Posts Tagged ‘bogota’

Jobs A Foreigner Can Do In Colombia While Drunk

October 24, 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.

bogota zona rosa

If a foreign person is seriously thinking about making a career of working as an extra/actor in Colombian TV, then the first step this person should take is to register with as many casting agencies as possible. Probably the best agency in terms of prompt payment and the agency that is most enthusiastic about working in TV and movies is the Rudiger Kunze Casting Agency (send photos and contact information in Spanish or German to rudikunze@hotmail.com or call him at 301 662 0565). Once you get a relationship going with Rudi, you will likely be sent on casting calls for movies, commercials as well as have semi-consistent work as an extra.

The advantages of working in Colombia as a foreign extra are  numerous; #1) It is a job that is easily done (and probably preferably done) while drunk, #2) The foreign extra needs nothing in the way of work visas, a Colombian bank account or a RUT to work in Colombia, #3) Speaking Spanish is not necessary either and it is to the extra’s advantage the less Spanish he or she knows (the costume designer won’t insist that you try on the same size of pants that are two sizes too small fifty times if you can’t understand what he is saying).

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

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

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

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

For those of you without a concave chest, once registered with Rudiger Kunze, you will receive calls that will be for anything from;

Extra roles in TV programs – The pay is $90,000 – $120,000 a day

Appearing in movies – The pay is anywhere from $300,000 – $600,000 a day

Recording commercials – The pay is $700,000 – $1,600,000 pesos for a day’s work

Modeling jobs – The pay can go up to $3,000,000 pesos per day

The typical casting call involves showing up at the location of the audition, trying to memorize lines and making as many false promises and embellishments to whoever is in charge of the audition as possible. This author can remember a time when he told the director’s assistant that he was friends with the guy who designed the Weinstein Company Logo.

“Oh really, I am trying to get work as an actress in the United States. Do you have any contacts in the movie business?” asked the director’s assistant, biting firmly onto the bait.

“Yeah, I have a few friends,” lying through my teeth.

“They are actors?”

“My friends work mostly in special effects,” making the fluid transition from reality into acting. “I have one friend who designs the animation at the beginning of the movies when the film’s logo appears,” I claimed, slowly reeling her in.

“Maybe I could take down your information and contact you when I get to the United States?”

After we exchanged information and the audition was finished, I accentuated my embellishment by saying, “Diana, you should definitely write me an email so you can get in touch with my friend in L.A., he says that he has a big project coming up soon.”

Since casting calls are very competitive and very rarely lead to real money, it is more sustainable to focus on work for extras. Information about extra work is sent out the night before via text messages and email. The information is usually pretty limited. A typical message might read: “Recording for Capo 3, tomorrow 9am, CARRERA 50#17-77.”

The roles for this type of work are highly varied, some common roles include; bouncer, cop, ex-prisoner, stripper, luggage handler, foreign businessman, embassy employee or ex-military. A former Dutch actor in Colombia had some timely advice for succeeding as an extra, “My best advice is; if you really want to do it (extra work) forget about any sense of pride, dignity and western critical thinking.”

Some of these minor roles will even include dialogue, “I’ve had basic lines, but nothing terribly complicated, a few in English and one time in Spanish. The pay for being a standard extra rarely gets higher than $120,000,” commented an Irish actor named Brendan Corrigan.

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

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

He went on by adding, “During my 20-minute rehearsal before my maiden voyage into acting, I was introduced to the two Colombian actors who would be playing opposite me and they seemed like quiet and normal guys. The kind of guys who would make great landscapers or employees at a car wash. Once the cameras started rolling, I realized what great actors they were. Each line of my dialogue sent them into intense fits of anger and contorted facial expressions. After our dialogue was over, our team of American businessmen were supposed to walk through the scene and off the set.

As I was walking off camera, I missed the door and rammed my knee into wall, almost toppling the entire set. The director loved my exit and almost fell down, he was laughing so hard. During the next two hours of filming, he would come up to me on the set and ask if I was free of pain. After eating lunch with the other extras, the director, (still chuckling to himself) asked me how much longer I would be in Colombia. He took my phone number in case he had any work for me in the future.”

