Tag Archives: barranquilla

The Pace of Change: My Post-Holiday Barranquilla Redux

Little did I know the changes amassing in Quilla while I was in the US!

Little did I know the changes amassing in Quilla while I was in the US!

I spent a truly lovely few years of my life – longer ago than I care to admit – living in Seattle. I don’t know whether Seattle is this way now, but back then, even though it was (and is) a big city, it offered a level of “sameness” that one might usually associate with a small town. One could go away on vacation and feel confident that Seattle would be waiting, basically the same as before, when one returned. Even after I had been living in Miami for two years, when I went back for a visit to Seattle I was still able to get coffee at Café Ladro and Espresso Vivace, and a big, fat peanut butter cookie from Cinnamon Works in Pike Place Market. I swear the same guy even checked me out at Bartell Drugs. (Whether this is good or bad is a question for that guy, but the fact that Bartell’s still exists is actually a little remarkable in and of itself.)

This isn’t to say that nothing changed – like any big city, there were always new developments in the urban landscape – but the changes were usually additions to what was there before, not replacements. This made Seattle sort of a comfort food of cities for me, which was important at the time since I was going through a divorce and other seismic life changes. Seattle was not always perfect, but there was a lot of security in knowing exactly what I was going to get.

This feeling stood in sharp contrast to my experience of Miami, the next place that I lived, this time for nearly a decade. Continue reading

Transportation in, to, and from Barranquilla

Readers, I’m thrilled to bring you a guest post from Paige Poole, a fellow Barranquilla transplant. Paige’s own blog, Transatlantic Adventure, includes fun and useful regular features like “Word Wednesday”—a must-read for people looking to bone up on Costeño (Coastal) Spanish. Paige also writes regularly for Uncover Colombia, a great source of destination-related info.

Brightly painted blinged-out buses are a common sight.  Figuring out how to use them is the challenge!

Brightly painted buses, often tricked out with special lights, are a common sight in B’quilla. Figuring out how to use them is the challenge!

After my family and I scored cheap plane tickets to Medellín based on Paige’s insights, I realized that she would be the perfect person to demystify what can be a challenging prospect for newcomers: figuring out how to get around. Believe me, if you’re moving here or even if you already live here, I know you’ll join me in thanking Paige for her incredibly helpful post, which follows below.

– Courtenay

Transportation in, to, and from Barranquilla

When first arriving to Barranquilla, public transportation can seem daunting, confusing, and overwhelming. While at its core you can find similarities between public transportation in Barranquilla and public transportation in other big cities around the world, you’ll also find there are many differences and peculiarities that can cause chaos if you are not aware of them!

First of all, you need to know that the main methods of transportation within the city of Barranquilla include: taxis, buses, “busetas,” and Transmetro. Continue reading

Reflections on Thanksgivings Away

A Strickland Family Thanksgiving.

A Strickland Family Thanksgiving.

Just before my senior year of college, thanks to a generous scholarship from the Georgia Rotary Student Program, I had the opportunity to attend the International Summer School at the University of Oslo in Norway. (By the way, the application process for this scholarship is currently open!) The students hailed from more than 80 countries around the world. The experience was equal parts magic (there’s nothing quite like the views en route between Oslo and Bergen) and practical learning (people from almost anywhere will eat rice with a bean sauce, but music is harder to agree upon). Regularly scheduled “Cultural Nights” were intended to help students get to know each others’ cultures, from local crafts to music, dance, style of dress, food, and more.

Fortunately, making a presentation during Cultural Night was optional. Why fortunately? Continue reading

Ten Surprising Facts About Shopping in Colombia

I am not much of a shopper. I find the whole process a little intimidating. In spite of this, I’m a bit of a clothes hog and a total nester, as well as an admitted sucker for beautiful design.

One of Barranquilla's primary "big box stores" - a Super Almacen Olimpica (SAO).

One of Barranquilla’s primary “big box stores” – a Super Almacen Olimpica (SAO).

There’s no doubt I like owning nice stuff. If you add the fact that I have lived most of my adult life on my own at a nonprofit salary, then it becomes (maybe) a little understandable that I developed some semi-unconventional shopping habits. For years, I craigslist-ed my way into great furniture, bargain-binned into fancy clothes, and spent all the rest of my money traveling and moving to new places. I thought I had the whole shopping thing figured out — and then I moved to Colombia. Below, are ten facts that took me off guard as I learned to navigate the shopping landscape in Barranquilla. For more shopping specifics, be sure to also click on my Leap Sources page.

