Medellin Living http://medellinliving.com Colombia Travel Blog Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:00:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Two Escobars: Andrés Escobar’s Vision of Colombia Thrives, 20 Years Later http://medellinliving.com/two-escobars-documentary/ http://medellinliving.com/two-escobars-documentary/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:00:13 +0000 http://medellinliving.com/?p=21544 Ryan tells us about "The Two Escobars," a documentary about fútbol star Andres Escobar and his hopes for his country during a time of great struggle.

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Two decades ago, the last time Colombia fielded a great national fútbol team, the people here partied hard, like they did recently, only then it was based on anticipation.

Colombia qualified for the 1994 World Cup in the United States by beating Argentina, 5-0, in Buenos Aires. Pele, the legendary Brazilian, picked Colombia to go all the way.

The team had a great leader, defenseman Andrés Escobar, the kind of man every mother wanted her son to be and her daughter to marry.

I had read about Andrés as a kid, but his story was brought to life in “The Two Escobars,” a documentary about how Andrés Escobar’s life intertwined with the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar, even though they were not related.

Perhaps the most vivid images in the movie are tied to the violence Pablo brought, but my favorite anecdotes revolved around Andrés.

His sister said he realized he was becoming famous but he stayed humble because he was committed to improving Colombia’s image.

His girlfriend said he helped his teammates stay disciplined.

But the best comments came from César Mauricio Velásquez, a Colombian journalist who talked about Andres’ vision for his country.

“Andrés Escobar always believed soccer could curb violence,” Velásquez said. “He saw soccer as a school of life, to teach values and tolerance, to learn to win, to learn to lose, to embrace sport as a sanctuary of unity.

“Andrés always stayed true to that belief. As captain of the Colombian National Team, he was known as ‘the Gentleman of the Field.’ ”

I loved that part of the movie.

Celebrating in Parque Lleras

There was a lot of celebrating in Medellín during the 2014 World Cup.

I watched it again recently, actually shortly after La Selección 2014 was eliminated by Brazil in the quarterfinals of the World Cup.

It really puts things in perspective.

Colombia was extremely dangerous 20 years ago, especially Medellín, where more than 600 people were murdered per month.

Today the murder rate is about 80 percent lower.

It’s no wonder so many Colombians continued to celebrate after the loss to Brazil.

The 2014 national team, which made history by advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time ever, was a metaphor for this place and its people.

Unprecedented success on the field coincides with the country’s overwhelming success in life.

Through last June, the country saw an increase in tourism of 7.7 percent compared to that same six-month period in 2012, a jump from 900 million visitors to more than 970 million, according to Colombia’s Trade Ministry.

The threat of violence still exists but it’s a lot more muted. You probably won’t get in trouble if you don’t go looking for it.

“No te metas, no se metan,” my friend Daniel said.

He’s my first paisa friend ever, and has always given me good advice.

Andrés never went looking for trouble, but after the team had a disastrous showing at the 1994 World Cup, including Andrés’ own goal that cost Colombia the game against the United States, he should not have gone out to party with his friends.

As almost everyone knows by now, he was murdered that night.

Upon his return to Colombia, he wrote a column for one of the country’s newspapers in which his message was, “Life goes on.”

Maybe his did not, but I bet he’s smiling somewhere because his country and its national team are more full of life than ever.

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Shopping at Florida Parque, Medellín’s Newest Mall http://medellinliving.com/florida-parque/ http://medellinliving.com/florida-parque/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:00:49 +0000 http://medellinliving.com/?p=21152 Florida Parque is the newest shopping mall in Medellín but isn't located in El Poblado. Florida Parque is located near Cerro El Volador in Robledo.

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Florida Parque, Medellín’s newest mall

Florida Parque, Medellín’s newest mall

Florida Parque is the newest Western-style shopping mall in Medellín, but it isn’t located in El Poblado. Florida Parque is located near Cerro El Volador in Robledo, a barrio that hasn’t been discovered by many foreigners.

Construction of Florida Parque started in early 2012 and the mall opened in May 2013, so the mall has been open a little over a year. The mall was built with an investment of about 100 billion pesos (over $54 million). The shops in Florida Parque employee about 2,000 staff.

The mall construction progress can be seen with this video:

The company that built Florida Parque found during their research that the area was underserved without a shopping mall with a population of about 700,000 in barrios nearby.

People living in this area had no close mall option and had to travel to shop in Bello or El Centro or in malls even further away before Florida Parque was built.

The company also felt that malls already saturate neighborhoods like El Poblado and further south in Sabeneta.

I tend to agree and I believe that El Poblado is overbuilt with malls, which is why you can see some vacancies in some of the malls such as Oviedo.

The Shops in Florida Parque

On the opening date last year, 95% out of a total of 204 shops in Florida Parque were occupied in the new mall. I only saw a couple of vacancies when I was at the mall recently.

The anchor tenants of Florida Parque are Euro Supermercado, Alkomprar, Agaval and a seven screen Cinemas Procinal movie theater.

Euro Supermercado

Euro Supermercado

Euro Supermercado is a supermarket where I found something difficult to find in Medellin, dill pickles. A large 46-oz jar of Valasic dill pickles imported from the US cost 8,860 pesos ($4.77).

You can also find Euro in Central Mayorista in Itagüí and there are also two Euro stores in Envigado.

