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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

For any Spanish speakers out there, you can see a news report on the Year of Giving by Spain’s CUATRO. 

Jazz in the Garden happens every Friday night in the Summer at the National Gallery of Art's sculpture garden. (photo: Reed)

For today’s recipient we go to downtown Washington, DC on a Friday night to Jazz in the Garden; a free concert series featuring an array of jazz artists performing a range of styles—from swing to progressive to Latin—every Friday evening in the summer at the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden.  Picture a beautiful outdoor setting with people relaxing on benches or blankets with picnic baskets while the sun sets and delightful music plays in the background.  I was sure to find someone to give my $10 to here.

I found Faith, a 30-year-old government worker, standing next to the reflecting pool.  She was on a date, but was kind enough to take a few minutes to learn about the Year of Giving.  “I’m going to use the money to either buy some drinks tonight or possible some gelato,” she said as I placed the ten dollars in her hand. 

Faith is planning a month-long celebration for her 31st birthday and calling it Faith Fest. (photo: Reed)

I asked if I could ask her some questions.  “Sure, what do I care?  My life is an open book.”  I learned that Faith is originally from southeast Arkansas although she later moved to Little Rock.  More recently she lived in Madrid for three and a half years until moving to DC about a year ago.

She is pretty funny.  Most of her responses were witty and made me laugh.  She told me about the previous person she dated.  “I was in a charity auction where guys bid on you to raise money for the charity.  So he kept bidding on me but somebody else won.  He later asked me out though.” 

She is a people person: part social networker part organizer.  “I have never seen a city more into happy hours to benefit random causes,” she says referring to DC.  She’s right, it seems that every charity and nonprofit in DC, with the exception of maybe Alcoholics Anonymous, has a happy hour once a month to raise awareness and money for their cause. 

Speaking of occasions for imbibing, Faith mentions that her birthday is October 23rd and this year she is planning Faith Fest – a month-long array of celebratory events in honor of the occasion.  I think that is a great idea, why limit it to just one evening.  

Spanish Eyes (photo: Reed)

I sensed a bit of an adventurous spirit in Faith and asked her to share the craziest thing she has ever done.  “Oooh…” she said cooling herself with a bright red Spanish style fan, “that would be impossible for me to confess to you if you are going to put it on the internet.”  She did share with me that she biked 500 miles across Spain from the Basque city of Irun along the famed Compestela trail to Santiago de Compostela. 

As we were getting close to the primary election here in DC I asked her who she thought would win the mayoral race.  She said she felt that Vince Gray would win.  She was right too.  Last Tuesday voters went to the polls and ousted current Mayor Adrian Fenty as the Democratic nominee. 

Her date left some friends to come over and say hello and check out what was going on.  After all, I was photographing the girl he was on a date with, so I can understand his curiosity.  About the same time a security officer came by informing us that the sculpture garden was closing and that we needed to exit.  On our way out Faith told me that she and her date were heading to dinner at Brasserie Beck, a great Belgian restaurant/bar.

Before leaving the couple I asked her if there was anything that she needed or wanted that YoG followers could help her out with.  I got an interesting request.  “Well, I have this Argentine leather coat that got left behind in Madrid and I would love it if someone would be willing to bring it to me here in DC.”  So, leave Faith a message here if you or someone you know will be traveling from Madrid to Washington and willing to pick up the coat.

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Eric fights to protect the right to affordable housing in the District (photo: Reed)

Recently I met Ca’Vonn, a struggling mother of six in DC’s Shaw neighborhood who is part of the Tent City DC community at the corner of 7th and R Streets in Northwest.  On one of my other visits to the controversial Parcel 42 I met Eric Sheptock.  Eric is a homeless advocate who’s life story is as amazing as it is horrific. 

He tells me a chilling story about a couple who decided they no longer wanted there eight-month-old baby boy and attempted to murder the child by beating the innocent infant until they cracked his head open and left him to die in a New Jersey motel.  Thankfully someone found the bludgeoned baby and rushed him to the hospital.  Unfortunately this isn’t an except from a story by Stephen King or Richard Laymon, it’s Eric’s real life story 

This stomach churning saga has a happy ending though.  Eric survived the ordeal and five years of foster care until he was later adopted by a family in New Jersey: the Sheptocks.  If the name sounds familiar, you might have heard about them before.  They had seven children of their own and adopted 30 others.  That’s quite a family.  They have been in the media several times and there was even a book written about them! 

