Colombia Calling - The English Voice in Colombia

It's a real pleasure to have Briton Hannah Matthews on the show once again and see how far she's come in Colombia. It seems like only a few weeks ago that we had her on the show talking about what it was like to teach English as a foreigner in Colombia. 

Now, she's in the Peace Brigades International and has spent a great deal of time in some of Colombia's most conflicted regions working to preserve human rights. 

As an international observer for PBI Colombia Hannah has had the opportunity to gain experience in the field of international human rights. She has worked in Bogotá, Barrancabermeja and Urabá, accompanying human rights defenders and communities who are being threatened because of their legitimate work in support of justice and peace.

Against a backdrop of political unease in Colombia and the presidential elections of 2018, this is an important and timely interview.

Direct download: RCC_213.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:38am EST

It's a brave man who sets out his stall to bring high school trips to Colombia, but, British travel writer Simon Willis has done just this with his outfit, Kagumu Adventures (www.kagumuadventures.com). 

Fresh off the trail from leading a bunch of eager students from an international school in Chile, who he took out to rural Antioquia and in to the infamous Comuna 13 in Medellin, Willis understands that tourism can be a create positive change in Colombia and indeed fulfill some of the Millennium Development Goals. 

Tune in to hear an inspirational tale of how a guy with an idea - albeit a brave one - can bring about change.

Direct download: RCC_212.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:58am EST

Sometimes it's hard to be an international transplant to a small community in Colombia, but briton Matty Sowinski Brown has successfully become an accepted resident in the charming town of Quimbaya in Colombia's coffee region. 

So, this week on Episode 211 of Colombia Calling we get on the line with Matty in Quimbaya (Quindio) to talk about his life there, the rural guesthouse he is opening up soon named "Cascada Blanca", and the delights of a traditional christmas - lanterns and all - in which he is participating this year in his new home town. 

Check out his website: www.cascadablancacolombia.com

Direct download: RCC_211.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:51am EST

It's a great pleasure in this Episode 210 to welcome back members of the Bogotá Writers to Colombia Calling and sit down with Peter, Caroline and Juan Manuel and talk about their latest publication of short stories entitled: "Voices of Bogotá". 

In this new edition of works by the hard-working group, there are 16 stories all told by residents of the city. They tell of different times, people and places, but the dominant character uniting them is the city itself. Read about the tattoo parlours of Lourdes, the time keepers for bus routes and so much more.

Direct download: RCC_210.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:15am EST

Surely you didn't miss all the press coverage surrounding this story a few weeks ago after President Trump released some formerly classified CIA documents!? Yes, the story is real, whether or not it's true is something else, so, this week on Ep209 of Colombia Calling we sit down with fellow expat, blogger and interested soul, Stuart Oswald and discuss whether or not Adolf Hitler could have or did spend time in Colombia in the 1950s. 

What we know: The CIA investigated claims that a man who said he was Adolf Hitler was living in a community of ex-Nazis in the 1950s in Colombia. Declassified documents indicate that although agents did not take the claim seriously, they did receive a photo of the man who had a striking resemblance to the German dictator. A former SS soldier, Phillip Citroen, approached CIA agents in 1954 and said that a man claming to be Hitler was living in the town of Tunja. 

Tune in to hear about the documents and our thoughts on this matter.

Tags and Keywords: hitler, adolf hitler, did hitler escape to colombia, hitler in south america, hitler in colombia, hitler in bogota, hitler in tunja, ss in colombia, mengele, nazis in south america, nazis in colombia, stuart oswald, richard mccoll, colombia calling

Direct download: RCC_209.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:15am EST

Have you heard the tale of the poet who drinks three bottles of gin a day!? No, I hadn't and the mere thought of that much booze makes me uncomfortable. Hear about this anecdote and so many more with writer, author, teacher and journeyman Eduardo Bechara as he leaves Colombia to seek out and discover the new voices of South American poetry. 

Bechara's project "En Busca de Poetas" has been many years in the making but as it has developed so has it broadened its reach. We get on the line to Cordoba, Argentina with Bechara to talk about his life as a writer and the most recent spin-off project of a new collection of poetry from the southern cone entitled: "Breve Tratado del Viento Sur". 

Bechara's quest is to unify the South American continent in a literary sense and if you believe in what he is doing, then throw a few dollars at his crowdfunding page on Indiegogo (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/publicacion-breve-tratado-del-viento-sur/x/642296#/). 

