Making Money In Colombia

August 13, 2013

In the last decade, many foreign companies have started to augment their filming operations here in Colombia. The reason for the increased presence of film projects in Colombia are many-fold; Colombia has many different shooting locations to offer in one country (jungle, the ocean, historic architecture and modern cities), Colombia’s weather allows for film companies to shoot during the whole year, the exchange rate to the US dollar makes filming in Colombia very accessible and the fact that 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 words How to Make Money on a chalkboard

The words How to Make Money on a chalkboard

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 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,” RCN’s “Sin Retorno” 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 its 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.

Gracias señor,” two of them reply as they cover the weapon with a T-shirt. The third, clearly unhappy (and in the minority) about being roped into this fool’s errand, throws his jacket to the ground as they walk away with the tainted gun.

Not content with merely acting, Rudi has recently opened up his own casting agency and is busily casting foreigners in all types of commercials, TV shows and movies. Many of Rudi’s actors recently got a chance to showcase their talent at an audition here in Bogota for an American TV show about drug trafficking (What a surprise). Rudi chose his most convincing actors for the casting call because of their legendary ability to insert famous quotes from movies like Deer Hunter, Jacob’s Ladder, Dude (Where’s My Car?) and Cape Fear into their dialogue without others noticing. This particular scene is between two former American soldiers who are planning to export drugs to Africa. The following is an excerpt from their improvised lines in the audition:

Robert: No way man, this is way bigger than that deal we did with the Sinaloa Cartel.

Brad: Yeah, this is big. This is my ticket out of this mess. Remember, every man must go through hell to find paradise. We do this job and it’s going to be nothing but beach volleyball, girls gone wild and jello shots – permanent vacation.

To try and sell his buddy on doing the job with him, the character “Brad” now acts even more sold on this “job” and is breathing more heavily while scratching the side of his face as he waits for the second actor to deliver the next line.

Robert: Are you ready?

Brad: Ready to be born again. You better make sure you are ready, you errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill. And don’t go getting scared of dying on me. If you’re frightened of dying and…you’re holding on, you’ll see masked spirits tearing your life away. But if you’ve made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth.

This particular actor’s rendition of “Brad” was a gamble, and, unfortunately the part ultimately went to another of Rudi’s actors. Bad for him, good for Rudi. Thus, giving birth to Rudi’s second career as a casting promoter.

When the country of Peru is mentioned, one imagines a peaceful scene of an Andean alpaca grazing along an Incan stone wall. When Ecuador is brought up, we imagine a rain forest panorama of frogs jumping off branches while butterflies mate in the background. When Colombia is mentioned, we envision a post-apocalyptic city full of overturned buses, being pillaged by men in ski masks. It is obvious which country any rational person would seek to avoid while searching for an internet bride.

“48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong” is a true adventure story about a 37-year-old socially-awkward man who decided that the best way he could deal with a life sentence of microwavable burritos and 10-hour Facebook marathons was to look online for a girlfriend in Colombia and then hop on a flight to Colombia’s capital in pursuit of a woman he has never met.

During his first month in Bogota, Brian falls in with two white, self-assured backpackers who the author describes as, “…not the kind of guys who pump the brakes before going through an uncontrolled intersection.” He is then nearly kidnapped during an encounter with a woman he met online, almost becomes business partners with a Korean man in the “diamond business” and is forced to sleep in the DVD room of his hostel due to lack of funds.

Brian quickly regroups after his first month and auditions for the part of “congressional aide” in a Colombian feature film called “Left To Die.” He then lands a job as a writer for an English-language newspaper where his first interview is with a “suspected undercover CIA agent.” Brian then gets thrown off a TV set for refusing to take off his shirt from under his police uniform. While Brian is not getting thrown off TV sets, he marvels at all the discarded construction materials Colombians throw into pot holes to lessen their depths. Because of this strategy, a bus going over one of these open trenches (full of construction materials) will occasionally sling a chest-high brick through a group of panic-stricken pedestrians.

Brian sincerely believed this trip would put him on a track towards a life of excitement, intrigue and exotic women, far from his increasing first world debt. Instead, he unexpectedly falls into a job as an extra in a Colombian soap opera, has panic attacks, watches other gringos lose their marbles and blows half his paycheck on bootlegged DVD’s. Along the journey, he chronicles his friendships, the deranged ex-pats he meets, and his struggles/triumphs, including one fateful night in a Israeli restaurant that would change his life forever.

To view the complete book, go to …
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015VWCXME?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

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Colombian Spanish and Colombian Expressions

July 18, 2013

passingBotero_2262_1750386796The first expression that every foreign person in Colombia without fail will learn is, “Estas amañado en Colombia?” This is a general question that basically is asking you, “Are you getting acclimatized to Colombia?” Sensible responses to this question would be, “Of course, I love the fact that I don’t have to tip any of the waiters in this country and also I can buy $400 pesos worth of deodorant in a small envelope at any corner store if I am running low on cash.”

 

Let’s say, you want to walk on the wild side of Bogota and get onto a bus at 3pm on a Saturday. This is the time when is seems there are the highest amount of people on the bus selling caramel candies, playing their guitars are discussing the need for some extra cash to pay for their baby’s diapers. Being that it’s a Saturday and you really don’t mind helping this nice man out who needs a few extra pesos, you hand him a $200 peso coin. After taking it, he’ll hen say to you , “Gracias bacan.” This nice man is politely thanking you for being a “cool dude”  and helping him out.

Then there are the Colombian phrases that you share with your special Colombian girlfriend or boyfriend. When you compliment your Colombian girlfriend for remembering to bring your favorite 3 Leches cake for your birthday you say, “Thanks for bringing me this special desert.” She will then reply, “Of course, I am una chica muy pila, and I would never forget to bring you your favorite desert for your birthday.”

Una chica muy pila in Colombian Spanish refers to someone who is smart, alert and always living in the moment. In turn, if you want to repay your Colombian girlfriend for the nice cake, you can think of cute pet names for your girlfriend like, “Mi cielo de chocolate” or “Mi almohada de chocolate.” (My chocolate heaven/My chocolate pillow). Probably you couldn’t get away with these nicknames if you were going out with a dark Canadian woman.

While you are with your special Colombian woman friend, she will always be very aware of your mood. So if you give even the slightest hint that maybe you are not in the best mood, she will ask you, “¿Estás acongojado?” or “¿Estás carizbajo?” What she asking you is if you are sad. Being the man of steel, of course you would never give in to such a spineless emotion. You quickly respond by saying, “You’re asking me…..me of all people, if I am sad? Of course not. Asking a guy like me if I am sad is like asking Vin Diesel if he needs your help picking up a check in a restaurant.”

Then or course, there are my top five proletarian expressions in Colombian Spanish – “Chimba,” “Rechimba,” “Deli,” “Chimbo,” and “Bacano.” (Cool, Really Cool, Delicious, Fake and Awesome). With these five words, you can have a conversation with any Colombian for up to two hours without even blinking.

For example, maybe your Colombian buddy asks you about the latest CD by Enrique Iglesias. “Rechimba!” you say as a kind of an all-embracing endorsement of the CD. Then your buddy asks, “Did you know that Enrique was going out with Anna Kournikova for a while?” “Deli,” you confidently respond, approving of his selection in terms of girlfriends. “Are you sure Kournikova speaks English, I heard she actually prefers to communicate using non-verbal communication?” “Bacano,” you respond, knowing that there is nothing more pure than non-verbal communication. Your buddy then responds, “It’s funny that in the chorus of the song he sings to Anna Kournikova that  ‘You can’t escape my love.’ They then broke up a few months after the video. Do you think she actually escaped his love, or, more likely, his old man told him he was going to show Kournikova a better time?” “Que chimba!” you say, clearly preferring the senior Iglesias. “And what about that scene in the video when Enrique gets kicked out of the women’s bathroom for making out with Kournikova on the on top of the counter tops. “Chimbo,” you respond . Obviously the scene is fake, because when you got money like Enrique you have a free pass to do pretty much anything you want in any bathroom, men or women’s.

Speaking of non-verbal communication, Colombians are famous for the various mannerisms they have to describe certain things. Normally, when a Canadian, Irish, Scottish, American or British person asks another person from the English-speaking world, ‘How tall is your wife?’ The other person will usually stare upwards and to the right. They will then extend their hand, palm down, to the appropriate coordinates of the top of the head of  their better half. If you ask a married Colombian man the same question, he will make the same gesture, but instead of putting his palm down, he will leave it vertical, facing the person, like he was showing you your own reflection in a mirror.

If you ask the same person an even more direct and difficult question like, “Ok, now show me the height of the wife of the King or Jordan.” Your Colombian friend will become flustered and let out a strange, throat-derived exhalation with a closed mouth, Huuummmh!’ As far as this author can tell, this guttural internal outpouring can best be described as meaning, “I don’t have the foggiest idea of how to even begin to answer such a question.”

Wanting to more fully participate in the world of Colombian mannerisms, you then ask your Colombian buddy, “You remember that funny finger food we ate last weekend, that single-sliced ham stuffed with cream cheese in the middle?” You then put your right hand out, pointing with the index finger and you push your thumb against the index finger at the approximate length of the size of the ham to try and spark his memory. “Ah yes!” she responds, remembering the delicious treat based on the coordinates you gave him with your index finger and thumb. Thus, in one fell swoop, you have proved your worth as a credible observer of Colombian mannerisms.