Eric and his family moved around in New Jersey and finally settled in Florida.  As a young adult he got a job there at a hospital and worked there for a couple of years until he left over a disagreement.  He took his final check and decided to go to New Jersey.  In 1994 his money ran out and Eric became homeless; a situation that he has maintained on and off since that time.  That was not the only tragedy of 1994.  On August 11th of the same year his petite 33-year-old girlfriend, a six-pack a day drinker, died of cirrhosis of the liver.  

In 2005 Eric was back in Florida living in a tent in the woods.  He was fed up with the war that we were waging in Iraq and decided to move to Washington, DC and become an activist.  He set out on July 6th which was President Bush’s birthday coincidentally. 

Eric at Parcel 42 aka Tent City DC at 7th and R in NW (photo: Reed)

He walked and hitchhiked most of the way.  He told me several amazing stories about his journey.  One that I will share with you is that as Eric was walking through Virginia he came into the town of Farmville late one evening.  There were no street lamps there due to some city ordinances or something but he did finally see a light off in the distance.  When he got closer he realized that the light was coming from the porch of a church.  Despite the porch crawling with large spiders, he made it his resting place for the night.  He awoke the next morning, Sunday, to find the spiders replaced by churchgoers.  They invited him in to service, fed him and gave him $84 from a collection they passed around for him.  He went on his way and was offered a ride by a passerby who ended up driving him almost 50 miles out of his way to a bus stop in Charlottesville, VA.  When Eric tried to offer him some money for the gas, the driver refused and actually gave him $20! 

Soon after arriving in DC he started advocating to keep the Franklin Shelter open.  He met with former Mayor Williams, current Mayor Fenty and others and shook their hand as they promised that they would all support keeping the facility open.  Sadly, once in office, Eric says that Fenty closed the shelter. 

Eric continues to advocate for homeless members of our community as well as those who have housing but struggle to keep up with rising rental rates.  He has over 4,000 friends on facebook and 700 followers on twitter.  This is impressive given that he says he didn’t know how to use a computer until four years ago.  

With his feet-on-the-ground approach coupled with his efforts in social media, Eric has become the voice for so many who have been muted due to their social and economic situation.  He hopes to some day find gainful employment that allows him to secure affordable housing for low-income and homeless individuals.  Although he has been successful in doing this for a handful of people, he wants to scale his efforts to a more seismic level.  

Eric says he will put $5 on his Metro card and use the remaining $5 for food. 

I had the opportunity to record some of his passion for affordable housing for DC residents.  The following video is a little long (when I tried to use my free editor, it lowered the quality so bad that I felt it was better to leave in its original uncut format), but very informative.  Take a minute to listen to Eric and learn about the current struggles related to affordable housing in our nation’s capital.

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It looks like there is a glitch with the website today.  Instead of my usually banner of the open hand that is at the top, I have a nice picture of a foot bridge and some trees.  Not sure why that is happening.  Is anyone else seeing the footbridge picture instead of my normal banner? 

For those of you who will be participating in the Worldwide Day of Giving and sharing your stories with the world, you need to post them here.  If you have photos and video to share, you will need to do one of two things.  Either upload those on the Facebook page or write the stories here and put links to the photos/videos on a 3rd party website (such as YouTube or Flickr).  Sorry to do it this way, but there are some technical challenges that prevent uploading the pictures and videos straight into this website. 

I am so excited to hear about your giving experiences!  If you have some questions, check out the comments here that should help answer any questions you might have. 

So this morning I have an interview with DeLuca and the morning team at Q92, a Canton, OH based radio station.  I have spoken to them before and had a good time with those guys.   Later in the day I am talking with Tim Day of KG Country 99.5, a radio station in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada.  I spoke with Tim about a month or so ago and he wanted to check in and see how things were going.  

Then I was thinking about going over to the ESPN Zone tonight.  I heard that they are closing tomorrow for good!  I have some game cards with like $100.  Although there is no mention of them closing on their website, I did hear it on two different news programs.  Anyway, I don’t think they are going to refund me the balance on the cards, so they need to get used.  If anyone wants to meet up tonight and help me use the rest of the credits on my card, let me know! 

Today’s entry is a very special one.  While I was in Manizales, I met with the Secretary of Education for Manizales, Dr. María Constanza Montoya Naranjo.  She is a wonderful woman who is working hard to deliver the best education possible for the students in Manizales.  One day we were talking about the Year of Giving and she suggested I give my $10 to the Mayor, Juan Manuel Llano Uribe.  I had seen him on Friday at the event with US Ambassador William Brownfield.  Anyway, she said she would give him a call and try to arrange something.  Well what do you know?  She arranged a meeting the next day! 

