Thursday, February 28, 2008

Continuing Yesterday’s Post

I wrote yesterday’s post while awaiting a meeting with a co-worker so when she was freed up, I had to cut it short. For that reason, the last bit was truncated. Now, all one-off, no context commentary aside, I want to continue with the theme.

My wife and I have decided that our time here in Colombia is coming to an end. It wasn’t an easy decision, especially for her (leaving one’s home country, again, is never easy), but we are in agreement with the decision. There are a lot of variables that played into that decision, but essentially, it is time.

Our timetable gives us about 10 months more in country for me (possible 1 or 2 months more than that for her) at which point we transition to the US – in all probability, Washington DC. I, for one, feel relieved about that decision. Our initial plan was to live here for 1 year and now, that 1 year will end up being 3 years. There’s nothing wrong with that (I freely chose to continue living here, after all) but in sum, I have lived out of my own country for the better part of 4 years, going on 5 and I feel the urge to be near friends and family, to have steady access to burritos, and once again re-immerse myself in American culture.

What this decision does do, however, is give us impetus to take advantage of certain things here in Colombia that we have been wanting to take advantage of, but have not yet found the time. One of those is scuba diving. It’s one of the things I’ve wanted to do for a very long time and we’re both very excited to be taking a course in April and having our first real dives off the Isla Rosario in Cartagena on the first weekend of May.

We’re also headed to Peru next month. We’ll be seeing Lima, Cuzco, Macchu Picchu, and Islas Ballestas. That should be a fantastic trip, especially since my mother will be joining us.

In August, we have tentative plans to travel again. My wife will be in Europe for work and it seems like a good opportunity to visit friends in England. Hopefully that will play out (we were unable to take advantage of her April trip to Spain for various reasons).

So, like I alluded to yesterday, there is a lot to be grateful for and a lot to look forward too.

That being said, I wanted to speak a bit more on the “negativity” of my blog posts. There is a perception that I am unhappy in Colombia. I have contributed to that perception as I frequently talk about the negatives and omit the positives. I’ll take the blame for that. But I think it is important to consider the alternative. I don’t look at Colombia with rose colored glasses. The country has vast problems, greater than my home country has, and, very troubling, a vast percentage of the population tends to ignore or refuse to acknowledge those problems.

That doesn’t mean that “Colombia is sh*t” as one Colombian friend told me once (he was very drunk). And it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate or value the many wonderful things that Colombia offers (I have a new appreciation for family from living here, for example). What it means is that I care about Colombia. I see some of the worst things that this life has to offer on a daily basis (either on the nightly news or in the streets) and I question how a culture that is so incredibly warm could treat their own so incredibly bad.

For some reason, while riding the bus this morning, I was reminded of a university aged woman who I taught English to awhile back. She was attending the National Military University, the same one that was bombed in September 2006 (injuries, but no fatalities). The event shook her and shortly thereafter, she stopped coming to class and I lost track of what happened to her. But she spoke once, rather eloquently, about something I will label the “Ethic of Self-Ignorance”. Her rant went on about how Colombians walk by the homeless, the sick, the poor and do nothing, not even acknowledge the dire straits that a majority of the country experiences, and instead choose bottles of beer and diversionary telanovelas (soap operas). I felt that it wasn’t just the lack of action that she was speaking of – it was the lack of caring. It was the total, selfish disregard for a fellow human being that shocked her to her core and brought tears with her loss of innocence.

I was thinking of this today because I have a Colombian friend who I met in London who has adopted this Ethic. In London, he was “poor” as students are. He felt marginalized and less important than he does here. And that humanized him. It’s one of the reasons why we are friends. He began to realize that there is a world of suffering outside the walls of gated communities and private schools and it wasn’t easy. Two weeks ago, he told me (paraphrasing): “I don’t give a f*ck about any of those poor bastards. F*ck ‘em. They would never help me, so I’ll never lift a finger to help them.” He went on at length.

This attitude seriously bothers me. It bothers me to the point that I wonder what our friendship has left. It bothers me because gringos come to Colombia to find poor, beautiful wives who will do anything to have a better chance in life, even if it means sleeping with el Gordo once a week until she gets that green card. It bothers me because I have, for better or worse, dedicated the last 1+ year to working to provide economic opportunities to the disadvantaged and at risk. It bothers me because I am currently working to provide an innovative, educational opportunity to those on the margin of society, for those who have little hope in this world and need something extra to show them that they can be more than that which they see around them. It bothers me because no one should have to pull a hand-made wooden cart across the city collecting discarded boxes just to scrape by a living (these people work harder than anyone in the country and make next to nothing). It bothers me because I’m a F-ing human being who shouldn’t be forced to turn my head at misery and ignore it. And it bothers me because most of the time I feel helpless to do anything about it.

So please, forgive me if I come across as judgmental sometimes. I’m human. And I see problems which have solutions. Those solutions will require some team work, some cooperation, some volunteerism. But they can be solved. What isn’t needed down here, however, is more profit seeking, more individualism, more turning our heads away while someone suffers in ways that no one should be allowed to suffer.

And forgive me if I just don’t go into one of the bars here and get drunk. Forgive me if I don’t party all night long like a rock star. Forgive me if I appear overly serious and overinvested in the problems I see. I’m not here on vacation. I’m not here to get drunk. I’m here to live, to grow, to experience. And I’m here to see if I can at least make a small impact that could positively affect the lives a few in need.

Perhaps this all speaks to why Obama’s message of hope resonates with me. Unlike some (mainly HRC supporters, brain dead media types, or Repugs), I don’t see his “hope” as shallow rhetoric. I see it as an important message that needs to be taken to those who need hope the most – the poor and downtrodden. As Obama would say, that message doesn’t get carried by words, it gets carried by deeds.

So, yeah, sometimes this whole bit brings me down. And yeah, most of the time, that gets played out on this blog. But I'm not trying to present Colombia as some paradise. It isn't. It's just as brutal, dirty, and barbaric as it is lively, rich, and entertaining. I just don't think the world needs yet another website going on about how great Colombia is. So please, forgive my touch of realism. I try to see the world as it really is all the while working to make it how I want it to be (in small ways). I will not apologize for that.



Blogger noise said...

hahah for god's sake dude you already know you're leaving and you are still ranting? holy shit grow up, oh yeah....isn't stereotyping fun? wuhhh you tell me, you do it in every post

1:13 PM  
Blogger noise said...

oh yeah i forgot to tell you dude, what a sucky place to dive, seriously? couldn't the gringo come up with something much better like San Andres Island or maybe Providencia and the keys? it's called Crab Key

1:19 PM  

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