My life in Colombia

Welcome to the blog of Chip Wiegand

A view of Barranquilla in the distance from the Bocas de Ceniza.

Fun with children's stories in Spanish

September 22, 2016

My landlady/student go me a book of Spanish stories/songs for children to help me learn more Spanish. A couple days ago I was reading one of the stories with my girlfriend Sandra, and I mispronounced one word and she started laughing, a lot. I didn't know why it was so funny. She started to explain it to me but she doesn't speak English so she just pointed to a particular body part on me and said the word I mispronounced and then I realized why it was so funny, in the context of the story (about a cardboard doll). She kept teasing me about it. We laughed so much I had tears in my eyes.

An Akee tree and a Mango tree across the street.

A mixed bag of thoughts and musings.

July 17, 2016

To start with a short story. One typically beautiful day when I was walking to a students home for their lesson... I am walking along and up ahead of me, maybe half a block, are two women also walking, in the same direction. I didn't really notice anything special or particular about them as I could only see them from behind and a half-block back. But I see one of them stop under a tree alongside the road, between the sidewalk and the road. I thought maybe they were just stopping to rest in the shade, it was a hot day as is normal here. But then one of the women starts jumping, so right away I knew she wasn't resting, and it was too hot to start exercising, even in the shade.

But she was jumping and reading up as much as she could. I though maybe she was trying to reach a mango. Mango trees are everywhere in this city, along the streets; they are just shade trees. Often they are too close together for most of the fruit to ripen. So I am walking up there and I reach the place where the women are, and the jumping women stops jumping, looks at me with a big smile which meant "please help me reach the fruit". I walked over to where she was and locked up, and there it was, not the red-orange-yellow colors of a delicious ripe mango, but a round, brown ball of a fruit. A fruit I have never seen before. At least I was guessing it was a fruit, because of the fact that the woman was jumping for it so exuberantly. I reached up and picked the fruit off the branch (no jumping required). I handed her the precious brown fruit, and she immediately held it tight and said "Gracias amor". I smiled and said "de nada. Que es esta?" The women replied "Nispero". I know nispero only as a raspado, and those raspados are delicious. I had never seen an actual, read nispero fruit before. And I must say, it didn't look like anything to get excited about. I was about the size of a peach. Round, not oval or oblong, but round, with a brown skin. Since then I have seen at least 4 more nispero trees along the streets that I normally walk along, and in all those trees all the fruit that is within reach is picked, so the upper half of the trees are loaded with nisperos that are difficult too reach without a ladder. This time of the year the fruit are ripe or ripening. The mangos, the nisperos, are ready to pick and eat now. The guanabana will be soon. And the few ackee trees that are in the city are close, maybe another month or so. The mangos and nisperos are common along the streets, the others not so much. But now is the time that fresh fruit are available everywhere, and these fruits are unbelievably delicious.

I love what I do here in Colombia - teaching English and seeing the lives of people and families improve because of it. But it isn't easy. I teach private students only. And the reason for this is because no school or business will hire me until I get legal. But getting legal is proving to be more difficult than expected. Even some of my students are surprised by this. But it is not difficult due to paperwork or other governmental issues, it is difficult due to a lack of money. Teaching private students is wonderful, but I cannot live on this alone. If it weren't for my landlord I wouldn't be here doing this at all. So I live from week to week on the little I earn, as it is enough for food, but nothing else. And I don't mind. Because, as I wrote above, I love doing this work. My students are very appreciative of my helping them improve their English. And improving their English helps them improve their jobs. If a persons job situation improves, then their entire family benefits, and this will last the rest of their lives. I may not make enough money to live on, but I am living, and I love what I do. I would trade it for any other job back in the States.

I have added more pictures to the Barranquilla photo albums.

Last week my cell phone fell into some water, and got completely soaked, and died. Even after drying for a few days, it will not turn on at all. I put the simcard in my ancient Blackberry, which has problems of its own, but now I have a phone again, even if it is very, very old. At least I don't have to worry about anyone trying to steal it from me. hehehe

Some packages of Colombian coffees.

Politics, coffee, and an update from David

June 18, 2016

Here are my thoughts about the current state of affairs in the US and an update from David (at the end of the blog).

What on earth is happening up there in the US?