Alkomprar - electronics

Alkomprar – electronics

Alkomprar is like a small Best Buy selling televisions, computers, appliances and other electronics and they frequently have sales.

You can also find Alkomprar in several other malls in Medellin including Los Molinos, Puerta del Norte, Mayorca and also one is located in El Centro.

Agaval – discount tennis shoes

Agaval – discount tennis shoes

Agaval is a large store primarily selling major brand tennis shoes (i.e. Adidas, LA Gear, New Balance, Nike, Puma, Reebok, and others) at discount prices but also selling clothes and televisions and other electronics.

At Agaval I purchased a pair of New Balance tennis shoes on sale for 99,990 pesos ($53), which was about 45 percent cheaper than I had seen for the same shoes in stores in the Los Molinos mall near my apartment. Agaval also has standalone stores in Bello, Itagüí, Junin and El Centro.

Esprit Outlet

Esprit Outlet

Agaval was probably the busiest store I saw while walking around Florida Parque. Of the nearly 200 other stores in Florida Parque selling clothes, shoes and other items, Esprit Outlet was another fairly popular store with 50 percent discounts on clothes.

St. Even, one of several lingerie stores

St. Even, one of several lingerie stores

Of course, no larger mall in Medellín is complete without several lingerie stores and Florida Parque has several.  I understand that Colombia is the third largest producer of lingerie globally.

Lower level food court surrounds an open courtyard

Lower level food court surrounds an open courtyard

Food Options

Florida Parque has two food courts located on two floors, which have about 40 different options to choose from.

You will find several of the typical fast food places in Medellín here including Frisby, KFC, Kokoriko, QBano, Sr. Wok and Subway.

You will also find several restaurants in Florida Parque including Crepes and Waffles, El Covacho, Il Forno, J&C Delicias and La Olla Criolla.

Conclusions

Pro’s – It’s a nice new mall and not yet very busy compared to some of the other malls in Medellín, if you don’t like crowds. It also has several stores with good prices.

Con’s – It is relatively far from the neighborhoods where most foreigners stay or live (El Poblado, Laureles/Estadio, Envigado and Belén).

My Verdict – Unless you live in one of the barrios nearby there really isn’t a reason to go, as there isn’t something unique at Florida Parque that you can’t find in other locations in Medellín.

How to Get There – From the metro station Hospital you can take a feeder bus to Robledo, integrated route 254 or a taxi. You can also take bus routes 282, 283, 284, 289 and 402.

Note: we plan to publish a detailed profile of the Robledo comuna at the end of the month.

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Gluten-Free Dining at Antonio’s Restaurant http://medellinliving.com/gluten-free-antonios-restaurant/ http://medellinliving.com/gluten-free-antonios-restaurant/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:00:58 +0000 http://medellinliving.com/?p=21483 Healthy and flavorsome, Antonio’s restaurant is a delight for those with a gluten-free diet, with simply delicious vegan food at just as delicious prices.

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Antonio's Restaurant

Lunch al fresco style

Apparently you don’t have to look far to find a vegan restaurant in Medellín and now there’s a new one in town.

Opened this past May, Antonio’s restaurant is a delight for those with a gluten-free diet. With simply delicious vegan food at just as delicious prices, this cosy little restaurant in the Belén area of Medellín is a winner.

Family-run by no less than Antonio (the II as he pointed out, not the I), this healthy, vegan and artisan restaurant offers a first class lunch experience and with only four al-fresco tables, you’re guaranteed a quick lunch stop.

For just 9,500 pesos ($5) you can order the meal of the day: a three course meal and a drink, and the menu changes each day.

But if you prefer just one dish instead of three, there’s a lunch menu with everything from vegetarian lasagna – 8,500 pesos ($4.50), hamburguesa portobello (a mushroom burger) – 8,500 pesos ($4.50), to oriental rice – 8,000 pesos ($4.30) and there’s even mini hamburgers (sin carne) for those with a smaller appetite from 3,500 pesos ($1.90).

Being a meat eater, I was surprised by the variety on the menu and opted for the menu of the day consisting of cream of broccoli soup accompanied by pineapple and strawberry juice.

Antonio's Restaurant, Medellín

Cream of broccoli soup for starters

Each meal appeared to have a culinary twist from sesame seeds with the soup, to a pineapple sauce with the lentil patties.

Fluffy brown rice, a medley of beans and vegetables, and a mango salad made the finishing touches to a healthy, wholesome meal, but the crème de la crème has to be the desert.

A ground Colombian-style crumble made with quinoa and berries, a vegan delight of which made me want seconds.

Antonio's Restaurant, Medellín

Menú del día – Meal of day

All meals are cooked by Antonio’s wife, and if you can’t make it to the restaurant for lunch then they will come to you, (for a minimum order of 20,000 pesos ($10.70).

Antonio’s delivers to El Centro, Poblado and Belén and you can telephone your order in before lunch. By the time I arrived at 11:30 a.m., there were already nine orders in the delivery queue.

You can also buy organic products here too, from organic cereals to fluoride-free toothpastes. Perfect for healthy paisas.

Antonio, the proud owner

Antonio, the proud owner

Antonio explained that it was in California where he decided to turn vegan, and after living in the States for 13 years, him and his wife Christina returned to their home country of Colombia and Antonio’s Rinconcito Saludable was born.

