You Can Learn A Lot By Standing On A Medellin Street Corner

It’s true. You can actually learn a lot by standing almost anywhere. Certainly that applies to most places in such a beautiful city as Medellin, Colombia where I live now in the Los Conquistadores area just a short walk from UniCentro (shopping mall).

Yesterday I had been over the mall for something and on the way back (a walk I’ve done hundreds of times) I noticed that there was a lot of traffic. Medellin does have a traffic problem but it’s not as bad as many other large cities which don’t have half as much to offer as Medellin does.

As I came to a corner by a bridge, I realized that there was noticeably heavier traffic than normal and it was ‘Going Home Time’ for everybody. So I thought to myself, “Why don’t I just stand here for a few minutes and watch everybody.

I’ve always been a fan of just standing and watching people and things. I believe one learns a lot that way, i.e. just by being silent, unobtrusive, and observant.

I whipped out my smartphone and proceeded to take a video of about 15”. Unfortunately I cannot presently find where I uploaded it on my laptop but I will eventually find it and when I do I will post it. Meanwhile, here are a few of my observations of Medellin traffic characteristics:

  • The late afternoon weather in Medellin is gorgeous.
  • Most cars in Medellin, as in most of Colombia, are a bit smaller than the average car in the US.
  • You’ll see lots of foreign cars here but not many high-end exotics.
  • Renault seems to be pretty popular here as also in Chevrolet. You’ll see an occasional BMW bu.t fewer Mercedes. Very few Peugeots. Very few Porches, a few VW’s of various types. You will see some big American trucks like International Harvesters and Macks (I saw a nice Yellow IH that day).
  • Most of the taxi drivers drive with their window down.
  • You see very few (almost none) convertibles.
  • It’s rare to see people peel-rubber or hot-rod their cars although motorbike riders do it a lot.
  • You’ll see a wide variety of motorbikes and motor scooters here including lots of foreign brands (Chinese and Indian) that you do not see in the US. You do see Harley Davidsons and you also see Ducatis.
  • Traffic police do not seem to be as omnipresent as they are in the US. Nor do they seem to be on power-trips like a lot of US traffic cops are. But on the other hand, I sense that people appreciate their driving privilege here a lot too.
  • I have seen very few traffic accidents here. Or violent arguments over traffic incidents.
  • People do play their radio here but not as loud as some people in the US do (like I did when I lived in the US).
  • They do have seat belt laws here but I don’t have a feel for how strictly they are enforced or observed. I do know that sometimes taxi drivers will ask me to buckle my seatbelt if I’m sitting in the front seat (like I usually do).
  • I have not noticed brightly colored cars here that often. Very seldom do I see red or yellow. But I do see a lot of more subdued blue tones, a lot of whites and grays, and some brownish tones.
  • I don’t observe pick-ups here as commonly as I did in the US. That might be different in other cities or the outlying areas of Medellin. I have seen pick-ups…. just not a high percentage of them.
  • People don’t appear to use their air-conditioning as much here. Whereas, back in Barranquilla, I had a ladyfriend (a rather affluent attorney) who used her AC all the time. But in Barranquilla, it is much hotter (all along that Coastal area of Colombia is that way) so people who can afford AC are prone to use it.

Since the traffic was at a standstill much of the time while I was there observing, I had a chance to make eye contact with a lot of people. I noticed that most people didn’t mind. And if their car was close to me, like it often was, we had a little conversation (usually in my limited Spanish).

Most people, especially at that time of day on a Friday, are in a pretty relaxed mood and just want to get home. I knew that. Some of the people would respond in English (in varying levels of proficiency) when I said, “Hi” or something else in English. I have found that many Colombians appreciate a chance to practice their English.

Matter of fact, I think that if a person wanting to meet a lot of peoople and make friends down here an excellent idea would be to have a T-shirt made with the words, “Practica Ingles Conmigo” (Practice English With Me) on the back. Matter of fact, I still might do that myself (you can have a T-shirt made with custom letters on the back for about $5 (US)! I know because I’ve already got one.

Anyway, that’s my basic message. There are a lot of nice things and people to see down here in Colombia if you will just be still enough to be perceptive. It’s nice to go see all the typical tourist spots but don’t forget that the people are more similar to ‘us’ than not and they are very unique in their own special Colombian way. Don’t come down here and miss a chance to learn something about them too.

Here are three videos I pulled off of YouTube. Not so much because you needed more information. But actually, I’m experimenting with some curation software. I just want to see the end-result of curating content like this. But it does have some value if you’ve never been to Medellin.
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