Medellin, Colombia

No, I haven’t been kidnapped yet.  Nor have I joined a drug cartel.  Surprisingly, there’s more to Colombia than just kidnappings and cocaine.

Its been about 9 weeks since I arrived in Medellin, Colombia.  Time has flown by, however it feels like Medellin has been my home for years.  I’m no longer surprised by many of the cultural differences.  I’m just going to start rambling about it all in an unorganized fashion as usual.

Learning Spanish

Trying to learn the language is very humbling.  I know a lot of words in Spanish, however actually conversing with a local is still a challenge.  Sometimes they understand and talk slowly, and pause between words.  Other times you just get someone mumbling incoherently, and they might as well be speaking Portugese.  Although it feels great to have a successful conversation with someone in Spanish.

I have a new appreciation for ANYONE learning multiple languages.  I can’t tell you how ignorant it is when people say “don’t come to ‘Mericah if you can’t speak our language”.  I now understand how much of a challenge it really is to live in a country without being proficient with the language.

I’m getting better at identifying situations where the language barrier is going to be a struggle.  Negotiating the the gym membership.  Telling a taxi driver where to go when I’m not even sure where I’m going.  Trying to get my phone repaired.  I’m almost hesitant to get into these situations because I know it will be such a challenge, but I guess that’s how you are forced to learn.


I get lots of stares here.  I hear things like “oh, people know you are a gringo because you wear shorts and flip-flops”.  Oh really.  That’s how people can tell I’m not a Colombian…  I guess I’ll blend right in with jeans and shoes…

Everything is either extremely simple or insanely difficult.  For example, I had a few holes in my wool shirt that I needed to get repaired.  I walked into this little store that had people with sewing machines near my house and they immediately repaired it for $2.  I don’t even think I could figure out how to get that done in the States.  On the other hand, I spent about 3 hours going to 7 optic shops in 2 different malls before I could find one that would repair my glasses, but they had to keep them for a week.


The most dangerous thing by far is the traffic.  Cars have the right of way.  As a pedestrian from the states, I’m always walking into dangerous situations.  (Yes, pun intended)  Cabs are constantly running red lights.  Motorcycles weave in and out of cars and are tough to see sometimes.  Any gringo worried about being kidnapped is an idiot.  You’re 100 billion times more likely to die from a vehicle.

One interesting thing about going to the clubs is that buying a bottle of liquor is very popular.  A group of friends can go in, get a bottle of liquor and some sodas and pour their own drinks all night.  In fact, most places won’t even sell individual cocktails.  It’s really easy to drink too much on a night out.

Other Observations

I’ve lost about 5lbs since I’ve been here.  Probably due to more walking.  More fruit.  Going to the gym everyday because it has an absolutely amazing view.  Inspired to eat healthier because of my roommates.

Parking meters are people here.  They sit around the curb wearing these vests and then exchange cash and receipts with people who are parking on the street.  I don’t quite understand exactly how transaction works, because I don’t have a car and have never parked.

There are numbered stratas here.  We’re in strata 5, which is pretty high up.  I was talking to someone who was saying that she was upset that people from strata 2 come into her neighborhood.  I didn’t quite understand everything because it was in Spanish.


While I’m not religious, I find a lot of meaning in the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity

the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things

which should be changed,

and the Wisdom to distinguish

the one from the other.

Being a terrible photographer is something that cannot be changed.  I’ve distinguished and accepted that.  Oh, and the camera on my phone died again.  I think that’s a sign.

With that being said, other people take pictures when I’m around so I can still share them.  My older brother, Patrick and his girlfriend Lauren lived across the hall from me for 4 weeks.  It was awesome to have them around, and Patrick is an absolutely amazing photographer.  They also have a blog which I’ve also accepted is simply way better.  Since I’m lazy, I’ll just link you to the posts which have awesome pictures of our time here in Medellin:

(Oh, and the guy who looks like a slightly less handsom version of me with big poofy hair is my brother, not me!)

Ok, now pictures from my partially working camera/other friends:


Colombian visa expires in February.  I have to leave the country and come back to get another 90 days.  I think I’m going to meet up with Patrick in Peru.


5 Responses to “Medellin, Colombia”

  1. Jen Lorenz says:

    Sounds like great times. Fear of death by traffic was same, same in SE Asia. I think you’ve been there too.?
    Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Tommy says:

    Oh yeah, SE Asia was the same, not to mention them driving on the wrong side of the road! I’d walk out onto the street and look left first, but they’d be coming from the right!

  3. Dad says:

    Thanks for the update. I liked the part about the little store that had people with sewing machines near your house that fixed your shirt for 2 bucks. I have a bunch of cycling jerseys that are perfectly fine except the zippers are shot and need replacing and the pockets need some remedial sewing. I have never been able to figure out how to get them fixed. I thought about going to Chinatown in The City and poking around for one of those places like you found but I don’t speak Chinese. I’m wondering if that little store near your house could fix them for me. The jerseys cost $50 – $60 new so I’m willing to pay maybe up to $20 each to have them fixed. I was thinking maybe I could mail them to you and you could have them fixed. Even with the shipping costs, I’d probably come out ahead of what it would cost for buying replacement jerseys. Maybe you could get a price quote for a zipper replacement on a cycling jersey and some minor sewing fixes and let me know what they say.

  4. Tommy says:

    I think it might be a bit more trouble than it’s worth. I doubt I could get a good quote using my current Spanish skills. Chinatown might be your best bet. See if they can do it at the same place you get your haircuts.

  5. Patrick says:

    Thanks for the link juice and props for my blog! You underestimate your photography skills, I’ve seen your “machine gun” photo-shooting style when you’ve borrowed my camera and there are definitely a few good ones that come from it. Peru should be epic… although not sure if they have Mundo Verde there, so you may starve to death.

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