Life, lectures and terrible hair

“What do you call it in English?”

“A tin opener. I’m sorry, what is the Spanish word again?”


“And if I want to drink wine?”

“You’re going to need el sacacorcho.”

“Gracias. Now, do we have abrelatas?”

“No, but I can open that can for you with a knife.”

Oh, how I love living with Colombians.

In case you were wondering, I no longer live with Diego.

I started studying at the university today and was supposed to live with two American friends in a flat near the campus.

But, such is Colombia, our flat is still being painted.

So I’m lodging with my soon-to-be-landlord, a 28-year-old web designer called Felipe and his housemates (Jonathan, a 32-year-old graphic designer and Caroline, a French student).

The boys are hilarious. They spend most of their free time yelling abuse at a racing game on the Wii and encouraging me to join them (I prefer to listen – I’ve learned 17 new Spanish swear words and I’ve only lived here a week)

Surprisingly, university was a joy.

You can study five different levels of Spanish at Colombia’s National University (level one is beginner and five, you hope, is practically fluent). Each level has lectures for two hours every day for two months.

Today was our first day, so we all filed diligently into the same room to be ‘sorted’ according to ability (in case you were wondering, no, the process did not involve a battered wizard’s hat and yes, I am as disappointed as you).

I caught sight of my friend Eric across the room. He waved at me, but I am a ‘one’ and he is a ‘five’ – which meant I was far too shy to go and chat to him and his ‘big friends’.

Instead, I slumped in my seat and waited to be assigned to the lecturer who will teach me this semester.

It was the only time I slumped.

Once the lecture started, I was in my element.

I know enough Spanish now to follow every word the teacher said. My slumbering brain was also so relieved to be learning again, it stayed concentrated for the full 120 minutes.


Still, I do enjoy teaching English. In fact, I love it. I am lucky enough to teach some of the smartest people in Bogotá.

(One of my students, an economist, is essentially responsible for everyone’s money in the event of the collapse of Colombia’s banks. He spent an hour today teaching me the theory of Keynesian economics and kindly told me I had the makings of an economist. I think I should have been paying him for the lesson, rather than the other way around).

Two of my students also took me to the lagoon in the legend of El Dorado (more about that later) and another student is now a friend who I shop and salsa with (we still laugh about the time she suggested we go underwear shopping together. She said ‘underbra’ by mistake. I heard ‘wonderbra’ and almost developed a complex)

But, of course, my life is not perfect.

Never again will I go to a hairdresser in Colombia without a native Spanish speaker present.

This time, I was determined to tell the stylist I did not want my hair dyed orange like last time.

Oh no. I carefully picked out the blonde I wanted and drove the point home. Boy, did I drive the point home.

“No yellow,” I repeated.

“No yellow.”

I was so bloody convincing, the stylist took it upon himself to dye my hair brown (without even asking) and merely inserted three faint, lonely blonde streaks somewhere near my hairline.

“Wow, new hair. You look beautiful,” my housemate Jonathan said gallantly, as I attempted to waltz through the front door.

My other housemate, Felipe, put his head on one side and struggled to match his friend’s convincing tone.

“You know what?” he managed, eventually.

“You look a little Colombian.”


  1. Sugar Daddy

    Hey babe… sorry… I don’t set the rules on Level 5ers associating with the “fresh fish.” Outside the Uny, we can be friends. Inside, don’t you even dare look at me. It might hurt my popularity. Sorry babe… just deal with it… and yes, initiation is coming….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s