I’m writing this from Bogota’s equivalent of a ‘greasy spoon’ – a seedy cafe playing very loud radio and offering huge, deep fried breakfasts that for some reason I feel I deserve…

Since Mum left, tensions have been rising in Colombia in the build up to the elections on 25th May.  I’ve applied to be an international observer so hopefully I will be able to spot firsthand the corruption, vote-buying and concept of ‘El Voto Blanco’ which has received so much press recently.  Various public figures (including prolific Colombia critic Fernando Vallejo) have been encouraging the public to ‘Vote Blank’ so as to engage with the system but publicly demonstrate the lack of viable candidates for presidency, initiating some sort of revolution that I’m not sure many have given much thought to.

Anyway, el Voto Blanco in my mind shows greater engagement and awareness than the traditionally high abstention rates and the law which requires parties to receive a minimum of 350,000 votes in order to remain in the democratic system.  We will see how it all pans out.

El Paro Agrario (farmers’ strike) is now in its second week with students joining the ranks of farmers throughout the country, blocking roads and initiating public disturbances in the hope that the government will finally listen to the agrarian sector and enact policies to ensure its fair treatment.  I’ve been caught in tear gas twice so far – not a particularly nice experience but probably my own fault for seeking out the protests!  There was a great march on May 1st with representatives from lots of trade unions and workers organisations.  As always in Colombia however, peaceful protests are infiltrated by people who just want violence and ended up being suppressed by disproportionate police violence.  It is difficult to tell how this strike will end as politicians seem unwilling to negotiate with the farmers who they see as disruptive violence initiators, but I sense the farmers won’t back down as they feel their demands are not being listened to or taken seriously.

In other, more positive news, Bogota has hosted some incredible art exhibitions recently and the Feria de Libros (book fair) is currently underway.  It is a hugely impressive conference with exhibitions, book launches, talks by authors and masses of activities for people of all ages.  The guest country this year is Peru who have put on a fantastic exhibition of art, photography and poetry and many celebrated Peruvian authors are here giving talks and workshops.  I’m off again today to catch a couple of talks.  On Saturday it was so great to see so many children queuing to get their favourite book signed or sitting listening to readings.  A sight not too common in the UK!

I was asked by the editor of the City Paper to write a piece on the British boy who died taking Yaje in the South of the country.  Such a sad incident but an interesting article to write through my perspective rather than that given by English press.  Here it is for those who are interested.

http://thecitypaperbogota.com/news/yaje-a-dangerous-trip/

I managed to get an article in and Australian magazine – Green Left Weekly (great title!) – and hoping to publish as much as I can about what’s going on in Colombia in it.

https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/56328

A couple of weeks ago Lorena and I went to buy a load of materials for her to make me some clothes!  The joys of living with an artist!  Yesterday she emerged with a bikini and two dresses, beautifully made and they fit me perfectly!  Another huge reason to visit me….!

My lovely friends Tilda and Roo bought me a Nigel Slater recipe book for my birthday so I’m trying to do a dinner party every week.  So far I’ve done two and they have been pretty successful – Nigel Nights!

I’m off to Cuba in 6 days to meet my Dad which I’m so excited about!  I’ve been reading up lots about it and can’t wait to see my Dad salsa dance!  He has assured me he will point blank refuse but I reckon after a few mojitos there’ll be no stopping him…

Everyone’s getting very excited about the World Cup now with most people filling the Panini sticker album with the teams from all the countries.  One of the funniest sights I’ve seen here is groups of suited business men crowding in public spots at lunch times swapping stickers and crossing off various names on their meticulous lists and tables in an almost clandestine way as though they know what they’re doing is wrong…but it feels so right!  Reminds me of pokermon cards – but whenever I say that I’m brutally shot down by defensive men upholding their right to spend a fortune on a sticker album….

English lessons have been carrying on as usual and work at the NGO has been interesting.  I’m looking into the impact of Free Trade Agreements on human rights in Colombia. 

I’m past the 6 month mark now which is pretty terrifying!  I had an interview for a role with PBI a few weeks ago which if I get would start next January – so my plans are definitely to stick around for a while but we’ll see what happens.  George will be here in 5 weeks which I’m really excited about followed by Jess the month after!  And hopefully lots more visitors to follow…

Advertisements