Tuesday, 30 June 2015

'Look pretty darling, the camera's on you.'

I recently had to write an article for another publication looking at a new movement, centred in Argentina and labelled on social media 'NiUnaMenos' ('NotOneLess'), calling for an end to violence against women.

Football babes.
More than just objects ... (Photo from Facebook.)

Many of the protesters involved in this have spoken about how they believe that many men see women as mere objects, nothing more, with this being one of the root causes of male violence towards them. And considering the statistics that are available on this crime, it would seem that it is a particular problem in Latin America.

There are many facets to it, of course, education and culture being perhaps two of the main areas where changes are needed in order to turn the tide.

Having been a keen observer of the latest Copa América, the build-up to each match, on Colombian TV anyway, has mostly consisted of shots of the prettiest women in the stands, at times in slow motion, while the presenters/commentators chat, unseen, about the upcoming game.

Now, in theory, there's nothing inherently wrong with this; and it's not like the women pictured are up in arms (well in a negative, metaphorical sense that is) about it.

The question it poses, however, is does such behaviour reinforce the idea of 'women as objects'? It shouldn't really, but maybe it does.

Now it can also be said that there is nothing wrong with admiring the beauty of women, it's natural. What's more, it doesn't take a man behind a TV camera to give us suggestive views of women. A quick glance through Facebook pictures of those of the opposite sex and you'll see a good number do it themselves; the provocative selfie in the bathroom or bedroom mirror is a favourite for many Colombianas in any case. As a man, it can be difficult not to have a second look.

Ni Una Menos: Latin America's women protest against violence towards women.
Not one less: South American women take to the streets (Photo from Facebook.)
There's, though, and you'd like to think this is obvious to most, a difference between admiring the beauty of a person and treating them as an object or sub-human. For some men, however, crossing that divide may not be such an obstacle.

Looking at a lot of men's treatment of women in these parts from a northern European perspective, you certainly notice more, outwardly anyway, male chauvinism at play. But you have to balance that out with, as mentioned above, how some women 'market' themselves here.

The bottom line is, the much sought after gender equality may be impossible from a natural, genetic standpoint, but that, needless to say, doesn't open the door for macho violence.

For sure, the causes of domestic disputes, one of the main areas where violence against women arises, are rarely black-and-white. But violent aggression seldom solves anything.
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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Boogaloo: helping to bring the world's adventure-minded to Colombia

When you're an expat who has been based in Colombia for a while, you generally get used to the place; well, as much as a westerner can in these parts. In fact, you can even start to take it for granted, especially in terms of its natural beauty.

It is only when you return to your old home 'comforts' that you are reminded about what are still the standard opinions of Colombia from those in the 'developed' world. Those are, simply put, that the place is wild and dangerous, drug-ridden and best to be avoided. As Colombians are well aware, it takes a long time to change a negative image.

Laura Vega, Boogaloo Travel founder.
Boogaloo Travel founder, the ultra-active Laura Vega.
But things are changing, if ever so slowly. One way that can be measured is in the increase of foreign tourists coming here and with it, an increase in travel companies focusing on the country.

One of the newest on the scene is Boogaloo Travel; the baby of a petite-sized but larger than life, travel/adventure junky Colombiana, Laura Vega. Wrong Way caught up with her to find out what's unique about what Boogaloo has to offer the adventure-seeking traveller.

You describe Boogaloo as a 'trip company' rather than a 'tour company'. Why are you so keen to `make that distinction?

"Because our aim is to create a new way of travel where we meet like-minded people who like and want to be active, who know that having a healthy, adventurous life will have a positive impact on not only themselves but also the planet we live on. We don’t organise tours, because it’s not about a group of people following someone and getting told what to do; we offer trips for enthusiastic people full of energy and ideas and who wish to share them with others.”

So Boogaloo Travel is only for people who like adventure and lots of activities when they travel ..?

"Yes, but also for curious people who feel motivated to understand the world we live in by travelling to other cultures, actively engaging with them and becoming part of their development. Yet, we offer several different trips with varying styles and costs"

So those who take on the Boogaloo challenge, what can they expect? What gems of Colombia will they get to see?
Valle Cocora, near Salento, Colombia.
Tall: Palm trees in Valle Cocora, near Salento. (Photo Pieter Hupkes.)

"The main activities we offer are cycling (which you can enjoy in four destinations), hiking, rafting, paragliding, quad-biking, windsurfing, dancing lessons and kayaking.