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

What is the typical day like on the set as an extra? Most of the day is spent standing in line waiting to be added to the time sheet, standing in line waiting for your wardrobe, standing in line for your food, standing in line to use the port-a-potty, you are then on camera for 20 seconds (opening a door for a Colombian actor playing a lawyer) and then finally waiting in line for your money at the end of filming. An inside tip for the more ambitious foreign actors; they should use the long hours of standing in line as a networking opportunity. It also wouldn’t even be a bad idea to print up some business cards with your photo, name and phone number to hand out to other actors as well as directors while you are on the set. The most stellar of extras have Blackberry phones which they can get the pins from other phones and receive the latest extra work info via their phone 24-hours a day.

The best way to start a conversation with another extra is, “Do you know the casting agent (insert name)? That guy owes me $180,000 pesos.” After chit-chatting with the other extras for a few minutes you can ask for their pin numbers and hand out your business cards.

Once you get a few key contacts of people sending you reliable work leads, you will have pretty consistent work in acting and extra work. Although there is no guarantee that this will lead to you being invited to pool parties with Colombian models, but you will most likely be able to cover most of your food and living expenses during your stay in Colombia.

…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

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

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.

Goodwill Hunting in The Candelaria, Bogota

January 13, 2013

The Candelaria is the place where the “Tomato Bait Trick” first got its roots in Bogota. The usual price of a tomato in Colombia is 200 pesos or $.10USD. But when a tourist goes into a grocery store owned by gutter snipes the tourist is charged 1,500 pesos ($.80USD) for a tomato. Most tourists are happy to pay this amount and actually shake the grocer’s hand after the sale. The problem occurs when the same tourist goes into the same grocery store a week later and buys the same tomato and is charged 200 pesos the second time. This has the effect of making the tourist so enraged with anger that he runs through the store opening all the cans of tuna and throwing them in the grocer’s face.Image

The heart of the Old Town (also known as the Candelaria) is on 11th Street. This is pretty much ground zero in Bogota in terms of universities, government buildings, The Presidential Palace (La Casa de Nariño) and cathedrals. I have a friend named Dennis in Candelaria who is renting a room one block from the President’s house for $15OUSD a month. There are armed guards that sit out in front of his house at all hours of the day and the street in front of his house gets blockaded against traffic every day after 6pm. Where else can you live and get Presidential armed guards sitting out in front of your house for $150USD a month?  Dennis says the only design flaw is the fact the Presidential Palace is located right in the heart of the downtown. For security purposes it would be better served to be twenty minutes outside of Bogota. On the other hand, if this was the case he would lose his armed guards so he’s not sweating it too much.

Kudos to the police force and private security in Bogota. In no other place in the world can you run into 50 cops standing in the middle of every main square, 3 at every bus stop, 1 in front of every ATM and 1 or 2 on every bridge.  The police force in Bogota’s best attribute is just to be present everywhere. They are always ready to give directions or assist you in any way possible. Who says they are paid just to stand around? The best way to prevent crime is just to have police everywhere even if they aren’t actually doing anything besides helping old ladies cross the street. Who says they have to do anything at all? I say they are doing a great deed just by getting up in the morning, putting on their reflective jackets and standing next to me while I am waiting for a bus. People in Bogota should be required to tip the cops 5% of their salaries.

On 22nd Street is the US Embassy. As you walk up to the Embassy 40 or 50 guys on the other side of the street will start yelling at you, “Fotocopias, LLamadas, Forumularias!” (Photocopies, phone calls, official forms). After you show the doorman your passport and appointment password number, you will be allowed to enter the compound. The US Embassy is one of the few places where chickens are allowed to roam freely in the city. In this respect the USA really took their job seriously of researching local customs and doing their best to merge with the landscape. Once you get past the chickens the Embassy is all business. Many of the light have rotating lampshades on them that film everything which is going on in the compound. All the security gates are guarded by men with shotguns and behind the gates are safety ramps that look like open drawbridges you to thwart would be assailants that ram their way past the gate. Any vehicle wanting to get past the gate is pulled over first, the trunk of the car is opened, the back doors opened and the rear seats are  thoroughly checked, a mirror on wheels is slid underneath the car and the hood is popped and the engine is examined. After the car is parked, the person then needs to go through two sets of metal detectors. Each of the metal detector areas have massive doors that weigh at least 1,000 pounds. When swinging these doors open and shut you feel as if you are entering a nuclear submarine. Once yo get passed the metal detectors you are in the waiting area. There are two lines in this area, one for American citizens which usually has at most 20 people in line. Then there is the line for everyone else that  looks like the will call window for Rolling Stones tickets.Image