Trump is a man out of his mind. Clueless about anything that has to do with politics and running a country, has no idea what foreign policy is, and has many unrealistic ideas of what he will do as the President, none of which are actually possible. Just look at his "policies" on his web site (I have), they're ridiculous.

You people who support Trump, still support him after all the crap that has come out of his mouth? You still support that guy? How? I find it mind-boggling that anybody can support him. He is not going to "make America great again". He will sink it, like a ship hit by a torpedo.

McCain, who in the past has not been a supporter of Trump, sided with Trump, they both accused Obama of being directly responsible for the shooting in Florida. Then a few hours later McCain retracted that a little. Now McCain is being tied to Trump, who said of McCain "He's not a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured". Seriuosly? What kind of thing is that to say about a veteran? Any veteran? Two rivals being spoken about together. I'm sure McCain is really happy about that.

And Hilary for president? With all her legal baggage? Seriously? Yes, she is certainly more qualified for the job, but honestly…

Just use your write-in privilege and fill in that blank on the ballot with Donald Duck, or Mickey Mouse, or your mothers name, or your own name.

The Florida shooting. Once again, a US citizen, not a illegal immigrant, is killing other fellow citizens. The worst mass shooting in the history of the country. An illegal? No. A religious zealot? No. Just a guy who flipped out, went off the deep end. And since he is dead the reasons why will never be known. And what does Trump say when he tweets after the shooting? He says Look, I was right! Aren't I great? Congratulations to me! Thank you for your congratulations, to me! OMG! What was he thinking? Apparently, in his mind, he is the only person in the world that matters; the only person who has any importance, anywhere. And then he uses the shooting as another excuse for not allowing any Muslim people into the country. Why? The shooter was a US citizen. Get a clue Trump!

Another possible shooting is foiled in Texas just a couple days after Florida shooting. So go ahead and give everybody in the country a gun and let them all just shoot themselves into oblivion.

Trump and Clinton have the lowest ratings, based on the latest polls this past week, ever recorded in the history of polling before an election. Don't believe me? Look at the ABC News/Washington Post poll - Trump is showing only 29% favorable rating. And in the Bloomberg poll he is at 31%. The Gallup poll also shows him at 31%; and the Marquette Law School poll shows a dismal 26% favorable rating. A few months ago, during the debates, Trump was always, in every single debate, bragging about his poll numbers. What happened Trump? You're not bragging about your numbers anymore.

What about Clinton's numbers? The ABC News/Washington Post poll and the Bloomberg poll both show her with a favorable rating of 43%.

Those numbers are absolutely pathetic when compared to previous years polls, which were considered very bad. For example, in 2012 Mitt Romney had a favorable rating of 46%; in 1998 John McCain was at 40%. In 2004 John Kerry was at 58% according to the Gallup poll at the time. And it goes on. Comparing the numbers for Trump and Clinton today to the past low numbers shows just how unpopular these two are in the US.

Why do Trump supporters support Trump? I can see only one possible reason - he tells it the way it is. Simply put - he is not politically correct. He gives his opinion no matter what anyone else thinks about it. After all, he is not qualified in any way whatsoever, to be president. Oh, he's rich, he's a successful business man, mostly, but qualified to be the president of the US? No, not in any way at all. So he tells it like it is, he is politically incorrect, and the public of the US loves that about him. They, the Trump supporters, appear to think that that is all one needs to be president. And they are willing to stake their own future, their children's future, the future of the US, on that one characteristic. Unbelievable!

If you read any of my previous blogs you will notice that this is the first time I have made any comments in regards to the politics in the US. I am fed up with all the crap I read on the various news web sites.

Why on earth would anybody want to emmigrate to the US? People, just look at the news once in a while. Get up-to-date on current events. Then tell me you want to go to the US. And I'll ask you - why? What can you possibly want from that place? I hava a life equal to the life I lived in the US, and I live in Colombia, a developing nation, which means it is supposed to have less to offer. Well guess what? We have everything here that they have up there. And more freedom. More personal freedom. And that beats all.

Today's blog has quite a few idioms and figures of speech, which some of my readers will find confusing, because the google translator will not translate them properly. You guys can contact me if you find anything I've written totally confusing. That is the reason I don't often use idioms and figures of speech in my blogs.

