Interesting Questions Americans Ask British People

In twenty minutes from now I will be leaving for the airport to go to Menorca, but before I begin a new chapter of my blog, I wanted to leave you with one last post about America. While I was there, I kept a mental note of all the strange, stupid and surreal questions/statements people asked/made to me during my stay, in the hope that they could one day make an entertaining blog post.

 
Here is a list of just a few of the odd things Americans have said to me:

 
1. Have you ever tried ice cream before?
2. Is London a Christian country or a catholic one?
3. Have you ever heard of garlic bread?
4. What does “don’t jimmy riddle in the back of me jam jar” mean?
5. Do you love tea?
6. Do you love the Queen?
7. Do you know the Queen?
8. Have you ever seen the Queen before?

9. Can you say “sack of potatoes”?

10. When meeting someone for the first time:

 
Them: What is your name?
Me: Sam
Them: Sorry?
Me: Sam
Them: Psalm… wow; can you spell that for me?
Me: Yes: S.A.M.
Them: Ah, that’s funny; it’s spelt just like the name ‘Sam’
Me: My name IS Sam; I just have an English accent
Them: Oh
Us: *Silence*

11. “She’s a Vegan. Do you get those over there?”
12. Do they really say ‘fetch’ in England?
13. Say ‘bloke’
14. Say ‘Doctor Pepper’
15. A friend trying to get his friend to imitate my accent:

 
Him: Say ‘hot water’ in a British accent
Her: What’s a British accent?
Him: [Pointing at me] HIM!
Her: I thought he was England or Ukrainian. You know, they’re the same.

 

16. Wow, your English is really good.

 

God bless America.

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My Last Day in Colombia

I have yet to pack my suitcase: a task I am not at all looking forward to. At home in January, I calmly began packing with well-ordered, meticulous care just hours before having to leave for the airport. Upon completion of the task and finding that despite my greatest efforts of tidiness the case still stubbornly refused to close, I enlisted the help of my mother, who (like all mothers) has unexplained though definitely appreciated skills in making everything fit – even allowing for some extra room. This time, however, I am alone – without someone to expertly rearrange my belongings like a puzzle until the case can properly shut – and I am dreading this unavoidable, toilsome labour.

Today is my last day in Colombia. Tomorrow morning at seven o’clock I will fly from Bogota’s El Dorado airport and say goodbye to the land that has been my home for the past four months. It is hard for me to believe that it has been four months; to me it feels as though my time here has been much briefer, and though I am excited to be moving and seeing more of the world, there are certainly things about life in Colombia that I am going to miss.

First off, I am going to miss the people I have met during my stay. Though I have only been here for four months, I have made friendships which I know will last a lifetime. I will also miss eating fried chicken with honey (something that in England would raise more than a few eyebrows, whereas here the honey is given to you in sachets along with your meal). I will miss drinking vanicanelas (vanilla and cinnamon lattes) in Juan Valdez, mixed with a good spoonful (or three) of panela. I will miss hearing the sounds of Salsa, Merengue, Cumbia and Vallenato in rickety old buses and hurtling taxis, and smiling at the reminder that I am far from home. I will miss the outgoing affability of Colombia’s people, and I will miss their carefree, laidback culture. I will also miss these things.

I didn’t even like coffee before I came here

Nevertheless, I am looking forward to what the next two months have in store for me. There have been some unforeseen changes to my itinerary, and after staying in Bogotá for a week longer than originally planned, I will be skipping my stops in Bolivia and Los Angeles, and heading straight to St Louis, Missouri, where I will spend two months as the intern of Doctor Mike Peters – a close friend of my pastor. If I am honest, I haven’t a clue what to expect from these coming months, but I am going with an open mind and without expectations, and I am excited to discover what St Louis has to offer, as well as what I might learn there.

Last night I took Lala, the daughter of the family I have been staying with, and her boyfriend Diego out for dinner to say thank you and goodbye (the parents were also invited, but unfortunately couldn’t make it). I am going to miss them all, and I have really appreciated the way they have taken me into their home and treated me like family from day one. Last night was a great opportunity to say thank you and a good way to spend our last times together. The food was pretty good too.

Lala and Diego

Caught off guard struggling with the chopsticks

Today, as well as attempting to cram all of my possessions into the case, I will be rushing around doing last minute errands before I leave; such as taking advantage of Colombia’s low priced haircuts (I go to the best hairdresser in the city and spend less than £10 – less than half of what I pay for a cut in England – whereas a similar place in London would charge £80 or more for a men’s cut) and stocking up on foods I know I am going to miss.

But anyway, I better make a start with this suitcase. Wish me luck, and I will update you upon my arrival in the USA.

