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Colombia

Last day in Colombia

rain 18 °C
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So my time in Medellin flew by! I ended up spending over 5 weeks in this beautiful town; studying full time and of course exploring town as well. I studied at Total Spanish Medellin, which I can recommend to everyone looking to study Spanish, and I think that the 20 hours of private classes per week really helped me improve. I also met plenty of nice people at the school, with whom I was able to sample a few local brews every now and then..

In the last few weeks since my previous blog post, I did go on a few trips as well. I went to explore Communa 13 with the school, which is a very poor neighborhood in Medellin with a big history of violence from the Escobar era until recently. One of the teachers from our school is from this area and she was our guide: it was great to see where the neighborhood comes from and how they are trying to improve everyone's lives. However, when you hear the stories about how the government security forces, up to only a few years ago, used to come in at night, kill people, chop them up and bury them at the local garbage dump, I can understand why not everything is back to peace yet here.. We also had a tour of a famous local cemetery that same week, which was interesting to see and completely different than anything else I've ever seen.

I also went to another soccer game, Medellin vs Nacional - a local Medellin Derby. Crazy, crowded and amazing don't even begin to describe the sensory overload experienced there. I think the stadium was at around 110% capacity and it was literally 90 minutes of full-blown action. The only minus was getting teargassed before the game when we were in the wrong spot in the wrong time, but I did find out that my contact lenses help protect my eyes against teargas similar as they do when I chop unions... who knew?!

On Wednesday April 11th I flew to Bogota for a couple days in the nation's capital before flying to the Netherlands for a few weeks. Bogota is a nice city, but it's pretty cold, it has rained every single day, and it definitely feels less safe than Medellin. You can't for example just take a taxi of the street, and walking around at night is also not recommended by everyone I've spoken to. And as I'm staying in a similar area here as Poblado is in Medellin, I definitely feel that I picked the right city to spend a long period of time in for studying Spanish; I don't think I would have enjoyed Bogota as much for 5 weeks as Medellin. But the museo de oro, salt cathedral of Zipaquira, plaza Bolivar, cerro de monseratte and other areas are pretty impressive though and enough to keep me occupied for a few days.

Anyway, my time in Colombia is almost at an end: I fly to Amsterdam this afternoon if all goes well...!

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Posted by reinder.prins 07:12 Archived in Colombia Comments (1)

Back to studying full time


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I finally arrived in Medellin, Colombia on Wednesday March 7th late at night, after two terrible flights with Viva Colombia; the low cost carrier here. I wondered why the were so cheap when I booked them, well now I know. Their safety rating is fine, but they have never heard of the word service... Medellin has 2 airports and I flew into the international one, which is actually at Rio Negro, 45 minutes from town by taxi.

Now, many people will still have negative thoughts when thinking about Colombia and especially Medellin, many thanks to Mr. Escobar and certain guerrilla factions. I was no exception, although I had been told differently by many people, and I was a bit wary of taking a taxi at night. However, I needn't have worried - everything is very regulated here and I didn't feel unsafe for a second. The driver even stopped for a bit so I could take some pictures of the city from a viewpoint. Similarly, in the last two weeks I have not felt unsafe for one second - although I am obviously staying in one of the better areas of Medellin. However, as long as you know which area you are in, visiting Medellin is absolutely no problem from a safety perspective.

I had organised an AirBnB studio in the center of Poblado and this is where I will stay for the next month. The days after I arrived I took some trial lessons at different Spanish schools and I soon found one that really suits me. So the last two weeks I have been taken 20 hours of private classes per week, which really makes a difference I think. Next to that, the school also organises certain activities like visiting a market or hiking to a viewing point, which is also all in Spanish and thus a learning experience as such. I have met some nice people at the school and have been able to explore the nightlife as well.

The first weekend here however, was pretty quiet: there were parliamentary elections and because of that, no alcohol was to be served anywhere in the country from 6PM Saturday to 6AM on Monday (lay secco) - so not a great weekend to go for a drink. However, that did allow me to get up early to go for a hike for the next morning and explore some other barrios (areas) of Medellin later.

Some of the highlights of the last two weeks:

  • I went to the Nacional Medellin - Delphins (Ecuador) Copa America soccer game;
  • Hiked up to the hill of crosses for a view over Medellin;
  • Visited a Hydrangea farm an hour north of Medellin, which is owned by a Colombian - Australian;
  • See the sunset over Medellin from a Mirrador (view point) where delicious homemade sausages and beer are served;

Today I went to parque Arvi, a national park close to the city. To get here, I took the metro and from there two different cable carts. Quite a nice mode of transport. Here I hiked for a couple of hours, which is a nice change from the hustle and bustle of Medellin (8 million people). The metro is also the lifeline of the city, congestion is pretty bad and the metro, which intersects the whole town, has cable carts that connect to it, thus allowing people that live in the poorer outlying areas easy travel to the center of town as well. After parque Arvi I went to have a quick look at the grave of Pablo Escobar (when in Rome I suppose). However, once you see the impact that this guy had on Medellin, I can't call it a highlight.

Anyway, I'm going for a day trip to Guatape tomorrow and have at least another 2 1/2 weeks left in town... Hasta la vista!

For more photo's, see: HERE

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Posted by reinder.prins 17:19 Archived in Colombia Tagged spanish traveling colombia medellin learning Comments (0)

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