There are a few things, pleasant surprises that I’ve noticed that Colombia does better than the US. This is not a comprehensive list; it is simply what I’ve noticed recently and I hope to add to this list as the months unfold.
· Fruit juice. They have awesome fruit juice here. It’s fresh; it comes in all sorts of flavors that we don’t have and they make these deliciously creative mixes – like pear, green apple, mint and something tropical that I can’t remember the name of. But trust me – it’s amazing. And that’s just one example; the number of mixtures they come up with is exponential to the number of fruits and herbs that exist.
· Aromatica. While we’re talking about delicious concoctions, I’d like to suggest “aromatica,” a brew of dried or fresh fruits and herbs that does NOT only taste like rose hips (like so much herbal tea does). Every batch is different depending on the creator; it’s refreshing and warm and sweet… Mmm hmmm. Why don’t we have this at home? And you can eat the fruit with a spoon afterwards!
· Desserts. There are bakeries and ice cream and gelato shops everywhere. And flan, and things with “arequipa,” this caramel-like substance that makes everything better. Now, I know that Europe is renowned for their bakeries , so you French, Italian and Austrians out there don’t go getting all upset at this. This isn’t a world competition here – just nice things I notice in Colombia and their bakeries are one of them!
· Taxi companies that recognize your address automatically when you call from your home phone and dispatch a taxi to your exact location and then tell you how many minutes it will take to arrive. All without talking to a soul. That’s pretty cool.
· Parking lot security. Besides bomb-sniffing dogs that check every vehicle entering the shopping center parking lots, today we also saw what could best be described as parking lot lifeguards. There were guards in towers overlooking the outdoor parking lot, armed with whistles and binoculars. One was excitedly blowing his whistle and pointing at some offender, but I couldn’t tell what the crime was. Could it have been door-dinging another car? Leaving the cart to block an empty space? Forgetting your purse on the car roof? Either way, he was certainly On The Job and it was nice to see.
I’ve given you five nice surprises of things that Colombia does really well. Protocol* dictates that I may now list one thing that Colombia is really lousy at, and I apologize in advance to any host-country nationals reading this, but you gotta’ admit that this is true: It makes NO sense to have the folks who re-stock the grocery shelves work during the busiest shopping times! We have enough trouble working our way around each other and past the over-solicitous sample marketers in front of their skillets and pitchers of juice and little tooth-picked sausage pieces - we truly do not also need to contend with pallets and crates and boxes of groceries blocking the way and dozens of staff clogging the aisles that we now have to reach around, over, and under as they ignore us to chat with their coworkers. Really, these tasks are best left to the overnight hours.
Okay, that's it for now.