Tiny little bags

There is a phenomena of “tiny little bags” here in Medellin.  For the uninitiated, these bags carry a sinister implication.  However, the truth is (sometimes) much more mundane.

While these bags are often used for nefarious purposes (just check out the “Park of the Journalists” (parque de la periodista), these bags are also utilized in much more innocuous ways.

these tiny little bags actually contain some innoculous spices; salt, oregano, red pepper and black pepper

these tiny little bags actually contain some innoculous spices; salt, oregano, red pepper and black pepper

For instance, the tiny little bags from the picture here are actually from a pizza delivery last night. The bags contain a selection of spices including oregano, garlic powder, salt, red and black pepper.

Just an example of the little differences here that sometimes lead visitors to jump to the wrong conclusions due to Medellin’s reputation.  So the next time you see a tiny little bag littering the street – maybe it’s the remnant of a drug transaction – or maybe it was just lunch.

Images of Colombia

While I am back here in the United States, I wanted to share many of the images I’ve gathered and collected during my most recent visit to Colombia..  Some of these images will be familiar to long-term readers from various posts about my trips to Lerida, visits to the finca, and day-to-day encounters with different and interesting people in Colombia.

I hope you enjoy!

Happy Anniversary…

As my long-time readers know – I am a huge fan of Adriaan Alsema, a Dutch-borne journalist in Medellin, Colombia.  He is the founder/ creator/ and genius behind Colombia Reports.com – the English language news source for all things Colombiano.

Mr. Alsema, Editor-in-chief, Colombia Reports

Mr. Alsema, Editor-in-chief, Colombia Reports

It’s the fifth anniversary of Colombia Reports – so I wanted to wish Adriaan a Happy Anniversary..


Christmas comes to the foothills of Bogota

Like I’ve said in a previous post – one of the great things about living in a city like Bogotá, is all of the interesting people..  Some of them are lifelong residents, some are visitors like myself – and others are making Bogotá a temporary home, like my friend, Johanna and her husband, Paul.

a true photographer, my friend, Johanna

Johanna’s a talented photographer (I’ve much admired her photos for a long time) so I am hoping to enlist her in some of my efforts..  She took several of the pictures here (the good ones!)

Yesterday, we went to La Calera which is a picturesque community just outside of the city.  Sundays are a particularly popular day for city residents to get a taste of small town life just twenty minutes outside Bogotá.

leaving the rainy city behind for a day in La Calera

But our excursion yesterday was a bit different from some of the lovely, and lazy afternoons I’ve had wandering the villages surrounding Bogotá.  This time, we were there for a cause.

nope, still not in trouble.. just hanging out

We joined Colombia’s Civil Defense – Cundinamarca division for a toy drive to benefit children in one of the outlying villages.

Civil Defense 4 x 4 division toy drive

They will deliver the toys by 4 X 4 next month..

with the Colombia’s Civil Defense

While they were collecting toys – they also had some activities for the local kids – including a ‘Paint the Car’ activity which proved popular with kids and adults alike.  (After all – how often do the police hand out spray paint?)

Civil defense officer helps a small child paint

It was a lot of fun – for a good cause, so I’ve written some more about it over at Examiner.com.

Hoping to do some more interviews this week – to bring more of Bogotá’s residents to readers..

The people of Bogota

I’m actually out of the city for a few days – but during my long flight, I reflected on some of the reasons I enjoy this city so much.

Why do I enjoy Bogotá so much?

Well, the people, of course!  Now, I know that people are shaking their heads – but for a small-town girl like me,  a cosmopolitan city like Bogotá is very exciting indeed.   So many festivals, events, galleries and museums**.

But it’s the people who are the heart of the city – and what really brings it alive.   Just this week, I had the opportunity to rub shoulders with and talk to a Colombian film director, a geo-petroleum engineer, a civil rights (labor) attorney  and one of the executives of Caracol.   It’s just that kind of town – like Washington D.C. but down-to-earth and accessible.  [Now, my little eight-year-old friend, Flavia has met President Santos just walking on the street one day, but I haven’t.]  But there are still wonderful opportunities to meet and talk to interesting people who I might not cross paths with in my ‘normal’ life in the hospital.

For example, I found myself sitting next to the film director, Andres Barrientos at a birthday party for a mutual friend. (Of course, the guests at the party were a like a small UN delegation – but less protocol and more fun;  it included Colombians,  two delightful ladies from Venezuelan, a British gentleman, and the guest of honor – another American like myself –except for her beautiful Argentinean Spanish.)  These are all just people and friends I have made wandering around the city..

Of course – talking about the ‘extranjeros’ or foreigners living in Bogotá is an entirely different topic – and one we will get around to one of these days.  But as I chatted with the very normal, very nice Mr. Barrientos (and he politely refrained from laughing at the ridiculousness of my YouTube efforts), it made me consider how many film producers I met in Danville, Virginia, Mexicali, Mexico or Reno, Nevada during my various moves.  (The cumulative answer is: Zero.)  And why would I – on the streets of my small southern town?  But Bogotá is a different matter entirely – it is a global city, with its tenacles on the pulse of Colombia, Latin America and the world.

Global positioning and perspectives

Talking with labor attorneys and several petroleum company officers just brings home some of the amazing lack of insight we (as North Americans) have on some many issues affecting the rest of the world – and our roles within this context.

While Americans are often accused of being willfully ignorant – this just isn’t true.  The reality is that: we are intentionally blinded as citizens to much of the outside world.  I mean, I make a continuous, specific concerted effort to find English language information about issues facing Latin America (for this blog) and it is exceedingly difficult.

What we do see on CNN, BBC and our nightly news and read has already been translated (and censored) for our consumption.  As a result – if it isn’t a  sensationalized report about a bomb going off somewhere – or a huge drug seizure, then there just isn’t much information available – whether we are talking about our southern neighbor, Mexico, the economic powerhouse of Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile or any of another dozen countries.

But when you live somewhere like Bogotá – you become more globally informed just by meeting and interacting with all of your fellow Bogotá residents – from UN representatives, other foreign nationals on down to your every day taxi driver.  (Always talk to the taxi drivers – they are usually exceedingly nice, have a wealth of information and different perspectives on everything from affordable healthcare, the American presidential elections, the environment and Latin American economic policies.  You will be surprised what you will learn.)

That’s just something I can’t get on Main Street, Danville, Virginia..

**Speaking of which – they are offering my book for sale at the Festival de Librarias in Parque 93 this weekend.

Life in Colombia: Medellin

Adriaan Alsema, the founder of Colombia Reports (the english language paper in Colombia) originally published this blog on their site – but since it’s a nice portrait of why Americans like me find Colombia so enchanting – I wanted to mention it.

Now the author’s reasons for chosing Medellin differ from my own since I originally went to Colombia to write – but his perspectives on the friendliness of the local residents is very similar.  (Afterall – without their help – there would be no book.)  No only that – but without the various episodes of random kindnesses from complete strangers – I would probably still be wandering around the back streets of Bogotá.

Of course – whenever I come across interesting stories, blogs etc. about Bogota and Colombia in general – I like to share them with readers, so they can get their own sense of the city..  Here’s one of my latest finds – at a fellow wordpress site, Life is Real Good 😀

It’s a blog about the adventures of Eoin and Ryan, two young guys who spent six months exploring Latin America..