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Life in Colombia and everything that goes with it

Colombia, the only risk is wanting to strangle your neighbours

I hate vallenato.

There, I feel better for admitting it. Despite how much I’ve tried tell myself “but this is Colombian culture, you’re not open-minded enough if you can’t embrace it” I will always intensely dislike this incessant, squeaky, loud, monotonous music that is only ever blared out of oversize speakers at a decibel warning level.

How did I finally come to confess this you may ask. Well, my day started like this:

Ahhh, Sunday, you beautiful sleep-in of a day with only relaxing things to do. Oh, except that I have to take D to a soccer game that starts at 7:50am. And we can’t go on the motorbike because it is waiting for my brother-in-law to fix it with his magical mechanic hands. So we’re up early. Although the funny thing is I didn’t need an alarm clock because the neighbour two doors down started the music up at 6:40am. Did I tell you it is Sunday?

Normal people (ie not costeños) would think twice before spinning the volume dial on their music up until it spins no more. Even more so you would expect this consideration when you live in a laneway that isn’t even 2m wide and every house is a terrace house, wall beside wall. But our fabulous neighbours have instead brought out their mega speaker to the front terrace, aimed it in the direction of our house and found the limit on the volume dial. Playing vallenato. That music I hate.

I couldn’t hear la suegra talking to me across the lounge room, and it wasn’t even 7am. I couldn’t even hear myself think. My brain started to crackle and frazzle with the fast accordion scratch and grate. Ooops, here arrives my bad mood.

I went to the corner store to buy breakfast supplies and my face withered into a sour, glowering scowl as I passed the neighbours sitting out the front of their house with their ears pressed up against the mega speaker. Perhaps the sound isn’t as loud as it is in their terrace as what it is inside my house. Maybe I should invite them to our lounge so we can shout at each other from the couch to the chair and continually repeat “que?

Unfortunately for me vallenato is the most popular music in Santa Marta. It screams at me from bars, shops, buses and of course the neighbours’ stereos. I long for a bit of Latin pop, the other neighbour’s old time ballads or even ranchero, Colombian country music mi novio sings along to badly, but the vallenato is escapable. Like the bad mood it brings on. I detest it so much I can’t even bring myself to search for a song to link to so you can experience it yourself and really know what I mean. Sorry but you’ll have to do it yourself (don’t worry, it won’t matter what song you find because they all sound the same).

I’m in serious need of a coping mechanism for dealing with the obnoxious sound, but can’t seem to find a calm space while it vibrates in my brain. I tell myself that if it is played at a normal volume it wouldn’t be so bad, but that’s never going to happen and I have to resign myself to living with vallenato.

Do you have any strategies for how I can accept vallenato and not end up strangling my neighbours? Or what would be the best annoying music for me to play at max volume on the terrace (assuming I had a super mega high wattage speaker)?

*Disclaimer: I don’t actually want to strangle my neighbours – it’s just a figure of speech – because except for the inconsiderate vallenato they are nice and always greet me with a buenas or adios when I pass with a non-vallenato-soured face.

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8 thoughts on “Colombia, the only risk is wanting to strangle your neighbours

  1. Even worse than being woken up by neighbours playing Vallenato is rising to the sweet sounds of a street vendor selling avocado. A-GUA-CATE, A-GUA-CATE, A-GUA-CATEEEEE!

  2. I used to like vallenato when I lived in Bogota…now, I tolerate and it’s looking like a downward spiral…

    • I may have fired my shot too early, as after writing this post I discovered that Carlos Vives sings vallenato, and I love his song ‘Quiero casarme contigo’. However perhaps that is more Latin pop with a slight nod to vallenato. I can do that. But the vallenato currently ripping into my room from the neighbours is boring me to tears of frustration. I hope you aren’t stuck with vallenato playing neighbours…cos that’ll transform the downward spiral into a screaming waterslide ride into deep water.

  3. Hi dear Im from santa marta and I dont like the vallenato not worry no all of us liked but as you described in your post you are living in a very popular suburb, I advice you to move to other place more quiet , there are some places the people are more quiet and peaceful . by the other hand the music they may be hate most is heavy rock , metalica o something more heavy. At the moment I live in Australia butis nice to practicing my English with some one like you that have something in common . by good luck

    • Hi Anyi

      It’s nice to meet a Samaria who doesn’t like vallenato! I think heavy metal would definitely annoy my neighbours, but they would probably just start playing their vallenato earlier and louder! You’re right the only solution is to move.

      I hope you are enjoying living in Australia. Have a Tim Tam for me!

      • hi dear of course I will have one in your. name. where are you from ? I hope not everything is bad for you in my city how long have youbeen living in Colombia ? if you need some peaceful place to go I can advice you .
        bye

      • I’m from Mildura in Victoria and have been living in Santa Marta for nearly 6 months now, the time has gone so quickly! Any time I get out of the city and into nature I find lots of peace and quiet, like our trip to Quebrada Valencia

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