Another story

As promised, here is another story about Venezuelans in Colombia.

Last week, I was out for lunch with a couple of friends and I heard the young woman taking my money say “Chamo,” to the young man who was serving me.

Chamo is the Colombian nickname for Venezuelan.

We ended up having a wee chat. He has been in Colombia for a couple of years and is doing well. He now has stable employment (at the beginning he just had to take whatever came to hand), he has his papers in order and is paying his health insurance and into a pension.

An exemplary immigrant story.

Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin

What would you ask for?

Today and tomorrow I’m going to tell you two stories about Venezuelans in Colombia.

The first I heard in a sermon preached by a friend of mine who lives in Cucutá, near the border with Venezuela.

He and his wife had welcomed a Venezuelan couple into their home. One day, they offered to buy the Venezuelan couple a gift, anything they liked.

The husband chose a serving of McDonalds fries.

The wife asked for a bottle of shampoo.

Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin


Setting: A café in a mall.

Me, having coffee. Opposite me, two men, one middle-aged, one young, are having a business meeting.

Behind the young man, and technically at my table, there is a backpack sitting on a chair.

The two men do not check the backpack periodically. I therefore deduce that they are not Colombian.

Then they get up to go and leave the backpack behind.

“Gentlemen (in Spanish, señores),” I say, ever the concerned citizen. “You’ve left your backpack.”

“Ah yes,” says the young man, with no apparent alarm, and returns to pick it up.

“It’s a packback bomb,” he says, laughing, and off he goes.


Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin

First time

On Monday I was on the bus from my office to the metro when a vendor got on and started his patter, selling sweets. I knew immediately he wasn’t local from his accent and wasn’t surprised when he said he was Venezuelan. I have had Venezuelan taxi drivers here in Medellín, seen Venezuelans selling arepas and a Venezeluan has done my nails, but this was the first time I had seen a Venezuelan selling on the buses.

His story was one we have heard over and over again from Venezuelans in Colombia: driven to desperation by shortages of essential items, they have come to Colombia to make some money to send back to family members left behind; in the case of my sweetie-vendor, his baby son.

With no end in sight to the turmoil in Venezuela, my guess is that this man will not be the last Venezuelan I encounter selling on the buses in Medellín.

Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin

Part 2

More of evidence of Colombians’ general awesomeness comes from the camps we hold for our leaders every year. The camps run from Friday evening to Sunday lunchtime and the Saturday evening is the time for the leaders’ talents to shine.

Last year, we studied the life of Paul and the leaders were divided into groups to dramatize episodes from his life, which they did with great gusto.

This year we upped the ante, giving the leaders the task of developing one area of our new Child Protection Policy and then presenting it in some dramatic way. The areas were things like:

  • who should be a Children’s Club leader and what process should they undergo to be accepted into the team.
  • what should be our policy with regard to photos and other information about children.
  • how can we ensure that every leader has the necessary training in this area.
  • how can we ensure that children are safe at all times in a Funky Frog Club.
  • what steps should we take in the case of misconduct and what the repercussions should be.

Quite tricky things! But the dramatizations were brilliant, often getting to the heart of the problem and as a bonus, showing me what the leaders had already internalized in the previous Child Protection Training. There was some wonderful improvised acting, clever scenarios even some multimedia presentations.

All done cheerfully, in virtually no time and with virtually no resources.

Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin

Cheerful, creative resourcefulness

Today and tomorrow I am going to tell you stories about Colombians’ amazing capacity to take on a task and in no time and with very few resources, produce something beautiful and worthwhile.

Today’s story is about something that happened on our mission retreat at the beginning of October.

September is the month of love and friendship in Colombia, a bit like Valentine’s Day for the whole month but including friendship as well as romance. Work colleagues, church youth groups and families play “Secret Friend”, a bit like “Secret Santa” in which you buy a present for someone in the group and when you open your present you have to guess who it is from.

Anyway, we decided to play Secret Friend at our retreat but without spending any money. I took a box of scrap paper and ribbons and sellotape and pens and everybody had to make something for someone else in about an hour.

The results were spectacular: a Bible verse stitched into a leaf, origami flowers, a booklet, cards with thoughtful messages, envelopes decorated with flowers…

No one complained that the task was silly, everyone was thrilled with their gift, even me, who received a stone, apparently because “I am both fragile and strong.”

Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin

Green shoot?

The road from Medellín to the Atlantic Coast snakes up and up the last vestiges of the Andes Mountains through countryside as green and lush as Switzerland’s until you reach the very top, in a place called Ventanas (Windows) where it is cold and misty. Then you swoop down the other side until you cross the mighty Cauca River and the road flattens out. The music on the radio changes, the Costeños on the bus cheer up and the land is now lush farmland.

Every time I have crossed the River Cauca over the last nine years, the bridge has been guarded by the army.

Last week, I noticed for the first time, there were no soldiers.

Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin

Comments are gone

I’ve decided that I can’t deal with the quantities of spam that have been arriving to this blog disguised as comments, some deeply offensive, so I have decided to reclaim several minutes of my day by closing the “Leave a reply” option.

Thank you to all the nice, real people who have taken the time to reply over the past few years.

If you really want to respond to something I have written, you can look for me on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.

Thank you for understanding!

Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin