The first expression that every foreign person in Colombia without fail will learn is, “Estas amañado en Colombia?” This is a general question that basically is asking you, “Are you getting acclimatized to Colombia?” Sensible responses to this question would be, “Of course, I love the fact that I don’t have to tip any of the waiters in this country and also I can buy $400 pesos worth of deodorant in a small envelope at any corner store if I am running low on cash.”
Let’s say, you want to walk on the wild side of Bogota and get onto a bus at 3pm on a Saturday. This is the time when is seems there are the highest amount of people on the bus selling caramel candies, playing their guitars are discussing the need for some extra cash to pay for their baby’s diapers. Being that it’s a Saturday and you really don’t mind helping this nice man out who needs a few extra pesos, you hand him a $200 peso coin. After taking it, he’ll hen say to you , “Gracias bacan.” This nice man is politely thanking you for being a “cool dude” and helping him out.
Then there are the Colombian phrases that you share with your special Colombian girlfriend or boyfriend. When you compliment your Colombian girlfriend for remembering to bring your favorite 3 Leches cake for your birthday you say, “Thanks for bringing me this special desert.” She will then reply, “Of course, I am una chica muy pila, and I would never forget to bring you your favorite desert for your birthday.”
Una chica muy pila in Colombian Spanish refers to someone who is smart, alert and always living in the moment. In turn, if you want to repay your Colombian girlfriend for the nice cake, you can think of cute pet names for your girlfriend like, “Mi cielo de chocolate” or “Mi almohada de chocolate.” (My chocolate heaven/My chocolate pillow). Probably you couldn’t get away with these nicknames if you were going out with a dark Canadian woman.
While you are with your special Colombian woman friend, she will always be very aware of your mood. So if you give even the slightest hint that maybe you are not in the best mood, she will ask you, “¿Estás acongojado?” or “¿Estás carizbajo?” What she asking you is if you are sad. Being the man of steel, of course you would never give in to such a spineless emotion. You quickly respond by saying, “You’re asking me…..me of all people, if I am sad? Of course not. Asking a guy like me if I am sad is like asking Vin Diesel if he needs your help picking up a check in a restaurant.”
Then or course, there are my top five proletarian expressions in Colombian Spanish – “Chimba,” “Rechimba,” “Deli,” “Chimbo,” and “Bacano.” (Cool, Really Cool, Delicious, Fake and Awesome). With these five words, you can have a conversation with any Colombian for up to two hours without even blinking.
For example, maybe your Colombian buddy asks you about the latest CD by Enrique Iglesias. “Rechimba!” you say as a kind of an all-embracing endorsement of the CD. Then your buddy asks, “Did you know that Enrique was going out with Anna Kournikova for a while?” “Deli,” you confidently respond, approving of his selection in terms of girlfriends. “Are you sure Kournikova speaks English, I heard she actually prefers to communicate using non-verbal communication?” “Bacano,” you respond, knowing that there is nothing more pure than non-verbal communication. Your buddy then responds, “It’s funny that in the chorus of the song he sings to Anna Kournikova that ‘You can’t escape my love.’ They then broke up a few months after the video. Do you think she actually escaped his love, or, more likely, his old man told him he was going to show Kournikova a better time?” “Que chimba!” you say, clearly preferring the senior Iglesias. “And what about that scene in the video when Enrique gets kicked out of the women’s bathroom for making out with Kournikova on the on top of the counter tops. “Chimbo,” you respond . Obviously the scene is fake, because when you got money like Enrique you have a free pass to do pretty much anything you want in any bathroom, men or women’s.
Speaking of non-verbal communication, Colombians are famous for the various mannerisms they have to describe certain things. Normally, when a Canadian, Irish, Scottish, American or British person asks another person from the English-speaking world, ‘How tall is your wife?’ The other person will usually stare upwards and to the right. They will then extend their hand, palm down, to the appropriate coordinates of the top of the head of their better half. If you ask a married Colombian man the same question, he will make the same gesture, but instead of putting his palm down, he will leave it vertical, facing the person, like he was showing you your own reflection in a mirror.
If you ask the same person an even more direct and difficult question like, “Ok, now show me the height of the wife of the King or Jordan.” Your Colombian friend will become flustered and let out a strange, throat-derived exhalation with a closed mouth, Huuummmh!’ As far as this author can tell, this guttural internal outpouring can best be described as meaning, “I don’t have the foggiest idea of how to even begin to answer such a question.”
Wanting to more fully participate in the world of Colombian mannerisms, you then ask your Colombian buddy, “You remember that funny finger food we ate last weekend, that single-sliced ham stuffed with cream cheese in the middle?” You then put your right hand out, pointing with the index finger and you push your thumb against the index finger at the approximate length of the size of the ham to try and spark his memory. “Ah yes!” she responds, remembering the delicious treat based on the coordinates you gave him with your index finger and thumb. Thus, in one fell swoop, you have proved your worth as a credible observer of Colombian mannerisms.
When the country of Peru is mentioned, one imagines a peaceful scene of an Andean alpaca grazing along an Incan stone wall. When Ecuador is brought up, we imagine a rain forest panorama of frogs jumping off branches while butterflies mate in the background. When Colombia is mentioned, we envision a post-apocalyptic city full of overturned buses, being pillaged by men in ski masks. It is obvious which country any rational person would seek to avoid while searching for an internet bride.
“48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong” is a true adventure story about a 37-year-old socially-awkward man who decided that the best way he could deal with a life sentence of microwavable burritos and 10-hour Facebook marathons was to look online for a girlfriend in Colombia and then hop on a flight to Colombia’s capital in pursuit of a woman he has never met.
During his first month in Bogota, Brian falls in with two white, self-assured backpackers who the author describes as, “…not the kind of guys who pump the brakes before going through an uncontrolled intersection.” He is then nearly kidnapped during an encounter with a woman he met online, almost becomes business partners with a Korean man in the “diamond business” and is forced to sleep in the DVD room of his hostel due to lack of funds.
Brian quickly regroups after his first month and auditions for the part of “congressional aide” in a Colombian feature film called “Left To Die.” He then lands a job as a writer for an English-language newspaper where his first interview is with a “suspected undercover CIA agent.” Brian then gets thrown off a TV set for refusing to take off his shirt from under his police uniform. While Brian is not getting thrown off TV sets, he marvels at all the discarded construction materials Colombians throw into pot holes to lessen their depths. Because of this strategy, a bus going over one of these open trenches (full of construction materials) will occasionally sling a chest-high brick through a group of panic-stricken pedestrians.
Brian sincerely believed this trip would put him on a track towards a life of excitement, intrigue and exotic women, far from his increasing first world debt. Instead, he unexpectedly falls into a job as an extra in a Colombian soap opera, has panic attacks, watches other gringos lose their marbles and blows half his paycheck on bootlegged DVD’s. Along the journey, he chronicles his friendships, the deranged ex-pats he meets, and his struggles/triumphs, including one fateful night in a Israeli restaurant that would change his life forever.
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