Tuesday, March 25, 2008

20 Critical Problems that Keep Colombia in the Third World

Move to Colombia?
If you watch commercials on any of the local TV stations, listen to sports radio, see the Travel & Living channel spots on cable TV, you can easily get primed to move to Colombia despite its well-deserved reputation for violence, kidnapping, and drug trafficking. This is not to mention the on-going civil war raging between Colombia’s government, Para-military forces like the AUC and Guerilla military forces like the FARC. Let’s not forget the ghastly murder and crime rates.

Nonetheless, after considering the post “20 Reasons Not to Move to Dubai” in an ELT forum online, I thought I’d take a shot at a similarly-themed post dealing with diverse aspects of Colombia. Now don’t get me wrong, I have lived in Colombia for the past 12 years teaching English as a foreign language with my Colombian wife. I pay taxes, health insurance and retirement through the Colombian systems. I still live here and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, but it is exactly this familiarity bred from many years living and working here that empower me to write about this country.

Here’s the first five of my 20-item list and brief commentary:

1. In many areas there are NO or very few government services.
Streets are pot-hole-riddled and what there are of highways are often a mess, but drivable.
During peak periods of travel, multiple delays, massive traffic jams and over-burdened transportation systems and facilities are common place.

2. The climate, while tropical in most areas, can vary to extremes.
Summer months from June through August can be brutally hot in some areas and unseasonably cool in others. You’ll 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 which can occur during any time of the day or night. I have lived through serious early morning tremors that cracked walls and tumbled ceilings to night time quakes the rendered buildings uninhabitable and caused the seemingly super-natural glow of earthquake lights to appear around the city of Cali.

4. There is the constant threat of volcanic eruptions.
Several of Colombia’s many volcanoes are in active or semi-active status. The most news-worthy of these being Galeras Volcano, located beside the city of Pasto populated by more than 400,000 people, in the southern part of the country. Warnings and evacuation “threats” have become so common that residents hardly pay them any attention until ash and gas spew forth from the blackened summit. Colombia’s worst catastrophe was the destruction of Armero, an entire town of more than 23,000 inhabitants virtually all killed in one night – buried under a volcanic eruption-caused mudslide more than forty feet deep. Other Colombian volcanoes include snow-capped Nevada Ruiz, also with recent eruptions, and Purace.

Photo above: Galeras volcano seen from central Pasto

5. There are sometimes frequent outages of water or power services.
We’ve gone to collecting and storing rain water. That way, when the water supply “fails” or goes out for any reason, we still have some water available for washing, bathing, cleaning and cooking. Sometimes the outages are announced. Sometimes they’re not – catching the unwary unprepared. These “waterless” periods can last for hours or days – sometimes you just never know.

In part two of this multiple-part series, we’ll continue to examine what I feel are the 20 most critical problems with Colombia that keep it a “third world” country. Your comments, opinions and feedback are welcomed. See you next installment.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 80 countries. Get your FREE E-books,"If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" or "7 Techniques to Motivate Your English Language Learners and Make Your Classes More Dynamic" by requesting the title you want at: lynchlarrym@gmail.com


Anonymous said...

I have been visiting Colombia quite a bit for the last 2 years. I lived 3 years in Brasil from 87-90. My comment is this: I think that the perception of danger, or happiness, or any of many measures of the quality of life are extremely dependent on the personality of the person in question. When I lived in Brasil, working as a teacher, there were Americans who just wanted to get out, go home, and others, like me, who wondered why we should ever leave Brazil... Bottom line for me is that the South American cultures I have come to know and love have more love of life, more attention to the human warmth factor in daily life than we do in the USA. All the other factors, politics, crime, economy, poverty... all these are very important, but if you compare similar locations, say a small city in Texas or Florida to one in Colombia or Brazil and assume a middle class lifestyle... I personally would choose the Latin version. Of course it would be very easy to write me off as some idealistic gringo... but I have lots of experience, speak Portuguese and Spanish fluently... I am also a musician and love to dance. That probably says it all.

Patrick in Florida

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen much of Colombia since 1967. Before that time I had paid Colombian taxes for about four years. I mostly taught English to adults in Medellin.

There must be a reason you are in Florida.