When the country of Peru is mentioned, one imagines a peaceful scene of an Andean alpaca grazing along an Incan stone wall. When Ecuador is brought up, we imagine a rain forest panorama of frogs jumping off branches while butterflies mate in the background. When Colombia is mentioned, we envision a post-apocalyptic city full of overturned buses, being pillaged by men in ski masks. It is obvious which country any rational person would seek to avoid while searching for an internet bride.

“48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong” is a true adventure story about a 37-year-old socially-awkward man who decided that the best way he could deal with a life sentence of microwavable burritos and 10-hour Facebook marathons was to look online for a girlfriend in Colombia and then hop on a flight to Colombia’s capital in pursuit of a woman he has never met.

During his first month in Bogota, Brian falls in with two white, self-assured backpackers who the author describes as, “…not the kind of guys who pump the brakes before going through an uncontrolled intersection.” He is then nearly kidnapped during an encounter with a woman he met online, almost becomes business partners with a Korean man in the “diamond business” and is forced to sleep in the DVD room of his hostel due to lack of funds.

Brian quickly regroups after his first month and auditions for the part of “congressional aide” in a Colombian feature film called “Left To Die.” He then lands a job as a writer for an English-language newspaper where his first interview is with a “suspected undercover CIA agent.” Brian then gets thrown off a TV set for refusing to take off his shirt from under his police uniform. While Brian is not getting thrown off TV sets, he marvels at all the discarded construction materials Colombians throw into pot holes to lessen their depths. Because of this strategy, a bus going over one of these open trenches (full of construction materials) will occasionally sling a chest-high brick through a group of panic-stricken pedestrians.

Brian sincerely believed this trip would put him on a track towards a life of excitement, intrigue and exotic women, far from his increasing first world debt. Instead, he unexpectedly falls into a job as an extra in a Colombian soap opera, has panic attacks, watches other gringos lose their marbles and blows half his paycheck on bootlegged DVD’s. Along the journey, he chronicles his friendships, the deranged ex-pats he meets, and his struggles/triumphs, including one fateful night in a Israeli restaurant that would change his life forever.

To view the complete book, “48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong,” go to …
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015VWCXME?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Charlie Sheen In Colombia

July 4, 2013

As a foreign person in Colombia, all your interactions with all people will leave a very vivid and long-lasting impression on them. This condition has a name. It is called by this author, Charlie Sheen Syndrome. This condition is best summed up by the famous saying by the actor of the same name, “…I expose people to magic, I expose them to something that they will never otherwise see in their normal boring lives, and I gave that to them. I may forget about them tomorrow, but they’ll live with that memory for the rest of their lives. And that’s a gift.”

This peak performance party mood is only sustainable for a few hours a day and there will be other times when you will be in the supermarket and all you want to do is buy some chorizo and milk, you aren’t in the optimal state of mind to explain to a casual shopper why you left Cancun to come to Bogota. There will be other times when you want to chat your taxi driver’s ear off about the latest Matthew Mcconaughey film, but he is busy text-messaging. This of course is unacceptable. As a foreigner, you should be the center of attention every second you want to be. To get the taxi driver’s attention you can say, “Parcero, parame bolas (Pay attention), I’m talking to you.” This phrase, parar bolas (stand up balls), should only be used by the most intrepid of the people who are learning Spanish because this phrase almost seems like it should be banned to me because it sounds almost to be X-rated.

colombianismos

This is just one of the many colorful expressions and words here in Colombia. Another I hear often is when I compliment my girlfriend each time she fills out some paperwork (mostly banking transfers or various visa related documents) for me which I have no clue how to do. “Soy una chica muy pila,” she explains to me as if stating the obvious. The literal meaning of this phrase is, “I am a very battery girl.” In Colombia, someone who is a battery (pila) is a smart and organized person.

As a fan of DVDs from dubious origins, I purchase a lot of DVDs that are not exactly of paramount quality. So, I have learned to use the following phrase when describing a DVD which is unwatchable. “Esta chiviado.” This means the DVD was either recorded in the back row of the movie theatre or the actors are speaking in Russian or some other god forsaken language. In Colombian Spanish, chiviado means false. Usually after hearing this word the vendor will immediately offer an exchange for another DVD. If he still looks at you with an expression corchado (confused), you can say, “It looks like the guy who recorded this DVD was scratching tequila (rascar tequila or getting drunk) for at least 8 hours before he brought the video camera into the movie theatre.”

Speaking of DVD sales, there is a lady in my neighborhood who has a Laundromat/DVD store who has become like a member of my family. She claims that she can get any title of any DVD within a week, all you have to do is write the title of the DVD, the year and the names of the main actors. There was one DVD in particular that I had been looking for here in Bogota but couldn’t find. The title in English is, “Being Flynn” (2013) with Robert Deniro. So, I went to my preferred DVD store and wrote down the information. “No problem, I can have that title within 2 days.” When I came back to the store 2 days later, she came to the counter and communicated non-verbally with me by putting two fingers to the side of her throat and said, “paila” (cooking pot). Basically she was saying with the word paila and the gesture that means “Game Over” for me and my DVD, she couldn’t get it unfortunately.

When my neighbor Giovanni goes shopping he always complains about “los pelados” (literally the bald people) throwing extra items in the shopping cart which costs him a lot of extra money. For a long time, I imagined a bizarre super market where bald people hang around the aisles throwing things into your shopping cart. It was until several weeks later that it was explained to me that pelados usually refers to small children. In this case he was saying that his children (and not a gang of bald people) were the ones guilty of adding the extra groceries which were costing him more money at the checkout.

As many citizens of Bogota will tell you, there is currently the problem of taxi drivers augmenting their meters by a special button inside their taxi. This button is usually on the stick shift, on the floor by the gas pedal or on the bottom portion of the seat. How you can tell is that the taxi meter under normal circumstances will go up once every 2 or 3 seconds at a constant pace like a heart beat. When the taxi driver is using this button to augment the meter, the numbers will click 3 or 4 clicks rapidly instead of the standard one click at a time. So, if you find yourself in a taxi that is overcharging you, you can say to the driver, “Se dio garra”  which literally means, “You gave me claws” or in other words “You overcharged me.” He will then look in his rear view mirror and give you an innocent expression like he has no idea what’s going on. Not wanting to cause a fuss you can say, “paila” and hand over the money for the inflated cab ride.

In the case of Maria Corina Machado (The Hillary Clinton of South America and the founder/former president of the Venezuelan volunteer civil organization Súmate). In Venezuela she was repeatedly charged with misappropriation for funds by former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Machado did not take kindly to these accusations. Machado has the distinction of being one of the few public figures in Venezuela who was willing to stand up to Chavez. Whenever accused of misappropriation of funds, she would yell back at Chavez, “Deja de fregar Chavez, it is you who are the king of misappropriation of funds and I am holding the proof right here in my hands,” she yelled as she displayed the paperwork in her right hand (the proof Chavez was skimming money). Deja de fregar can be literally understood to mean, “stop scrubbing,” as if Chavez was had a huge scrub brush and was working away at Machado with it. A more succinct meaning of this expression is just that it means “stop messing with me.”

When the country of Peru is mentioned, one imagines a peaceful scene of an Andean alpaca grazing along an Incan stone wall. When Ecuador is brought up, we imagine a rain forest panorama of frogs jumping off branches while butterflies mate in the background. When Colombia is mentioned, we envision a post-apocalyptic city full of overturned buses, being pillaged by men in ski masks. It is obvious which country any rational person would seek to avoid while searching for an internet bride.

“48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong” is a true adventure story about a 37-year-old socially-awkward man who decided that the best way he could deal with a life sentence of microwavable burritos and 10-hour Facebook marathons was to look online for a girlfriend in Colombia and then hop on a flight to Colombia’s capital in pursuit of a woman he has never met.

During his first month in Bogota, Brian falls in with two white, self-assured backpackers who the author describes as, “…not the kind of guys who pump the brakes before going through an uncontrolled intersection.” He is then nearly kidnapped during an encounter with a woman he met online, almost becomes business partners with a Korean man in the “diamond business” and is forced to sleep in the DVD room of his hostel due to lack of funds.

Brian quickly regroups after his first month and auditions for the part of “congressional aide” in a Colombian feature film called “Left To Die.” He then lands a job as a writer for an English-language newspaper where his first interview is with a “suspected undercover CIA agent.” Brian then gets thrown off a TV set for refusing to take off his shirt from under his police uniform. While Brian is not getting thrown off TV sets, he marvels at all the discarded construction materials Colombians throw into pot holes to lessen their depths. Because of this strategy, a bus going over one of these open trenches (full of construction materials) will occasionally sling a chest-high brick through a group of panic-stricken pedestrians.

