Monday, 22 December 2014

El Centro: The Heart of Barranquilla

The centre of Barranquilla is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting places in the city. It is full of life, from the busy market to the coffee street sellers, to the men in shop doors, singing and dancing all day in order to encourage people inside. There is also a great amount of fantastic architecture, although, sadly, a lot of the buildings are very run-down. In fact, the poverty in this area is very clear - many homeless people are to be seen, lying sleeping in doorways and street corners all around the centre. In short, it sums up - for me - Colombia itself: a country with a wonderful cultural history and much to offer, but still many problems to be addressed.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Wolf-whistles, cat-calls and the lost art of conversation

The time has long come for me to write something about Colombia's cultural attitudes. This week, I'd like to touch on a subject that affects my life on a daily basis here, and yet to many seems widely insignificant - street harassment.

Sunday, 30 November 2014


Up in the cloud-covered forests of the Sierra Nevada, far from the bustling heat of the city below, lies a small Colombian village. It has all the features of a typical coastal town - brightly painted restaurants, yellow taxi cabs, motorbikes parked on every corner - the only difference is the beautiful tranquility that transcends this location. A place for recharging your batteries, taking a deep breath and enjoying the simpler things in life.

Friday, 14 November 2014

To the end of the earth: Bocas de Ceniza

Barranquilla is a little-known tourist city. In fact, in the Lonely Planet guide to South America it states that 'there's little to detain the traveller here'. While this may be partly true - it is a mainly industrial city - there are still hidden delights to be found for those who look hard enough. And one of these is the ride out to where the Magdalena River meets with the Atlantic Ocean: Bocas de Ceniza.

Ocean to the left, river to the right:
the contrasting colours of Bocas de Ceniza

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Medellín: Land of the Paisas

Medellín, the land of eternal spring
Another week, another city - this time, the sophisticated heights of Medellín. After the intense 30 degree heat of the Caribbean coast, the breezy 20 of this metropolis left me feeling a tad chilly (so not British, I know), but with a freshness that was oh-so-welcome - 80% humidity can get a bit much at times! Even aside from the weather, it felt like we were in another world: gone was the relaxed accent of the coast, gone the endless bargaining for taxi fares, gone the crazy dash across the road and praying you don't get run over (well, almost). In its place, the lilting, sing-song voice of the paisas (local residents); a taxi meter; and actual pedestrian crossings! The existence of a metro system was just the icing on the cake.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Let's Face the Music and Dance!

As you are probably aware, life in Colombia is full of music of all varieties - it is extremely rare to walk even 100m down the street without hearing some kind of beat pumping from a nearby stereo, if not several at the same time! What's more, a Colombian cannot hear music and stand still. I'm convinced that if you tied one of them up and played some music - even if it was in the next room - they would start twitching and eventually implode. I mean, it's in their blood. I even walked past a nursery school where they were teaching little two-year-olds how to dance salsa. So unfair!

Locals in 'La Troja' bar, showing off their well-practised salsa skills.
Image: Golden Colombia

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Cartagena: Land of the Pirates

Welcome back! I've not written for a couple of weeks, because I've been Just. So. Busy! However, this weekend I've got a bit of downtime, and I intend to capitalise on it to tell you lovely people all about what I've been up to these past few days. Apart from the time I spent sitting at home, planning lessons, and running around Barranquilla, being sociable (I know, it's a hard life), I managed to get a bit further afield and visit the beautiful city of Cartagena de Indias!

The atmospheric Cartagenero seafront

Thursday, 11 September 2014

¿Dónde está la biblioteca?

The season of freshly-ironed shirts, oversized jumpers and those oh-so-cute photos on the doorstep are upon us - it's back to school time! And I am no exception. Having spent my first month here doing what could kindly be described as hanging around, my classes have finally begun and I am finally a bona fide English teacher! Well, that's what I like to think, anyway...

One of the teaching blocks at Uni Atlántico

Monday, 1 September 2014

When it rains, it pours.

