With a title like that, did you wonder if we had some embarrassing medical condition? Or we are getting a degree in something? Nope and nope. That stands for “Getting Sh!t Done in Medellin”. Cause we are rocking it down here by the equator. For some reason our settling-in process in Medellin has been pretty easy and fast. Maybe we are just getting better at it, maybe it’s just a city that is more available for expats to nestle into, maybe it’s because we speak the language or are familiar with this part of the world. Whatever the reason, it’s been awesome. Feels like we are going with the flow instead of against it, which is fairly uncommon for us in our travels. Here are some updates on our progress so far.
Mi Casa Su Casa
We started house hunting the day after Dan arrived. We had 3 apartments to look at the first day and 4 the next. I’m pretty sure that is the most we have house hunted in any of our 7 countries where we have lived. Most of the apartments we saw could have worked with some adjustment but one of them stood out as ideal for us, with the amount of space (including a small office for Dan), the location and the comfort level. We looked at it Monday morning and moved in Tuesday at noon. Hi honey, I’m home!
We chose to live in Poblado, which is where a lot of expats live in big tall buildings in spacious comfy apartments. It wasn’t necessarily where we wanted to live in the city, we would have been fine with some other areas that were a little more basic, but it’s just where the apartment that we liked was located.
People talk about how all the expats live in Poblado and that might be true, but we are also finding that “all the expats” means something very different in Colombia than where we have lived before. There are not nearly as many of them! I have not seen a single foreigner in our building in the 7 days we have lived here. Walking down the street for 20 minutes to the store and I will see 1, maybe 2 people who look like they are either tourists or expats. I like that, it feels like we are living more of a similar life to Colombians. Albeit, economically blessed Colombians, but Colombians nonetheless.
But back to our house… We live two blocks “up” – up the side of a mountain – from a main thoroughfare that has no shortage of restaurants, stores, malls and anything you could possibly need. But in case we don’t want to walk, there are several delivery services that will bring us anything from a chocolate bar to a meal from our favorite restaurant – or 4 different restaurants. Delivery services are cheap and easy here.
We live on the 11th floor of a 24- story building with 24/7 security. The guards are so friendly and helpful with things like finding taxis or managing deliveries or just where to find XYZ. The house has 3 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, a small office for Dan, a full sized washer & dryer, and a great patio with a full wall of sliding glass doors that can retract allowing us to enjoy the view of the city or watch the thunder and lightning. Most days are spent with the doors wide open (all year ’round).
The house has no A/C nor heat. Dan was a bit leery of this setup (the no A/C part) but we have purchased some fans that will probably make a good difference during the hottest part of abnormally hot days. So far I have not needed A/C and Dan would have liked it only a few times (but that was before we got fans).
The house came furnished and is one of the most well-stocked homes we’ve ever moved into. Down to the coasters and dish towels and brooms, they have thought of everything. We have only had to buy a few extra items that are for our own comfort. Even the beds are soft (did you hear that, Asia????). We are content. Here’s our house tour video for your viewing pleasure.
Getting them Edumacated
The girls have asked to go to school here. They look back on their time in Panama Public School as both the worst of times and the best of times. They understand the value of making friends, working on their Spanish and not just living in various places but being part of the local community as much as possible. One of our realtors has daughters the exact same ages as Haley and Zoe and recommended her school which is conveniently not too far away. Off we went last week to see about enrolling them. The school is on break for the year-end (they start in January for the new cycle) but an administrator was there. Once she got over the surprise of these gringas wanting to go to school in full-time Spanish, she was very welcoming. It took 4 early-morning visits, two interviews with the nun Directora (sidenote: after visit 3 with no padre, they specifically asked to meet Dan!) we were officially enrolled. I say “we” because they made it clear that I was welcome to help out at school anytime I wanted. Groans were heard from the niñas.
It’s a small private Catholic school. The classes at the girls’ grades are girls-only with 23 kids in Haley’s class and 20 kids in Zoe’s. Zoe is more excited than you can imagine. Haley recognizes it’s a good thing but the 6:15 a.m. school bus pickup at our apartment will not be her favorite part. But one thing about this lifestyle is that they realize that things come and go: activities can happen for a period of time that are beneficial, even if we don’t like certain aspects of it. We will all be adjusting our sleep schedule but even so, I have a feeling the first week will be pretty brutal. It’s a different kind of jet lag, for sure.
