The Almighty U$D in Colombia

September 17, 2018

“Brian, how’s it going. It’s Mario, are you free tomorrow?”
“Is this the Mario who works for Harold, the agency that sends extras to work for The Prepaid?”
“Yes. We need you to come tomorrow to play the role of a DEA agent on The Prepaid.”
“All right, text me the details and I will see you tomorrow. What happened to Andres?”
“He doesn’t work for us any longer,” replied Mario.

My stomach starting turning. I knew this wasn’t going to be a normal recording. I was either going to be dropped from the recording on site after being seen by the director who I walked out on a month prior or I was going to be able to apologize and be let back in to do extra work. “If you don’t just go for it you will never know what will happen,” I told myself before going to bed.
The next morning I had a shave and got on the TransMilenio, towards the recording site. While on the ride over I was lucky to have found a window seat that was being shielded from the aisle by a guy who was holding his girlfriend on his lap. When I showed up for the recording, there were several of my friends on the set, but there was another person who I really didn’t want to be around.
This person was, of course, the bearded costume designer’s assistant. I didn’t know if he remembered me or not, but I definitely recognized him. The infamous director was nowhere to be seen. I made small talk with the rest of the extras for the next 45 minutes until Mario showed up.
“Excuse me Brian. Hay un inconveniente (there is an inconvenience). The director told me that you walked out on the last recording and she says that neither she nor the costume designer’s assistant want you to work here today,” Mario relayed to me.
“Is there a remedy to the situation?” I wondered, quoting the Bob Saget-esque actor I had talked to on the last recording.
“Well, we can talk to the costume designer’s assistant and apologize,” responded Mario.
Mario and I then took a walk to find the costume designer’s assistant. As soon as we rolled up he knew immediately why we were there.
“Excuse me for . . . .” Mario started to say.
“No,” he blurted out.
“No, what?” asked Mario.
“He cannot come back to The Prepaid, he was rude to us on the last recording, refused to talk to the director unless she spoke English to him and walked out in the middle of filming,” said the bearded costume designer’s assistant.
“The agency knows what happened. They know the situation. They are asking you to please work with us on this,” pleaded Mario.
“No, he can’t work with us,” replied the bearded costume designer’s assistant.
Mario told me to sit tight, he was going to call Harold to see about fixing the problem. I guess Harold didn’t pick up because two minutes later Mario handed me his donut and apple from his bagged breakfast and said they couldn’t help me.
“No problem, I will just say bye to my friends and then call my German friend Alex who has another job for me later today,” I responded.
“Estos sin verguenzas (these shameless people),” were Mario’s parting words.
I called Alex up and he told me to meet him in the Unicentro Mall in 45 minutes. We walked to another recording which was with the other TV station, Caracol. The second recording was rained out so I took TransMilenio back to my house. On the TransMilenio I had plenty of time to think.
“Why couldn’t I organize the rest of the extras to join me in a walkout until the TV stations paid all extras (foreign and Colombian) a standard amount of 100,000 pesos ($50USD) per day, paid on the same day of filming, let them use the same bathrooms as the production crew, be able to eat lunch at the same time as the production crew (instead of being forced to wait until all the production crew is finished and be paid overtime if the recording goes past 6pm?” I wondered to myself.
“Well, you know, The Prepaid is owned by a very powerful TV network in Colombia and they won’t be very anxious to negotiate with you. You may also get your friends in trouble if you get them involved in something that backfires,” my brain replied.

Chapter 21
Undercover CIA Agent?