I've been waiting for a good moment to introduce this little graph to you all. It's a diagram that the British Council (my UK link to Colombia) gave to us at our training in Bogotá, that tracks the ups and downs of living abroad. I think it's pretty accurate (although the middle bit should definitely be higher) so I thought I'd share it with you lot, so you can have some idea of the roller-coaster ride that is life on the road!

British Council year abroad graph - click image to enlarge

Monday, 25 August 2014

Mud, mud, glorious mud!

 (and then the heavens opened...)

Well, this weekend was certainly an experience! I'll have to tell you the story in order, because that's the way things go, but let me just say that it includes mud baths, torrential rain and plenty of Colombian dancing to top it all off!

Early on Saturday morning a group of us set off, direction Cartagena, to the Volcán de lodo Totumo - which roughly translates as 'The Calabash Tree Volcano of Mud'. Catchy, eh? Well, if you haven't already picked it up from the subtle hints I've been dropping (or if you've had a sneaky peek at the photos below), the main activity at this volcano wasn't exactly sightseeing, but rather getting our hands - and all the rest of our bodies - rather dirty!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


Two weeks in and Colombia continues to give. I am enjoying a lot of free time at present, mostly because my work at the University doesn't seem to start until the end of the month, and nobody seems too bothered about the fact that I'm just chilling at home (T.I.C.). However, the weekends are still as busy as ever. We decided to head out along the coast again this weekend, this time a little further along, to Parque Tayrona - a National Park, and place of outstanding natural beauty (especially for us foreigners!).

Our route to Parque Tayrona
When talking over plans with the group, there was a great discussion about what we'd have to take (everything), where we'd be able to sleep (on a campsite) and what we'd be able to eat (what we'd brought). There was even some talk of supermarkets and hotels. Given that Parque Tayrona is, basically, a jungle, this seemed unlikely. And faced with the question of what there was to see in the way of attractions, the appeal of a place with no wifi or good restaurants to go to seemed limited to some. But for those who went, the appeal was clear: naturaleza (nature)! And nature, on its part, definitely delivered...

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

T.I.C. (This Is Colombia)

View from Monserrate, Bogotá
Barely a week has passed since I arrived in this country and it's been a crazy mix of new experiences, words and faces. Having made it on the 11-hour flight from London to Bogotá, I was very glad to be met at the airport by a group of similarly tired English people also waiting to be picked up. We were promptly whisked away to a hotel in the middle of the city, to be greeted with 4-star service, and - more importantly - some beds to crash out on for a couple of hours and regain our strength. When we eventually surfaced, we headed out to see what Colombia's capital city had to offer - and at a height of 3,152m above sea level, Monserrate mountain definitely delivered! From the top, the sprawling mass of the city stretches as far as the eye can see, giving a stunning impression of what it must be like to live in this huge metropolis, and leaving you, quite literally, breathless (altitude is a strange phenomenon).

Saturday, 28 June 2014

10 Things to do in Nottingham

Friends celebrating in Nottingham's Old Market Square
Nottingham no more (these are a few of my favourite things)

After a long period of absence (turns out final year is quite time consuming, who knew?), I thought I would warm up my blog muscles again by dedicating a post to my beloved city of Nottingham! Having now lived three years of my life in this midland metropolis, with this time now sadly coming to an end, I would like to share my knowledge of its quirks and quaintnesses to all who are willing to explore it. Anyone who lives in Nottingham, plans on going, or will mistakenly end up there by boarding the wrong train from London St Pancras, this is for you:

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

German Humour... You must be joking!

When I told people I was preparing a presentation on German humour, the reactions were fairly typical; disbelief, mocking, confusion... ok, they weren't really that bad, but there was certainly an edge of questioning about it. 'Why would you choose to present such a topic?'. 'What kind of humour do German people have?'. 'Do Germans even have a sense of humour?'. Well, I took it upon myself to delve into this controversial matter, looking deep into the history archives and doing extensive research, and here is what I have found out: