Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Colombia's and Ireland's eastern troubles

Making comparisons between Colombia and Ireland is about as useful an exercise as sweeping leaves in a hurricane. Even where there are similarities, something previously touched on by this writer, their day-to-day relevance would seem fairly minuscule. Colombian-Irish ties, while apparently growing, are still pretty weak.
Just when things were looking up for both Colombia and Ireland, the neighbours to the east throw a spanner in the works.
Colombia and Ireland: Dealing with 'nasty' neighbours.
Nonetheless, as an Irishman based in Colombia for eight years, becoming aware of these similarities has been rather interesting, insightful even.

While the blog posts referenced above made internal comparisons, here we're going to add an international dimension.

The neighbour to the east
Basically — stick with us here — Venezuela could be seen as Britain, and that's not just because of its geographical position to Colombia's east. Historically, Venezuela was seen as the more advanced, organised and cosmopolitan country. In contrast, Colombia was (is) a violent backwater, insular and conservative. Friendly folk for sure but untrustworthy schemers of sorts. (See where we're going with this?)

A lot of the locals with any get-up-and-go did just that. They left. What's more, a not-insignificant number of them went to that more developed neighbour to the east for a better life. Well, either there or to the US.
"The political problems next door could see the old inferior nations return to their inglorious past."
However, over the last few years these violent backwaters, Colombia and Ireland, have found their mojos, of sorts, while the eastern neighbours appear to have hit the self-destruct button. Now, not only are those who had emigrated coming back but people from other countries are keen to give the current 'cool kids' a try, including many from the near east, reversing long-standing migration flows. (The influx of Venezuelans to Colombia needs no elaboration while there has been a significant rise in the number of Brits applying for Irish passports pre-Brexit).

Uncomfortable at the top
Added to this of late have been the neighbours' current political problems and the risk of contagion to the now, um, flourishing 'cool kids'. As the latter harbour men who have a proven track record at subversion, there is a belief that it will only take a little bit of instability to plunge them and their centre-right administrations right back into the bad old days of violence and economic decline. Of course, outside 'help' isn't a prerequisite for this but it can be an important catalyst.

The eastern guys, for their part, have leaders who seem hell-bent on getting their way or, as some view it, are being unfairly hindered from doing their job. Now while a Jeremy Corbyn victory in the UK's December election would work wonders for this analogy from a left-right perspective, it's not completely necessary. Bungling Boris Johnson, while politically poles apart from Nicolás Maduro, fits the narrative here in so many other ways. For one, you've both men's penchant for putting their foot in it.

As the problems to the east show no signs of easing, there's a bit of schadenfreude on display in some quarters of the once inferior nations. However, looking down from a lofty position not only doesn't sit well with them but it also tends to be followed by a swift, painful comedown. 'Back in your place with you.'

When that comedown has well and truly landed, by their own doing or otherwise, assistance from the eastern neighbours will yet again be badly needed. After all, these countries have more in common than they may like to admit.
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Thursday, 24 October 2019

Wake up to Pinker's wonderful world

"The world has never been better and very few of us know it." That was the hook for a talk given by the 'celebrity' cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker in Bogotá recently. It's also the thrust of his latest book, Enlightenment Now.

No one can really argue with the various statistics that he rhymes off as to why the human race has never had it so good. We're living longer, peace rather than war is the norm, global poverty levels have dramatically fallen while the world's calorie intake has increased. What's more, it's not that it's just that oft-vilified top one per cent reaping the benefits. Everyone is.
Canadian cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker delivering a talk in Bogotá, Colombia.
Steven Pinker in Bogotá: 'Never mind the future, things are bright now.'
So, compared to the not-too-distant past, current challenges notwithstanding and acknowledged (climate change, populism and such like), it's all positive, it's progress.

Malignant media
To be honest, it surprises me somewhat that very few people, according to Pinker anyway, know this. These health & safety and material advancements are obvious, aren't they?

Of course, from a news media perspective, one could be forgiven for thinking the opposite was true. Pinker, with good reason, does lay an amount of the blame at the media's door for all the negativity swirling around the planet.
"That we are statistically on Easy Street these days matters little at the individual level."
Indeed, I recall my late sister and her husband taking a decision a few years back not to read, watch or listen to the news because it just depressed them. We can easily lose sight of the good when we're consuming a large, unhealthy dose of the bad.

So we're agreed, at a macro level, there's never been a better time to be alive.

Yet, that's the crux of it for me — the macro level. From the individual viewpoint, this 'zoomed out' approach very often doesn't hit home, quite literally. While we're more connected than ever and can converse and share experiences with people on the other side of the planet in an instant, virtually albeit, we still have to live out our lives, tackle the trials and tribulations that we personally face, on a daily basis.

The fact that we are statistically on Easy Street compared to our ancestors matters little in the here and now. It's all relative.

What's it all about?
As that other celebrity Canadian speaker and psychologist, Jordan Peterson, puts it, "Life is suffering."

For the majority of our species born just 100 years ago or so — or even more recently — the initial challenge was simply to stay alive. If they dodged an infant death, managed to find some sort of income or whatever was needed to get sufficient food and shelter, the next goal was to reproduce. After that, exiting stage left was usually the least-worst option. In such a scenario, it was all purely about survival.

These days, for those of us lucky enough to beat the exceptionally long odds of actually being born, the chances of us then living to an age of 60 plus are very high, as the statistically astute Pinker is well aware. Therefore, basic life and death issues don't tend to constantly come into play.
"In the secular world, finding meaning becomes our 'cross to bear'."
For many, these are replaced by questions of "What's it all about?" and the like. Deeper concerns about meaning, or what some might term spirituality, are what fill this space.

Added to this is the fact that we're now 'smarter'. Not only have global literacy levels increased but so to have our IQs, as highlighted by Pinker.

Thus, it can be argued, in our search for more concrete truths about existence as a greater number of us leave behind old 'comforting' beliefs in this secular liberal democratic world that both Pinker and I espouse to, the meaning of life becomes our 'cross to bear' so to put it. We're here, going through the motions, 'working for the system' or what have you, for what?

You would be right in thinking that I'm writing this from the point of view of a single, childless man who isn't exactly 'loving' his principal job right now. I'm not alone. And it would appear we're on the rise, thanks in no small part to a lack of wars to check our numbers.

It's not just men who are at risk from this, although we are more likely to end things prematurely compared to women. Listening to Pinker in relation to technological advancements and artificial intelligence, I couldn't help but think of an episode of The Simpsons where Homer gets a new well-paid job and moves with the family to an ultra-modern house, replete with all sorts of gadgets to do the housework. With very little to do, wife Marge takes to the wine. There's always alcohol to fill the void, isn't there?

