| Savannah Younts
SAVAGE's very own art director, Sav, has some serious wanderlust. She's awesome and loves to travel, so when she says, "Hey, I want to go work from [insert country]", we're apt to say ok. Here's a log from her latest travels to Colombia. Stay tuned for more updates on what's happening with your friends at SAVAGE!
"No dar papaya.
Literal translation: Don’t give papaya
When I told my family that I planned to spend a month in Colombia, they were less than thrilled. When I told them 3 weeks of that was in Medellin, the old hub of Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel and what was not too long ago the most dangerous city in the world, my father actually tried to bribe me not to go. Forever the defiant, it was decided. Savage* had given me permission to go work remotely from South America and I was not about to let this opportunity go.
The amount of safety advice that rolled in from all sorts of people in my life was a lot to handle. It didn’t help that most of them had just finished watching Narcos. I’ve spent a lot of time around the world traveling and never had I felt unsafe, but Colombia I was a little more unsure about. Still, I packed up and headed down to South America and what I found wasn’t what I had expected.
Upon arrival, I was skeptical of everyone, the way people back home told me to be. But soon enough, Colombia broke down those walls. Once I gave it a chance, I felt completely safe and was sorry for judging it so harshly at the start. I spent a month in this wonderful country and here are some of my top experiences from it.
I’m a dancer, not in the professional sense, but it’s one of the things that gives me the most joy in life. I’m from the South so am well versed in Swing and dabble in a few other styles, but salsa was a whole new thing for me. I immediately wanted to take part in the action; salsa music was always playing everywhere and i just wanted to join in, be twirled a bit and immerse myself in the culture.
First things first, take a salsa lesson. I took two salsa lessons, both times completely in Spanish. For the record, I do not speak Spanish. With enough hand gestures and watching the instructor, I finally figured it out. Next, go to an actual salsa bar. I felt decent with my salsa abilities, I knew all the different types of steps decently, and a lot of the turns are very similar to other dances I had done before so I felt fairly confident walking in.
That did not last long. We went to a local bar in the middle of Medellin and were the only Gringos there. Sure enough some guys asked me to dance and I’m sure I made a fool of myself. Some spoke English, others didn’t, but we struggled through the dance together and had a good time doing it. I watched other couples in amazement, with the desire to be that good one day. Now that I’m home, I’ve already got some salsa events lined up.
Ask yourself this, if you go to South America and don’t attend a Futbol game, did you really go to South America? Yeah, I didn’t think so. I made sure to cross this one off the list.
It took us forever to figure out how to buy tickets and even once we did, we had no clue how to tell what seats were supposed to be good. We showed up to the game and quickly found out the far end of the stadium was the where we wanted to be - packed with green and white jerseys (the colors of the Medellin team), flags waving every which way, banners with the different Medellin neighborhoods written on them for people to take pride in where they lived, and chanting, all the chanting. I never could figure out what they were saying, but there was never a silent or even slightly quiet moment from that part of the stadium. It was cheer after cheer, chant after chant and it almost killed me not being in the middle of it. The home team ended up winning the game 3-2, but honestly, I barely watched the game. I was way too busy watching the fans.
Now things are going to get real Colombian for ya. In Colombia (and who knows where else), they play a game called Tejo. It’s very similar to our tailgating/yard game, Cornhole. There are slanted boards with a target and you stand a good ways back and throw an object at it to gain points. The difference is, instead of throwing a bean bag, you throw a rock and instead of trying to throw it in a hole, you throw it at a ring of explosives.
No, I’m not joking.
To make it even better, when you play Tejo you don’t pay to rent out a lane, you pay for a case of beer and then just get the lane. Alcohol + rocks + explosives = great combo, right? Yeah, it was pretty cool. There were some locals who got really into it. They would have their own weights to throw, special metal ones instead of just the rocks that we got to use. Tejo was definitely one for the books, and an experience I won’t forget.
- The landscapes
Wow. That’s really all there is to say. The cities that I visited in Colombia were really cool, each with their own personality and beautiful in their own way, but once you got just out of the city, that’s when your jaw dropped. Colombia is such a mountainous, green country. The best comparison I could think of was a jungle-y Ireland with less sheep. There are rolling green hills and mountains everywhere you look with little houses in the middle of them. You see rivers and little waterfalls as you drive along the highway. For three hours I just stared out the window on our bus ride to Rio Claro.
I’m a do-er. I need something at all times to keep me entertained; I need to go or do or see. Colombia has that. On our trip we were able to visit two other small towns, spend a weekend at a nature reserve where we got to go caving and rock climbing, go to a few national parks, and we barely even scratched the surface. I could’ve spent so much more time planning so more things. One I missed out on was going hang gliding, but I did have time to go paragliding to make up for it. Close, but not the same. We had friends who spent a weekend at a water hostel in the middle of the ocean, some who rappelled waterfalls, some got to go to Carnaval. All of these things to do, and I only visited two major cities. If you got tired of traveling and being outdoors, there were futbol games, dancing, a great nightlife, and plenty more to keep you entertained in the city.
Colombia gets a bad rap because of all it went through 20-30 years ago. They had some hard times and it was not a safe place to be. It’s better now, not perfect, but better. They encourage visitors to come and welcome them. To a lot of the locals the fact that their country is a place people want to come means a lot because that wasn’t the case not too long ago.
Walking around the cities early on, I kept seeing this phrase spray painted on the sides of buildings, “No dar papaya.” I couldn’t figure out what it meant, so finally, I did what any good millennial would do and took to the internet. Its literal translation is, “don’t give payapa,” but is an idiom meaning, don’t put yourself in a situation where you can be taken advantage of. Basically, use common sense and don’t be stupid. If you pay attention and are aware, you’ll be perfectly fine in Colombia. This I learned in the best way.
If I could go back and change anything about my trip, the only thing I would change is the amount of time spent there – more. After this experience, if I could give you two pieces of advice they would be:
- Go to Colombia.
- No dar papaya."