So, tune in to hear about Bechara's life, an interesting tale which has taken his from being a Bogotano lawyer to researching being penniless on the steets and now promoting poets across the whole continent.

Tags and Keywords: Eduardo Bechara writer, en busca de poetas, indegogo, crowdfunding, breve tratado del viento sur, beggar for a day, mendigo por un dia, colombia calling, podcast richard mccoll, escarabajo publishing

Direct download: RCC_208.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:36am EST

From the coffee cultivations in the highlands of the Tolima region, this week on Colombia Calling, we speak to US writer and photographer Michael Evans who has made his home in the small town of Líbano. And so, this week's episode is an exploration of life in a Colombian small town in the heartlands of the coffee region. 

For an idea of the imagery and the ambiance of Líbano, Michael's home and his muse, check out this excerpt from his new book of photography, "My Colombia, the First Seven Years."

"Líbano sits in the middle of the Tolima Department’s coffee region. The Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia has an office and warehouse here, where farmers deposit their harvests and collect their pay. You probably know of Juan Valdez and his trusty mule, Conchita. Juan isn’t just a fictional character in coffee commercials; he’s the trademarked mascot of the federation — invented in 1969 — and through the magic of casting, he always remains young and fit. And although Juan always looks a little too clean and well-groomed for doing manual labor, his outfit is spot on, because Colombian coffee farmers still wear straw hats and ponchos, still strap machetes to their belts, and some still bring their harvests to market on the backs of mules."

Known to some as Memphis Mike, tune in to hear all about the curiosities and beauty of small town Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_207.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:06pm EST

Did you know that over the last ten years, the UK has been the third largest investor in Colombia, with British companies investing confidently across a variety of industry sectors, including energy, mining, infrastructure, and financial and professional services. So, this week in Ep 206 of Colombia Calling we jump at the opportunity to talk with the director of the UK Colombia Trade non-profit organisation Alejandro McAllister. 

In a free and flowing conversation, we discuss the Colombian economy and its needs, where investors and businesses are most welcome and why in this country. With concrete examples of British companies setting up in Colombia, this is a fascinating insight in to how Colombia's economy works even against the backdrop of Brexit, the peace accords and the Colombian presidential elections in 2018.

Direct download: RCC_206.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:56am EST

While the story and characters in A Reluctant Warrior are fictitious, they are based on events Kelly Brooke Nicholls witnessed first-hand while living and working in Colombia. During this time, she interviewed thousands of victims of paramilitaries, guerrilla and drug cartels. She knows Buenaventura, where the novel is set, intimately, including the most notorious neighborhoods where foreigners rarely venture. She worked closely with the former Andean Director of the Drug Enforcement Administration to help her realistically map the events in this novel.

And, of course, we have Kelly here on Colombia Calling telling us about her experiences in and love for Colombia and the people, how her book came about, opening up about threats hurled at her by a former president and some thoughts on current-day Colombia. 

Tune in for an excellent episode of Colombia Calling which ties human rights, politics and literature all in one in a neat package.

Direct download: RCC_205.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:20am EST

A paramo is an incredibly fragile high treeless plateau in tropical South America and Colombia plays host to many not to mention Chingaza and Sumapaz both just outside of Bogotá. So this week we sit down and discuss the importance of the paramos to Colombia with three academics from the University of el Rosario. 

Adriana Sanchez, Marius Bottin and James Edward Richardson have between them a wealth of knowledge and together discuss potential outcomes for Colombia's paramos and what is going on in the country regarding environmental protection. What are the risks for the paramos in Colombia? Does mining and illegal mining play a role, what can the government do...and so much more.

Direct download: RCC_204.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:08am EST

Changing things up a little in Episode 203, Colombia Calling heads out to a new cultural event in Bogotá to record at "A Moveable Fiesta." This shindig , hopefully to become an annual event, was the brain child of various authors and artists in Bogotá who felt that it was time to launch something alternative and open which could include Colombians and foreigners alike. 

So, for Ep203, we recorded a three segment show with Seg 1 being a short intro to the event before people arrived, our hopes and fears for A Moveable Fiesta. For Seg 2 I record a short piece of live theatre put on by the Bogotá Anglo Theatre co who perform Edward Albee's "the Zoo Story" in something that is reminiscent of an old BBC radio play, and finally, in Seg 3, it's a frank conversation and some feedback between myself and author Victoria Kellaway reflecting on how the event has been received. 