Believe in better
Of course, this isn't to say that technology and the accompanied 'softer living' are killing us, um, softly (although, in some spheres, this might very well be the case). That same human ingenuity that has made our lives easier can also come good to ensure we remain strong and feel fulfilled.

That being said, that our lives in this world have never been better could be put into the 'lies, damned lies and statistics' category. One way to view it is like a football team that has had the lion's share of possession, the most shots on target, the most corners, etc. and goes on to win the game as expected. However, for the players, it seems like a defeat. It should have been much better. They think more about what they did poorly rather than what they did well.

That's human nature really. It's what keeps us striving for better and it is where we can find 'meaning'. This is where Pinker and I are in agreement, the ability of mankind (can I use that word in these politically correct days?), collectively, to keep on improving. The problem is that some don't feel part of the game at all. Or at least they feel like they only have a very minor, insignificant part in it.

So yes, the world has never been better for the masses when we crunch all the numbers. Yet, we can't experience the lives of those in the past to appreciate just how good we have it now. Also, the stats usually count for very little. Pinker can publish all the graphs he wants to show how such a 'wonderful world' it currently is. It's how we perceive things to be going, though, this is what generally matters most.
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Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Medellín's Plaza Putaero

Bienvenidos a Medellín - 'Bangkok light'. So ran the title of one of my earliest Google blog entries. I wrote it after spending a month in Colombia's second city where I worked in the Greek-owned Arcadia hostel in the "gringo infested" Poblado neighbourhood, a somewhat exclusive party zone.

I'd grown frustrated at seeing the many ladies of the night in the area strutting their stuff, subtly as most did albeit. In that way, the Bangkok comparison may have been overstating it a bit — I did use 'light' all the same. The prostitution was more discreet but it was prostitution nonetheless. (Indeed, it could have been even subtler.)

Plaza Botero, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia.
Medellín's Plaza Botero: There's a bit more to it these days than just its iconic statues.
Missing Medellín
As a rather innocent country boy from the west of Ireland, it tainted my otherwise largely positive impression of Medellín, a city that has much more than just sex tourism going for it.

It would be wide of the mark to say it was because of this I had no desire to return there. It was more down to the fact that I live in bustling Bogotá, so when it has come to escaping its 'madness' I've opted for much smaller places to unwind.

Thus, a stronger reason than 'just because' was always needed to bring me back. That reason came in the form of a semi-business-related trip, flights paid for. OK, it was to the airport based in Rionegro, a city about a 40-minute drive from Medellín.

Yet it's the airport that caters for most Medellín-bound passengers, so when I knew I'd be landing there the idea of a brief reacquaintance after almost eight years with the Antioquia department capital was always on the cards.
"Unlike the Poblado prostitutes, these ones were not one bit discreet."
Incidentally, I did spend one night in Rionegro as it was there I had my business meeting. It seems a pleasant enough place with a well-kept main square, if a little pricey for the staples (read 'tienda beers' in this instance; at 25,000 pesos for a quite decent hotel room, accommodation was reasonably priced, though).

With just over 24 hours in Medellín, to keep things simple plus a curiosity to see what my old employer's hostel was like after all these years, I decided to spend my one night in the aforementioned Arcadia.

As the bus from Rionegro dropped me close to the city centre, I took the opportunity to have a wander around there first before heading further south to Poblado. Get a feel for Medellín's 'raw' side — well, rawer compared to the leafy middle-class vibe around the hostel.

It was certainly lively in any case. There seemed a lot more going on than you'd normally get in Bogotá's historic centre. A big tourist attraction is the many Botero statues in the eponymous plaza.

Noisy public works aside, Plaza Botero was hiving with foreigners. Great for Medellín tourism.

Prostitution Plaza
The thing is, a good number of those foreigners were young ladies from neighbouring Venezuela. And they weren't there to get photos taken next to the large Botero works. Well, unless those statues were willing to pay them that is, if you get me.

I'm sure the many beautiful women offering their services there would much prefer it if that were the case, rather than having to get 'down and dirty' with what often resemble real-life versions of Botero's oversized male sculptures. Needs must and all that, however.

In contrast to the subtle, nighttime manoeuvres of the Poblado prostitutes, in Plaza Botero they were anything but that. A fair-haired (what's left of it, that is) man walking alone, think of a moths-to-light scenario. "There's plenty of money in them there pockets", or whatever the equivalent expression is in Venezuelan Spanish.

That prostitution is happening in Medellín, sad for those who feel forced into doing it all the same, is not the issue here. It's the fact that it's so blatant in a very popular part of a city that prides itself on being one of the most progressive in Latin America.

Perhaps my visit this time coincided with a particularly promiscuous Friday afternoon on the not-so-free-love scene. However, with the hotels nearby readily set up for the trade, it would seem it's standard practice these days.

Of course, there's nothing inherently wrong or illegal with it. I'm guessing, though, it's an image the city's tourism board doesn't want to portray. It's fair to say many visitors would find those much-maligned Pablo Escobar tours far less uncomfortable.
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Friday, 23 August 2019

Untangling Chaparral

Back in mid-2009 during my few weeks travelling around South-East Asia a German I met, a guy who had been in the region for some time, introduced me to the initialism AFW. After seeing my relative excitement about the prospect of visiting another impressive Buddhist place of worship, he said he could take or leave viewing an AFW.

"An AFW?"
"Another f**king wat!"
"Ah. I see." (Well, something like a punny WTF would have worked better. He was German, though, so I cut him some slack.)

I didn't stay in that part of the world to become completely indifferent to the, um, power of the wat but I could see where he was coming from.

Parque de los Presidentes, Chaparral, Tolima, Colombia.
A helpful reminder of where you are!
After a while, no doubt, the novelty of seeing these magnificent monuments well and truly wears off. A case of 'seen one wat, seen them all.'

Same same but different
This thinking, superficially at least, could be extended to the small towns in this part of the world: 'Seen one Colombian or South American pueblo, seen them all.'

A colonial-style main square home to a standout cathedral/church with, if the settlement is of adequate size, another few similar squares dotted around, all in the standard grid plan.

In terms of Colombia, the general belief is that if you've been to either Barichara or Villa de Leyva (or both, as I have), then you've seen the best the country has to offer in this regard.

Again, aesthetically in any case, there is merit to this viewpoint. Yet, such high acclaim tends to reel in the tourists in big numbers. For some, this isn't a major deal. Plus, off-peak visits usually see the towns at their more normal rhythm, whatever that actually is nowadays.
"A 'town' of 50,000 people here seems rather rural."
Nonetheless, as I've let it be known on umpteen occasions, their obvious similarities aside, I do like to check out the less well-known towns. And in a big country of close to 50 million people, there are many to discover. What's more, each place has its own story to tell, its own unique character with its own unique characters to boot (not literally, now), from the interesting to the annoying and everything in between.