Mayor Juan Manuel Llano Uribe

 

I get invited into a large conference room to wait for the Mayor.  Already seated are four students and two teachers from a local school that had recently returned from a science fair in Dallas, TX.  These students had built some robots that are prototypes for larger scale versions that would be used to help in the coffee production process and they were there to demonstrate their ingenuity to the Mayor.   

Well, how the hell am I going to follow that act? 

Anyway, the school children leave and I get a few minutes with the Mayor.  He invites me to walk over to an adjacent room which turns out to be his office.  It’s spacious with very nice views of Manizales.  There are a couple of comfortable chairs arranged around a coffee table on one end.  He disappears for a moment and then returns.  We chat for a little while and I try to do my best to explain the Year of Giving.  I am not sure what he thought of it, but he agreed to talk with me. 

He spoke about the growth and globalization of Manizales and the expected increase of tourism to the city.  “What should a tourist be sure to see or do while they are here?” I asked.  He said that one should definitely try to see the eight different shades of green that Manizales has.  He was referring to the vast natural beauty and the stunning variety of greenery that exists there.  I was certainly doing that by staying on Roberto Gonzalo’s plantation.  He also mentioned that I should visit Nevado del Ruiz, a snow-covered volcanic peak that has been active in recent history.  The current cone was formed about 150 years ago.  Atop the mountain is a massive glacier.  The Mayor says that this is the only peak of its kind that is accessible by car.  That is impressive, not to mention that it’s at 5,135 meters, that’s more than 16,000 feet!  Well, I didn’t make it there unfortunately, but next time! 

He stressed his commitment to making Manizales a bilingual community and that they were strongly behind the educational transformation that is needed to make this shift.  There are two critical investment areas for this to be a success according to the Mayor: technology and human capital.  “It’s sowing the seeds for the future,” he said.   Here the Mayor speaks about his vision for Manizales (in Spanish). 

When the Mayor is not hard at work on the future of Manizales, he says that he enjoys playing golf and riding motorcycles.  I wonder if he has taken his bike up to Nevado del Ruiz.  That would be pretty spectacular! 

So what do you think the Mayor is going to do with the $10…or 20,000 pesos in this case?  That was what was on my mind throughout the entire conversation.  I circled back to the 20,000 peso note that sat in front of him and asked what he planned to do with it.  I got an answer that I have never heard before.  “I’m going to take your 20,000 pesos and give you 100,000 a year from now.”  I am not sure exactly how he plans to do this and I didn’t ask.  I just let it be.  

Mr. Mayor…I look forward to seeing you next June!

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Version en Español sigue abajo

We are three days away from the Worldwide Day of Giving!  Check here for more details.

 Also for those of you in DC, many of us are getting together on Tuesday at The Dupont Hotel.  There will be former recipients of the Year of Giving, blog followers, and a special appearance from my Dad!  Come out and join us from 6-8pm…the hotel will have some free appetizers and reduced drink menu for Year of Giving followers!  Also, I will be organizing some grass-roots relief for those out of work in the Gulf region due to the oil spill.

On Day 168 I didn’t have any meetings scheduled in the morning so I decided to find an internet café in Manizales where I could get caught up on my blog.  I found a place in the heart of the city and logged a few hours of work there.  It was really cheap too!  About 65 cents per hour.  And the connection speed was fast!

After I finished, I wandered down to the small plaza and fountain in front of city hall.  It was there that I saw Jorge just sitting in the center of the plaza.

An out of work telecom technician by trade, Jorge is actively looking for work.  Something I could identify with.  The feelings one has and the challenges one faces while being unemployed are not so different in another culture.  Being out of work triggers similar emotions and responses regardless of the language that is spoken or the geography of the locale.

Realistically Jorge doesn’t even have that much of an option to consider moving from Manizales to other areas in search of work such as Medellín, Cali, or Bogotá.  He was born and raised in Manizales…in the Barrio Caribe area.  He is separated now, but has a 14-year-old daughter.  So this makes his situation a bit more complicated.

I asked Jorge what he would ideally like to do professionally.  “Unfortunately due to the complexity of the current economic situation you got to do what comes your way” he laments.  I thought I would see what Jorge’s political views were given the correlation to the economy.  “It’s too bad Uribe had to go…I think things here have been pretty good,” he says about Colombia’s current president who managed to change the law in order to serve two terms but was not successful in further change so that he could continue in power. 