So, tune in if you want to learn about a new event which showcases new authors, photographers, theatre, chocolate, coffee, painting and so much more!

Direct download: RCC_203.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:54am EST

This week we step out of Bogotá and catch up with life in the small town of Mompos, Bolivar (five hours inland from Cartagena) with two peace corps volunteers from the US spending two years here. 

Erin from Idaho and James from Ohio make for perfect interviewees and while both are at different stages of their experience here in Mompos, it is rewarding to learn about how they have assimilated into life in a small Colombian town. 

In a free flowing conversation about their lives in Colombia, expectations and trials bested, both Erin and James share with us tales of their day to day life, suggestions of how they themselves have changed along the way and the difficulties of explaining the US electoral college to locals! 

This interview does not reflect the opinions or politics of the Peace Corps but aims to inform potential future volunteers about the challenges and adventures ahead.

Direct download: RCC_202.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:42am EST

The Colombian Coffee Connection LLC. was born in April 2017 from a young man’s dream, to share the heart of Colombia with a portion of America that is the discerning coffee drinker. 

Ervin Liz is a young indigenous Colombian, through great efforts by his family and himself he was able to come to America and attend college at Luther in Decorah Iowa. As a young boy, Ervin recalls helping to cultivate, grow and ultimately harvest the wonderful ripe coffee beans that the world enjoys. Ervin attended college at Luther and was an economics student.

As the founder of the Colombian Coffee Connection and a member of the Nasa tribe, Ervin Liz is committed to paying our farmers what is fair for their product while delivering our customers one of the best single source coffees in the world. 

This is an inspirational and fascinating story which comes from the heartlands of the Nasa people and connects you with Iowa and Minnesota, all because one man had a dream. Tune in.

Direct download: RCC_201.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:31pm EST

In this our landmark Episode 200, we return to the core reason why we created "Colombia Calling", and that is to inform about Colombia and also to allow you the listener to help out as well. 

So, we call on the time and expertise of Maureen Cattieu of Cartagena Paws and Kim Rodeffer of Little One´s Independent Rescue (NY) to talk about their tireless and selfless work in rescuing stray animals from the streets of Cartagena, Colombia and finding them forever homes in the US and beyond. 

Sharing with us emotional and inspiring tales of how they became involved in aiding the plight of these street animals in Cartagena, we find out how you can get involved, either through volunteering, donating, or even being a Flight Volunteer and accompanying a dog or cat on their journey north. 

For more info check out: http://www.cartagenapaws.com

Direct download: RCC_200.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:05pm EST

On Episode 199 of Colombia Calling we have the distinct honour of being joined by author, Julianne Pachico on the line from Medellin. In this entertaining conversation we discuss her incredibly well-reviewed debut novel, The Lucky Ones, her relationship and strong links to Colombia and about the writing field as a whole. 

To whet your appetite for this episode, check out Pachico's website (www.juliannepachico.com) and read this amazing review: 

“Julianne Pachico takes a hammer and brings it down on the superficial gloss of history, piecing the fragments into a kaleidoscopic collage that tells a deeply observed, stylistically adventurous and emotionally riveting story of people caught up in the violence of Colombia's guerrilla insurgencies. Moving effortlessly between the surreal and the real, sometimes in the space of a single sentence, Pachico delivers one of the most original and mesmerizing debuts I've read in years.”

Direct download: RCC_199.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:44am EST

This South American nation is edging toward the economic brink after an internationally condemned election last month created an all-powerful congress loyal to Maduro. Since the July 30 vote, the value of the local currency, the bolívar, has fluctuated more wildly than ever, a significant feat for a country saddled with the world’s highest inflation rate. As a result, street prices for staples such as bread and tomatoes have doubled in less than two weeks.

This week on Colombia Calling, we speak about the on-going humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

Direct download: RCC_198.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:57am EST

On Ep197 we welcome back intrepid traveller, writer, blogger, author of the Pereira City Guide, Erin Donaldson and this time, she's here to talk about her new venture in guiding people in to regions unknown of the Choco! 

It's very exciting and indeed requires a great deal of thought and knowledge of the situation on the ground, but Donaldson walks us through what it required for this guided trip, the levels of fitness one must have and much more. 