After working for The White Obama Academy for a month, I received my first official email addressed to all the teachers at the academy. It read as follows:
The White Obama Academy hires its teachers based on an overall profile that includes many things. Having a CELTA, TEFL, TESOL, Masters in Education or in English helps but is not imperative to someone working with us. We are looking for teachers with people skills and an interesting background that contributes to the students’ learning experience. More so, we’re very clear about this to our students.
There have been a few incidents recently that have caused me a bit of concern. All teachers at The White Obama Academy should avoid saying the…

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Teaching English in Colombia

September 13, 2018

Instead of bringing in articles from the Wall Street Journal to teach English in Colombia, I liked to demonstrate the varied uses of English using lines from the movie Borat.
When I told a student named Milton that there are a lot of people in the United States who speak English differently than the English you find in books, he wanted to have an example of this language. I demonstrated this by giving him the following line, “What’s up with it, Vanilla face? Me and my homie just parked our slab outside. We’re looking for somewhere to post up for the night.”
When Milton saw this line written, he assumed the quote was asking something about putting a post-it note on the wall. After giving him more examples from my favorite movies, the discussion detoured towards a history of politics in Bogota.
Milton told me that in 2000 the mayor of Bogota opened the TransMilenio in Bogota to the public. The next mayor spent his years in office criticizing the TransMilenio for its inefficiency and the slowness, meanwhile taking funds earmarked to augment the TransMilenio lines and redirecting them into his pocket.
“Obviously the best mayors are the ones that come from the worst neighborhoods,” was my response.
“In Colombia this isn’t true because one of the worst Presidents of all-time, Betancurt (1982-1986), came from a bad neighborhood. He was the President during the 1985 ‘Siege of the Palace of Justice,’ when guerillas took control of the Supreme Court in Bogota and attempted to negotiate a peace between the government and the guerilla groups. Betancurt refused to negotiate and sent the army in. The battle between the army and the M-19 guerillas killed over 100 people, including many prominent judges. The M-19 guerillas then declared the peace process over,” replied Milton.
“What about the current President Santos?” I asked.
“He is very rich. What do you think about him?” asked Milton.
“He looks like a hybrid between a pug and William Shattner after two strokes,” I responded.
“Is Obama better?”
“Having Obama as President is like having a Frenchman as the captain of the Star Trek Enterprise. In the short term it is a great topic for the middle class to discuss while waiting in the checkout line at IKEA. In the long term it might actually inspire the next generation’s Whoopi Goldberg to go into politics instead of starring as Oda Mae Brown, a psychic helping a slain man, Patrick Swayze, find his killer.” I replied.
“What is the secret to having a successful mayor in the United States?”
“Ideally the mayor of a large city should live in the worst part of his or her city in order to be able to see how people’s lives are affected by drugs, gangs and poverty.”
I think Milton thought I meant that all politicians should be born in the worst parts of the cities.
“I disagree. The President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, comes from a poor neighborhood and he has ruined Venezuela. In the 1980’s Venezuela had more money than Colombia and therefore all the Colombians looking for a better life used to go to Venezuela for employment. Nowadays, many Venezuelans come to Colombia looking for better jobs and better security. The other problem is that most of the organized Venezuelans have moved to Colombia or the United States. Therefore, the people who are left are the people who are most easily manipulated by him. He goes to the poorest neighborhoods and offers the families free education for their children, clothes and food. The people who couldn’t normally afford to feed and educate their children love him. So, if there is a new President elected in Venezuela, the country may fall into civil war,” replied Milton.
“Who is running against Chavez?”
“Henrique Capriles Radonski. He views himself as a younger and more street-wise version of David battling a bigger-mouthed and less susceptible to the consequences of his own actions version of Goliath,” replied Milton.
“Do you think he will win?”
“If Capriles wins he will try and keep Venezuela’s resources to itself. I saw a video on YouTube that says that Chavez is actually artificially suppressing the homicide numbers in Caracas.”
“How does he do that?”
“So, unofficially….

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White Obama English Academy in Bogota

September 10, 2018

Not wanting to end up like the rest of the foreign “actors” in Bogota, I decided to get a job teaching English at a school called, The White Obama Academy. This academy sends native English teachers to businesses to give executives private English classes. The advantages of this academy was the fact that all the classes were given to adults, the academy didn’t ask for anything in the way of working visas and the dress code was very casual.

