Billares and Atlantijazz

Wednesday was the final day of the English Intensivo course and my students invited me to go play pool with them. Considering that at home I go with Sarah Walker to play pool and have a few vodkas nearly every week, I figured this was a great idea. I was mistaken. Yes I had a great time. Yes I got to know my students well and find a nice pool club close to the school. No, I wasn’t good at pool at all.

Pool isn’t normally classed as a dangerous game: it is when I play. I don’t think that central Barranquilla pool room has ever seen so many balls fly across its tables between the pool players and salsa dancers. Heck. I was so bad that my students thought I had never played before. “Hey teacher, for your first time to are good!” If only they knew.

The guys are really nice. They’re friendly, great craic and have invited me to lots of places. However, even outside of class they call me teacher, and every single one of them uses the usted form when speaking to me (a register in Spanish used to show respect when speaking to somebody). Here in Colombia the usted form is used more commonly than in other hispanophone countries- however I still feel like I just want to be called Daniel and addressed the way they would any of their friends. Not it I mention that I find it too hard to use the usted form in conversation- it takes up too much thinking energy! The tu form is much easier, nicer and friendlier. It’s also strange being addressed with usted while your students are trying to teach you every swear word they know, teach you how to catch a bus without paying, and let you know that if you ever need a room for a night (read between the lines folks, there’s kids on the interwebs) that they’ll sort it for you.

Thursday we had a teachers meeting. Nothing much to tell really. Then during the night Christina and I went to Universidad Atlantico where a jazz concert, Atlantijazz, was on. Some of the bands were terrible, others were amazing. It was nice to do something different, something a bit cultural, and of course- something I wouldn’t normally do at home.

This weekend I have received numerous invitations. After a whole month of being invited somewhere by Colombians on just one occasion, suddenly everybody wants me to go places with them. I was invited to the Ecuador v Colombia world cup qualifier, on a date with a girl who loves gringo men, and to about 5 parties. However, this weekend has been booked up for a while- I am travelling to Cali to meet some of the other brilliant English language assistants to go on a whale watching excursion. As much as I would have loved to be part of the celebratory atmosphere in the football stadium, meet a hot Colombian chick and get drunk at lots of cool costeño parties- whale watching is something I’ve wanted to do for a while and the chance to see another part of this vibrant and exciting country is just too good an opportunity to pass up on.


Sabor de Carnaval, the Zoo and Barranquijazz

So it’s a bright sunny Saturday and sick and tired of walking around shopping centres Christina and I head out to meet some teachers from our school (Lisette and Wilmer) at a small street party celebrating the culinary flavours of Barranquilla’s famous carnaval. When we arrive the sounds, smells and sights are crazy- it’s bright, exciting, loud, vibrant and the party atmosphere is definitely in swing as locals try traditional food and drink, buy and sell souvenirs and enjoy the festivities. We go inside the ‘Casa de Carnaval’ where there is a small museum showing the music, dances, costumes, masks and the history of carnaval.

Afterward we go out to the small courtyard and sit in the shade as the entertainment commences. It is hilarious. A man dressed as a gorilla; a pensioner singing old Spanish ballads; people dancing in different Colombian outfits; a man in a shark outfit (the mascot of the local football team, Junior) and lots of music. It’s all very funny, the beautiful Reina Civica (Civic Queen) performs with her not so beautiful Civic King, and an old lady decides that dancing with el gringo (me) will be brilliant. I think the 150 odd Colombians there that day will never forget the sight of a pale, 6’2″ Irishman trying to salsa in 30 degree heat. I know I won’t forget it anytime soon.

Afterwards Lisette and Wilmer take us to the zoo with their daughter, and some cousins of theirs. The zoo is quite big and has a huge range of animals. My favourite were the meerkats, which are even cooler in real life than on television.

Later that evening I headed out to meet Beci and some friends of hers at Barranquijazz, a local jazz music competition. Unfortunately I was late and only caught the last song. ¡Qué lastima! Not to worry though. Beci’s friends brought us to their favourite pizza restaurant, and the food there was amazing. I learned a handy new phrase, “Bajate el bus” (literally ‘get of the bus’, figuratively ‘pay up’) and we had a laugh talking about our time so far in the city. We ended the night playing funny card games and tennis on the Nintendo wii, which I of course, was killer at.

All in all it was my favourite day so far in Barranquilla, and I certainly hope there are more like this to come!