1. Generally speaking, imports are really expensive.

Imports are heavily taxed. Now that the US-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) is in force, tariffs are being reduced or eliminated entirely from various categories of US imports. Continue reading

Big Orange Trucks

Last night I said goodbye to a dear expat friend who returned to the US after living in Barranquilla for almost two years. While I am excited for this new era in his journey, he’ll be deeply missed here in Colombia.

As I helped him take his luggage to the counter at the airport, I felt that pang in my chest, signaling that the page is turning to a new chapter. While the page was mainly in his book, not mine, I have been there often enough to be familiar with the gratitude and anxiety, the hope and happiness, and the sentimentality and the sadness that pools behind that pang. It’s the feeling that comes up at all turning points — your own, and those of friends and loved ones. It’s the feeling that this poem tries to capture. Continue reading

The Price of Bliss (It’s Not About the Gun)

A gun doesn’t look like a gun when it’s pointed at you – at least it didn’t to me. It looked like a dark gaping hole – an ominous round circle, the center of which disappeared into a black void. That circle is the first and really the only thing I saw when I was mugged at gunpoint a couple of weeks ago about a half mile from my home in Barranquilla.

An artist's rendering of a black hole in the Milky Way, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

An artist’s rendering of a black hole in the Milky Way, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It happened like this: I left the house around 4:00 pm on a Saturday afternoon, to do my weekly “long run”. I had planned to jog 18 miles through Barranquilla’s northern neighborhoods, but about eight miles in, I wasn’t feeling it. At mile 10, I reached the Parque Electrificadora that’s popular with many runners – there’s about a ½ mile loop around it – and stopped to walk. The sun had gone down, but plenty of people were out. I decided to walk toward home. I did not think this was a dicey decision – it’s about a mile between my house and the park on a busy street through an upscale neighborhood. Continue reading

Run, Run Like the Wind… but don’t forget your Armpocket: B.o.B.’s First-But-Not-Last Product Review and Giveaway

For those who are long-time readers of this blog, you know from this post that I run. It’s more accurate to say that I jog, but that sounds so boring. I think if the activity requires your knees to bend more than your butt joint, then you are entitled to say that you run. But I digress…. You also know from this post that running in Barranquilla can be hard, not just because of the extreme heat and humidity, but also because of the crazy uneven or nonexistent sidewalks and the drivers who most definitely do not believe that pedestrians have the right-of-way. What you may not know is that running in Barranquilla sent me on a quest for a product I wish I had found long ago – the Armpocket.

My brand new Armpocket.

My brand new Armpocket.

Before I tell you why I recommend this product so highly, let me tell you how I came to realize that I needed it. The story starts in Miami Beach, where I trained for three marathons but never ran with a phone. I wanted my daily run to be off the grid. I did, however, run with an iPod Nano since running without music is, as far as I’m concerned, some outer circle of Hell. That, and I am totally addicted to tracking my runs with  Nike+. (Almost 2,000 miles logged!) I tried a variety of arm straps for my Nano – one by Nike, one by New Balance, and some others that I can’t remember. In the process, I got blisters on my arm and ruined two iPods through water damage. (Sweat, people. Lots of sweat.) I chalked this up to the price of running – after all, it’s a pretty cheap sport on the whole – and kept hoping my iPod would survive at least six months. (Don’t even get me started on earphones… no telling how many of those I burned through before I discovered that Sennheiser’s are serious troopers. But again I digress….)

When I came to Barranquilla, I quickly realized that I was going to feel more comfortable if I toted my phone with me on runs – not just because I could make an emergency call if needed, but also because of the GPS. Being the practical person that I am, I plopped my iPhone into a plastic sandwich bag, leaving the bag open just enough for the earphone cord, and carried it in my hot little hand. (I ditched the iPod since the iPhone had both music and the Nike+ app – although let me tell you, my average time per mile plummeted because if you use the Nike+ app with the GPS, as opposed to the one that goes on your shoe, then you get no credit for all that time you’re running in place at the red light. OMG, I digress again….) That’s when some pretty interesting things started to happen. Continue reading

Colombia + Rain + Football = Epic Adventure (with photos and videos)

Picking up where we left off in the ongoing saga of World Cup mania in Colombia, I had just bought tickets on the street to Colombia’s sold-out September 6th Qualifier against Ecuador. I bought the tickets literally a few hours before the game, and paid a hefty price.

