2 Weeks in Colombia

A pictorial diary of two incredibly busy weeks in January

Ceci, waiting on me to make a decision and take her home with me.

Ceci followed me home. She adopted me. Her shedding provoked allergies in my home and with a three year old boy and one dog already, Ceci couldn’t stay. It was a heartbreaking decision, but one that had to made and saw me wandering the Avenida Caracas to see if any of the pet shops there in “petshoplandia” would take her. A transvestite in heavy eye liner was tempted, but thought better of it. A kindly vet checked and discovered that she was sterilized and had a chip. The chip number was revealed and the relevant page to check the registry was predictably, “under construction.” It still is as far as I can tell. We had to find a Hogar de Paso or kennel in which to keep Ceci while we located her family. A chance meeting in a ferreteria led me, after some pinball phonecalls and whatsapp messages, to a kennel located in the Villa del Cerro. You might want to avoid this barrio at night, but at 9am on a weekday even the ne’er do wells have descended from the slopes of the Cerro Orientales to Chapinero and beyond, even they have to work. Great views though.

Villa del Cerro, way up on the Cerros Orientales in Bogotá

With Ceci handed over to the kennel, a call comes in from Turkey informing me of the bomb attack on the General Santander police academy in south Bogotá. I was to go down there and film hourly updates on this tragedy which left 22 fatalities, including the bomber himself. The bombing was later attributed to the ELN guerrilla group. Many questions surrounding this attack remain unanswered.

A day later, I am contracted to accompany a visiting dignitary around central Bogotá, taking in the sights of the Candelaria and the Museo del Oro. I expected lights, sirens, motorbike security detail and blacked out suburbans from the US Embassy. Amazingly there was none of the above and the person in question was remarkably down to earth and unprententious. See the photo and article below for all to be revealed.

Visiting a Venezuelan refugee camp in Cucuta before coming to Bogotá.

Fortunately, my guest had ducked into the Alcaldia for a late afternoon meeting with Mayor Peñalosa, and so missed the protest taking place outside of CityTv and blocking sections of the Avenida Jimenez. Business as usual in downtown Bogotá against a backdrop of increasingly fractured, divisive and polarizing politics.

Robocop Chic

There was still time to record Episodes 258 and 259 of the Colombia Calling podcast and do some light work on my thesis. On 258, we explored with Sarah Jack from the Universidad Pedagogica the reasons behind the student protests in Colombia and on 259, Matt Aaron discussed Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and their movement in Colombia and Venezuela. Stay tuned for Ep 260 with academic and writer Alex Fattal where we’ll discuss his compelling new book, “Guerrilla Marketing: Counterinsurgency and Capitalism in Colombia.” Read the sparkling review in the New Yorker magazine.

Buy this book on Amazon

Then on Saturday, most of Colombia was shaken awake by a 5.5 tremor. “Richard, Richard, there’s a tremor,” shouted my wife. “Stay in bed,” was my response, after all, we are on the eighth floor, at this point there’s little that can be done. I expect, although am not completely certain, that our building has been constructed with the appropiate norms. Shrugging this off, I went to give a talk about Colombian politics to some tourists from the UK. Then, it was time to dust off the McColl tartan, watch endless YouTube videos of the Robert Burns poem, “Address to the Haggis,” to prepare for my recital at dinner that evening. While I may have butchered the scottish accent, there were a great many Colombians at the event and so each error was likely ignored. I’ll not dare post the video here, just in case, but rest assured I swung the knife around and stomped around appropriately.

The Bogotá Burns Night was a great success

On Sunday, the whole story comes around and completes the cycle. Teaming up with the kind-hearted folk of Somos Mestizos for a Jornada de Adopción in the Virrey Park, I was able to find Ceci a new and loving home. In fact, now we had been able to contact the original owners – who had clearly abandoned her somewhere – we discovered that Ceci’s original name was in fact, Sascha. Sascha has gone to where she is loved.

Sascha finds a new home

And so, that brings to an end two hectic weeks in Colombia in which the protagonist records podcasts, rescues a dog, finds said dog a home, accompanies an individual from a true political dynasty around Bogotá, avoids a protest, reports on a bombing and learns scottish vernacular so as to be able to address the haggis.

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