My life in Colombia

Welcome to the blog of Chip Wiegand

All the Colombianos who rode in the 2018 Tour de France.

Tour de France 2017

July 16, 2017

This year's edition sees the 198 riders tackle a grueling 23-day, 21-stage, 3,540-kilometer route that takes in 23 mountain climbs and affords competitors just two rest days.

Here is a quote from the BBC website, 'Nairo Quintana is one of the few who can ride away from Froome in the mountains and the paucity of time trialling this year race will also help the 27-year-old Colombian's cause - but he needs to be more aggressive. It will be interesting to see if the Movistar rider, who has twice finished runner-up to Froome (2013 and 2015) is helped or hindered by competing in Italy's equivalent race, the Giro d'Italia, where he finished second in May.'

Nobody in the news is talking about Rigoberto Uran, I think he is this years 'sleeper' in the tour, I think he is the one to keep an eye on. At this time he is in 4th place and less than half a minute behind Froome. Cannondale-Drapac's Charly Wegelius said "There's no chance to rest up in the next few days from I can see on the map. There's no chance to sleep until Paris,", whose own Colombian contender, Rigoberto Uran is merely 29 seconds back in fourth place, and only 6 seconds from the 3rd podium position. "At the moment it's very close and it'll stay like that until some lands a knock out punch. There are some pretty big hills between now and the time trial, so plenty can happen. I think it's going to be a very interesting race right to the end, for everyone and especially for Rigoberto and us."

Nairo Quintana has some work ahead of him if he wants to win this year, he has to become much more aggressive. He has to take the leadership role that he is in and push ahead of Froome. He has to put the tours stupid tradition of waiting for a fallen yellow jersey, and ride on, leaving it behind. Nairo Quintana said "I'm back there with the top guys, I'm not losing confidence and I hope we can do like this for a couple of days, so we can go for it." Last Thursday Nairo appeared to give up, having fallen back more than 4 minutes behind theyellow jersey. Then on Friday he blasted back into contention with a second place finish, a fraction of a second behind Warren Barguil. Then Saturday he fell back again, not able to keep up with the other GC contenders. I think Nairo's mistake this year was trying to win both the Giro de Italia and the Tour de France. That is almost impossible, and the person who wants to win the Tour de France needs to focus his entire year on that one race. Another problem, in my opinion, is the tradition of the GC contenders waiting for a fallen yellow jersey rider. If the yellow jersey falls or stops, the other GC contenders have traditionally slowed and waited for him to catch back up with their group. That is what Quintana did on Thursday, and it appeared to be he downfall again Saturday when Froome stopped with a mechanical problem. The GC guys waited for him to catch up but he just took off ahead of them and Nairo couldn't keep up. That tradition needs to go away and be forgotten. Just because something is traditional doesn't mean it's good.

Chris Froome, who has won 3 previous Tours (2013, 2015, 2016), this year is appearing vulnerable. Could this be his age? He is 32, getting into the old years for a professional cyclist. Last Thursday was a hard day for him, and he showed it. Before the Tour Chris predicted this race would, "be the hardest ever Tour I've ever had to fight." Chris Froome still has the best chance of taking overall victory because he has the best team supporting him, and that means everything in the Tour de France.

This coming final week of the Tour has some mighty big mountain climbs, and many smaller climbs, all of which will test even the best riders and best teams. It's going to be an exciting final week for the Tour de France. If you're a fan of cycling you won't want to miss any of the action. Who's willing to predict the final winner?

As it stands right now there are 7 riders all within about 2 minutes of the yellow jersey, all with a chance of winning the Tour. This kind of a Tour hasn't been seen in many years.