My recent trip to Chaparral in the Tolima department certainly fell into this category. Why I decided to go there was simply down to the fact that an employee in a local panadería told me she was from there. I'd never heard of the place but at about a four-hour bus journey from Bogotá it fell, just about, inside the travel-time limit of a long-weekend escape from the madness of the capital city.

The landscape around Chaparral in Tolima, Colombia.
Dry surrounds.
A quick Wikipedia check confirmed that it also met another important requirement. It was small enough, just under 50,000 people in its greater urban area. (By Irish standards that might seem pretty big. Here, though, a town of that size is relatively bucolic. It must be down to the way they space themselves out. Or is that cramp themselves in?).

Now, I generally don't like travelling on holiday weekends as you've to deal with all the extra traffic. However, the full-time job these days has limited my flexibility — I'll have my vengeance on that yet — so I have to take advantage of a day off when it comes along.

To give me a little more time and avoid the horrible traffic returning to Bogotá on the holiday Monday, I booked the next day off. Unfortunately, it seemed a lot of other people had the same idea considering the Tuesday afternoon's congestion entering the capital.

Outbound, the queues to buy bus tickets at Bogotá's southernmost terminal on Saturday morning almost led me to abort 'Operation Chaparral' before it got going at all. Thankfully, these were for the more popular destinations such as Girardot and Melgar. My hour or so wait was relatively minor all things considered. Indeed, being allocated the passenger window seat in a minivan for the trip was a nice little bonus.

Great chaps
Now before I start talking up Chaparral, I must say I went with little or no expectations. I knew it would be warm. I knew I could grab a beer or two or three to unwind in somewhere that was new to me and with few other tourists around. I didn't need anything else really. Anything different from Bogotá would have sufficed, it just needed to be somewhat rural.

Aesthetically, there's nothing too special to the place. One immediate difference I noticed from other similar towns is that its main square, the plaza principal, isn't named after the great liberator Simón Bolívar (akin to Paipa). It's called Parque de los Presidentes, the Presidents' Park.

The reason? The town is the birthplace of no less than three men who held the office of Colombian president: Manuel Murillo Toro, José Maria Melo and Darío Echandia. Attorney General Alfonso Gómez Méndez was also born there. It's not for nothing that its old mottos were 'Tierre de Grandes' and 'Cuna de Presidentes', 'Land of Greats'/'Cradle of Presidents'.
"Chaparral has played a significant part in Colombia's history."
The story also goes that Chaparral and its surrounds, in the form of the Pijao people, was one of the last bastions of indigenous resistance against the Spanish conquistadores. There's a monument representing this a few streets down from Parque de los Presidentes.

More recently, it was this part of Colombia that gave rise to the Farc guerilla movement. So in terms of the country's history, it's well served, for good and bad, whatever your viewpoint. (Perhaps as a nod to emerging, hopefully, from that recent bloody past, the town's current motto is 'Cradle of Peace and Progress'.)

A monument to the Pijao & other indigenous peoples in Chaparral, Tolima, Colombia.
The last stand: A monument to the Pijao & other indigenous peoples. 
Tourism infrastructure wise, common to most less-popular Colombian locations, it's not well served. It did, after all, have to deal with more life-or-death matters of late.

Nonetheless, there are some locals trying to change this as I found out thanks to a serendipitous encounter — you never know what afternoon beers in a quaint tienda might throw up.

There I met Diego Ceballos, son of the very affable owner Cesar. Diego is currently taking a course in tourism and has already established a fledgling company with a focus on birdwatching. He gave me an impromptu photo presentation of the impressive, secluded sights — with an ornithological flavour as is his wont — all around Chaparral, areas that were very much 'off-limits' to most only a few short years ago, being in rebel hands as they were.

Time constraints meant I couldn't actually visit any of them (did I mention that uncooperative full-time job?) on this occasion. Their apparent remoteness and very interesting recent history have given me solid reasons to return, though.

For sure, you can find comparable places all over Colombia. Yet, as similar as Chaparral is to other towns, it has, as we’ve seen, its standout differences. In the region's bid to join Colombia's tourism rush, here's hoping it doesn't lose sight of its unique identity.

*For a town that doesn't seem to get too many tourists, it is well served on the hotel front. The one I happened upon was Hotel Tuluni, a couple of blocks from the main square on Carrera 8a #6-54. At 20,000 COP for a basic yet spacious en suite room with fan and a decent internet connection, you could find worse (I didn't bother trying!). Mob: +573183178898.
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Thursday, 1 August 2019

Wonder women

I recently received a somewhat fitting, reassuring reminder from Twitter (see image below). It was a notification informing me that my report of 'behaviour unbecoming' from a particular user was deemed to be a rule violation under "hateful conduct".
"Hateful conduct" violation by @NanaMGNS on Twitter. A rare "victory" against the radical feminists!
A virtual slap on the wrist. That'll surely teach her! 

This 'nasty' episode happened quite some time ago that I can't fully remember exactly what the woman in question — @NanaMGNS is the handle, very much a former friend/acquaintance now — wrote but she basically went on a virtual tirade, calling me a misogynist (and then some) following a tweet I posted. (Unfortunately, Twitter doesn't provide the tweets in question when giving its response to complaints.)
"They say what they like about the other 'side' and this must go uncontested. This is their version of 'equality'."
From what I recall, my tweet was in relation to an incident I'd had with a Colombiana, in a dating sense I think. It was probably along the lines of previous blog posts where I've detailed what I see as some common traits in women I've encountered in these parts. See A prostitute by any other name or Ignoring is bliss for an idea of where I'm coming from in this regard.

Radical logic
The offending, nay 'offensive', woman, a radical feminist by all accounts, took umbrage at the line I was taking. Contrary to what she seemed to believe, however, I wasn't having a go at all woman. I was merely commenting on experiences with, on this occasion, one particular individual whose conduct I'd also witnessed in some other Latinas.

Again, not all that is to say, but some and enough to notice a connection among such types. My bad luck that I keep meeting them. Or kept meeting them really; I'm largely managing to avoid them these days. So this was my perspective on real events that happened to me. I wasn't making it up or just trying to have a cheap, unsolicited shot.

I say this notification from Twitter labelling @NanaMGNS comments as "hateful conduct" is 'reassuring' because in terms of verbal or written attacks against men by women these days the general attitude is to laugh it off. To lap it up even. "Sure you're a man! Suck it up lad, grow a pair."

Fair enough, I guess we are the stronger sex. Oh no, wait, isn't that the thing these radical feminists are raging against? We're only the stronger sex when it suits their narrative to say so. And how dare a man comment about women in the first place. How discriminatory and sexist. Only women can talk about women. What's more, they can say what they like about men and it must go uncontested.

