Translate (Traductor)

Monday, June 25, 2012

My answer to one of life's most burning questions

I hope you can take 10 minutes out of your life to listen to my answer to one of life's most burning questions.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Speeches that inspire my life

I wanted to post some speeches by five completely different people from totally different walks of life. I use these as inspiration to guide my own life. I hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoy them and it is my hope that you can inspire change in your own life. Click the links to open them in a new window and listen. -Tyler

Charlie Chaplin

Steve Jobs

You are not special

Randy Pausch Last Lecture (It is long but worth every minute!)

Arnold's secret's of success

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Civil rights around the world

I wanted to write about something rather serious in my opinion. I wanted to let you my readers know that the status of your civil rights varies from country to country. In first world countries like the USA,Canada,Australia etc. you can expect pretty much the same basic protections on search and seizure, being pulled over etc. On the other hand in countries like China,N. Korea,Iran etc people have zero civil rights. The governments there do anything they want, anytime they want, with or without justification. People there have to obey without question or risk being hurt,imprisoned or killed.

In America as far as I know, the police must have probable cause and/or a search warrant to search you or your property, otherwise it is considered illegal search and seizure and you can fight it in court. In my experience as an American citizen  I have never been stopped or searched for any reason other than a routine traffic ticket. Now this experience may differ for immigrants or visitors to America but for me, for my whole life this is how it has played out for me. Everyday we are being more and more monitored and our rights are being more and more tested but, the fact remains that we HAVE rights in our constitutions and no one can take that away from us.

I am writing about this because today I was stopped by the police here in Colombia. Due to the past/present security concerns the police/military/government officials have very broad authority here to stop and search you/ask for your ID for ANY reason at ANY time. I want to make it clear that I do not have a problem with this. Today I had no problems with the police either. I handed over my ID, he checked it and he also searched my bag then I went on my way. He was very nice and professional. It was just a new experience for me. Back home this would have never happened to me ever because it would have been illegal. I was just minding my own business walking to work and technically he had no probable cause or search warrant but this is Colombia. When you are a visitor living in another country you have to abide by their laws though and realise that the freedoms and rights you come to expect in your home country may not exist in the country you choose to move too.

I just wanted to make my readers aware that civil rights are not exactly rights. They are a privilege. This privilege can be changed,modified or taken away at any time in certain countries. If you live in country where your civil rights are secured by a constitution and court system of some kind then consider yourself lucky. Here in Colombia they have sacrificed most of their civil rights in the name of better security. It is a bad trade off but, I would rather be asked for my ID at anytime by anyone than have to constantly worry about serious security issues. Next time you get pulled over by a cop in your home country and start to grumble. Make sure you think about how nice you really do have it.

Ok, on to less serious stuff now! Yesterday was another public holiday here so I did not work. I went out with my friends to play a rather dangerous game called Tejo. Basically you threw large heavy stones across a room at a clay backboard/target that had four targets filled with gunpowder. The object was to throw the stones in such a way that they either stuck in the clay or exploded the gunpowder. It was loud,dangerous,alcohol fueled and fun! I was really terrible but enjoyed myself anyway. This Colombian national past time is second only to football (soccer) in popularity. I had an enjoyable holiday weekend.

I also wanted to tell you that everyone in Colombia so far has been really nice to me and I have had zero issues, with the exception of some of the Colectivo (small buses) drivers. They seem to be quite racist towards me sometimes! They will clearly see me, look right at me and drive right by. This is extremely frustrating when I need to get to work or what not. The only reason I can think of for this behaviour is because I am white, a gringo in Colombia. I want to make it clear that not EVERY driver does this but, it has happened more than once. It seems really illogical to me because by not picking me up they are losing out on my money!

The last thing I wanted to mention was the motorcycle riders here in Colombia. Every single rider I have seen in Colombia must wear a full face/head covering helmet without exception, otherwise their motorcycle gets impounded and they are very strict about this. I think its great! I think it is so stupid to drive a motorcycle and not wear a helmet. In Thailand they also had a helmet law but it was rarely if ever enforced. In addition here in Colombia if you drive a motorcycle you must have your license plate number printed on your helmet and on a jacket or something you wear. This policy came into affect because in the early 90's many many crimes were committed on motorcycles and they needed an easy, quick way to identify the person. Also, if there was a bomb or explosion it was easier to identify either the perpetrator or the victims.

