My life in Colombia

Welcome to the blog of Chip Wiegand

Valentines Day in Colombia

Sept 19, 2014
The rainy season has arrived, which means flooded streets in Barranquilla.

Hello all, I hope everyone is doing well. I am doing well. I have 3 more new students starting on Monday the 22nd. All three will be in one class together, which is great because I have virtually no time available for new students. My days now look like this: Monday - Friday 7am until 9pm I am with students; Saturday 8am until 8pm I'm with students. Sunday I usually have no students. I was told of an opportunity, a possibility, of teaching in a private bi-lingual school.

I may be meeting the director of the school this weekend or next week. That would be a fantastic opportunity, but will require changes to my private students schedules. So, for my readers who pray, please keep me in your prayers.

The rainy season is finally upon us. Yay! Today, friday the 19th, there were a few claps of thunder, this morning. Then all of a sudden the heavens opened up and the rain suddenly was pouring down, and has been for at least 20 minutes now. This is not mormal, at least not this year. This year has been unusual due to the lack of rain. Here is the rain we have had this year. The number in parenthesis is the historical average for that month. The numbers are in inches:

January (.02)0
Febuary (0)0
March (0)1.53
April (1.0)0
May (4.2)20.58 (I think this number is incorrect, but it is the number in the official records.)
June (4.0)8.15
July (2.6)0
August (4.4).25
September (6.1)(As of yesterday - 0) It is raining right now.
October (7.8)
November (2.7)
December (.8)

Barranquilla is a city of many ironies. It is a city that is both 2015 and 1950. The people are unbelievably friendly and helpful, warm and generous. But put one of them behind the wheel of a car and suddenly each one owns the road and don't you dare get in their way. The brake pedal is used only for absolute emergencies, not for yielding to another vehicle or pedestrian. If the driver sees a pedestrian crossing the road ahead, they often press the gas pedal harder, thus forcing the pedestrian to run across the street. That is just normal, the way this society is, and nobody thinks twice about it. Buses - they are in an endless race against each other, even the city buses. There are many bus companies here, well over 25. They race each other for the next person who might stick their hand up in the air to flag the bus driver that they want on the bus. Even on narrow, 2-lane, residential streets the bus drivers are racing each other, passing on these narrow streets, even when approaching an intersection, with or without stoplights. Often the two lanes will have two buses side by side, thus blocking all oncoming traffic. Sometimes it is very chaotic, but again, it is normal, that is just the way it is.

In the city of Soledad, a bedroom-community on the south side of Barranquilla, it is normal for people to play their music very loudly, and I am VERY loudly, over 100 decibels. I can guess that number based on my experience playing in bands and knowing the volume levels we played at. And some of these guys, called "picups" in the local Costeño dialect, have very large stacks of speakers and over 20,000 watts of amplifier power, providing musice for up to 8 or more blocks around them. And many play this loud music literally all night, turning it off at 4 or 5am. They don't care if people need to sleep, only that they can provide very loud music for everyone in their area. While that may seem extremely rude, insensitive, uncaring, etc towards the neighborhood, they are not really that kind of people. They love music, especially vallanata, merengue and salsa. It's just another example of the many ironies of Barranquilla. It's just the culture, it's just normal. But that is limited mostly to the south of the city. Thankfully. :)

Notice I am not making any comparisons to the USA. I purposely do not do that, as the results of any such comparison is not valid. Why? Because the US is a developed country and Colombia is a developing country. So it would be like comparing apples to oranges. There was a graphic posted on Facebook a while back with a comparison of the minimum wage in the US compared to the minimum wage in Colombia. Some of the comments were showing astonishment that the minimum wage could be so high and people still complain about not having enough money. And other complaints in regards to both countries. But I jumped into the comments and wrote that the numbers in the graphic were incorrect (they were based on very old data), and explained that the cost of living is much different between the two countries. I wrote that you can't fairly compare the two countries. Some people wrote back that they agreed and a few were quite rude in their comments, oh well, so it goes. The fact remains - no comparison of the two countries is a fair comparison.

It's been about 1 1/2 hours of heavy rain and it is now stopping, I have to clear the leaves off the drain because the water is betting a bit deep out there in the front.

I like my new apartment and the neighborhood and my landlords. They are good christian people and are very happy that I am here and teaching them.