One of the things that I always dread the most is finding medical care in a new country. Will they speak English? Will it be expensive? Will it be as awkward as the colonoscopy in Panama? We don’t usually need medical care so soon in a country but we have already found – and seen – a doctor here after only 10 days since our arrival. Haley returned from her Thailand Project World School Retreat with some pretty bad bug bites on her legs from being in the jungle. They were not healing well so we felt it would be good to get some extra help from a professional. I asked on the ever-helpful Mom Expats page and within an hour I had a referral, the doctor contacted me on Facebook, and we made an appointment for a home visit the next day, all for the low low price of USD $30. The doc visit was excellent. She showed up with her wheeled suitcase with her computer, scale, and all her medical equipment needed for a traditional doctor appointment. We spent some time talking, we got a prescription, we decided to do a little extra testing since it’s been awhile since Haley had a physical, and we agreed to talk again after the blood test. And all of this was in English. I could have done it in Spanish but as the doc said “medical issues are better done in your native tongue.” I totally agree. If you weren’t impressed enough at my fast-tracking of the doc visit, you will be happy to hear that we managed the blood test in under 7 minutes from walk-in to walk-out at the lab which is right down that busy street I mentioned earlier. Next up, Haley has an orthodontist appointment to hopefully finish up the braces process we started 5 countries ago. I’m checking off the to-do list like a boss.
As I mentioned in our first impressions post, the transportation is not a strong point in Medellin. Traffic is heavy at just about any time of day and parking seems problematic unless you are going to a major store or a mall. We’ve been here 10 days and have not yet rented a car. This is a first for us. Maybe, just maybe, we will not be using a car here. We might rent one for a few days here and there to explore some areas outside of the city, but at the moment we are relying on a lot of walking, some taxis and Uber. We have found a few favorite Uber drivers we like and have their contact info for some private rides. We do a lot of “walk there, taxi home” for groceries, and we also use a delivery service when we don’t want to go out or need to buy heavy stuff. We have not yet used the bus but it seems to be an option, and the metro system is new, clean and looks to be very efficient. It’s extremely popular among Colombians. I’m enjoying all the walking although you do have to plan ahead for how long some errands take. The nearest major grocery store is about a 20-minute walk away, in any direction.
I already have friends, both expats and Colombians. I’ve gone to a concert, met up for lunch, I have plans for brunch on Saturday and I went to a market with 4 other expats this morning. I think I have a PhD in making friends fast. We are still seeking them for the girls but that process needs to develop over time. With school being on break we were looking for a few activities where they will be exposed to the same kids on a regular basis. We have found that’s the best formula for making friends. Our apartment has a good view of the common area and pool and when Zoe sees dogs or kids, she goes out to see about making a connection. Spanish classes, music classes, martial arts and maybe volunteering to teach English are all possibilities where friendships will be made. There are a few Worldschooling families here and plans are in the works for a meet-up.
I told Dan I did not want to relocate at the Christmas season, that it was not fun to try and settle into a new country, city, apartment and then turn around and pull off some semblance of a special Christmas a few weeks later. Well, we relocated at Christmas again. So here we are, trying to create some Christmas that seems familiar and traditional to the girls. One reason we came to Medellin is for their city-wide light show in parks, plazas and on roads during Christmas. It’s easy for it to feel festive when you have lights all around you. We finally found a tree, made wassail and decorated the tree while we made cookies and listened to Christmas music. All while trying not to be cranky from the long week! Fun fact: despite the city known for its lights, there are no tree lights here! None!
Nothing is Perfect
Does it sound like we are settling in well? We are! But you know me, I’m not going to write articles for travel magazines. Of course, nothing is perfect. The internet sucks at night and Dan is pulling his hair out trying to get it to work in all the different rooms of our apartment. The cell phone plan we are on is not enough for Dan’s usage needs AND they keep needing more paperwork from us or they will cancel our service. Our fridge is not working correctly and needs fixing. Dan is ready to create a GoFundMe page to install an escalator on the hill that leads up to our house. And the dudes working on the street outside our apartment are way too productive and are now working weekends. Oh, and yesterday I got into a big fight with a taxi driver who insisted I owed him 400 more pesos as a minimum fare. I fought with him and eventually won, only to find out later that 1) 400 pesos is 13 cents and 2) he was right.
So it’s not perfect, but we are starting to feel more at home, we know where to go to get most things we need on a daily basis, we know how to direct the taxis back to our house to avoid the road construction and I think our building’s guards are less and less surprised by us every day. Did you hear that? That’s the sound of us, tooting our own horns, albeit softly.