Here are the Colombian riders in the 2017 Tour de France:

Position Name Birthdate Home Town Team Rider number in race
4th Rigoberto URAN 01/26/1987 Medellín, Antioquia CANNONDALE DRAPAC PROFESSIONAL CYCLING TEAM #188
11th Nairo QUINTANA 02/04/1990 Cómbita, Boyacá MOVISTAR TEAM #21 (Team #1 rider)
18th Carlos Alberto BETANCUR 10/13/1989 Ciudad Bolivar, Cundinamarca MOVISTAR TEAM #24
23rd Sergio Luis HENAO 12/10/1987 Rio Negro, Guainía TEAM SKY #2
33rd Jarlinson PANTANO 11/19/1988 Cali, Valle de Cauca TREK - SEGAFREDO #38
54th Johan Esteban CHAVES 01/17/1990 Bogotá, Cundinamarca ORICA - SCOTT #81 (Team #1 rider)
67th John Darwin ATAPUMA 01/15/1988 Tuquerres, Nariño TEAM EMIRATES #62

174 riders finished the race today. All the Colombianos are doing very well.

The town of Usiacuri.

Visited Usiacuri, a new kitten, expatriots

June 13, 2017

Finally, I'm updating my website. So what has been happening?

One weekend we took a day trip out to a very small town, here referred to as a village, called Usiacuri. It's about 25 miles south of Barranquilla. It's a nice little town with no large businesses of any kind. There's a park with a soccer field, and at the side of it a steep hillside to climb, and at the top of the hillclimb is a statue and a view of the historic church across the small valley. There are a few small tiendas (neighborhood grocery stores, but they are very small, usually one or two rooms in a persons house that have been converted into the tienda), one or two similar sized hardware stores, a couple similar sized restaurants, and a community arts center. Oh, and a similar sized shoe store. I didn't see any gasoline stations in the town. And the very old church that sits on top of a small hill overlooking the entire town. The town is known for the arts center, where many residents are involved in making baskets and other things from Iraca palm. The area has been populated since the early 1500's.

Hmm, what else has been happening in the last few months? I've been working a lot - I spend a lot of time walking to and from students. Though now my monthly walking distance has dropped (my students are closer to my home now) from 175 kilometers per month to only 100 kilometers per month. And I'm still working on the English learning website. Now finally about halfway finished. All of the lessons/quizzes/tests are finished for the A1 level, and I'm through the fitst 7 units for the A2 level. The one problem I will face is in recording the audio - I can't do it all myself, I'm going to need one or two more people for doing conversations. I haven't found another native English speaker here, yet, to help me with that. There are a few, not many, I just have to find them.

We have a cat now. One evening Sandra and I were walking to a supermarket, and we came across a kitten crying and wandering on the sidewalk, alone. We stopped and petted it, Sandra picked it up, talked to it, and then put it down and we started to walk away. The kitten followed us. We stopped again, picked it up and put it into a nearby garden, expecting it to stay there in the safety of the garden. We walked on, and the kitten followed us again. This time Sandra picked it up and asked me if she could keep it. She put it into her pocket, he seemed to be quite happy. We talked about it for a couple minutes and I said Okay. So we turned around and took the kitten home, put it in the patio with a bowl of milk, closed the door and left again for the supermarket. When we got home he had drank all the milk. The next day we bought it some food and he made himself at home with us. I got an empty box, cut it down a bit, and put in some dirt (actually sand, as there is virtually no dirt here, just sand). And the kitten took to it immediately. He has never gone potty on the floor. We believe he was born outdoors, a feral cat, and so never needed to be house trained. That was maybe 3 months ago. Now he climbs all over everything, even the security bars on the window, and climbs up to the awning, then onto the roof. He doesn't like going out front, it's too noisy and too many cars/trucks/busses. He doesn't like that. And that's a good thing. His name is Tom, he's black with white from his nose, chest, and stomach, and his feet. He's a wonderful little guy to have with us.

I've read that there are around 9 million U.S. citizens living overseas. These citizens are supposed to, are required (by law), to pay the US Government income taxes (actually, all taxes as if they are living in the US). Yet the US Government does not provide services to these millions of citizens, services that other US resident may receive such as roads, hospitals, unemployment insurance, etc. Nor do US citizens living overseas receive US government protection of local property (legal, courts, police, etc). Such services and protections are provided by the country in which these people are resident in and pay a fair share of taxes to. In other words, he US Government, in exchange for its taxation of these US citizens, as if they are residents of the US, does not provide any local services or local protection of property.