6 Things I Like About Living in Bogotá

A few nights ago I couldn’t sleep, and as I lay in the darkness, listening to the amplified sounds of the night – a creaking water pipe, footsteps from the apartment above – I began to think about the things I miss from England. In my mind, I came up with a short list (which mostly included different foods and home comforts) before I realised that this is the trip I have been dreaming about for years, and I should be enjoying everything on offer here rather than thinking of what they don’t have from back home. So, I decided to make a list of some things that I like about living in Bogotá:

1         Here it is socially acceptable to eat tomato ketchup with everything. If you know me, you will know that there are certain things I can’t eat unless I have ketchup to accompany it (such as fries, pizza, toasted sandwiches, pies; the list goes on) however, in England I can’t help but feel slightly ashamed of this affection at times. Eating at restaurants (especially Italian ones) in the UK, and the rest of Europe too I suppose, I always feel an acute sense of guilt when requesting this most vital of condiments to accompany my calzone or whatever else I am eating. The waiter will always look at me with disdain before reluctantly bringing me the sauce, with an expression on his face which silently tells me that he thinks I’m an uncultured buffoon. Some restaurants refuse to serve it at all. Disgracefully, I have even taken to bringing my own ketchup to Zizzi’s – this being the prime non-ketchup-giving-restaurant culprit. Here in Colombia however, this is not the case. For example, one of the countries national dishes, arroz con pollo, is not complete without a generous splodge of ketchup over the top of it. And this is a traditional Latin American dish! Me and Colombia are going to get along well…

2         The moon is bigger and brighter. It might sound stupid, but it’s true, and I have come to the conclusion that it is because of the altitude. Being 2,625 meters above sea level, compared to London’s 24 meters, we are (if only minutely on the grand scale of things) closer to the moon here in Bogotá. The moon is something that I love. I can find myself staring zombie-like out of the window at it for hours – and even more so here in Colombia, where, being in the southern hemisphere, it looks completely different to how it does in England. The face of the moon here looks a lot more relaxed that the ‘English moon’s’ expression of permanent surprise. (if you are in the UK and haven’t noticed this before, look at the next full moon and you will see a shocked face staring back at you)

3         Transport is cheap. Though at times it seems life threatening (sitting in the back of a taxi which weaves a path around other swerving vehicles; or darts through a quickly closing gap between two rapidly accelerating cars; or veers abruptly aside into someone else’s lane to avoid an unforeseen pothole – all of this at high speed and in a car which has no seatbelts) the price makes up for it (as well as the thrill of adventure). Here, I can pay 4000 pesos (£1.30) to take a 20 minute taxi ride, which in England would cost at least £8; or just 1,400 pesos (40p) to take a bus from one side of the city to the other.

Traffic is crazy here (image from http://www.lifeisrealgood.com/wordpress)

4         Rice Pudding. Growing up in the UK, I have always loved rice pudding – a traditional English dessert. However, I can’t deny that the Colombians do it better. Here they use butter, vanilla, cinnamon and condensed milk (which could make me like almost anything) to make a richer, sweeter, creamier and 100 times more amazing version of the dessert. Trust me, you have to try it.

Arroz Con Leche Colombiano

5         People here are more polite (unless they’re driving, and especially if they’re taxi drivers). Whereas in London people don’t look at each other, not to mention say anything, the people here always politely acknowledge one another. If I’m honest, it took me a while to get used to. At first it would catch me off guard when a complete stranger would greet me while passing them on the stairs, and I would respond to their enthusiastic “buenos dias” with a curt nod, or one of those quick smiles (which are not smiles at all) that all English people seem to be expert at, whilst I briskly kept walking and tried not to make eye contact. However I have since become accustomed to it, and I enjoy participating in this aspect of Latin American culture.

Here is a scene I stumbled across when coming out a restaurant, and a good example of friendly people in Colombia: they were all helping to push a broken-down bus down the street!

6         The mountains. I know I have mentioned them at least once in every one of my posts about Colombia, but the mountains that surround Bogotá continue to charm me. Being from England – a mostly horizontal country – I am unaccustomed to mountains, and every time I look out of the window I am enchanted all over again by the rugged, green peaks which tower above the edges of the city, providing a permanent reminder of nature and the insignificance of man. Necessary, at times, as an antidote to the constant, frenzied activity of the big city.

Mountains Surrounding Bogotá

These are just a few of the things I’m enjoying about living in Colombia, aside from the fact that I’m thousands of miles from home and in a warmer climate.

I’m hoping that during the next week I will have a chance to visit Cartagena, a beautiful colonial city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, but nothing is final yet. I will let you know what happens in my next post! Hasta luego!