Brian sincerely believed this trip would put him on a track towards a life of excitement, intrigue and exotic women, far from his increasing first world debt. Instead, he unexpectedly falls into a job as an extra in a Colombian soap opera, has panic attacks, watches other gringos lose their marbles and blows half his paycheck on bootlegged DVD’s. Along the journey, he chronicles his friendships, the deranged ex-pats he meets, and his struggles/triumphs, including one fateful night in a Israeli restaurant that would change his life forever.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015VWCXME?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

I Speak Colombian – Words And Phrases That Will Help You Better Understand Colombia

May 30, 2013

Probably the best thing about speaking Spanish in Colombia is that you can don’t have to really learn the names of any Colombian men. Instead you can just refer to any man you have met on the street as maestro. In English, maestro is reserved for an artist who has their work displayed in many different museums around the globe or for someone who has been paid to conduct a symphony. Here in Colombia, you can call someone a maestro just because you like the quality of chips he is selling out of a shopping cart near the mini stop.

habloColombiano

An everyday phrase here in Colombia is, “Hay un inconievente” (There is an inconvenience). In English this phrase would be used if maybe the meal you ordered at a restaurant is going to take 5 or 10 minutes longer than expected to arrive to your table. The waiter would tell you, “Sorry sir, there is an inconvenience, the pork sandwich you ordered is going to take an extra 10 minutes before it will be ready.”

Good luck if you are in a hospital in Colombia and the doctor tells you, “Hay un inconievente.” This no doubt means that what they thought was just a little routine acid reflux really means that your kidneys have exploded and you have 3 minutes to live.

Also in Colombia, the customer is made to feel almost like royalty. This example is illustrated when you enter the small corner grocery store and the sales clerk says to, “A sus ordenes su merced” (At your service your mercy).

You thank the clerk for such a warm welcome and try to explain to her that really you aren’t anyone important. You actually just came in to buy $1,500 pesos ($.75USD) worth of that good Bocatto ice cream and are not worthy of being called “Your mercy.” To this the clerk will promptly respond, “Para servirle” (another cute way to say ‘at your service’).

Even the older gentleman with the fleet of dogs by the bus station is always asking “Me colabora?” (Would you like to collaborate with me?) Like we should get together and work on a project, just him and me. When I inform him that I really already have enough business partners in place and he should use the capital he was going to invest in my company to maybe buy some more food for his dogs. He then looks at me like I am the one who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

At home, I always hear my girlfriend Kary say strange expressions over the phone like, “Mommy, make sure to put all you books in your backpack for school tomorrow,” or “Mommy, make sure not to spend all your money on candy, save it for your lunch.”

I would then ask my girlfriend two questions,

#1) I didn’t realize your 53-year old mother was still in school and #2) Isn’t it a little strange to lecture your own 53-year old mother on how she should be spending her money?

“When I say Mommy, I am referring to my daughter, not my actual mother.”

“Oh ok, that’s clear,” I would reply.

Another strange occasion involving my girlfriend’s daughter arose when she showed me a text message she sent to her daughter, “Mommy, don’t let the other girls ride you in school.” (Mommy, no dejes que te la montan en la escuela).

“Ok, I understand the mommy part now, that’s clear. I am a little confused about your daughter being ridden around like livestock while at school. I thought she was going to private school.”

“No, te la montan, is referring to when the other girls pick on my daughter at school.”

A common occurrence when you are talking to Colombians in English is that they will start off telling you a story, for example; “I was at the quick stop and a large man with a gold chain, a leather jacket and many tattoos asked if I help him give his car a jump”….long pause….You then see, by the look of terror and shame, on your Colombian friend’s face that the needle has slipped off of his record. He politely makes eye contact with you and says, “The dove has left me” (Se me fue la paloma). This means that whatever he was going to say he forgot or isn’t sure of the correct way to express his idea.

Another widespread turn of phrase to be heard in Colombia happens when you are having trouble hearing the other person you are talking on the phone. And, to make sure that the line hasn’t been disconnected you ask, “Are you still there Jhon?”

Jhon then replies, “Sizas.”

Suiza? (Switzerland?). Are you talking about bank accounts?” you ask Jhon.

“No, sizas just means ‘yes’ in Colombian Spanish.”

Another expression that fascinates many foreign people is to hear a Colombian say, “Me saca la piedra” (It takes the rock out of me).

This is usually heard when a Colombian goes to the corner store to pay his water bill (via the online bill-paying teller, located at most grocery stores). As the clerk starts entering the billing information, the machine spits out a ticket that says “error.” The clerk reads the ticket and calmly informs the customer that his billing information still isn’t in the system even though the bill arrived to his house four days ago by mail, he will have to come back to the grocery the next day to see if his billing information is in the system. He then becomes angry and yells, “Me saca la piedra!”

It also works the other way for Colombians who are learning English. Most are very surprised to learn that in English, we don’t have a gender-specific way to say, “I have to go pee.” In Colombia, this isn’t an issue. Colombians here have gender-specific ways to express the fact that they need to go to the bathroom. If you are a woman you say, “Me estoy haciendo chichi.” If you are a man, you can say, “Me estoy haciendo pipi.” Needless to say, it is never possible or correct for a woman to say “Me estoy haciendo pipi” or for a man to say, “Me estoy haciendo chichi.”

The final vocabulary words, perfectly describe my buying habits when I am at the corner tiendita (mom and pop grocery store). Instead of paying $1,600 pesos ($.80USD) for the Tutti Frutti quality juices, I like to save a $1,000 pesos ($.50USD) and buy the lowest quality juice in the store which is Tangelo, which is the Colombian version of Sunny Delight, except with twice the preservatives and half the fruit juice.

When I bring the Tangelo “juice” back to my house and put it in the refrigerator, my girlfriend Kary always scolds me for being an incredible cheapskate. She says to me, “No seas chichipato (Don’t be cheap). Pay the extra $1,000 pesos and buy something that isn’t going to dye your stomach a different color.

“But honey, you won’t believe the price I got on this juice.”

Tu eres muy tacano. (You are so cheap). I don’t want this imitation fruit juice in my house.”

Even the names of certain countries are in limbo in Colombia.  Like English, there is more than one name for Holland.  It isn’t solely referred to as Holanda. But, the other name for Holland isn’t similar at all to Netherlands, when referring to this country famous for its coffee shops, Spanish speakers refer to as “Lower Counties” or Paises Bajos.  Even though it is only one country and it isn’t in the south of Europe.

My favorite time to marinate in Colombian Spanish is while listening to Colombian grandmothers talk to their grandchildren. They are all so affectionate towards their grandchildren and have invented a slough of loving expressions that really crack me up. To get a further explanation on how these grandmothers actually talk, my Colombian girlfriend Kary called her grandmother in Cartagena via Skype so I could hear first-hand this special vocabulary her grandmother uses with her favorite granddaughter.

“Hi preciosa (precious), How is my dulce cielo (sweet heaven), my nena (babe), my niña (little girl)?” asks Kary’s grandmother.

“Good grandmother, how are you?” asks Kary.

“Missing you, mi turron de azucar (my chocolate dessert). How are you feeling mamita (little mama), mi vida (my life), mi corazon (my heart), mi muñeca (my doll), mi chiquita (my little girl)? You aren’t too skinny are you? I hope you are eating well.”

“Yes grandmother, I am eating eggs for breakfast every morning and lots of fruits and vegetables,” responds Kary.

“Oh course you are, you are so beautiful. I love you so much. But please luz de mis ojos (light of my eyes), anda siempre por la sombrilla (stay out of dangerous situations). I am making you a beautiful dress for your next visit to Cartagena.

“Thank you grandmother,” responds Kary.

“Ok, mi preciosura (something more precious than precious). I love you so much and please don’t talk with strangers mi negrita (my little brown girl). Ciao.” (Sometimes, Colombians grandmothers have tendency to forget their granddaughter are no longer 8-years old.)

Even though this author had one of the top 10 grandmothers in North America in terms of love, support and advice, this author stills feels somewhat neglected by the fact that his grandmother never referred to him as “my sweet heaven” or “the light of my eyes.”

In any case, while in Colombia this author still has a pretty good chance that someday a Colombian taxi driver may actually refer to him as maestro.

When the country of Peru is mentioned, one imagines a peaceful scene of an Andean alpaca grazing along an Incan stone wall. When Ecuador is brought up, we imagine a rain forest panorama of frogs jumping off branches while butterflies mate in the background. When Colombia is mentioned, we envision a post-apocalyptic city full of overturned buses, being pillaged by men in ski masks. It is obvious which country any rational person would seek to avoid while searching for an internet bride.

“48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong” is a true adventure story about a 37-year-old socially-awkward man who decided that the best way he could deal with a life sentence of microwavable burritos and 10-hour Facebook marathons was to look online for a girlfriend in Colombia and then hop on a flight to Colombia’s capital in pursuit of a woman he has never met.

During his first month in Bogota, Brian falls in with two white, self-assured backpackers who the author describes as, “…not the kind of guys who pump the brakes before going through an uncontrolled intersection.” He is then nearly kidnapped during an encounter with a woman he met online, almost becomes business partners with a Korean man in the “diamond business” and is forced to sleep in the DVD room of his hostel due to lack of funds.

Brian quickly regroups after his first month and auditions for the part of “congressional aide” in a Colombian feature film called “Left To Die.” He then lands a job as a writer for an English-language newspaper where his first interview is with a “suspected undercover CIA agent.” Brian then gets thrown off a TV set for refusing to take off his shirt from under his police uniform. While Brian is not getting thrown off TV sets, he marvels at all the discarded construction materials Colombians throw into pot holes to lessen their depths. Because of this strategy, a bus going over one of these open trenches (full of construction materials) will occasionally sling a chest-high brick through a group of panic-stricken pedestrians.

