Monday, 16 August 2010

First Impressions of Colombia: Babies, Punches and Hair-Gel

My dearest friends, family, foes, admirers (mega lolz), and accidental readers. It may or may not have come to your attention that in one week and two days I will be leaving the country for five months to work for a charity in Cartagena in Colombia, as part of my Spanish degree. The street children really need to learn some English, and given my previous record with under-tens I thought this would be ideal. But unlike the screaming English children I have in the past threatened with their parents not returning, I think these street kids may be a little tougher to crack, so I plan to threaten them with the FARC instead. (I joke. Or do I?)

The reason for this pre-departure update is that I have, technically, already stepped foot on Colombian soil: the Colombian embassy, where last week I (twice) found myself nervously awaiting an interview with the consulate for my visa application. (Interestingly, on my first attempt on Thursday I was denied a visa, having the wrong documents, and on my second attempt on Friday I was granted one, and warmly assured that I would have it in 15 days. This was 10 days before my flight. I prefer to not think about it, it makes me feel a little dizzy.) So on visiting ‘Colombia’, on both Thursday and Friday I was able to make a number of observations about my new compatriots. The first is how everyone in the waiting room knew each other, whether working or waiting. Hugs, kisses, playful punches and winks were darting across the room like pin-balls. No one hugged, kissed or playfully punched me. This led me to question, do all Colombians know each other? Is this what I will face in every bus/bar/hospital/police station I encounter? Should I join in? (Although obviously with caution as a mal-timed playful punch of a granny, or wink at a four year old, could be interpreted badly) My second observation was that everyone had a child. My lack of child was almost embarrassing. (Note to self: must get baby) The final, overwhelming theme of the embassy was hair gel. Used by young and old, male and female, it appears that Colombia may be keeping brill cream in business. “Coooooooool,” I thought to myself. I quickly became jealous and considered asking to borrow some. My hair at that moment could have been described as ‘static-lion’. But I didn’t know whether I would have needed to kiss or wink or punch someone first, so I left it, and turned my thoughts back to the worrying visa situation.

So, in conclusion, what I have learnt about Colombia pre departure is that its citizens are a familiar, fertile nation of hair gel users. Does hair gel increase fertility? There’s only one way to find out.

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