July was my second month participating in Blogging Abroad‘s photo challenge (see my June photo roundup here). This month’s theme was #community. Since my pictures and their explanations will really speak for themselves, I’ll stop typing here, hit enter a couple times, and give you what you’re really here for.
This isn’t actually my community, as this photo was taken while visiting a friend in Manzanillo del Mar. Nonetheless, it could easily be a photo from my own community (although I do live in a more urban area with only a handful of dirt roads). Namely because of the brilliantly colored houses, the moto in the foreground, and most importantly, the kids hanging out, posing for my portrait. Street life on my own street is owned by the pela’os, kids, playing.
One of the things I love about my community is that, as a beach town, it has a more diverse range of people with a more diverse range of interests. As a result, we’ve got things like this little gem, tucked away on a side street leading to the boardwalk, which sells great juices and arepas. They’ve also got a shop cat that I once made friends with while working there. Those of you who know me as cat-hater may be shocked by this, but I’ve come to value beloved animals of all species a lot while here.
Ok, I take that back. I don’t really value this one. I value him in the way that my host sister adores him, but I have to say that I could never live with a bird again, at least of this species. It may also just be that living in this country has taught me the value of choosing the noises that I hear, and I would not choose the noise this one makes. Regardless, my original point when sharing this picture is that even outside of my house, birds are beloved precious pets. Especially, for whatever reason, by men. It is not uncommon to see parakeets hanging by the driver on buses. Or in motocarros. And I once walked by a group of about 30 men hanging around a green space in the town plaza with all of their birds in cages hanging from trees in the middle. I still don’t know if this was the bird equivalent of my hoppy hour or like a singing competition or what, but it was something I witnessed.
Mamones have been everywhere in the community lately. I just recently wrote about them, so I’ll just link you to that post instead of making you read about them again.
Schools in my department were on mid-term break (like US schools’ winter break) from Jun 18-Jul 11. This photo was taken from the first day back. All students were required to attend a time of announcements, the agenda for which was: everyone singing the school song; a prayer; and a series of announcements and speeches by the various leaders which covered topics such as dismal grades, school uniform (no orange shoes allowed, fellows caught in this photo), and classroom behavior. We’ll see how the last half of the school year goes after that chat.
Every time that I stumble upon beautiful street art on my bike, I am inspired to continue exploring the city streets. Truly, I always find the best images on unexpected side streets. I was using an app for a bit to track my movements to try to actually be able to say at the end of 2 years that I saw every street in town, but the app was a real battery suck.
Half of my neighbors are kids. They are always scattered in various hiding places on the street when I come home, but no one ever tells me what game they’re playing. Also, they don’t bother to hide too carefully, as they will greet me. Or, in the case of these girls, willingly stand up and pose for a photo at my behest.
This is the most visible that my biggest source of culture shock could ever be: the volume of music. Right now I am sitting in my bedroom listening to a podcast, but I can still hear a neighbor’s music. There’s seldom silence when walking down the street here; even when the power’s out, someone’s got a backup battery-powered stereo to keep the music going. What you see here, lit up in neon, is called a pico. These stereo systems were even more popular in my training community. Picos are the source of many people’s pride. I seriously don’t think you can imagine how loud the music is coming from these. I can’t help but grimace and turn my head when walking by them; I don’t know how locals do it. Invariably at any estadero where you find a pico, there is an older gentleman a dozen beers in dancing alone to the salsa blaring out of the stereo.
This is the old muelle, or pier. Really, more than a pier, it was the main port on the coast between 1893-1920s. Then the Barranquilla port was built and, given its proximity to the Magdalena River which provides an easy transport route south into the country, it quickly outgrew the Puerto Colombia port. Nonetheless, my community is named as such for a reason. It was a major port through which most exports left at the time, and masses of immigrants arrived. A train came down the pier into town, where there is a historic station which now serves as the hub for a cultural foundation, and beyond into a Barranquilla suburb. Unfortunately, after the port was shut down in the 30’s due to underuse, it was left uncared for. That combined with climate change that has brought strong winds and waves to the coast deteriorated the pier and now there’s a huge chunk in the middle missing. The departmental government did just sign an agreement that there would be a 2billion peso investment to restore the pier. TBD when that will happen.
Aside from American music (Wiz Khalifa and Rihanna are faves here), Simpons is the biggest evidence I see of America reaching all places. Graffiti of Homer is not hard to find; in almost every English lesson regarding family, the Simpons are the sample family to illustrate the members; and even at the salchipapa joint where my rugby team goes for spaghetti dinner, Simpsons always seems to be on.