My life in Colombia
Welcome to the blog of Chip Wiegand
As you might have noticed I have made some changes to my website. The obvious changes are the colors and boxes that the various text parts are in. I also updated the photo album. And the not obvious updates you cannot see, are in the code behind the web pages. I have made big changes to the code, now it is all html5 and css3. This doesn't really mean anything to you who are reading these pages, it does mean that it is easier for me to make future changes and do maintenance.
On my Chip's English Help web site I am also making a complete change, both to the front and to the back-end code. This is a big job. It wasn't supposed to be. I have tried 4 different LMSs (Learning Management Systems) but migrating my existing work into a new system has not been an easy import process. So, because of the problems that has included I have also made major changes to the lesson pages. I still hope to have the entire site completed by the end of 2018. I finally gave up on all the LMSs and am just building my own. The LMSs, with only one exception - Moodle, have terrible support. The problem with Moodle is it is simply too big and too complex for my needs. And it has one big flaw, in my opinion - it won't simply display my own pages without a large amount of modifications to make the work in the Moodle system. So, no more Moodle, no aTutor, no Chamilo, no eFront. Some of those might be fine for universities and schools, and government offices, but not for a small, personally developed site like my own Chip's English Help.
I have written about various Colombian coffee's in the past, and so far my all-time favorite is Al Amir Cafe con Cardamomo, but that is a tiny operation that only produces something like 10 or so bags (the big burlap bags) of coffee beans each season. I haven't found a website for them but here is their twitter account: https://twitter.com/cafe_AlAmir. Therefore, very few finished packages of coffee reach the local stores. I've found that coffee here in Barranquilla only once, 3 years ago. After Amir, my favorite is Dorigenn Santa Marta coffee (http://www.dorigennusa.com). It is grown in the Sierra Nevada mountains here in the Caribe region. Now I have another favorite - Café Fino Verde. This is another single origin coffee (as are the two previously mentioned). Fino Verdé is grown in the Antioquia department (similar to a province or state), in the high altitudes (about 5100 feet) of the Andes Mountains. It is a family owned business. This is an excellent smooth tasting coffee. On the package the description includes this: "Every single cup of coffee from our premium Betania selection gives a delicious taste of coffee of an intense sweet flavor with floral, cocoa, and fruity notes. Citric acidity, medium bodied, and a delightful post clean honeyed taste." Wow, okay, so most of that means nothing to me. Floral? How do flower taste? I don't know what to make of that. Fruity? I know many different fruits, and I don't taste any of them in the coffe. Cocoa? Yes, that I can detect in the flavor, and it's wonderful. Post clean honeyed taste? I have no idea what that is supposed to mean. I suppose the coffee snobs in the world understand all that, I don't. Regardless of all that, this is an excellent coffee, and if you can find it in your local area, buy some, you won't regret it.
And there is another coffee I have tried since I wrote the above paragraph - La Morelia Gourmet (http://cafelamorelia.com). It comes from the Quindío region of Colombia. This is another favorite of mine, and excellent coffee. The flavor is definitely different from the Santa Marta coffees. And I like it a lot. If I understand the website information correctly, it's written in Spanish, it is also a single origin coffee. The single farm is owned by a couple, Gilberto Torres and his wife Cecilia Valencia, and they have 3 children. The farm is located south of the town of Armenia. It can be located on google maps by searching for "Café La Morelia, Quindío, Armenia, Colombia". They are located at around the 5000feet elevation, in the Andes Mountains. So, again, if you can find this coffee in your city, you must try it.
I've added more photos into the Barranquilla/Christmas photo album.