From my perspective, the most outstanding places we visit (although every place has something special!) are:
Salento, where we hike to the tallest palm trees in the world; San Agustín, where we explore one of the most important archaeological sites in Colombia, with stunning green mountains providing a wonderful backdrop; Tatacoa, where the desert offers a perfect setting for landscape pictures by day, while you can expect to be treated to a celestial show of meteor showers by night; Villa de Leyva, a simply beautiful Colombian colonial town; Guatapé, where after climbing 649 steps, we have a gorgeous view of a man-made lake that covers the entire surrounding area; Tayrona, home to virgin Caribbean beaches; La Guajira, the northernmost part of South America where the desert runs majestically into the sea; and Cartagena, the romantic city famous for its beautiful colonial architecture full of colourful, flower-filled balconies and unforgettable sunsets.

I could go on, but you get the idea — this is a beautiful country after all! For a full itinerary, just check out our web site!"*

Mentioning your (impressive) web site, which is in English, is it correct to say your focus is on attracting English-speaking tourists?

"Anyone from anywhere in the world is welcome on our trips, but I’d like to point out that the trip leader will give all the information in English."

By the way, the name 'Boogaloo', where does that come from?

"Boogaloo is the name of a Latin music style that started during the 1960s. It's a mix of Afro-Cuban and soul rhythms. I have always loved to dance and there are several Boogaloo songs that I have danced to since I was a child! Of course in our trips we will teach people some Boogaloo moves."

Well that's Boogaloo, but tell us a little bit about yourself. Have you always been the travelling/adventurous type?

"Since my first ever travel as a kid I felt very passionate about knowing “what is on the other side”. Getting to know and learning about other cultures is something that has always made me curious. I wanted to travel the world making documentaries and in so doing get a better understanding of it. So I decided to move to Argentina to study film production.
Cartagena, Colombia.
Quaint: Cartagena's streets.

When I finished my studies I backpacked from Argentina to Colombia on my own. While I was in Cusco, Peru, I had the misfortune of having my wallet stolen, on Christmas Day of all days. But this unfortunate situation led to a big change in my life. As I had no money I had to look for a job.

Luckily, I found one, at The Point Hostel. There, I met travellers from all over the world, heard their stories, got to know a bit of their own cultures, and in return I was able to help them learn more about South America. This sounded very much like what I wanted to keep on doing; you could say that this experience made me find another part of me.

Ever since, I've been working in the tourism industry, advising and showing people how inspiring travel can be and leading groups through Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia.

Sport has also been very important to me. At high school I was a cheerleader; from a very young age I've been doing swimming, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking and many other sports. All these are activities that I look forward to doing wherever I go."

So it definitely seems that Boogaloo is very much Laura Vega and Laura Vega is Boogaloo. You might say you're fulfilling your destiny ...

"Yes! I put my heart into this project and I will do my best to make this an unforgettable and unique experience for everyone who joins. I also have the fortune to work with a great enthusiastic team full of creativity and ideas to make Boogaloo Travel a project that will transcend time!"

*If you're interested in finding out more about Boogaloo, the trips offered and the activities involved, visit the web site at www.boogalootravel.com.

Note: This blog wishes to make no secret of the fact that it has helped Boogaloo in terms of its web site content (as listed on the site itself), and will continue to assist the company if and when required — but Wrong Way is not on the Boogaloo payroll! It is, nonetheless, a project that I endorse and wish it the best of success.

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Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Colombia's Copa?

With the club season, both domestically in Colombia and abroad, put to bed, attention on this side of the world turns to the Copa América.

Chile provides what will be, um, the chilly venue for this year's renewal. The winter weather apart, there are solid reasons for Colombian football followers to feel warm inside ahead of the tournament. Indeed, it could be argued that things have never been better for La Selección.

Radamel Falcao scores his latest national goal against Costa Rica, ahead of the start of Copa América 2015.
Falcao: The Colombian captain has been at his best in the national jersey. (Photo: Facebook.)
Last year, they had their best ever run at a World Cup, unluckily and controversially losing out to hosts Brazil at the quarter-final stage. The painful manner of that defeat aside, the second-half performance together with the previous four games did prove that Colombia can go toe to toe with the global superpowers. This is reflected in the Fifa (don't snigger) world rankings, where the side remains in fourth spot, with third-placed Argentina the only South American side above them.