There was a minor mix up at my first English class that was to be held in a 30-story office tower. I arrived to the class at 7am and as I was going through security, a second English teacher arrived. We talked it out and thought maybe there were 2 classes going on at the same time from 7-8.30am. It was my first time to this office building, so the other teacher showed me around a little bit. When we got to the classroom there were no students there, so we decided to hang out in the class and talk. As we were talking, my new friend Richard pointed outside of the window at the various places he had taught English in Bogota as well as the major brothels.

Before Richard came to Colombia, he was a fighter pilot in the British Army and got discharged after an accident involving his head. When he got back to London, he spent the next two years partying. He then decided he wanted something more from his life, so he moved to the Australian Outback and worked on a farm for 6 weeks. After finishing with his farm service, he enrolled at a University in Australia and got a degree in construction engineering. Following the completion of his degree, he worked in Australia designing draining systems for houses. After he got tired of that he moved to Argentina.

One day he was dining in the touristy part of Buenos Aires when two men entered the store. They robbed the store and all the patrons at knifepoint. When they tried to rob Richard, he grabbed his chair to fend them off. They made off with the wallets of everyone in the restaurant (including Richard’s German friend who was dining with him) as well as the money in the till. As soon as the men left the restaurant, they got into a cab. The only problem was that it was the middle of rush hour so they didn’t get too far. To add to their problems, the German started running after them in a state of rage. 2 blocks later the German caught up to their taxi and started banging on the windows. The taxi driver fled the scene immediately. The German took advantage of the open door of the taxi and leaped inside. As he was doing that the two thieves jumped out the other side of the taxi. The German followed them out and grabbed them on the sidewalk. They got into a scuffle and the German started taking some blows. As this happened two buff Argentinean men came up on them and started beating up the thieves. Finally the two thugs gave up their weapons and money. The police arrived on the scene and started asking Richard questions about what happened and why was it that he protected his own wallet but let everyone else in the restaurant get robbed.

“I didn’t want to risk getting killed to protect someone else’s money,” was his response.

Richard then told me that he was dating a Colombian girl that he had met in Argentina. It sounded like she was pretty well off (her family all spoke English, the girlfriend was planning on buying a house on the coast and she traveled extensively). He said that his girlfriend wanted to move to Australia with him. They decided on Australia because Richard had gotten a degree there and was licensed to design drainage for houses there. He still wasn’t sure how good a fit it would be for her because they spent 2 weeks on vacation in Cartagena together and she hardly even left the comfort of the air-conditioned apartment the whole time they were there. Also Richard admitted that they were fighting quite a bit lately.

“Do you guys live in the same house?” I asked.

“No, I was sharing an apartment on 136th Street. It is considered Estrato 5 (the 2nd best-rated area in all of the city to live). The water bill for each month costs $60USD (The lower wage neighborhoods about one third that price). I was sharing the house with a Colombian girl who was studying and going to university. She paid $4,000USD a semester to go to university and paid $400USD a month for rent. She worked at a bar and made about $600USD a month. I would always find little bits of burned papers in the kitchen when I came home from work. I never knew where they came from. Until one day I could make out one of the papers as being a copy of a credit card. I was confused about what these burned receipts were doing in the apartment until a few days later when she came home and left a used iPhone in the kitchen.

“When I asked her about it she said that she found it at work. I asked her if she had called any of the contacts in the phone to try and return it. She said she was probably just going to keep it. ‘You can’t have that phone in this house because the police can run a scan through the internet and locate the phone. I don’t want the police in my house looking for stolen stuff.’”

“So did she give the phone back?” I asked.

“No, she went to San Andresito to try and find someone who could ‘open the band.’”

“What is ‘opening the band?’” I asked, fascinated.

“They erase all data pertaining to the previous user, including the phone number and install a new chip with a new phone number.”

