July 21, 2015
The Estrada Concept
In Medellin, neighborhoods are rated from 1 – 6. Estrada 1 neighborhoods are the poorest, while Estrada 6 neighborhoods are the richest. If you live in Estrada 6, you pay more for your utilities than the people living in Estrada 1.
I found that interesting. In the U.S. different counties charge different rates for utilities and different cities charge different amounts, but I don’t think the utility rates vary within a city itself. Maybe some cities do that and I just have never lived in one of them.
As you go from the higher level Estrada’s to the lower level ones, the mix changes from more ex-pats to no ex-pats. At the conference, we were told that ex-pats would be comfortable in Estrada’s 4 through 6.
For my first week in Medellin, I stayed in a luxury hotel in the El Poblado area. When I booked the room, the estimated cost to stay there for 7 nights was more than $900USD. The exchange rate moved in my favor in a big way before it came time to pay for the room. In fact, it was such a favorable move that my total bill, including all the lunches and dinners I ate at the hotel, was less than the original estimate for the cost of just the room!
I moved back to El Poblado for my last two weeks in Medellin. In the interim, I stayed in another apartment and did some traveling with my brother and his girlfriend. My apartment in El Poblado had a balcony, from which I had a view of mountains and a nice skyline. I was much happier there than I was in the other apartment, which I’ll describe a little later.
I negotiated a good nightly rate of about $54USD for this apart-hotel. It included a full breakfast of my chosing. To get this rate, I had to pay cash. That meant frequent use of the automatic teller machines (cajero automatico in Spanish).
This apartment was very close to Parque Lleras. Parque Lleras is the nightlife area. I didn’t go out after dark, unless I was with someone, so I didn’t experience the nightlife. However, I did eat lunch in some of the restaurants in the Parque Lleras area.
It’s not really an area you want to be near unless you plan to party. During the weekends, people stay up all night. I woke up more than once in the wee hours of the morning and could hear people talking on the sidewalk below my window.
After I checked out of the hotel in El Poblado, I moved to an apartment that I rented for a month for $750USD in the La Floresta Park area. I didn’t end up staying there for the month. The area was nice enough. I felt safe. There were restaurants, shops and teller machines. I was told by my taxi driver that this apartment was in Estrada 4.
Unfortunately, the apartment itself was like a cave. The only view of the outdoors was out the front door and the window next to it. And the view was of the street and the apartment building across the street.
In order to get a good WIFI signal, I had to work in the kitchen, which was at the back of the unit and pretty dreary.
When I was working in the kitchen or cooking in the La Floresta apartment, I could hear everything from the kitchen in the apartment above me. There was an area behind the kitchen where I could hang laundry to dry. It was open to the outside, although I couldn’t see the sky or the earth.
For me, it was pretty annoying to be in my own apartment and to hear people banging around with their pots and pans or singing. It was like sharing my apartment with all of my neighbors.
I’ve been told that Colombians are accustomed to noise and don’t notice it. Probably, the lower the Estrada level, the more noise sharing you get between units. I couldn’t hear anyone else from my apartment in El Poblado, except on party weekends when people were talking on the street below my window.
The La Floresta area is not a popular ex-pat area. People in that area were not accustomed to seeing Gringa’s. It seemed like if they were talking to me in Spanish and I told them I didn’t understand, they would just keep speaking at the same speed.
I would even say that I didn’t speak Spanish and they would just continue to talk. Of course, I did say it in perfect Spanish. Maybe, if I had said it in English, they would have gotten the message more clearly.
It was as if they couldn’t fathom the idea that I could not speak or understand Spanish. In El Poblado, it was a different story. They’re used to visitors from other countries who do not understand or speak Spanish and many of them do speak a bit of English.
Yours in prosperity,