So, here you have it, tourism in the conflict zone of Colombia with Erin Donaldson, an unmissable episode of Colombia Calling.

Direct download: RCC_197.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:10am EST

This week we sit down with Angie Hernandez and discuss her memories of joining a high school exchange program in 1975 which took her all the way from Indiana, USA to Cucuta, Colombia. 

In an interesting conversation, Angie and I discuss the reality of the frontier city of Cucuta, it's relevance to Colombia as a whole, reflect on Colombia in the 1970s and finally we discuss what could have been if Angie had ended up on that flight to Japan instead of Colombia!

Direct download: RCC_196.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:33am EST

This week we welcome back former interviewee Dave Procter to tell us all about the second edition of the Legend of El Dorado mountain bike race here in Colombia. Starting and finishing in the town of Manizales, this race has something for all starndards of mountain biking and we are pleased to be able to promote an initiative of this quality. 

La Leyenda del Dorado is a multi-stage mountain bike race offering adventurous teams of two the opportunity to immerse themselves in the magical landscapes of Colombia and ride their hearts out. 

The meticulously crafted 7 stage route pays homage to Colombia, its astonishing and varied landscapes and rich cycling history. As formidable as it is breathtaking, the Leyenda race route tackles an extraordinary variety of terrains and climatic conditions – scorching river valleys, snow topped volcanoes and everything in between – sometimes in the course of the same day. 

Along the way, full-service, professional rider support will enable participants to focus solely on giving their very best while they discover why Colombia is truly one of the most exciting and challenging mountain bike destinations on the planet, and why La Leyenda is the Everest of Mountain Biking.

Check out the website: https://en.la-leyenda.com

Direct download: RCC_195.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00am EST

Brothers Alejandro and Carlos Ospina make a good team and together they are working to show the human side of coffee cultivation and production in Colombia. Hailing from Bogotá but having both spent a significant amount of time overseas, the Ospina brothers decided that it is time to delve into and share the wonders of Colombian coffee with the public by creating experiential tours and a blog (https://www.travesiacoffee.com/blog) detailing their travels and the people they meet along the way. 

These young coffee entrepreneurs don't stop here, the plan is to produce a book "Relatos Cafeteros" for sale in December of this year. The book will illustrate 11 different coffee growing destinations across Colombia and will be written by Carlos. Here's the fix...for the project to fly, a little bit of cash is needed, so if you have a few spare dollars, feel free to throw it at their indiegogo page "Relatos Cafeteros - una Travesía por Colombia" and make sure this becomes a reality.

Direct download: RCC_194.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:36am EST

This week in Colombia Calling Episode 193 we are pleased to have Simon Winograd back on the show. This time though, we get Winograd, a Michigan native, and Director of Customized Academic Programs for the Colombian Project (http://colombianproject.com/colombian-project-academics) to talk about his work here in-country and also introduce you to Sam Johnston of Victoria, BC, Canada about his internship at the Paloma y Angostura company in Bogotá. Read the blog here (http://www.projectpaloma.com)

Having met in Chiapas, Mexico Winograd and Johnston hit it off and the long and short of it resulted in the latter coming down to work with a Colombian fashion label that seeks to build peace through design by creating jobs for former combatants of the Colombian conflict. How cool is this? Extremely, I'd say. 

So, tune in to hear about how two people are pitching in and making a difference in Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_193.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:43am EST

On the back of former interviews with adoptees from Colombia and with Marcia from Plan Angel, I had the amazing fortune of being contacted by Christine Herman from Minnestota, USA. Christine's husband Mike is an adoptee from a very young age from Bogotá and in this intensely emotional episode she shares with us Mike's journey to Colombia with an ultimately happy ending. 

Tune in to hear a tale of persistence and joy and one which shares an overwhelmingly positive image of Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_192.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:23pm EST

On the road as an "enrichment" guide for a group of tourists from the UK and US, your host Richard McColl takes a different look at the recent news in Colombia. McColl on Colombia Calling explores the issues of "fake news", "hearsay" and "rumours" surrounding the Bogotá bombing before moving on to lighter topics such as the route of the trip he has just accompanied through colonial Colombia and then on to answering a question put of him by many people, both foreign and national...."how do you live in Colombia?"

Direct download: RCC_191.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:05am EST

For this episode 190, as a result of the bomb placed in the CC Andino shopping mall in Bogotá, Colombia on Saturday 17 June, I feel that there is little more than to do a show illustrating the futility of such an action and to lament the loss of three young lives.

