Cold cities are all alike; every hot city is sweltering in its own way

20191108_154806Some thoughts after my first 24 hours in Medellin

Human brains are pattern-seeking, so it’s pretty common for travelers to form initial comparisons to places they know. Thus Medellin initially struck me as part Brisbane and part Mandalay, a sprawling palm tree-laden city built on hills ….

This is just a list of first impressions, mind, so small sample sizes abound and all opinions are subject to change.

It’s humid here but not sweltering, not anything on Asian heat. The traffic likewise is pretty chill–there are motorbikes but it usually comes in the direction you’d expect. I’ve seen more Volkswagon bugs here in one day than in the last couple years elsewhere.

Looking at the map of the area, I saw there was a Hooters. I pointed it out and Zulia laughed knowingly. “Have you been?” I asked her. “No,” she said, pausing. “But I think you’ll find just walking on the street is pretty much the same as going to Hooters.” And do you know what? She was not wrong!

It’s kind of cliche to describe the residents of a country, especially a developing country, as kind or generous but in this case it does seem to be true. I’ve already seen several random acts of kindness on the metro or in the streets

It’s a mix of the developing and developed world; fruit cart vendors push overladen carts past a modern metro station.


Speaking of fruit, there are lots of great fruits here, some that I’ve never seen before. Giant avocados and guavas and passionfruit, something called lulo, a kind of soursop called Guanábana and goji berries all abound, but so far my favorite is pithaya. It looks like dragonfruit but whereas dragonfruit tastes rather tropically and peppery, pithaya tastes more like vanilla pudding.

Many countries have a lower rung of immigrants/refugees that make up a lower rung of the work force. The Burmese do it in Thailand, the Kazaks did it in Uzbekistan, and the Swedes do it in Norway. Here it is Venezuelan refugees, many of whom are forced to roam and beg or work in menial jobs. I’ve noticed that the poorer the country, the better their English and it rings true here. Venezuelans speak excellent English! Which I’m not claiming is a good thing, but it is definitely a thing.

That’s it for first impressions! I’m looking forward to learning a bit more about the area.

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