Healthy, flavorsome and totally scrumptious, I know where I’m going to be eating from now on…

The restaurant is only open during the day and closes at 7 p.m.

If you want to catch Antonio outside opening hours, you can witness him in his other passion, as a DJ at one of the clubs in the city, like Impereal or as part of the Mary Hellen hip hop band or Kiño group.

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Marina Orth Foundation: Education, Leadership and Technology http://medellinliving.com/marina-orth-foundation/ http://medellinliving.com/marina-orth-foundation/#respond Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:00:58 +0000 http://medellinliving.com/?p=21189 We learn more about the work of the Marina Orth Foundation and how Medellin living readers can support their work in education, leadership and technology.

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A volunteer with students at Marina Orth Foundation

A volunteer with students at Marina Orth Foundation

In the first of our series showcasing the great work NGOs are doing in Medellín, I have a sit down chat with Mala Henriques, a Project Coordinator at the Marina Orth Foundation, who tells us all about their work and how you can support them.

What is the mission of the Foundation?

Our overall mission is to provide an excellent, modern education for students no matter their race, economic status or gender, so that they will be able to complete globally.

We have three pillars that underpin our work: technology, teaching English and leadership.

Why was it started and when was it founded?

Escuela Marina Orth began in the sixties when Peace Corps volunteer Maureen Orth, now known as Marina Orth in Colombia, was asked by the people of the rural community of Aguas Frias, in the Andes Mountains above Medellín, to help them build a school.

In 2004, Dr. Horacio Arango, Secretary of Education of Medellín, asked Ms Orth to help make the school named after her, the first public bilingual school in Medellín.

What problems are you currently trying to solve?

Colombia is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural resources, yet one of the most unequal in terms distribution of wealth, and has one of the largest internally displaced populations.

These are challenges that Colombia faces on a national level and affect every person living in the country either directly or indirectly. We work mainly with young people who are affected by these problems to help them contribute to their solutions.

Colombia needs good leaders, and to be able to combat issues like corruption and poor governance, we are trying to create a trustworthy generation who will have a real sustainable impact on the future of the country. This is what this foundation tries to encourage and helps produce.

Our education model has been designed to be applied to primary and secondary students in Colombia and elsewhere to prepare them to compete globally and make a positive contribution to the world.

What projects are you currently carrying out and where are they based?

Currently the Foundation has eight main projects. Two of these are consulting roles with Auteco and Manualita who are interested in developing educational tools using XO OLPC (One Laptop per Child) and Classmate laptops as well as regular computers, in a model based on the Foundation’s Step by Step projects.

Kids with laptops at the foundation

Kids with laptops at the foundation

Our main project work is our Step by Step program which is currently running in five schools in Antioquia, three of which are rural.

This program includes the provision of English teachers to run primary school English classes. Where possible, these classes are accompanied by a fluent English speaking volunteer who also runs English based clubs for students and the local community.

We also provide a full time IT teacher and a laptop per child in the entirety of the primary school. Finally we also provide leadership development within the school.

Our other current project is working in conjunction with Secretary of Education of Medellín. As part of their Medellín Multilingue program we provide English classes to Colombian public school teachers.

At the moment we are working with technology and physical education teachers as well as school principals and administrators. This course has the dual objectives of improving the participants’ level of English and increasing their ability to deliver parts of their subjects in English.

What is the impact of the projects and who are the beneficiaries?

The Step by Step program helps the students and staff of the schools and the community as a whole. Children take home laptops which are used as learning tools in their family homes, not just by them, but by the rest of the family.

The ability to use technology is a requirement in one of the needs of the 21st century, having access to a laptop in the family allows always all members to develop these much needed technology skills.

Furthermore, the Foundation encourages significant community involvement in the project, free IT and English classes for community are examples of this.

The teaching teachers’ project with Medellín Multilingue has a significant net impact.

We are currently working with 100 teachers each of whom will have between 100-200 different students. This means that the lessons we are giving benefit the teachers that attend, and all of their students which means we are reaching over 1,000 students.

We go on Monitoring and Evaluation visits to see how the teachers are developing, and this has a significant motivation for both the children and teachers. We also conducted a baseline study so that we can gauge the impact of the program at the end.

How is the NGO funded and what charity status do you have?

We are a non-profit organization incorporated in both the U.S. and Colombia to serve the schools in greatest need in Colombia.

We are predominantly funded through public-private partnerships, but our ideal formula is to have 40% of funding from national, regional or local government, 30% from private funds in country and 30% donated by institutions from U.S. and Europe.

How is the program sustainable?

By training young leaders we are enabling the community to take control of their own future without the need for our continued help.

Also by working in partnership with the public sector we ensure that the Colombian government is taking responsibility for the development of their own departments.

We see our programs as based on the needs of communities, and this is an important point to reinforce.

Marlon Vargos Patino - 9th grader

Marlon Vargos Patino – 9th grader

Marlon Vargas Patino 9th grader, Camino de Paz School:

“I think that the things I am learning with the Marina Orth Foundation will be a great starting point for a great future for me and those around me.

Someday, I want to put a smile on the face of each Colombian kid. I want my name to go down in history as the man who brought peace to the new generations.

I want to have a life that gives hope to people, and I know the best way to achieve is to study and acquire the most knowledge possible.”

