Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Land of saints and scoundrels

If you’re from Colombia and living abroad, or at least in the UK, you’re usually met with three reactions when you mention your place of birth to new acquaintances. I characterise them as the “three C’s” – cocaine, conflict and coffee. These seem to be the exclusive reference points for the people who’ve actually heard of the place. One local ex-pat Anglo blogger recently discussed the drug connotations of this adopted country of residence and the problems of explaining it all to his friends in the UK with the succinct title “Yes I live in Colombia. No, I’m not a coke fiend”. Between drug money and civil war, there is definitely a certain culture of violence, but whether those macrosocial factors can be held to be a causal influence on street violence and crime is a different question. When we first got to Bogotá it would be fair to say we were rigid with paranoia and fear. Big scary city, big scary problems, muggers and killers lurking under every hood, round every corner. For the first month or so it felt like an adventure just opening the front door to put the rubbish out, wondering who would take advantage to push their way in and disembowel us before looting the house. Fear is a wonderful stimulant to paranoid creativity.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

When I Grow Up I Want to be a Music Blog

So I’ve wanted to write about Colombian music for a while now. But it sort of involves having to come clean about what I’ve been doing for a living in recent months. I landed a job with the city’s Chamber of Commerce (yeah, you heard me right), which is sort of weird, but I have the good fortune of working for the benefit of Creative and Cultural Industries, being the coordinator of events that promote cinema and music. I started just under six months ago, straight into a baptism of fire, with just five weeks between me starting and my first event, the Bogotá Audiovisual Market. It mainly promotes Colombia cinema to an international market. When I first came to Colombia in 1996 the release of a Colombian feature film was a happening that was talked about for years. The entire nineties were dominated by a couple of films (if you haven’t seen them, watch La Estrategia del Caracol and La Vendedora de Rosas), because they’d hardly made more than a couple. Nowadays there are Colombian films opening every month, and they travel abroad and make an impact.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Dancing Queen

To finish off the cuteness overdoes, here's a video of yesterday's party. It's a video of five-year olds dancing, so if that's not your thing, just hang on for the next blog post, there'll be one along in a minute.

(I'd just like to point out that at 5m30s Oisin clearly executes a stagedive from the small plastic chair on the right of the image. HE WAS BORN PUNK, MY BOY!)

MVI 1171 from Gareth Gordon on Vimeo.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Hornet Piñata

I think there’s an outside chance we might have distinguished ourselves for being atypically relaxed parents. So unhurried, in fact, that we haven’t signed the child up for the conservatoire, nor enrolled him in a footballing academy, nor hired a private art tutor. We’ve been too busy playing with him and having fun to worry about all the proper stuff that your real middle class parents busy themselves with. This has its upside – we have a great laugh. It has its downside as well, as, for example, when we went to his school and asked for a slot to organise a little birthday party for him with his classmates. The other parents, knowing the routine, had booked their slots at the start of term. Hippy mum and hippy dad found out to their cost that you can’t just leave it to the fortnight before the big day and assume that the nursery is going to have a space to give up for your little treasure’s moment of glory. Hence Oisin got two birthday parties… (we’re back on the upside again!). Once on the day of his birthday with us at home (I'll not go into the details of daddy arriving off the plane from Medellin hungover for the breakfast birthday party), and once this morning, 12 days late. I suppose it’ll make a bigger impression on him, an entire fortnight of celebrations, and we’ll be the winners in the long run… until this time next year when he’ll insist on following the same protocol I imagine, unresponsive to our pleas that the two week extended party was due to a scheduling cock up on our part.

Music teacher Daniel kicks off the party

Here’s a few photos of the event. The nursery has the routine down to a T – the music teacher comes and sings them a few songs, they dance themselves silly, they eat the cake you’ve brought a few minutes earlier, they all get a present, the birthday boy or girl gets lots of big presents, and then someone has a cry because it’s all been too much (Oisin in this case, but that’s our fault for sparing the rod all these years).

Oisin dishes out the party hats

Daniel and school head teacher Pastora watch Oisin burn himself on the child safe candle

Several small children didn't survive the stampede for cake

Daddy and Fito try to prevent the child from bursting the piñata

It's just too cute. The handing over of presents was invariably accompanied by a big hug.

(For those who don’t know, the blog title is a reference to an album by the excellent Didjits. Here’s a video of the album cover. Apparently The Offspring did a cover of this song. I’ve never heard of the Offspring. I recommend you don’t either and concentrate on the Didjits.)

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Holding out for a (HTC) Hero

It’s been a good week for thieving, if you’re a scumbag in Bogotá. Actually, it started a couple of months ago when Fernando was involuntarily parted from his Nikon DSLR. Actually, it started about five centuries ago when the Spanish got here and stole everything they could get their hands on, instituting a culture of pillage with impunity that persists to this day. Fernando was, by his own account, the subject of a staged fight, which involved him being knocked to the ground as a diversion for someone else making off with his camera. And lenses. And flash. And bag. He didn’t come home a happy ex-photographer. There was one miserable tweet from him asking for info regarding a misplaced camera, and that was the end of the story.