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Selling Colombians Your Passport

September 7, 2018

I went to another audition for a movie and just happened to run into Manning. There was some good news for the kid, he finally got a girlfriend. I pressed him for details. He originally met her at a party but never got her number. “When she saw me on the other side of the street a month later, she recognized me but forgot my name. So, instead of yelling Manning, she yelled across the street, ‘Tanning.’ We then went on a few dates and she confessed that she had been denied a US visa and was almost 20 years older than me. I then moved into her apartment that was being used as a kennel for Bogota’s most neglected dogs. Neither us of have any money, so we eat hot dogs and rice for every meal. She is probably disappointed she picked the one American with less money than here to start a relationship.”
Before the audition we talked about other crazy Americans who were in Bogota.
“Did you meet Martin from New Jersey?” I asked Manning.
“No, who is he?”
“This guy is a monster truck driver in the United States. Martin met a guy in Vegas who convinced him to bring his trucks down and race in Colombia. So, he shipped four trucks down here to Colombia to join the racing circuit down here. The problem is when he got down here he realized the guy who shipped the trucks down put them in his own name and refused to give them up. So, what Martin did was he went to court and won. He got back the title to the trucks but had to pay $40,000USD worth of storage and shipping charges to get the trucks back. When he got back to the US he realized only two of the trucks had actually been shipped back so he came back to Colombia to get the other two trucks. When he went to file a claim he was shown a shipping receipt verifying that all 4 trucks had been received at La Guardia Airport. He has been down here for over a year and is trying to find his trucks. I think he is considering vigilante justice.”
“Where did you meet this guy?”
“Last week we did a taping of the Parabola of Pablo Escobar, and he had several stories to tell ranging from the time his brother climbed an electrical tower, getting seriously electrocuted and thrown off the tower, to the fourteen years he worked as a male stripper and gigolo. My favorite story was the time when he was emptying his motor home’s septic system and the valve sprung a leak and he got covered in a mess and then had to get about 30 vaccination shots afterwards. Nowadays he says he lives on $50USD a week and only eats once a day.”
Not wanting to be outdone, Manning started to tell me about a former work partner of his who had gone on trial for the murder of his wife and Manning had been summoned back to Alabama to testify against him.
“Is he guilty?”
“He actually told me he was planning on killing his wife. I went with him to buy several tons of concrete. He told me it was for a new driveway but it turns out the police excavated the driveway and found his wife’s body underneath the driveway,” replied Manning.
“Why did he do it?”
“My work partner was really old, fat and stayed at home all day. His wife was ten years younger than him and beautiful. His wife talked him into them both having an open relationship. He agreed. The next thing he knows she met some guy from Mississippi on Craigslist and moved in with the guy. He went down to her new boyfriend’s house and brought her back and then killed her.”
“You have to go back to Alabama and testify?”
“They are offering me a free ticket for a week if I go back, but I don’t really want to testify against my old work partner. It is a small town and he has some friends that might come for me. I guess moving to Colombia was the best thing that could have happened to me. I also have a business idea for you. Do you know how hard it would be for me to get a new passport?”
“Why, are you thinking about selling yours?”
“Yeah, a friend down here says he will buy my passport from me for $5,000USD.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him I would think about it.”
“Is your new girlfriend a party girl?”
“No, she is actually 14 years older than me and very stable. She works as a director of films.”
“Yeah, she doesn’t drink except occasionally on the weekends, so that has been a good change for me.”
“Good job, bud. Hopefully we can have you and your woman over for dinner some time.”
I went into the audition first.
“Do you know what you are auditioning for?” asked the director’s assistant.
“Yeah, this is for the National Geographic TV series Locked Up Abroad, right?”
“I heard a little about the episode, it is about four American tourists who get caught in Cartagena with drugs and do some time,” I responded. It wasn’t the most complicated of plots.
The first line for my character was, “It is so boring here. Why don’t we go to Cartagena where they have better parties, better waves and better grass. It isn’t that there is anything wrong with here, I just need a change of scenery. Let’s move.”
On the second sheet of paper was a dialogue I was having a conversation with another buddy about trying to escape prison.
Gringo 1: “Hey man, we have a problem”
Gringo 2: “What happened?”
Gringo 1: “I just need your help to get us out of here. Can I count on you? If so, there’s a hit in it for you.”
Gringo 2: “Make it two.”
Gringo 1: “All right, you have a deal.”
“Let’s try it again, one more time. Remember you are supposed to be a surfer, so say the lines a little more slowly and act like you are drunk,” said the director’s assistant from behind the camera.
I did my lines once again, this time squinting my eyes and occasionally taking breaks between lines to look out the window.
“Oh yeah, I forgot to mention: always look at the camera. Pretend the camera is your buddy,” said the director’s assistant.
The third take started to roll before I could get a chance to make a serious face. It must have looked strange to see my face smiling for the first half second and then changing….

