Thursday, December 28, 2006

One for the Money

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

"Mini Karts" (Please read in Spanish)

Wow, just did twenty minutes on high speed mini Go-Karts. I like speed.

The thing about these little vehicles is that they don't tip over. The low center of gravity, and the wide wheel base enables the driver to take high-speed turns. In order to get better grip, you even have to push the gas even more in the sharpest turns.

Reminds me of a few stages of my life, where going quicker was the only way to hold on.

One of the funnest things I have done in a long time. Were going again tomorrow.

Advice from my Family for celebrating Christmas in Colombia

On my second day in Chia, my hometown located 15 minutes north of Bogota (Colombian capital), I looked over at a white Rodeo pathfinder and saw a twenty-something holding a AR-15 assault rifle with an extended magazine for good measure. The occupants of the SUV were not military; they were most likely concerned citizens, ex-paramilitaries, or “traquetas” (the local term for narcotrafficants who live in this area of the country). Take your pick, either way automatic and semi-automatic speed shooters have become illegal here, and to boot, the young man wielding this apparatus still had the last eruptions of adolescent acne on his face.

It seems that my family in Colombia has advice for me during my visit here: Be careful and don’t be stupid. As far as advice, it seems that it only carries weight when it is forged in experience. My family’s advice, is it from experience?

(Ahh, now I remember what it is like to live in Colombia: my first street fight, my first broken nose, my first experience as a victim of assault, and of course, my first experience taking a gun to school…)

(Musical Interlude)

All the things I knew I didn't know and didn't want to know
That you told me just to tell me later that you'd told me so
Come flooding back to me now, come on come flooding back to me now.

All the things you said you'd never say and you said anyway
The things we did and didn't do, the things we did and didn't do
Come flooding back to me now.

(Stephen Merrit, The Magnetic Fields- The things we did and didn’t do)

A week before my arrival, my cousin and his wife and kids – who recently moved to Chia – were assaulted in their house by would-be thieves. On their fist attempt, my cousin whipped out his hard hitting 45 caliber and popped a couple of shots into the air. The thieves, who have been identified as motorcycle riding horde, are said to increase their thievery around Christmas time.

“It’s to be expected, it’s Christmas season and they know that people have lots of nice things in their houses” my brother explains.

Unfortunately a couple days later the horde returned during the daytime. My cousin was at work, and it was up to his wife to defend the house and the kids. When she saw the thieves jump the perimeter wall and attempt to rush her doorway, she slammed the door shut and barricaded herself and kids in the house. This was enough to thwart the thieves and motivate her to take things into her own hands. She just bought a 12-gauge, pump action shot gun for good measure.

This woeful ordeal is unfair, since my cousin and his family had moved out of Bogota to get away from violence and theft. You see, one day when they lived in an exclusive apartment building in the city they heard an odd knock at their front door. When my cousin, who was home with his two kids, opened the door, a gang of thieves gently escorted him into a closet and locked him inside. His kids were tied up and put in another room. The events that happened next were spectacular. The gang reached into their black bag of tricks and pulled out their sledge hammers. The goal was to rob my cousin’s neighbor. Supposedly, the neighbor was a rich pawn shop owner who kept a substantial amount of loot in his house. For the next 6 hours, the thieves broke down the cement and cinderblock wall that separated the apartments and emptied out the pawn shop owner’s apartment. During this time, my cousin’s wife arrived and she was also kindly escorted to the closet to keep my cousin company. Once the pilfered the neighbor’s house, the robbers took everything in my cousin apartment as well, all for good measure.

As far as the neighborhood goes, things have become a little tougher. Chia no longer has to suffer little town envy from Bogota, since Chia has recently been granted its own “Calle del Cartucho” (“Magazine Street”). Although Chia’s Calle is not as large as Bogota’s, it is still a place where locals can dump the bodies of the murdered, secure kidnap victims, and participate in the sell and exchange of illegal artifacts and substances. Lo, development and modernity have arrived to this small town, thank goodness for Urbanism. We live in the nice part of town however, 2 kilometers from the Calle.

About one kilometer from the house is a newly installed half-way house for paramilitary troops. Once these troops were pardoned by the current administration, the government developed a network of subsidized housing projects that were supposed to help these veteran extremists fighters transition into civil society. Unfortunately, there is little employment for these guys. I have heard that sometimes locals give these guys small contracts for short term employment. But for some reason, violence and murder rates have been noted to increase during these spurts of employment.

But not all is grey. A couple of month ago Chia attempted to clean out their streets and expunge violence from its township. A neighboring town, Tabio, is currently doing the same thing Chia did to rid itself of street criminals. The cleansing goes like this. For about a month, the city posts announcements around town announcing a general cleaning of the streets. All thieves are warned to get off the streets and to stop their criminal activities. Given that Chia and Tabio are small towns, the cops already know many of the criminals. For example, my brother and sister each had a run in with the well know Nine-fingered Thief. Once the warning month is up, all unreformed thieves disappear from the streets and are never seen or heard from again. Last time Chia got rid of a total of 17 of the hardest street thugs. The Nine-fingered thief was one of these.

I guess that I will be careful, and for good measure, watch where I go and what I say.