I can’t resist this

I said I wouldn’t comment on the poor translation on display at the immigration office but I can’t resist this:

The sign said Preferential treatment will be given to the handicapped, children, pregnant women and adults.

You might be wondering who is left to be given non-preferential treatment.

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When I was in Bogotá I passed a university in a taxi

and caught the fringe of a student demonstration.

Heavily armoured riot police stood in a row,

waving bystanders out of the area.

Just as I passed, a smoke bomb exploded

with a whoosh and boom.

And I thought: If I were a young Colombian and not a Christian,

I would be very tempted to throw things that went bang,

out of sheer frustration with the corruption of the political process

and a sense of hopelessness that anything will ever change.

But I am a Christian, and I do have hope.

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A story from the conflict

Once, somewhere, a prominent citizen was murdered by the guerrilla.

It came to light who the person responsible was.

For some time after that, the local paramilitaries would stop cars,

examine the person’s ID, and murder them

if they had the same surname as the person responsible for the first murder.

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Here’s a funny one


More from the novice taxi driver,

talking about Colombia’s chances in the World Cup:


Yes, I heard on the radio that in Argentina,

and you know they think they are the last coca-cola,

in Argentina, they are saying that the World Cup final

will be Colombia v. Brazil.

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Don’t take ill at rush hour


Last week I was on a bus stuck in a traffic jam,

and a taxi came up behind us, horn blaring,

forcing the two lanes of traffic apart to get past.

All the motorbikes around it started beeping, too.


As the taxi passed, I could see someone

writhing in the back seat.


In lieu of an ambulance, the taxi driver

was doing his heroic best to get the patient to the hospital on time.

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A joke


I need a new car.

What makes you think you need a new car?

I stuck my hand out of the window to indicate

and someone put a coin in it.

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I have a confession to make


I quite like Bogotá.


It’s usual for people to despair of its traffic jams and crime,

the lack of civic pride, the corruption of its politicians,

the potholes and the pollution.


But I like the climate, which means dandelions and gorse grow;

and the people are kind and polite (they are Colombians, after all);

the little dogs wear coats, and the bread is delicious.

I like its scale and ambition.

And some of my favourite people in the world were born there.

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Conversation with a taxi driver


Me: Can you take me to such and such a place.

Taxi driver: Oh, that’s actually my neighbourhood. What route will we take?

Me: Just whatever you think best.

Taxi driver: I don’t really know the city very well.

Me: How long have you lived here?

Taxi driver: 20 years.

Me: How long have you been a taxi driver?

Taxi driver: One month.

Me: How long have you been driving?

Taxi driver: One month.

Me: One month?

Then I reflected for a moment and said:

But I guess you’ve put in a lot of driving hours in that time.

Taxi driver: Yes, 12 to 15 hours a day.


But he got me there. Only 40 minutes late.

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So this is how it went down at the Immigration Office


The official who attended me had neon green nail polish.


She took the paper I had worried about without batting an eye

and then went on to query another part of my application.

Mmmm, I am not sure about this. I’ll have to go and consult, she said.

And left me there, freaking out, for what felt like an eternity.


The cross on a church outside

was reflected in the window opposite

and I kept my eyes fixed on that.


Then she came back and said the magic words, We are going to give you a religious visa.


I am so filled with love and gratitude that I will refrain

from mocking the woeful translations into English of the information on display.


Other than that, Migración Colombia is a marvel of organization and order.

I’m just so thankful I won’t have to go near it again for another two years.

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Soundtrack of my day


And as the taxi pulled up beside the building

I was going to collect my precious visa-document,

the song on the radio was the Spanish version of a chorus

that says:

God will make a way, where there seems to be no way,

he works in ways I cannot see, he will make a way for me…

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