A Reason I love Colombia

Waiting to cross a very busy road at a pedestrian crossing, someone decided we had waited just too long for the lights to change, so she stuck out her hand, with an authoritative “halt” gesture and all the cars stopped and we crossed the road.

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Random encounter

This week I accompanied a friend to a medical appointment.

After she went in, an older lady sat beside me and started to talk.

“Oh, I’m terribly nervous about this,” she said, so I first I said, “Oh, you mustn’t worry, they’re professionals, they know what they’re doing,” and she said, “I work in the health system and I know they make mistakes,” so I then said, “Would you like me to pray for you?”.

She was thrilled with this.

First she prayed, and then she said “arranca, hermosa” ( = go for it, sweetheart) so it was my turn to pray.

All in about 5 minutes.

Colombia, where anything can happen, anywhere.

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Paisa saying

There’s a saying round here, A baby is born with an arepa under his arm.

Which is a way of saying, a child will soon be able to work and contribute to the family budget.

A way of thinking that led to huge families and a widespread acceptance of child labour.

There are still more than a million children in Colombia, aged 5 to 17, who have to work.

Of those, more than half are working for no pay.

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Tactful? Not.

I have recently lost some weight (just by eating healthily and taking exercise, nothing drastic) and I have had a lot of fun with people’s reactions.

In the UK someone who knows me well might say, “Oh, you’re looking good. Have you lost some weight?”

Here, acquaintances say things like:

Oooh, here comes Fiona Lite,” (patting my tummy).

Hello, Barbie.

Fiona’s going to get married now!

And best of all, someone who met me a few years ago said, not to me directly, but within earshot,

I remember her as being fat.”

Not a tactful lot.

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Random Conversation

Colombian Number 1: Where is it you’re from?

Me: From Scotland.

Colombian Number 1: Can you play the bagpipes?

Me: No. It’s hard to play the bagpipes.

Colombian Number 2 to Colombian Number 1: That’s like you going to Scotland and them asking you if you play the accordion.

Colombian Number 1: Oh, if they did that, I would say ‘Give me the accordion here,’ and I’d give it a go.”

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The Dark Ages

Remember the family of the week?

This is an initiative in my church in which a family introduces itself every week. As well as standing up front at the end of the service, the families make a poster with the story of the family, including baby and wedding photos…all very cute and interesting.

Well, the family this Sunday – mum, dad and two girls – had included the story of their courtship on the poster. It went something like this:

The man was living in Medellín but returned to his home town for a visit in 1991 and met the woman, who was living next door to his family. So began their relationship – sustained only by his twice yearly visits to the town and notes that they sent if someone was making the journey one way or the other.

Imagine – no email, no phone calls, not even snail mail.

They got married in 1994.

“If you’d had email and whatsapp and so on, you’d have got married two years earlier,” I said to the wife.

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Silver lining

About four years ago, I got the opportunity to visit a region of Colombia that had been devastated by flooding.

Last weekend, on my trip to the Coast, I met someone from that region and I asked how things were going.

She told me that the waters had receded and the people were farming again. And then she told me that now, looking back, the people were thankful for the flooding because it had prevented the armed groups that operated in the area forcing them from their land.

Talk about finding a silver lining in a cloud!

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