Saturday, 26 July 2014

'Careful now, that seat is hot'

Right. That's it. I can't stay silent about this any more. In fact, if I don't vent now there's a danger that if things build up any further, who knows what I might do? So, let 'Operation De-steam' commence.

A VERY hot seat indeed.
'I think I'll give this seat a miss...' (photo from hereisthecity.com).
Good citizens of Colombia please, for the love of the Christian god many of you adore so much, get over your fear of the 'hot seat'. Where on earth did such an illogical aversion come from?

If cramming (should you be 'lucky' enough to actually cram on that is) onto a bus or Transmilenio is part of your daily routine, another thing that you're guaranteed to see are people hovering, for at least 20 seconds, over a just-vacated seat.

The reason for this is to let the seat cool down and, I imagine, give the new occupier peace of mind that he/she won't contract some disease that may be 'hovering' (sorry) about from the previous person. What difference, though, is a short interlude going to make? If you're that concerned, from a health/hygiene perspective or whatever, why not bring some disinfectant and rubber gloves in order to give the seat a good wipe down before you 'take the plunge'. You can't be too careful now, can you? Also, the rest of us have our own concerns, so covering your mouth when you sneeze would be a help.

The great Jonny Wilkinson; not just a top rugby player, but a good squatter too.
Top squatter: Jonny Wilkinson (photo from Facebook).
Now it could be that the multitude of those who hover are just engaging in a stagnant squat exercise, a simple, effective way to tone the thighs; never miss an opportunity to work out and all. Indeed, looking at it that way lessens my anger somewhat. Fair play to the overweight-bordering-on-obese 'hoverers' on making an effort to get their bodies back into shape.

Be that as it may, any benefit gained from the above is cancelled out by some other questionable hygiene hang-ups.

One of those is a reluctance for some to drink out of a real – that is to say reusable and generally more environmentally friendly – cup/mug in a public place. The reason for this is an abhorrence of using a coffee cup that somebody else used, again this being down to a disease/germ fear, even though it has been cleaned. No, they prefer these poor quality plastic cups that practically melt once a hot drink is poured into them. With that they proceed to consume a 'healthy' mix of coffee and chemicals from the melting plastic; just add cyanide to taste.

Coffee in a real cup and a nice bit of 'dirty' bread. Just what the doctor ordered...
A 'deadly' mix: Coffee in a 'reused', real cup & handled bread.
There's also this fussiness about not touching bread with your bare hands. OK, 'what's wrong with that?' you might ask – a good practice to uphold. The thing is, some people dislike seeing you eat your own bread or whatever with your own bare hands. This is despite the fact that bread and such like in most establishments is left uncovered, out in the open, free to mingle with all sorts of airborne material, including regular encounters with those dastardly 'sky rats', or pigeons if you will. It all just adds to the flavour I guess.

So you've a host of these rather puzzling fetishes concerning personal hygiene, yet a large part of Bogotá – plus many other urban areas throughout the country – resembles a dump, and in some cases a toilet. A little bit more of a desire to clean up the immediate environment rather than being overly – in a misplaced manner – occupied with 'self preservation' wouldn't go astray.

That might make us all feel a little better; and healthier.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Colombia's 'lost world'

Colombia's La Ciudad Perdida, The Lost City. Next we need to find 'Postlandia'...
'The Not Very Lost City'; now where's 'Postlandia'?
It will come as no surprise to most of you to hear that Colombia is a land of many treasures. The majority of these are natural, although it has even got a man-made Indiana Jones style 'Lost City'; well it's very much found now but it was lost, or at least hidden, at one stage. (Perhaps it can give advice to those of us who still feel a little wayward in this life? 'The Lost City Counselling Services' – you heard it here first.)

Impressive as that and the other 'treasures' are, there exists what must be a truly magical place in these environs – aside from, the as of yet discovered, El Dorado that is. For somewhere out there, we can only assume, is a land awash with a host of goodies from both near and far. You could dub it Postlandia – the perpetual resting place for all that undelivered post. And by all accounts, it must be pretty extensive.

That's because there aren't too many expatriates here who haven't experienced at least one non-delivery of post from their respective homes – and generally, the bigger the item, the greater the chance of it finding its way to Postlandia rather than the addressee.