This is 'equality' for 21st-century radicals, of all shapes and sizes. 'Careful now, don't nonchalantly refer to their shape or size. You might get yourself into trouble.'
"I do more practical stuff to help feminism than most feminists."
The thing is, I'm more on the side of the feminists and the quest for gender 'equality' than the campaigners might care to imagine. For example, I pretty much demand 50-50 when it comes to paying bills. Or, on the rare occasion where my earnings are more than the woman I'm sharing time with, I suggest we pay the appropriate percentage based on our income.

For the first couple of dates I don't bother bringing assets and the like into it, I'm happy to let that slide at the start. One wouldn't want to over-complicate things.

'Equality on our terms'
I also don't go out of my way to be extra special with women on a day-to-day basis, that is to say, treat them any differently to men when it comes to engagements in the office or in public life (if a woman, um, takes advantage of me in a private setting, things could play out differently, closer to the way Mother [and Father et al., for equality's sake] Nature intended).

Unlike a lot of other men, especially here in the Latino world, I don't condescend or patronise.

Yet, in the female-dominated advertising/marketing job I'm currently engaged in, I've been talked down to, indeed screamed at on one occasion for simply explaining, calmly, why the use of one English word worked better in a certain context over another, by a colleague who is of the not-so-fair sex, so to put it.

It's safe to assume that had it been the other way around, a man carrying on that way towards a woman, disciplinary procedures would have been instigated. But we're men, we're meant to take all of this on the chin whilst constantly being told how everything is fixed to our advantage.

For these radical feminists, it's a case of 'be careful what you wish for'. Equality, "the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities" to give it its dictionary definition, is just that.

What some women appear to be looking for is the complete subjugation of men. They might just find that the status quo in many liberal democracies is already tipped in their favour. If it goes any further, we could all tumble over the edge.
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Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Facebook, Instagram: Killing us softly

A few weeks ago on CNÑ (CNN in Spanish that is), in a discussion about social media, an Argentinian expert on the subject predicted that in years to come we'll view our use of Facebook and the like in the same way that most of us view smoking today. That is, a dirty, unhealthy habit that we can't believe we actually used to find "cool and sexy".
Is our current use of the likes of Instagram doing severe damage to us?
Insta-life. Or is that Insta-death?
Some people might view such an opinion as rather dramatic. Exaggerated scaremongering from the Argentinian fogey. Maybe so. The jury is still hearing all the evidence on this one, it's not even close to being sent out in order to come back with a verdict yet.

One thing we can say with certainty is that the arrival of social media has led to a seismic change in how we communicate and interact with each other. Save for the invention for real of teleportation, it's hard to see how more virtually connected we can become.
"Physically meeting those we might envy often allays any insecurity issues."
That's the crux of the issue here really: A growing virtual contact at the expense of face-to-face interaction. Worse still — for those on the social-media-is-bad side of things that is — virtual communication, or using our digital gadgets in some way, is dominating even when we are in the company of others.

We've all witnessed it. A group of people at a bar or dinner table or wherever, all with their heads stuck in their personal electronic devices. We shake our heads in disapproval. Yet there's a fair chance we've been looked at disapprovingly doing the exact same thing on another occasion. Practically everybody with a smartphone gets "caught" at some stage or another.

A new (dis)order?
The question is, "Is it actually doing us any harm?" Well, we do now have a social media anxiety disorder. A cynic — of which of course I am not one — might say that the fact we've "invented" a disorder for it means very little in this day and age.

We've disorders for all sorts of things now where in the past they were simply conditions that required nothing more than a stern "for goodness sake lad, would you pull yourself together", or something to that effect. It's all much more softly-softly now, for better or for worse.

That being said, as documented before, the false impression that social media platforms create of the lives of others can be quite damaging to those susceptible to the "keeping up with the Joneses" condition. "Oh look, there goes Mary on another amazing adventure and here I am stuck in my crappy job." Or, "Bob seems to be doing great with the ladies and I can't hit it off with a single one."

For sure, being envious of others isn't something new, only arriving with social media. It's part of being human. However, our new way of interacting has made it more prevalent, exponentially so. The scale of it has been blown way out of proportion it would appear.

Physically meeting those who we may be resentful towards for whatever reason and, quite literally, seeing "their warts and all", will more often than not make us feel a little less insecure about ourselves. Social media not only takes that away but it puts us in daily contact with people who we would otherwise know next to nothing about and, I wager, care little about.

Take these (and please, do take them and send them off to some other planet) Instagram influencers. Young, pretty people — it's highly unlikely they'll either be the "wrong" side of 40 or not physically attractive — who make a living out of simply posting about their lives.
"Facebook and the like are dumbing us down."
Fair play to them. They're working the system. It's those who follow them, who give them this platform, those are the ones I question.

OK, if it's somebody who travels or the like, somebody who has interesting, informative snippets to share, there's merit to that. The thing is, many of these influencers don't. White, or whatever colour you want, trash.

Before I'm accused of being a hypocrite, I am fully aware that I play this game as well. As an unpaid blogger and podcaster, I need to use all outlets available to get the messages I write and talk about "out there". The hope is that what I do will reach more and more people, eventually putting me, brand "Wrong Way" so to put it, in a position to be a conduit for companies to advertise via me and such like.

Obviously, time is ticking on that one. Or maybe I'm already past my "use by" date. I'm just refusing to accept it. Perhaps I should go underground now, back to unspoilt nature.

Whatever the case, I like to think that I use and take advantage of social media — the ideal scenario — more than the other way around. I like to think that, that is. I could be wrong.

Light up, dumb down
We mentioned the seismic shift that has taken place with social media. As a species, we've gone through this before. The printing press, the advent of radio and TV. Massive game-changers.

So rather than seeing the "new kids in town" as dangerous, perhaps we should take a more benign view. After all those older three, although TV to a lesser extent, in my opinion, haven't done us any real harm, have they?

The key difference for me is that all those, in their more dominant days, were agents of positive social change and largely educational.

At this remove and considering how the majority of us currently use social media and, just as importantly, are used by them, we can't view today's dominators in the same light. On the contrary, they seem to be dumbing us down.

They might leave us feeling a bit lightheaded, even sick at times, but the high is worth it. Gotta light? I need my fix.
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Tuesday, 2 July 2019

It's the service, stupid

Picture the scene. You're a checkout operator and you've just finished with one customer, a lady who left a small bag of vegetables at the cash register, something she decided she didn't want. There's only one other person to be served in a largely empty fruit and veg shop.

Do you first attend to that other person and return the unwanted product to the shelves later, when there's no one else left in line? Or do you nonchalantly return the product to the shelves telling the waiting customer you'll be back in a moment?

