Idiosyncrasies of rural Colombia

1.  Overheating – When men get hot in the countryside, they pull their shirts up over their bellies to expose it and air it out.  It’s like when we roll up our sleeves, but rather than arms, the shirt is hiked up over a huge, round, tan belly.

2.  Nicknames – Everyone uses nicknames in rural areas.  Literally everyone.  Many people won’t even know a person’s real name if you ask them.  Even peoples parents and family members call them by their nicknames  – some of our favorites are: “Sapo Triste,” (Sad Frog) “Culón,” (Big Ass), and “Pito Negro” (Black Dick(!) ). 

3. Shouting – Instead of greeting people with a handshake or a few sentences, people just shout each others’ nicknames across the small plazas of the towns.  Or they shout “Entonces!” (… “And then!?”), “Que hubo!?” (“What’s up!?”) or simply whistle or tweet an animal sound.  Jake and I think that it is because everyone knows everyone in the town and it would take too long to properly greet everyone. 

4.  White People – Everyone we meet thinks we are brother and sister and that we look alike.  It worries me that we may be too genetically similar to have healthy babies.  But Jake reassures me that it’s just because “all white people look alike.” 🙂

5. Hitchhiking – Because very few people have their own vehicles and few buses pass through the more remote roads in the mountains, hitchhiking is a given.  Every time we pass a campesino walking down the road and we are headed the same way, we pick him or her up and take him or her with us.  We have also done the same when we have needed to get somewhere without a vehicle.  It’s a nice way to feel like we are sort of part of community.

6. Music – Small businesses or kiosks blast music all day and late into the night.  They blast reggeaton over one another and to me it feels ridiculous because it is a tiny little town, with empty store fronts, but it’s like a rave coming at you from all angles. 

7. Horses – Teenagers have horses instead of cars and they prance them around Friday nights, sometimes with stereos strapped onto the saddle.  When they enter a bar for a drink, they will park their horse outside and hold the reigns in one hand and a beer in the other. We wonder if drunk galloping and trotting through the town square qualifies as “drunk driving.”  The police in rural areas don’t seem to think so. 

8.  Requests –  Without shame, many people we meet ask us for things we cannot provide –  for example, help getting exile in Canada, money, or a book deal, to name a few. Apparently U.S. movies have convinced them that gringos have unlimited power, influence, and cash.  Also, sometimes people confuse us for people working for a development agency or for their own government, and ask us for information about programs to help displaced people or victims of the conflict.  The ironic thing is that this is often something we can provide, as our research has made us well-versed in Colombian bureaucracy and legislation. 


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