Welcome to my blog and website, I hope you find your visit interesting.
A man's character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.
-- Mark Twain
Wednesday the 13th - This week I actually found a band. A live band playing music at a party. It was probably someone's birthday party, maybe anniversary, I don't know, it was just one family apparently. But they had a band playing a style of music called Vallanato. This is the first live band I have come across in this city. One thing I miss here is live music. Barranquilla has virtually no live music, very few bands, no street musicians. It's an industrial city and has very few offerings of anything in the arts, no live theater, no symphony or orchestra, no opera. There are many concerts of national and international acts, but other than that nothing much in the way of local bands. There are the universities and the bands they have, and very few other bands. And the opportunities for them to perform here are very limited. Up the coast in Cartagena there is much more live music and much more cultural events, but then Cartagena is a tourist driven city. So when I was walking through one of the neighborhoods up in the north central part of the city I heard some music, and it didn't sound like it came from a cd. So I stopped to listen and get a bearing on which direction it was coming from and I walked on towards it. I found the band, just a guitar, one drum, a guiro, an accordion and a singer. A very simple band playing a very traditional Colombian style of music. They weren't professionals by any means but it sure was nice to listen to real musicians for a while.
Monday the 11th - At Kal Tire this week I got started with teaching classes to 22 students. Twenty-two employees of Kal Tire all learning english. Some are absolute beginners, some are false beginners and a few are intermediate, so it is a bit of a job just keeping track of who's at which level in which book. The company has given me company shirts (not stupid polo shirts, but real long-sleeved button up shirts. Though they are not permanent press shirts. Oh well.) They also gave me a pair of steel toed work boots. And they buy me lunch. Too cool. They will probably be the only company in the country where all the employees speak english. Even the bilingual call centers can't say that. The people that run the company here in Colombia are my students and they recognize the importance of knowing english in todays world. And they are willing to add it to the benefits they offer to their employees.
I find it interesting that the people in the north of the city say 'you don't want to live in the south, in Las Moras, or in Soledad, that's the worst part of the city'. And people here in the south say 'you don't want to live up north, too many crooks up there'. hehehehe. A couple days ago I was walking around exploring the city up north and came across a neighborhood that made any of the south neighborhoods look like the best part of the city. I couldn't believe how bad it was - the piles of garbage all along both sides of the roads and people digging through them. I guess the rich people who live up there in the north must just ignore that area, pretend it doesn't exist. There are many neighborhoods down here in the south that rival many of the neighborhoods in the north for nice homes, clean streets, etc, and some here even cost as much for rent as up north.
So I am looking for another apartment, but am looking for one in the central part of the city. While the south is certainly lower rent, it is very noisy, everywhere. The people like to play their music very loud on weekends, and all night long. Some people, usually at least 2 or 3 in every neighborhood, spend millions of pesos on sound systems that would rival what most American bands would love to have to use on stage. They set up these stacks of speakers and their rack of amplifiers (I've seen racks with 3 to 5 5000 watt, 10,000 watt and higher amps) and EQ, etc outside and blast the music as loud as possible. One guy just a block away from me has so much power I could hear his music nearly a half mile away. Many have colored strobe lights, LED's flashing, laser lights, and put on quite a show. But when they do this all night long, there is no hope of getting any sleep. I like the music, I just don't like the volume. So I am looking for an apartment a bit further north, in the central area, where this kind of stuff doesn't happen. This is something that only happens in south Barranquilla (Las Moras/Soledad) and the southernmost part of the city.
My first two weeks as the Kal Tire English Teacher has gone quite well. My hours have been extended a bit with some schedule changes. I am working around 30 hours a week. I am enjoying this job, probably the first job I have enjoyed in, oh, my whole life. Well, there was the IT job at Simrad in Lynnwood which was good, until I was laid off from work after 9 years with them. But this job, teaching english, is actually fun. I have 5 classes of 3 students, one class has 2 and one class has 4 students. Kal Tire will be helping me get my Work Visa, then they will put me on the company payroll, and they will be able to send me to at least one of the mines to teach their employees that are stationed out there. That is a coal mine. There are quite a few mines including coal, gold and other minerals, and Kal Tire has people has most of them.
My whole life I have never liked coffee, not the smell or the taste. But since I arrived here I have been drinking café con leche, coffee with milk. The coffee here smells different and tastes different from the coffee sold in the US. Of course this is fresh Colombian grown coffee. If you buy coffee from a street vender he will give you a very small cup, maybe 3 ounces or so. That is common. People here don't drink anywhere near the amount of coffee as people in the US. At work those who drink coffee have one cup of coffee and no more.
Today, Saturday the 23rd, I was again out walking throughout the neighborhoods looking for apartments with Se Arrienda signs in the windows (for rent signs), and not finding any, when I came to a neighborhood park and a small police station. This is common here - seems all barrios have a small police station, which is basically a mostly empty building of maybe 800 to 1000 sq ft, no computer(s), one desk. Anyway, I stopped to ask if they knew of any apartments for rent in the area. One of the officers could speak a little english so we started talking, and 3 or 4 other officers listened, and we also used the google translator. Turns out one of the officers has an apartment that he rents and it will be vacated in two days, on Monday. He is going to show me the apartment on Monday or Tuesday. The rent is reasonable, and if it is decent I will rent the place. Turns out it is only a 5 to 10 minute walk from Kal Tire. Nice. Also, if by chance I don't want to rent the apartment, he also has an unused bedroom in his apartment that he would let me rent, to share the place with him. And, there is another office there who also has an unused room he would like to rent to me. He has a son, daughter, brother and parents living there as well. I am hoping for the apartment of my own, I like my privacy. But it goes to show you how friendly the people are here, how much they will go out of their way to help another person. One of the officers then gave me a ride home on his police moto (motorcycle) so I wouldn't have to walk 1 ½ hours, or take a bus.
That isn't the only example of their willingness to go out of their way to help a stranger. Today when I was walking around looking for an apartment I stopped and asked a guy if he knew of any, and he said yes, and pointed me in the direction, then he just said let me walk you to the place. So he stopped doing what he was doing and walked with me over to the apartment, and we found out it was no longer available, but the woman told him of another, so we walked to it, and it is available. It is very old, has some amazing architecture and very old paneled doors. It is too much for rent though at 500,000 pesos per month. We then learned of another place. So he walked with me to yet another, this place is a boarding house (for lack of a better description). It has bedroom, community bathrooms and a restaurant. The rent includes 4 meals in the restaurant each week and laundry service. There are no refrigerators in the rooms, but some available in the halls. But the rent is too high here also and there is a lack of privacy except in the small bedrooms. Not to my liking at all. But the guy, Milton is his name, was very kind and helpful to me today and he had no reason to be other than he like most people here is willing to go out of his way to help someone they don't know.
This is common. This apartment I am in now belongs to my friend Edgar. He owns a variety store, his own apartment, this one, the one next door, the one that is a tienda (a market) and he has 3 more apartments being build upstairs above these. He lets me use this apartment as if it were my own, rent free. He has never given me a bill for water or electricity even though he knows I can pay them. He even lets me eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with his family. He offered all this to me out of his generosity. I didn't ask for it. He just wanted to help me.
Oh, my birthday was on the 20th. I got a couple birthday well-wishes on Facebook, but that was all. But at Kal Tire they gave me a party.
Till next time - Chao!