Friday, March 31, 2017

Sightseeing In Cali

What comes to your mind when you think of South America?  Jungles, the Yanomamo tribes that live they way humans did 10,000 years ago?   Take a look!

As I said the other day, this is a short trip and I wish I could stay but best left for another trip.  Surprisingly, the fare from Mexico City to Bogota is less than $400 round trip.   Prices are right on food and entertainment.  The museums here in Cali are free or less than a dollar.

Cali is the third largest city with Medellin second and Bogota first with over 8 million people.  Cali is a sugar cane production area in the state of Cauca (here states are referred to as departamentos).  The people are very friendly and you can walk up to just about anyone and ask for information.  Security guards in the malls attached to the hotel are a wealth of knowledge.   

I didn't post yesterday because the internet wasn't working from the suites in the hotel.  I didn't feel like sitting in the lobby to post.   My coworker took me on a quick tour of Cali.  I've posted some pics on Facebook so some of you may have seen them already.  

There were two important stops for me.  One was the Gold Deposit Museum.  It is the smallest of the three cities with Bogota having the largest.  Colombia is one of the largest gold production or mining operations in the Americas.  However, it has its downsides as well.   Most of the extraction is done illegally and the second is that it is slowly destroying the rainforests.  I'm sure you've seen NG where the miners are using water in high pressure hoses to remove dirt and silt to get to the gold which of course has a devastating effect on the landscape, flora and fauna.

In the museum are pieces dating back to 1500 BC.   

In these pieces, magnifying glasses are used to see the detail.  These are miniature pieces are less than half the size of a thimble. Incredible.   I'm sure you've seen the small gold airplane that was discoverd said to be over 2000 years old found in an ancient tomb.

We then headed out to the La Merced museum.  A small but interesting display of ancient Colombian art.

Fascinating detail work. It makes you wonder how they really lived so long ago.  I believe it's pretty much like today.  You can see that in the tools they used, the pyramids in Mexico, and the paintings they left behind.  I can sit here and read about each piece and never get bored.

Some people think the paint roller with the etched designs is the latest gadget.  Now we know the source of these dating back to 500 AD.

Anyway, I have to go.  I'm having a quick breakfast here at the hotel and then off to downtown Bogota.  Yesterday was great and I'll tell you all abou it.  The conference was a success and the teachers learned a lot. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Visit to Cali, Colombia

It was quite a trip getting to Bogota on Monday.  I arrived Sunday night to Mexico City but it was late, sometime after 12:30.  The flight had been delayed twice and it really got on my nerves.  That said, I was able to get a few hours sleep before reporting to the airport at 5:30 a.m.   The good thing was that I had all my papers and boarding passes ready and all my luggage was carry on.  No wait, no lines and I sailed through immigration asking for my exit permit.   

Breakfast enchiladas made with flor de calabasa, oaxaca cheese, and a green salsa.

The international section of the Mexico City Airport is really something.  Huge, modern, has a duty-free shopping mall similar to the internationl section in DFW.   I had a coffee while I was waiting to board.  Lucky for me my flight is first class.  The manager in Bogota really knows how to take care of visitors.   

I arrived in Bogota after a four hour flight.   Very comfortable and I watched a great movie, Arrival.  I was so sleepy but the movie had me so entrenched I just couldn't leave it.   In fact, I never really slept.  

Arriving in Bogota I only had a one-hour time frame to get my connection to Cali.   I didn't run but I sured built up a sweat getting to Colombian immigration.   The line was forever long and I thought I would miss my flight.  15 minutes later I was presenting my passport, explaining my stay and off to my connecting flight.   Bogota International has grown quite a bit since my last visit 12 years ago.  Beautiful.  

As I arrived to my gate I heard my name.  Hmm, I turned around and it was the Colombian manager.  He was flying with me to Cali.   Worked out great and I made the flight. 

Cali Airport

In Cali one of the educational consultants picked us up and out for lunch we went.  Needless to say, getting to my hotel room I crashed and was down for two hours.  

Very comfortable two room suite.

Tomorrow, I'll share my walking tour of Cali.   I return to Bogota in the morning, presenting at 4 p.m. and then back to Mexico City on Friday morning.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Some Things I Just Don't Understand

Still doing lots of this.  Mexico City, Tampico, another Mexico City and then Bogota.  Who knows what's next.  I'm hoping they like me in South America and I can do a six-country tour during this next year.

