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We look at our Colombia

Crisis at the border, fines for eating street food, only rich kids play in sand boxes & more

February 23, 2019
Hope this finds you doing well. If you are one of those readers in Canada and the Northern USA do hope you survived the extreme coldness. I know my son in Michigan had to put a heater under the kitchen sink to keep the pipes from freezing. 

Graciela continues in Switzerland with her daughter. An appearance has not been made yet by grandson #2. But grandson #1 is keeping abuela (grandmother in Spanish) busy. Oops just received word Graciela's daughter is headed to the hospital. 

A reader differs - After our last newsletter a reader wrote informing me that the National Liberation Army (ELN) was responsible for the bombing in Bogota and to say that Valentine's Day is indeed celebrated in Colombia. Initially the news stated that no group claimed responsibility. But since that time the Colombian government attributed the bombing to the ELN. For those so interested in reading more, the group does have a website.  On their site there does seem to be a lot of photos with signs saying "Fuera Yankis".

The U.S. News and World Report wrote an informative article about the Colombian government wanting Cuba to send ELN members residing there back to Colombia.

As for Valentine's day - well, yes in recent years a few businesses have tried to interest the people. It is kind of like not having a Thanksgiving in Colombia but some businesses a few years back started Black Friday sales. Then this year I saw advertisements for Black Friday Week sales. But as my wife said in a previous newsletter a sale in Colombia is more like them raising the price 30% then giving you a 25% discount. Anyway, no one I have spoken with considered doing anything for Valentine's day. They are sticking with the traditional Colombian Día Del Amor Y La Amistad (Day of love and friendship)in September. Oh but I did purchase some roses on February 13. The dozen yellow roses set me back $2.50 USD.

The Colombian Venezuelan border could be a powder keg - While preparing to send this newsletter the Colombian news started showing a live feed from the Colombia / Venezuela border.  Venezuelan police and national guard have closed the roads and bridges between the two countries. 

A quick synopsis. Two men are claiming to be the legitimate president of Venezuela. The one who currently controls the military and police, Nicolás Maduro, closed the borders to keep aid from the USA from reaching the people. He has however allowed aid from Russia to arrive. The other person claiming the presidency, Juan Guaido, is supported by The United States. 

On the Venezuelan side the live feeds I have been watching showed citizens attacking a government bus and setting it on fire. Why they did that makes no sense to me. On the Colombian side  Guaido is with trucks loaded with aid from the USA. There are thousands of people. They are waiting to cross. Some news agencies reported that three members of the Venezuelan military have defected to Colombia. I see a tense situation on both sides with agitators trying to create a possible explosive situation.  For more information you can Google "Colombia Venezuela border crossing." 

Is playing in the sand only for rich kids? - The other day at the mall I saw a sand box complete with plastic shovels, buckets and toy trucks. Many children occupied the area seemingly enjoying themselves. I know as a child I enjoyed the experience. Like many other homes ours had a sandbox. Not to mention that growing up in Michigan there were many beaches of sand. It was free. So it hit me as strange when I saw the sign that they were charging 15,000 pesos ($5 USD) for 15 minutes of play in the sandbox. 

But somewhat understandable that the price follows the law of supply and demand. Bogota houses over 8 million people. The population density is almost 12,000 people per square mile so most residents live in apartments. And there are really no lakes with beaches around the capital of Colombia. Now compare that to my home state of Michigan with 176 people per square mile and lakes everywhere.  

But then the second part of the equation hit me. How long does a parent have to work in order that their child play in sand in the middle of a mall. According to the website the average wage in Bogota, Colombia is 1,000,000 pesos ($330 USD) a month. Considering a 172 hour work month, then the average Bogotano must put in over 2.5 hours at work for their child to enjoy 15 minutes in the sand. I am starting to believe that I had a great childhood.

Giving you a ticket because of where you eat? - It is always interesting what expats living in Colombia think. It was not that long ago that Erin over at Open Minded Traveler wrote about poor customer service in Colombia. Now a Canadian who Tweets as BevTeachesEnglish wrote: "The Colombian Police are fining people for eating street food.  This place is not getting better, don't believe the hype."  As a tourist you might want to avoid the food on the street for more than one reason. And Bev is also going after Claro in Tweets for their poor internet service. I kind of agree with her on that one, but the problem for me is poorly educated and trained personnel. Rather meaning too many employees who have no clue what they are doing. Though there are a few who are knowledgeable, but very few.

Filming the blue buses - In the past I wrote about issues with the SITP buses in Bogota. But it appears I am not the only person with a beef. The other day I watched a person filming a man waiting for the bus. In what makes perfect sense the bus does not have to stop at every stop if there is no one who wants to get off or on there. When you need to have the bus stop you raise your hand. However, on some buses the bus number sign is so small you cannot  read it until the bus is on top of you. (Yes, I just had my eyes checked and with my glasses can see better than 20-20) In addition the bus drivers use a couple tricks besides just pretending they don't see you. One method is to drive so fast that by time you finally see the sign for the number the bus is passing you. The next trick is to get in the far lane and hide behind another bus so those waiting cannot see the number of the bus. 

Approaching the bus stop I noticed one man with a cell phone seemingly making a video of a man in front of him and the street. As the bus approached the man in front started waving his arm to signal the driver. The bus went flying by and the cameraman followed the bus still filming. The man in front looked at the other as if to say, "See, I told you."

Interested in Latin American news? - One of the places I discovered for news of happenings in countries South of the USA is Today in Latin America. You can check out their website HERE. From that page you can sign up to receive their daily newsletter in your Email. 

We appreciate you taking time to read our little missive, thank you. Sending you wishes for a great day.

Copyright © 2019 Michael and Graciela's Colombia, All rights reserved.

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