Tonight I am off to a weekly event here called Gringo Tuesdays, this is an event organized by Couch Surfing that includes a language exchange and a party where you can meet local Colombians, or if you are a Colombian, meet gringos. It is a lot of fun and a great way to meet people. Well that is all I have for now. Yall take care,Tyler

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Tomato Fest

Recently I went to Sutamarchan, Colombia in the Department (state) of Boyaca. It was about four hours north of Bogota and I went there with my friends for the annual Tomatina Festival it was a wild time! There was people of all ages throwing tomatoes at each other and it was like a war zone! I covered from head to toe in tomatoes. I even had tomatoes in my ears! There was an enormous amount of tomatoes and people were having a lot of fun. Almost everyone was nice and friendly about it but, there was a few people who were really mean and they would throw whole tomatoes at you (you were supposed to crush them first) and those hurt! I did get a few bruises on my back.

The rule was if you wanted to participate you just ran into the war zone. If you didn't you stayed out. But, many people got pelted anyway and some even got forcefully pulled in by their friends! The ninos y ninas (children) had their tomato fight first then it was the adult's turn. All my life I have wanted to go to the huge tomato fight in  Spain. So this is as close as I will get for a while.

I had a really good time being immersed in Colombian culture and hanging out with my friends. We had a good weekend tour of Sutamarchan and stayed at a town near by called Villa_de_Leyva. A fun time had by all!

Check my facebook page for more pictures. -Tyler

Friday, June 15, 2012

I am a real published author!!!!!

I was invited to write a guest blog post at  I had previously let them know that I was new to Colombia and interested in writing a Newcomer's guide for them. To my great surprise they accepted and here it is! My first published article!  

I am super excited and they even linked to this blog, so it is like the biggest shout out for my blog ever! They have International readers! A big thank you to Marcela,Paul and all the seecolombia travel team :) -Tyler

Friday, June 08, 2012

A mini rant on the two things I hate most

I don't mean to come across as overly negative about these issues but I just have so much to say about the weather and the traffic here in Bogota that I decided to make a separate blog post just about the terrible traffic and generally horrible weather haha. Here in Bogota as I said before, car ownership is only about 20% give or take. But, there is nine million people in this city so that is a lot of cars. Gas here for "Corriente" (regular gas) is about 8500 pesos a gallon. That is $4.78 a gallon! You would think this would deter most people who own cars from driving but it does not seem too. I only complain about the traffic so much because I sit in it all day for my job. For my private teaching I have to go to my client's houses/offices so I routinely spend multiple hours a day just sitting on a bus going nowhere.

Bogota does have a fairly decent (but not unified) transportation system. It is cheap, just one dollar per ride. But, even that has it's downsides. You can't ride the Transmelinio Bus System everywhere (The Metro Buses) so you have to take Colectivo's. That means dealing with much smaller buses that are sometimes so crowded that you are literally packed shoulder to shoulder like refugees or something. You also have to deal with people getting on and off the bus to try and sell you things you generally don't want or need. This system of selling goods on the bus only works because the seller has to give a free whatever it might be to the bus driver. Generally speaking they will just shove their goods into your hands and launch into their spiel. Once they are done talking they come to either collect the money or you give them their goods back. It just annoys me when I have had a long day and just want to get home. Many times you will have to deal with this multiple times on one Colectivo ride. Also, the Colectivo's cost 1450 pesos during the day and 1500 at night. Here it is quite easy to pay a good round number like 1500 but frustratingly hard to have 1450 pesos! So I end up with odd amounts of change all the time.

Bogota does have the "Pica y Placa" days and Ciclovia on Sunday's both of which are aimed at getting the number of cars off the road which I think is good. Pica y Placa means certain cars cannot drive on certain days between 6am and 6pm to help reduce pollution and congestion here, both of which are a problem. Ciclovia is the cycling on Sunday's for four hours a day which is also good. You have to keep in mind though, if people are legally unable to drive their cars they will just load up on the public transport which means for me on P y P days the buses are much more crowded!

Bogota is a huge city and generally speaking if I have to get anywhere I allow myself at minimum an hour. Traffic can sometimes be at a standstill. Bogota is very much like Thailand in the sense that there is road laws and rules but you only know them if you are a local and they are very rarely respected. Locals drive like maniacs and I won't ever be driving here! If there is two lanes of traffic going the same direction side by side, motorcycles make a third lane of traffic by driving in between the cars! The traffic lights here in Bogota are like "racing lights" they go from green, to yellow to red. What really annoys the crap outta me is all the honking! South Americans are the most impatient drivers I have ever seen! If there is line of ten cars and car number one has not started moving the INSTANT it turns green then car number ten will blow his horn (and everyone else too) soon the whole street is going off! This happens all day, all the time and it makes me nuts.

