Thursday, 5 June 2014

Unreliable Republic

Things have started to stabilise a little for me here of late. Well about as much as they can stabilise for somebody with a wanderlust mind in a not very reliable and at times frustrating country. Everything is relative.
The Colombian-Venezuelan frontier.
Wrong Way's back! And almost getting used to how things operate here – almost.

A major part of this stabilisation has been securing a visa; and at that, appropriately enough, an independent one. No relying on an unstable (here we go again) 'Colombiana' to say that we're 'together', a route favoured by some other expatriates, nor being beholden to a close-fisted company. No, for now I'm just depending on my own 'closed fist' to get by – as well as the help of some friends of course.

Even before the visa was bagged, I took a calculated gamble and invested in what practically all enterprising (and the not-so-enterprising) Colombians have – business cards. At $30,000 COP (about €12) for a thousand not-bad quality ones, it didn't seem that much of a risk anyway.

You see not only are they a nice, somewhat professional, 'weapon' to have when in the company of people who you could possibly do business with, but they also come in handy in a wide range of social scenarios. Plus, when you're a hard-pressed journalist/writer, any opportunity to spread your name and potentially attract new followers has to be taken; one might as well try anyhow.

Now it must be pointed out that they're not being fired out willy-nilly. In a city and country where the level of English in general is quite poor, it obviously wouldn't be the wisest thing to give them out to all and sundry. There are certain criteria, with a chief one of these being that the recipient has to have a pretty decent level of English so he/she can actually read my articles here and elsewhere. Yet I wouldn't be being entirely truthful if I said I apply that criterion equally between the sexes; I can be a little bit more accommodating towards some ladies.

Indeed in relation to making contact with women here, business cards or not, best practice it seems is to cast the net far and wide. Like bungling fishermen in overfished waters, what you get back is often disappointing. Or it might initially look good but on closer inspection it lacks any real substance; badly damaged leftovers from another's catch.

But, as we've always been told, there are 'plenty more out there', so the net invariably goes out again.
Norte de Santander, Colombia.
The Colombian landscape usually doesn't disappoint.

A good rule of thumb when you do get what seems like a nice 'return' is not to discard any, even if you think you have your hands full. That's because, as alluded to, some of those juicy looking ones will turn out to be experienced 'game fish' – slimy operators who like to play silly games, which tend to lead to frustration. Therefore it's essential to have a healthy number to pick from. That way you might just avoid a famine; you're certainly unlikely to have a feast.

This also works in many other spheres here, such as private English teaching. On an average day if you were to schedule at least three classes for the exact same time you more than likely won't have a problem – in fact if you're lucky you'll just manage to land yourself one class. On other occasions you'll be left with none.

It can take some time to get used to it but you don't come to Colombia for life on easy street. Sure it's good to challenge yourself and all that. For, its conservative politics excepted, about the only other thing you can rely on here is the unreliability of the place.

Once you reach that 'epiphany' and come to accept it, things can then begin to, erm, 'stabilise'. Everything is relative after all.

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