Please view/share the book “48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong,” by Brian Ward on Amazon.

I Am Not An Animal, I Am German!

September 2, 2018

Perhaps, the most famous example of a foreigner “going Hollywood” in Colombia is Rudiger Kunze or “Rudi” as he is known to his fellow actors. Rudi reminds me of Flea, the bass player from Red Hot Chili Peppers, except with better tattoos. Rudi has been in Colombia for the last 9 years and has appeared in several movies and TV programs. Included in the list are, “Mi Gente Linda, Mi Gente Bella, (My Beautiful People)” RCN’s “Sin Retorno (No Return)” as well as National Geographic’s “Locked-Up Abroad.”

Rudi’s breakthrough performance in Colombian TV was a role he played as a homicidally-corrupt undercover cop. In his signature scene, he presses three Colombian hoodlums to get information about a crime that has taken place. While Rudi is interrogating them, he is simultaneously applying pressure to a deep wound in his left rib cage.

After getting no new information from the three thugs, Rudi quickly becomes frustrated with them. To make matters worse, Rudi’s partner is of no help to him as he sits and listens to an MP3 player with headphones on. After numerous attempts by Rudi to get his partner’s attention, Rudi’s patience runs out.

“The Russian mafia could sneak up behind you and drop and a bomb in your lap and you wouldn’t even notice, you useless piss-drunk cop. Stand up, you moron,” he states forcefully to the idle police officer.

Still no response from the police officer. Frustrated, Rudi pulls his sidearm out and puts a bullet in the other cop’s head.

“I guess it was just too hard to follow a simple command,” says Rudi after a hearty chuckle.

Seeing the declining state of Rudi’s regard for human life, the three thugs become even more agitated. They then ask Rudi, “What happened to your stomach?”

Rudi pulls up his shirt and shows them the damage. “I had a run in with some Korean gangsters. I guess they weren’t too happy about me dating one of their sisters. They put a CD in my ribs and I couldn’t get it out. Now I have a CD burner in my stomach.”

In a desperate attempt to escape Rudi’s demented peep show/Russian roulette standoff, they offer up their weapons at a discount price of a few thousand pesos in return for being set free by Rudi.

“Cheap price? For me, cheap means free. And besides, what would I want with a weapon that was involved in your crimes?” asks Rudi as he points his weapon towards the thugs.

“Don’t worry, it’s clean,” replies one of the thugs, only half believing his own lie.

In the ultimate Jedi move of the century, Rudi offers to trade them the gun he just used to kill his buddy with for their gun. “I am doing you guys a favor by letting you go, now you do me a favor and help me get rid of this firearm,” he adds to cement the deal.

As they take the weapon from Rudi, they look down at the ground at Rudi’s dead partner.

“From now on, it’s time to dejar estos huevonadas (stop goofing off) and become men, thinking with a cool head,” Rudi tells them after they become the owners of his weapon….

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Forgetting Pride and Dignity in Colombia

September 1, 2018

A former Dutch actor in Colombia had some timely advice for succeeding as an extra/actor in Colombia, “My best advice is; if you really want to do it (extra work) forget about any sense of pride, dignity and western critical thinking.”

The roles available for foreign extras/actors in Colombia are highly varied. Some common roles include; bouncer, cop, ex-prisoner, stripper, luggage handler, foreign businessman, embassy employee or ex-military. Some of these minor acting roles will even include dialogue, “I’ve had basic lines, but nothing terribly complicated, a few in English and one time in Spanish. The pay for being a standard extra rarely gets higher than $120,000 ($60USD),” commented an Irish actor named Brendan Corrigan.

