Tag Archives: Caleñas

What I love about Cali, Colombia

30 May

As the lyrics to Cali Pachanguero go, “Que Cali es Cali, Señoras, Señores, Lo demás es loma”

I’ve been living here in Cali, Colombia for almost 9 months now and I can happily say that although it hasn’t been totally smooth sailing, at ALL times it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.

I feel I’ve developed as good a feel for the place as one can in the amount of time I’ve been here and I’ve wanted to write about the things I like for a while, both to share with my readers and to help me appreciate my experiences here a little more definitively (I try to be thankful for all I have as much as possible).

So, here we go, what I love about my new home

Colombians
They’re friendly, easy going, love to joke around, extroverted and on top of that they love dancing. They’re a really welcoming people who know how to have a good time.

Weather
There’s a lot to be said for living in the tropics. Here in Cali, the temperature hovers around 29C most days at mid-day which is a little hot for my Irish blood but it’s not too humid and the early mornings and late afternoons are deliciously cool. Apart from 2 short rainy seasons I don’t have to worry about carrying an umbrella too much either.

Free, Live Music
I have really been spoiled here in Cali with the amount of live music events that one just finds randomly on the street or at larger events around the city, many of them completely free. I’ve so far had the pleasure of seeing La 33, currently one of Colombia’s most popular salsa groups, Choquib Town, a hugely popular group playing a mix of hip-hop and pacifico music) and Habana con Kola (of “Vente Negra” fame) all without spending a penny.

Caleñas
When I learned that Cali was famed in South America for it’s beautiful women I can honestly say that it didn’t put me off coming here. With mixes of European, African and indigenous South American blood, Cali produces some of the most beautiful and diverse women I have ever seen.

Fruit
With more varieties than I can remember (including plenty of fruits I’ve never even seen before) along with the universal availability of cheap, fresh and delicious fruit salads and smoothies, Cali’s tropical environment keeps me supplied with all the vitamins and antioxidants I could ever need.

Salsa
This really is the world capital of salsa. With virtually every radio in every home, store and taxi spouting out Latin beats, it’s no surprise that virtually everyone here dances salsa (or bachata or merengue or reggaeton or pacifico) on a night out.

Pacifico culture
The pacifico culture is the culture of the African-descended people who populate the pacific coast and make up a large proportion of Cali. Discovering their music, dance and food was one of my most pleasant surprises here in Colombia. Have a look a my favourite song by one of my favourite groups, Herencia de Timbiqui

Respect for the elderly
Whenever riding on public transport, if an elderly person gets on board and there are no seats available, someone will always offer them their seat. The way it should be.

Friendly advice on safety
If I ever have my phone out on the street or even at a streetside table in a café, someone will always tell me to be careful with it or let me know if I should put it away completely. Also, because I stand out so much if I ever wander into a dodgy neighbourhood, the locals will warn me about it pretty quickly.

Coffee
For the record, I hate coffee (true to my Irish roots I’m a tea drinker). However, I have discovered the godsend that is coffee’s energizing properties (essential for early mornings after a late night salsa session) and the coffee they serve here is cheap, plentiful and a lot smoother than the stuff I’ve had back home which I would consider reminiscent of what Satan’s blood might taste like.

Diminutives
Here in Colombia they use diminutive forms of words like it’s gong out of fashion. You never order “un cafe” it’s “un cafecito”, nothing ever happens “ahora” it’s “ahorita”. I really just love being able to call girls “mamacita” and hearing them call me “papacito”. Makes my day.

Never needing to know someone’s name
Don’t know someone’s name but want to talk to them anyway? Take your pick; mami (mommy), papi (daddy), nena (girl), chico (boy), niño (kid), joven (youth), linda (cutey), hermosa (beautiful), flaca (skinny), gordo (fatty), the list goes on. In my case, everywhere I go I’m known as mono (blondie)!

Street food everywhere
While I am not a fan of Colombian food in general, I’ll never have difficulty finding something quick and cheap on the street. I just wish the menu was a little more varied than arepas, empanadas and chorizos.

Relaxed political correctness
Excessive political correctness is a pain in the ass an has made people (at least in the English speaking world) way too sensitive. Here you say things as they are and people don’t get offended. I call my black friends negrito and they call me blanquito, I call my skinny friends flaco and they call me mono. We are what we are and have to realize there’s no need to be upset by it.

Mornings in my barrio
The sun shines, people sit in the local panaderias (bakeries) drinking café and eating pandebono, things are relaxed and it never seems like anyone is in a rush to start the day. I am getting really used to this.

Champús, looks like vomit but thankfully doesn’t taste like it.

Champús
A “drink” I had never heard of before made of a fermented mixture of fruits and corn and seasoned with cloves and cinamon. This is sold by the glass from huge vats carted around the street on special bicycles. It may look a little like vomit (just like salpicon and mazamora) but it is delicious.

Haggling
I have loved haggling since I first tried my hand at it in Ethiopia 12 years ago and (when I have the energy) I feel I’m pretty good at it. Like when the asking price for a pair of knock-off Nikes was COL$190,000 (this was most certainly the “Gringo” price) and I managed to get them for $35,000, I have to admit I felt pretty pleased with myself.

Feria de Cali
Starting on Christmas day, begins a week long party in Cali that you simply cannot escape. With parades, concerts, food, music and of course salsa dancing every night it certainly is a different way to spend the Christmas holidays.

Hugs and Kisses for everyone
I love the affectionate culture and different perspective on physical contact that people have here. You greet and say goodbye to women with a kiss on the cheek and to men with a hug or at least a good handshake (if you run into a big group of people this can take quite a while to get through). People aren’t uneasy about touching each other (which took a little getting used to) which is something I feel we really lack in Northern Europe and North America.

There’s much more that I could mention but I’ll probably add to the list as time goes by and I remember other things that I love about this place.

I’ll leave you with a nice, little song by Orquestra Guayacán called “Oiga, Mire, Vea” all about this great little city. I hope it gives you the incentive to come and visit.

If you’ve been to Cali before or want to come visit, let me know in the comments

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