Before Angelica put me in touch with her friends, I had already sent a few couchsurfing requests and Daniel and Yuliana had accepted me. So I spent the following days at their place. Daniel had lived in the Netherlands for one year and therefore spoke Dutch. The kind of thing you don’t really expect to find in Colombia. For some reason, I can easily imagine anyone learning and speaking English, French, German or even Chinese for that matter. But Dutch? But there you are. People keep on surprising me.
Yuliana, on the other hand, is an English teacher. Precisely at the university founded by Jaider’s family. We had been at the same place on the previous day, without even knowing it. Small world. Again and again.
The two of them also have a tattoo shop, in which I spent some time wondering if I should do the one I have had in mind for the last ten years or so. But like for the house in Guane, nothing happened. I left without.
Instead, I went to the theater, as Daniel had given me a ticket for a one-man show. The activity revealed itself to be very useful in order to realise how much Colombia’s Spanish differs from Spain’s Spanish – which is also true for any other country in Latin America. I could understand most of the words and sentences but, somehow, I kept failing to understand the punch line. Humor is the most difficult thing to understand in another language and there is nothing more frustrating than to be in the midst of a crowd bursting out laughing every two minutes when you’re frowning in despair because you can’t understand what was so funny about the whole thing.
This episode reminded me of the day when, living in Valencia, in Spain, I attended a dinner with Spanish people only. After studying the language for four years, a three months’ Erasmus stay in the North of the country and the four months I had by then been living in the country, I wasn’t able to understand a word of the jokes my guest was telling. I then thought to myself: “The day I will understand that guy properly, I will be able to say I master Spanish.” A year later, it was mission accomplished.
But sitting there in my Bucaramangan theater seat, I once again got proof of how deeply language is connected with culture. Sixteen years after I had started studying Spanish, I was well enough acquainted with the Spanish habits and ways. But not in the least with the Colombian ones. But wasn’t it the reason why I was there? To learn just that?
My last day I decided to spend in the air, paragliding for the first time in my life. Another thing I would be able to take off my check list. Next time, I’ll jump out of an airplane.