Scene of the latest crimes against the service industry in Bogotá, Colombia.
Scene of the latest crimes against the service industry ...
I think it's fair to say that most people with an ounce of customer-service wit about them would choose the former option. An inanimate product, in most cases — unless it's causing an amount of inconvenience or the like — should play second fiddle to a living customer staring you in the face. If not, you run the risk of eventually having no customers at all to serve. The product won't be much good to you then.

Director of Disservice
The thing is, taking the second course of action mentioned above, or something along those lines, is what happens in Colombia far too often to make it an insignificant anomaly. Many working in the "service industry" here just don't seem to get what that actually should be.

A regular sight is seeing employees focus on what is a non-urgent task, leaving customers waiting. For example, in a restaurant or bar, they'll clean the floor while there are people looking to be served. "We've no clientele but at least the floor is spotless." Excellent.

There is no understanding of priorities — if anything is prioritised that is.
"The service industry in Colombia would be a nice idea."
Linked to this is that very annoying practice of not respecting a queue. While the general public must be berated for this, it is a culture thing, employees have to take some of the flak here as well. If somebody is known to have jumped the queue, simply don't serve them. Make them wait. And wait. That'll teach them. (Well, it probably won't, but ...)

Now while we can make excuses for a shoddy service from very poorly-paid employees working in establishments that they don't really care about, we can't do the same for self-employed business owners. You would think that they'd be more attentive to the needs of their customers. Alas, even these types are often found wanting in this respect.

"Not bovvered" 
We're not even asking for a customer-is-always-right" approach. Needless to say a lot of the time they're not and it's not always best practice to kowtow to all their demands. The problem here is that at times it's more like "we don't give two flying figs about the customer".

It reminds me of some miserable bar lady types back in Ireland. You go in for a pint and they make you feel as if you are disturbing them from their soap opera viewing. "What do you want?" "Sorry, I thought this was a public house, I was merely looking for a drink. I didn't mean to be an inconvenience."

The miserableness doesn't tend to be a feature in Colombia, it's more a general "couldn't care less" demeanour.

To borrow from Mahatma Gandhi when he was once asked for his thoughts on Western civilisation, the Colombian service industry "would be a nice idea." We live in hope, slim as it is.
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Facebook: Wrong Way Corrigan – The Blog & IQuiz “The Bogotá Pub Quiz”. 

Listen to The Colombia Cast podcast here.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Rednecks rise again

Back in my early secondary school days, as a country lad heading off to mix it with the townies, it was common for the latter to mock us. We were farmer boys, or rednecks, as they say in some parts. It was generally a bit of innocent slagging but no doubt it had its origins in the long-held belief that workers of the land were a bit "behind", simple if you will, compared to those from urban settings.

Some city grazers in Barrio Santandercito in the north of Bogotá, Colombia.
Cattle on Bogotá's northern limits: Bringing a bit of the country to the city.
Of course, the townies of Ballaghaderreen, along with everybody else from "down the country", were derogatorily seen as bog folk, "culchies" being the precise word, by those from the capital Dublin.

Zoom out even more and the whole of Ireland was traditionally viewed as being backward by our "superior" neighbours in Britain. "Strange specimens those Irish, aren't they?"

City fat cats
Modern, advanced, "rich" societies emanate from urban strongholds with their schools of excellence and such like. Rural areas only get the crumbs, enough to keep them ticking over, from the power brokers seated around that grandiose table. So it goes anyway.

Nonetheless, keeping those seated at the urban table well-fed and content with "affordable" food is nigh-on impossible without the simple country folk doing their bit to provide it.
“We’re just a few consecutive disasters away from very troubling times.”
The irony here is that while the great advancements in communications and technology have made the world a smaller place, many urban dwellers have become quite removed, mentally at least, from the rural areas that they rely on to stay alive.

OK, they have other, "more complicated, complex" concerns to worry about. The country serves simply as escapism from the concrete jungle. Engagement with it is at a superficial level only.

What's more, aren't the technological improvements in agriculture and the like, urban brainchildren as most have been, resulting in greater yields and reduced workloads for those who farm the land?

There's merit to that.

Yet, to continue providing for the growing urban masses, more engagement with, and investment in, the countryside are required, not less.

Misplaced priorities
Whether one believes in man-made climate change or not (Donald Trump, considering his age, doesn't have to concern himself with it), we can't deny the fact that we have been experiencing extreme weather events that threaten our precious food supply. We could be just a few consecutive disasters away from quite troubling times.

How many of us would be able to survive in a kind of post-apocalyptic planet, something akin to what we often see portrayed in Hollywood movies?

It would seem fair to say that a majority of "First Worlders" have become too reliant on our modern comforts, on a lifestyle where we can get pretty much anything we want when we want it.
"We won't be too concerned about our mental health when our very existence is under threat."
As a species, we could also be accused of vastly overvaluing non-essentials at the expense of the essentials. Think Hollywood again, that whole world of showbiz and fame.

Heck, I left the land I was reared on (as the majority of rural-born people do these days) to go on to pursue a career (can I call it that?!) in media. Fair enough, journalism plays — or at least used to play — an important role as the fourth estate, it can be a force of positive change.

However, the counter-argument here is that this vocation has lost its way and relevance in recent times (whisper it, "#FakeNews". Thanks Donald). And don't get me started again on the evil incarnate that is marketing!

On a similar note, a Colombian psychologist friend told me how he wanted to get "back to the land", fearing that without preventative action now he would be useless when faced with a future scenario where one had to fend for oneself for the bare necessities.

As he put it, when it's a simple matter of life or death, very few people will be looking to take the time to think deeply about it all, teasing out the pros and cons. His profession would be practically surplus to requirements.

Basically, and as much as I'm not a fan of Christianity (or any religion really), the old mantra of 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust and dust you shall return' rings true.

The land, the planet will have the last laugh.

Those old backward rednecks who understand it a little better than most mightn't seem so repulsive then.
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Facebook: Wrong Way Corrigan – The Blog & IQuiz “The Bogotá Pub Quiz”.
Listen to The Colombia Cast podcast here.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Colombia's not-so-magical realism

Back in the heady days of the Republic of Ireland's "glorious" run at Italia '90 — fair enough, the team reached the last eight but did so without winning a single game in 90 minutes — it practically amounted to treason to question the side's approach or not to be fully supportive of "the boys in green".
Róger Martínez celebrates his goal for Colombia against Argentina at the Copa América 2019.
Relax, la Selección is winning, everything's fine! (Image from fcf.com.co.)
The one pundit who did go against the national zeitgeist, Eamon Dunphy, was temporarily banished from his role with the state broadcaster RTÉ. He dared to criticise the Irish performance after a drab 0-0 draw with Egypt.

