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Colombia – Critical Social Problems Part 1
Going to Colombia?
If you watch commercials on any of the local TV channels, listen to sports radio, watch the Travel & Living channel spots on cable TV, you can easily prepare to move to Colombia despite its well-deserved reputation for violence, kidnapping and drugs. traffic. Not to mention the civil war raging between the Colombian government, paramilitary forces like the AUC, and guerrilla military forces like the FARC. Let’s not forget the horrible murder and crime rates.
Nevertheless, after reviewing the post “20 reasons not to move to Dubai” in an online ELT forum, I thought I might try a similarly themed post dealing with various aspects of Colombia. Don’t get me wrong, I have lived in Colombia for 12 years and I teach English as a foreign language with my Colombian wife. I pay taxes, health insurance and retirement through Colombian systems. I still live here and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, but it is exactly this familiarity born of many years of living and working here that has allowed me to write about this country.
Here are the top five on my list of 20 items and a brief commentary:
1. In many areas, there are NO or very few government services.
The streets are riddled with potholes and the freeways are often messy, but passable.
During peak periods, multiple delays, massive traffic jams, and overloaded transportation systems and facilities are commonplace.
2. The climate, although tropical in most areas, can vary widely.
The summer months of June to August can be extremely hot in some areas and abnormally cool in others. You will need a sweater or jacket in Bogotá and air conditioning in Cali, Cartagena and other cities.
3. There is the constant threat of earthquakes.
Most of Colombia, from the Pacific coast to the central highlands and beyond, has experienced devastating earthquakes that can strike at any time of the day or night. I experienced severe morning tremors that cracked walls and knocked down ceilings overnight, rendering buildings uninhabitable and causing the seemingly unearthly glow of earthquake lights to appear around the city of Cali.
4. There is the constant threat of volcanic eruptions.
Many of Colombia’s many volcanoes are in an active or semi-active state. The most noteworthy is the Galeras Volcano, located next to the city of Pasto with a population of over 400,000, in the southern part of the country. Evacuation warnings and “threats” have become so common that locals pay little heed until ash and gas erupt from the blackened summit. Colombia’s worst disaster was the destruction of Armero, an entire town of more than 23,000 residents virtually all killed in one night – buried under a mudslide caused by a volcanic eruption more than forty feet deep. Other Colombian volcanoes include snow-capped Nevada Ruiz, also with recent eruptions, and Purace.
5. Water or electricity cuts are sometimes frequent.
We have moved on to collecting and storing rainwater. This way, when the water supply “fails” or goes out for some reason, we still have water available for bathing, bathing, cleaning and cooking. Sometimes breakdowns are announced. Sometimes they’re not – they catch the unwary off guard. These “no water” periods can last for hours or days – sometimes you never know.
In part two of this multi-part series, we’ll continue to look at what I feel are the 20 most critical issues with Colombia that make it a “third world” country. Your comments, opinions and reactions are welcome. To the next installment.
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