How can people get involved?

As well as donating to our work and working in partnership with local, national and international institutions and companies, people who wish to support our work can volunteer.

We are open to accepting volunteers who will contribute positively to our communities. There are no financial expectations from our volunteers other than the costs of their travel, insurance and obtaining a visa.

We accept volunteers based on community needs rather than on volunteer supply. Our program is designed to be sustainable and insures a net positive effect on the communities with whom we work.

We have three different types of volunteers. One is a long term full time role for six months, where volunteers help out teaching in schools and the Medellín Multilingue projects. Volunteers are given a monthly stipend and accommodation and food (three meals a day).

The second is a long term part time role for a minimum of six months, where they are likely to be involved in the running of after school clubs at one of Step by Step schools.

There may also be the opportunity to work on the Medellín Multilingue project. We ask for two full days a week (15 hours per week in total) and they will also receive a stipend.

The third type of volunteer is the short term volunteer. This role is very flexible and is based on the volunteer’s skill set. Each volunteer is invited to visit the Foundation and its institutions and propose a personal project to undertake within the Foundation’s scope.

Examples of short-term volunteer work include facilitating workshops for staff members or students, or giving short-term intensive courses within the Foundation.

What are the requirements for people getting involved?

The following are preferable; experience working with children, teaching experience, English teaching certificates (TOEFL, etc.), knowledge of technology and B1/B2 level of Spanish.

We look for people who are self-motivated, flexible, organized, have the ability to work in a team and independently. Have good communication skills, are a fluent English speaker and open to new cultural experiences and accepting of cultural differences.

We ask for references and offer stringent procedures to ensure they comply with our child protection policies. We are currently formalising volunteer process.

What is the benefit of volunteering and how can you apply?

Barbara Muchisky (USA):

“I have been extremely fortunate to be a part of this wonderful group of volunteer educators…It has been inspiring to see what can happen when people of good will work together.”

You can gain new skills, while using your professional experience to benefit others and enhance your CV. It is also a great way to meet new people and make new friends get to know a new community and give something back.

As a Volunteer you can really help make a positive difference while you gain confidence & self-esteem, feel valued and be part of a team. It is also a unique opportunity to live in a rich, warm Latin American culture!

Please apply through our website: http://www.fundaorth.org

Or send us an email: mhenriques@fundaorth.org or contactus@fundaorth.org

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Pablo Tobón Uribe: The Hospital With Soul http://medellinliving.com/pablo-tobon-uribe-hospital/ http://medellinliving.com/pablo-tobon-uribe-hospital/#comments Sun, 20 Jul 2014 12:00:25 +0000 http://medellinliving.com/?p=21448 Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe is one of the best hospitals in Medellín, and rated one of the best in all of Latin America.

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Atrium at the Pablo Tobon Uribe Hospital

Atrium at the Pablo Tobon Uribe Hospital

In the wilds of Comuna Robledo, up the hill a bit in the west side of town, rises Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe.

Founded in 1970, this private, non-profit, 371-bed hospital is considered by paisas I interviewed to be the best in town. It has also been recognized as one of the top hospitals in all of Latin America.

For what it’s worth, it has a star rating of 4.8 out of 5 in Google Reviews, with patient comments like these:

“I have to say my experience at Hospital Pablo Tobon Uribe was wonderful. The staff treats everyone equally and efficiently. I like their logo- The Hospital with a Soul – because it’s true. The hospital is comfortable and very modern. My care was excellent!”

It may be a little out-of-the-way for those who live on the east side of the river, but for those of us in Laureles, Estadio and Belén it is very conveniently located.

My own experience there for a week bears out the praiseful testimony on Google. I was admitted to the Emergency ward and was listed in their triage order correctly for what ailed me.

I was asked at the time if I needed an English translator to help. At this point I said “no” since it was clear from the nurses’ communications that everything was going correctly.

I spent one night in Emergency, and while noisy, it was comfortable and sleep came easily. The battery of tests continued through the night…blood, heart, vital signs and visits by an internist and a specialist in gastroenterology. What did I have? A bleeding ulcer.

And I was scheduled to be married the next day. Could that have been the cause? No. And no jokes please! I’ve heard them all.

We were able to postpone the wedding, so I was checked in to a luxurious (no other word for it) private room on the 12th floor with of course, this being Medellín, a spectacular view.

Over the next few days I got treated for the ulcer including an upper GI endoscope, and received what I would call a 68-year check up and check out.

I left the hospital feeling healthier and more alive that I have in quite a while. How can a recommendation be better than that?

Emergency entrance

Emergency entrance

The hospital is currently undergoing construction, but my room was on the opposite side so I heard nothing. When I was moved to the fourth floor for procedures, I could see the massive hole and girdering.

The fourth floor is a modern marvel. They have everything any hospital in the States would have. Besides being a general hospital, they specialize in renal and cancer care, bariatric surgery, and pediatrics.

Four of the five doctors who looked in on me and formed my committee spoke pretty good English. Two were perfect English speakers. And as I said, there are trained medical interpreters available.

There is a department which deals with foreign patients, so-called “medical tourists,” which handles insurance and language and correspondence with the “home” medical establishment specializing in cancer care and tomographic diagnosis.

