It’s today!


Our training event starts today, Wednesday,

with leaders arriving all afternoon.


Tomorrow we’ll be putting the tent up

(well, not me, exactly, more like the men in the team

and all the local muscle we can recruit).

Then we’ll spend the day getting ready for the start of the circus on Friday.


We’ve been told to expect up to 400 children.


I’d love to give you a blow by blow account

but I don’t think it’s going to be that easy

to find the space every day, so instead

I’ll give you a report next week.


Until then, don’t go away,

by the magic of the internet,

there will be something to read here

every day except Sunday.

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I’m here


We arrived safely in Sincelejo on Monday afternoon as planned.


The taxi driver from Monteria Airport to Sincelejo

turned out to be from the denomination we work with here,

and he was happy to take us from the terminal to where we were staying,

for no extra cost. He shook all our hands as he left and wished us well.


While we were waiting in the terminal,

a lady approached us to ask for money.

She had breast cancer, she said, and needed money

to go to Bogotá for treatment.

Look, she said, this is what I am going to have removed.

I was sitting at the back and could only hear what was going on.

Did she really show you her breast? I asked my travelling companions later.

We all looked away, they said.

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Fragment from another life


The man in front of me in the supermarket checkout queue

is wearing a T-shirt with the phrase:

Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar

written on the back.


It means Human Dignity is Inviolable

and it’s the first line of the German Constitution.


I know this because it was a question in the German version

of Trivial Pursuit that I once played with a bunch of German

law students. And of course they knew the answer.

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Off to the Coast again


Today, Monday, I am off to the Coast

as part of a team who are going to run the circus

I wrote about below.


I’ll walk down the hill to the metro,

take the train to the centre,

meet my Medellín-based colleagues there

get a bus up the hill to the airport,

and a one-hour flight to Monteria.


In Monteria we’ll get a taxi

to the transport terminal in Sincelejo

and from there, most probably,

another taxi to where we’re staying,

although there is always the possibility

of a hair-raising ride on a motorbike.

All a vast improvement on the 10-hour bus journey,

and not much difference in price, either.


Check back for updates. I should have internet access most days.

And if you pray, please do pray for us!

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Topsy-turvy world


One day, I had just printed a stack of materials for our Clubs

and a female volunteer and I were carrying the box between us

to the nearest metro station.

We passed a row of taxis waiting for a fare.


A taxi driver said loudly: What’s the world coming to

when the taxis stand empty

and women are carrying boxes?

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Poor odds


I’m chatting to a single Colombian woman.

We agree it’s good not to rush into anything,

just for the sake of being married.


And anyway, I say, A good man is hard to find.

Yes, she agreed. I’d say two out of ten.

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What my case would say if it could speak (4)


Well, this is all very strange.

Tomorrow I am going to be wrapped up in a black bag

and sent off to Sincelejo BY MYSELF,

(if you don’t count some rather dull boxes, which I don’t.)


Of course, it’s not the first time I have travelled by myself.

Once, I got sent (by mistake) to Bogotá from Miami,

and had to stay the night in a room with all the other misplaced cases,

until she caught up with me.


Anyway, it’s an adventure, and I am not complaining.

We should be reunited on Monday, all being well.

Meanwhile, she’s offering my space to all and sundry.


All because someone or something called Viva Colombia

has a very limited baggage allowance.

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I’m all paradoxed out


There is a nifty system in place in Medellín’s interchange metro station, San Antonio.

Those arriving on one line leave by one set of door and stairs,

and those joining the train wait on the other side on metal bridges.

(The only exception is when it is raining.

Then those joining the train are allowed to wait on the other side

so they don’t have to get wet.)


The other day I was walking down the stairs to join the other line,

when a policeman raced up the stairs to catch a man coming up the wrong side.

With an embarrassed grin the wrongdoer immediately turned back.


In other words: Zero tolerance = very effective.


But it got me thinking about impunity in Colombia,

thoughts that went something like this:

Man goes down wrong stair in the metro: instantly caught.

Hundreds of thousands of women abused in the conflict: very few convictions,

and 82% of victims don’t even report the crime to the authorities.

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Two views of Medellín


Two international news organizations

carried pieces about Medellín recently.


The Guardian piece is long and nicely nuanced,

with lots of interesting background information.

The NPR story is much shorter and personal

and has some interesting photos.


What I like is that neither swallows whole

the miraculous transformation angle of the story

that Medellín’s civic leaders often want to highlight:

yes, Medellín has done wonderfully well in tackling its problems,

but it has a long way to go before all its citizens live securely.

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I’m tired (2)


I’m tired, and here’s how I know.

I managed not to empty my morning grenadilla

into my coffee, but my Spanish is messy.


I caught myself saying there’s lots of in English

right slap-bang in the middle of a conversation in Spanish.

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