Thursday, August 23, 2012

A day without music is a day wasted

Colombia, and especially its Carribean coast (and Cali, Colombia's Capital of salsa), is the place to go if you like to dance. There is music everywhere. Literally, EVERYWHERE. Every car, house, bar, shops brings a different kind of tune: vallenato, salsa, merengue, bachata, reggaeton, cumbia, hip hop, house even. This leads me to dance uncontrollably all day long. I just can't help myself! Here's a glimpse of what Colombia sounds like:

To me vallenato is Colombia's equivalent of Dangdut (to which I have not even dedicated a blogpost yet!) and what we in Holland call smartlappen or levensliederen (croon songs). The songs are catchy and sentimental. It's popular music, or music for the working class. The themes is usually romantic, the lyrics often speak of lost loves. Lots of the Colombians I meet here don't like it (but all my neighbors so far definetely do). Even though I wouldn't want to listen to it all the time, I kind of like it (a lot). One of the things I like is that the accordeon is important instrument for vallenato and that the songs are sung straight from the heart. I will soon try to sing a song (like I did in Vietnam).

On every street corner you can hear a salsa tune, often it´ll be one by Joe Arroyo, Cartagena's pride. This song always make the clubs explode - people in general all sing along to all the songs, no matter whether they can sing or not. I kid you not: the neighbor is playing this song as we speak, or well, as I am typing this - at twelve thirty at night on a Thursday, I might add.

Many taxi driver's listen to radio Tropicana and will have reggaeton playing in their car. The lyrics are mostly very offensive to women or just disgusting (or both), but oh, is it fun to dance to this!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Solution to fear of failure: just don't do anything

Or Struggling to manage myself (part 4)

It has already been more than five months since I arrived in Cartagena (and I am getting ready to go back to Holland for a few months). During this time I have studied Spanish and now I can actually get around pretty well - if only I get these people of the coast to articulate their consonants. I am meeting a lot of interesting people, am working on NGO toolkit, and on some interesting other projects. I have explored Colombian culture, observed and wrote about it. I'm planning a Fifteen Minutes of Fame event and have started another blog with my friend Laura.

But I had many more things on my wish list, most of them having to do with making videos and writing articles for the NGO toolkit website. I want to work together with local NGO's and of course offer them my services - I do need to make a living too. A few months ago, I realised I had frozen in the face of fear. This theme is nothing new for me, as you know. This time I hadn't realised it straight away, since I thought I was already facing my fears going to an unknown land to learn the language. The real fear is of course in putting myself out there. It is fear of failure, of looking ridiculous. 

This very funny talk by Larry Smith focuses on this particular fear. For many people having this fear means they never end up having a great career, or even taking the leap to try to have one. I fooled myself in thinking I was already there, because I faced many of the excuses I was telling myself not to go for it. Also, I do watch Steve Jobs' commencement speech a lot. However, even though I know what my passion is and am taking the leap, the battle has just begun...

Great quote from this talk: "I would pursue a great career, but I value human relations more than accomplishment. [...] I will not sacrifce them  on the altar of great accomplishment. Do you think it's approprate to take children and use them as a shield?".

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How Marc Anthony taught me Spanish

Learning a new language is not fun. At least not for people like me who don´t enjoy learning by doing. Yes, yes, I know doing as in trying as in making mistakes and even failing is part of the learning process. Be that as it is, I still do not like it. Five months ago I started to learn Spanish in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. It has been a long journey, but at the moment I am actually quite satisfied with my level of Spanish. I did not completely start from scratch as I had studied latin in high school, did a Spanish course when I was 18, spent a month in Mexico a few years ago and had a few hours of Spanish class before departure.   

What I hadn't realized though is that I had an entire vocabulary at my disposal: the vocabulary of love. As I love salsa music, I have listened to certain albums a zillion times. As a teenager, it was Gloria Estefan's 'Mi tierra' album. For a few years now, I've been really into the Mexican singer Julieta Venegas. But how much as I´d like to deny it, it was Marc Anthony who taught me to speak Spanish. I still remember bying the Celos CD (remember those?) at a record store in Hawai´i and listening to it over and over again. Of course, at the time I did not realize it would pay off years later when actively learning Spanish. So, thank you Marc! 

I have to add that here in Colombia it is not a bad thing to like Marc Anthony.  Every hour you can hear one of his songs being played somewhere in Cartagena. So, here I can sing along without feeling ashamed. At last. Thank you, Colombia!