How to greet a Colombian


If you are a woman, it’s relatively easy to know what to do:

kiss the right cheek of the person you are greeting,

that is, lean to the left.

Just one kiss.

To be really authentic, don’t kiss the cheek, kiss the air beside it.


If you are a man, you kiss the women, and shake hands with the men.

But if you know the man well, you can unembarrassedly hug him, slapping his back for good measure.


Confusion only arises as a foreigner when you meet another foreigner.

Do we do what Colombians do or revert to national type?

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Proactive street vending


There is a group of young men

who ply their wares at traffic lights.

They wait until the lights turn red,

then work their way down the queue of cars,

placing their merchandise

(maybe pirated DVDs or packs of pens)

on the dashboard of the first 6 to 8 cars.

When the lights are about to turn green,

they dash up the line, collecting the product, or the money.


Their stress levels must be spectacularly high.

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None of the above: an update


Remember the election in which the voters were reported to have rejected a violent candidate?

The re-run happened on Sunday and this time, the Conservative Party candidate won.

None of the above could only manage third place.

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The Radio Interview


You’ve got to hear this, my flatmate calls out.

It is an interview with John Jairo Vásquez Velásquez, alias Popeye,

Pablo Escobar’s last surviving hitman, serving a sentence in a high security prison.

How many people did you personally kill? he is asked.

I personally killed 250 people and was an accessory in another 3000 murders, he replies, cheerfully.


When released, in 18 months time, he would like to go to Costa Rice or Mexico

and live a peaceful life in the country.

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Communication breakdown


The hairdresser is talking to me.

She is blowdrying my hair with a hairdryer.

She is wearing a mask over her mouth.

She is speaking Spanish.

I don’t have my glasses on.


I have NO chance of understanding her.

I just nod and hope I am not agreeing with anything too controversial.

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Season’s Greetings to all my readers


I am going to take a break from blogging until early next year, all being well.


Thank you for sticking with me until now,

for every kind word about this site,

for every prayer, phone call, email, letter and parcel.


Have a peaceful festive season,

and may 2012 be a year of blessing and joy.

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The flooding goes on


Now Bogotá has been affected.

Tens of thousands of people in the capital have been forced out of their houses.

This has never happened before, the people say,

blaming corrupt politicians who gave permission for construction

in unsuitable areas. For kickbacks, of course.


You can see some dramatic pictures here.

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