Brian sincerely believed this trip would put him on a track towards a life of excitement, intrigue and exotic women, far from his increasing first world debt. Instead, he unexpectedly falls into a job as an extra in a Colombian soap opera, has panic attacks, watches other gringos lose their marbles and blows half his paycheck on bootlegged DVD’s. Along the journey, he chronicles his friendships, the deranged ex-pats he meets, and his struggles/triumphs, including one fateful night in a Israeli restaurant that would change his life forever.

To view the complete book, “48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong,” go to …

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015VWCXME?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Scar Tissue, Orlando, George Clinton and Rehab

May 12, 2013

ImageThe relationship between lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers Anthony Kiedis and guitarist John Frusciante is similar to Kiedis’ relationships and Frusciante’s relationships with drugs; on again, off again. John Frusciante in a lot of ways probably reminds Kiedis of himself. The fact of the matter is that Frusciante has been on drugs on and off for at least 15 years.

Frusciante started his first term with the Chili Peppers in 1988. Fruscinate was content to be the guitarist for an obscure funk band that partied during the week. But, after the release of Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik in 1991, the whole dynamic changed. Frusciante was blindsided by instant fame, and struggled to cope with it. Soon after the album’s release, he began to develop a dislike for the band’s popularity. Kiedis recalled that he and Frusciante used to get into heated discussions backstage after concerts: “John would say, ‘We’re too popular. I don’t need to be at this level of success. I would just be proud to be playing this music in clubs like you guys were doing two years ago.'”

He finally dropped out of the band in May of 1992 during their Japanese tour.

He came back to the band in 1998, following rehabilitation for heroin addiction and lasted until 2009 before he got back into drugs and quit the band for the second time. The second relapse was no surprise to Kiedis. His response was, “Mentally, John checked out 13 years ago.”

The Red Hot Chili Peppers were strangers to Human Resources problems. The Chili Peppers have gone through three different drummers until they finally found Chad Smith through a friend of the band. This friend claimed Smith was the best drummer she had ever seen, that he ate drums for breakfast. The band agreed to audition Smith, however he was late and the last to audition. Kiedis recalled the first time he saw Smith by saying, “I spied this big lummox walking down the street with a really bad Guns ‘N Roses hairdo and clothes that were not screaming I’ve got style”.

Smith was a six-foot three-inch tall drummer who, according to Flea, “lit a fire under our asses,” from the moment they started jamming, Smith and Flea instantly clicked. The band knew they had their guy. Smith was a hard-hitting musician the Chili Peppers believed they would create a strong relationship with. Kiedis later said the audition with Smith “left the band in a state of frenzied laughter, that we couldn’t shake out of for a half an hour”. Smith was so much different from the other three. Kiedis and Flea were heavily influenced by the punk rock, where Smith’s taste in heavy metal music and biker appearance went against their punk rock views. Kiedis informed Smith he would be hired on one condition. As an initiation to the band, Smith had to cut his long heavy metal looking haircut. Smith refused though Kiedis wasn’t about to argue with the much larger Smith. Smith was hired in November 1988, performed a few shows in December of that year and three months later was in the studio working on the band’s next album.

The band had already written approximately 70 percent of the album by the time the group traveled to Michigan to record the album. Clinton decided that the band would spend a month with him before recording to bond and create ideas for new songs. Before renting a house of their own, the group members stayed in Clinton’s house in the village of Brooklyn, about an hour away from Detroit, for a week.  The band was excited to live with Clinton, but as soon as Kiedis moved in, he began experiencing severe heroin withdrawal, and became very ill. He attempted to offset his desire for heroin by using cocaine instead, but his relief was short-lived. After a few days, however, his symptoms subsided and he was able to join the group in playing music and connecting with Clinton. The Red Hot Chili Peppers felt a strong chemistry with Clinton and enjoyed his quirky personality and storytelling abilities. After a week of living with him, the band moved into a house on a nearby golf course.

The Freaky Styley album was recorded at United Sound Studios in Detroit. During the recording of the album the band and Clinton began using copious amounts of cocaine together, which had a negative effect on the band’s overall health.

It got so bad at one point that George Clinton’s Eastern European drug dealer actually came to the studio to collect on the debt owed to him.

“Look around at all this studio equipment, does it look like I am strapped for cash? Once we cut this album (Freaky Styley) I am the first mother….. to get paid and then you will be the second person who gets paid,” said George to his Eastern dealer.

The dealer brought some muscle with him and refused to leave the studio. George asked the dealer what it was going to take to get the dealer out of the studio so the band could continue to record the album. The dealer was really interested in the recording business and wanted to be on the album.  The track “Yertle the Turtle,” as stated by Kiedis in his autobiography, “Scar Tissue,” starts with the spoken lyrics “Look at that turtle go bro.” and repeats throughout the song. These lyrics were sung by the Eastern dealer.

When the time came for Kiedis to record his vocals, he decided to abstain from cocaine use for two weeks, an experience he likened to “deciding to be celibate when you’re living in a brothel.”

Flash forward to 1998 when I got my first chance to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert. They came to Paradise, California and played at the “Field of Dreams.” The show was on a Wednesday night and the price was $25. I was nervous about going to a venue that was nearly 25 miles from where I lived in a field somewhere. I also was a little bummed after hearing their latest album “Aeroplane” which didn’t meet my expectations. The additon of Dave Navarro/relapse of Kiedis into heroin brought a strange cloud over that release.

Fourteen years later I still have regrets I missed that concert.  So I was very excited about going to the first date of their latest tour in Orlando with my co-worker Don Bayer.  Don was one of the few employees over 30. When Don was younger he had gotten a job working as an extra on “Baywatch” for two episodes. Since then he had done pretty much every job; life guard, substitute teacher,  musician and had a masters degree in International Business from Pepperdine University.

“So, how does a guy with a Masters degree from Pepperdine University end up working at Club Adriatic as a life guard?”

“It is a long story. You want to go to the Chili Peppers concert with me?”

Later that week Don went to the mall and bought two tickets for $45 each. The kickoff tour date was scheduled for January 31 in Orlando. The concert was still a month away when Don bought the tickets. Just to be sure, I asked my boss if she could please give me the date off, it was on a Saturday.

A few weeks before the concert the word came out that Kiedis had broken his foot and the concert would be delayed for another few months.  Finally, March 31 rolled around and we were set to go to Orlando from Port St. Lucie. After we were about 20 minutes into the ride Don tells me, “The message therapist at the hotel offered me first row tickets for $65 a piece but I decided not to buy them.”

“Oh, what row are we in?” I asked.

“Our seats are in the fifth deck.”

Not wanting to blow my top within the first half hour of our trip and pleaded with Don.  “Should we go back to the hotel and try and buy the tickets?”

“No we can’t do that, she isn’t working today.”

“The concert starts at 8 pm, it’s not even 12 noon yet, let’s just get to the concert a few hours early and try and trade our tickets for some better seats,” I suggested.

Don nodded that was ok with him. As we were getting on the freeway we were given a “sun pass,” which is a flowery name given to the toll that everyone in Florida has to pay for using the highways there. By the time we got to our exit in Orlando we had been on the highway for about 2 hours. When we gave our “sun pass” to the guy in the toll booth he rang us up for $13. I thanked him for working that day and appreciated his soft hands.

We found our hotel which cost $75 a night and had a pool. We might as well have been at a Radisson, it had two rooms, a nice kitchen, refrigerator and a dining area. There is no way we would have gotten a room half that nice in any major city in California for that price.  As soon as we checked in the rain started coming on heavily. We rushed downstairs and across the street to the nearest Carl’s Junior.  I got an extra large burger with fries and a water. My teeth were hurting me a bit from drinking too much soda. I was so hungry I ate the burger while it was still red hot. While we were eating Don told me about a couple in the hotel who he went out drinking with.

After his story I told him a little about an experience I had at the hotel.

“My co-worker Mosher is one of those guys who threw away the playbook of life out the back window a long time ago, we were walking together by the volleyball court the other day and two lizards walked in front of us on the path. Mosher then looks towards me and says, ‘You ever make earrings out of dead lizards?’ I said that I didn’t. He then goes on to ask me if I know Tim the Taxi driver. ‘Oh man, you got to meet this guy. Every time I get a ride from the hotel to anywhere he tells me about his partying days.  But when he tells a story you can only only understand about one third of what he is telling you.’”

“Yeah, I know the guy, here are a few of my favorite stories by Tim, ‘$5 for a pack of toothpicks………(20 minutes go by)……. what else was I supposed to do with the handcuffs?’ or ‘What kind of questions was that…..(6 minutes go by)…….that’s why I don’t go out with American chicks,’ or ‘I used to pack each urinal with two cups of ice…….(2 minutes go by)…….he tap danced his ass out of my house pretty quickly after that,’ or ‘The Rebar, I didn’t even know there was one in town…..(1 minute goes by)…..and they will show a picture of you right there on the video screen if you are sober enough,’ or ‘I stopped partying 6 years ago ….(4 minutes go by)….that will make you forget about your big toe pretty quick,’or ‘I brought it to the dart board……(30 seconds go by)…….and the minute he gets out of jail, she goes right back to him,’ If you don’t believe me I have over seven different videos filmed with Tim while in his taxi cab,” I replied defensively.

The more we discussed about our working lives the heavier the rain got until finally I said, ¨Are you sure you want to go to the hotel pool after this?” trying to make light of the situation.

