The Wandering Dropout

After trying really hard to find something useful to be good at, it looks like my calling in life is to travel and eat

Say Whaaaat!? Cross-Cultural Dating Dilemmas

Or: Could you please explain that one more time, in simpler Spanish, so I can make sure I’m justified in wanting to hit you right now..? 


In the grand scheme of things I’d hardly say I’m used to only existing within one culture.

I was raised within a multi-cultural, globally-dispersed family, in one of the most diverse boroughs of one of the most diverse cities in the world. I learnt to flirt, to date, and to love under the influence of, amongst others, Brits, Nigerians, Jamaicans and Indians – cultures that are hugely different in their approaches to life, dating, sex and love.

My ‘dating history’ includes one of the first Northerners I’d ever come across (ok, its hardly exotic, but I’d barely been past the North circular..), a Jewish boyfriend, and most recently a NZ-raised Egyptian whose parents really didn’t like that I wasn’t a Coptic Christian. Plus various little things across South America and in Nigeria that required understanding and compromise.

Because of this I always thought I’d have no problem properly dating ‘cross-culturally’. That it’s dangerous to make assumptions when dealing with anybody’s feelings, let alone someone whose whole grounding and background is different to yours. To always try and remember that something I find cruelly personal might have just been a throwaway comment, with no offence meant, and to not focus on it.

I never thought I’d have such a confusing and stressful time dating in Colombia. How wrong I was.  Continue reading “Say Whaaaat!? Cross-Cultural Dating Dilemmas”

Colombian Food: Obleas

Ok, so these are no traditional obleas – these ones were from Cronch, a new obleas-and-milkshake place that opened in Girardot way too close to our leaving.

Essentially, obleas are a crisp, slightly sweet, wafer-esque biscuit, slathered in something super sweet and delicious. You make a sort of sandwich with another oblea, and try to stop the gooey inside from leaking all over you.

Traditionally this would be made up of arequipe, some super runny cream, and maybe some cheese – Colombians like putting cheese in sweet things, including fruit salad, hot chocolate and donuts.

Ours, being a slightly more artisanal version, were smothered in nutella, nuts, and homemade forest fruits sauce, and cream and forest fruits, respectively.

Que ricoooooo!!

Colombian Food: Sancocho

Sancocho seems to be found all over Colombia and is a really popular lunch. There are chicken and beef versions but they’re essentially identical apart from the meat.

It’s made up of a combination of meat (I’m pretty sure this was beef shin, or at least something similar), corn, potatoes, yuca, and plantain all cooked in a deliciously rich meaty soup. In my opinion one of the most flavoursome of Colombian dishes (there are actual herbs, people!) it’s a welcome break from rice, arepa and overcooked meat.

My sancocho above is served ‘bandeja’ style – on a plate, with the soup on the side – but it’s more normal to find everything in a huge bowl with the soup poured over the top. I’ve also got some ahuyama – a squash-like vegetable – and a bit of salad because my lovely lunch lady knows that I like vegetables more than the average Colombian.

What a babe. What a feast. Nom.

Awesome Colombian Music: Modo Champetu, by Donny Caballero

Ok, I have to admit that I first started to fall in love with this song purely because we have a great dance to it in zumba.. but actually, it just makes me super happy.

Champeta is a dance from the Caribbean coast, with strong African roots, and can be heard blasting all over the place in Cartagena and Baranquilla in particular.  Just you try resisting the catchy beats for too long..

Awesome Colombian Music: Nuqui (Te Quiero Para Mi), by ChocQuibTown

Another perfect summer banger from this brilliant group from the Chocó region. Kick back and imagine you’re swinging in a hammock on Nuqui’s perfect Pacific coast, watching whale calves play and sea turtles hatch. Or just have a little boogie in your room, whatever floats your boat.

Awesome Colombian Music: Somos Dos, by Bomba Estéreo

Not only is this song by Bomba Estéreo amazingly catchy, with perfect chilled out, feel-good vibes, but the video is absolutely gorgeous. Filmed in Parque Tayrona, it’s a perfect example of why I fell in love with this part of Colombia  ❤

Pereza: An Essential Lifestyle Choice

There is a thing called ‘pereza’ in our wee town of Girardot. 

