Friday, 27 March 2015

Honouring honesty

A friend asked me the other day, 'What makes you angry the most?' I chewed on it for a while and spat out a few things. There was, though, a common thread to them all: People not being honest. For I believe that I am, largely speaking, an honest person and I expect others to be the same with me.
Benjamin Franklin: 'Honesty is the best policy.' Was he right?
Benjamin Franklin: 'Honesty is the best policy.' (Image from FB.)
It’s pretty accurate to say that you’ll find dishonesty at the root of most grievances people have with each other. This is especially so when it comes to relationship affairs (or non-affairs as they often are) and areas related to work.

The truth tends to out at some stage, so isn't it best to run with it from the get go?

Take a potentially budding relationship, or budding in the eyes of one side anyway, as an example. If you're the non-interested party, say it. Don't string the thing along when you've no genuine interest in it.

Now one 'positive' angle such carry on could be viewed from is that there's a fear in the unenthusiastic one of damaging the other's feelings. And with today's modern communication means, being a virtual friend without ever truly engaging has never been easier. So a 'friend game' can be played and maintained for some time.

However, it will come to a head, this being more so the case if a romantic notion of where things were going existed in the 'injured' party.

Plus, the more negative view is that people who engage in this behaviour are doing so for wholly selfish reasons. Keeping their options open, looking for attention, a feeling that they only need to click their fingers, or more precisely touch their keypads, in order to bring somebody back into their sphere of influence, these are the kind of things we're talking about here.

It's something I've witnessed and experienced with women in this part of the world with worrying regularity — but, of course, it's not exclusive to here (I’ve just personally engaged with Colombianas more than others in recent years).

Outside of relationships, practising a bit of diplomacy, or being economical with the truth, can have its benefits. Indeed in some scenarios, if just for a time, it may be the best course of action.

But saying yes when you really mean no or you haven't a clue, can't be condoned.

Take this example from one of Colombia's telecommunications providers, ETB. The company, for months, continuously promised one of its customers a higher-speed internet connection. Eventually, after a lot of time wasted, the customer was told that this couldn't actually be provided.

Granted, there are a few issues at play in the realms of customer service, or lack of service as it is, and dishonesty may not be the biggest culprit.
Honesty: It can be tough to deal with.
The truth can hurt, or at least shock. (From
Yet, effectively you had people saying yes to something when in reality they didn't know what the situation was.

In a Colombian context, a local friend here described it as 'appeasing out of fear in what is an insecure nation.' And it comes from the top, down. There's a belief that if you tell people what you think they want to hear, it makes things all the better. Of course in the long run it usually has the opposite effect.

It's not for nothing the saying 'Honesty is the best policy' came into being. It does, however, appear easier to utter than put into practice for some people.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

'Celebrating' Ireland

Oh no! Here it comes again. Yes, it’s that semi-awkward time of year for all Irish-born people; St Patrick's Day (March 17), our national holiday.

Green is the colour for St Patrick's Day.
Time to get the silly leprechaun hats out ... (Image from Tourism Ireland.)
You see most Irish, from my experiences anyway, tend not to get too excited about things; we prefer to leave the fanfare and hyperbole to the Yanks, it’s what they’re good at. So when you have a day to celebrate all that's, um, good about our island and its people, things can get uncomfortable.

How do we normally cope? Well in not untypical fashion, drink alcohol-containing liquids and grin and bear it.

For in some quarters, which I kind of go along with, there's a feeling that events seem to have got a little bit out of hand, thanks in no small part to those aforementioned, flamboyant North Americans.

Now of course, for as long as I can remember and since I commenced downing the odd tipple whilst socialising, beer has always been part of this day.

Growing up in rural Ireland, you may have got a token parade in the local town, although it wasn't always a given, and perhaps some Irish football (or hurling) game (not soccer, American football nor rugby that is, we’re talking Irish football) to provide other entertainment. All very tame stuff really.

Also, in my early adolescent days and before, a trip to mass was obligatory. It is, after all, a feast day commemorating the man who supposedly brought Christianity to Ireland; a Welsh man at that. (You could say it's like Colombians venerating someone born in Venezuela. What's that? They do?!) Thus, at its root, it's a Christian church — both Protestant and Catholic — holiday.

Nowadays, though, in a more multicultural and, thankfully, somewhat inclusive Ireland, the day has broadened to become a festival of all things Irish, much less tied to religion.

