Hola from Colombia

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Jacqueline Chia's picture

 

Hola (Spanish for hello) from Colombia, where I am currently undertaking Spanish classes and an internship!

When I first arrived in Colombia, I was apprehensive: Would it be dangerous? How would I survive without knowing any Spanish? Could I handle living abroad alone for the first time? While it has not been entirely smooth-sailing for the 10 days that I have been here for so far, I absolutely love Colombia!

                                    

Medellin, the city in which I live and work, is situated in a valley, so modernity and nature coexist here. Even though I have spent only a short time here, I have learned to love the outdoors much more. So far, I have scaled the monolithic El Peñón de Guatapé, ridden a horse, trekked through a forest to reach the spectacular La Cueva del Espendor waterfall, gone fishing, explored a coffee plantation and taken a cable car made of wood amidst the mountains.   

Not only were these experiences interesting, they also helped me learn more about myself. I learned that I can persevere regardless of how tired or hungry I am. I learned that I can be brave and suppress my fears even though I almost fell off a cliff (I was literally hanging off a rock) and got thrown off a horse. I learned that I can remain cheerful even when the situation seems dire.

Moving on, the local food is delicious but tends to be richly flavoured. Arepa, a type of flatbread, is a staple here and appears with almost every meal, be it breakfast, dinner or lunch. Another local specialty that I love is chicharrón, a dish of fried pork rinds. It is extremely sinful, but tastes amazing. Forget about dieting and try it if you get a chance! Besides, you can also work the calories off by participating in the myriad of outdoor activities that Medellin has to offer.

Of course, one cannot leave Colombia without trying the famous coffee. Although, according to locals, the best coffee produced here is usually exported, one can still find great coffee. For a quick fix, try the Juan Valdez coffee chain (Colombia’s answer to Starbucks), which has surprisingly good coffee for a chain store.

                                  

The locals here are extremely friendly, and most are willing to try to communicate with me despite the language barrier. I am very grateful that the locals, even strangers, try to help me improve my Spanish by correcting my pronunciation and teaching me new words and phrases. Although I’ve managed to get by so far with a mixture of basic Spanish and hand gestures, I would advise anyone planning to come to Colombia to brush up on Spanish beforehand as most Colombians only understand Spanish, and not English. I look forward to being able to fully communicate with the locals in Spanish soon!

I have had a great experience in Medellin so far but there is still much of the city that I have to explore. Stay tuned as I travel around Medellin and other parts of Colombia! Feel free to contact me at jacqueline.chia@nus.edu.sg if you have any queries or are coming to Colombia soon!