Living and working abroad and total immersion in the local culture. Differences in attitude and outlook. Travelling with attitude and a robbery.
When I was working at the hostel at the beach at Santa Marianita in Ecuador I met some lovely guests while I was working at the hostel but I disliked the attitude of some of the local residents who made up a large ex-pat community. Mainly hailing from the United States, many of them (but not all of them) spent their time bemoaning the political situation that they had left behind, the taxes that they were trying to avoid paying and they had bought or were thinking of buying up beachfront plots of land so that they could relocate out of the States
Some of these people didn’t want to integrate with the local fishing population that lived in the tiny village further down the beach and they viewed the local Ecuadorians with suspicion – their main priority was a refuge for their money.
Then I went up into Colombia and while I was staying at a hostel in Cali I met three friends who were on a weekend break. Erin and Tamsin are English teachers and Erin’s fiance Jaime is Colombian. Several months later when I was heading back down south towards the border my route took me close by the town of Pereira where they live so I thought that I might check in to a hostel and take them at their word and call in as I was passing.
Erin and Jaime very kindly offered me a bed on their couch in their apartment so I stopped by for a couple of nights. Erin was pregnant when I visited with their first child so has left the school where she was working. She now works from home as a copywriter, she offers private English lessons and she is also a travel blogger – the Open Minded Traveler
Jaime is working hard to establish a new business venture and makes and sells chocolate products sourced from cacao grown on his family farm over on the coast. Whilst success of the project is important so that it provides a good income for all of the family, it is also important that it succeeds as it will hopefully encourage the remaining farmers in the coastal region who grow coca to swap to a different crop. And that is important if the drug cartels and the associated crime and lawlessness are to be stopped. Erin explains the process and procedure beautifully in this blog post – click here to read Erin’s article
I have already told you that Erin works from home but in between her writing and teaching she had time to take me out for a day. We caught a local bus into the countryside where we went for a leisurely hike alongside a river. The weather was threateningly thundery but it didn’t spoil our enjoyment. We reached our destination – a rock painted like a fish in the river before turning back to the village in a race against the rain.
Erin is the total opposite to some other ex-pats that you can find – and you can find them all around the world. You know the ones – they moan because everybody speaks a different language and the food is unfamiliar or they can’t find their favourite beer. Travel, embrace the culture but keep your wits about you because a tiny minority will perceive you to be rich and therefore ‘fair game’ for a scam.
When I travelled I had my little rituals which I went through to ensure that I didn’t lose anything critical. After ten months I had these down to a fine art, but one day I relaxed one of them, and I taught myself a valuable lesson. I ALWAYS carried my large rucksac on my back and the smaller one which contained my valuables on my front. When I got to the Colombian/Ecudor border in my little colectivo (shared van) I only had to cross the road to enter the Colombian immigration office and sign out of the country. So I swung my little bag onto my back and waddled across the road with my large bag in my arms.
BIG mistake. Somewhere in those ten minutes I had my purse lifted from the top of my little bag on my back. I believe that it was actually in the queue for the immigration official. Luckily it was only my purse with my Colombian Pesos and my US Dollars and luckily I had a twenty dollar bill stuffed in my bra so I could pay for a colectivo and then a bus to my next destination.
I cursed my own stupidity – but I learnt a valuable lesson. Well, several actually.
1. Don’t vary my safety routines and rituals
2. Never put my little rucksac on my back
3. Keep spare money in my bra
4. If things do go wrong try not to get too stressed. They happen and are a lesson. I stayed calm and I know that I could have coped even if I didn’t have had my secret stash of money tucked away
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Yes, you always trade security for convenience. If for half a second you think of choosing the easier way of carrying, storing, or securing your things, the security will be diminished. Keep your head high and don’t let this ruin your time in Colombia 🙂
I agree Brian and I learnt my lesson. I have my routines which have in the main kept me safe – and I will stick to them in the future.
Although as you well know from experience (your recent bike theft) sometimes no matter how careful you think that you believe you are, somebody somewhere will try to take advantage.
I am pleased that it all had a relatively happy ending though and you could continue