Only in Colombia (again)

The headline in Medellín’s paper yesterday says: Hippopotamuses are allegedly being trafficked in Puerto Nare  [a municipality in Antioquia].

If you remember, the hippos roaming in the wild of Colombia are descendants of the ones imported by Pablo Escobar in the late 1970s for his private zoo.

By the way, the internet tells me that the usage hippopotami is “now taken to be funny or absurdly pedantic”.

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Tap water

“You haven’t read El Olvido  Seremos?!” a friend asks, and my excuse, that I read to relax and so usually read in English because I read Spanish much more slowly, was feeble and I knew it. So before Christmas I bought the book to read on my Kindle and am appreciating the quality of the writing and the story it tells.

El Olvido que Seremos (translated as Oblivion: A Memoir) is a love letter from Medellín writer Héctor Abad Faciolince to his father, Héctor Abad Gómez, a doctor, public health campaigner and writer, who was murdered by paramilitaries in 1987.

As a medical student in the 1940s, Abad campaigned for clean water in Medellín, and as a result of his campaign, work began on a new aqueduct for the city, the first seed, as his son puts it, of something we still enjoy today: tap water that is safe to drink, something that is not yet available in other Colombian cities.

So thank you, Katie Stafford, for the tip!

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I’m back in the second-happiest country in the world, after a short break in the 37th.

Yes, Colombia has again performed strongly in the happiness stakes, with an “overall net happiness index” of +87, second only to Fiji  (+92) in a poll conducted by Gallup.

The UK is mid-table, at +42, one point behind Afghanistan.

The question asked is: “In general, do you personally feel very happy, happy, neither happy nor unhappy, unhappyor very unhappy about your life.”

Here is a fascinating explication of the phenomenon of Colombian happiness from a professor in political communication at a Bogotá University called Carlos Arias, This explains that when human beings find something in reality that generates imbalance, we look for a counterweight. In this case, faced with gaps and economic, political and social uncertainties, Colombians seek to mitigate the despair that reality produces with a positive attitude. It’s a brain mechanism.

In other words, it’s a way to cope.

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Upside down kingdom

Did you see the news of the terrible seaplane accident in Australia on New Year’s Eve?

It made me wonder how news organizations decide how to report these accidents, in particular, how to prioritise the victims’ names?

In this case, it must have seemed straightforward that the highest profile casuality, the CEO of a Global Fortune 500 company would named first, and the rest named in relation to him, with the pilot mentioned last. The BBC, CNN and Reuters all made that choice.

But can you imagine a world in which the loss of  an 11-year old girl was recognised as the most tragic? And in which the rest of the victims were named in relation to her?

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What does Christmas mean to you?

I loved these amazing drawings by the children of St Stephen’s Primary School, Sighthill, displayed in Glagsow’s Queen Street Station:

They ranged from the strictly Biblical:

to the more secular:

and this one, austerely beautiful, gets right to the heart of the matter:

The words in the speech bubble read, “We are here to celebrate the birth of Jesus.”

I’m sorry I can’t credit these young artists by name but well done, St Stephen’s and Queen’s Street station for allowing us to enjoy their creativity.

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Today, the Funky Frog sixth annual circus is due to start in a town called Majagual in northern Colombia.

Over a hundred Children’s Club leaders will participate in five days of training with a view to equipping them to run a camp for the children in their communities, later this year. And because our motto is “Learning by Doing”, they’ll run the camp’s activities with local kids during the last two days of the event.

This year’s theme is the 10 Commandments (previous themes were God, the Father; Jesus; the Holy Spirit; the Bible; and last year, Peace). The idea is that the children see something of the character of God revealed in the 10 Commandments and understand their need for the only One who perfectly kept them.

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A thought

Today I attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah (which was wonderful) and I had a little thought as I watched a couple of members of the orchestra getting themselves organised before the concert began.

A double bassist  made last-minute adjustments to his tuning; an oboist carefully adjusted the reed on his instrument.

In the world of mission we talk about self-care, which is just what it says…and I must confess that I have sometimes been impatient with the concept…Isn’t it really all about caring for others and being prepared to die to oneslf?

But watching the musicians making their preparations, I realised that for something beautiful to be achieved as a team, the individual participants have to take care of themselves, first.

So here’s to a year of healthy eating, regular exercise and meaningful rest!

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