Despite his general content with Uribe’s time in office, he chose yesterday to vote for a candidate from a different party.  He gave Antanas Mockus from the newly formed Green Party his vote.  “Juan Manuel is too aggressive militarily and he never asked for forgiveness,” he said about current President Uribe’s Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, who leads the poles and is a member of the current administration’s U Party.  His comment about never asking for forgiveness most likely refers to the “False Positives” scandal where the Colombian military, under Juan Manuel Santos, has admitted to murdering civilians and dressing them up in guerrilla or paramilitary garb so that they could claim to have caught and executed members of these radical cells.

I shifted the conversation away from politics and toward what he planned on doing with the 20,000 pesos.  “I’m going to buy some resume paper,” he told me.  

I was able to shoot a short video with Jorge where he talks about two dreams that he has: be an ecological volunteer and skydive.   This video is in Spanish.

VERSIÓN ESPAÑOL

Estamos solo a tres días del Día Mundial de Dar! (Revise aquí para mas detalles)

Además para aquellos de ustedes en DC, muchos de nosotros nos reuniremos el martes en Hotel Dupont.  Ahí estarán algunos recipientes del Año de Dar, seguidores de blogs y una presencia especial de mi padre!  Vengan a unirse a nosotros de 6 a 8 PM… el hotel tendrá algunas picaderas gratis y un menú de bebidas reducidas para los seguidores del Año de Dar!  Además , estaré organizando alivio de raíces para aquellos que se quedaron sin empleo en la región del golfo debido al derrame del aceite.

En el día de dar numero 168, no tenía reuniones pendientes en la mañana, entonces decidí buscar un Internet-café en Manizales en donde podría ponerme al día con mi blog. Encontré un lugar en el corazón  de la ciudad y allí me conecte por un par de horas de trabajo.  Además fue bastante barato!, acerca de 65 centavos por hora y la conexión era muy veloz!

Después que terminé, vine a parar en una pequeña plaza y una fuente en el frente de la Alcaldía. Fue allí en donde vi a Jorge, sentado en el centro de la plaza.

Un técnico de telecom fuera de empleo, Jorge esta activamente buscando empleo, algo con lo que yo me podría identificar.  Los sentimientos que uno tiene y los desafíos que uno enfrenta mientras se esta sin empleo no son tan diferentes en otras culturas. Permanecer sin empleo desata emociones  y respuestas similares  a pesar del lenguaje que se hable o la geografía del local.

Manizales (Photo: Reed)

Realísticamente Jorge ni si quiera tiene mucha opción para considerar mudarse de Manizales a otra áreas en busca de un empleo, tales como Medellín, Cali o Bogota. El nació y creció en Manizales…en el área del Barrio del Caribe. El se encuentra separado, pero tiene una hija de 14 años y esto hace que la situación sea un poco más complicada.

Le pregunte a Jorge que es lo que idealmente le gustaría hacer profesionalmente. “Desafortunadamente, debido  a la complejidad de la actual situación económica, uno tiene que hacer lo que venga” se lamenta. Yo pensé en ver lo que Jorge opina políticamente debido a la correlación de la economía. “Esta muy mal que Uribe se tuvo que ir..pienso que las cosas  estan mucho mejor,” el dijo sobre el Presidente actual de Colombia que se las ingenio para cambiar la ley para así poder servir dos términos pero no obtuvo el éxito en dichos cambios para poder permanecer en el poder.

A pesar de su contentamiento general con el tiempo de Uribe en el mandato, él decidió ayer votar por un candidato de otro partido. Le dió su voto a Antanas Mockus del recientemente formado partido “Verde.”  “Juan Manuel es muy agresivo militarmente y nunca pidió perdón” dijo él acerca del Ministro actual de defensa del Presidente Uribe, Juan Manuel Santos, quien lleva la ventaja en los polos y quien es miembro de la administración actual del partido U.  Sus comentarios acerca de no haber pedido perdón seguramente se debe al escándalo de los “Falsos Positivos” donde se encontraba la militaría de Colombia bajo  Juan Manuel Santos asesinando civiles y de haberlos vestido con atuendos de guerrilla o atuendos de paramilitares para luego poder reclamar haber capturado y ejecutado miembros de células radicales.

Cambié la conversación fuera de la política y hacia lo que el planificaba hacer con los 20.000 pesos que le di, me dijo  “Me voy a comprar hojas de vida (papel de currícula).”  Tuve la oportunidad de hacer un corto video donde Jorge habla acerca de sus dos sueños, ser un voluntario ecológico y paracaidismo. El video que se encuentra arriba, esta en Español.