Since I wrote the above paragraphs a couple weeks ago, this is new: As for the Chip's English Help web site I'm building - well, for reasons I won't post publicly, I am having to rewrite the entire site. This is not due to anything I have done or not done, it is the fault of another person who will remain unnamed. Problem for me is the external hard drive that had all the files I was building was destroyed. All I have are the ones that had been uploaded to the web server. Three years work, gone down the toilet (not literally). Not just the web site is gone, so is my music folder which contained about 40,000 songs of many different cultures/countries, including complete discographies of many bands, including my favorite - The Moody Blues (every band album plus every individual solo album plus videos and other songs collected from many web sites), same for the Beach Boys and The Beatles. And, my photos from many years with my wife Cheryl and our sons, all those pictures are gone. All my scanned pictures from my childhood, gone. More than 20,000 photos, gone. Also, my music, my songs, that I wrote and recorded. The original individual tracks of those 20 songs, gone. And five years of English lessons with my students, all gone. That backup external hard drive had close to 20 years of collected files. And it has been destroyed by another person. Two days before Christmas. Needless to say, I'm not happy right now.
I hope everyone reading had a great Christmas. And I hope you all have a fun and safe New Year celebration.
I have uploaded many pictures to the photo album - look in the Colombia folder for the new folders called Puerto Colombia and also Usiacuri, and also a folder called Misc Pics. Puerto Colombia is a small town just outside of Barranquilla. It has the remains of a very old pier, which was the longest pier on the Caribe coast, at something like 1 kilometer. Then a couple years ago during some very high winds part of the pier was destroyed. You can see me on the pier, or what's left of it, and in the distance you can see the end of the pier. There is a move to get funding to restore the pier. Usiacuri is a very small town (village) about 38 kilometers outside of Barranquilla. It's a very nice little town, and it is very small. In the pics you will see a view of the main street, it's about 2 blocks long. They have a fairly large park with a statue at the top of the hill in the park, there is a pic of me standing at that statue. There is a historic church, and I uploaded pics of it.
Visiting Usiacuri is only a half-day trip, but it is worth while. Usiacuri is the home to most important indigenous reservation in this part of Colombia. Usiacuri was discovered in 1533 by Conquistador Francisco César. Usiacuri well known for its medicinal healing waters. In Usiacuri you should visit the 'Julio Flórez' House Museum, there are many local handicrafts made from Iraca palm: purses, baskets, picture-frames, and mats. Their commercialization provides local artisans with a steady income, as well as tourism. Be sure to check out the photos of the colonial-style church 'Santo Domingo' in my photo album. There is also a nature reserve known for its mineral cold springs. Once inside the tropical dry forest you will see native flora and fauna and, if you want, you can swim in the springs.
Teaching is going well. My schedule is just about full with private students, and many more people contacting me for lessons. There's just not enough evenings in the week to take them as students. One of my students owns his own company and is going to hire me as an employee, thereby sponsoring me for a work visa. And a company I worked for a few years ago has asked me to come back and continue teaching with them.
Recently in the USA there was another mass shooting. What is that society coming to? When are they going to figure it out - you have to have some kind of gun control. Allowing any kind of gun a person could want is not going to solve anything. And there are plenty of examples of countries that have made strict gun control laws and have seen the numbers of mass shootings, and murders, and gun-inflicted injuries fall massively. One big difference between Colombia compared to life in the US is that here we do not have, in the back of our minds, the thought that maybe some crazy guy is going to pull out guns and start shooting everybody in sight. Here life is less regulated by the government. But guns are strictly regulated. Here people have more freedom to live the life they want to live, the way they want to live it. Some of my students ask me why I am here, why I would rather be in this country than in the US, and those are some of the reasons I give them. I tell them that the US has a motto - 'The land of the free', but they are not really free. Here in Colombia we are freer than people in the US. Sure there may be trade-offs, but what is the cost of freedom? A life regulated by the government. A life which is lived the way the government allows, within the many constraints of rules and regulations and laws. That is the cost of living in the 'land of the free'. I don't call that living - living with my hands tied behind my back, living with one eye out for possible shooters, the thoughts in the back of my mind wondering if I will be safe at the park or movie theater. That's not my kind of living, that's not my kind of freedom.
The Tour de France came to its conclusion today, and it was a very good tour, with many photo finishes. This years edition covered 3,540km (2,200-mile) and included starting in Germany, then the riders visited Belgium and Luxembourg before heading into France. The race started with 198 riders, and finished with 31 riders retiring before the final stage. The retirements including such big name favorites as Alejandro Valverde, Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish, Thomas Geraint, Richie Port, Mark Renshaw, and Marcel Kittel. My short review here is centered on the Colombian riders partaking in this years Tour.