“No, let’s just grab a few Canada Dries and head back to the hotel.”

“What about the holes in the bottom of your shoes, I think it’s time to buy a new pair,” replied Don.

“These old DC shoes I bought back in 2007 and have held together pretty well. I paid $45 for them  at that time.  I went back to the store where I bought this year and they want $60 for the exact same pair but the weight of the new shoes are about half the weight of these ones. I think DC shoes are starting to skimp on the materials and selling shoes that aren’t as good as there were back in the day. When I originally bought these shoes I used to leave them by the front door promising to myself that I would take them back to the store the next day because they weren’t that comfortable, were so rigid and I wanted to find some high tops. Three months later they finally were broken in and they didn’t dig into my ankles. Now 5 years later  can’t get rid  of them because they don’t make shoes this good anymore,” I replied to Don afyer we arrive at the quick stop.

I checked my watch and we still had over 4 hours until show time. We quickly headed over to the quick stop and grabbed a few cold Canada Dries. We went back to the hotel and discussed how we  would make it over to the stadium.

We rolled up to the Amway Center exactly 2 hours early for the show. The place seemed like the atmosphere was picking, so we walked around looking for some ticket scalpers. Finally we met a guy who was standing underneath a bridge.

“We got a business deal we want to talk to you about,” I started in. “How about if we trade you our two tickets in the fifth deck and you give us your tickets in the third deck for $25 a piece?”

“Let me see your tickets,” asked the scalper as he threw his towel over he shoulder. For some reason it seems as if everyone in the scalping business walks around carrying a towel. They must sweat a lot standing under a bridge all day.

We handed over the tickets and the scalper seemed convinced they were real. He reconfirmed the agreement and we passed our tickets over and the money and he gave us his tickets.

We inspected our new tickets and started walking towards the Amway Center. A block in a half later we heard someone running up behind us.

“Sorry guys, I can’t take the tickets they have expired,” he belched out, clearly not used  to having to run customers down.

We tried to explain to him that the original date in January had been pushed back to March 31 due to the lead singer having a medical condition.

“Sorry, I can’t buy tickets from January,” replied the scalper.

We decided bot to haggle with him too much because we figured there must be thousands of people trying to sell tickets to this show walking around. So we gave the money and tickets back and got our old tickets back. We walked around for another hour talking to maybe 10 other scalpers and finding nobody who was really to trade their tickets for ours. Reluctantly I walked into the auditorium with Don at 8.15pm.

There was another band playing before the Red Hot Chili Peppers called something like, Blind Fist Punches Freedom. We listened to them while waiting in line to buy a few Canada Dries. We got our soda and headed to the 5th deck, It seemed like the elevator took 20 minutes to get there. We then walked down the corridor a few blocks and went into the seating area. There was no usher for the upper deck so we found our seats by ourselves. We sat down and were right in the aisle behind the stairs. I thought to myself, “Oh great we are going to have all the drunk people spilling beers on us all day.” I tried not to show my frustration in front of Don. After 15 minutes went by to people came over and asked to see our tickets. They apparently had a claim on our seats. When they checked our tickets we realized we were actually sitting about 10 seats over to the left. We apologized and looked for our new seats. We sat down in our seats and were dead center in front of the stage (still not close but at least we had a clear view to the stage). In our new found seats we got so excited we attempted to chat with the girls sitting to our left but they didn’t seem too interested in discussing the newly-released collectors edition of World of Warcraft.

Don went downstairs for a smoke right as the concert started. I warned him that there probably weren’t any smoking areas in the stadium. He came back 45 minutes later saying that he had actually flushed his lighter down the toilet and was looking for a new. As soon as he sat bac down we watched Kiedis shuffle across the stage with a brace on one leg.

I give the band credit, they played a solid 80 minute set. The only thing missing  felt was to chat up the crowd a little more. There was really no small talk in between songs except for a few comments about Trent Reznor.

We stopped at a McDonald’s on the way home which was in a working class neighborhood. Most of the other cars in line had spinning 22-inch silver rims. On our way home we decided to get off  one exit too soon. When we stopped at the toll booth at the exit there was nobody working there, so we just drove by without paying the toll. Twenty minutes later we were on an unlit road in the sticks being followed by a cop car. I had a bad feeling we were going to get stopped. We then came to a “T” intersection with the cop right behind us. I asked Don what I should do.

“Flip a U-turn,” he assertively responded with the tone of sending troops into battle.

I flipped a U-turn and thankfully the cop made a right. Two blocks later I pulled over and asked Don to drive.

“Luckily we weren’t in a lowered Honda or we would have been pulled over for sure,” I told Don during the switch.

“You got that right, there is no cop in all of Florida man enough to pull over two working class  white males in a 1993 Buick Sedan.”

Korean McDonald’s and Konglish

April 24, 2013

The key to surviving in Korea is mastering a language I like to call Konglish. Konglish is a language like English but spoken with a Korean accent. Example: if you get in a taxi and say “McDonald’s,” the taxi driver will stare back at you blankly. You then repeat it slowly, “Mc-Do-nald’s.” You then go into a miming game where you say “McDonald’s” slowly while airbrushing an “M” into the air in front of him. “Oh! McDonald-zuh,” he’ll repeat back joyfully. In Korean no word can end with a consonant sound. So, all words, including the entire Konglish catalogue, must end with a vowel sound. Another note, all the “L” sounds and “R” sounds are reversed. Also, in Korean they can’t pronounce the “F” sound. Instead, they convert all “F” sounds turn into a “P” sound. So, instead of saying refill, in Konglish you say, “Leepilluh.” These are the three most important rules of Konglish.

Image

Konglish is occasionally frustrating, often confusing, and almost always entertaining. It’s one of the main reasons for misunderstandings between Koreans and foreigners. And for an English teacher, it’s a daily battle that will probably never be won.

Some English words have been adopted by the Korean language, just as they are, to mean the things that they, really mean. Example: Game, Sticker and Computer. These are a few that English teachers pick up when listening to the Korean students talking amongst themselves. However, for the most part, most Konglish words have taken on new meanings, so that they now mean something completely different than they do to native speakers. Or, even more confusingly, there’s only a very slight, subtle difference. That’s Konglish; English words, but with a new Korean meaning.

Here’s a partial list of Konglish words.

When they say…………….. they mean

Sharp………………………………mechanical pencil

(e.g. “Teacher, where’s my sharp?” This means, “Teacher, where’s my pencil?”)

Academy…………………………..private school attended after public school is over (Usually between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. They are also sometimes called “cramming schools” by English newspapers)

White……………………………….White-Out

Service………………………………Free (as in “it’s on the house!”)

Handphone…………………………..Cell phone/Mobile phone

(pronounced hen-duh-pone)

Apart…………………………………Apartment

(pronounced “ah-pah-tuh”)

Apartment……………………………Whole apartment building

Eye shopping………………………….Window shopping

One shot!…………………………….Bottoms up!

Hair rinse…………………………..Hair conditioner

Skinship……………………………Making out – kissing, touching

Fighting!……………………A shout of encouragement, like “Go team!” or “Let’s do it!”

Time…………………………………….Hour

(e.g. “I slept 8 times last night”…. “I slept for 8 hours last night”)

Let’s Dutch pay!……………………….Let’s go Dutch!

So-so……………………………….…..Boring, uninteresting

(e.g. “It was very, very so-so”…..”It was very, very boring”)

Pop song………………………………..Any song in English

Cunning…………………………………Cheating/copying work

Pronounced (“conning”)

(e.g. “Teacher!! John is cunning!”…”Teacher!! John is cheating/copying!”)

Overeat…………………………….…..Throw up, vomit

Dessert…………………………….…..Cup of tea after meal

The most frustrating time I had with Konglish was at the Post Office when I had to send off a letter but wanted to correct the address on the envelope. I kept repeating “White-Out,” but nobody understood. Finally I called a native speaker on my hand phone (cell phone) and he explained it to the clerk at the post office. Before the clerk hung up, he said, “Oh, white.”

“Shouldn’t he have been able to guess what I meant when I said ‘White-out.’ The words are pretty close?” I thought to myself. If you start to wonder things like this in Korea, you will slowly go insane.

______________________________________________________

Everything You Wanted To Know About Teaching English In Korea But Were Afraid To Ask

There has been an exploding demand for native English speakers to teach English in South Korea. English programs and English academies have been spreading like wildfire all over Korea. And, due to an unpredictable economy, many university graduates, travelers, and people from all walks of life are packing their bags and taking advantage of the English boom in Korea.

Korean institutions are paying good money ($2,000-$2,500USD a month) and offering excellent benefits (free housing, 30 hour work weeks) to Westerners who are willing to explore the unfamiliar, pack up their bags, and teach in thriving South Korea.Image

This is the complete guidebook on how to relocate to South Korea and become an English teacher. This book illustrates the many advantages (low taxes, high standard of living, friendly people, safe streets) and challenges (dating, language barriers, disciplining students, getting along with co-workers) that the first time teacher can expect to confront in Korea.