If you think pedestrians have rights in South America forget about it lol. If you are not careful you will get run over. Cars will not stop for you for any reason really. Just as in Asia. You have to walk across quickly and with confidence and hope you make it. If you see an opening you just have to take it! There are very few official cross walks and even when there is, it doesn't matter. I have been run over yet though.You have to hurry though, the lights change quickly and without warning and every swarms all over the road. The all numerical address system here in Bogota can get crazy too. They leave up old obsolete addresses many times and also the signs are posted on every corner of every block but they don't necessarily make sense. In addition, they are quite small. In the day time this is not such a problem but, at night it sucks trying to navigate! I can only get around at night by landmarks. 

Now onto the weather. It is generally speaking between 10 and 25 degrees Celsius or 40 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit year round. This is colder than I am used too so I am still not a big fan of it but, Bogota is nestled into a valley with the mountains surrounding it. The weather never really changes here, the only thing that changes is whether it will rain or not. It does rain here quite frequently actually. I am also not a big fan of that! This is truly a four seasons in one day city. Very much like Auckland New Zealand. I never ever leave my house here in Bogota without a jacket and an umbrella, even if it is super sunny and hot outside. It can change quickly! But, Bogota does have it's nice days though. It can be warm and sunny and nice (for a while) I have only had one day here where it has been warm enough to wear my shorts and sandals though :( I miss them! In Thailand I was wearing them every single day and wore my sandals so much I got sandal tan lines haha.

This is a "P.S." but I wanted to let yall know something else interesting about where I live. Bogota has trash collection like most civilized societies in the world but, it is not on a regular schedule and things can get quite dirty here sometimes.  So, even though it is completely illegal, there is many many people on horse drawn carts (Yes in 2012 they still have horses and buggies here) and they dig through the trash piles and take what they want. I am forever seeing and hearing the noise of those horses pounding on the pavement. They cause big traffic slow ups sometimes but, even though it is illegal it is tolerated here.

Well this blog post has been almost all negativity but I wanted to vent and get that out of my system haha. Hope yall don't mind. The good news is now I don't have to keep rehashing this over and over and we can move on to more positive things lol. Sorry my mini rant turned into a long drawn out one, you know how I sometimes get carried away lol.  Yall take care.


Thursday, June 07, 2012

More details about Colombian life

Well dear readers, I figured you might be curious about life in Colombia. Not life from the eyes of a tourist but, life from the eyes of a foreigner living and working here (aka me!) There are things I really like about Colombia and things I don't like so much. First my "Like" list. I like my job a lot, I have great clients and a good job. It is fairly easy and rewarding teaching people a new language. I like the variety of food that I can get here for really cheap even if it is bland sometimes. (Colombians are not known for spices) I like the fact that I landed on my feet here and things seem to be working out for the most part. I have a good job, good place to live and some great friends. I like living in a big city with lots to see and do. I like learning Spanish even if right now I still need a lot of practice!

What I don't like is the fact that when you are on a bus Colombians seem to have a genetic inability to move over! What I mean is, if there is two seats together and they are sitting in the aisle seat and the window is free, rather than move over 99% of Colombians will make you crawl over them. It is so frustrating! I HATE the fact that 99% of restaurants in Colombia don't have black pepper and they way overuse salt on everything. It is so frustrating to have an inability to get black pepper when I want it. I hate the fact that Bogota does not have a unified transportation system and it is so spread out. There is a map system for the Metro buses but the Colectivos have no such system. You just have to know where you are and where you want to go. The traffic is always terrible here and so is the weather (generally speaking). They also have people who board the bus for free whenever they want and try and sell you things. The bus drivers allow this because they get free stuff from the sellers of the goods. Almost always it is men who do this and I realise they are trying to make a living but when you just want a bus ride in peace and not be forced to listen to some sells pitch for something you don't want (sometimes even multiple times during one bus ride!) it just really gets old. I hate it but there is nothing you can do about it.

In Thailand corruption was visible everywhere. You saw X shop keeper doing X thing illegal because he paid off the cops. It was not a TOTALLY lawless society don't get me wrong, corruption just greased the wheels of everything because that is how people made their living since the wages were so low there. In Colombia it is different, there is corruption but it is much more under the surface. Construction is going on everywhere all over Bogota but it goes very very slow due to bribery,corruption and what not. For example, the Transmilenio (bus system) was supposed to have many more new stations. They awarded the construction contract to one company owned by three brothers. They started working on the stations and got *almost* done with like ten stations. Then construction stopped because the brothers stole millions of dollars of the money that was meant to finish the construction of the stations. Now we have 10 stations that sit empty because there is no money to finish them.

