Hoodies, crockery and poetry: Do appearances deceive?

Dusk had slowly settled into night at Guatapé lake – a couple of hours outside Medellín – and the town’s inhabitants were already spilling onto the town square, ready to enjoy an early evening gossip, an exchange of hats and a good, old-fashioned, people-watch.

The square was beautiful, framed by the huge illuminated church, humming with laughter and chatter and the occasional clip of briskly trotting hooves on the paved streets.

Sitting beside my friends and I were three young men, probably in their late teens or early twenties, dressed in hoodies, tracksuit bottoms and trainers, with their hair carefully gelled.

If this had been England, they would have been gossiping merrily over a nice, cold, pint of beer. I assumed they were – but, as it was, they were drinking coffee. From rose-patterned china cups.

Two days later, I was home in Bogotá, on a bus – as always. Another young man (same hoodie, same trainers, same gelled hair) entered the bus and took the seat opposite me. I instinctively clutched my bag and concealed my iPod.

He ignored me, instead fishing through his bag to produce a care-worn book of poetry – love poetry as it turned out. He began to study it closely. I looked over his shoulder and, sure enough, there were all the stanzas, neatly arranged with their giveaway declarations of triumph and pain.

I felt guilty about my judgmental ways, especially as I now suspect these young men are the living embodiment of Colombia. The outside image leads you to suspect one thing… when the reality is really quite another. Perhaps hooded sweatshirts should hire a good PR man. I suspect the case has already been lost for hair gel.

Like this? You’ll love Colombia a comedy of errors.


  1. Diego

    I always enjoy the human aspect of your stories, even if they are about places. Ah, another thing. For my advanced level students I took your story about giving money to beggars, etc., and it turned out to be a lively debate, it was very interesting. Thanks, sometimes I struggle to get them interested in any story at all. I translated, loosely, your entry (with all the credits of course).

  2. Paul

    Am I wrong to still wear a hoodie at 29? Even if I am still at Uni(just about of course!). At what point should I change my attire for a set of matching tweeds? Your fashion opinion is eagerly awaited Ms Kellaway!

  3. Ceri

    Awwww, so sweet. I love my hoodies but rarely get the chance to wear them here these days because it’s way too hot. They do come in handy when I’m walking home alone late at night though – Good way to look menacing. 😉 hehe.

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