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Almost two months in: some observations

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CynthiaER
8/13/2019 11:43 EST

My husband and I have been here nearly two months, "here" being Manizales. So far, things are going well and we're settling in. Got my visa and my cedula; got signed up for health insurance; we've found a nice apartment; and we've started getting some appliances and furniture. Oh, and we just rescued a little dog.

Now, the observations:

1. My cedula needed to reflect my blood type. I had no idea what it was, so we had to go up the hill and across the street to a clinic so I could find out. That took a little over an hour, which was mostly waiting about while they did whatever you do to determine a blood type from a blood draw. 8,000 pesos. A few Colombians thought that was scandalous. I was dumbfounded, first, because I just walked in, no appointment, no referral, no insurance (yet), and no primary care dr.; second, because despite some degree of general chaos in the entrance and in the waiting area, the whole thing proceeded with a degree of competence and efficiency that impressed me.

2. The amount of noise in public spaces is astonishing. I guess it's not much different in the states, as there's always music in the supermarket, in restaurants, malls,etc. But it seems to be louder here.

3. For this one, a little background is in order. In our marriage, I'm the US-born-and-bred one; my husband is Colombian. He lived in the US for about 18 years before we moved to Colombia. That's the background bit.

Yesterday, we had a vet appointment for our new dog, so that she could be spayed. The vet we went to scheduled the surgery, but it had to be done at a different clinic, as the one we initially took her to is not equipped for more complex procedures. So he told my husband where we were to take her. Did he give an address? Why, no. No he did not. He said that it would be Tata's Pet Home, and that it's located diagonally across from the aero cable station. My husband understood "Patas," which created some confusion. We worked it out that Tata's was the place, and headed over there. They apparently had no idea that there was anything scheduled, and of course our vet hadn't arrived yet. We left and walked about trying to see if there was another place nearby, diagonally across from the station., and then we called our guy, who was just leaving his office to head over for the surgery. We'd had the right place all along, and from that point all was well. Why is this at all notable?

Well, the inefficiency and the overall lack of any organisation. And my husband was the one who was most worked up about it. He compared this instance unfavorably to our previous vet experiences in the US, and was just astounded at how people here can't seem to manage a calendar or have a set of procedures. I just thought it was kind of amusing that he was so exercised about it. I don't know why I wasn't equally incensed, or more so, but I wasn't. I think I just figured, " we aren't in Kansas, Toto."

And there have been other little things, usually involving delivery of appliances and things, which have been kind of herky-jerky compared with how things usually work in the states. And he's the one who's complaining the most!

I just think it's funny, because of the two of us, I expected that I would be the more impatient and intolerant of little inefficiencies. I spent a good bit of time in Germany where, if the train is expected at 10::00 and it's 10:00:30 and the train isn't sitting at the station, people start looking at their watches and making sour comments. And I'm a bit that way myself.

Other random observations: the food here is still kind of monotonous and bland, but there are some decent restaurants near our new apartment, in Palermo, so that's a positive.

Public transport is really good here, but I still struggle with that teeny tiny turnstile on the bus.

The people in Manizales are unfailingly kind and pleasant unless they're behind the wheel or on a moto. Then it's kind of The Hunger Games meets Rollerball.

That's it for now. This has been a long post.

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CAtoMDE
8/13/2019 12:12 EST

Good follow up on your first 2 months experiences.

Yes the blood thing, oh same when I obtained my Colombian drivers license about a year ago, and even after speaking to my mother and sister I got it wrong and so earlier this year had to get it corrected, a big hassle but serves me right for not getting it checked before I had them put it onto my Col DL.

You mention how noisy Manizales is which is surprising. I live in a small pueblo outside of Medellin and even in our main park and even on a busy Saturday or Sunday afternoon it is peaceful and relatively quiet. I thought that Manizales would be the same.

As for patience well you need to have a boat load of it. Although I am born and raided in Los Angeles California I am German through and through and to top it off have 2 engineering degrees so you could just imagine what my professional life was like, detailed to a fault BUT I am so thankful to myself for just letting all those traits slip away and now just go with the flow here in Colombia, actually it has been a gift for me to just live and let live with little expectations about efficiency and time and blah, blah, blah,

The food is still bland and am always juicing up my cooked meals with spices so they have some taste.

And yes I can overlook much because of the friendly neighbors in my neighborhood, I still can't find the words to describe to my family back in Los Angeles what it is like to DAILY being greeted and exchange hellos with my neighbors and in my pueblo.

Every time I stick my head outside my balcony of my apartment (2nd floor) I am prepared to exchange smiles and holas from whoever maybe passing by.

When I am back in Los Angeles for a visit or business I will get a message from my building about some bill (ie EPM) or other document that maybe sitting for me at the doorway.

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ponymalta
8/13/2019 13:33 EST

Thanks for your post, I am always interested how Expats encounter things in Colombia. Like you I just tend to be a bit amused about the lack of organization, but just go with the flow. Even in Churches when going for communion often very disorganized compared to the US, and never ceases to amaze me the inability for Colombians to stand politely in line.

Yet the friendliness of the people makes up for all of this in my opinion !

