Posts Tagged ‘business english’

I Was Thrown Out Of My Last Korean Gym

November 6, 2013

“Brian, did you join a gym in Korea?” asked my Korean teacher Ms Jung, covering her mouth as she laughed.

“Yeah, but I got thrown out of my last gym.” I answered.

“Why?” asked Ms. Jung as she leaned in for my answer.

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“I asked the owner to turn down the music. He spoke enough English to understand what I was saying but refused to adjust the volume. So, I waited for him to go into another room. Once he left, I went behind the reception area and manually turned down the music volume while the receptionist was busy text-messaging. As soon as I walked back to my exercise bike a middle-aged Korean lady walked behind the reception area and turned the music back up. She then approached me while I was on the work out bike. She started yelling at me in Korean. As she was yelling at me, I looked around for the owner of the gym to come and protect me, he was no where to be seen. So, I walked over to reception to ask the receptionist for help. She ignored me. So I stood there in reception while the Korean lady yelled at me. A few minutes later the owner walked out into the work out area sipping a coffee. I walked over to him and I explained to him that the music is too loud in the gym and it was giving me a headache. Before he could answer, the Korean woman walked over and gave him an ear full in Korean. After she finished I asked him whether or not he was going to turn down the music again. ‘You must understand the middle-aged Korean woman,’ he responded. ‘Are you going to turn down the music or not?’ I repeated. He answered my question by repeating the same phrase, ‘You must understand the middle-aged Korean woman.’ We were getting nowhere. I then made up a story saying that I was expecting a call from my work on the cell phone and wanted to be able to hear it ring. He wouldn’t let up on the whole middle aged Korean woman thing. Clearly we were discussing two unrelated issues here. I decided to cut to the chase, “Are you going to turn the volume down or not? Yes or No?” He then went into a routine about how the customers didn’t appreciate the fluctuation in volume.

‘After you turn the volume down 15%, you can leave it at that volume until 2014 without any fluctuation.’ I responded as I stood there waiting for him to walk over to the radio and turn it down. Instead, he just stood there looking back at me. I pointed at reception and asked him to turn it down one last time, but he wouldn’t budge. Finally I went back to my workout bike and pretended the whole thing never happened and finished my work out. Two days later I went back to the gym and the radio was at the same volume. When I checked in, I had a sticker on my gym key saying it was time to pay up for the next month. I went into the locker room, threw my towel into the sink and decided I would wait until leaving Korea before I went back to another gym.”

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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-$2,500 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.
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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 Journey Into The Backwoods of 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 Journey Into The Backwoods of 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 Journey Into The Backwoods of 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 Journey Into The Backwoods of 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 Journey Into The Backwoods of 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 Journey Into The Backwoods of 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.
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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
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“First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of 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 Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” by Brian Ward, can be found on Amazon.com

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

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