Marcello's nursery school class on game day.

Marcello’s nursery school class on game day.

The purchase was dicey in two respects: 1) tickets are all too often found to be counterfeit, which can mean a colossal waste of money for the purchaser, and 2) my husband Gio had to work until just before the start of the game, which meant it would be no small miracle if we were able to arrive at the stadium on time. We made the leap anyway because we realized at the last minute that we would not be in Barranquilla during the remaining home World Cup Qualifiers. This would likely be our only chance to see our team — the number 3 ranked team in the world no less! — in action. It didn’t seem like an opportunity to miss.

So you can imagine our dismay when, just as we bolted out of the house to rush to the stadium, the storm clouds let loose.

The arroyo at the corner of CR 47, our street, and CL 85, the nearest cross-street. The wall that is submerged behind the tree is probably five feet tall.

The arroyo at the corner of CR 47, our street, and CL 85, the nearest cross street. The wall that is submerged behind the tree is four or five feet tall.

A torrential downpour just before a major sporting event is a problem in any city; it’s bound to cause traffic snafus. But in Barranquilla, a major downpour doesn’t just slow things down — it stops everything. This is because Barranquilla has no drainage system other than the streets themselves, which means the streets become whitewater rivers — called “arroyos” — that are capable of sweeping cars underwater and (sadly) killing people too. Gio and I donned plastic garbage bags in a (failed) attempt to stay dry and ran down the street desperately trying to hail a cab before the streets became impassable. With each step we took, the rain came down harder. We made it about two blocks from our house before the water began rushing down the street and over our shoes. At that point, we knew it was too late. Just when we decided to turn around and head home, and just when I thought it couldn’t rain any harder, it did. We were starting to feel waterboarded when we finally made it to the shelter of a nearby apartment building’s porch and a small store on the ground floor.

That’s when the fun really began. Continue reading

(Friday Fotos) World Cup Hootenanny – It’s Game Day!

Let me set the scene. At this very moment, I’m sitting at my desk in my fourth floor apartment a half block away from one of the most happening streets in the city, which has now been closed to car traffic. The intersection that I can see is filled with people in bright yellow T-shirts, and more are approaching from all sides. Never mind the storm clouds that are also gathering. Yellow, red, and blue Colombian flags stream from every building, and music pounds from monster speakers. This is Colombia, and this is all about the World Cup.

A local taste of what the World Cup is about to bring - and what B'quilla will bring to the World Cup!

A local taste of what the World Cup is about to bring – and what B’quilla will bring to the World Cup!

We’re in the middle of the “Selección” — the series of games that countries worldwide play in order to secure a spot in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. As you know from the post Fútbol, not Football, Colombia chooses to play its home qualifiers right here in Killa. The last time Colombia made it to the Copa Mundial, they played the home games in Barranquilla, so our fair city is considered good luck. Plus, rumor has it that the visiting teams can’t take the heat (literally).

I’m convinced the decision to play here also has to do with Barranquilleros’ extreme love of fútbol. Even in Colombia, a country with no shortage of fútbol aficionados, Barranquilleros rank at the top on the scale of devotion. For example, at all games of the national league, the  División Mayor del Fútbol Profesional Colombiano (Dimayor), the home team has a “barra” in the stadium end zone where the most die hard fans congregate. Barranquilla’s club, which is called Junior for reasons that nobody can explain to me, is the only team in Colombia that has two barras — one in each end zone. You’ll see what I’m talking about in the photos that follow. Continue reading

(Friday Fotos) Barranquilla’s Wildlife

What’s that you say? When you think of Barranquilla, “wildlife” is not the first thing that pops to mind? The association is a little bizarre. Barranquilla is the proverbial “concrete jungle,” but guess what? This particular concrete jungle does in fact have a few truly jungle-y inhabitants. Check out the below and you’ll see what I mean. And no, I did not take these pictures at the zoo – although the zoo here is pretty good. More on that later…. Happy Friday!

Mango? What mango?

"Look at that body... Ah... I work out...."

“Look at that body… Ah… I work out….”

Continue reading