Loosely speaking, it translates to ‘laziness’.

But don’t be mistaken – it is so much more than that. It’s a feeling, an affliction, a whole lifestyle, and the best way to understand Girardot. Working pereza out definitely helped us eventually settle in here.

For a bit of context, it is generally between 36-43ºC in the afternoons (between 95-110°F). When we wake up at 5am, it’s already a balmy 28ºC . When we fall asleep at 10pm it is rarely below 30ºC. It is ALWAYS hot.

Oh, and it’s a super sticky kind of hot only found in the bottom of  valley a million hours away from any coasts. Pure delight.

This makes doing almost anything about 20x more effort than it would be in a more reasonable climate. And so the term pereza is really able to come into it’s own here. “Ayy no, tengo pereza” is a genuinely acceptable reason to not do something.

You’re supposed to be going into town to buy some things and you’ve been overcome by the heat? Pereza. Don’t even think about moving from that bed.

In class and can’t be bothered to do the exercise? Pereza. A valid thing to say to your teacher to excuse you from working, apparently.

Studying outside because the classroom = a bazillion degrees hot!  

Trying to do some exercise but sweating before you even started? No problem, go ahead and skip it because.. pereza!

Planning on doing some job applications this afternoon? Pereza kicks in. Nap instead.

An interesting result of pereza is that hours pass without anything at all happening. They honestly whizz past while you just.. suffer? enjoy? the pereza. Maybe you work up the energy to open Netflix or pop out for an almuerzo lunch. Maybe not though.

It took me over 3 whole weeks to take my phone to the Claro shop to get the internet issues sorted, simply because it required a 10-minute bike ride into town in the afternoon. Pereza wins out over good intentions at 38°C.

One thing I do know is that its going to be a shock to the system when pereza is no longer enough of an excuse to get you out of doing anything and everything you don’t have the energy to do. Help!



Surviving Culture Shock

¿Estás Ama‎ñada? It’s a question I’ve been asked countless times while in Colombia.

‘Ama‎ñada’ is essentially a very local way of saying ‘settled in’ – and finally, when I smile and nod enthusiastically in response, I am being completely honest.

Because I really struggled with settling into my placement city when I first got here. Continue reading “Surviving Culture Shock”

What A Difference A Year Makes

A year ago, I was on the brink of my new life in New Zealand.

I was flying towards someone I’d fallen crazily in love with, despite (because of?) the ridiculous distance separating us.

It turned out that I was in love with a bit of a dream. An illusion. Something I’d convinced myself was real because I wanted to believe in it so badly. 

So what has changed in a year?

Well, now I’m in Colombia. I’m an English teacher. I have a life here, Colombian friends, a routine that includes hilarious zumba classes and almost-daily siestas in 42ºC heat.

Sometimes, I still miss my NZ boy. I miss the way he would look at me when he thought I wasn’t looking, how he loved to surprise me, and the life we settled into together.

Lying in the sunshine with bubble tea and salsa, wandering round food markets and working our way through the offerings, and popping out for last-minute hot toddies on cold Christchurch evenings, became the daily happinesses that I shared with him.

I miss what I thought we would become. Having someone to plan trips with, to dream about travelling the world in a ramshackle caravan (complete with scrappy dog) with, and to argue over India-vs-China with as if it was really going to happen.

But most of the time, I’m good without him. My future no longer revolves around someone who doesn’t really want to play a starring role in it.

And it’s terrifying, because I have to actually work out for myself what I want to do next. Where I want to be, how I want to support myself, and what kind of life I want to build up from here on.

But it’s so incredibly exhilarating, because it’s all down to me. 

Last September, I was running towards a guy, and towards a dream. It was amazing, I’ll never regret it, but it ended.

And then I had to rethink everything, because everything involved him. But now? Well, now I am free to wander, explore, and go wherever my restless feet take me.

I have no idea where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing come January 2017, but at least I know I’ll be doing it 100% for me.

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