Tuesday, 10 December 2013

No somos Colombianos, pero ... (We're not Colombian, but ...)

An old Colombian flame of ours used to suggest that we’re just not compatible with her country; with a large proportion of the people that is, not the actual land. In fairness, it didn’t take her to get us thinking that way, whether it’s completely true or not.
A bog-standard, satisfyingly simple Bogotá tienda bar.
Unlike some 'exclusive' spots, locals actually talk to you in tiendas such as this one.

We’ve tinkered around this topic on these pages before.* Plus we tend to be very honest and forthright; no, you’re right, let’s not go down that road just now.

In terms of finding ‘love’ (uh-oh, here we go again), where we do a large part of our socialising – see http://bit.ly/17yN8HH for what we’re on about – are not the type of places you’re likely to find the most ‘sought after’ girls in Colombia. We won’t go into the whole argument that such a search is fanciful in this country; or any for that matter. We’re not complete romantic cynics, just yet.

The fact is that for much of our socialising we gravitate towards modest, value-for-money, friendly, venues. You see, we do like to regularly get out and meet people but this also has to be balanced with living within our means. Thus, when you’re in a city/country with such a disparity in prices between different neighbourhoods, from the relatively cheap to the ridiculously expensive, and your own income is pretty average, visits to the ‘swankier’ ends have to be frequently curtailed.

In contrast, most Colombian women around our age, ones with comparable backgrounds/education to ourselves in any case, tend not to like the satisfying simplicity of the tienda bars we regularly frequent. No, they enjoy more the lavish locations – it helps of course when they don’t expect to put their hands in their oversized handbags for much, if not all, of the night. We however are such fans of equal rights where possible that the idea of paying far more than our fair share is anathema to us (for more see The wages of love).

Yet the question remains, are we incompatible with Colombia? Our Costeña ‘friend’ answered this one in the affirmative.** However, putting aside her Colombian nationality, we may be more ‘acceptable’ to, and compatible with, the masses of her country than she is. Her hangouts of choice align with the ‘elite’ minority of the country. Tienda drinkers are the norm, the majority. All understandable really considering the wage difference and accompanied social scene discrepancy between the top earners and the rest.
The 'delightful' La Perseverancia, our new hangout spot in Bogotá.
Our new home, La Perseverancia; no one even tried to rob our camera.

Change may be brewing on this front. With a rising middle-class, perhaps places that are now seen as upper-class will in time become more accessible to a greater number of citizens and expats alike. Such a change though is unlikely to happen at any discernible rate, not in these parts.

We may be a long way from the day when a Colombian parliamentarian and the local unemployed alcoholic drink in the same bar and share a conversation, something that you’ll often witness in Ireland. Although maybe that’s not the best example; they’re both similar types in many ways. You get the point though.

One other feature that draws us back time and again to our watering holes, outside of the price, is that we tend to find that the locals there get that almost indescribable thing, the ‘craic’ (or ‘crack’, depending on your spelling preference). A word (not a substance) used in Ireland and elsewhere to describe many scenarios.

In this context understanding and being able to engage in various bouts of slagging/pub banter. Lest there’s still any confusion about the word and its meaning, the only drug that is usually consumed in the presence of craic is alcohol, although it’s not a prerequisite. Not only do they get the craic, but we find that they're usually very good at handing out free beers. Oh they know how to 'play' us.

So while you can point to many areas where we don’t ‘fit in’ with Colombia and her people, we’ve found enough comforting similarities to keep us coming back.

You could say, like the country itself, we’re still a work in progress here, without a fixed completion date.
*For a run through some of the things we've found 'uncomfortable' here, see Lord of the Dance and Colombia’s false friends. The Irish and Colombians do, however, have that strong Catholic background, manifested in different ways albeit.

**'Costeña' ('Costeño' for a man; literally 'coastal' in English) is the term used for woman from Colombia's -- and Venezuela's -- Caribbean coast. It's also the name of a beer in Colombia. (We won't go into the whole 'a beer is better than woman because...' spiel; we could, but we won't.)


  1. Hi Wrong Way
    Good to see you are persevering with Columbia in La Perseverancia!

    I want to 'see... what you're on about' but I think a link got lost in translation - see below for what I mean:

    "In terms of finding ‘love’ (uh-oh, here we go again), where we do a large part of our socialising – see … for what we’re on about"

    1. Sharp-eyed Spike -- cheers for that! It has been rectified (see the link above now!) 'We've' had a word with the editor!

  2. Please stop spamming barely-relevant links to your blog on IT articles.

    1. One must advertise Matthew; it's a tough world out there...

    2. Hijacking a newspaper's comments section to give yourself free publicity is annoying to the readers, though, doubly so when your link has nothing whatsoever to do with the article you commented on.

      Also, from a purely practical perspective, if you really want to boost your readership you will have much better luck improving your content than your marketing. Start by improving your writing flow. Stop losing the thread in your endless run-on, parenthetical sentences. A set of disjointed and self-centred observations like the above leave the reader asking "What's the point?" and "Why should I care about this?" You need to tell us something interesting, give us a key point of contrast that'll stick in our minds.

      Even the blog title is a case of this: "Wrong Way Corrigan" is probably meaningful to you, but it doesn't really mean anything at all to someone who isn't already deeply interested in your life.

      There are writers who get by on discussing their day-to-day lives (Roisín Ingle springs to mind), and I've no doubt that you have stories to tell from Columbia, but you need to find some way to make your experiences resonate with your readers or else you're not going to have very many readers. Hit home the differences, or the unexpected similarities, between there and here. Find the universal in the particular. Otherwise it just comes across as a what-I-did-on-my-holidays essay, of interest to no-one but the author.

      And finally, even if you fixed all of these issues and managed to produce quality content, link spamming would still be totally unjustifiable. "Spam" is a perjorative for a reason, and "one must advertise" is a particularly flimsy justification for it. You don't get to negatively affect everyone else's browsing experience because you've decided your personal travel blog needs exposure.

    3. Thanks for taking the time to give a critical review of the blog; it's very much appreciated.

      For sure, linking this particular post to the beer article in The Irish Times was quite spurious. On other occasions however the links are far more relevant and rather than writing out a whole essay again, a link to a previous piece can just be as effective we have found.

      Content & style will always be a contested arena; we all have our likes & dislikes. I think if you took the time (which I'm sure you don't want to!) you'll find many posts looking at similarities and differences between ColOmbia/Latin America in general and Ireland and 'the West'. For just one example see http://bit.ly/13VtSAZ. There are plenty more. On a lighter note there's this piece for which we got recognition from the U.S. travel/work abroad web site GoAbroad.com, http://www.goabroad.com/articles/more-than-words-colombia-s-useful-to-know-sign-language. And lastly, our new blog with Colombia's version of 'The Times', 'El Tiempo: http://blogs.eltiempo.com/wrong-way-corrigan/.

      Also, in a sense, as we've been based in Bogotá for over two years, it's not a travel blog per se. For sure there is travel content, but it doesn't make up the lions share; you have to be travelling to write travel content!

      Again, cheers for your comments. We will make a concerted effort not to be as 'trigger happy' with leaving spuriously-related links to the blog after Irish Times articles.