“The opportunity for dialogue seems to go up proportionally the less experience you have at acting,” says a 56-year old German extra named Andre Tille.

“The text I was given was four sentences long. My character was a parody on how American businessmen conduct negotiations in Colombia. I was dressed in a business suit and given a briefcase to complete my character. My lines were comical. My first line was supposed to convey my impatience with my co-star’s poor English. ‘I am very annoying, I cannot know anything about business until the manager Ambres Perriera attends us,’” recounted Mr. Tille.

He went on by adding, “During my 20-minute rehearsal before my maiden voyage into acting, I was introduced to the two Colombian actors who would be playing opposite me. They seemed like quiet and normal guys (the kind of guys who would make great landscapers or employees at a car wash). Once the cameras started rolling, I realized what great actors they were. Each line of my dialogue sent them into intense fits of anger and contorted facial expressions. After our dialogue was over, our team of American businessmen was supposed to walk through the scene and off the set. As I was walking off camera, I missed the door and rammed my knee into the wall, almost toppling the entire set. The director loved my exit and almost fell down, he was laughing so hard. During the next two hours of filming, he would come up to me on the set and ask if I was free of pain. After eating lunch with the other extras, the director (still chuckling to himself) asked me how much longer I would be in Colombia. He took my phone number in case he had any work for me in the future.”

The difference between being a foreign extra in Colombia versus being a Colombian extra is that foreign extras get paid $100,000 a day (and paid the same day) to work as extras versus Colombians who get paid $30,000 per day (which is paid to them 30 days after filming). The schedule for each TV program varies but usually lasts at least 8 hours. Foreigners will also have access to a lot more exotic work just based on the fact that they are in shorter supply than local actors. “Some foreign people have managed to get roles in the likes of National Geographic’s Locked Up Abroad, which seem to shoot in Colombia quite regularly. The pay and treatment in those is much better, but the opportunities are few and far between,” asserted Mr. Corrigan.

Still hanging onto the….

Please view/share the book “48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong,” by Brian Ward on Amazon.

Colombian Fruit Salad

August 31, 2018

My Colombian girlfriend’s (Kary) birthday party was supposed to be arranged by Kary’s sister, her brother and I, but I decided to do the hard stuff by myself and give the siblings the easy stuff, therefore yielding less error. I decided to put myself in charge of the food, presents and cake. I then delegated the responsibility of decorations and soft drinks for Kary’s brother and sister.

I went shopping a week before the party to buy gifts. I walked around the mall looking at clothes, but decided I didn’t really know her sizes too well. By a miracle, I walked past a Blackberry accessory stand and thought to myself, “Why not just get everything in one place and not worry about clothing sizes?”
I thought about getting her a screen protector but they were charging $15USD just for an invisible little piece of plastic that covered the screen. I wanted to get something that would at least be visible and have a little more bang for the buck. After consulting many products, I decided to buy her a Blackberry skin case, a USB cable with charge adapter and a Bluetooth head set. All the products put together cost a total of $80USD.
The only question mark was the fact that I didn’t know the exact model of her phone, so I asked for the protector case which went to the most popular model of Blackberry. The day before her birthday was stressful. Kary wanted me to spend the day helping her run errands around town. Because it was going to be a surprise party, I couldn’t tell her was that I actually wanted to spend the day before her party buying the food and the birthday cake for the party. Instead of saying that, I had to make an excuse of why I couldn’t go with her.
“I want to spend a few hours grocery shopping, taking money out of the bank and buying some things.”
This excuse worked, and she decided to do her errands alone. After she left, I went down to the bakery and bought a 3 leches cake (wet vanilla cake that tastes like sweet milk), some candles and food for the party. Not really having any idea of how to cook anything, I just decided to get basic stuff like cream cheese, tortillas and ham and put the stuff together at the apartment. I also wanted one other dish, so I bought some fruit for a fruit salad. For the fruit salad, I enlisted the help of a neighbor, Don Alberto. I went to his apartment with all the ingredients I had purchased.
leches cake (wet vanilla cake that tastes like sweet milk), some candles and food for the party. Not really having any idea of how to cook anything, I just decided to get basic stuff like cream cheese, tortillas and ham and put the stuff together at the apartment. I also wanted one other dish, so I bought some fruit for a fruit salad. For the fruit salad, I enlisted the help of a neighbor, Don Alberto. I went to his apartment with all the ingredients I had purchased.
We consulted a website in Spanish that suggested three oranges, a mango….
….Please view/share the book “48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong,” by Brian Ward on Amazon.