Bogota used to be an extremely dangerous city. Now security is much improved. There is still crime sure, but it is much better. In general Colombians are very open,friendly,giving people. There is different levels of police here. There is the Auxiliary police, basically just kids out of high school that are doing something to occupy their time. They walk around with a nightstick and not much else. I have noticed they are not really respected here unfortunately and they can't do much. After that their is private hired security guards who are paid to walk around and guard things. They generally don't have any weapons so they again can't do much. After that you have the Policia, these are the big boys. They are true police with guns and authority and they don't mess around. After that you have the Policia who walk around with trained Rottweilers (with muzzles on) but I can promise you, you do NOT want to mess with these guys. If they let that dog loose on you that is very very bad news. The final level of authority is the military.

It may seem strange to Americans to think about the armed military walking around the city but here they are everywhere. They are armed with automatic assault rifles and are very serious. If they ask you anything you are obviously required to give it to them. It is such a foreign concept to think of the military being deployed in the civilian population but here it happens. I have never had any problems with any forms of the police though, they have been nothing but helpful to me with directions and such. Colombia is not the house of horrors that the American media portrays it to be. Is it dangerous? yes. It is so dangerous you have to constantly worry for your life? No. I hope to prove to my friends and family that Colombia has a side worth exploring and worth getting to know. Once I learn Spanish fluently it is going to open more doors for me but I am trying!

Life is cheap here, life is good here and I like it overall. If my biggest complaints are the traffic and the weather I guess I am doing alright. For being a third world country Bogota is actually fairly progressive. Every Sunday they close a major portion of the city to all traffic and have Ciclovia, four hours of time where you can run,bike,walk all over and no cars can drive. They also have many many parks. The biggest of which, Parque de Simon Bolivar is actually bigger than Central Park in New York! There is botanical gardens here and many nature things. Bogota also has implemented a system called Pica y Placa which basically means if your car's license plate ends in a certain number on a certain day you can't drive between 6am and 6pm. Colombians also love to dance and sing and drink so they are very active people. I need to work on my dancing skills for sure!

Well that is all I can think of for now. If I think of more I will add it here or, feel free to ask me any questions you might have about anything Colombia related! Take care,Ty

Monday, June 04, 2012

For Colombia Travel Blog

Now that I have been in Bogota for over a month, I feel that I get a sense of the city. I would still consider myself a newcomer here so this is my unofficial newcomer's guide. First, I want to give you some tips on public transport. The Transmilenio is a great way to get around, it is fairly comprehensive around the city and it is also very cheap, just one USD. Sometimes though, it can get crowded and they could stand to improve the entering/exiting process because sometimes as you can see that it can get chaotic . Overall though, I am a frequent user and big fan of The Transmilenio. I don't want to paint a totally negative picture of it, I just want to let you know my experiences.

The other main way to get around is by Collectivo. These are small buses that have numbers and signs saying their destinations. You flag them down on the street and pay less than 1 USD for a ride. Generally speaking you enter from the front and exit from the back. The only way to stop the Collectivo is to push the "stop" button located almost always at the back of the bus. If you get a seat, one nearest the back exit is the smartest choice because they can become crowded sometimes. They are less organized than The Transmilenio but they will get you almost anywhere. They do not have proper stops, it is just hop on hop off. Also, they have people coming on and off the buses trying to sell you their wares. You are by no means forced to buy anything though, it is purely optional.

Bogota is laid out in a grid system. It is a little complicated at first, but once you get used to not using street names and just numbers it is pretty easy. The city is surrounded by mountains to the East. You always know you are looking East if you see the mountains and Monserrate the Church on the top of the mountains overlooking Bogota. At night you will see many houses burrowed into the hills and lit up with many lights. If you see that, you are going AL Sur (To the South). The Calle's of Bogota run parallel to the mountains from South to North. They are abbreviated as CL or CLL.

The Carreas run from East to West and cross the Calle's perpendicularly, they are abbreviated as Cr,Kr or Crs. Avenidas are abbreviated as Av. They are main or larger streets and sometimes have names but also numbers. For example, Av. Boyaca is also called Carrea 72. Each address in Bogota consists of the Calle,Carrea and house or edificio (building) number. an example would be Carrea 42 # 15-34. This means that the house is on Carrea 42, Calle 15 and the actual house number is 34. 

I sincerely hope I have not painted a negative picture of Colombia for you. People in Bogota and Colombia in general are friendly and helpful and so far I have had nothing but good experiences here. Learning a new language is always difficult but being immersed in Spanish sure is helping. You don't need to constantly worry about your safety in Bogota like some in the media would have you believe. You do need to be aware of your surroundings though, because crime can and does happen like in any major city. Of course if you feel like escaping Bogota for a while you can head up to Villavicencio. Both of the above pictures were taken in the Villavicenio region by yours truly.

Well I hope you enjoyed my brief newcomers guide. Your friendly neighborhood Gringo,Tyler