At the time I was in Pablo Tobón, I was not covered by any insurance. Medicare of course does not travel out of the United States. Grrrrrr…. So, “Going Naked” caught up with me.

But for all of the services, private room, emergency services, medications, follow-ups and procedures, my total bill for seven days in hospital was $7,000.

Modern interior offices

Modern interior offices

Since I was a Private Patient, Paciente Particular, they accepted only cash. We scraped it together. Since I am now married to a Colombian, I am covered by EPS, so no more out-of-pocket payments for me. How’s your insurance?

You might consider a trek to the wilds of Robledo for your medical care. A large general hospital has advantages, and Pablo Tobón Uribe is one of the best.

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Doce de Octubre http://medellinliving.com/doce-de-octubre/ http://medellinliving.com/doce-de-octubre/#comments Sat, 19 Jul 2014 16:00:00 +0000 http://medellinliving.com?p=18581&preview_id=18581 Doce de Octubre (Comuna 6) is a residential district located at northwestern edge of Medellín.

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Doce de Octubre (Comuna 6) is at the northwestern edge of Medellín, bordering Robledo to the south, Castilla to the east, the township of San Cristobal to the west and the city of Bello to the north.

It’s a residential neighborhood built haphazardly on the steep slopes of the city’s western mountains. The typical slope is 20 percent, with some neighborhoods on pitches as steep as 60 percent.

Demographics

According to 2013 government statistics, Doce de Octubre is home to a little over 191,000 people, 45 percent of whom are ages 15 to 44. It is also the comuna with the highest population density in the city.

The majority of residents fall into strata 2 (on a scale of 1 to 6), making it one of the poorer comunas as well.

Points of Interest

As it is a primarily residential neighborhood at the periphery of the city, there are few points of interest nor reasons for foreigners to visit.

Ecoparque Mirador del Cerro El Piacacho is the name of an ecopark and scenic viewpoint.

Safety

In 2013, the homicide rate of Doce de Octubre was slightly less than the city average, but it is still considered a highly dangerous part of the city, and one that we suggest should be avoided.

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De Camino Pa La Cima – J Alvarez http://medellinliving.com/de-camino-pa-la-cima-j-alvarez/ http://medellinliving.com/de-camino-pa-la-cima-j-alvarez/#respond Sat, 19 Jul 2014 12:00:24 +0000 http://medellinliving.com?p=21062&preview_id=21062 _____________

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Watching the 2014 World Cup in Parque Lleras (Photos) http://medellinliving.com/2014-world-cup-photos/ http://medellinliving.com/2014-world-cup-photos/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 16:00:29 +0000 http://medellinliving.com?p=21387&preview_id=21387 During Colombia's historic run at the 2014 World Cup, Medellín's Parque Lleras became the epicenter of celebrations in the city.

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Horns and cheap shirts for sale

Horns and cheap shirts for sale

Watching the 2014 World Cup in Colombia was yet another expat experience I’ll always remember.

Laziness led me to watch Colombia’s first two morning (local time) matches against Greece and the Ivory Coast from the comfort of home.

They’d already qualified for the Round of 16 heading into their final group stage match with Japan, so the game didn’t mean much, but I decided it was time to start venturing out to Parque Lleras for the full experience. These are my favorite photos from the Japan, Uruguay and Brazil matches.

Colombia v Japan

Parque Lleras

With the Japan match lacking significance, the crowds were lighter in Parque Lleras

A taxi driver having some fun with the 2014 World Cup

A taxi driver having some fun with the 2014 World Cup

Colombia scores against Japan, and the crowd erupts

Colombia scores against Japan in the second half, and the crowd erupts

Celebrating the win

Colombia went on to beat Japan 4-1 with three second-half goals, including one in the 90th minute by James Rodríguez

Colombia v Uruguay

Celebrating

Celebrations break out after Colombia beats Uruguay 2-0

James Rodríguez scored both goals in Colombia's win

James Rodríguez scored both goals in Colombia’s win

You can almost taste the foam

You can almost taste the foam

A kid holds up talcum powder for sale

A kid holds up talcum powder for sale

A group of friends pose for a photo in the post-game euphoria

A group of friends pose for a photo in the post-game euphoria

Thirty minutes after the match ended, the celebrations were still going strong

Thirty minutes after the match ended, the celebrations were still going strong

Colombia v Brazil

Colombians sing their national anthem ahead of the Brazil match

Colombians sing their national anthem ahead of the Brazil match

Thousands of people packed Parque Lleras and the surrounding bars and restaurants for what became a contentious match with Brazil

Thousands of people packed Parque Lleras and the surrounding bars and restaurants for what became a contentious match with Brazil

Celebrating

In spite of Colombia’s heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Brazil, many fans still chose to hang out with friends in Parque Lleras to enjoy the atmosphere and celebrate Colombia’s first appearance in the Quarterfinals of a World Cup

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Volunteer Visa: How to Get a TP-6 Visa to Volunteer in Colombia http://medellinliving.com/volunteer-visa-tp6-colombia/ http://medellinliving.com/volunteer-visa-tp6-colombia/#respond Fri, 18 Jul 2014 12:00:12 +0000 http://medellinliving.com/?p=21435 Ioana outlines the process for applying to get a volunteer visa (TP-6) in Colombia.

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Colombia

Planning, the joy and headache of every trip.