This Tour was the first Tour de France Sandra has ever watched. And with the Colombian riders doing well she had plenty to get excited about. And she did get excited, jumping, yelling at the other cyclists on TV, it was very entertaining just watching her watch her first Tour.
In the end, it was Chris Froome winning his fourth Tour, that was expected, but what wasn't expected was the lackluster performance of Colombian Nairo Quintana, who was expected to finish on one of the podiums top two steps; he ended his tour in twelfth place. What wasn't expected was the rise of Colombian Rigoberto Urán, on the Cannondale Drapac team. He finished 54 seconds behind Froome, taking second place overall. We also saw Colombian Carlos Betancur finish 18th position, Segio Henao finish 28th, John Atapuma finish in 41st, Jarlanson Pantano finish 46th, Johan Chaves finish 62nd. Seven Colombians started the 3540 kilometer race, and all seven finished the race, with the lowest finisher being Chaves in 62nd place. Overall it was a very good Tour for Colombianos.
The position Nairo Quintano had on the Movistar team (a team from Spain) was that of team leader, #1. Everyone here in Colombia were rooting for Nairo for the win. It would have been possible if not for one mistake he made at the beginning of the season, or more likely, before the season began - setting his goal to win both the Tour de France and the Giro de Italia, where he finished 2nd this year. By doing that he made himself too weak to be competitive in the Tour de France. The Tour de France winner has to plan his entire season, and his year up to the Tour, for just that one win - the Tour de France.
The Canondale Drapac team is from the USA, but has on 3 riders from the USA. Rigoberto Urán is number 188. The teams number 1 rider did virtually nothing in the tour this year, finishing 54th, more than 2 hours behind. Nathan Brown (USA) finished 43rd, the highest finisher after Rigoberto, for the team. On the team Rigoberto's job was of 'domestique' to help the teams #1 rider. But in stage 9, on Sunday the 9th, Rigoberto came alive. The stage that day was in the Alps, and included 7 categorized climbs. Two of the retired riders I mentioned above crashed out of the Tour in this stage. But Rigoberto took the lead and out-sprinted (though he is not a sprinter) such top contenders as Froome and Romain Bardet. The photo finish was so close! Rigoberto beat Marcel Kittel by no more than a couple centimeters, literally the depth of the tires. Then on Saturday the 22nd we saw the second of two individual time trials in this years contest. And who should surprise everyone with another above-expectations result? Rigoberto. At the beginning of the stage he was in 3rd place overall. At the end, had had moved himself comfortably into 2nd.
On stage 18 Darwin Atapuma struck out on his own in search of a stage win. He didn't get the win, but rather, he got second because Warren Barguil came sprinting up behind him and in the last 200 or so meters took the lead from Darwin. A disappointment, but a second place finish is still impressive, and better than Chris Froome (finished 4th, 20 seconds behind) and many others on that day.
As for the other Colombia riders, they all did their jobs as expected and ended the Tour with very good showings, and giving all Colombianos world-wide a reason to cheer for their country, a reason to feel pride for their country.
As for the riders who come from the USA, Nathan Brown finished in 43rd, I mentioned him above, he's the #1 rider for the Canondale team; Andrew Talansky finished 49th, also of the Canondale team; Taylor Phinney finished 159th. That's the representation the USA had in this years Tour de France. Taylor and Andrew are domestiques, they are there to help the #1 rider, so no surprise by their finishes, but Nathan Brown is definitely a disappointment.
Well, now the Tour is completed, it's back to watching auto racing, and this is also a new sport for Sandra, and she has found the World Rally Championship and the World Rally Cross Championship to be very exciting and fun to watch. She watches the other races with me as well - V8 Supercars, BTCC, WTCC, and F1. I'm surprised she has taken such an interest, and certainly very pleased she has.
In other aspects of my life, in teaching English, I have new students and a full schedule. I have a husband-wife couple as students, and they are beginners; another business owner looking to expand her business into the USA; and a woman running the local office of a foundation (Stand By Me headquartered in England) that has a school for underprivileged children in a village in the mountains.