do you think of when I say Colombia? Just think about it for a few
I promise you it is different to what you are imagining.
As I write this I assume that many of you reading this also have
many negative thoughts. I wish all of you could see what I am seeing
and experience it for yourselves, just for a day or even just an
I would take a few minutes just to answer the questions I was thinking
about on the aeroplane before I arrived. What were the people going
to be like? How am I going to manage with the language? And how
was I going to cope with the perceived spicy food I expected to
be greeted with?
people that I have met are amazing. They are so friendly and have
really welcomed me into their homes. Juan K has been in AIESEC just
for 11 months and it is hard to imaging a family in the UK taking
in a stranger for two months let alone one week, I have so much
to be thankful for - in many situations it is the people that really
language is hard, but day-to-day it has been easier than I expected,
especially with the use of online translator programmes at work.
After long discussions, it has been decided that the English are
generally worse at languages as there is less motivation to learn
them, as 'everyone' speaks English. In contrast, Scandinavian countries
are so good at languages as very few foreigners can speak their
native language. I wish I had paid more attention when I was learning
Spanish for a year back when I was 13.
coffee on the street
I am glad to say my expectations of perceived spicy foods were shattered.
There is a lot of rice, tuna and other simple foods. Lunch is generally
the bigger meal of the day.
favourite here is a chain called Crepes and Waffles, which we might
one day see in the UK. It's a Colombian success story started by
two natives who studied in Europe. They serve an extensive array
of savoury and sweet crepes and waffles as well as ice creams, with
a number of shops here in Barranquilla and across Colombia. They
are already opening in the US, Venezuela and Spain. They're definitely
something I am going to miss when I come to leave.
is your reality?
Colombia how I expected? In a conversation I was having with Juan
K, he asked me this question. The response was mixed. It really
isn't how I expected in many ways.
it be university or work, our routines and the way we live our lives
every day seem to all exist within contained bubbles, more so here.
It feels like where myself and the rest of the AIESEC community
live is a bubble, and the university is merely a bubble within this.
Across the world I suppose (to varying degrees) those at university
are the privileged, more so in less developed countries.
mall Buenavista nearby, the McDonalds on the street corner, the
American bars and the many other familiar brand names all contribute
to the illusion that this is a standard across the country.
is the severe rich/poor divide which is apparent further south of
Barranquilla from where I am staying. It is easy in many ways to
live without coming in contact with this. Through my work I have
seen into some of the poorer communities and am struggling to see
how things can improve when the situation is so bad. The most difficult
thing in some communities is the resistance from families and the
lack of education.
at the university campus
are so lucky and take so many things for granted when we are in
the UK. The education system and stability that surrounds us is
really unappreciated until visiting a different reality where there
are simply not the resources or money to provide an acceptable level
second full week at work was dedicated to visiting some more of
the schools the foundation works with as well as researching further
into the needs of the foundation so we are able to write an effective
proposal to gain funding from external organisations.
& I also assisted in running a meeting with the directors from
each of the schools and (using online translation) we'd prepared
a list of questions for each of the directors to help us gain a
fuller understanding of individual realities.
night on the town
Colombia neon sign
night we were out again. Another graduate on the AIESEC International
Exchange programme arrived in Barranquilla from Germany, Gregor.
meeting up in a local bar, after much discussion we ended up stumbling
across a salsa club, which was surprisingly free to get into. We
clubbed together to buy everyone's local best friend Ron, the local
Rum, which meant very soon we were all on the dancefloor.
dances with Laura
that is a given is that all Caribbean Colombians can dance, it is
really amazing to watch them. I am told it's all in the hips. We've
been out a few times now and I'm definitely improving... well I
think I am anyway.
love it - constant Latin American music blaring out at every occasion
possible including on the buses. The night ended once again in the
early hours of the morning.
by James Eder
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