An encouraging word

Until recently, the nicest thing anyone had ever said to me in the missonary context was:

There is nothing imperialistic about the way you do mission.

And then last week a wonderful Colombian Christian leader introduced me to someone else as follows:

This is Fiona. She is a missionary to Colombia. She is Colombian to her bones.

Even if I don’t like unripe mango with salt and lemon.

And can’t eat the head of a fried fish (it’s the eyes that freak me out).

I’m chuffed.

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Dirty linen

Last week I was at an event held in a conference centre in Bogotá.

I was struck by this advert in the ladies’ loo and the outraged response, scribbled on the left:

The advertiser is offering to do your academic work for you.

The protester says: Slackers! This is why the country is the way it is! Mediocrity! Do it yourself! Give the best of yourselves!

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The Pope is coming to Medellín in 22 days and 38 minutes (says the timer on the web page of the local newspaper) and a priest was sent out to answer any questions the public might have about his visit.

So from his interactions, we now know the following:

-you can be an atheist and go to hear the Pope

– he is not coming to bless the FARC

-you don’t need a ticket to go to the mass to be held in the city’s airport

-Medellín shouldn’t take it personally that he is not spending the night here (even if he is Latin American and not Polish)

-and the last time a Pope came, a lady got sun-stroke so badly that she needed fluids at night.

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On Saturday I did some Child Protection training in a church in Medellín. When I arrived, I met the mother-in-law of the pastor and she started reminiscing about the time when the neighbourhood was affected by the terrible violence that swept through the city in the 80s and 90s.

Yes, we have seen lots of things here…For example, there are bullets in the columns of the house…when the builder came to build the walls, he got one out but the others were stuck. Once, someone tried to extort money from us, they said we had to pay them two million pesos or they would kill us. So we started praying and fasting, that was four days, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday…and on the Saturday, the man who was extorting us was shot dead. And the dogs who licked up the blood died because the bullets were poisoned.

Colombia, where apparently ordinary people have extraordinary stories.

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Trying to fit in

Medellín’s Procession of Silleteros has just been celebrated for the 60th time, which in this young country makes it a venerable institution.

Silleteros were originally people who carried cargo and people on a chair (silla) on their backs over Colombia’s otherwise impassable mountain peaks. Via some enterprising vendors from a village near Medellín called Santa Elena, they became associated with displays of flowers, and in 1957, the local head of tourism invited silleteros to process in the city.  Today, it is a vast spectacle of hundreds of flower sculptures carried on the backs of men, women and children through the streets of the city.

During the flower festival, local business all have their silletas outside.

Even that most gringo of imports gets involved:

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My flatmate and I are watching Chef’s Kitchen on Netflix. The programme presents the best chefs in the world, their kitchens, their philosophies of life, their families. It’s fascinating. Their world is so different from ours that we might as well be watching science fiction.

“I wonder how much it costs to eat in his restaurant,” my flatmate wondered about the first chef profiled in the series, Massimo Bottura.

As chief googler in the household, I quickly found out:

The 9-course tasting menu in Bottura’s Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, cost 220 euros, without wine.

That’s just a little more than the legal minimum wage in Colombia.

The monthly minimum wage.

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