Funny, fact filled and always informative, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Guide to South Korea” provides the necessary knowledge you need to make the most out of the experience. Jam packed with practical information, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Guide to South Korea” addresses all of the topics and taboos a prospective English teacher needs to know, from finding the right job and negotiating a contract settlement to avoid eating dog while ordering food off of a menu.While other books focus solely on classroom experience, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Guide to South Korea” explores life outside of the classroom, providing you with an in-depth and often hilarious guide to Korean culture, food, friendship, drinking, dating, religion, health and history are just some of the subjects discussed in detail.Last but not least, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Guide to South Korea” looks at the embarrassing realities of life abroad, offering pause for thought on such issues as learning how to pronounce Korean students’ names, a 15-minute golf lesson I got in Korean that increased my driving distance 20%, my interactions with my Korean co-worker “Kid” who confesses to me that he was accused by his ex-wife of burning down her house and the cheapest and best eye surgery I’ve gotten in any country.  “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Guide to South Korea” will awaken readers to the transitional opportunities available in a place that shares few Western customs but many of the comforts of home.
Written by Brian Ward, a semi-qualified middle school teacher whose walked the fine line between sanity and a nervous breakdown in the classroom, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Guide to South Korea” is an irreverent and insightful survival guide for anyone brave enough to try their hand at teaching English in South Korea or who just wants to have a laugh at author Brian Ward’s backwards approach to living in Korean culture.

This guidebook also compares teaching in the USA to teaching in Korea.

Country Salary
(Year)
Yearly Taxes Yearly Housing Expenses Total Remaining
Korea $26,000 + 50% of medical bills paid $780   $0 $25,220
USA   $35,000 $8,000 $8,400 $18,600

“First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Guide to South Korea” by Brian Ward, can be found on Amazon.com

Here is a chapter by chapter synopsis of the book:

Chapter 1
Dreams vs. Getting a Paycheck

This chapter profiles author’s friend Nick Lee, the hedonistic boozer surrounded by books, half-finished paintings and an old LP player — speaks in English rather than Greek or Latin. Prodigious nose, has been retooled as a heroic pretty boy. As Nick Lee’s life finally falls apart due to alcohol and lack of physical contact with women, the author decides to get on a plane to Korea. Upon his arrival to South Korea, he is taken back when he learns the true meaning of “Hair Shops” in Korea.

Chapter 2
Academy Owners

This chapter discusses the 4 major types of academy owners as well as which category I was working for. This chapter also discusses my “first contact” with my boss and Korean co-workers. This chapter reveals what a failure I am at teaching and includes the letters I received from Seoul which explained where I should improve. Introduced in this chapter is Carlo, an English teacher famous for drinking with Russians, getting bit by his students and his travels throughout Morocco.

In this chapter I get fired from my first job and start a new job. I am also forced to learn a little bit about Korean culture in order to be able to converse better with my students. Also introduced in this chapter is Jackie and the story of his dog “Blackie.” Also discussed is the Korean co-worker culture and what that entails.

Chapter 3
First Non-Monopoly Month in Class

I learn which class tattled on me for playing Monopoly every day in class. I also try different techniques for disciplining my students. I also discuss the advantages of talking with the students versus making them do exercises and what makes talking to the students so difficult. Also discussed is more of Carlo’s antics outside of the classroom. I finally get the bright idea of discussing the rules in class. I meet Carlo again out of class and we discuss the problems of his life; mainly how to deal with a belligerent student who happens to be the boss’ daughter in class.

Chapter 4
Bars and Churches

There are two types of English teachers in Mokpo, those who hang out in the bars and the other who hang out in church. Frankly I was getting tired of hanging out with the English teachers in bars. I decide to go to church instead. On my first day of church I discover that there is free orange juice and cookies served after each session. I meet Ms. Jung who explains to me why the street in Korea are so clean and how it affects retired Korean people. I also get my first private English student. Jackie’s house becomes haunted by a ghost and he reveals how to chase ghosts away. I go to my first baseball game.

Chapter 5
Modem vs. Router

I have my first run in with Korean modems and their downfalls. Jackie comes to my rescue and gives me some much-needed internet advice.

Chapter 6
Golfing in Korea

I meet my first Korean golf instructor who gives me best golf lesson ever using no English. Using my new-found golf skills I decide to golf a few rounds of golf with my new co-teacher George and his brother.

Chapter 7
English Meetings at Angel-In-Us Café

In addition to going to church, I join another group in Korea. This one is and English group that is run by my Korean friend Jackie. This group becomes a great way to meet new friends and discuss current events in Korea. Next, my former roommate, Carlo, gets taken to the police station and I talk to him before he gets deported from Korea. I also meet my replacement who’s teaching at my previous academy.

Chapter 8
4th of July in Korea

Author goes to a 4th of July party with his new-found church friends. He meets another English teacher named Tareck. Tareck is famous for kicking chairs across the classroom to get his students’ attention as well as living in the same apartment as his nudist boss.

Chapter 9
Kidman

Brian meets his first English-speaking co-teacher who goes by the name “Kid.” During their first time out for a hike together Kid confesses to Brian that he was accused by his ex-wife of burning down her house and that he likes dating Japanese women.

Chapter 10
Modem vs. Router

I have my first run in with Korean modems and their downfalls. Jackie comes to my rescue and gives me some much-needed internet advice.

Chapter 11
Golfing in Korea

I meet my first Korean golf instructor who gives me best golf lesson ever using no English. Using my new-found golf skills I decide to golf a few rounds of golf with my new co-teacher George and his brother.

Chapter 12
English Meetings at Angel-In-Us Café

In addition to going to church, I join another group in Korea. This one is and English group and is run by Jackie. I find another way to meet new friends and discuss current events in Korea. Carlo gets taken to the police station and I talk to him before he gets deported from Korea. I also meet my replacement who’s teaching at my previous academy.

Chapter 13
Lesson Plans

Brian reveals the most effective way to plan for his classes; by downloading lessons plans off the internet. Included in these lesson plans is  sample menu that is used to help the students role-play the purchasing of a hamburger in class.

Chapter 14
Dating in Korea

Brian shares four case studies of native teachers (males) who are dating Korean women. Included in these case studies are the reactions of the host-woman’s friends, families and social network.

Chapter 15
Surgery on a Budget

Brian get learns the difference between hospitals in Seoul (where the rich Koreans go) and all other hospitals in Korea. Brian finds the best value in Korea which is eye surgery which is priced at $2,500 in Korea vs. $28,000 in the United States. While in the hospital Brian meets an American man named Roman who’s been living in Korea since the 1970′s and publishing a book about a Post-Apocalyptic New England town. When Brian asks Roman who his book publishing agent is Roman replies, “The guy’s an idiot, he’s 62 and has just had his 6th child with his 3rd wife. What kind of a life is that kid going to have?”

“First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Guide to South Korea” by Brian Ward, can be found on Amazon.com

Medellín vs. Bogotá

April 7, 2013

A lot has been said by Bogota’s lack of a metro system. In Colombia it is strange that Colombia’s capital city as well as most populous city (10.7 million) doesn’t have a metro system while Medellin (population 3.8 million) has its own metro system.  What Bogota has done to ease its embarrassment of a lack of a metro is to install the “Transmilenio.” The Transmilenio has been called the “Burro Gusano” (Stupid Worm) by the people who live in Bogota. My own personal name I have invented for the whole Transmilenio system is, “2 People Get off, 25 Get On.” It seems every time you try to go anywhere on the Transmilenio there are always people standing in front of the turnstiles text messaging, when the bus doors open there are always people blocking your way who aren’t even getting on the Transmilenio and there always seems to be large numbers of people getting on the bus right when you are trying to leave. But, on the other hand there are a lot of people in Bogota and obviously they have to get to work somehow. So, considering the amount of people in the city it could be a lot worse.Image

One technique I have used to try and get on Transmilenio buses that are the same route but are drafting off of each other. The bus that is drafting usually has 50% less people the the Transmilenio bus in front of it. This happens because most people riding Transmilenio are always late so the always rush to get onto the first bus into the station. But, as long as you pay attention to the boards and you have an extra 2 minutes to wait you can find a Transmilenio bus less crowded that will get you to the same place in few minutes later. And, another advantage of taking the Transmilenio bus drafting off the other, is that the one in front will pick up a lot more people on the way and will make it tougher to get off of at your stop later.

The Transmilenio is basically a glorified bus that has sheltered stops that are fenced in by glass. The system is not all bad. It is cheaper and faster to build than a subway and it is also more flexible to operate in terms of adding or subtracting buses. The passengers are all very calm when they ride the Transmilenio. I have delivered some massive elbow into people’s heads, shoulders and arms and the people never get mad. Usually they apologize for their head running into my elbow.

So, while the people in Medellin are efficiently guided through the city by metro, the Bogotanos are left to sit in traffic, while dodging elbows from the passengers and cursing the paisas (Medellin people) under their breath. The thing I enjoy most about riding the Transmilenio is being able to stare down other passengers if they are gazing too long at a roadside accident. The public transportation system is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of rivalry between Bogota and Medellin. This is a condensed list of the major differences between the two cities.

1)    Medellin’s temperate climate (between 65 and 85 degrees 99% of the time) beats Bogota’s year round cold and drizzly climate.

2)    The women in Bogota are more cosmopolitan.

When I asked a girl from Bogota who she thought was more prettier, the Paisa girls (Medellin) or the Rola (Bogota) girls.