Applying for a Visa can give you a pretty huge headache, no matter the type of Visa you want. Bureaucracy, tons of paperwork and the stress caused by the possibility of not getting it on time or at all don’t help much either.

I came to Colombia as a volunteer for more than three months so I needed a temporary Visa to grant my staying here. I applied for a TP-6 Visa, which is perfect for somebody who wants to enter Colombian territory as a volunteer of an NGO recognized by the Colombian state.

Because I am part of the International Internships Program run by AIESEC, they provided me the documents I needed. So before applying you need to make sure that the organization you’re about to work for supports you in the process, at least with the documents.

Documentation

Here are the requirements to apply for a TP-6 Visa, according to the Colombian Consulate:

  • 2-3 pictures with white background, 3×3 cm.
  • Copy of the first page of your current passport where your personal data is displayed.
  • Copy of the page of your passport where the last stamp of entry or departure of Colombia is located (if any).
  • If you’ve had a Colombian Visa but it was issued without the OCR (lecture code), attach a copy of your last Colombian Visa. If you’ve had a Visa that counts with the OCR, this requisite is not necessary.
  • If your Visa process will be finished by a third person, an official power of attorney must be presented.
  • Letter signed by the legal representative of the organization describing the activities the foreign national will be carrying out in the country, the work program he will undertake, the length and agenda, the assumption of all cost responsibility during the stay of the foreigner in the country, as well as the expenses for his/her return to his/her country of origin or last place of residence, and his/her family according to the case.
  • Certificate signed by the NGO legal representative where it shows experience and competence of the foreigner in relation with the activities he/she intends to carry out in the country or that the foreigner is an intern.
  • Valid document that credits the legal capacity of the NGO (attach the pages that contain: identity, social object, legal representatives, capital or stock composition and functions of the legal representative) issued by the competent Colombian authority or similar document from a country different from Colombia with a minimum antiquity of 5 years and issued in the last three months. Both requirements could be substituted by a document that proves that the organization has consultative status of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC)

The legal representation document (last one in the list above) is vital for getting your visa. Without it you risk going back home with the same blank pages in your passport.

Romanian passport

Romanian passport

Application process

After you’ve gathered all the documents you can start your application.

First, go to the Online Visa Application System from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and fill in the forms, upload the photo and the documents. After submitting your form, you will receive an e-mail confirming your application.

If you lack documentation or add incorrect information in the form, you will receive an e-mail saying Solicitud Visa inadmitida, in which you’ll find the details about what you need to correct (after you panic for at least five minutes as I did).

The next step is to forward this email plus the payment receipt (if you pay online) attached to the email address of the Embassy you are applying for. The procedure to issue a Visa in this Embassy is to go there in person to pay the fee in the exact amount (154 euro, $205).

If you pay online, the payment must be made the same day the receipt is generated. If not, you have to request a new receipt (maximum two days after the initial request). Also, you need an active Colombian bank account to use PSE, the electronic payment system available for this.

I would suggest you to pay in person at the Embassy if possible, to avoid any complications. Somebody from Bogotá used PSE to pay for my Visa so they told me only the Group of Visas in Bogotá can issue my Visa. I had to apply again and then fly to Warsaw to pay and get my Visa.

The last step is to contact the Primary Secretary in charge of the consular function to set up a meeting to get your Visa printed and you’re done. You’ll have to answer a few questions on what are you going to do in Colombia, why did you choose the country and so on.

Hint: showing that you know something about Colombia is a plus. Do some research before. It’s always good to have detailed information about the places you’re about to travel. Also, Colombians are proud people so hearing others say nice things about and show interest in their country will only make things better than they are.

Ioana in San Felix

San Félix, the first place I visited near Medellín

Final Thoughts

You should start the application process at least one week before buying your plane ticket and make sure you keep in touch with the embassy at which you are applying for your Visa.

I got my Visa from the Embassy of Colombia in Poland, as there is none in Romania (where I’m from). A European citizen can apply for it at any Colombian Embassy in Europe but I recommend you to find out the issue time of the Visa, as in some embassies it might take more than a day (in Wien, for example, it takes up to two to three days) .

In Warsaw you get it in 15 minutes if you have all the documents with you. Plus, the Primary Secretary in Warsaw is an amazing Colombian woman who’ll make you leave the embassy with hugs, bags of promotional materials about Colombia, and an even higher level of excitement to get to this country as soon as possible.

Good luck in getting your Visa! And most of all, in trying to avoid the “risk of wanting to stay,” which I guarantee you’ll take in your first couple of days here.

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Expat Observations: Passive Aggressiveness, Xenophobia and Making Plans http://medellinliving.com/expat-observations-passive-aggressiveness-xenophobia/ http://medellinliving.com/expat-observations-passive-aggressiveness-xenophobia/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 23:17:12 +0000 http://medellinliving.com/?p=21430 In John's final story on his observations of Medellín, he tells us about passive aggressiveness, xenophobia and making plans.

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Medellin

The following is Part Four of a four-part series by John Knox Seagle, an English teacher and five-year Medellín resident from the United States. Read Part Three here, Part Two here and Part One here

The purpose of this article and series is to talk openly and honestly about the common things long-term residents of Medellín find frustrating about living here.

