming for India where walking your dog is all about keeping your dog away from other dogs, the most surprising part was how some of them walk their dogs without a leash and all dogs play together in a  "dog park"! I can't stress enough on the number of dogs here. Also, they clean up after their dogs which is an alien concept in India.

2. People here never get old. They are so young at heart and so full of life. Like my host family grandma was chugging Aguardiante(the national alcoholic drink of colombia) on her 93rd birthday!  Maybe that's why they were voted one of the happiest people in the world. 7 out of the top 10 happiest countries in the world are from Latin america and you see why as soon as set foot here. People have the most cheerful smile on from the time they start their day till the end.

3.Greeting and Air kisses: The best part for me is how everyone greets everyone. While it happens in a lot of other countries it doesn't really happen in India. There is such cheer in the air when you hear a peppy shout of "Hola" from the door man to the receptionist to the security guy and respond with the same intensity.
Back in India I found people who gave air kisses really pretentious. Its just not an Indian thing. So you have got to imagine how startled I was when a student of mine gave me an cheek kiss on my first day at work! Everyone air kisses you when you first meet them, girls and boys alike. I blush red every time my host brother's friends do that to me, with nothing to say in return.

4. Hot pants and belly button showing sheer shirts, is the dress code. I feel like the most covered person walking to work in my kurtas. But when I do step out in my shorties, its a relief to be able to wear anything and walk on the street and not get stares or be eve teased like in India. There is an occasional cat calling but it is harmless by Indian standards, and is rare.

5. The tropical climate: Although the climate vastly varies from city to city, the town I am living in has weather much like in India. As a result the flora and fauna is very similar as well. Like Neem and Jungle Jeelabi are very common trees here. People find it funny when I tell them you can brush your teeth with the Neem branches and state all its other medicinal properties like crushing its leaves for pimples etc.

6. Football is a Religion: In Latin America saying football is like religion, is an understatement. I heard people say it a lot of times but my first hand experience it from day one made me realize the gravity if it. Its like Cricket in India.

7. Expressions are universal: I just realized my Spanish speaking skills are limited to very basic phrases which makes it difficult to communicate certain things I want to say without using Google translate. But the most fun  times are when I frantically move my hands around to express an action or make a face when I don't like something I put in my mouth  and it makes my host family crack up and we laugh louder than we would otherwise. Its like to blurt out all these pent up feelings trapped inside due to lack of communication and expressions become the common medium of communication. Making connections with an awkward smile while crossing paths, a wave of hand while saying goodbye while leaving for work or making a polite offer to wash the dishes feels like you are understood.

8. Food though bland is the best part of my day. I am on a high protein diet since I eat so much meat every day! Its so interesting to taste different flavors from another country and so difficult to explain flavors in words. Like, how do you explain to a Chinese person what Indian Chinese tastes like? Something else I found really interesting is that food is always served with juice, tea, lemonade or any other beverage and never water like in India.

9. Spanish: They say immersion is the best way to learn a language. well its clearly not working in my case. Between a hectic work and a social schedule I hardly find time to study Spanish or practice it. And being surrounded by English speaking people is not helping either. From teachers at school to my host brothers I do not even bother trying, or try but fail. But I still feel like if I listen to it for long enough, I will magically start understanding everything after a while.

10. You first on the road: Everyone always follows the driving rules on the roads and allows the other to pass. Its not the aggressive me first Indian attitude. But if you are an Indian, most of all, make sure you close the car door softly because no matter how gently you close the door they will still feel like you are slamming it. Weird. I love the fact that women ride mo-bikes here.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Aarati, i love the title of your blog site. Well thought of!!! Let the word spread and make it more popular by giving link in your Facebook and other sites. i am surprised to see there were no comments for the excellent write up you put up on your blog exactly even after one month. i just happen to tumble upon your site by chance on a lazy Sunday morning as you have not mentioned in any of your mails or links. Well done. Keep it up and i love to more of your blogs on varied topics coming on a regular basis. i am proud of you for doing wonderful work in a different world.
    Loads of Love, dad