Plus, with the proven quality players they have at their disposal, José Pékerman's side have the potential to go far. You also have the Radamel Falcao factor, who will be keen to put a disappointing loan spell at Manchester United behind him; there's a belief in some quarters that back in the 'comfort' of the national set-up, El Tigre will be a far more potent animal than what we saw in England.

Even if he's not, his presence around the squad is only beneficial for what is already a confident, tight-knit group. (For the record, he did score the only goal in Colombia's recent friendly win over Costa Rica and looked relatively sharp.)

To keep that confidence high, a good start will be key. Yet the opener, a tussle with Venezuela, is far from straightforward. Remember, Colombia only took one point from six off their neighbours during their last meetings in the South American World Cup 2014 qualifiers. But the fact that Colombia made it to the finals while Venezuela watched from the sidelines should mean that the former is a much stronger proposition this time around.

A mouthwatering 'revenge' clash with Brazil also awaits in the group stages. However, it could be said that Colombia missed the boat 12 months ago to get one over the five-time World Cup winners. It's unlikely Dunga's men will be as fragile this time around.

Winners alright! The 2001 Colombian side that won the Copa América on home soil ...
Is Colombia's 2015 edition good enough to replicate the 2001 heroes? (Photo Facebook.)
Peru completes the group and while nothing can be taken for granted, Colombia should be taking three points from that game.

In any case, the way the draw is, finishing second in the group may not be such a bad thing as the likes of tournament favourites Argentina and perennial winners Uruguay could be avoided until the final, if Colombia were to get that far. On the flip side, a potential semi-final battle with hosts Chile would be no gimme to say the least. But if you want to be the best you've got to beat the best and all that.

It certainly promises to be an intriguing three weeks of football, with at least five teams that can be considered as genuine contenders to lift the trophy on July 4th.

Whether Colombia can emerge as South America's top dog, we'll have to wait and see. It's time to let the football do the talking.

Friday, 5 June 2015

'Hi! I'm a workaholic and I'm great'

It's generally not seen as a good thing to be a 'holic' of anything. Everything in moderation and all that.

Yet in today's world, it seems that being a workaholic is almost universally accepted and even expected in some quarters. And of course in jobs where the latest communication technology is utilised to get things done, it's easier than ever to be 'able' to work 24/7. This is something some people appear to have embraced.
Don't let work distract you from some of the finer things in life ...
It's not always good to get too caught up in work-related things ...

It has certainly blurred the lines between off-duty and on-duty. If you don't actually turn off the technology at your fingertips, you're effectively always 'on' to answer work queries, deal with existing clients, negotiate with potential new ones, write e-mails and such like.

Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that a lot of people can't resist the temptation to answer that work-related e-mail or WhatsApp message or whatever, regardless of what time of day or night it is and the amount of time they've already worked.

Now if you're self-employed and/or freelance, and depending on the type of work involved, your day may not have a clear schedule to it. In such a scenario, in order to find that often talked about but seldom found work-life balance, it's important to monitor the hours you work on various projects. Those you work with must realise that you have your downtime, if you want it that is. For freelance types, the distinction between work hours and free time can become difficult to decipher.

The blurred work lines, though, are at their most dangerous for direct employees of companies, especially those who should have a clearly demarcated work schedule and place. When you're at home, having done your lot, responding to work-related queries shouldn't become a regular practice. Some people, however, just can't resist; and increased stress levels (and related health problems) can be a direct result due to 'engaging' round the clock.

The argument could be made that if you're a manager, the above is par for the course. Yet unless it's explicitly written in your contract, it shouldn't have to be that way.
Be aware of those nasty workaholics ...
Drawing from criticallyrated.com.

In fact, looking at the workaholic in terms of spending time at their workplace, a former boss in Ireland used to ask us newsroom employees when we were working late, 'What are you still doing in the office at this time?' He would see it as a sign of inefficiency.  Of course we couldn't plan when news would happen, but he had a point all the same. A lot of Colombian bosses could learn from that, something touched on before on this blog.

Another side to all this is the people who work in something they genuinely love, when the word 'work' doesn't conjure up negative images. Be that as it may, forcing a break or change is generally a good practice, if only just to aid productivity, to return to your 'thing' with more vigour so to speak.

It's unlikely that we'll start viewing the workaholic in the same shady light as we see the alcoholic any time soon. But at least we could start re-appreciating those who seek to 'work less and earn more.' And in some respects, more gets achieved that way.