In a previous blog I wrote about a coffee I found here called Al Amir. I wrote about how good it is, and I decided it was my new favorite coffee. After I finished all of it I could not buy anymore because it was not available in any stores. That company is very small and apparently exports much, if not most, of their coffee to China, leaving the local markets with very little. And at this time, none at all. So I bought a different brand - Matiz. I bought the Balanceado (balanced) type. It was good, after a few times of brewing it. I had to figure out how much of the coffee grounds to put in the coffee maker. The taste is of a very toasted coffee bean. I had to add crushed cinnamon sticks to it to make it good for my taste. But once I got the the correct amount of coffee grounds and cinnamon figured out I decided it was good, just not as good as Al Amir.

After finishing the package of Matiz I bought another brand - Dorigenn. This coffee I thought was better tasting, it was smoother, not the strong roasted flavor of the Matiz. But I like the added flavor of cinnamon, so I added some crushed cinnamon stick to it, and it was good. But, still not as good as the Al Amir.

All of these coffee's I have tried are 100% Colombian, and single origin, coffees. If you can find any of them in your local area, I recommend you try them.

And now for the update from David, which is good news -

"hey dad how are you. whats new. i bet it has been crazy down there since the col. soccer team beat usa. am i right. well i switched jobs last month. now i am on a smaller crew and we do special project things. such as installing culverts, fish pipes, re-planking bridges. basically working around big machines. i guess you could say i am like a state worker now. you know one of those guys in a orange vest leaning on a shovel next to a excavator. i like it . it is a nice change from swinging a chainsaw all day everyday. but for real, i dont lean on a shovel all day, only now and then, there is a lot of manual work involed, running compactors and moving rocks by hand. any ways thats it for now, write me back, love david. ps on 6/25 i am one year away from release and 6 months away from work release."

So, in 6 months he will be out on work release, Yay! the end is in sight for him. I'm so glad he will be out of prison, finally. I hope and pray that I will be able to come up there to see him and Austin and my family and friends next year. But I won't know until that time comes.


New web server

May 08, 2016

I have moved my web site to a different web server. The server I have been using the last couple years, called, has proven to be less than stellar in reliability. The last couple months I have seen many "500 server" errors. This type of error is not a result of the web site, but is the result of a configuration problem on the server itself. The techs at FastWebHost raised certain settings, the problem continued. They raised them again, the problem continued. They raised other settings, the problem continued. They have maximized certain settins on the servers and the problem continues.

My site is nothing out of the ordinary, apparently their servers are. Then came the notice of renewal of the hosting fee. Normally a company sends a notice a couple weeks before the invoice is due. Not FastWebHost. They sent me the invoice on the 28th with a due date of the 29th. The date on the invoice was the 18th. They sent me the invoice 10 days late. On the 29the I recieved an overdue notice. And again on the 30th and the 1st and they suspended my account, and web site, on the 2nd. What sense does it make? Send the invoice 10 days late, then penalize me for late payment? I don't think so! So I said "Adios amigos!" and found another hosting service, this one here in Colombia. And the fee is much lower than the services in the US.

If you are using or you know someone who is, I hope you or they have better luck with them. If someone asks you for a recommendation for a web hosting service, I say do NOT recommend

If you want to send a message to David send me a message and I will tell you how. I know he would love to hear from anyone who will write to him. He is in a minimum security prison, and he is allowed to go outside the prison to work. Obviously life is not fun for him, not for another year or so. I know he would love to hear from his friends. That would really brighten his day - recieving a message from one of his friends.

Well, that's about all for now. I do keep my website updated at least once a month, and have been posting pictures of Barranquilla in the photo album.

Till next time - Chao!

Me and my landlady, Yanet, at Castillo Salgar.

Castillo Salgar, update from David

April 22, 2016

I discovered a great coffee a couple weeks ago. I was walking through a store I don't normally shop in, it's too expensive for most items, and I was looking at the coffee section, thinking "There are a lot of Colombian coffees here, I should try one of these". So I picked one called Al Amir. It's a 100% Colombian coffee with Cardomom. And it is fantastic! The name is Arabic because of the Cardomom, apparently adding Cardomom makes it an Arabic blend. I don't know, I'm no connoisseur, I just like the taste. It's a mild coffee with the slightly minty flavor of the Cardomom. A perfect late afternoon coffee, as is vanilla coffee, also a very good coffee for later in the day. In the mornings I prefer a cinnamon coffee. So far I have found a vanilla coffee and a cinnamon coffee made by Sello Rojo. The cinnamon coffee is harder to find so sometimes I buy the regular unflavored black coffee and buy some cinnamon sticks and crush them into the coffee grounds. If you haven't tried it, you should. As for finding these coffees in North America or other countries, Sello Rojo should be available, but Al Amir is probably not in North America (according to their web site they are only exporting to China). There are quite a few other coffees I haven't yet tried, but will as time goes on.

