So, here’s a good story.
Today I went into Downtown Medellin. When I was in the city in November I did a free walking tour of the city which focused on Downtown, so I already knew the area. But this time, a guy (Jaison) who I met last time I was in the city offered to take me for a walk around.
Downtown Medellin has this almost “dystopian” urban charm, there are grand old colonial/communist/art-deco buildings (I don’t know which one) surrounding a square called Botero Plaza which houses these overweight statues (google it, it’s really cool!). Running through the middle of it all is a raised metro train line. Peer between the imposing buildings and you can catch a glimpse of the surrounding mountains and the barrios which cling to them. Under the metros bridges, cars honk horns, locals sell anything from socks to fresh watermelon to eek out a living and smartly dressed business people head to and from work. It reminds of me of Batmans Gotham in a way (just with less jokers & penguins). An amazingly interesting place to explore.
Surrounding the plaza are various museums and government buildings.
Museo de Antioquia tells the story of the region in which Medellin belongs (Antioquia). So we went to this museum. It was really large and featured a lot of artwork from the same person who created the statues in the plaza outside.
In the museum there were loads of children on a school trip. As we’re walking up a staircase, this small boy possibly around 8 years old grabs my hand and starts excitedly speaking in Spanish. He speaks too fast and excitedly for me to understand. Jeison translates. He wants to know where I’m from, so I tell him “Inglaterra”. The class continues to rush down the stairs and he and his friends run off giggling ecstatically.
We arrive in a part of the museum that’s telling the story of the Spanish arrival in Colombia.
I’m stood looking at some painting of a Spanish army general or something, when I catch something in the corner of my eye. I turn 90 degrees to find another small boy, around 7 or 8 years old stood beside me with his neck cranked up staring at me with a startled look on his face.
“Hola” I said.
A timid, shy “Hola” is whispered in return.
This time the boy starts to panic and seems to be in utter shock that this “monster” he’s staring at speaks Spanish.
By now a couple of his friends have joined him and he’s gains the courage to ask me where I’m from. “De donde eres?” he says.
“Inglaterra” I reply.
They all want to hold my hand and rub the hair on my arm; I politely oblige. Then they start running away to grab more friends. By now there are 10-15 children excitedly stood in front of me screaming “Soy de Inglaterra” … “I am from England.” i.e. it’s now become amusing for them to pretend they are from England as well.
I play along, it’s all fun and games. Then the teacher comes along and hurries them along apologising (I’m not sure what for).
Jeison and a museum security guard are stood beside me laughing at this unbelievable spectacle and they explained that these children are from very poor barrios in the city and will have very little exposure to foreigners, particularly someone as tall, big, blond, hairy and blue eyed as me. Jeison told me that the children thought I looked like a viking.
The whole thing made me smile and warmed by cold viking heart.
And the Viking theme isn’t anything new. A taxi driver the other day told me I was a “Vikingo” when the passenger seat wouldn’t go back any further to give me extra legroom.
Then speaking with a tour guide he also threw the word “Vikingo” in the conversation which amused me.
If I had a £ for every time I’ve been called a Vikingo, I’d have….. £3. But I feel it’s something that’s not going to give up any time soon as I continue to attract stares, for example on public transport. It keeps me amused anyway!