Esta traducción fue hecha gratuitamente por Jeannette Pérez.

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Versión español sigue abajo.

For those of you who have not seen the video I posted yesterday about my life on the plantation in Colombia, check it out.  Although totally different than my life here in DC, life there on the plantation was excellent.

 Are you ready for the Worldwide Day of Giving?  It’s this Tuesday.  It’s your chance to do what I do for one day and then share your story with the world.  I want to collect as many experiences from around the world about giving that day and share them here…let’s make something beautiful happen.  I need your help though to get as many people involved as possible.

For those of you in DC, I am looking forward to actually meeting up on Tuesday evening with those who are interested.  I am currently working out the final details with a local venue (Dupont Circle) and hope to host the event there.  In addition to celebrating the Year of Giving and the Worldwide Day of Giving, we will do something to help those who are out of work in the Gulf region due to the oil spill.  I hope you can join me!

Sunday the 30th was election day in Colombia.  I was excited to see how the election process took place in another country.  Roberto Gonzalo’s sister was working at a polling place.  He was voting at another place.  It was pretty much like it is here.  Voting levels are about the same as here I think, somewhere around 50% of the population voted.  As I mentioned yesterday, the election resulted in two candidates going to a run-off election on June 20th.  It’s widely believed that the Juan Manuel Santos will prevail.

While I waited for Roberto Gonzalo to vote, I met Giliante.  Giliante works for the El Gran Cafeteiro company and sells coffee on the street.  Dressed in somewhat of a space suit, he walks the street with a metallic canister on his back filled with piping hot coffee.  He then has a hand control that he dispenses coffee out of for about 25 cents per cup (he makes about six cents per cup).  Check out Giliante in action preparing a coffee for me.

The 34-year-old Manizales native has been doing this for nine months.  It beats the construction jobs he was doing before.  He enjoys the fact that he meets a lot of different people every day.

I asked him what he would do with my 20,000 pesos and he said he would use it to buy some medicine he needed: flouxetina (prozac) and acido valproico (valproic acid).  I had never heard of flouxetina and acido valproico so I asked what they were for.  The educated and well spoken mobile coffee barista looked at me and said, “They are medicines to help me not get depressed, because when I get depressed I have a problem with cutting myself…with self mutilation.”  It was then that I started to notice small scars on his hands and on the right side of his neck.  He must have noticed me staring at them and said, “I have hundreds more…most of them on my arms and stomach.”  He lifted his shirt up and I was stunned.  His chest and stomach were completely covered with crisscrossed lines.  It was impossible to look away from the center of his chest where a fresh-cut was present and maybe a half-dozen stitches protruded through the skin.

Giliante (Photo: Reed)

Giliante was so calm and mild-mannered, I could not envision him doing this to himself.  He said that when he does not take his medicine, he gets depressed and feels the need to cut himself.  The latest cut happened about a week ago he told me.

I asked to take a picture of his chest, but he got very shy and said he would prefer not to.  I respected that and we said goodbye. 

Roberto Gonzalo then asked me what his answer was to my question about what other people might be able to help him with.  I had not asked him that question though.  I scanned the crowd, but he had dissolved into the sea of anxious voters.

As we walked back toward our car, I hoped we would see Giliante again so that I could ask him how people could help him.  Would you believe that about a half hour later we saw him five blocks from where I originally saw him.  I got his attention and asked my question.  He didn’t hesitate, “I would like to find a surgeon who would remove some of my scars for me.  They are painful reminders.”  I vowed to try to find a surgeon who would help him with that and also offered to try to get the medicine that he needs.  He was so thankful.  If anyone can help Giliante or has suggestions on ways to help him, please let me know. 

I couldn’t stop thinking about him for days.

Gilante talks about his job and the elections…

Spanish Version

Para aquellos de ustedes que no han visto el video que publique ayer acerca de mi vida en las fincas en Colombia, échenle un vistazo. Aunque totalmente diferente a mi vida en DC, la vida allí en la finca fue excelente.

 ¿Estás listo para  el Día Mundial del dar? Es este martes. Es tu oportunidad de hacer lo que yo hago por un día y luego compartir su historia con el resto del mundo. Quiero reunir la mayor cantidad de experiencias de todo el mundo de tratar de dar en ese día y compartirlas  aquí… hagamos que algo hermoso suceda. Necesito su ayuda para conseguir el mayor número de personas que participan como sea posible.

