As we drove through Colombia this month, several things struck me. First, the friendliness of the people here. Even though the car import process was cumbersome, the people at the port, the DIAN (customs), and the import agency were very helpful. It simply takes time to complete this process. Paperwork to complete, signatures to get, copies to be made and appointments with the DIAN inspection official to be set meant a lot of running around. Not every office has access to a copy machine…simple things we take for granted. Our advice to people who want to try this – be patient, make sure you read about the required documents and try to do as much as you can ahead of time. Everyone in Cartagena takes a lunch break from 12:00 to 2:00. Period. This often means you have to wait. Don’t worry, you will get your vehicle from the port…eventually. Kindness always helps. You can read more about the details on Jorge’s FaceBook page.
The other thing I want to share is how everyday Colombian life can look. After many trips to Cartagena and Bogota for family visits I have become accustomed to this, but thought it would be worthwhile to share with you. It can be very different from our reality.
The warm climate of the lower elevations means that houses are more open and much of life is spent outside. Bogota is at a higher elevation and typically has spring-like weather. I always smile when we visit and everyone there is wearing scarves and coats in the 65 to 70 degree weather…we usually save those for the balmy 30’s of Spokane’s winters.
We visited a particular area in downtown Bogota called Siete de Agosto (7th of August). We wanted to get safety film on our truck windows to help prevent them from shattering should someone attempt to break them. This area is packed with every single auto repair a person could need or want. If you brought any crashed vehicle – of any make/model, you could start at the beginning of the block, visit each of the small individually specialized shops (body work,tires, rims, wheels, engine repair, brake jobs, rebuilt lights, windshields…) along the street and drive away at the end of the block with a brand new car!
There is a big difference between city life in apartment buildings and rural settings where tobacco and laundry can be found drying on the porch. The winding roads are filled with big trucks carrying merchandise throughout the country and thousands of motorcycles carrying passengers – sometimes whole families of 5. Really. You cannot believe how big the trucks and how narrow the highways! If you find yourself driving here, don’t panic when you reach a stoplight and are swarmed by motociclistas…they are simply being efficient and using every inch of the tiny roads. Along the way you can find people selling everything from fresh fruit and coffee shots to sweets, arepas and fried fish!
The homes come in many different shapes and sizes, and are often used as both a home and a business. You can find small family tiendas selling lunch, fresh eggs and cell phone minutes; tire repair shops and car washes with several families living above or beside the work area; and carts…carts selling freshly made arepas, delicious juices, barbecued meat and more. The streets are filled with industrious people making use of available spaces meeting everyday needs. The hustle and bustle of towns large and small is always evident, but so too is the peaceful nature of life on this continent.
Today’s theme – No matter the setting, kindness can be found everywhere.