Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Colombian Ways...

I want you to know where I live. I want you to be able to picture interactions with the people I work with. This is important to me because YOU are part of my life, even if you are across the ocean. And so I thought it important to give you just a tiny intro into Colombian Culture. Keep in mind that these are a) only minute details of daily life and b) from MY perspective and things people have told me here. This is kind of a long blog, but you might just find yourself it may be worth the 5 minutes! heehee

Interesting facts:
Things we eat...Coffee with NO cream but VERY sweet (I still find cream to put in my coffee, I can't help the gringo within), "Arepa con queso" is a very typical breakfast or snack. Its similar to a small pancake made from corn and stuffed with delicious cheese, then you fry it and enjoy the delicious greasy snack...I'm becoming addicted! Vegetables....LOTS of vegetables. I bought THREE FULL GROCERY BAGS of fruits and veggies the other day. Grand total: $9. WOW! I could get used to this! And finally, while I could go on for days about the food here, an interesting fact is that everything comes in bags! The last picture you'll see of the food section is of typical groceries you'd buy at the store: milk in a bag, cream in a bag, pineapple sauce in a bag, and, yes, KETCHUP in a BAG! p.s. water comes in bags too!

Gestures we use and DON'T use...First of all, as in many cultures, it is rude to point at people. You only point at things! So, if you want a friend of yours to take a look at somebody across the bus aisle or the street, you point with your LIPS (as demonstrated). This can become quite challenging to those of us who have tiny lips! But, its still better than pointing and a lot more subtle if you do it right. We also do not indicate a PERSON's height in the typical U.S. way with palm facing downward. No, that is only to indicate the height of ANIMALS. Instead, you use a gesture with palm pointing outward (as demonstrated). I forget this one a lot...but they are gracious enough to remind me.

Things that I have had difficulty adjusting to, but hey-that's life in Colombia...TIME: oh gosh. I could tell you 15 stories about how time is NOT of the essence in this culture. Zoe: remembering how much she has to get done, politely asks her boss: "How long do you think the meeting will last today?"... Her boss replies: "Oh, probably an hour or so, I have a lot to do today..." Actual meeting time: 3-4 hours where we generally talk about the same thing in every possible light. We also talk about our relationships and struggles and accomplishments in this meeting, unlike the gringo meeting which is all work and no play. The culture is a lot more relationship-oriented which can be a wonderful thing! So, you just adjust your day accordingly and whatever doesn't get done...mmm...o-well!

BUSES: again with the buses. Well, the more I ride them, the more I realize...the drivers are on their own agenda. When you are approaching your stop, you must find the nearest "bell" to ring and do so, thus indicating to the driver that you would like him to at least slow down so that you can jump for dear life. However, if he doesn't feel like stopping just then, or if he stopped only 100 yards back, you just get to stand at the door and wait until he FEELS like stopping. Yes, this means you may end up back-tracking for a good 5 minute walk. The locals will often keep ringing the bell and even bang on the side of the buss or the GLASS door, but, me being the gentle and soft-spoken missionary that I am just wait quietly until he slows down enough for the jump...haha The Joke's on me GRINGA! ;)

"Se ARRIENDA" means "FOR RENT": Some of you have followed me on my journey to find an apartment and it is NO SMALL TASK. I won't go into detail, but after 3 weeks of searching, we are STILL waiting for a response. Hopefully it will come today but I'm telling you, patience is a virtue that I am learning, whether I like it or not!

The CELL PHONE system here is quite the maze. Its impossible to explain, but lets just say that there are 3 main cell phone companies and they don't work on "minutes" per month. Instead, its "pesos per month". So, there are different prices in calling a land-line, calling another cell that has your carrier, and calling a cell that is of the other 2 companies. In my case, its about 8 cents a minute to call my co-company phones and other land-lines, but to call another company's cell is about 15 cents per minute. Depending on who I call the most, I will run out of minutes accordingly and have to re-charge. It was confusing at first. But, I think I got it!

And finally...MONEY: There are approximately 1,800 Colombian Pesos to the US Dollar. So, I can go to the ATM and pull out ONE MILLION, yes MILLION, Pesos for the equivalant of $555 dollars. Crazy huh? The Dollar changes daily, so it isn't always that exact amount, but I'm just rounding. How much does it cost to live here? are some prices, not including the fruits and veggies which I already mentioned...
a new cell phone (basic): $35
A 10-minute taxi ride: $2
pair of shoes: $15-$25
manicure: $2.50
hair cut and COLOR: $28
Refrigerator: $250
Bed and mattress (double size): $250

And that about wraps it up for this lesson in Colombian Ways.
p.s. I think it should be noted for all you "Roach-aphobic" people out 8,000 feet above sea level, there are quite practically NO BUGS in Bogota....the Lord sure knew what He was doing when He called me here!

QUOTE: "All good people agree, 
And all good people say, 
All nice people, like us, are We
And everyone else is They: 
But if you cross over the sea,
Instead of over the way, 
You may end by (think of it!) looking on We 
As only a sort of They!" 
Rudyard Kipling "We and They"


Jill said...

LOVE this blog! You should do something like this every time you learn a set of new things :) Love the quote at the end too!! AND I LOVE YOU!

Carla said...

NO BUGS?!?!?!?! That is sooo cool!! Bad friend finally catching up on your blogs. Done now. Great job!! I had only missed 3!! Sounds like lots of fun down there. Love you!!

Carla said...

PS: I like your BANGS!! I can't believe you finally did it!! Do you like them?

Melissa Benson said...

i love it! why can't phoenix disregard time like hawai'i and colombia? we just dont have it right, i tell ya. loved reading all that...makes me miss anywhere outside the u.s. :)

CA RN to Honduras Missionary said...

I love your blog idea - may be seeing something very similar in the future. :-) Thanks for sharing!

Monique said...

I am keeping up with your blogs... and loving them! THANK YOU! We are planning on moving to Uruguay in about 2 years, and this helps me with my latin american cravings. I am truly grateful... you are in our prayers.

aaron-das said...

haha funny gestures baby...I'm sure you're going to have your hands full correcting me and keeping me out of trouble in Colombia!