Monday, September 7, 2009

Not so much of a tourist...

So…now been in Calí for over a month and am starting to feel less like a tourist and more like a local, people recognising me around uni, inviting me out for drinks, meet friends etc. I love these first few weeks, as I did on my year abroad, mainly for the reason that I have no concrete plans whatsoever. What are you doing next weekend? Don’t know. Fancy going out? Why not? And there you have it, night planned for next weekend. I do like keeping myself busy, so there is the side of me that wants plans like this all the time. However these occasions generally involve aguardiente, and a consequent bad hangover, so it’s not really feasible or sustainable to do them on nights apart from Friday and Saturday nights, which generally means I can end up twiddling my thumbs most of the week outside of work.

To keep myself busy, amongst other things, I’ve started to write what could end being a book and have started playing water polo at the uni. I’ve never really played it before, but I just generally enjoy the team atmosphere more than anything. There’s loads of words that fly over my head and the fact I can’t wear my glasses means I can’t see much either, so bearing in mind I'm effectively deaf and blind, I should be fairly crap at the game really! But I seem to be decent enough and the general banter that goes on in teams like this is something I miss, and of course it’s a good way to meet people. It’s also given me a general insight into “Cultural relations” shall we say, the one black guy on the team is subject to constant abuse which I found pretty shocking at first, nothing really malicious but you wouldn’t be able to do it back home. Just the way it is here it seems.

Whilst most of you reading this at the end of crap summer will be thinking that England is all shit and desperately looking to get away, living abroad does make you realise the finer things about your own country. I keep harping back to punctuality and reliability, but really, they are good things. I’m currently waiting for my ID card, I went for the appointment a month ago and was told I’d have my card in 10 days, great I thought, should be paid at the end of August. Nearly 30 days later and well into September I’m still waiting. It wouldn’t be that much of a problem but until I have my ID card, I can’t open a bank account, and until I have one, I can’t get paid. In my mind this is where South America falls down and doesn’t really help itself, it’s all very good being chilled out when it’s not an important issue, but when it is important, it can screw you over and there isn’t much you can do about it! The fact that Colombia has many national holidays no doubt contributes to this problem, it’s the image that you get in your head of it being the day before a holiday, the form arrives on someone’s desk and they think…nah, next week. And so you have it…the person at the other end is buggered, at the moment, that’s me!

Apart from lifestyle things, you also realise the great “exports” of your country. And if you ask most of my pupils what they know about England, first words, Premier League! Just about every bloke watches the games, some of my pupils know more about some teams than me and every Saturday cable TV is dominated by English football. I think most people back home don’t quite realise the global impact of the Premier League, especially in football mad South America, and I think we should make more of it back home through tourism and such. After all if you mention Manchester to anyone here, if they’ve been or not, Old Trafford is their main image of the city. I wonder if the Manchester tourist board know that. Quite pleasing for me as well to know that no-one knows the name of City’s ground!!! Other common popular things from back home that are always good talking points are things such as Harry Potter, the Queen, English music of course, and now I've even been asked about Susan Boyle - the power of YouTube!! I get quite nostalgic sometimes talking about these things, but then I hear about the weather back home, and look outside my window, and think, nah, I like it here for now.

I mentioned last time about the Chivas that roll around the city at the weekend as a preamble to a club. Well I’ve now been on one, absolutely brilliant fun is all I can say. The fact it’d be definitely illegal back home just about sums it up. Also, bear in mind that most of these buses are about 50 years old, and not in the best of shapes. So whenever you turn a corner everyone runs to one side and falling out doesn't seem too far of a distant possiblity, and whenever you stop at traffic lights the vibration of the clutch kicking itself causes a massive shock and almost makes you fall over itself! Basically they’re rolling nightclubs with about 50 people rammed on, all dancing and drinking on the way to a club complete with strobes, disco balls and loud music. They also bring you back at the end of the night which I think is even more incredible, providing you don’t do what I did and miss it and have to get a taxi back. My uni had organised this one for a special party, although there does seem to be one everyweek, not that I’m complaining. Turns out this party was a “tetero” party, which means baby bottle, so when you got into the club, everyone was handed a baby bottle with aguardiente. Quite surreal drinking from one in a club in Colombia when last time I drunk from one was when I was probably 2 in my cot back home really. Good idea I thought though, not spillable on the dance floor, refillable, actually makes you drink slower…a cure for binge drinking back home???…No, I thought not too.

Work is more or less settled, teaching my own conversation classes this time so no assessing of the students as in Chile. This means I’ve got more or less a green light to socialise with them which is quite good fun, especially given that most of them are my age or similar. They want to practice English, I want to speak Spanish and they generally know the best places to go, so it makes sense really. I'm generally very impressed with the standard of English at my uni, and the uni aswell, all very professional and lots of native speakers in the department, most from the US but even a few English guys themselves. The students here are amazed that as language students back home we get the chance to spend a year abroad, it’s made me think about trying to arrange something with my own uni in Leeds. I can definitely imagine some English students enjoying the Calí nightlife on their year abroads!

I don’t think a post is fair, especially in this week, without mentioning South American football, it’s World Cup Qualifiers this week as back in Europe. The table is immensely tight, with Brazil the only guaranteed qualifiers so far and more or less everyone else still in the running to qualify except Peru and Bolivia. Colombia’s hopes are in the balance with big game away to Uruguay on Wednesday. The only annoying thing about South American matches is that due to the time differences, you get games being played in the middle of the afternoon at times on work days, still, this doesn’t stop everyone watching it. Watching the game with Colombians on tv is a fantastic experience, sheer passion, more than can be said for most of the North stand at Old Trafford. The commentators are once again back on top form, especially for the English games. The Ryan Giggs song about running down the wing is still sung during the middle of the game, by the commentators, even though he doesn’t really play there now. Other players with their distinctive backers include “Carliiiiitos Tevez” and “Steeeeeeevie GGGGGerrard.” Absolutely fantastic, imagine Motty breaking out into full song during an England game, never a dull or dour comment either from a Lawrenson.

So, that’s all for now. I’ve got my first visitor coming this weekend, Emily, from Barranquilla. I’m thinking what to do, but Calí isn’t really much of a day place, much more nightlife orientated for tourists, so that’s what we’ll do I imagine. Need to start sorting out a place to live for October too, hopefully that won’t be too tricky!!!