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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I have just come back after 12 action-packed days in Guatemala. As usual it is the miniature that charms me:

1. Boy in the street: Where are you from?

My friend: From Colombia.

Boy: Cali, Bogotá, Medellín, James Rodríguez.

2. Me, to young woman vendor of handcrafts: So how has your day gone?

Woman: Really well, thanks be to God.

Me: Lots of sales?

Woman: Oh no, I meant my health.

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My Father’s Care

Today I need to pack for a 12-day trip and attend to some stressful things, so I was glad this fallen bird reminded me of Jesus’ words:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. (Matthew 10:29).

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Amazing growth

A couple of years ago I visited a friend who lives near Medellín, in a slightly cooler place. I stole a cutting from her garden. It quickly produced roots in water and flourished when I potted it up.

My flatmate says it has a lot of personality because when it needs a drink, it flops melodramatically, and then perks up as soon as it is watered. For the horticulturalists among you, I think it is a variety of the Iresine plant, or bloodleaf. In Colombia, I think its popular name is  corazón de Jesús, or heart of Jesus.

I started giving cuttings to my colleagues and eventually my boss had the idea of filling an empty space in the grounds of the seminary where we have our offices with the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of that original cutting.

We have now planted out almost 20 plants and more are on the way.

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