I believe, as do most, if not all, of the expatriates from the US, that the US claim of tax jurisdiction over residents of other countries is not justified.

An unofficial survey was done on Twitter about what term might be used to describe this double-taxation by the US government, and the term 'Kafkaesque' won out over Orwellian, Catch-22, and Dystopian.

But I think another term, and a better name, for it all is 'Tributary Slavery'. Samuel Adams coined the term in relation to taxation without representation. Certainly today Tributary Slavery is a more applicable term to American citizens living overseas than it was to the Colonists in 1764. Today there are no services or protection of property in exchange for the taxation, unlike the situation 253 years ago. While US citizens overseas may vote, there is no representation in the true sense of the word as the votes get divided among the 50 states, and there is no representative only representing US citizens overseas. Therefore, the US Government to which we pay taxes does not represent me or the millions of other expatriot citizens. Evidence of this has been an enduring situation that Kafka might appreciate, and which Samuel Adams and the other Founding Fathers would find deplorable.

A street performer performing with me in his grasp in Bogota, Colombia.

Why I don't go to church anymore

June 6, 2017

First let's look at the word 'church'. Where does it come from? What does it refer to? The Greek word 'ekklesia' is the root word the English translated to 'church'. But what does 'ekklesia' mean? The literal meaning is 'called out', or 'a calling out'. It does not refer to a building of any kind, nor does it even refer to a place, or location. It refers to a group of people (Acts 19:30-41), the children of Israel (Acts 7:38), and the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 5:25, 32). In the bible ekklesia can refer to the group of believers in a particular location(1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1-2), it can refer to individual believers (1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13), and it can also refer to the universal group of all people who have trusted Christ through the ages (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 5:23-27).

Is a building the ekklesia? If you have a building and there are no people in it, is it a church? Or is it just an empty building? Ekklesia is a group of people called out from society in general who meet. Where they meet is of no importance. Ekklesia means 'called out', as in Acts 19:32, 39. It was used to refer to an assembled group of people. Then there is the use of the word, more than 100 times, in the Greek Old Testament. In that use it meant 'assembly' and had more than a few different contexts. It referred to the assembly of the prophets (1 Sam 19:20), assembly of soldiers (Num 22:4), and in general, the people of God (Deut 9:10). In the New Testament the word Ekklesia referred to the local 'called out christians' (1 Cor 1:2) and also to the entire people of God (Eph 1:22,23). The church is not a building, it is not an organization. The church is a group or assembly of believer’s who have been purchased by God through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and adopted into the family of God. So, to answer the question at the beginning of the paragraph - no, ekklesia is not a building, it is an assembly of people called out by God.

The church is not a building. The church is not a social club. The church is a united group of believers who have turned from their sins (repented) and then turned to Christ and placed their trust in Him. The church never panics about whether it will survive or not. Jesus said it will survive, no matter what (Matt 16:18)!

Did you see that term 'social club'? That is key, that is important, because in today's world, the 'church' is often little more than that - a social club. A place for people to gather and talk, spread rumors, compare stories about our daily lives. It's a place to gain acceptance, to gain stature. Too many people can spend many hours per week working for their local church, often after working a full time job, and taking care of the family, and then feel completely run-down, exhausted. Is this what God wants for us?

For me, I am secure in my spiritual life, I have no low self-esteem or insecurity issues. I don't need a place to go to to feel 'accepted'. I know I am accepted by God just the way I am, and no matter where I am on Sunday morning, on any day, at any time, God is with me. Being in a building is not relevant, not important for me, to have a relationship with Him.

I spent many years in churches, in independent, non-denominational, churches. I spent many years playing on the worship teams in those churches. I know many people who do that, and I know that most of them do not worship God when they are up there on the stage playing their instruments. Some, not all, but some of them are there to be seen. A minority are there to worship God. Now when I go to a church I always look up there at the worship band, and I watch them - are they playing to be seen? are they worshiping God? Why can't the worship band be hidden behind a curtain or something else? Why do we have to see them? It distracts us from worshiping God. Leave the sound system, but get the musicians out of sight. Get all the people who want to dance out of the front of the church, out of sight of the congregation. Why do they need to be seen? What is the purpose of us watching them? That is a distraction when we are supposed to be worshiping God.