He wasn't really wrong with what he said but the country didn’t want to hear such harsh truths in the flood of bonhomie and giddy excitement that a first-ever World Cup appearance swept in.

Don't rock the boat, baby!
This was pre-Celtic Tiger Ireland. Much poorer and, it could be said, more innocent times. The nation badly needed a pick-me-up and Jack Charlton's heroes delivered that (some people have even attributed it to playing an important part in the economic boom that was to follow). Clear-headed, unbiased analysis wasn't wanted.

Nowadays, however, it's pretty much a national pastime to be critical of the Republic of Ireland soccer team. It could even be said that some of it is over-the-top.

Nonetheless, as a nation matures, its people, in most cases, are better equipped to carry out some introspection, as difficult as it may be.

Looking at Colombia from a self-governing perspective, it's older than the Republic of Ireland. Yet in many aspects, it hasn't quite mastered the art of self-criticism.

This can be seen clearly enough in the soccer (or football if you will) world, for the beloved Selección.

Now I've never really believed in the impartial reporter malarkey, especially when it comes to sports commentary, but you'd like to think that such professionals could at least try to bring a semblance of balance to proceedings. Not here in Colombia.

The lads and lassies commentating and analysing on Colombian games see things solely through yellow-coloured (or blue or red when the side is playing in its alternative strip) glasses. Their heavily-biased approach only adds further fuel to the fire of an already highly-strung watching public. Win, lose or draw, all sense of realism is lost.
"It was the euphoria that led me to stab you. Que pena!"
Take the opening, and fully merited, Copa América win over Argentina. Yes, the Argys have a number of individuals of truly world-class standard. Yet, the reality is, the collective has been much less than the sum of its parts for a couple of years now.

Their form of late against fellow South American teams, for one, has been patchy to say the least. That should be factored into any proper analysis of Colombia's victory. However, on the whole here, it's not.

This isn't to say that it was a "nothing win" for Colombia, not at all. You can make a case for them to go far. Colombia's performance was as solid as what we've seen thus far. But let's just take it game by game for now, keep things in perspective.

Going backwards, at speed
Of course, a country losing the run of itself over football "success" is harmless really, save for the odd violent incident that happens post-match. ("Oops, it was the euphoria that led me to stab you. Que pena!).

In politics and the general running of the country, on the other hand, overlooking facts, ignoring certain obvious signs that things may not be as you're saying they are, that's a recipe for disaster. For more balanced commentators on Colombia, there's a feeling that the country's on the slide (two years ago, in Colombia's comedown?, I touched on some of these challenges).

The right-leaning president, Iván Duque, not quite a year in the post, hasn't done much to steady the ship. On the contrary, for many observers, things are in reverse.

There is a theory that keeping the country on the precipice suits certain powerful interests. One wouldn't want to unlock Colombia's great potential to the masses or those of a different ilk. A "jobs for the boys" kind of approach. Considering this land's history, you'd have to say there might be something to that.

But hey, as long as La Selección keeps on winning, everything's wonderful, isn’t it?
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Facebook: Wrong Way Corrigan – The Blog & IQuiz “The Bogotá Pub Quiz”.
Listen to The Colombia Cast podcast here. 

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

The accidental gomelo

"You're a posh boy now, a gomelo." So go the jibes from my old barrio buddies now that I find myself living in a "swankier" part of Bogotá ('gomelo', for the uninitiated, is the Colombian word for what you might call preppy types).
Entering Santandercito on Carrera 16 just off Calle 183 in the north of Bogotá.
Santandercito: Out of sight but by no means out of mind.
Yes, it's true, my move a few kilometres south from my beloved San Antonio/Santandercito sees me placed in plushier surrounds.

The thing is, however, when my hand was forced to move, the chance to live within a more reasonable walking distance — 4.5 km versus 10 km — of the office appealed (I'm still in that full-time job, somehow). Save time and, potentially, money.
"Perhaps I'll embrace the gomelo guise."
For, as surprising as this may seem, the rent in my new Cedritos Lisboa location is comparable to what I was paying out on the city limits. What's more, it comes with much more in terms of furnishings and appliances.

Having a well-kitted-out place is a bonus of sorts considering I still, after almost eight years based in Bogotá, have a backpacker mentality when it comes to "settling down" and making a house a home.

The state of the kitchen in the new abode could yet become a contentious issue, as it often tends to be when sharing. I have to revise my theory that all elderly women always keep their homes in pristine condition. The situation is more than manageable for now, though. 

Stranded
The biggest drawback is that it's pretty much right in the middle of "Poshville". That is to say, you have to walk a bit of a distance — not a big deal for me, in fairness — to get back to the barrios populares for the "proper" panaderías, tiendas and all that kind of good stuff.

Some of Bogotá's other upper-class areas, in contrast, find themselves stuck next to the riff-raff. Closer to the centre, La Macarena bordering La Perseveranica, my spiritual home in a way, is one example of this.

On top of being "stranded in salubrity" so to put it, these richer neighbourhoods tend to be a little sterile. There's no real life to them. They're bland at best; the barrios, on the other hand, have a buzz about them.

Go gomelo
Nonetheless, for as long as I have this full-time office job, staying in such a stale sector with its proximity to work is fine. During the week, with the current eat, sleep, work, repeat routine, I don't really have the time like before to enjoy the barrios in any case. It's purely a weekend delight these days. That's OK. Too much of a good thing and all that.

Or who knows, maybe I'll adapt to my new environment and take on this gomelo guise. "What say you, güevón?" "Osea, Lord help us!"
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Friday, 31 May 2019

Let's talk (reluctantly) about sex

I came across ... ... No, let's use a different phrasal verb considering the subject matter here. I stumbled across — much better — a quote from John Bayley, the (long-suffering?!) husband of the late Irish-British novelist Iris Murdoch. Bayley thought that sex was "inescapably ridiculous", in contrast to Murdoch who, it is said, had multiple affairs with both men and women.
A beer is very often more enjoyable than sex ...
Indeed ... (Image from me.me)
Bayley's "inescapably ridiculous" reference to sex resonated with me. I've had a number of sexual partners, the majority being more one-night stands than anything more regular albeit, and I struggle to remember a time when I found intercourse truly enjoyable. Most previous 'engagements' were more like jobs that had to be done rather than immensely pleasurable acts.

More by accident than design
This isn't to say I was purely "selfish" about it, just in a race to reach my climax, to heck with her. Well, perhaps it was less so than by design in all honesty, but I did satisfy my playing partners before I was "done" on a number of occasions — unless they're good fakers/liars, which would never be the case, surely?