“As a Colombian woman I can tell you the first problem many foreign men have when they come to Colombia is going for the fake girls, fake paisa women come in pretty packages but they’re full of air. You have been warned!
Rolas for example don’t go around showing off their boobies and butts as much as the Paisas but they are more intellectual and have more brain matter. If you are in love with Medellín, then your best bet  is to go for the paisa women that have some education, preferably university education. Are you really ready to date a girl who probably speaks her own mother tongue 10 times worse than you and looks like a Colombian version of Barbie? These girls are usually big gold-diggers, some don’t expect anything better than wild sex but no reassurance besides that.
Believe me, in comparison to any Euro or Anglo American we Colombians are extremely passionate and sensual even if we don’t all go dressed in skimpy dresses. So yes, there are Colombian women that are not flaky and with enough brains to go beyond the superficial.”

3)    The fashion industry is centered in Medellin. The latest fashions always arrive to Medellin first and then filter through the rest of the country like tomato juice being poured over ice cubes.

4)    The more famous artists and musicians are from Medellin: Juanes and Botero. There is a noticeable lack of great artistic talent that comes out of Bogota based on its size.

5)    Medellin has better plastic surgeons for augmenting or slimming your body.

6)    The Bogota accent is the clearest and easiest to understand of all the Spanish speaking world. Bogotanos speak Spanish like Torontonians speak English.

7)    The cost of living in Medellin is a little cheaper than Bogota in terms of transportation, housing and food.

8)    The big bonus for foreign people living in Bogota is the potential of working in the TV and movie business. These opportunities are pretty difficult to find in Medellin.

Mexican Dentist

March 31, 2013

While taking a trip to Ixtapa, Mexico, I felt a sharp pain in my rear molar. At that point in my checkered life, I hadn’t been to a dentist for two years. I knew I could not afford a dentist in the United States so I asked a Mexican lady working in reception in a beach side hotel if she knew of a dentist in town. There was only one. She told me I couldn’t miss it. It was on the second floor of a women’s shoe store.

Ixtapa

Going to see a dentist is usually a major hassle. You have to make an appointment two months in advance. When you get there you need to show three forms of ID, fill out paperwork and after the dentist has three proofs of payments, for his services, he will then show his face. On top of all this, you are paying this cheeky two-timing, lick spittle son of a gun $250 an hour to lurk around your mouth with a Popsicle stick and a mirror. Upon inspection, if there’s actually anything to fix, the dentist will tell you to come back in another month. If I ask the dentist why my halitosis and eroded gums haven’t improved since the last visit he’ll lecture me that I eat too much candy before bed, I don’t brush the back part of my mouth as well as the front, I should be brushing in circles rather than side-to-side and I am worthless and people like me don’t deserve to share the planet with the all-mighty dentists.

This is the reason I have stopped going to dentists in the United States. I am sick of the guilt, the paperwork and paying these guys thousands of dollars so they can lecture me for not flossing every day. When you go to see a Mexican dentist, you have the confidence of knowing your dental problem will be dealt with the same day of your visit. Another plus is that you don’t have to wait in line behind others and he doesn’t give you a huge speech about all the things you’re doing wrong. There’s no $400 bill for laughing gas or X-rays. The dentist cuts the price charged by using low-technology solutions to inspect your teeth. With Mexican dentists, all I had to do was bring $40USD with me if I wanted my teeth worked on, and, if there’s any extra charges, I could bring the rest of the money later.

The last Mexican dentist I saw was Dr. Vicenezio in Ixtapa. While seated in the dentist’s chair, Dr. Vicenezio didn’t give me a big lecture about going to the dentist every six months. He just checked my teeth and explained that I have really deep crevices in my teeth so sometimes food can get stuck in the crevices and cause cavities. He said he would need to drill seven teeth. He also asked me how I got a chipped front tooth. I explained to him that I had chipped it when I landed wrong onto the trapeze net at Club Med. My knee hit the bottom of my jaw and knocked my bottom teeth into the top row. This was no problem for Dr Vicenezio. He used a polisher to even out the first two teeth and assured me that the chipped backs of the bottom two teeth would grow back, which they did.

I was a little worried about the cost and he told me it would be $75USD and I could pay him the rest when I got my next pay check. He injected painkiller directly into my gums so I wouldn’t feel any pain from the drill. He was half right, I did feel a little pain but he quickly drilled out the seven teeth and put a sealant over the holes to prevent food from getting caught in there. The whole transaction took about 40 minutes and I was out the door. Five years later, my teeth are still cavity-free.

Surfing El Rancho In Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo

February 6, 2013

One night after having a couple beers at the bar in Ixtapa, Mexico I bragged to a Mexican girl that I was the second cousin of surf legend Kelly Slater.

“Oh really, you should come surfing tomorrow morning with me and my friend Chiminique.”

#1) It always amazes me what a high percentage of the stories I tell people actually believe.

#2) I didn’t ask if Chiminique was a prison nickname or his birth name

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We met in reception at her hotel on Thursday. I brought a boogie board instead of a surfboard. This being because I have never owned a surfboard in my life.  Chiminique was there at 5 a.m. to pick us up. I secretly was afraid of the beaches around Zihuatanejo, because I had heard stories about tourists dying from getting slammed by waves up to 15 feet high at Playa Larga.

While in his car, our friend Chiminique said he’d take us to el Rancho, instead of Playa Larga. Chiminique explained that although the waves are bigger in el Rancho than those of Playa Larga, they break more consistently, always from right to left. Also, we should never drop into a wave and go right. If we did, we’d be knocked into the bed of rocks that line the sea floor. My throat tightened up when I heard this. Not only were we going to the beach with the most massive waves, but the floor was also lined with rocks that could smash us to pieces if we dropped into a wave wrong.  It was too late to back out, as we were already 20 minutes down the highway and I didn’t want this girl to think I was chicken. I sat back and tried to imagine her in a bikini to calm myself down. Instead of seeing her in a bikini, I saw my own obituary, written in Spanish.

When we got to el Rancho, it was still dark outside. We parked in a dirt parking lot next to a beach restaurant. I could only see the white part of the water as the waves broke. I watched wave after wave crash down, each time making as much noise as a five-story building falling to the ground.  The next thing I noticed was that the whole shore was lined with huge boulders. Before getting out to the water, we first had to climb a wall of rocks.  In between the boulders there were little pools of water a foot to a foot and a half deep, with sandy bottoms.  Chiminique asked me if I had brought aqua socks because if I didn’t, I would probably cut my feet while walking out to the water with my boogie board.  He told me if I did cut my feet I shouldn’t go into the water because I would attract sharks.  The story was going from bad to worse.

I looked back towards the car and the Mexican girl had taken off her T-shirt.  I stared at her tan back as she was tying her hair into a ponytail.  I had to keep it together, I was the only guy there with a boogie board and I didn’t want to look like a punk by staying behind on the beach. If I didn’t at least get into the water, she would probably marry Chiminique instead of me. Chiminique zipped up his wetsuit, put on his rubber booties, loaded his board on top of his head and started rock-jumping to get out to the water.  I took off my shirt, tucked the boogie-board under one arm and used the other arm to keep my shorts from falling down. I was behind the others, so I tried to follow the routes they were taking, in order not to slip off a rock and break my head open. On my third jump to a rock, I stubbed my toe badly.  I laid down and rolled up into a ball on top of the rock, trying not to cry in front of everyone.This gave ample time for the rest of the crew to pass me on their way to the water.

While laying on my side, I looked through the darkness and saw one of the sandy-bottomed pools.  I decided it was stupid to jump from rock-to-rock when I could just stroll through the pools and save myself from stubbing my toe again. I stepped down into the pool and felt something rubbery. All of a sudden the whole sandy bottom started to come alive, like grease in a frying pan. A manta ray the size of a dining room table scooted out from under the sandy ocean bottom.  That should have been a sign to turn back, but just at that moment the Mexican girl jumped off the last rock onto her surfboard and I could see her firm backside poking through the bottom of her shorts on top of the surfboard.  I got back on top of the rock, gritted my teeth and waited for the first flash of pain from my toe to wash away.  I continued to the next rock and then to the final rock. It was time for me to jump into the ocean. I tried not to think about my obituary notice.

I jumped in and the water was unreal, it felt great. I told myself, “No problem, just duck the first couple of waves until you get used to maneuvering out there.”  I went over the tops of the first two waves and all my childhood boogie boarding started coming back to me.  After being out there for 2 minutes, I realized that the only way to get back to the shore was to ride at least one wave in. It would be impossible to swim against the current back to the shore.  Chiminique started waving at me to come out to where all the rest of the surfers were.  He explained to me later that I was in the middle of the break zone and needed to paddle quickly through that part or a wave would crash on top of me and drive me into the shallow sea floor right below me.  I started paddling out and I noticed I was heading right into a pretty big wave.  I didn’t want to duck this one because I was afraid of losing my orientation as I came back up to the surface, so I made a path straight on and started to turn vertical as I went up the face of the wave.

It seemed I just kept going higher and higher and was becoming even more vertical, almost to the point of falling back down to the bottom of the wave which had to be at least an eight foot drop.  I started pushing the nose of the boogie board down with my arms to try and push through the top of this wave and got slapped in the face with the crest of the wave as I zoomed down the other side.  A lot of people say bull riding is the most dangerous sport in the world.  Surfing is like bull-riding except the bull weighs several thousand tons.