What about the pastor? What does he have to say from the pulpit? Is he preaching from the bible? Or is he preaching from the latest news reports? I can read the news reports on my own time at home. At church don't preach about your opinion of the Paris Accord, about environmental issues, about the President and all the stupid things he is doing but you still support him anyway. If I go to church I want to hear preaching that comes from the bible. I don't want to hear opinions about the bible, I don't want to know how you interpret a particular passage of scriptures. I want to hear what the bible teaches. I don't want to hear about money and how the church needs more money for this, that, and the other thing. If you want to teach about tithing, fine teach what the bible says, just don't give me your opinions about it, and don't tell me it is required. It's not. It's suggested.

I don't want to be told what I can or can't do in my life. The New Testament has no 'you must do' statements, no laws, God only asks for us to be obedient to him (Look at Hebrews 10: 11-12, 16-18).

Not all churches are such negative places, but I think it is safe to say that most are more business oriented, institutions out to earn money for a select few. Too many pastors want to get their people following certain rules, and some churches even push those rules to the point of publicly embarrassing those who do not follow them. You aren't tithing? We will come to your home and ask questions why. You didn't come to church for a week or two, or three? We want to know why. Too many are about pastors buying expensive homes and 'big boy toys', when their own congregants are struggling to pay the rent and put food on their own tables. I think the pastors should be earning no more than the average of all the congregants. They are not their to fill their own pockets, they are their to teach the Word of God.

Oh, and there is one more reason for me, personally, not attending church here where I live - there are no bilingual churches in this city. My level of the local language (Spanish) is elementary. That makes it very difficult to understand native speaking pastor spitting out the words at a hundred miles per hour. My time struggling with that ends up completely wasted, and I could spend it doing something actually worthwhile, at home. Now if the pastor spoke at the level of an intermediate learner of Spanish then I would gladly attend his services. But honestly, what pastor, anywhere, in any language, would do that? Of course not, that is completely ridiculous. As a new learner of Spanish at the elementary level I need to be listening to intermediate level Spanish, not the fully fluent, fully advanced, level.

A street scene in Bogota, Colombia.

Some say: If you don't vote, you can't complain.

November 24, 2016

Some say: If you don't vote, you can't complain.
The real truth is this: If you DO vote, you can't complain.

Think about this: The person who does not vote (and does so out of thoughtful deliberation and self-education of all the issues, rather than mere laziness), is governed without his consent. This person never took any positive action to accept this 'social contract'. If government gets its 'just powers' from the consent of the governed, then the government can have no just power over the person who didn't vote, or voted for the losing candidate. Yet the fact that the government has power over him is unfortunately undeniable, but there is no justice in that power - and so, no injustice in any actions the non-voter may take to limit or evade that power, except those actions which are, at face value, lawless regardless of the current status of the Government.

If we want to talk about people who have no right to complain, I'd say the first people we should look at are the faithful 'lever pullers' voting to keep these corrupt people in office, with minimal accountability.

Please understand, I'm not saying "don't vote", and I am not saying there's no value in it. What I'm saying is, there are many good reasons why one might abstain from it. Vote if you want, but let's cut the shame and the judgement of those who choose not to. Especially since I think it would be best to look at the systems you're actually contributing to with how you choose to exercise your vote, before opening your mouth to make judgements against anyone else.

And honestly, even if all of this is just hogwash, considering that we pay thousands in taxes every year, the idea that skipping an election disqualifies my right to an opinion is one that just makes absolutely no logical sense. So all of you screaming about anyone else's right to exercise our freedom of speech come down from your high horse and take a seat.