Para aquellos de ustedes en Washington DC, estoy deseando una reunión en la noche del martes con los que están interesados. Actualmente estoy trabajando en los detalles finales con una sede local (Dupont Circle) y espero poder realizar el evento allí. Además de celebrar el Año de Dar y el Día Mundial del dar, vamos a hacer algo para ayudar a quienes están sin trabajo en la región del Golfo debido al derrame de petróleo. Espero que pueda unirse a mí!

El Domingo 30 fue el día de elección  en Colombia. Me emocioné al ver cómo el proceso electoral se llevó a cabo en otro país. La hermana de Roberto Gonzalo estaba trabajando en un centro de  votación. Él estaba votando en otro lugar. Fue más o menos como aquí. Los niveles de votación son casi lo mismo que aquí, creo que alrededor del 50% de la población votó. Como dije ayer, la elección dio lugar a dos candidatos a una segunda vuelta el 20 de Junio. En general se creía que Juan Manuel Santos seria el determinante.

Mientras esperaba que  Roberto Gonzalo votara, me encontré con Giliante. Giliante trabaja para la compañía El Gran Cafeteiro y vende café en la calle. Vestido el algo como un traje espacial, camina por la calle con un bote metálico en la espalda llena de café humeante. Luego el tiene un control de mano que le dispensa el café por unos 25 centavos por taza.

El nativo de Manizales de 34 años de edad, ha estado haciendo esto durante nueve meses. De acuerdo a el es mejor que los trabajos de construcción que estaba haciendo antes. Le gusta el hecho de que se encuentra con un montón de gente diferente cada día.

Le pregunté qué iba a hacer con mi 20.000 pesos y me dijo que lo utilizaría para comprar unas medicinas que necesitaba: flouxetina (Prozac) y ácido valproico (ácido valproico). Yo nunca había oído hablar de acido valproico y flouxetina así que le pregunté qué eran. El educado y bien hablado barrista móvil de café me miró y dijo: “Son medicamentos que me ayudan a que no me deprima, porque cuando me deprimo tengo un problema con cortarme mí mismo… con la automutilación.” Fue entonces que empecé a notar pequeñas cicatrices en las manos y en el lado derecho del cuello. Él debió de haber notado mi mirada fija en ellos y dijo: “Tengo muchas más… la mayoría de ellos en mis brazos y el estomago.” Él se levantó la camiseta y me quedé atónito. Su pecho y estómago estaban cubiertos completamente con líneas cruzadas. Era imposible apartar la vista del centro de su pecho, donde un nuevo corte estaba presente y tal vez una media docena de puntos sobresalían a través de la piel.

Giliante estaba tan tranquilo y apacible, no podía imaginar que él hacia esto a sí mismo. Dijo que cuando él no toma su medicina, se deprime y siente la necesidad de cortarse. El último corte sucedió hace aproximadamente una semana, me dijo.

Le pedí que me dejara tomar una foto de su pecho, pero él se puso muy tímido y me dijo que preferiría que no. Yo respete eso y nos despedimos.

Roberto Gonzalo  me preguntó cual fue su respuesta a mi pregunta sobre lo que otra gente puede ser de ayudarlo a él. No le había hecho esa pregunta. Lo busque entre la multitud, pero él se había disuelto entre la aglomeración de votantes ansiosos.

Mientras caminábamos hacia el coche, yo esperaba ver a  Giliante de nuevo para que yo pudiera preguntarle cómo la gente podía ayudarle. ¿Creerían ustedes que alrededor de una media hora más tarde lo vimos cinco cuadras de donde originalmente lo vi. Llame su atención y le pregunté  mi pregunta. El no dudó: “Me gustaría encontrar un cirujano que eliminara algunas de las cicatrices en mi cuerpo. Ellos son un recordatorio doloroso. “Juré tratar de encontrar un cirujano que le ayudara con eso y también ofrecí tratar de obtener el medicamento que necesita. Estaba bastante agradecido. Si alguien puede ayudar a Giliante o tiene sugerencias sobre los medios para ayudarlo, por favor hágamelo saber. No podía dejar de pensar en él durante días.

Encima hay dos videos de Giliante grabado en español.

Este blog fue traducido generosamente por Nancy Alvarez en  Los Angeles.

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Version en espanol va ser publicado al final de jueves.

On Friday Roberto and I decided to have a few beers at a local convenience store that has a TV, two billiard tables, and a few tables where locals can sit and relax.

After our second beer some neighborhood kids asked if we wanted to play some street soccer.  We agreed.

