Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson once said, “The best things in life are free.” While at times I have questioned Janet's wisdom—for example, her decision to pick Jermaine Dupri over me—I think they nailed this one right on the head. I’ve never been a huge fan of “things” and I hate paying a cover charge just to hang out with people. This may explain why I’ve always been slightly allergic to Los Angeles.
Don’t get me wrong—sometimes you have to shell out some dough and it can be worth it. Way back in July, Javi and I jumped on the opportunity to buy pre-sale tickets for two Colombia World Cup Qualifying matches against Uruguay and Paraguay. That proved to be one of the best decisions I’ve made since coming to Colombia.
That being said, my motto is still, “If it’s for free, then it’s for me, and give me three.” A good thing is only that much gooder when you don’t have to pay for it. Last weekend we hosted a Jornada de Salud* at my worksite, offering vaccinations, dental and medical appointments, and even a yoga workshop—all for free! The only tough part was getting to work by 7:00 am on Saturday morning.
Luckily I had the rest of the afternoon to rest and recharge my batteries for the Halloween weekend festivities. Being a big fan of “free,” I’m always looking for a bargain when it comes to social outings. For that reason I was dragging my feet last Saturday as I left the house to meet my friends at Trucupey, a club in Barranquilla. Rumor had it that the cover charge for the Halloween party was 20,000 pesos—almost ten dollars. Goodlordthatsalotamoney, especially when I’m balling on a Peace Corps budget. I decided to suck it up because I hadn’t hung out with the conejitas* for a couple of weeks.
We had a pretty good time waiting in The Line (another thing I hate doing), checking out the local costumes—Señor T, mummies on stilts, Mario & Luigi. Eventually, we got the word that due to spontaneous inflation, the cover charge had doubled to 40,000. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one in our group that wasn’t havin’ it. Natally made a good faith effort to sweet-talk the cashier, then she tried getting ugly—at one point I think I heard her say, “Look honey, I can count.” Surprisingly, neither strategy worked, so we all stepped out of line with heads held high and began to plot out a Plan B.
The first suggestion was to head to Calle 84, a neighborhood with a strip of clubs and lounges. It’s not my favorite place to hang out in Barranquilla, mostly because the drinks are expensive and it feels a little fancy. The last time I found myself there was back in September on Dia del Amor y Amistad, the Colombian equivalent of Valentine’s Day. After searching around for a place with an available table that wouldn’t charge us just to step inside, I decided that I had to make my move. I talked some of the crew into heading back to my barrio, where the (free) party never stops—literally. That September night (and morning) turned out to be nothing short of epic. When I went to bed at 7:00 am the party was still going. When I woke up at 11:00 am the party was still going. Yes, that is the sun rising in the background.
If it worked for Amor y Amistad, why not give it a shot for Halloween? This time we showed up in my barrio with two taxis full of folks ready to party. Unfortunately, when we got to my house the neighborhood was dead... just my host-mom, Chabela, and three friends chatting on the front patio. We greeted them, got the guests comfortable, then I made a beer run. When I got back from the corner store, Chabela had already borrowed a stereo from the neighbors and had it hooked up and bumpin'. The night warmed up pretty fast but the tipping point came when Chabela reemerged, freshly showered, dressed in all black and ready to get down.
If I had a dollar for every time one of my friends told me that my barrio was their new favorite place in Barranquilla, I would have enough money to pay the cover charge at Trucupey next time. But I still wouldn’t do it—I would pile into a taxi, head back to my hood, and hope to have half as much fun as I did last weekend.
Happy Halloween and Pura Vida,
*Jornada de Salud = Health Day
** Conejitas = Extra Cute Bunny Rabbits