Most US citizens are taught that they were granted a voice by some unknown government document and that they should "use their voice" by quietly and obediently filling in a little rectangle with a black mark, I say defy the status quo, go beyond the prescribed "solutions", and utilize instead the art of persuasion. In other words, use your ACTUAL voice to bring about change. I say if you want to express yourself on so-called political matters then think outside the box; that is, the ballot box.

So what do you do if you don't vote? What can you do? What can you do if you don't use your "voice" to choose your governing officials? You complain, protest, speak against, those who would use their power via elected office, as well as those who would use power through bureaucracy and the state's enforcement systems, if you really want to improve society. You don't have to vote to make a difference, and voting is not your voice.

You have a literal voice which was given to you by our Creator who also gave you life. The Government did not have anything to do with it. I say that if they want to make a difference, you need to use your voice by engaging in education, dialogue, persuasion, activism, and mindful market choices. That's how change really happens.

Before what I am saying is misinterpreted or misunderstood, I don't care if you or anybody else reading this votes or not. For now I just want raise the awareness to the glorification of voting, to raising it to the level of a religious ritual. It's not really as effective as the system would have you believe.

From where does the logic that if one fails to willingly cooperate in the process of ones own enslavement, you have no right to be angered at the actions of your unchosen masters? In other words, from where does the logic that if you fail to vote for somebody you don't agree with, you have no right to be angered come?

We live, all of us, with a system of government that almost no one -- not even the most blindly patriotic voter - has any real control over. And no amount of 'campaign finance reform' or 'term limits' or 'free TV time' is going to change that.

If you want political leaders you like, fine, then vote for them, otherwise you're stuck with whatever morons get elected. But why should I have to participate in the selection process just to avoid giving up my expectation for competence and integrity?

I don't vote for judges, but I expect them to do their jobs well. The same holds for police and most of other public officials. Do I have to join the PTA or resign myself to bad teachers?

I do my job to the best of my ability because I know it matters and I want to contribute. Can't I expect the same of those in government?

And yes, I have been paying attention. It's paying attention that's made me so pessimistic. I read the news every single day, whether it is left, right, center is not important, I read it all and get a bigger view, and I never see anything going on in government that's worthy of the leaders of a great nation.

All of the arguments I see are over details of economic policy. How many jobs? Which taxes on which people? This is not leadership. It's management. What is the President - a leader? Or a manager?

Still worse, if you pay attention for a while you will see that none of these policy choices seem to come out of a genuine vision of how a civilized country should function. It's all a matter of polling, branding, and demographics. It's name calling, finger pointing, scandal mongering, positioning, and pandering.

They may all clothe themselves in different sheeps' clothing, but they're all the same wolf underneath.

I say that there is no one in government who represents me, and that whether I vote or not, this will not change. I am governed by leaders I did not choose, who enact policies I do not believe in, paid with in money I earned but did not consent to give to them. In every meaningful way, I am completely and utterly disenfranchised -- and so is just about everyone else. Look at these:

  • If I don't vote. No one in power represents me.
  • If I vote for myself. I lose.No one in power represents me.
  • If I vote for a minor-party candidate with views close to my own. He/she loses. No one in power represents me.
  • If I vote for one of the two 'real' candidates. He/she loses...No one in power represents me.

Can you honestly, truly, without hesitation claim that there is not one decision made by your 'representatives' that you would not have made yourself? Not one law passed, in your name, using your money, that you consider unjust or unnecessary? Not one action taken by your 'representatives' that you would not consider wholly unrepresentative of what you believe?

So then: All of us, to varying extents, spend part of our lives living under a government that does not represent us, and cannot be reformed so that it does - after all, there is no such thing as a 'good government'. The very nature of government is tyrannical - government is predicated on the thesis that some people have a right to tell other people how to live their lives. Call it 'the divine right of Kings' or call it 'the will of the people' - it all boils down to some people telling other people how to live.

I do believe in civic duty. And like most of you reading this, I too think that a vote is sacred. So sacred, in fact, that I don't want to waste it on today's politicians or yesterday's system.

Give me politicians worth voting for, and I'll vote. Until then, stop looking down your nose at me.

