Monday, January 18, 2010

Aprovecha el Idioma

After nearly two weeks in Colombia, I can't figure out whether my Spanish is getting better or if the locals are just getting nicer the further South I go. In any case, we are meeting a ton of locals, all very eager to speak with a Yankee. Our hostel in Medellín was in the El Poblado district, very nice, very safe, close to many things. The only drawbacks for us were the amount of dude-bros in the hostel and their penchant for 9am partying. We did manage to put together a pretty good group of like-minded kids who, like us, spoke (or at least tried) to speak Spanish. This put us at a big advantage for meeting and having fun with Paisas, folks from Medellín and the Antioqua Valley.

Our first night out was a bit of a disappointment, while Poblado's Zona Rosa features a plethora of bars and restaurants, these are geared towards teens on the weekdays and families on the weekends. On Saturday, we decided to bite and head to the areas of town less frequented by tourists. As our taxi climbed the hill towards Las Palmas, we could see the enormous light arrangement left up on one of the hills for Xmas. There were several massive nightclubs with impressive themes that were all totally empty as it was only midnight. We headed back down the valley and were left on “Calle 33”, the main local drag. The bar we chose was oozing with local vibe and blasting loud Vallenato. I maneuvered my way between the gyrating dancers and ordered us a bottle of rum (as there was no beer). We received a fair amount of stares, which reassured me that we were off the “gringo trail” (as my buddy Paul calls it) and in the real Colombia. The owner gushed when talking to us, coming and checking on us several times to make sure we were having fun, and our tab was a fraction of what it would have been in the Zona Rosa.

We ended up at a cluster of local dance clubs and between the four of us, probably spoke to everybody who was there. We danced with the chicas, who were very amiable by accepting to dance with us for at least one song, even if they weren't really interested in us. Many of the guys there were impressed that we had made the effort to find the non-gringo area and gave us shots of aguardiente as they tried to practice their English. That night, we made a ton of friends, drank for practically nothing and my buddy Matt even scored a date with one of the hottest Colombian women I've ever seen. So let this be a lesson to you traveling in Latin America: if you aren't speaking Spanish, you're getting slighted on your cultural experience. ¡Aprendalo!

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