Of course, the men's problem, if we view it as such, is that when we reach the "point of no return" so to put it, we have to wait a while to get going again. Women, so it goes, can have multiple orgasms if men (or whoever) can be bothered to take them there.
"Having sex is not the be-all and end-all."
The thing is, referring back to Bayley, I don't tend to long for sex. When I see friends basically fretting about how long it has been since they last did it, I'm rather indifferent. It's not, quite literally, something that keeps me awake at night.

It could be that I just haven't met the right person to properly "get it on with". I could equate it to the time I explained to a friend that my feeling when taking a certain drug was usually unspectacular at best, he suggested I hadn't been getting it at the right potency.

Yet, my own experiences and the relationship hardships I've seen other acquaintances deal with would make me believe that the "right person" is a bit of a fantasy. You have to let a lot go, settle for certain things if you want to convince yourself he/she is the right person. The way it is for many things in life, really.

Avoidably ridiculous
Now my rather conservative Irish Catholic background undoubtedly plays a part in this sex indifference (Colombia is traditionally a Catholic country as well, but as I wrote before, that influence has manifested itself quite differently here in many aspects).

The mere mention of the word makes Irish people of a certain generation somewhat uncomfortable. This doesn't mean, however, that they don't enjoy it.

For me, it's certainly not the be-all and end-all as some of my peers seem to believe.

Unlike Bayley, though, I view it as "avoidably ridiculous" these days. For now at least.
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Friday, 17 May 2019

"I is the expert"

An old friend once told me that in the world of horserace gambling, it's best to be in one of two camps: The first is to know a lot about it, where you make an informed, "backed-up-by-facts" decision on your selection. The other is knowing nothing or practically nothing about the subject.

If you're going to make a mistake, Avianca, you might as well make it a big one!
"It's fine, I checked it all on Google translate."
Obviously enough, in a pursuit where there's an amount of chance at play, neither position is a guarantee for success. Nonetheless, in the event of failure, the expert can go back to the drawing board, study harder to be better prepared for next time, assured (as much as one can in this particular game) that his/her superior know-how will help him/her come good.

For the very occasional backer of horses, the one who has no intentions of moving past the novice stage, the just-for-fun flutter that didn't work, it's not a problem. It's a very minor part of such a person's life.

Malign middle ground
It's those in the middle who aren't at expert level, and perhaps never will be, but yet have enough knowledge so as to sound as if they know what they're talking about, to the point that they convince themselves they are right, this is the problem group.

People in this category, unlike the expert, aren't savvy enough to realise where they've gone wrong and in contrast to the novice, they'll continue throwing good money after bad.
"Sometimes they get too ballsy." 
We can easily apply this three-level concept to the world of language learning. In fact, it could be said it's a great fit for it. 

The experts, generally speaking, are the natives or the non-natives who have acquired an almost-native level. Of course, language is much more than just knowing all the mechanics of it, it's a culture.

It's one thing to know a language that you weren't brought up on very well (and many non-natives who get to this level will understand the rules of the language better than most natives), it's quite another to speak it so as you seamlessly fit in with the native-speaking group in question.

Just among speakers of the same language, this can be challenging. For example, look at Chilean Spanish versus Colombian Spanish or Indian English versus Irish English.

On the opposite side, we have the novices, the beginners. In the same way with the horseracing, if the expert tells beginners to go for X, it's highly unlikely they'll question it. They'll bow to the 'pro's' better judgement. Most of the time they'd be right to do so. Most of the time.
"Google translate trumps the native speaker."
Then there are the intermediate-level learners. They won't always take what the expert tells them as gospel. On occasions, they might be right to do so; their doubts prove well-founded. Nobody gets it right all the time.

However, sometimes they get a little too ballsy, they think they know best, to heck with the experts. This, more often than not, leads to silly mistakes.

Now in the classroom sphere, that's OK. Live and learn — the point being one is in the classroom to learn.

In the professional world, it plays out a little differently.

All-encompassing experts 
Take the case of a Colombian company (it may be its national airline), dominated, naturally enough, by Spanish-speaking folk. From a marketing perspective, it would appear that those calling the shots have an OK level of English, as many high-up people in such big companies do. Perhaps like my Spanish, fine but far from perfect.

As an airline that flies around the world, it not only advertises in Spanish but English as well, this being an outsourced job (the vast majority of its advertising is). The final say on what goes public, though, and only right really, comes from management.

This is when "know-it-all" intermediate-level English speakers wielding power are dangerous. They want it their way, in their English (well, with the help of a poor translation from Google translate).

Fair enough, changing an adjective here or a turn of phrase there isn't a big deal. Yet, when it's grammatically incorrect or confusingly written, and not in a smart way (think of Apple's "think different"), then it's just wrong.

But hey, they know best. "Thems are the experts."

The thing is, being an expert in one field doesn't make you an expert in all. Too much time spent on that high horse can damage the brain.
______________________________________
Facebook: Wrong Way Corrigan - The Blog & IQuiz "The Bogotá Pub Quiz".

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

A matter of motivation

It's pretty much accepted that money is not the chief motivator when it comes to our working lives. It plays a part to a point, but for the majority of us, there has to be more to our job than the pay packet at the end of the week or month or whenever.

Whether you're one of those who truly enjoys what you do or you see your employment as solely a means to an end, the real motivation to keep going generally comes from somewhere other than the 'dirty cash'.
There are different things that motivate us to work. Money isn't one of the most important of these ...
This is missing enjoyment ... (From http://www.securens.in)

It could be that you feel what you do gives you meaning, that quest to find fulfilment, or other life factors — doing it for your children, the ability to travel, a stepping stone to something greater, etc. — give you the push to keep at it.

Pays the bills
From a personal perspective, if it was just about the loot, I'd kick The Colombia Cast podcast to touch, not to mention this blog, and be much less bothered about IQuiz. The podcast is, for now anyway and like this blog always has been, purely a labour of love while IQuiz is more or less in the same boat.
"Keep the head down and drink the free coffees."
The new (can I still call it new after four months?) and time-consuming full-time job more than pays the bills. This is not to say it's really well-paid, it's just my overheads are not that high. Another plus point for the "barrio popular". That and the fact I've now less free time to actually enjoy my salary.

This is where the money plays a role. It's not that it motivates per se, it's more a case that in the absence of other sources of steady income, it fills a hole.

Yet, as mentioned before, the mentality of offering your services to third parties, parties that you don't have any direct dealings with and don't always agree with their message, is something I find hard to fathom.

I've been used to work, be it independent or with others, where I've been, or at least felt, intrinsically involved in the output. In this current gig, that's much less the case. That feeling of not really being involved doesn't tend to leave one disposed to give their all.

