On Saturday, May 26, I got up around 4AM to take a taxi to the bus terminal. My bus was supposed to leave at 4:45AM, but when I arrived at the terminal, a guy opened the door of the taxi, asked me where I was going and when I told him Valledupar, he said the bus was leaving in 2 minutes! He took my luggage and started running direction bus. I was so perplexed and still tired, I couldn’t react properly… So, I just ran after this guy to the bus. Of course, he charged me 2000 pesos for helping me… The bus was not the one I had wanted to take and it all seemed a bit shady to me, but my luggage was already packed away in the bus… It turned out to be an okay bus, comfortable and fast and, luckily, there were many other people in the bus as well. Still, I didn’t trust this transport enough to fall asleep again…
I arrived in Valledupar at 8:30 and was picked up 10 minutes later by Lucina and her son Manuel José. Lucina had added me on Facebook a few months ago and I had accepted her, because she is a JCI member. I had told her I would come to Colombia and she had invited me to visit her and her family. That’s the reason why I went to Valledupar, a not so touristic city in Colombia. Lucina and her husband are senators of JCI Valledupar and their son is an active member.
After freshening up at their house, we went to Nancy’s place. She’s also a senator and was throwing a birthday party for Esperanza, another senator of JCI Valledupar. When we went there, I saw parts of this city and it looked really nice. The party was pretty boring for me, but that’s always how it is when you’re the only one nobody knows and who knows nobody while all the others are friends. There, I met many other senators of JCI Valledupar, as well as the Deputy President of JCI Colombia, Marlly, and the president of the Senate of JCI Colombia, Tilza.
At 2PM, we left and went to a workshop JCI Valledupar organized: “aprender a emprender”. At first, there was almost nobody, but around 3:30 – official start was 3PM, but well, we’re in South America –, people started arriving. In the end, the room was full of young people interested in becoming an entrepreneur. I didn’t really learn anything new at this workshop, it was all very basic staff, but the trainer was very good. 🙂
Afterwards, we were about 12 people going to have pizza together. As the next day, there were elections, the restaurants, bars and shops were forbidden to sell alcohol, but Tilsa managed to get us 3 Micheladas anyway! A Michelada is a beer in a glass that has lemon and salt on it. It’s disgusting! We also got some wine in coffee cups, so nobody would know they sold us alcohol. It was a very nice and fun evening, mainly thanks to Tilsa who is a very funny person. She explained that the word « Papagei » does not designate only a bird, but also « sex » and she made many jokes using this word. She is hilarious! 😁
The next morning, Lucina, her husband Manuel and I got up very early and left the house at 4:30AM to see the sunrise at the Guatapiri River. On the way there, they showed me many interesting places and told me much about Valledupar and Colombia. In Valledupar, there are many roundabouts and on each of them is displayed something typical for the city, i.e. a famous Vallenato dancer or an accordion representing the Vallenato music. Manuel likes to sing and so he sang a few popular Vallenato songs for me, really nice.
They told me that these past few years, Colombia has become much safer, but that it’s still not completely safe. There still exist many guerrillas and, when it’s dark, you shouldn’t walk in empty streets, even as a Colombian. They also told me that it’s very hard to find a good job in Colombia and that, if you have a job, you often don’t get any holidays or you don’t take them. In Colombia, there are many beggars and poor people living on the street, but most of them are refugees from Venezuela. The country is full of refugees, but there are no structures for them and it’s very hard for them to get a work permit. Same for their children, often they can’t go to school because they are not legally allowed to be there. It’s a very sad situation, I feel we handle things much better in Europe with refugees there. They also told me a lot about Vallenato, the traditional music and dance in this part of Colombia. They strongly suggested I come back in April, that’s the moment of the Vallenato Festival. Apparently, it’s a huge festival there with many important singers, dancers and lots of people.
We also passed by the “indigenous house”. It’s a centre for the indigenous people living in the mountains; they come here if they have to arrange things in town, like voting. The people working in this institution are the official deputies of the indigenous communities.
I also learned, the day before, that the school system in Colombia is quite different from ours: they start university at 15 or 16 and have 5 years + 2 years of masters. Very early to start university, what do you think?
In private high schools, classes go from 6 or 7 in the morning until 3PM, while in public schools, classes often finish at 12:30 or 1PM. They’re trying to change the public school system, but they don’t have enough money to pay the teachers.
The sunrise at the river was absolutely beautiful and it was definitely worth getting up at 4AM. I was surprised by the huge number of people up and about at this time of day (even children and teenagers!), but Lucina and Manuel told me that in Colombia, or at least in their area, people always get up around 4 or 5 in the morning! That’s definitely something I have not seen before, anywhere!
After a quick shower, Manuel José drove me to Esperanza’s place where I was supposed to have breakfast. I was a bit afraid it would only be her and me and then it’s always a bit awkward at first, but it turned out that her house is the busy social centre of their community. The door was open all day, people coming and going as they wished and that was awesome! Yolanda had stayed at her place the night before and made breakfast for everybody. She made the best arepa de queso you can imagine. It was delicious! Espe’s niece and her daughter were there, Yolanda’s daughter and grandchild, Cesar and many other people. After everyone had eaten breakfast, Espe, Yolanda, Espe’s niece and her daughter Sarah, Ceser and I went to the old town. After a while, Espe and Yolanda left us to go vote, while Cesar played tourist guide and showed me the old town. He was a pretty good guide and told me all about the different important people from Valledupar, where they had lived in the old town, etc. We even went to a supermarket and he explained the different kinds of fruit I didn’t know, like the Lulo. It was really interesting and fun. 🙂
For lunch, we went back to Espe’s place. Yolanda was cooking a very traditional Colombian meal: rice with noodles – I know, weird to combine them –, minced meat and patacones (fried plantain). This meal was so delicious, I ate until I almost burst!
After lunch, around 4PM, I went back to Lucina’s place where I first needed a nap after that heavy lunch. Around 6PM, we went to a shopping mall and around 9PM back home for dinner. It was pretty late, usually they don’t eat so late, but with the elections, everything was a bit off. It was very interesting for me to see the elections from a Colombian point of view. Everybody was talking about who would win and what implications that might have. In Colombia, people are not obliged to vote, so only about 60% go to the elections, but, at least, those are people who know for whom they vote and who are informed. On this turn, only 2 of the 4 candidates were eliminated, the final decision will be taken in June during the 2nd election.
I had enjoyed my stay in Valledupar very much. It’s a very nice town and people are welcoming and friendly. I’m definitely going back some day, maybe even for the Vallenato Festival in April.