Colombian Visa

August 30, 2018

With only a few days left on my tourist visa, I scrambled to get the process started on renewing it for another 3 months. The first thing I did was to go to Davivienda Bank to deposit the $71,000 pesos ($37USD) into the account of the Administrative Department of Security (DAS for short, DAS is one of the agencies in Colombia in charge of keeping track of how long foreign people stay in Colombia).
After waiting in line at the bank for an hour and filling out 5 separate deposit slips, I finally made my way to the front of the line. Upon arriving to the front of the line, I was told that I needed to go to a different bank to make the deposit and was given a slip with the address of the other bank which was a few blocks from DAS. Instead of going to the other bank, I decided to call it a day and go back home for lunch.
It was at that point that I decided to review the DAS website which explained the visa renewal process to make sure I had been given the right instructions.

The first time you apply for an extension you need to present the following documents at the DAS office:

1) Completed tourist visa extension form (download here)
2) Photocopy of the photo page of your passport
3) Photocopy of your entry stamp into Colombia
4) A 3 x 4 cm photo with a white background
5) Receipt of payment of visa extension fee, $71,000 Colombian pesos ($37USD)
6) Your passport
You can make your payment at any branch of Davivienda or Bancafe (banks).

I guessed that the last bit of information was a little out of date.
I decided to download the application, take the photos and photocopy my passport. These were the things that required the least money and…..

Please view/share the book “48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong,” by Brian Ward on Amazon.

Why Everything You Used to Know About Colombia is Wrong

July 26, 2018


“What kind of idiot goes to Colombia?” was a common question I heard from friends when I told them I was planning a trip to Colombia.
My pre-meditated response was always the same, “Mel Gibson, for one.” I would then continue naming a few more, “Madonna, Marc Anthony, Justin Bieber, Beyonce, Cypress Hill and The Cure.”
Not convinced, I would explain about Colombia’s year-round temperate climate, the beaches, the ability for men to wear clear nail polish on their nails without fear of being ridiculed in public, the lack of tipping in restaurants, the affordable plastic surgery, and, how most of the money changers in the cities are now starting to run a cleaner business model.
“A white guy like you will fit in just fine down there. You might want to spray paint your Nike shoes black before going down there,” is their follow-up response.
Oh, well.
Choice titles for my non-fiction Colombian dating book ranged all over the board. At the more desperate hours, I brainstormed titles that people might most easily recognize – “The Lion, The Witch and Pablo.” Then, while suffering from lack of financial security, I would choose more sinister titles like, “The Sometimes Legal Things We Do For Money in South America,” or “Colombia’s Creepy Book of The Month,” or “The Art of Identity-Crafting In An Attempt To Impress Colombian Women” and finally, “A Lawsuit Waiting To Happen In Colombia.” When in more jovial times, I would brainstorm more giddy, off-the-wall titles – “How To Be Famous in Colombia Without Going to Prison,” or “What Doesn’t Work in Other Countries Is Colombia’s Bread and Butter,” or “Mobilizing Staggering Talent in the Andean Highlands of Colombia,” or “Don’t Tell My Mom I’m An English Teacher In Colombia (She Thinks I Work In An Albanian Toothpaste Factory)” or “Chocolate Binges And Mood Swings South of Tijuana,” or “The Motorcycle Diaries of an Internet Romeo,” and finally, “Just Because I’m In Colombia…Doesn’t Mean I Can’t Dress Like a Puerto Rican!”

