Saturday, September 27, 2014

Colombian Happenings

Every day here in Colombia presents something new. Whether that be a new experience, phrase, or death-defying walk down the street, there's always something new to look forward to. Last week was definitely no exception. Let's recap the highlights...

Shrubbery Clean-Up

Last Thursday, I came home from playing soccer (I know this may be hard to fathom/believe, but I have started playing the national sport of Colombia once a week - more on this in a later post) to find an oddity outside of my house. There, in the middle of the street, was a large, massive pile of limbs, branches, leaves, and a few car tires. This pile-up was so big and in the way that cars, buses, and motorcycles had to slow down, decide which side to pass on, and then drive around this monstrosity. I was thoroughly confused - it had rained a little bit that day, which meant that there had ore than likely been an arroyo (because let's face it - raindrops don't fall from the sky without an arroyo forming). Even if there had been an arroyo, the placement of the debris was very puzzling. Normally, the arroyos rush by and make a turn on the next block, so all of this junk would've gone down the street as well and would not have just piled up in front of my house.

Perplexed and hoping to get to the bottom of what was going on, I dug out my house keys and headed inside to ask my host mom what happened. She was a tad bit frantic because I had forgotten to tell her that I was coming home a bit later than usual (oops!). From what I was able to gather from her explanation, the power had gone out at the house and then a tree fell down/was cut down/no longer was standing in its original spot. That would explain the excess amount of limbs and branches in the middle of the road. I honestly didn't really think much more about it while I ate my dinner, did some lesson planning, and then got ready for bed.

Around 10 pm, just as I was getting situated and ready to pass out, our electricity cut out. This led to a glorious hour or so of lying in my bed, swimming in a pool of my own sweat, attempting to get comfortable and fall asleep. It really has been amazing how much the heat and humidity affects someone, especially when they are trying to sleep. Finally, around 11 pm or so, my fans kicked back on and some sweet relief was afforded to myself and the rest of the house. The revival of our electricity also seemed to spark another occurrence - a lack of driving sense of some local drivers. As soon as the fans started whirring again, the piercing sound of screeching brakes and the hideous thud of car on branch came from the street outside of my window. Some errant driver had drove smack dab into the middle of the massive berm of vegetation in the middle of the street! As if that wasn't enough, over the course of the next couple of hours, at least 4 other vehicles met the same fate. It appears that this small tree that was now growing in the middle of the street just sprung up on these drivers, causing them to keep me from a lovely phenomenon called sleep.

As if all of the above wasn't enough action for one night, I was further disturbed around 2:30 am by the awesome beeps and echoes of a dump truck and backhoe cleaning up the mess. Honestly, I can't think of a better time to attempt the cleaning up of debris in the middle of the street than in the middle of the night. It actually makes perfect sense to me. However, my sleep deprived body did not agree with all of the action from the night before as I dragged through Spanish classes and technical training. All of the happenings led to even more fun times that following night...

Harrowing Taxi Ride

Last Friday after training, a group of us (Caitlin, Katrina, Sammy, Barbara, Kathleen, Hayley, Esther, Christopher, MC, Jordan, Alex T., Derek, Jimmy, and myself) headed out for some 2-for-1 drinks, relaxation, and the perfect start to our weekend. When we arrived at the restaurant, we were seated and actually given the wrong menus at first (which we all ordered off of). We later found out that the prices were actually a bit steeper than we originally thought, which caught us all of guard. But, as the drinks and food started coming, so did the conversation, random Broadway tunes, and impromptu back massages.

We all headed back to Caitlin's apartment complex afterwards to catch some taxis home. Her complex has a doorman that calls taxis for people, so this seemed like a better idea than just getting one off of the street. I ended up sharing a taxi ride home with Barbara and Kathleen, since they live relatively close to me (and by relative, I mean 20 blocks or so). On the way home, the taxi driver needed gas, so he pulled into a gas station. When he turned of the car, he told the three of us that we needed to get out of the car because he couldn't pump gas with anyone inside. He then proceeded to pop his hood (!) and the attendant took an air-compressor type hose, inserted it into the engine, and started pumping gas into the car. It was definitely a bit different than the way that we do things back in the states!

We got back on the road and dropped Barbara and Kathleen off at their houses, then headed towards my neighborhood. This is where things got kind of dicey. Throughout the entire ride, I had noticed that the driver seemed to be having trouble shifting gears while driving. This problem only became worse once he dropped off the girls. We were cruising down a hill in town when all of the sudden the car just died - like stopped working mid-careen down the street. A sensible person would pull over to the side of the road/side street, stop, and attempt to restart the car. Colombia isn't a normal place.

This driver decided that it would be awesome to attempt to restart the car while still rolling down the street not once, not twice, not three times, but FOUR SEPARATE TIMES! While this entire process was playing out before my eyes, we were actively avoiding buses, other cars, motos, and pedestrians that also decided to use that same stretch of road that night. There were a few close calls that almost made me just jump out of the cab before we ended up a fiery mess of tangled metal and body parts. Finally, the car started right up, second gear was discovered, and I was delivered to my house in one piece. Definitely one of the most "interesting" cab rides that I've ever taken in my life...

Massive Arroyo

So as I have documented a few times, flash flooding is a major problem here in Barranquilla. Last Sunday was no different. A massive thunderstorm rolled through the area, bringing with it tremendous claps of thunder, impressive lightning displays, and sheets upon sheets of rain. Within minutes, a small river was once again flowing in front of my house. This time it was a bit stronger than the ones in the past...

As I was watching the rain fall and the kids of my block frolic about along the sidewalks, I noticed something peculiar. There, in the middle of the arroyo, was a yellow taxi cab being swept away by the water. The cab was turned sideways and had at least a driver inside who was probably praying for the best end to his current predicament. Not too long after the distressed cab, a sofa, dining room table, and a multitude of tires followed, being swept down the street by the strong current that had been created. It was quite a site. This was by far the biggest arroyo that I've seen to date and it probably won't be the last one...