Plus, a modern, confident Ireland — the current economic problems notwithstanding — has upped the ante in terms of how it's honoured. There’s a little bit more glitz involved now. And it’s not even just a one-day celebration any more; you’ve got a week-long festival in many of the country’s bigger urban centres. ‘Hey, there's money to be made from them there tourists!’

Downing a pint of Guinness on St Patrick's Day ...
Guinness time ... (Photo from Tourism Ireland.)
On the other hand a Bogotá St Patrick's Day, personally speaking and unsurprisingly, adheres to the more traditional, low-key affair i.e. it goes off without much fuss. A good reason for this is that not too many are aware of it; you wouldn’t expect them to be in any case. The Irish ‘Empire’ has its limits.

For the uninitiated, a trip to one of the 'Irish' pubs is a must, surrounded by some 'Plastic Paddy' types. However, for the Irish mates I have here, of the rare occasions such establishments are visited, this is the least likely day to find them (and me) there.

It’s more likely to be spent in a neutral location, with, hopefully, a can of Guinness or two if they can be sourced (something that has become harder to do in Bogotá these days), drinking to the day and badmouthing any silly gimmickry in its honour we witness.

So in a sense, like most other days; we just have an extra excuse to get merry.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Promoting Ireland

'Ireland; a great little country, if only you could put a roof over it.'

It's difficult to go against that comedic summation of my homeland. Actually, you could add to it and suggest the construction of a few massive wind barriers as well.

A view inland from Keel Strand, Achill Island, Co Mayo, Ireland.
Ireland's practically ever-present cloud. It does let up every now and again, though. Really, it does.
You see there's a good reason it's dubbed 'The Emerald Isle'. There are plenty of, picturesque, rolling green hills that give it a sparkling look, especially when viewed from above. That's if you could actually see the land beneath the practically perpetual, thick, grey rain clouds that smother the place.

Therein lies the Irish problem; the dull, wet weather. If it was pulled a thousand miles further south, you could be talking about one of the world's greatest tourist spots. But then again, there's the risk it'd lose a bit of that greenness; the land that is anyway, whatever about the people (well we'd get a little redder for one).

Blue skies in Creevy, Lisacul, Co Roscommon.
Irish weather: Four seasons in one day (more or less) ...
Plus, an Ireland with nicer weather might tone down that fine Irish cynicism; what a terrible shame that would be for the world.

Now, needless to say, it's not always raining here (I write from ‘home’, in case you’re wondering). The odd few visitors get lucky with the sun coming out to play. Predicting when that's going to happen, though, is anyone's guess.

Winter wonderland, in spring: Creevy, Lisacul, Co Roscommon.
... from green to white, and back to green again.
As an Irish expat living in Colombia, I do, on occasions, try and talk up Ireland as a 'go-to' destination. With a rising middle class (so it goes anyway) more Colombians are taking foreign holidays. Although you’d have to say that promoting other locations when in Colombia seems a little pointless considering the extent of its own natural beauty.

It more or less has everything in one neat package, save for violent storms. These can be good to experience every now and again, from a safe perch of course. Do note we’re talking weather-related ones, not the human emotional variety you regularly get from some Latinas.

Yet even if my talking up of Ireland raises the interest of a visit from Colombians, as it sometimes does, the practicalities of doing so make the reality of it happening less likely.

We're talking visa issues here. The hassle of having to go through the process of applying for a separate one, separate from other European countries and the UK that is, pretty much extinguishes any enthusiasm to make Ireland part of a European holiday.

OK, with a UK visa they can visit the north-eastern part of the island, the part that is not the Republic of Ireland that is. And they could risk a run across the fluid border and more than likely get away with it. But why potentially jeopardise future travel by doing that?

A fine, creamy pint of Guinness at Gieltys Bar Achill Island, Co Mayo, Ireland.
If the weather fails, there's always Guinness ...
Now the powers that be in London and Dublin have changed the rules of engagement as regards a common tourist visa for the two states. However, this little arrangement is limited to the Chinese and Indians — lucky guys. That's a bit unfair, no?

Considering all European citizens who travel to Colombia for tourism don't need to get a visa in advance — up to 90 days is given on arrival, with the option of getting another 90 after that — shouldn't the same apply for Colombians who visit Europe? (As pointed out in Soft touch Colombia, it could be argued that authorities are a little too generous in some aspects.)

So come on Ireland, take the lead, give a little more genuine substance to the motto of being 'the land of a thousand welcomes' and allow the country's doors to be opened more easily by many more.

'Open it and they will come.' Weather permitting.