Culture Shock


For my holidays I had yearned to walk, safely, in a forest, and to feel cold,

and my stay in Ecuador, in a cloud forest, ticked all the boxes.

The bonus items were great food, interesting company,

more varieties of humming birds than I have ever seen in my life,

and plenty of peace and quiet.

My fellow guests where I was staying were all from Europe,

Australasia, and North America. Meeting them, I experienced a slight cultural shock.

So casual! Some didn’t even shake my hand or say their names when we met.

So cool! No rituals of greeting or farewell.

In such a hurry! Here two days, then off to the Galapagos and Machu Picchu.

So rich and so well-travelled! People on six-month tours of the world,

people who were spending $15,000 (Australian dollars) on their trip,

people who had ‘done’ Africa last year.

I thought of the maintenance guy in my building

who had never been outside Medellín

and tried to keep my head from exploding.

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Back to work

You might have worked out that I have been on holiday:

I’ve just had a wonderful time in Ecuador

and I’ll tell you more about it this week.

If you wonder how I kept churning out blog posts and tweets while I was away,

it’s thanks to a service called Twuffer which allows you to write tweets ahead of time and schedule their publication whenever you want.

Meanwhile, I’m back to the office for a day or two

before we set off this weekend to another area of the Coast

to run another camp with children’s club leaders.

Since the last two camps, we have had a little feedback

on the series on the prevention of child sexual abuse.

We suggested that before the children started learning

the steps they could take to protect themselves from abuse,

a meeting should be held to present the project to the church and to the children’s parents.

We were encouraged to hear that in one place, 50 parents attended the meeting.

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In which my little green case reports on a recent outing

After what felt like months gathering dust under her bed,

I finally got dragged out and was stuffed full (as usual)

before we set off up the hill to the airport.

Two flights, a bus ride and a trip in the back of a truck

and we arrived somewhere cold and dark.

The next day, something we thought was a mobile phone woke us up,

but it was actually a bird. I could see we were in a forest.

She seemed to have a good time; she slept a lot,

and disappeared every now and then, only to return all muddy,

as if she had been for a walk.

It was called Ecuador, the place, I think.

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Miracle Fleet

One of the buses I get on belongs to the Miracle Fleet.

As in, it’s a miracle that you get off the bus alive.

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Small joys (1)

A seat on the bus.

A seat near the door on the bus.

A seat near the door on the bus that is not too full (so I don’t have to elbow past too many people to get off).

A seat near the door on the bus that is not too full and which is waiting for me when I get off the metro.

A seat near the door on the bus that is not too full and which is waiting for me when I get off the metro and which leaves immediately.

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Reasons I love Colombia (4)

When I go to work I carry my rucksack on my back and my lunch in a plastic bag. One day I got on the bus, and realized I would have to stand for the short journey down the hill. In the process of finding a place to stand, I first biffed a young man in the face with the rucksack; he smiled pleasantly and said, “tranquila,” (don’t worry). Then a lady sitting behind him reached over and took my plastic bag, so that I had both hands free to hold on (for grim life).

A thousand small courtesies like these make Colombia a very special place.

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Lost in Transition

In the end it wasn’t the ash cloud, but a technicial problem which held me up in Glasgow.

I missed my connection to Panama City, and so Amsterdam joins Lisbon, Johannesburg, London and Miami: the list of places I have had to stay in because of missed connections.

All being well, I travel tomorrow, via Quito, arriving Saturday…

Cushioned by the practices of the airline industry, I have a hotel room, vouchers for food and phone calls, and a day to spend in a wonderful city.

Maybe it’s a gift, rather than an inconvenience.

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