I’ve arrived in Colombia, after a swift overnight flight from Cordoba to Cali. I spent a few nights in Cali, few nights in Bogota, and now I’m in Medellin looking for an apartment. Along the way I’ve noticed some strange things in Colombia.
I was excited when I first saw that taxis in Colombia have meters. I figured it makes the whole taxi-riding process more straightforward because you don’t have to figure out the correct fare and haggle over it. But it’s actually not straightforward at all. The taxi meters don’t count in money; they count in “points.” Then when you get to your destination, the driver converts the points to a value amount and you pay that. There’s supposed to be a little chart on the seatbacks (supposed to be), but even the times where it actually is, the conversion is still confusing because there all these little surcharges like “it’s nighttime,” “we crossed some arbitrary border,” or (I’m assuming) “haha! you’re white!”
Human Phone Booths
Walking around Bogota, I was seeing a lot of people standing around with signs advertising “minutos” and a price. They were also holding these big sticks with 2-3 cell phones attached by metal chains. I assumed the extra phones were decorative and the salesman would just use one of the phones to transfer credit to your phone if you buy credit from him. This is how I generally see people sell pre-paid phone credit in South America. It turns out that’s not what this is. These guys buy unlimited minutes plans from cell phone companies and then let people make calls from their phones for a few cents a minute. I guess this is if someone doesn’t want to pay the minimum ~$5 to re-up their pre-paid phones or they don’t have a phone at all.
Guinea Pig Roulette
In downtown Bogota, I saw a teenage kid with four live guinea pigs standing next to each other on the sidewalk. The guinea pigs were positioned so close together and moving so little I initially thought they were stuffed animals, but they were real and just somehow trained to hang out on the sidewalk not moving much. I came back fifteen minutes later and a large crowd had formed and there were all these large bowls flipped upside down with numbers painted on them and holes cut in the side big enough for a guinea pig to crawl through. People would put money on top of the bowls and then after everyone put their money down, the kid picked up one of the guinea pigs out of the four, put it a few feet in front of the rest, and said “Vete!” [Go!]. The guinea pig scurried into one of the little flipped bowls. There was no money on top, but presumably if there was, the bettor would have won some money. I don’t know why Vegas hasn’t adopted this as I would definitely play this over traditional roulette.
The Egg Store
I found a retail store that just sells eggs. It’s the size of a medium-sized bodega, but instead of selling normal bodega things, every shelf is stacked entirely with cartons upon cartons of eggs. There was so much protein in that store, it could sustain Al for almost a week.