Where I don’t belong

In the evening, Daniel and Yuliana invited me to join them for dinner at the house of Yuliana’s mother. They had the impression we hadn’t been able to spend a lot of time together. A feeling I shared but, somehow, it is difficult to stay for a whole week in each and every place you visit. And I had already spent a week in Bogotá and another one in Vélez. I now wanted to go up North, to the Caribbean coast. The idea was to discuss the situation while having dinner. In the end, couchsurfing is first of all about sharing and it has to be an enriching experience for both parties.

I was given the address. Now you must understand that, in Colombia, addresses are similar to what they are in New York. You have numbered avenues and streets and an address is basically an intersection of an avenue with a street. It was not far away from where I was, so I decided to go on foot. I first walked in the direction of the right avenue and then off to find the right street number. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15… The streets were animated. And getting dodgier with every step I took. But I didn’t want my face or attitude to show I wasn’t feeling at ease and therefore tried to act as if it was perfectly normal for my gringo self to hang around in the neighbourhood, though it was completely evident to anyone there that this was just not my place. I did think it was a rather unexpected place for Yuliana’s mother to live in. But it wasn’t until I got to the 17th street, which was not even illuminated, that I fully acknowledged something was wrong and decided to call Daniel.

As I had feared for the last few minutes, Daniel kindly informed me I had inverted avenue and street numbers. And it would probably be better not to take my fancy iPhone out of my pocket again. Here we go. La Boca all over again. I started to go back from where I came. On foot. And then quickly decided to change my strategy and jumped into the first taxi that crossed my way.

I finally arrived at the right place. Safe and sound.

I can’t recall why, at one point in the evening, a discussion on flirtatious remarks arose with Yuliana’s father-in-law, who is Spanish. Although I wasn’t commenting on it in Colombia, I was feeling annoyed to be called little names by total strangers. According to him, they were part of the culture, in Spain as well as in Colombia, and should be considered as compliments. I couldn’t disagree more on that very moment. But somehow, since then, I have learned to appreciate those “hermosa”, “muñeca”, “reina”, “amor”, and so further and so on. More important than words is the intention that goes with them. There are always a few that will accompany the word with a disturbing look. But, most of the time, they are just part of the speech. It is quite different from a “ma chérie” that I was once served with by a colleague. In that context, I found it totally out of place because it sounded condescending. But, in their vast majority, the Colombian ways in this respect are totally different. Without a doubt, I am a feminist. But I learned there are moments I should shut up and enjoy letting men call me beautiful.

After realizing Daniel and Yuliana would be quite busy on the following days too and wouldn’t have much time to spend with me, I took my leave and jumped on a bus direction Cartagena de Indias.


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