The wonderful communicative efficiency of Spanish


Tonight on the metro

I met a friend coming off the train

as I was about to get on.

This is the entire conversation we had:

My friend: ¿Vas?

Me: Voy.


In English this would have been:

My friend: Are you getting on?

Me: Yes, I am.


A whole five words more.


(And of course we gave each other

the obligatory kiss on the cheek).

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Falla falls


Colombian tennis player Alejandro Falla

lost in the third round at Wimbledon,

but not before chalking up a big win

over 11th seed John Isner in the first round.


And more good news for Colombian tennis this week:

three male Colombian tennis players

will participate in the London Olympics,

the first male Colombian tennis players

ever to play in the Olympics.


Does any of this matter?

For a nation acutely and angrily aware

of its terrible international image

I think any non-drug story is good news.

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Getting on


The people in this area are called Paisas,

and have the reputation of being enterprising,

hard-working and focussed.


I watch a little family hard at work every evening

and think they fit the Paisa mould.


The family comprises a mum and dad,

and two children,

and they sell hand-made crisps

to the people waiting

in the queue for the bus.


There is a little girl, aged about 6 months, still push chair-bound,

(of course the mum worked all the way through her pregnancy)

and a little boy of three, who entertains himself on the pavement around their stall.

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Watchful eyes


Waiting on the metro platform this evening

I noticed a man in the uniform

of the metro employees

carefully watching the crowds waiting to get on the trains.


I thought he was going to reprimand

people standing on the yellow lines that keep us

back from the edge, but no,

he was asking parents of little children

to hold their hands!

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Another way of making a living on the street


I forgot one major category of street vending here:

food and drink.


Coffee vendors carrying an urn on their backs,

or pushing flasks around in shopping trolleys;

popcorn sellers with their lethal barrows of hot oil and an open flame;

the man who gives all of us waiting for the bus exactly 3 peanuts

as a very effective marketing ploy for little packets of nuts;

wafers with arequipe (the yummiest caramel sauce) and cheese (why?);

and tempting me, every night on my way to the metro,

tripe, which looks disgusting and smells delicious.


One day, I might just try it. I’ll let you know how that goes.

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Here’s a sweet thing


People here say “my mum” or “my dad”.

What I mean is this:

Someone can be talking to their sibling

about one of their parents and will say,

“How is my dad?”

We don’t do that in English, do we?


I think it’s cute.

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What I do


I work on a project that trains and equips churches

to look after the children in their communities

in areas affected by Colombia’s civil conflict.


But what do I actually do all day?


I write materials for children’s clubs.

I think about how to divide the Bible story

into 240 individual episodes.

I research child development,

child health, the effects of abuse on learning,

anything that seems relevant.

I organise meetings, answer emails,

write thank you letters to people who’ve sent us money.


And on Fridays, I eat empanadas.

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Reasons I love Colombia (16)


I’ve raved about Colombia’s bio-diversity before,

but the practical consequence of such prolific life

is that there is always something new to see:

trees in flower, flowers in bloom,

an orange, black and white butterfly that flits across my path,

a bug that looks exactly like a moving segment of orange,

a bumble moth…

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Opinion is divided over a new TV series

depicting the life of Pablo Escobar,

Medellín notorious drugs lord.


Interestingly, it is produced by the families

of two of Escobar’s most high profile victims,

and aims to tell the truth about his crimes

to a new generation of Colombians.


One episode was enough for me.

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The reluctant dalmatian


The children took the service at church today.


I especially liked the grumpy sunflower,

the dalmatian that had to be shooed into the ark,

and the fact that Noah’s sons’ wives

contributed to the building of the ark

by bringing their husbands cups of tea.

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