A couple weeks ago I went to Castillo Salgar. It is a historical building on the cliffs above the Caribbean. The castle San Antonio de Salgar was built by the Spanish in 1848 over the ruins of an older fort. The original use of the fort was to inspect and control smuggling of goods through the port. Over the years it has had numerous uses including a defense fort, a jail, a school for disabled people, and a branch of the University of Atlantico Fine Arts department. Now it is a restaurant/events facility. There are pictures in the photo album. Details seem to be a bit sketchy, but there is a Spanish language wikipedia page about it, and very little information on any other websites. I went to the castle with two friends, one of whom is my landlady. The other was her neighbor.

I am rebuilding my Chip's English Help website. I had been using a backend system called Moodle, which is a fantasticly complex system used by colleges, universities, schools and businesses all over the world, but it also much more than I need for my site. So, I found another educational system to build my site on and it is much easier to work with. My site isn't complicated and doesn't require such a system as Moodle. Building the site is a slow and painstaking process when working on it alone. So progess is slow. But it is progressing. Some day I will finish it, when I don't know.

I have finally finished one of my grammar books. I have written two. This particular one is for my intermediate/advanced students. I haven't gotten it printed yet because I probably need to make some small changes to the formatting. Turns out that MS Word was never intended for book writing, and it does a terrible job at formatting a book. Adobe InDesign is a book writing/formatting application, but has a very steep learning curve. There's gotta be something in between those two, but I haven't found it yet. The other book I am writing is a grammar book for my beginner/elementary students. I have to proof read that one still, then deal with the formatting of it as well. Now I know that using MS Word was a mistake, that won't happen again.

On the teaching front, nothing new to report. I have a full morning schedule, and a full evening schedule. I sometimes have students in the afternoons, when they are in town. One of them does inspections onboard ships (cargo/container ships), another two are pilots, and another just seems to be out of town more often that average. Oh well, that's all okay, as it gives me time to work on the books and the website.

What else can I write about? Oh, the weather is nice, as always - 92/93 degrees F. every day, all year round, and 80'ish F every night, all year round, with a few puffy white clouds floating overhead, occasionally, no, rarely, are they grey. This week we had a few minutes of light rain, I think it was our first rain of the year. Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was.

Oh, I certainly can't leave without bringing you up to date with David. He sent me a message a couple days ago, here is what he wrote -

i still work as much as they let me. the work schedule is 40 hours a week, 4 ten hour days, my boss works tues thru fri. other bosses work mon thru thru. i used to be able to go out on my day off, mon, with a different boss, which was nice becuz i like to stay busy it makes my time go by faster. but now some one up above here in the chain of command changed that, so now since im assigned to a crew i cant go work for a another one. which pisses me off cuz now i have to be stuck inside the fence one more day of every week. i cant really complain to much though, it is prison. i feel lucky enough to be able to go outside the fence and not be in a cell for my time. right.
other than that i still lift weights 6 days a week. last week i dead lifted 405lb for 5 sets of 4. i just got done with a light weight high rep cycle which i was deadlifting 225 for 5 sets of 15 reps. my bench press i was doing 190 for 5 sets of 15. last year when i got back from the chelan fire i was benching 225 for 8 sets of 8 reps. but that was with actual real meat and food still in me from the fire kitchen. the meals they serve here are pathetic, and no protein. they wont feed us prisoners enough protein/ food becuz they dont want us getting bigger than the staff. so its hard to get any major muscle growth. but i still work out has hard as i can and i have gain size. i still got a year left also so i should be leaving here alright

If you want to contact him send me a message and I will tell you how. I know he would love to hear from anyone who will write to him.

Well, that's about all for now. I do keep my website updated at least once a month, and have been posting pictures of Barranquilla in the photo album.

Till next time - Chao!