Getting to Know Valledupar (en)
Every day turns into an adventure when you move to a completely new place that has very little in common with your native country. It's exciting and frustrating at the same time. Just trying to buy basic things in the local supermarket can be an hour mission. Ordering meals at a restaurant is even bigger accomplishment. (Un)fortunately in Colombia you can be almost always sure that regardless of what you order, you get some kind of meat, rice and beans (more on Colombian food coming later). The reasons for the excitement and frustration are two-fold: one is the language barrier and the other one is insufficient knowledge of local customs.
A daily commute to work is another affair full of surprises. On your way you can see a brand new SUV and a shabby horse-drawn vehicle side by side as well as motorbikes and bikes and taxis. This city/town (haven't made up my mind yet what to call it) wakes up rather early and I really like those still fairly cool early mornings. Admiring mango trees along the road, I try to maintain a friendly chat with a taxi driver. Still haven't figured it out what is pure friendliness and what is serious flirtation (again the language barrier and different culture). Coming back from work at midday gets even better - getting a lift on my colleague's motorbike, taking a bus and walking back (getting lost) – all in 35˚C or more.
On our second day here, all of us 7 new-coming gringas were officially welcomed at one of our schools. I was truly touched when I saw the flag of our tiny country up above the stage. However, the most impressive part of the event was Vallenato music and dance performed by the students. It was full of positive energy that filled up the entire room. Vallenato music is not just a show for special occasions, it's very much alive and you can hear it playing from every corner. I believe that any local person knows all the lyrics and they are ready to sing it or dance to it any time.
Throughout the week there were a few occasions to meet new people. The above mentioned welcome event was just one of them. The day of our arrival we met at our hostel with other fellows who have already been here for a few months. They prepared 'arepas' for us and shared some valuable advice. Then on Wednesday was the very first one Valledupar's language exchange at the bar called Palenke (Spanish meaning, not Slovak, anyway, it made me feel more at home). And on Sunday afternoon, as many local people do, we spent a chilled afternoon by the Rio Guatapuri.