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Electricista
8/13/2019 16:37 EST

An episode of "The Hunger Games meets Rollerball" can be viewed from the back seat of any Taxi in Colombia where the driver is a young Gordito who just got cut off by some other car or moto.

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nonames
8/13/2019 16:46 EST

Yepper, So true how most of us view the culture here. Cutting line is the most difficult for me to adjust to but, after more than a decade, I've mostly adjusted to the lack of preparation and time management. I liken it to throwing a bunch of confetti up the air and hoping it lands in the right place. Amazingly enough: sometimes it does! Geo sociologists had them pegged at the 2nd happiest population in the world at one point and I can easily believe it. Great folks all around.

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CynthiaER
8/13/2019 16:56 EST

Electricista, I've only recently managed to stop shrieking in taxis here. Now I just grunt quietly as I cling for dear life to the handle thingy above the door . . . if there IS a handle thingy that is. Many taxis have a little sign posted up front demanding that you use your seat belt. But there aren't any, except in the front seat. I've seen taxis with the shoulder harness bit but with no clickety bit to plug it in to.

I gave up practicing any sort of religion some time ago, but I have nonetheless resorted to prayer in Colombian taxis.

Maybe Mad Max is a better film analogy . . .

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Electricista
8/13/2019 17:09 EST

Mad Max was inspired by George Miller when he visited Santa Marta and saw how the busetas on Avenue El Libertador cut each other off competing to pick-up new passengers from the street.

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saiid20
8/13/2019 17:41 EST

Great comments Cynthia. Very insightful You seem to have succeeded in not looking at everything with "US eyes" "Well this is how it is done in the US SO....it has to be better. Your laid back attitude at what goes on here is refreshing and I hope you continue to post your thoughts....

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tubes
8/13/2019 21:00 EST

Since you have experienced Germany, you will know that they too are evil behind the wheel (and none too friendly in public.) It is just as well that we have no passenger trains here (yet) as a timetable would never work.

The buseta fleet is Manizales is undergoing a lot of long overdue updates and many newer buses have sensors instead of turnstiles and easier steps up from the front. Regrettably they have never resolved the magnificent disaster back in 2012 when all the buses where fitted with card readers (instead of paying the driver), which ran for a whole of 2 weeks!

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tammytravels
8/14/2019 09:34 EST

Oh Cynthia, I think the noise level here is extraordinary. I'll walk out of a restaurant in a minute because of the noise.
Almost 14 years here has not taught me much patience, unfortunately. When someone tries to cut the line, I tap them on the shoulder and point to the back of the line.
If I am paying for a doctors visit (particular) and am not seen promptly, I tell them I'm leaving because the wait is to long. That ALWAYS works, hit them in the pocket book and they fold.
I'm so glad you can go with the flow, it makes your day a lot less frustrating. Though honestly, I've always thought of Manizales as one of the best places to live for tranquility and less congestion. The hills keep me from moving there.

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Edgenaples
8/14/2019 10:42 EST

Sounds like you are doing great !
My wife, Lidia, and I hope to move to Colombia in 4 years and 10 months.
I was born in the US and she was born in Nicaragua. We lived together in Costa Rica for a year a longggg time ago, and there they called being late for everything "Tico Time"...Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos. When we got married...the guy who married us was 3 hours late and showed up like it was just no big deal. So, hopefully when we move to Colombia to retire, we will be able to just take a deep breath and go with the flow, knowing what it will be like. Thank you so much for the update. So do you have 2 dogs now ? How did you find your Colombian pup ?

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SkyMan
8/14/2019 10:56 EST

Cynthia...It sounds like your transition to life in Colombia is coming along well. I have experienced some of the same instances as you...The appt. with Claro to initiate the Cablevison & Internet service=5 days late. Delivery of my washer & dryer=only three days late. Another poster mentioned "Patience"...and yes, we all need a lot of that...since all of Latin America is on what Jimmy Buffett calls "Island time".

I was fortunate to have brought a good supply of spices with me(and order online now) Yes...the food is rather bland in most restaurants. And those spices come in handy now. I live in Medellin and yes, the taxistas love playing the Mad Max game, plus motos "snaking" between the lanes of traffic. Buena Suerte !

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CynthiaER
8/14/2019 12:52 EST

Edgenaples, we picked the new dog up off the street. Literally. She was running around on Avenida Santander and was nearly run over chasing a pigeon. A couple of business owners along that block said she'd been hanging around for some time, so it seemed that no one owned her.

She's very young, about 10 months old, and really sweet. We took her to the vet the next day and she's in good health. Scheduled surgery for her to be spayed, and now she's at home and doing well.

It was always our plan to get another dog. We had two, but the older one had congestive heart failure and succumbed to it in January. At that point we decided to put off getting another until we were here.

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CynthiaER
8/15/2019 23:00 EST

Tammytravels, Manizales is a great place to live (says the person who's been here barely two months . . .). Seriously though, the city is really lovely, both from an aesthetic point of view and from a quality of life point of view. It does seem to be more congested than it was the first time I visited, ten years ago. There's lots of new construction, mostly apartments. But the city really is a nice place to live . . . dynamic, friendly, and over-all pleasant.

As for the hills, you just need to give it a little time . . . two or three weeks, maybe a little more, until you get into shape and become conditioned.

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