Oh, and happy Valentine's Day. Yes, here in Colombia it is Valentine's Day, Sept 20th. Here it is called Amor y Amistad. Literally translated that means "love and friend". Tonight I was with a student, and a friend of her's came up to show her some pictures. The pictures were of her bedroom. Her boyfriend had bought a lot of rose pedals, and I mean a lot of them, and made a big heart of rose pedals on her bed and more on the floor. He put more hearts all over the bedroom. Here in Colombia the holiday isn't just for people in intimate relationships or married, but also for friends to spend time with other friends. Here the holiday is celebrated during the 3rd weekend of September, but throughout September people are sending gifts of various kinds, and a part of the celebration is called "Amigo Secreto", which is when a person leaves a gift for his/her lover but does not put their own name on it, but rather, a clue for the recipient to try to figure out who gave the gift. And this can be extended to several small gifts during the month, culminating on the holiday weekend. Here in Colombia Valentine's Day still holds some real meaning. It's not just a commercial holiday as in many other countries.

That's about all for now, till next time, take care!


September, 2015 I'm in a new apartment, and more students

Sept 4, 2015
This statue of Christ is in a park here in Barranquilla.

I'm in a new apartment, yay! I was living in an old 1-bedroom apartment for the last 2 years, and it wasn't bad, just old. It was in a decent middle-class neighborhood. But now I am in a new apartment, just build 2 years ago, in a northern neighborhood I suppose would be considered upper middle-class or upper-class. It's a large studio apartment with very nice tiled floor, built-in closet and bookshelfs, the counter around the sink and 2-burner gas stove burners is coriander.

The tile backsplash also matches the tile around the lower cabinet doors (which are quite thick wood). The bathroom is modern, the patio is about the same size as the previous apartment but is fully tiled. The apartment building has 15 of these studio apartment, plus 3 (if I remember correctly) larger apartments. The studio apartments are all in a single-story building with a very nice open air "hallway", or walkway in front, which the doors open to. On the other side of the one wall are the larger apartments. There are a few tiled benches, lots of big ferns and other plants in tiled planters in this area. The rent is almost twice what my previous apartment cost, but now this - my rent is free. How? I am exchanging English lessons for the landlords and their two sons. I get free rent/gas/electricity/water/satelite tv/internet. And I give them English lessons. It's working out very well. They own these apartment and another 15 or 20 in another building, I don't remember how many they said they had, 30 or more I think. And they own an auto-repair shop. They live in a nice house that backs up to these apartments, with a door in the wall for easy entry from the apartment to their home.

In their patio they have a tree with fruit unlike any I had ever seen before. The first time I saw them I asked what are those? I didn't know if they were edible or not, they were quite large, green and spikey; though the spikey bits were soft. So my landlord check a few of them, one was ripe, so he picked it and handed it to me. I asked if it can be eaten, he said yes, of course, and then simply dug his fingers into the skin and pulled a chunk of the fruit out and ate it. I did the same and it is unbelievably delicious! What is it called? Guanabana. Pronounced hwaNAbana. I did a little reading about it and it seems they cannot be grown, very successfully, in North America. Some people try in south Florida, but even there sometime the nightime temperature is too cold. The trees do not do well if the temperature drops below 78 degrees F. It appears you guys in North America can buy guanabana juice, but not the actual fruit, which is too bad. It's amazing! The next day, after my first taste of the guanabana, I was back at their home to start the first lesson and they had made juice, guanabana and milk, from the fruit he picked, and it was really good. I think guanabana is my new favorite fruit. Though fresh mangos are hard to beat.

The best part of this new apartment is this: it is in the north-central part of the city, close to most of my students. I have only two students anywhere south of me, all the others are up here in the north and northwest. This means far fewer bus rides. This is a much more convenient location.

I also have a couple more new students. A woman and her 2 sons. She is a teacher and said she is going to talk to other teachers about them taking lessons with me also. We would do a class twice a week (that's all the time I have left - 2 evenings a week, not counting weekend). My schedule is full now. Starting at 7am and 3 nights a week finish at 9pm, the other 2, for now, finish at 6pm. I am keeping saturday evening and all of sunday open, no classes.

I have mentioned the rain, or lack of it, in a few of my last blogs this year. Well, normally we are in our rainy season now, but we have had no rainy season, at all. Northern South America has been in a drought for years and the weather forcast shows it only continuing into the future. Last night we had a very light drizzley rain for about a half hour. If you count that and the few previous rains, all combined, total less than 1 hour or so of rain this entire year. That's heavy rain, drizzle and any other form of water coming down from the clouds. I know about the droubt in the south-western US, but there is droubt in other parts of the world as well, even in tropical Colombia.

That's about all for now, till next time, take care!


Me on the old Muelle (dock)

Chip Wiegand

Contact me: Chip Wiegand

I teach english as a foreign language in Colombia. I'm from Kennewick, Washington, USA. In my previous life, as I call it, I was an IT guy, systems administrator, computer tech, as well as a shipping/receiving guy and also worked as a merchandising guy for a year for a camping/RV accessories store.

Expat in Colombia - Where Expats Blog

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