Then my girlfriend told me to stop being a moron and just pick a title …

Please view/share the book “48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong,” by Brian Ward on Amazon.

7 Habits of a Highly Effective Gringo in Colombia

July 15, 2018

In the last decade, many foreign companies have started to augment their filming operations here in Colombia. The reason for this increased presence of film projects in Colombia are numerous:

#1) Colombia has many different shooting locations to offer in one country (jungle, the ocean, historic architecture and modern cities).

#2) Colombia’s weather allows for film companies to shoot during the whole year.

#3) The exchange rate to the US dollar makes filming in Colombia very accessible.

#4) Security in Colombia has increased dramatically in the past decade (the US State Department has lifted warnings on Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena). The filmed productions in Colombia range from syndicated TV shows, to car commercials, to movies, such as the comedy El Paseo (The Stroll).

If a foreign person is seriously thinking about making a career working as an extra/actor in Colombia, then the first step this person should take is to register with as many casting agencies as possible. Once a foreigner registers with a few agencies, they will likely be sent on casting calls for movies and commercials as well as have semi-consistent work as an extra.

The advantages of working in Colombia as a foreign extra are numerous:

#1) It is a job that is easily done (and probably preferably done) while drunk.

#2) The foreign extra needs nothing in the way of work visas, a Colombian bank account, nor proof of health insurance to work in Colombia.

#3) Speaking Spanish is not necessary either and it is to the extra’s advantage the less Spanish he or she knows (the costume designer’s assistant won’t insist that you try on the same size of pants that are two sizes too small fifty times, if you can’t understand what he is saying).

Which foreigners will have the most success in movies and TV in Colombia?

“Foreign white guys who look like cops or ex-marines will always have a solid future in the movie and TV business in Colombia,” replied Irish actor Pádraig Victor Ciarán Sweeney.

Are there any foreigners who shouldn’t work as actors/extras in Colombia?

“Gringos with glasses, a concave chest and unable to grow a mustache have no business working as extras in Colombia,” replied the always candid Mr. Sweeney.

For those of you without a concave chest, once registered with a casting agency, you will receive calls that will be for anything from:

Extra roles in TV programs – the pay is $90,000 – $120,000 pesos ($45-$60USD) a day

Appearing in movies – anywhere from $300,000 – $600,000 pesos ($150-$300USD) a day

Recording commercials – $700,000 – $1,600,000 pesos ($350-$800USD) a day

Modeling jobs – The pay can go up to $3,000,000 pesos ($1,500USD) a day


After registering with a few casting agencies, I got my first call to go to an audition for a movie. The only thing I knew about the audition was that I needed to report to 70th Street with 9th Avenue at 10 am in the morning. I, of course, got there at 9.30am, introduced myself to a few people who were either on their computers or cleaning the floors and sat until they needed me. After, I sat down, a woman named Lucy approached me and asked where I was from and if I spoke English. I confirmed that I was from California and yes, I could speak English. She asked for my “escenas.”

She realized by my expression that I was lost, which probably was the highlight of her day. There is nothing more likely to make a Colombian grin than watching a gringo stumble through life in a foreign country. She then switched to English.

“Do you have your scenes?”

It still didn’t register. After a few more seconds of uncertainty, I guessed that she thought someone may have sent me some kind of instructions or a reason why I was in her office on a Tuesday morning.

“Did someone tell you why you are here?” she asked.

“No, I was just told to come here at 10 a.m.”

She smiled at me for a short second and then told me she would be back in a few minutes. I opened my book about wilderness survival and waited. At least I was indoors and in a comfortable chair. A few other people introduced themselves to me as I was waiting. I even opened the door for a few people coming in that morning.

Finally, it was time to go upstairs and chat with the people who would decide … To read more, check out and share, “48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong,” by Brian Ward.IMG_9201