Not every paisa is guilty of committing one of these faux-pas, but in my experience each of the following things is fairly common. This article is in no way intended to paint Medellín and the paisas in a bad light.

In addition, like all foreigners here, I love Medellín, and I could easily write a many more words about the things that one can admire and love about this city. But that’s for a different article.

Passive Aggressiveness

Reluctant to engage in confrontations and possibly afraid of how you’ll react, it is rare to have a local tell you something disagreeable directly or to your face.

It’s almost a given that this individual believes that it’s better to communicate something negative to you slowly and subtly, than disappointing you directly and immediately.

If a friend or significant other has a problem with something you’ve done or said, don’t be surprised if they keep it secretly bottled up inside for a long time and slowly punish you without you knowing why.

Likewise, if you’re dating someone and they lose interest or decide to end things, don’t expect them to tell you directly to your face.

Rather they’ll simply stop calling you or responding to you, assuming you’ll eventually figure it out for yourself, or they’ll create a situation in which you are obliged to end things yourself.

If your boss wants to get rid of you, expect them to make you miserable until you decide to quit, or to gradually cut down your hours until you start to question whether you’re really wanted there.

And if you receive a job offer or the hiring manager seems very interested in you, don’t believe it until after you’ve finished your first day at the job.

Ironically, when you speak to most locals about the concept of passive aggressiveness, they’ll have no idea what you’re talking about.

Sin Tetas…

How many foreigners thought it was a joke the first time they heard that it’s not uncommon for parents to buy their daughter breast implants on their 15th birthday? Unfortunately it’s not a joke.

Not content enough to already be considered among the most beautiful women in the world, countless young (and older) women join the ranks of multitudes before them and go under the knife with hopes of “perfection.”

Numerous young girls dream of becoming a famous model someday, or grow up with a false sense of entitlement because their entire life everyone has always told them that they’re gorgeous.

They’ll be called “reina” or “princesa,” told that they’re perfect, can do no wrong, and don’t need to work or get an education because their looks will take them through life.

Women are fiercely competitive and jealous of each other for how they look or what they possess, and it’s unfortunately rare to see a paisa woman with many true female friends.

Entire generations of young men grow up striving to own the nicest clothes and flashiest car so they can obtain the perfect paisa prototype or someone who they can show off to their friends.

Parents will even have their infant daughter’s ears pierced to make them more attractive or presentable… as if babies needed accessories.

While every culture has its own concept of beauty and no one really has the right to judge what a different culture considers to be aesthetically pleasing, there’s no doubt that many a foreigner will stop dead in their tracks the first time they see a prosthetic nalga that juts out like a shelf.

Medellín is a major fashion center, so perhaps this goes with the territory.

Still, it can be very disconcerting to see how obsessed paisas are with appearance, image and one-upping each other in terms of physical beauty, and how recent generations have grown up believing that there is a connection between physical attractiveness and upward mobility.

The general inclination is to point the finger at the narcotraficantes who started lavishing riches on their surgically altered girlfriends beginning in the 80s, which then caused many of Medellín’s young women to take note and start believing that if they too could look like that, they’d be set.

A generation later, one has to wonder why so many people continue to embrace an aspect of the culture that everyone considers to have originated during Colombia’s darkest days.

Macho Men

I would hate to be a woman here.

Nobody would argue that Colombia is a very machista society, and the amount of respect that many men show to women leaves a lot to be desired.

From catcalls and hissing, to blatantly staring as a woman walks by, to nicknames such as “mamasita” and “bebe,” the way that numerous local men act toward their fairer counterparts is often cringe-worthy.

Retaliation or castigating the perpetrator of such blatant disrespect is imprudent, as at best it will encourage them and at worst be met with hostility.

And that’s to say nothing of the general expectation that local men will have various girlfriends at a time, or at least a mistress. And if these individuals are so “macho” and “manly,” what’s the deal with the multitude of single mothers in the city?

Is it any wonder why many foreign men often find themselves an object of desire?

Some might say it’s due to a misconception that gringos equal money.

I would argue that because in comparison to most local men, most foreign residents in Medellín treat their women better, often know how to cook and clean and will do so happily, don’t live with their parents until marriage, and aren’t nearly as likely to cheat or maintain several women at a time.

Are you Coming?

This one is for the foreign men in Medellín.

I recently underwent uncomfortable flashbacks to my own previous traumatic experiences while recently trying to coach several recent arrivals through the concepts of time, commitment and accountability, or making plans, as perceived by a large number, but by no means all, of the local women.

Even if you make a fixed plan to do something well in advance, the plan will remain invalid unless you reconfirm shortly before the meeting, and if you don’t, expect to hear that it’s your fault when you subsequently see her out with her friends or another man during your planned date time.

It is not uncommon for someone to cancel literally minutes before a reunion with no explanation, and if that should happen you should count yourself lucky, as it’s far more common for your date to simply not show up, or if she does, she might well have her cousin or friend in tow.

Perhaps she didn’t arrive because it was raining… paisa hair evidently melts in the rain.

As with many things here, a near-to-complete lack of consequences might be to blame. When a woman does this, most of the perpetrators of this heinous lack of respect have been treated like princesses all their lives and have never been told by anyone, ever, that they’ve done anything wrong.

They are raised with a sense of indemnity and a complete lack of understanding that it’s not correct to treat someone like this.