On 34th Street is located the main Planned Parenthood Clinic of Bogota (or “Profamilia” in Spanish). With 34 clinics nationwide, Profamilia is a major provider of family planning and other sexual and reproductive health services in Colombia. Its services, which make up 70% of the country’s family planning capacity, includes contraceptives, fertility treatment, breast exams and mammograms, Pap smears, pregnancy test, STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) and HIV prevention and testing, gender-based violence screening and referral, abortion, HPV vaccination, and cervical, uterine, and breast cancer prevention programs.

Profamilia offers subsidized, youth-friendly services in centers specifically dedicated to young people. They have over 1,500 active peer educators who have received intensive training in order to provide sexual health information to other young people in schools and youth centers. Profamilia’s youth programs encourage young people’s involvement at all stages of program planning and implementation. It also has two youth members on its Board of Directors.

Profamilia has an extremely high profile in the country. The government frequently asks for its opinions on sexual and reproductive health issues in Colombia, and Profamilia is a frequent source of information for nationwide media. In 2009, Profamilia was part of a coalition that opened the first LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community center in Bogotá. Their advocacy efforts convinced the Mayor of Bogotá to open and fund three other LGBT centers in the capital city.

On 50th Street there is a business that seems to be from the “Wally and the Beaver” generation. Who would have thought that in this day and age there would be a need for a vacuum cleaner clinic? But true to the spirit of Latin America and their love for using items log ago deemed outdated in other societies (i.e. Nintendo Entertainment Systems, Polaroid cameras, cassette players, floppy discs) in Bogota there is a Vacuum Cleaner Clinic (Casa de las Aspiradoras in Spanish). Having one of these businesses in Bogota is a testament to Colombia’s loyalty to obsolete technology. I myself enjoy partaking in the same behavior, I still make my own mix tapes and play them in my 1993 Ford Ranger.

So, luckily for you, if you are the kind of person who enjoys actually fixing things instead of throwing them away and buying a new one. Be sure to bring your broken vacuum cleaner with you on your next trip to Bogota.

As you travel towards the North of Bogota the street numbers increase. Located on 54th Street is El Campin Stadium where the most famous football team in Colombia plays “Los Millionarios.” When the team was formed in 1946 a million pesos was probably a good amount of money. Now-a-days to be a millionaire in Colombian pesos isn’t quite as prestigious as in past years. 1,000,000 Colombian pesos now-a-days is only worth $552USD currently. Maybe a better option in terms of long term value would be to name the team the “Owners of Beachfront Property.” By the time you are North of 76th Street the condition of the roads improves, there are less Goodwill Hunting types walking the streets and hardly are stray animals. The famous Red Light District starts around 82nd Street and this part of the city is full of high end tattoo parlors, Hooters Restaurants, Dominos Pizzas and as well as the headquarters of the Discovery Channel for Colombia.

On 97th Street you come to the Americo Vespucio statute. If you are traveling by bus past this statute you will want to get a good look. Vespucio’s greatest accomplishment would probably to have ridden on the coattails of Christopher Columbus to the new world and have been the only person with enough common sense out of all the explorers to realize that the extent of South America was actually longer than they originally thought instead of the prevailing belief that there were two unconnected continents below North America. Even to this day, the number of his actual expeditions is sometimes disputed and shrouded in mystery.