Not only am I terrible at soccer, I was completely out of breath running back and forth on the gravel road that was our “field.”  We are at about 7,000 feet which is about 6,990 feet higher than Washington, DC.  That on top of the 24 ounces of beer sloshing around my stomach had me completely incapacitated.  Thankfully Roberto played well and scored two or three goals for us while I rambled around wheezing.

The next morning was Saturday and Roberto took me down the mountain to show me his plantation.  He grows coffee, bananas, guavas, etc. and has pigs, chickens, turtles, dogs…you name it.   Here is a short video in English about life on the plantation.

Later that day he took me to his mother’s house where the entire family met for a long lunch filled with conversation about the following day’s presidential election.  Most people in the household were supporting Antanas Mockus, however he ended up coming in second place with less than half of the votes of Juan Manual Santos.  Nevertheless, there will be a run-off election between the two candidates on June 20th.

We spent a few hours relaxing at their house after completely gorging ourselves with homemade soup, rice, beans, chicken, fried plantains and crunchy coconut clusters for dessert.

That evening we stopped at a small food stand in front of a residential building in the Francia neighborhood where Rubiela stood stoking the charcoal fire.  There was only one thing on the menu: arepas.

Grilled arepas (photo: Reed)

Arepa is a flat bread made of corn that is very popular in Colombia, Venezuela, and even parts of Panama and Spain’s Canary Islands.  Picture a pancake-like bread…or maybe a really thick corn tortilla. 

Rubiela takes ground corn and mixes it with water, salt, and butter to make the dough.  She then takes the dough, cooks it on the grill, and serves it with a thick tomato and onion stew (guiso) or cheese or both.  Every day she makes at least 3 kilos of arepas which yields about 66 pieces of bread.

I found that there are several varieties of arepas and that they are consumed just about any time of day. 

Rubiela and her son Cristian (photo: Reed)

Rubiela, a single mom, has been firing up the grill in front of her home for seven years.  This is the way she provides for her and her 12-year-old son Victor Manuel.  “There was nothing else to do so I started selling arepas,” she tells me referencing the economic struggles in Manizales.  She says that it is even hard to find a job as a maid, much less an office related job with benefits.  Ideally she would like to work in an office environment where she could help with receiving guests, serving coffee, and other small tasks.  

Her laugh is contagious and fills the air with joy.  I try not to let it completely hide the fact that I know that she dreams for something different.  She is thankful though for her and her son’s health.  “There are good days and bad days, but we never go hungry,” she tells me.  

Roberto and I left to run some errands and agreed to come back later that evening.  When we returned hours later, the sun had set, her son had retired into their home, but Rubiela was still tending the fire and cooking arepas.  Her hearty laughter had subsided and she was noticeably tired.

We both got two arepas.  I got mine topped with the tomato and onion guiso.  Roberto got his with guiso and cheese.  Each arepa with guiso was $0.40.  If you wanted cheese on top, add another $0.60.  Pretty cheap.  They were delicious.  We ate, laughed, and talked politics…hard to avoid with the election the following day.  She was voting for Juan Manuel Santos, the candidate from the incumbent U Party.  

Rubiela said she was going to hold on to my money and put it toward the rent that is due on June 4th.

Here is a short video of my time with Rubiela, part of it is in English part in Spanish.

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Last night was a late night trying to get the bike video put together and uploaded.  Today I found an internet cafe downtown that seems to be working a little better for me.    

Yesterday they had elections here in Colombia.  No candidate got more than 50% of the votes, so there will be a run-off on June 20th between the top two candidates: Juan Manual Santos and Antanas Mockus.  Most the people that I have met here support Mockus, the son of Lithuanian immigrants.  A philosopher and academic, his opponents say that while he seems intelligent that he doesn’t have clear ideas, has flip-flopped on ideas, and isn’t capable of being a strong leader.  On the other hand, those who support Mockus say that Santos is too much of a military-style leader.  Serving as President Uribe’s Secretary of Defense, he has been very aggressive toward neighboring Ecuador and Venezuela.  I think Santos will end up being elected as it will seem like the safer vote for many Colombians.  Just like in the US, people were glued to their TVs and radios following the results. Anyway, back to last Monday where I had a busy day getting ready for my trip to come here to Manizales.  On top of everything I had to do, I was foolish enough to get locked out of my apartment and lost several hours waiting for the locksmith company that said they would be there in 30 minutes.  I should have hung up with this company after the following conversation:

Woman: Hello? 