Women like this are unfortunately drawn to gringos like a montañero is drawn to chicharron, and sadly give the vast majority of women in Medellín, who are decent, hardworking, sincere and honest, a bad reputation.

Forget trying to make them understand that it’s bad class, poor education and a lack of common decency. They’ll never be convinced that they’re fallible. Seriously, they just won’t get it.

Friendships and Relationships

One has just to look at the differing definitions of “platonic” in English as being free from sexual desire, and “platónico” in Spanish, which carries the meaning of unrequited, secret love for someone close to you, to suspect that you’re in for some drama.

If you’re a woman and you have a normal male friend, don’t be surprised if he makes a pass at you after a few shots of Guaro, or secretly harbors feelings for you and sulks when he sees you with someone else.

If you’re a man and have a normal female friend, don’t expect to see her again once she gets a boyfriend because he will likely be so jealous that he won’t permit her to hang out with you.

Alternatively, don’t be surprised if your female friend contacts you to inform you that your new girlfriend is really ugly, and your girlfriend becomes convinced that you have something with your female friend.

If you’re a woman who has a female friend, likewise don’t be surprised when she turns out to be jealous (or overly critical) of your appearance or how happy you seem with your boyfriend.

If you’re a man who has male friends, be careful about whom you introduce to your girlfriend.

If you’re a foreigner with foreign friends, be prepared to say good-bye to a lot of them over time, start again and repeat.

Numerous friendships and families have been damaged by loaning money which is never repaid. There’s perhaps nothing more tragic than realizing that your friendship was worth less than 200,000 pesos ($100).

Local women are often irrationally convinced that all men will cheat on them, generally expect them to have several lovers at a time, and often use this as an excuse to do the same, resulting in a never-ending vicious cycle of mistrust and heartbreak.

Many people have a Plan B or C and keep all of them active at once due to their fear of temporarily being alone. Even in the case of men who do not have a proper mistress, there’s a huge sex industry to cater to their every desire.

It’s difficult, but not impossible, to establish healthy, long-lasting friendships or relationships here. It’s unfortunately very common for envy, jealousy and greed to ruin many friendships, relationships, and even families.

Tread carefully here.

Shoot the Messenger

Not literally of course.

I’ve experienced numerous people fervently claim that Medellín has the best weather, food, transportation and women in the world, but when it comes to the topic of violence, homicides, drugs, gangs and poverty, they switch gears and go on about how problems like that exist everywhere in the world, that Medellín is not “special” in that regard.

While it’s normal and in fact admirable for people to be proud of their city, many here take it too far and blindly claim to be living in the best city in the world while ignoring that it still has some very serious social problems and attacking those who try to bring those problems to light.

In reality a lot of people here are very sensitive and defensive, and love to dish out criticism but can’t take it themselves, even when it’s constructive.

I’ve also had numerous “friends” eliminate me from their lives or tell me off after I openly complain about how the taxi drivers here don’t respect pedestrians or other cars and drive dangerously, or trying to explain that instead of Colombians blaming Hollywood movies and foreign media for its negative reputation abroad that they need to understand and admit that the depictions of their country abroad are based on Colombia’s real track record and actual problems.

Few would argue that misconceptions presented in foreign media do a better job of harming Colombia’s reputation than do Colombia’s own newspapers, TV programs and feature films, nearly all of which focus on violence, drugs, prostitution and poverty, and are eaten up by most Colombians.

But you know what?  The taxi drivers here really do lack respect and drive recklessly. And there are lots of “grillas” in Medellín and they do in fact lurk in Parque Lleras like gringo-predators.

Find me one local who would honestly disagree with these statements.

Mentioning these faults of this beautiful city doesn’t make me negative, but a realist, and I fear that until more people are capable of openly admitting that Medellín does in fact still have some serious issues to tackle that these things will continue.

But for now, woe to the unlucky traveler who doesn’t praise the City of Eternal Spring with every ounce of gringo gusto they can muster, or those who sing the praises of Bogotá, a city that every paisa will immediately claim to hate even though most haven’t even been there.

Go Home Gringo

It’s a knee-jerk reaction to suggest to a complaining foreigner that if they don’t like it here, they should leave. It happens in every country, but that doesn’t make it less ugly.

The number of foreign residents in Colombia pales in comparison to the two million Colombians in the United States, 500,000 in the United Kingdom, and hundreds of thousands more between numerous other countries. Most Colombian families have at least one member living overseas.

Like those Colombians abroad, every foreign resident in Colombia who is living and working and paying taxes has as much of a right to complain about certain aspects of the local culture which rub us the wrong way, as each of those Colombians abroad.

In many cases it’s necessary in order to maintain a good sense of humor and our sanity, and it should not be taken to mean that the individual actually dislikes living here.

And instead of immediately reacting to any type of criticism by suggesting that the individual leave, why not pay attention to what they have to say?

A different perspective on things can in fact be very valuable, and it wouldn’t hurt Medellín to hear some fresh observations.

If you should happen to experience a friend, significant other or acquaintance telling you to leave after hearing your thoughts on the challenges of living here, or find that expressing your feelings about xenophobia are falling on deaf ears, you certainly have my sympathies.

Like this story? Read Part Three here, Part Two here and Part One here

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About the Author: John Knox Seagle is an English teacher and five-year Medellín resident from the United States. 

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