Bullhorn Morning | Colombia

Things Tourists Should Never Do in Colombia, Ever


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A harsh voice amped up through the funnel of an electrical bullhorn wakes me up.

Hard Spanish syllables rattle the windows of every apartment on the block.

The fog of the night clears. Oh, yeah.

I’m waking up in Colombia today.

And there’s a lockdown in effect till Tuesday. Is that what the bullhorn is about? Is that how they enforce it here?

If so, this room feels as big as a milk carton.

The wall that faces the street is mostly a glass sliding door with a metal gate behind it, and a full-length curtain behind that.

One gust of wind with the glass door open, and the curtain would blow back and pedestrians could see you snoozing. It makes you want to hunch to the corners of the room. But I had the glass door shut all night, so that’s more of a theoretical concern then a pratical one.

There’s no AC in here, just a fan, a mini-fridge, a hot water kettle, and miraculously, a bathroom and shower crammed in there as well. The size of an airplane’s bathroom. All immaculately clean and well organized.

And the host put those beachy, barfy, housewarmers up on the walls, the wooden boards with golden letters reading, “Dream on, Wild Child” and “Home is Where I Hang my Hat”.

And speaking of messages, that bullhorn is back again. What is it saying? I don’t have the Spanish to understand it. I pull the white curtain with blue flowers on it just an inch, expecting to see a police car with a clove of bullhorns jabbering away on top of it.

It’s funny, no two apartment buildings on the street match. Far from uniform, utilitarian living complexes, it’s a series of brick or concrete or wooden sided buildings all with different shapes and designs. No two second story balconies are at the same height. A glance down the block and how it’s built is enough to tell you, the rules aren’t the same here.

Christmas lights and bows are on some of the balconies. A small black dog wanders through the street. The bullhorner is out of sight, but his voice echoes around some corner.

Tone-wise, the bullhorn voice seems sharp and official. What on earth could that be about? Stay in your rooms till Tuesday? That would make sense. Stay off the street? The street is empty, now.

(Or are they saying ‘we’re looking for that guy, the American who got here last night. Somebody knows where he is. No harm will come to you if you hand him over.)

The things movies will do to your head!

The bullhorn voice is getting closer. This time, I’m going to see the police car, or whoever he is, pass.

It’s not a police car. It’s not even a car at all. It’s a two-wheeled wooden fruit cart with a PA system mounted on it. There’s a suntanned, wrinkly, cranky dude pushing the cart through the streets, and finally, I pick words out of the garbled bullhorn noise. Papaya, guayaba, aquacate. Banana, mango.

Ha! Police. Lockdown. Silly me. Now to find a cup of world famous Colombian coffee.

To be continued

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