At that point I went into survival mode and the only thing on my mind was surviving long enough to stand on firm ground again.  I knew another wave was approaching and it would be even more deadly. I was determined to take the next one in. I turned to face the shore and started paddling.  It felt like the wave was taking too long to get to me, so I turned around to see what was going on just as the wave was falling on top of me, pushing me several feet underwater.

The next thing I knew I was bouncing on the sea floor and my boogie board was hitting me from all sides like a tether ball around a pole.  Before running out of air, I managed to get back to the surface.A half second later I was back under water and being dragged backwards. I breached the surface once more, this time right as the second wave came crashing down on me. I realized pretty quick that I wouldn’t last long out here at this rate.

So, as I was being taken under by the second, I started to feel around on the underneath the water.  As I was feeling around, I felt the edge of a rock sticking out. I grabbed onto it with both hands.  Right as I latched on to this rock all the water receded and I was all of a sudden on a shelf of rocks. I used all my strength to get back up on the original wall I had jumped off barely six minutes earlier. Once on top of the wall, I got on my hands and knees and hobbled across the rocks as quickly as possible.

Once I got back to the beach, I collapsed, face down. While lying face-down, a Mexican man poked me on the back and asked me if I wanted to come and sit inside his beach side restaurant. I ordered Huevos Rancheros but realized I didn’t have any money. The waiter said not to worry, he’d just add it to what Chiminique owed him for that month.

Internet Love in Colombia

January 31, 2013

“Our South American tour to Colombia is an unforgettable experience that may very well change your life forever. You will be introduced to literally hundreds of stunning women from Cartagena, as well as other surrounding Colombian cities. Why Colombian women? They just so happen to be some of the most beautiful, genuine, and sincere women in the world. These women are extremely friendly, warm and sincerely looking for someone with whom they can build a serious relationship. No matter how much we try to prepare the men who attend our Cartagena romance tours, they are always overwhelmed by these very special women.”

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This is the hook introduction to the Colombian section of an internet site that specializes in romance tours all over the world. With tour packages starting at $1695USD, this might be a great way to justify taking a nine day trip to Cartagena or this may a south-of-the-border hail mary for divorcees addicted to online gambling. The personal opinion of this author is that if you are going to get into a serious relationship and possibly marriage, you might as well double down and come and start a relationship in Colombia. With the divorce rate hovering around 60% in most of the English-speaking countries it is probably a safer bet to search out a relationship with a foreign non-English speaking person than risk marrying someone from your own national origin.

The tour is pretty impressive and well thought out. For your money you are given two fully catered, special invitation, large socials. These are basically ballroom parties that take place in the same hotel that the tour has booked you into. Of course, there will be many intelligent and beautiful women there to meet as well as probably a few women who fall into other categories. The tour also includes hotel accommodations in Cartagena, unlimited personal introductions, complimentary interpreters provided at all socials, airport pickup as well as 24 hour hospitality and guidance from the website staff.

For the rest of us (people who don’t have $2,000USD to spend), there are dozens if not hundreds of websites specializing in meeting Colombian and Latin American singles. The one that is most familiar to this author is ColombianCupid.com. This website is free to use if you just want to see who is on the website. If you click on “advanced search” on the portal page you are instantly presented with a 2-page form that helps you best search for romance based on your own criteria.  Say for example, you would like to meet a 30-35-year old woman, living in Bogotá, with a profile photo, who is searching for romance/dating/marriage, speaks some English, has a bachelors degree and is willing to relocate to another country. After hitting search there are over 1,000 profiles listed in order of which members are most active on the site.

What is the difference between single women in Bogotá vs. the rest of Colombia? Probably the average woman living in Bogotá vs. the average woman living in Sincelejo (for example) is that in Bogotá there is the highest concentration of quality education, therefore the women who live here are more likely to have a more academic background, the women in Bogotá speak neutral Spanish and on the whole, are more used to being around foreign people.

A friend of mine, who will remain nameless, can actually testify to the confidentiality of your credit card information if you decide to join ColombianCupid.com because he joined the site for 2 months last year for $45USD. A standard question you will be asked by the female members after you join and put up a profile picture is, “What is your job?”

My friend always made a point of answering this question the following way, “I paint fences for a living.” No matter what your employment status is, my friend relayed to me, this is a highly effective way to avoid meeting women looking for a sugar daddy.

Next, he started viewing the profiles of the many women on the site. If there were ever more than two girls in one photo he would always send the same email, “Which one is you in the photo?” The answer would invariably be that the girl looking for a relationship would be the least attractive of the two. So, if you are ever unsure of which woman is the one who is actually the one looking for a special friend, you can take it from my friend and his research that it will always be the least attractive one.

Because there were so many Bogotá profiles of single women, my friend could also eliminate all the women who weren’t smiling in their photos, had visible tattoos, had their underwear showing,  too much cleavage hanging out (this means that either they are overeager or possibly using someone else’s photo) or were on the verge of black out drunk. My friend figured that probably the single most important characteristic he was looking for was a person who actually was happy and optimistic about the future. After narrowing the field down to about 15 profiles, he then started emailing them.  He decided the best question to ask would be a subject that pretty much every Colombian had an opinion on, “Do you love Shakira?”

If the girl responded, “What kind of crazy question was that?” He figured he would have to scratch her from the list. If the girl responded, “I really like Shakira,” he figured they were off to a good start. He would then ask more random questions like, “Tell me about a time in your life when you did something embarrassing,” and once again if the girl asked, “What kind of question is this,” he would scratch her from the list. He ended up chatting with a lot of interesting women who told great stories about getting dumped in elevators or falling down the stairs at church. He quickly had a more intimate group of five women from Bogotá who he was chatting with at least five times a week. Of these five, there was also another girl named Diana (who had beautifully tan skin, thick lips and a funny little grin) who he was very smitten with but she hadn’t answered any of the three emails he had sent her. In a last ditch attempt he decided to send her the mother of all emails, “Where would you like to go on our honeymoon?” If she didn’t answer this email he would back off for fear of being accused of internet stalking.

A few days later he got a somewhat puzzling email from Diana, “Thanks for your message.” He quickly sent her back a follow-up message, “I have bought a ticket to Bogotá, I will be arriving in 2 weeks, can I have your telephone number?”

He still pretty much knew next to nothing about her except what her profile said that she was a non-smoker, a financial administrator, had a daughter, had no exposed tattoos and was interested in starting a serious relationship.

After arriving to Bogotá he went on about three different dates with women he met online, one of which he snuck out of on his way to the bathroom to avoid a massive bill that he would be expected to pay. Furthermore, none of the women seemed like they had the real desire or enough free time to start a relationship with him. A week after he had arrived to Bogota, he got another message from Diana with her telephone number.

He called her up from his hostel and he arranged to meet her in Bulevar Niza at Corral Burgers. After she paid the bill of their first meal together it was pretty much a done deal. He moved into her apartment building a few weeks later and has been in a relationship with her since July 2012. Their relationship is not perfect, they do squabble after my friend forgets to wash out the sink after doing the dishes or when he eats too many chocolate chip cookies but he has thoroughly enjoyed being accepted into her life and is very grateful that someone has come into his life who is willing to overlook the fact that his hair is falling out, he watches “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” obsessively and has very poor dish washing skills. And, probably the best part about their limited internet interactions is that he will never have to explain to her why he told her he painted fences for a living.

When the country of Peru is mentioned, one imagines a peaceful scene of an Andean alpaca grazing along an Incan stone wall. When Ecuador is brought up, we imagine a rain forest panorama of frogs jumping off branches while butterflies mate in the background. When Colombia is mentioned, we envision a post-apocalyptic city full of overturned buses, being pillaged by men in ski masks. It is obvious which country any rational person would seek to avoid while searching for an internet bride.

“48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong” is a true adventure story about a 37-year-old socially-awkward man who decided that the best way he could deal with a life sentence of microwavable burritos and 10-hour Facebook marathons was to look online for a girlfriend in Colombia and then hop on a flight to Colombia’s capital in pursuit of a woman he has never met.

During his first month in Bogota, Brian falls in with two white, self-assured backpackers who the author describes as, “…not the kind of guys who pump the brakes before going through an uncontrolled intersection.” He is then nearly kidnapped during an encounter with a woman he met online, almost becomes business partners with a Korean man in the “diamond business” and is forced to sleep in the DVD room of his hostel due to lack of funds.

Brian quickly regroups after his first month and auditions for the part of “congressional aide” in a Colombian feature film called “Left To Die.” He then lands a job as a writer for an English-language newspaper where his first interview is with a “suspected undercover CIA agent.” Brian then gets thrown off a TV set for refusing to take off his shirt from under his police uniform. While Brian is not getting thrown off TV sets, he marvels at all the discarded construction materials Colombians throw into pot holes to lessen their depths. Because of this strategy, a bus going over one of these open trenches (full of construction materials) will occasionally sling a chest-high brick through a group of panic-stricken pedestrians.

Brian sincerely believed this trip would put him on a track towards a life of excitement, intrigue and exotic women, far from his increasing first world debt. Instead, he unexpectedly falls into a job as an extra in a Colombian soap opera, has panic attacks, watches other gringos lose their marbles and blows half his paycheck on bootlegged DVD’s. Along the journey, he chronicles his friendships, the deranged ex-pats he meets, and his struggles/triumphs, including one fateful night in a Israeli restaurant that would change his life forever.

To view the complete book, go to …
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015VWCXME?*Version*=1&*entries*=0