As the ubiquitous year-end travel lists for 2014 are being penned as parting shots and final thoughts on 2013 by editors and hacks across the land, I find myself for once, wishing to write an end of term report as it were.
As always, a hat tip to my adopted homeland. Here’s a big shout out and thank you Colombia and in particular the lofty capital of Bogota. We go through a love hate relationship but at the moment the balance is heavily tipped to the positive. As always in the politics of the country there’s never a dull moment and Bogota’s unpopular mayor Gustavo Petro has been made popular by the idiocy of the actions of the Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez. Threatening the progress of the peace dialogues in Cuba with the Farc, creating a vocal movement of “indignados” across the country, perhaps this is the spark for some real social and institutional reform in Colombia? As I wrote recently in an opinion piece for the City Paper: “How exciting to be bidding farewell to 2013 and ushering the Presidential elections of 2014.” Can we just find someone charismatic and altruistic rather than petulant or a technocrat to add some interest to something that looks to be an otherwise dangerously one horse race?
Mompós and the Casa Amarilla
I am banking on 2014 to be the year that Mompós finally takes off. I was thinking about this the other day and was going over in my head how the business has grown and how the town has changed but we are as yet to fully maximize our potential. If you remember that we opened the Casa Amarilla in 2008 and so this year and 2009 were aimed at building a platform and recognition from which to grow. 2010 and 2011 despite so much promise were the years of dreadful nationwide flooding, Mompós and the region were no exception. In 2012 the business picked up since – despite there being a severe global economic crisis – most travelers had already paid for their tickets and holidays. 2013 was the year that a shortage of visitors hit Colombia and Cartagena and therefore Mompós in turn. It has not been terrible and we have never turned a loss, but, here’s hoping that 2014 is a boom year so that we can continue to launch projects that benefit the town and the local economy. One idea is to cultivate organic cacao, so, watch this space.
“The Mompós Project” and the Group of 13
For those who follow my ruminations it’ll be no secret that I am trying to write a memoir of my time here in Mompós, setting up the Casa Amarilla, the intricacies of living and surviving in small town Colombia, the legends and myths of the town and then putting it all into the context of contemporary and historical realities of Colombia. This has been a good year for creativity amongst the expat writing types in Bogota, some of us have baptized the collection as the Group of 13 (for 2013 when we finally met), inspired by the Group of 1927 in Spain which included Cernuda, Salinas and Lorca amongst others. Prior to being known as the Group of 13 we had been referred to as the SWG or Struggling Writers Group. But, since one of our number is an established and published author, we cannot all be struggling. Anyway, “the Mompós Project” has reached 35,000 words and I hope to have 50,000 written before returning to Bogota in late January.
Travel in 2013/ 2014
We have been busy in 2013 and I worked out that we had left these lands for a grand total of 4 days only visiting one country. Aruba was a fantastic long weekend break. Other holidays included a first time and long overdue visit to Popayan in southern Colombia and a repeat visit to Providencia 5 years after the first time. I am happy to say that we have booked a 10 day holiday to Brazil for late January and early February and will be heading off to hit the beaches and relax in Bahia. This will be my first trip back since I almost perished here in 2006!
Done and dusted I am now in theory a specialist in Conflict Resolution from the Universidad Pontificia Javeriana in Bogota. Eleven years after finishing my MA in International Journalism in London it was quite terrifying to hit the books once again, but, most enjoyable and informative. Perhaps this is a vital insight and understanding of the history and politics in the country that I call home. Now, to put it to work!
So, charge your glasses and bid farewell to 2013 and I hope that we can all strive forward in 2014. I’ll be back with new Colombia Calling shows with exciting new guests from early January, so don’t forget to tune in and of course I’ll be a regular in the City Paper with my opinion pieces.