Underworked, overpaid?
Now it would be a whole lot worse — a resigning matter really — if my position was very taxing. It's not. This isn’t to say it’s a case of being underworked and overpaid. The downtimes allow me to concentrate on my personal projects.
"It's our show, so play that goddamn tune, piper!"
What's more, when the hardest part of your working day amounts to not much more than making sure you arrive on time, it's not a bad state of affairs. Well, that and biting my lip sometimes when advertising copy I write is changed by non-native English speakers to something I feel is inferior. "The client is always right, even when they're wrong." "Then why bother asking for my input in the first place?" "Just play the goddamn tune, piper!"

A moment's breath usually sees me right. It's not my brand or company I'm doing it for after all. Let it go.

So, you might ask, if that's the height of my grievances, why make an issue out of it? Keep the head down, drink your free coffees, take your monthly pay and repeat.

Satisfaction, that's what's at play. Having that feeling that our talents are being used in the most appropriate way. Doing what we should be doing, or at least what we think we should be doing. It's what we all strive for, isn't it?

People might say, and have said, "Sure you'll never be happy." That's the thing. This pursuit of happiness is what keeps us all going.

It's not that we're fundamentally unhappy, not at all. It's that there's always another level to reach. That's where the motivation lies.
___________________________
Facebook: Wrong Way Corrigan - The Blog & IQuiz "The Bogotá Pub Quiz".

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Me, myself and I

There is an expression we use in Ireland to describe those who put themselves before everybody else. We call them 'mé féiners', putting an English ending to two Irish-language words, 'mé féin', meaning 'myself'.

Basically, you could say these are a type of fundamentalist individualist. 'The greater good for the greater number' only comes into play if it means a significant gain for them. Otherwise, it's not a runner.
Bogotá's car-free day, 'Día sin carro', has been somewhat successful over the years.

The selfish gene
Of course, in many ways, we are all a bit like this, we are quite selfish beings. Many often talk a good 'community game', but on a normal day-to-day basis, it tends to be the self and, maybe, close family that occupy our minds rather than that 'bigger picture'.
“Many wealthy people aren’t prepared to see their living standards drop.”
Take all those wealthy leaders and job creators, be they on the left or on the right, who live in a world far removed from the people they claim to help and represent. They are usually very reluctant to reduce their costly living standards, something that might help society as a whole.

Accidental goodness
On many occasions, that self-centred interest, more by accident than design, is favourable to more than just those closest to us. We, most of us I like to think anyway, work hard to have a better living, add more meaning to our existence, and others who we don't know, who we've never met, benefit from this.

This work ethic contributes to the greater good — this applies less so to some areas of employment than others. (Again, what are those politicians about?)

However, on other occasions, and more frequently it could be argued, this self-centredness doesn't add anything at all to the collective good.

Here in Bogotá, a city with considerable traffic congestion, you have those who insist on taking their private cars to work even when they don't really need to. What's more, the wealthier types have a number of vehicles at their disposal in order to circumvent some well-intentioned measures aimed at reducing traffic volume.
“No matter what we do, we’re doomed anyway.”
For sure, similar to many other places, public transport is far from ideal in the city. Yet, if more people started using it coupled with a resulting greater revenue generated to be pumped back into it, it would be better, more efficient and, keeping with the zeitgeist, greener. That's the theory anyway. The practice in these parts is usually a long way off the mark.

Lap it up
There is the whole "Who cares?" mentality in all of this as well. Referring back to my Saving ourselves post from a while back, the argument can be made that no matter what we do, we're doomed anyway.

Our way of life is going to drastically change soon, whether that's in our lifetime or not, so let's just enjoy the ride and lap things up as best we can. "Why inconvenience myself for future generations when the chance of the very existence of these future generations is in grave doubt?"

Fair enough. But there are 'greater good' measures we could take now that would result in an almost immediate benefit. How we commute on a daily basis is just one of those.

If we'd fewer vehicles with only one or two people sitting in them clogging up our highways and byways, practically everyone would benefit from that, even, nay especially, those currently in said vehicles.

Some people are just a bit too "mé féiner" to realise this.
______________________________________________
Facebook: Wrong Way Corrigan - The Blog & IQuiz "The Bogotá Quiz".

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

The Colombia caste

"You can take the man out of the barrio, but you can't take the barrio out of the man." OK, that old saying doesn't really apply to me in its entirety.

For Bogotá's 'barrios populares', the working-class neighbourhoods are still 'where it's at' for me, in a living and socialising sense. So, for better or for worse, I haven't removed myself from them.

Brendan 'Wrong Way' Corrigan in La Perseverancia, Bogotá, Colombia
At home in barrio tienda ...
Moving on up?
The most significant change in the last few months, outside of the new trial podcast, has been the addition of a full-time, relatively well-paid job, the first time I've had a proper 8-6 gig in Colombia (Dolly Parton would have to change the lyrics of her 9-5 hit to suit these parts).
"Most aren't from very rich backgrounds."
With that new employment have come, unsurprisingly enough, new colleagues.

Now I think it's safe to assume that none of these, or at least very few of them, are from uber-rich Colombian backgrounds. No, the majority would appear to be associated with that growing — so the government here like to tell us it's growing anyway, being as it is a sign of a country on the up and all that — middle class.

So, in this regard, I'm paddling the same canoe as my new workmates. Earning more than the majority but still a good bit off the strata five and six living.

The thing is, when it comes to socialising, while I'm happier to do that in these aforementioned barrios populares, a lot of my colleagues prefer the swankier and — as far as I'm concerned anyway — unjustifiably expensive parts of town.

Penny-pinching?
Yes, I've been banging on this drum for some time now. The situation isn't going to change in the near future, if ever.

Nonetheless, to restate the point, some people see my reluctance, nay refusal, to socialise in said swankier parts of Bogotá as being tight, 'tacaño' as they say here.
"It's like paying over 20 euros for a pint in Europe."
I have no problem paying more for something that I feel is worth it. However, when it comes to socialising or more specifically nights out, what is anathema to me is paying multiples, perhaps over five times more compared to what I'd pay in my barrio, for practically the same thing, "la misma miér...coles" as they'd say here. In all honesty, it makes me uncomfortable. And a little bit angry.

Barrio is best
Now just to put that in 'First World' terms, when you compare the price in a barrio bar/tienda to Bogotá's 'plush' places, it's like paying over 20 euros for a pint of beer in the latter. How many of you would be willing to do that?

This isn't a case of 'knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing' in relation to the fancier establishments, especially so when it's pretty much the same bloody product, often delivered with a poorer service. Fair enough, the price of this 'service', i.e., the extra staff, has to be taken into account.

What's more, there are generally higher utility charges and the like (this is where government action is needed to provide a reasonable middle ground).

That being said, handing over what I deem to be excessive amounts of cash is not my idea of a good time.

This is why I'll be largely sticking to socialising in 'my' barrios for the time being.
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