Me: Hi, is this the locksmith company on New Hampshire Avenue?

Woman:  Hello?

Me: Yes, hi, is this the number to the locksmith?

Woman:  What do you want?

Me: I’m sorry, is this the locksmith on New Hampshire Avenue?

Woman:  Why are you calling?

Me:  I’m looking for a locksmith.  Have I called the right number?

Woman:  What do you need?

Me:  (now a little frustrated) I need a locksmith…am I calling the right place? 

Woman:  I am not a locksmith, but I can have a locksmith call you back….

Well this went on for a while, anyway I finally figured out that I did have the right number and she was going to send a locksmith.  It would cost $29 to come out to the house and then an hourly labor fee for the work.  I asked how much the hourly rate was and the woman said that the only the locksmith would be able to tell me that. 

So the locksmith arrives and assesses my “simple lock” at $199 plus the $29.  I asked how long it was going to take and he said he didn’t know.  He also wouldn’t tell me what the hourly rate was, but $199 seemed insane.  In the end, I negotiated it down to $29 plus $71 to get the door opened.  He had it open in less than five minutes. 

Ok, enough venting…but hopefully you learn from my experience.  If you haven’t already make sure one or two people have a spare key to your home and if you have to call a locksmith remember that you can probably negotiate with them.

Later that night I was walking through Dupont Circle and saw a couple that seemed to just be enjoying the beautiful night sitting near the fountain.  I stopped to talk to them.  It turns out that Julia and Ken became my first recipients from Canada!  It was not easy at first convincing them that there was not catch to the ten dollars.  Ken was particularly suspicious.  “At the end of all this you’re not going to try to get me to join some church are you?”  Afterall, we were sitting a couple hundred yards away from the founding Church of Scientology.  I assured them that there were no conditions related to my gift and that I just wanted to take some time to get to know them.  Ken cautiously agreed to proceeded.  

Julia & Ken (Photo: Reed)

Hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, they had been in DC for 5 days and were leaving on Tuesday.  They came to DC for a small wedding but managed to extend the trip a few extra days and make a mini-vacation out of it.  They were staying a stone’s throw away at the newly renovated Dupont Hotel.  After a full day of visiting the Air and Space Museum, Museum of Natural History, Museum of American History, and the National Art Gallery, their tired legs and feet were enjoying a peaceful moment in this urban respite.  They really enjoyed the wedding.  There was a musical group made up of several Ukrainians who were excellent.  “They were only supposed to play three songs but they played all night,” they told me.  While they were at the wedding the met a man who was from Winnipeg as well.  After talking some time they realized that he used to live in the same neighborhood where Julia and Ken also used to live.  After a few more questions they realized that the man actually used to live in the exact same house that they did.  Bizarre right.  What are the chances to run into someone who used to live in your exact house, especially in a different country! Well this couple is no stranger to coincidences.  As we sat on the bench, another Winnipeg couple from the wedding strolled by and said hello.  They weren’t staying at the same hotel even, but they happened to be walking through Dupont Circle after getting turned around after dinner. The $10 they assured me would go to someone else or some organization.  “I promise you it wont be spent on anything for us,” Ken assured me. 

Kelekis, Winnipeg, Manitoba

If I ever get to Winnipeg, they gave me a few pointers on what to see and do there.  Grand Beach, a very shallow sandy beach, is a very nice place to visit in the summer they told me.  Ken added that this beach was once rated on of the top ten beaches by Playboy Magazine (Ken only read the magazine for the articles apparently.)  “You should also go to Kelekis and get a hot dog, they are the best,” according to Julia.  They also have wonderful theaters, symphonies, operas and even the Royal Ballet.  I particularly enjoyed a story that Julia shared with me about leaving Kelekis one time and seeing an old man walking back and forth looking confused.  She approached him and learned that he was looking for the bus stop.  Well, Julia recognized him as Leo Mol, a Ukrainian (they seem to like Ukrainians!) born artist that achieved worldwide notoriety as a sculptor and offered to give him a lift and he accepted.  He was already in his 90s and still working regularly.  There is a sculpture garden in Winnipeg she told me that has several pieces of his work.

I asked if there was anything that we could help them with, but they couldn’t think of much.  “Perhaps some tips for our son who is going to travel through South America for six months,” Julia mentioned.  If anyone has some tips on making the best out of a six-month backpack style adventure in South America, leave a comment for Julia and Ken.

  We said goodnight.  I made a quick joke that I wanted Ken and Julia to join my church and went on my way.

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