As usual, I'm not blogging much anymore.  It's the same old routine here at the ranch and it even gets boring for me to write about it.   All is well and we are biding our time waiting for that magical day when we both have a retirement check.  I'll be too old to do anything with it.  I have to say though that plans are coming together and we tend to agree more and more each day about what we want to do. 

I'm still going to Colombia next week for four days.  No sense in staying longer by myself.  It just doesn't sound fun.  I've been there and I am sure I could find a month's worth of activities to keep me busy.

I've been walking six to eight kilometers every evening and the mornings on the weekend in addition to my running and weight workout at the gym.   Diet is still an issue even though I've eliminated most of the animal stuff except for once in awhile.  Very hard to break 60 year old habits.   I still have the on-going pain in my chest.  It comes and goes.  I have an appointment but as some of you know, social medicine can take awhile especially for an MRI.   

On my walk this morning I did quite a bit of observation.  You know that Mexico is like any other country and it has its good, the bad and the ugly.   Where we live is a tourist corridor along the highway.   It is filled with shops on one side and buffets on the other.  They sell un chingo de furniture along with local eats such as pan de elote (corn bread), miel de caña (a drink made from sugar cane), camote en jarabe (sweet potato and squash in honey), things like that.   People pack the place on weekends.  Some of the shops are nice but in general, and I hate to say it, the place is a real dump.  

Many years ago, before the bad times came (which are now gone around these parts), I knew many of the younger folks who had shops.  They are mostly revendedores (resellers).  All nice people but they lack one important ingredient, education.   During those years and even now, we have programs to help the small business person.  I'm not an NGO fan as I believe I pay taxes for these programs and we need to take advantage of them.   I had helped or attempted to help several of these people.   I talked to them about the programs, what the requirements were, paperwork, etc.   They had to take a course.  That was the first show stopper.  The loans and courses were available if you met the requirements and they were fairly simple; be a registered taxpayer, and have a registration number.  As a contribuyente pequeño (small contributor) you only need to show an estimated amount of income, for example, 5000 pesos a month.  You would then pay a fixed monthly tax of say 300 pesos.  However, that would be sufficient to get you into the program.   

I was only able to help one person, a woman from the gym.  She had a laundry and washed people's clothes using a residential washer and dryer.  The dryer and the electricity did use consume much because most people like their clothes line dried.   When you don't use a clothes dryer you don't want your cottons to be dried as they will shrink.  So the next time you have laundry done in Mexico and you have some things you don't want in the dryer just tell them line dry.   I do it when I am in SMA.  

She was hesitant but after time she accepted.   She went to the course, she paid the small fees and off she went.  She was able to obtain a low-interest government loan that helped her build a small yet viable commercial laundry service.  She has accounts with restaurants and asilos (nursing homes) to do their linens.  She also added a tintoreria (dry cleaning) although she sends it off to a plant in Monterrey.  It can be done but the problems are the following:

1) lack of education  (most folks around here don't finish secondary out in the country)
2) lack of confidence in the government
3) the government doesn't get the information out to the locals

Government does a good job in these programs but it takes effort and you have to have the confidence of the people.   One of the governments responsibilities is to provide employment and in Mexico it does.  It doesn't work though because no takes advantage of the programs which in turn allows for a lot of employees to sit around doing nothing.  The more you sit around the more -bureaucratic thins become.  It's a catch-22.

I guess I put to much into it.  It's just that it could be so much more and people could have more income, better living conditions, and have happier lives overall.  If you've stuck with me this far, then maybe some of you have a better perspective.  Remember that Juan did his PhD thesis on dropout rates in Mexico.   The lowest denominator on the list was economic.  The highest was lack of interest.

Our pool remodel is almost finished.  The grout work has been redone and we are planning on a formal palapa not a gazebo.   We haven't decided yet on a tile deck, stamped concrete, or cool deck products which are like a stucco effect but the material doesn't get hot in the sun.  

We opened up the trailer this afternoon and are going there for happy hour to talk about our two-week trip during Semana Santa to San Luis Potosi.

Keep tabs on Ruth and Kevin.  They are in Italy right now.  Contessa and Colin are enjoying incredible sunsets every evening and Norma and Croft are basking in the Arizona sun.