This is what it’s like to live in Colombia

Last quote from Ospina (except for the link in the square brackets which is my contribution):

We have to escape from this model of a country where a disgraceful ruling class has always treated its people as interlopers and as a consequence has built a country where nobody, not even they, could live in peace. A country where you can’t take your eye off your luggage for a second, where misplacing a child for a moment produces unspeakable anxiety, where if somebody doesn’t turn up a few hours after they were meant to, you have to start thinking the worst, where, for an indigenous or black person to be appreciated by the powers that be, they have to accomplish the greatest feats imaginable [like be a world-class athlete], where there is deadly danger at the edge of every highway, where many think that to trust in others is to take a risk.

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40 days of prayer for peace in Colombia

Today and for the next 40 days the church in Colombia is being called to pray for peace.

If you pray, why not join us, simply praying for peace for Colombia – real, lasting and just – today and for the next 40 days?

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Conversation in the gym

Sometimes I bump into a genial older gentleman at the gym and this week we got chatting. The conversation went something like this:

Older gentleman: So what is it you’re involved with?

Me: A project to train churches on the Coast to look after the children in their communities.

OG: Oh, very good. And you’re teaching them values, good things like that?

Me: Yes, that they have value, that their lives have a purpose.

OG (Without missing a beat) You’re naturally blond, aren’t you?

Me: No, this is more or less my natural colour.

OG: Oh, you should dye your hair blond. Light eyes and blond hair, you’d look lovely.

Me: I don’t think I could cope with the extra attention in the streets.

OG: Oh, you should do it.

Me: Maybe one day.

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Good news?

A newspaper reported this week that according to official figures poverty in Medellín fell in 2014 while inequality rose.

But the people who responded in the comments section of the newspaper were pretty scathing about the accuracy of the figures.

Here’s one example:

Of course poverty fell! Everybody who was starving died.

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Tragedy – somewhere else

I wonder if you noticed that Colombians were among the victims of two recent tragedies that made the news internationally, the terrorist attack in Tunisia and Tuesday’s plane crash in the Alps. It’s getting easier for some Colombians to travel because more countries are lifting visa restrictions and the economy is growing. The dream of being citizens of a normal country not a stigmatized “failed state” is getting closer.

But there is something bitter and sad about Colombians dying in tragic circumstances in other parts of the world when for so long, to get away from Colombia was a synonym for feeling safer.

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North and South

Colombians are often fascinated by tales of Scotland’s cold weather and what it is like to live in a country that has seasons.

On Sunday I was explaining to a friend in church what it was like to have very little daylight in winter and almost no darkness in the summer.

Well, it’s very different here, he responded. Night and day are almost exactly the same. We don’t have social equality here but at least we have…he groped for the right expression…

Solar equality? I suggested, and we agreed that was a good way of describing it.

I don’t miss Scotland’s winter solar inequality but sometimes I crave those magical light summer nights in the north of Scotland when it hardly gets dark at all.

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More from Ospina

More truth from William Ospina in his book Pa’ Que Se Acabe la Vaina:

The first impression of Colombia that travellers have is of a sweet, hospitable and happy nation, so warm that sometimes they can’t believe it, and it’s difficult for them to accept the truth of this story of accumulated tragedies and misfortunes that only someone who knows it is capable of describing. The country always shows a deceptive surface, not necessarily out of hypocrisy but out of a stubborn necessity to convince itself that things aren’t going badly.

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Let them eat cake

Do you like cake? someone asked me on the Coast

(using the Spanish word pastel).

Yes, I said, (of course).

OK. We’ll get you some for your breakfast tomorrow.

It was at this point that I realised that pastel probably didn’t mean cake in that region. Pastel turned out to be a version of tamal, rice and meat wrapped in the leaf of the plantain tree.

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Back from Puerto Arturo

It was great to be back in Puerto Arturo but salutary to find that for many people there our circus in 2013 was a vague memory, if that. But some of the older children did remember us and we made many new little friends.

I went on the trip partly because we want to have a better understanding of the reality the children in our clubs are experiencing. This is what I managed to discover:

1. Their fears:

a) snakes

b) the crazy guy who walks round their neighbourhood

c) sleeping alone

2. What they like doing:

a) Spending time with their family

b) Playing

3. What they want God to do for them:

a) Provide food for Sunday (the day there is no food in the house)

b) Help them in school

c) Help them get a sheet of cardboard that they needed for school on Monday

d) Give them a bicycle

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