Thus, if you take a close look at Vespucio’s statue, as you pass by bus, you will notice that the statue’s head is missing and full of graffiti. This is no doubt Bogota’s response to his lackluster career and a stern refusal to celebrate Europe’s pillaging of the new world.

“Just because you may have been the least dim-witted in a group of scurvy-ridden sailors, that still doesn’t win you a star on the walk of fame in the capital city,” the graffiti seems to retort. On the other hand it could just be random vandalism with no deeper meaning.

After staying in the Candelaria for a few weeks it was quite a shock to me to get in the Transmilenio to 145th Street and see nice buildings, well-maintained streets and new apartment buildings. In terms of US cities, I would say Candelaria is similar to Coney Island while Suba in Northern Bogota is similar to Westchester County (an affluent suburban area to the North of New York City).

Bogota’s history of mayors has been memorable. The current mayor, Gustavo Petro, most famous move has been to uphold the long-standing “Pico y Placa” (Peak and License Plate) law. This is an law that forbids cars with a license plate that ends with an odd number to drive on odd days of the month between 6.00am-8.30am and from 3.00pm-7.30pm. If the car’s license plate ends with an even number the same rule applies on even days. This law only applies from Monday through Friday.

Bogota even experimented with another law that banned drivers with less than two people in the car from circulating in the downtown part of Bogota (40th Street to 10th Street) between 6.30am-8am and from 5.30pm-7pm. Any solo driver caught driving in the downtown during this time was given a fine.  The law was a little ahead of its time and a lot of angry people made the government repeal this law.

The way to tell how well this law has worked is to get on the highways during the weekends. The traffic is easily twice as slow as during the week. Therefore making Bogota one of the few cities in the world where drivers actually save time getting on the highways during rush hour.

The second biggest issue in Bogota is the cell phone theft. The government has green lighted some high impact TV adds to combat the problem. The most famous one takes place in a woman’s apartment at 1am. Earlier that day she bought a 2nd hand phone from a street dealer at a price too good to be true. Later that night she gets a phone call at 1am. When she looks at the caller ID it is blank. When she answers the call, the receiver reverberates a shriek in a creepy high-pitched alien voice which knocks her back in bed and sends some shock waves through her bedroom.

Of all the mayors in the modern history of Bogota the most ahead of the curve was a mayor named Antannas Mockus. Just to have been elected mayor in the first place with a last name that sounds like “mocos” (boogers in Spanish) is a pretty impressive feat. Mockus not only has a strange Lithuanian name but he is also bearded and looks like an Amish Unabomber.

Despite of all the obstacles he served two non-consecutive terms as the mayor of Bogota from January 1st, 2001 – December 31st, 2003 and from January 1st, 1995 – December 31st, 1997.  During his time as mayor he was a stern proponent of highway safety.

Mockus’ first order of business when he was elected was to reduce the number of people getting run over by cars. In order to reduce the number of fatalities of pedestrians run over and killed by motorists he decided to place a star on the road in every place a pedestrian was killed by a motorist. After doing this many people were surprised to find out that the highest amount of fatalities occurred on the streets underneath pedestrian bridges. Muckus also hired thousands of mimes to simulate getting run over and killed at the busiest traffic lights in Bogota. I am not sure if the mimes threw themselves on top of stopped cars at the intersection and then died right there on the side of the road but would really be interested in seeing this project first hand. Muckus’ initiate had a dramatic effect in terms of making the public aware of the places they were most likely to get killed if they tried to make a mad dash across the highway. This initiative was also highly entertaining for people waiting at the red light on their way to work.

Muckus also wanted to increase the number of people wearing seatbelts in cars. In order to do this he approved the airing of a TV commercial showing the effects in slow motion of having a crash where 4 of the 5 passengers have their seatbelts on and the one person who doesn’t ends up bouncing around the car and killing the other passengers during a crash. He didn’t stop there. He was also very concerned about the number of DUI’s that were happening around the city. To try and reduce this number he placed crush cars (from drunk driving accidents) on the sides of all the major highways with mannequins inside. This initiative had the effect of outraging pretty much everyone in the city a severely cut down on the number of DUI deaths in Bogota.

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