In fairness, I had been somewhat lucky in this regard; the main issue being a very long wait for post from afar to arrive, but it would arrive at some stage. However, that good run looks to have come to an end. Unless, that is, something sent over three months ago happens to turn up unexpectedly – for it will be an unexpected surprise now.

Being the altruistic person that I am (it's true), I only hope that whoever has got to enjoy the sweet goodies that were meant for me is a deserving candidate – a 'thin cat' rather than a 'fat cat'. Indeed there are plenty of that former variety here who could do with some nourishment, even if it's not the healthiest fare. With Bogotá's La Perseverancia by my side, I'll soldier on without it.

Yet this whole postal inefficiency – or non-existence to be more accurate – does raise the point of what you are supposed to do to get something delivered here from overseas when you don't have big bucks to spend on a courier service. The best solution, it seems, is the old refrain 'If you want something done, do it yourself.' For the Colombian post 'service' is just another one of those things you can put into the 'unreliable' category in these parts.

Of course you shouldn't come to Colombia looking for reliability. And sure wouldn't life be dull if it was too prim and proper? Plus, there's always the prize of discovering Postlandia to be won.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

'Relax, there's always Germany'

Right, I knew there existed in Colombia a tiny segment of support for, to say the least, a less than glorious period of German history and the accompanying beliefs associated with it. However, I wasn't aware that love of the 'Fatherland' here is much deeper and more general.

Adolf Hitler and Pablo Escobar delight in Brazil's downfall.
Germany's/Austria's & Colombia's finest? Perhaps not. (From Facebook.)

Or so it appears to be anyway, given the delight that greeted Germany's annihilation of Brazil in the World Cup semi-final. Fair enough, the controversial manner of Colombia's defeat to their Latino neighbours left a bitter aftertaste; thus, getting behind Brazil, in the thinking that if they became champions you could say Colombia were beaten by the best (as incredulous as that now sounds), would have been difficult for many.

Yet that considered, gleefully basking in their demise doesn't exactly reflect well on the people here. Had things been the other way round, that is to say Colombia thrashed Brazil after the latter fortuitously beat Germany, I doubt the Germans would be celebrating the success. No, they'd wait to get their own, direct payback.

The other way to look at it is that Colombia as a team has much to learn. Yes, this has been a great tournament for them. The swashbuckling performances that saw them power their way to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history have been a big highlight in what has been a memorable World Cup in so many aspects. Colombians have every right to be proud, as they are, of their new heroes. It deserves to be celebrated, as it has been.

The challenge now, though, is to build on it, to continue the upward curve. It's a pretty decent bet that José Pékerman, the cool-headed, shrewd Argentinian in charge of Colombia, wasn't jumping for joy watching Germany dismantle Brazil. More than likely he was thinking of what might have been.

For it could be said that Germany exposed Brazil for their naivety (plus many more inadequacies) in the same way that Brazil exposed Colombia, albeit in not as near a dramatic way and with the help of some dodgy officiating. Against Brazil, Colombia let the occasion and the aura of their opponents get to them for a large part of the match. It was only in the final stages that the players seemed to realise that Brazil could be beaten. Alas, by then, the damage was done.

Club Colombia, Bavaria & Germnay; the perfect mix.
'If the hat fits...' (Photo from Facebook.)
 The great teams are at their best when the pressure is truly on, when the stakes are high. Germany, the Portugal game aside, were far from impressive getting to the last four – in typical fashion, they were efficient, no more no less. They are where they want to be now though and you'd be a brave man to bet against them – unless of course you're Argentinian or Dutch.

In contrast, Colombia lit up the tournament early doors but largely froze when they faced their first true mental and physical test. OK, you can talk about the 'dark' elements that worked against them, but the reality is they weren't good enough on the day.

Developing that winning mentality is something that doesn't happen overnight – Irish people know all about that. There are many mental barriers to overcome. Occupying yourself with the failure of others tends not to help that process.

We can all learn from the winners – and in a football sense, the present team excepted, Brazil are in that category.

No doubt they will be back to scale the heights again. The challenge for the Colombias and Irelands of this world is to reach those heights. That's where the focus should lie.