a little cameo

Life in Colombia and everything that goes with it

What´s your blood type?

With my spiffy temporary resident visa all sorted out, the next step to living in Colombia is getting my cedula extranjeria.

Every Colombian is issued with a cedula (national identity card) which they are required to produce or rattle off their number for anything and everything. The cedula contains important information like name, sex, date of birth, place of birth, height and blood type. It doesn´t however contain important information like address or favourite colour.

As a foreigner living in Colombia I need a foreigner´s national identity card to produce when asked for ID, to open a bank account and for a myriad of other processes. This is in addition to my passport and visa.

Armed with a list of everything required for the cedula processing, I stumbled across a piece of information I didn´t have – my blood type.

If you ever want to see a surprised Colombian, just tell them that you don´t know your blood type. They will ask how is this possible, and what happens if you are in an accident and need blood and will expect an answer that they will still challenge.

The only two people in my family who know their blood types are my aunt who has had two kidney transplants and my grandfather who donated some blood to himself before hip surgery. Curiously, my mother who has been the recipient of a few blood transfusions with a  stint in intensive care where she was basically bleeding to death, doesn´t know her blood type.

It´s really not something that most people in Australia know, unless they are a blood donor, but it is a big talking point in our Colombian house. I can see why it is important to know your blood type here. Colombia isn´t blessed with a health system and blood service like we are in Australia. There are very few ambulances (most people hail a taxi) and resources are stretched thin in the clinics and hospitals. The few moments it takes to type your blood could make all the difference to your survival here.

The blood service here works more on a “we´ll give you the blood you need if you can rustle up the same amount in donations from your family and friends”. Colombians are very hospitable and generous people, but that doesn´t really cross over into genuine altruism like blood donation. One of mi novio´s aunts recently underwent surgery. Prior to the surgery, another aunt came around to the house seeking donations because the family needed to stump up 4L of blood to replace the blood his aunt would require during  and after the surgery.

If you have a rare blood type you suddenly become in demand and people will pay for your blood, which further negates the donation aspect. When mi novio was completing his compulsory national service in the army, he was rounded up by the captain along with another soldier and sent off to have their blood ´donated´. Out of 800 odd soldiers in the battalion, he was one of only 2 people with O- blood type that the mother of the captain desperately needed as she was at death´s door. After the hefty ´donation´ he was immediately sent back out on duty with just a Gatorade.

Getting my finger pricked

Understandably apprehensive

When Colombian babies are born, they are immediately tested for their blood type and that information goes on their birth certificate. Getting my blood type tested I however turned into a big baby. Wedged between Santa Marta´s registry office and a photocopy place is a tiny white shopfront that looks more like a small garden shed than a blood lab. That is where you go to find out your blood type and get an official piece of paper with it written on it, because the cedula process needs official certification of your blood type.

It´s a walk in-walk out type place and in under 5 minutes and for COP$5000 (US$2.50) I came out with throbbing, still-bleeding finger where the attendant had carelessly stabbed me and an official blue card proclaiming me to be O+, the universal receiver.

So while I am the universal receiver, mi novio is the universal giver. I think there´s a fair chance some would also say that´s how our relationship could be described too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Inspired to donate blood? Do it!

Australia: www.donateblood.com.au (and a shout out to my former colleague Benny who has been behind a number of those campaigns encouraging you to donate)
Colombia: www.cruzrojacolombiana.org
USA: www.redcrossblood.org
UK: www.blood.co.uk
Canada: www.blood.ca
New Zealand: www.nzblood.co.nz

If you are in another country, do a search for blood donation to find how you can save lives.

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4 thoughts on “What´s your blood type?

  1. Can’t believe after all these years you didn’t know your blood type!! Well in case you do need any (which I hope you never do…) did you know that we often send donations to Australians in need overseas? Just speak to your local Aussie consul (or email me…!)

    Love a good shout out, I can’t help reading anything that has blood in the title 🙂 even better when it has my name in there. Just been promoted to national campaign manager so everyone reading this should get out and donate! There’s a donor centre in sunny mildura.

    And Congratulations on your engagement cammy I’m so happy for you! Looks like you’ve caught a handsome one, and generous!

    Benny xo

    • Hey Benny, that’s really interesting about how you send blood to Australians overseas. What a fantastic service.

      Congrats on the new job! I love that you admit to reading anything that has blood in the title (did you mention that in your interview??) I’m sure your Google Alert would be filled with plenty of interesting (if not macabre) stories. That’s passion for you.

      Thanks for your well wishes! I have a blog post coming soon about our engagement filled with more insights into Colombian culture. It’s going to be a ripper.

      Cammy O+

  2. Shona on said:

    Hola Camille! Greetings from MELBOURNE! Have just stumbled across your blog, the way you do, when your meandering your way around Google, when you’re s’posed to be doing something else….; I’m an Aussie-Kiwi, married to a Colombian (bumangues) and living in Melbourne, where I work as a professional interpreter and translator. I also have many Colombian and other Spanish-speaking friends and, in fact, live in a little latino enclave within Australia. I would be living in Latin America right NOW, if I could, but I have a couple of commitments that keep me tied down here for the moment. I’ve just skimmed a couple of your musings…fantastic! I can really relate to your adventurous spirit and fascination with that part of the world….; I’ve spent a mere 2 weeks in Colombia…most of which was in la costa (Barranquilla, Carnaval de 2011) – awesome experience – and can’t wait to return with my darling marido colombiano (who I met and married in Melbourne)..as soon as we manage to save up the “billete” ($$$). I laughed til I cried re your reactions to vallenato; my hubby loves it and I try so hard for his sake to like it…but…it’s hard going! Like you, I like Carlos Vives (and check out Fonseca…who actually made it to Melbourne – it being worth his while, now that there are soooo many colombianos here nowadays…!!); it’s a modernised version, a touch of vallenato, fused with other styles…watered down and not so pure…but far more digestable! 🙂 My dream is to one day experience actually LIVING in Colombia too – to experience the good, the bad, to feel homesick, to have culture shock, everything…I feel it’s my destino to do so one day; but for now, hubby is happy in Oz…; Well, sending you muchos saludos desde tu tierra natal, and I look forward to following your posts…and you inspire me to start that damned blog of my own! Un abrazo, Shona

    • Hola Shona! It’s so lovely to receive your message and ‘meet’ you, another down-under chick with a Colombian marido! Mi novio stumbled across many other Colombians in the 3 weeks we were in Melbourne together (while I finished up my job and he studied English), although as a costeno he was something of a rarity. I really hope you get to come here for a long time soon, and yes, I think it’s your destino too. Living here is a wonderful and life-altering experience although I can’t imagine myself living here forever so it is our plan to move to Australia in a few years. Before I upped sticks and moved here, it was important for mi novio to come to Australia to meet my family and friends and see what my life is like there. I think that experience has helped him to support me through these months here, because the culture shock has been harder to deal with than I imagined. I guess not having our own place has a lot to do with that though!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and connecting with me. I would love to read your blog, so get to it!! As for the vallenato, it seems that it is being beaten in the street by Pollito Pio which is on all the music vendors’ stereos at the moment. It is most probably equally as annoying for some, but I LOVE it!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and connecting with me. I would love to read your blog, so get to it!!

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