May Dates

Latin Link Scottish Inspire! Conference Friday 4th – Saturday, 6th May, Atholl Centre, Pitlochry.

Greyfriars Free Church, Inverness, Ladies’ Meeting Tuesday 8th May.

Kyleakin Church of Scotland, Isle of Skye 11am, Sunday 14th May.

Elgol Church of Scotland, 3pm, Sunday 14th May.

Free Church Women for Mission, Glasgow City Free Church, 2pm, Saturday 19th May.

Ferintosh Free Chuch, after the evening service Sunday 20th May.

Free North Free Church Sunday 27th May.

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Now, when I go into a shop, I don’t have to hand my plastic bags containing previous purchases to the security guard to be stapled shut (in case I plan to shoplift).

Now I don’t need to risk assess a casual converstion with a stranger at a bus stop about my destination (Why might he want to know?).

Adrenaline doesn’t need to pump round my body when I meet a young man on the street with his hand in his pocket (maybe it should never have, but it did, and still does).

When I am out as dusk falls, I don’t have to start thinking, How am I going to get home?

On the other hand,  now no one’s face lights up with delighted surprise when they discover I’m from Scotland.

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The other direction

I have been back in Scotland a month today and I’m ready to make some observations about this reverse culture shock everybody promised me I’d feel. It’s not been too overwhelming yet but here is one thing that has struck me quite forcibly: the way we do greetings and farewells. So cold! So informal! So little physical contact!

I didn’t notice it immediately because of course, I hugged everyone I know, the first time I saw them again. But as time has gone on, I realize that is wearing off. And I’ve been observing other people. Only if it is a very formal situation, do people shake hands. And on leaving, they do NOTHING. Not a thing.

In Colombia, I would, at an absolutely minimum, greet every single person at any gathering I attended with a handshake, and most likely, kiss almost everyone on the right cheek (so lean left when you meet a Colombian). And I would do the same on leaving. In fact, if I said goodbye to someone and for some reason, we talked a little longer, I would say goodbye again, even if that was seconds later.

We are not cold, just not expressive, as I explained over and over again to my Colombian friends, but now I can see why they might think that!

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Banco de la República

Here is a funny “only in Colombia” moment that happened a few weeks ago.

Some time ago I inherited a bag-full of small Colombian coins, 10 and 20 pesos pieces, which are no longer in circulation, a couple of old 50 peso pieces (worth about 1p) and an old coin that I couldn’t identify.

In the interests of wrapping up neatly everything in Colombia, I set off on a quest to find out if I could get these old coins exchanged. First, I asked in the bank in which most of my friends have their accounts and they told me that coins could only be exchanged in the Banco de la República. I asked there and was told that I could come between 8am and 10.30am. When I returned at the appointed hour, the guard looked dubiously at my little bag of coins and told me to go upstairs.

There I joined a queue of people with huge sacks of coins to exchange for notes.

When it was my turn, the clerk counted out my little pile of 20 peso pieces without blinking an eye and noted what they came to. He exchanged my old 50 pesos. He identified the old coin as “centavos”, in such a shocked voice that I understood he couldn’t do anything with it.

And then, he counted out my 10 peso pieces and  discovered that there were only 9. He rummaged in a drawer, retrieved one 10-peso piece from his stash, added it to my pile, and added 100 pesos to my gains.

It all came to about a thousand pesos and my reward for all perseverance was a rarely seen, new, thousand-peso note.

Next time, the man said, please separate out the older and newer 20 peso pieces.

Alas, there will probably not be a next time, but thank you, anonymous clerk in the Banco de la República, for attending to my ludicrous request so graciously and allowing me to wrap up that piece of unfinished business.

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Time to go (español abajo)

A couple of years ago I began to have a sense that my time in Colombia was coming to an end.

And now it is.

All being well, I’ll be returning to Scotland in just under three weeks.

So now I am living in a strange twilight zone of the end (for now) of a 10-year adventure, torn between wanting to savour every moment and wanting it all just to be over!


Hace dos años empecé a sentir que mi tiempo en Colombia se estaba acercando su fin.

Y ahora mi tiempo en Colombia casi se terminó.

Si todo va bien, regresaré a Escocia en un poquito menos de tres semanas.

Ahora estoy viviendo un tiempo extraño del fin (por ahora) de una aventura de 10 años, con sentimientos encontrados: el deseo de saborear cada instante y el deseo que todo se acabe ya!

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