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Five More Things to Love About Living in Colombia

With this post being written a week into the world feeling “spring forward” effects of an archaic calendar system, it was left out of the recent post Five Things to Love About Living in Colombia that there is no daylight savings time here. We are too close to the equator, plus, really… what are the benefits of this age-old “tradition” in the modern world? The series continues…

Five More Things to Love About Living in Colombia

1. There is No Daylight Savings Time. That’s right, in Colombia, we keep the same time all year, like the Earth naturally does. Here, when you ask someone without a watch what time it is, they will probably glance upward, calculate the sun’s location, and give you a close or near-accurate response.

sunset

About 5:49 pm, in Santa Marta, Magdelena, buena noche

At first, this may seem baffling, but with the day passing free from being one hour ahead of itself (or behind, which some say is great, for the lingering, long days of summer), it makes sense. Not observing Daylight Savings Time seems like one less hassle to put into effect. In Cartagena, we know that most people stop for lunch when the sun is directly overhead, and that the beautiful sunset beyond las murallas of our historic city happens at or around 5:30 pm each day.

Check out this great article by The Verge, titled Daylight Savings Time is Hot Garbage, then have another cup of coffee (preferably Colombian) as you adjust your internal clock to the changes.

about 6:00 pm over Colombia

Beauty flying over Colombia, about 6:00 pm

2. Dogs are Everywhere. In Colombia, dogs roam the streets searching for food and sleeping wherever they find space. While this may not seem like something to love for most people, for many it provides relief to a hectic day. It’s been proven that having a pet reduces stress, and even people afraid of dogs can overcome other fears once they make friends with a canine. In Crespo, near the airport, there is an apartment building with a little black dog out front who greets residents and neighbors, and chases police motorcycles for fun (not regular motos, just the police, go figure).

doggie

Look at that happy girl in front of her home, everyone’s dog!

When asked about her owner, the doorman replied, “she belongs to the building.” When asked who feeds her, he responded “we all do.” Although there remains an outstanding number of dogs in the streets, people who know the benefits of having a pet have started to adopt dogs. While there are organizations set up to assist free roaming dogs, it may be several years before Colombia reaches the heights of groups like the ASPCA.  In the meantime, dogs are everywhere, waiting to help relieve your stress.

dog-table

“Just chillin’ on my table bed in El Centro…”

3. You Can Buy Just One Egg. Recently a co-worker teased me about my enthusiasm for being able to purchase only one egg at a favorite local store. I explained to her that, in the US, you can usually only buy a half-dozen or whole dozen cold, processed, sometimes overpriced and cruelly-manufactured eggs. For this reason, buying one farm fresh egg at a time feels special, but it’s more than just one egg. It’s one folder for school when you don’t need a box of twenty, or just a few kilos of rice when you aren’t feeding a family of four.

egg-breakfast

Eggs on toast, on Club Colombia dishware. Ayy la vida

Large warehouse-type stores like Sam’s Club or Costco feel out of place, or perhaps it’s just the idea of bringing home 40 rolls of paper towels on the bus seems a bit overwhelming. While there is HomeCenter, which is like Home Depot in many cities, and Barranquilla boasts a PriceMart, it could still be years before the concept catches on. Meanwhile, life continues: making progress, one egg purchase at a time.

camisetas

Of course, HomeCenter partners with the Colombian Futbol team

4. Pharmacies are Everywhere. In Colombia, pharmacies may be found on nearly every corner, with many stores open 24 hours. If you need stomach relief after too much street food, or a cream to ease the itch from Chinkunguna, there’s no doubt the pharmacies will help you care for your well-being; most pharmacists are knowledgeable and offer quick remedies.

IMG_9887

A sampling of goods from a recent bout of gripa

As shocking news continues elsewhere about the rising cost of health care bills, its interesting to note that a $60 USD prescription (plus a $20 to $40 copay to see a doctor for approval), costs $7 USD in a Colombian pharmacy, sometimes with no Rx required. True, some people may abuse this leisurely method of health care, but honestly, when you can seek immediate help versus waiting in a doctor’s office for a prescription (or to be denied one, or recommended one you can’t afford), isn’t this one thing to love?

la-botica

In Barranquilla: La Botica and its “like” logo, across from Farmacia Torres

5. Yellow Shouldered Parrots. While all of South America boasts exotic avian species in an array of colors, sizes and abilities, a common type to keep as a pet in Colombia is the Yellow Crowned Parrot, or Yellow-crowned Parrot from the Amazona ochrocephala group. To know one of these brilliant birds is to be amazed. Quite often you will pass them sitting in or on top of a large cage on a front patio, or peeping out of a household window. They are known to be flirtatious, smart, social creatures. These parrots are keenly aware of those around them, and can perform at a whim, like Lorenzo, the parrot who was arrested in 2010 for assisting drug dealers.

amazona

captured from an awesome video from YouTube user ixoye2k featuring singing birds

If you are fortunate enough to encounter a Yellow Crowned Parrot, approach them carefully. Keep a distance (they have sharp beaks) and encourage them with light conversation, such as “quieres cacao?” (do you want cocoa?). Just be warned: sometimes they can’t stop talking once they start and may even burst into song, to which, of course, dancing is optional.

Bird Curious? Visit the Avian Welfare Coalition website for more information on many types of incredible birds!

So now you know: five more things to love about living in Colombia. While the list continues to grow, keep in mind this is an opinionated piece, and not everyone can handle the awesomeness of buying only one egg . If you’re still searching for more, watch this 2013 video from YouTube user Jeff Galea featuring a catchy soundtrack and magical moments in Colombia.

Author: Kate Dana

Teacher, traveler and writer living on the Caribbean coast of South America.

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