"I have solved this political dilemma in a very direct way: I don't vote. On Election Day, I stay home. I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. Now, some people like to twist that around. They say, 'If you don't vote, you have no right to complain,' but where's the logic in that? If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and they get into office and screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote - who did not even leave the house on Election Day - am in no way responsible for what these politicians have done and have every right to complain about the mess that you created." - George Carlin

A classic building in Bogota, Colombia.

Bogota Trip

October 24, 2016

We got home sunday in the afternoon, after a long bus ride. It must have been the milk run route - the driver stopped in just about every little town along the way. It was about 20 hours, if not more, for the trip home. We have many photos which I have posted in the photo album, just look for the Bogota album. And some videos as well.

While we were in Bogota my landlady contacted me to tell me she found my neighbors cat in our apartment. She said it appeared to have not done anything bad inside, but may have been there for 3 days, just crying to get out. The only possible way for the cat to get in is from the patio. Which means the cat had to be on the roof, then jump down to a steel-bar grate over the top of the patio, then jumped down through the grate to the laundry sink, then to the floor. I had left the patio door open just so the room would have some fresh air while we were away. But, when we got home, we found things were a bit dirtier than we'd hoped or expected. And after that very long bus ride we were mopping, 3 times, the apartment. Then I found that the toilet tank wasn't refilling with water after a flush. So, the next task was to dive into the tank and find out what was wrong there, and I did - the valve inside the tank was plugged. Not a great way to start our evening back home.

Friday night we received an email from the Ministry of Exterior Relations (they handle the visas and passports), They denied the visa. :( Which means we have to re-apply - in 6 months. So the money that was sent to us will be set aside and saved for that time, unless you want it back, just contact me and say the word, and I'll send it back to you, no problem. As for why it was denied, there is no explanation given. Our guess is that it is because of the short amount of time we have been married before applying for the visa - they probably assume the marriage is only for the purpose of my getting legal. That is of course an incorrect assumption on their part, but there is no arguing with them about it, no negotiating. It's done, for now. We'll just do it again in 6 months.

It is nice to be back in Barranquilla where the weather is warm, very warm. No coats, jackets, sweaters, needed here. In Bogota people are bundled up in coats and scarves in the evenings, and light jackets in the day.

There is a road in Bogota, Calle 7, which is closed to all motor vehicles, for many kilometers. There are many office buildings/shopping centers/museums/restaurants/etc in this part of town and people are happy to walk on with the intrusion of motor vehicles. The President's Home is at one end of this former busy city street. I got a couple pictures of it, but from a distance, because the police around the place don't allow anyone close enough to get good pics.

On Saturday morning we walked through a small part of the area again, and went by the front of the Museum of Gold. We saw the price and decided we could afford that one museum; it was only 3000 pesos (about 1 dollar US). And at the ticket counter we got an even better surprise - I was free because of my age (I'm not old, yet, just old enough to get into this one museum for free). The Museum of Gold is a fascinating place to visit. We have many pics, I'll post on my website photo album after I get through sorting through them all.

Some of the other pics you will see there will be pics of the very first church build in Bogota, back in the 1540's (If I remember correctly, but it was in the 1500's). It is still used for services. We were allowed to go inside and take some pictures. The pics don't give you the impression you get when you are inside the place, of course, but they are well worth looking at. There are pics of several other very old churches. There is another church that dates back a couple hundred years, but they don't allow any camera usage inside, so no pics of that one. And it has some very beautiful sculptures and carvings inside.

So we didn't get the visa, and we have to wait 6 months before we can re-apply, we still have all the money people sent us for this, and it will be used for this when the time comes. We did have a nice time visiting the capitol of Colombia, but I like Barranquilla better - fewer people, warmer weather, friendlier people. But, Bogota is a better city to visit if you are a "culture vulture" type of person; and it is quieter (almost no horn honking, which is nonstop in Barranquilla), the climate is cooler (bring a sweater/jacket and umbrella). I like the food of Barranquilla better as well, though because of our tight budget we didn't eat a wide variety of foods.