An encouraging word


I am on the Coast

because we are holding camps

for our children’s club leaders.


Last weekend we met with the leaders from several clubs,

among them one of the pilot projects.

It was noticeable how much more confident

the leaders of the pilot project were.


In one of the activities we asked the leaders

to design a lesson based on a Bible passage.

Our pilot leaders raced through the task,

advised the leaders who were trained more recently,

and generally revelled in their expertise.


God has made us creative, one said.

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Intercultural Communication


Conversation in a shop on the coast

(echoing a conversation my parents had in Peru 45 years ago):


Me, pointing at a bottle of 7 Up: Can I have Siete Oop please?

Old Man, mystified: What?

Me: Siete oop?

Young man, coming to old man’s rescue: You mean Seven Up?

Me: Yes. [To old man]: What do you call it?

Old man: Sprite.

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The Coast works its magic


An unfortunate scheduling quirk

meant I was off to the Coast

a day after I arrived from Scotland.


I spent the first couple of days in a jet-lagged daze

wondering where I was

but the Coast was soon up to its beguiling ways again.


Life, colour, music and the zany were everywhere:

a small, dull, grey butterfly turned out to have a row

of peacock eyes down its wings;

a pig chased after a motorbike;

a little boy walked along a dusty street playing an accordion,

another beat out a rhythm on the hot plate of a fast food cart

with an metal spike;

another carried an enormous yellow basin on his head.


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Good news story


According to police statistics,

2012 saw the lowest number of homicides in Colombia for 27 years.


Ten years ago, Colombia had a figure of 70 homicides per 100,000 residents,

last year, the number was 31.


In 2012, Honduras had 91.6 homicides per 100,000 people, the UK 1.2.

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Things I noticed on my journey:

In Scotland, I can make a rough guess as to where someone is from by their accent.

In England, much less so.

In London, you could hear (almost) literally any language in the world.


The young woman serving me at the hotel in London

had a British and an Australian lapel badge.

The guy beside her had a British and a Hungarian badge,

which made me say to the woman:

You speak Australian?

Yes, she said, I was jealous of the others so I got a badge, too.


In the queue for the Bogotá flight I could just about work out

where the Spanish speakers were from,

well, which continent anyway.

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First world problem


I was listening to BBC Radio 4 (wonderful Radio 4)

while I was packing on Monday.


It was Start the Week –

a weekly discussion programme,

setting the cultural agenda every Monday,

is how it describes itself.


I wasn’t paying full attention,

so I am sorry if I am not conveying

the idea accurately,

but it seemed to me that someone

was proposing a register of nice views and landscapes,

to make sure they were preserved for posterity.


I can’t decide if that it is wonderful that a country

has the leisure and resources to think of such things,

or slightly tragic that this topic was thought worthy of discussion

in place of so many other urgent issues.

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I’m here


I have been awake for 23 hours so don’t expect witty,

or elegant, or moving or entertaining.


At this stage I can only be informative:

I am thankful to be back safely in my flat in Medellín.


I found that most of my plants died

but other than that

everything is fine.


Now off to bed.

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Moral Dilemma


My flights back to Colombia didn’t connect that neatly –

the plan was to arrive in Madrid via London this evening,

stay in a hotel and get my flight to Bogotá tomorrow at midday.


But then my flight to London was delayed

– a plane had to be towed very slowly from a hangar to the gate-

and the result was that I am stranded in London

and should get an early flight out tomorrow

to make my Bogotá connection.


So here is the dilemma:

When I booked the hotel,

I gave my credit card details and paid a booking fee.

By not showing up tonight, I became liable to pay the full cost of the room.

But the credit card is the one that was stolen in November

and so they have no way of charging me.

Should I

a) get in touch with a new credit card so they can penalize me?


b) be thankful that the theft has proved to be of some benefit to me?

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Sunny Scotland


And then, as if to prove she could,

Scotland dawned clear, blue-skyed and beautiful today,

almost the only time in the month I have been home

that I have seen the sun in the morning,

and just in time for me setting off this afternoon

on my return trip to Colombia.


(It’s bitterly cold, though. Probably sub-zero).

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Actually, Scotland is fascinating

and I could easily have blogged every day I’ve been here,

mainly because I couldn’t stop making comparisons:


So dark! So quiet! So safe! So restful!


I am sure there are pairs of countries

which offer greater contrasts

(Finland and Somalia, say)

but Scotland in winter could hardly

have felt more different from

sunny, noisy, merry Medellín.

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