This month I’m ending an apartment lease in one country and signing one in another, trading C countries. The change looks to be timely and inviting.
Colombia, where I’m writing this post, has been loaded with good experiences. Living here for two years in 2006/7 got me hooked to the friendly lifestyle of the ‘paisas’ (as the people from Medellin are called). Although work brought me here, the diverse cycling adventures to the many small pueblos surrounding Medellin provided the enthusiasm for coming back. I’ve gotten to know more places and routes than most people who have lived here all their lives. Locals ask me for directions. In no way am I bragging, it’s simply a byproduct of spending hours on a bicycle every Sunday exploring new directions. And the riding, through mountains with spectacular views, has been worth every grunting peddle stroke. But I just sold my bike yesterday and will say goodbye to Medellin for now. It’s time to move on.
The difference between the two C countries is wide as it would be between the most populated country on earth and every other country. For one, Colombians value their long holiday weekends. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not so efficient for a (relatively) poor country that has so many of them. This month for example, there are three, 3-day weekends. They have at least 17 of them in a year. They call them “puentes” or bridge holidays. No matter where the true holiday may fall, they’ve moved them to Mondays for a 3-day weekend. Many pueblos will have additional holidays of their own.
It’s not that Colombians are work averse. Many of the offices and schools start early. I know several professors at universities who teach 6 am classes, not that they like them, but that’s what you sign up for if you teach. In this C country, health clubs are hopping at 5:30 am. In my new C country, the one health club that I’ve found opens at 9:00 am (hence my daily early morning date with the park, my new gym).
And you’ve got to love the weather, at least in Medellin, where its called the land of eternal spring. About the altitude of mile-high Denver, the climate hovers around 75-80 deg F the entire year, never getting too hot or too cold. If you want colder there is Bogota, or hotter the Caribbean coast.
There is a lot to love about this country, but the inefficiencies can be a teeth grinder. This week I went to an international bank, where I have an account, to make a local transfer to another local account. As a routine, they wanted to know what the transfer was for, my profession, where I got the money, on and on, and then fingerprints (it was a small transaction). It didn’t matter that I had the account for eight years or that I bank with the same bank in New York. And to convert local money to usd, — more questions, validations, fingerprinting, and lots of documents along with signatures, just short of blood.
I spent the last week running around sitting on heads and making constant phone calls to get things done that should have taken hours, not a day, and certainly not five days. The concept of mañana functions well. But the economy is growing in spite of itself. Certain industries keep flourishing, like bananas, coffee, flowers, mining and of course, the white stuff.
Sure I may be back at some point for a visit, but it won’t be work related, as has been my excuse for the last eight years. I’ll think of another excuse. Meanwhile, I grateful for the not-so-dissimilar excuses for getting back to my new C country.