Thank you for understanding

Direct download: RCC_190.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:41am EST

This week we get some amusing air time with Brendan Corrigan, author of the blog, Wrong Way Corrigan and host of the increasingly popular, IQuiz - Bogotá Pub Quiz. Read his hilarious entries and personal experiences and scrapes on Colombia's largest national daily newspaper El Tiempo as well as on Fb (https://www.facebook.com/wrongwaycorriganblog)

When he's not busy defending himself from the onslaught of trolls taking offense with his excellent and to the bone descriptions of life in Colombia and the idiosyncracies found here, he can be found travelling to far off parts of his adopted homeland or auditioning for parts as an extra in TV shows and commercials.

Did you watch Netflix's incredibly successful series, "Narcos"? If so, cast your mind back to Series 2 and a scene where a phone call received by a worker in the German Embassy from one other than Pablo Escobar....yes, Corrigan was that German!

So, tune in to hear an excellent take on life in Bogotá and Colombia from a seasoned and engaging journalist. And if you are in Bogotá on the last thursday of the month, check out the Pub Quiz.

Direct download: RCC_189.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:29am EST

Marcia Engel is on a mission to provide hope and reunite Colombian families who are searching for their children given up (voluntarily or not) for adoption and adoptees seaching for the their families.

Herself an adoptee originally from Bogotá, she was raised in Holland, Engel has grappled and bested the challenge of locating her biological family. After this experience she set up the human rights foundation Plan Angel (http://www.planangel.org) to help others with their search.

Some of you will remember that we had Engel on the show on Episode 158, now we have her back after a very successful visit to Colombia where she was able to meet with families searching for loved ones in Bogota, Cali, Medellin and Cucuta.

We talk about her experiences, the complications of the investigations she undertakes and about how her foundation works. Now, in this ever more connected world Engel has had great success and has been working by getting families to submit their DNA to the Family Tree Center in Houston in the hope of being able to solve more cases.

Direct download: RCC_188.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:03am EST

This week in episode 187 we sit down with Colombo-Croat photographer Andre Kanayet and discuss, life, Colombia and the role of a photographer in today's connected society.

As Kanayet has an exhibition of his photography beginning on June 1 and running for the whole month at the EK hotel (Calle 90 No. 11-13) it is appropriate that he is on Colombia Calling to talk about his passion.

In an flowing conversation which covers the story behind how his Croatian grandfather came to Colombia - it involves spies! - and why he moved in to photography and what the industry means today, we learn about what makes Kanayet tick and why he's a success in his field.

Tune in for an interesting and entertaining episode and be sure to check out his work on instagram @andrekanayet

Direct download: RCC_187.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:34am EST

Being more of a grunge and punk aficionado, I cannot speak for the masses of Metal fans out there and their music, so this is why we have turned to freelance music journalist and filmmaker Alex De Moller in the UK today to tap into his ample knowledge on the subject, in particular the metal groups which sprung up in the mid 1980's in Medellin in rejection of the drug cartels, Pablo Escobar and the violence being lived in that city.

Earlier this year, Medellin mourned the loss of Elkin Ramírez Zapata, its first rock superstar. After losing his battle with brain cancer, Ramírez passed away on January 29th, 2017. His funeral brought Medellín to a standstill, and for the first time in its history, the city's Metropolitan Cathedral was packed with metalheads and punks—fans, friends and well-wishers who shed tears and sang together as his band Kraken performed their final concert.

Medellín today is a different picture. It's not perfect, but it's a far cry from the 1980s. Kraken's music still blares from the parches and bars frequented by the city's many metaleros and those who once threw stones now claim to revere the sound of "true" heavy metal.

So, think of the importance and the role that heavy metal played in Medellin during the city's darkest moments...

Direct download: RCC_186.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:46am EST

In this week's show we get on the line to Sheffield, UK to talk with academic and football enthusiast Pete Watson. Currently pursuing his PhD, Watson comes to Colombia Calling with a vast knowledge of Colombia and football here and indeed his dissertation will explore how football has influenced public policy in this country.

We discuss three periods in Colombian history, pivotal for both the politics and indeed football, 1948-53, 1985-94 and the current day. Our conversation takes in the peace process between the Government of President Santos and the FARC guerrillas, the Bogotá bandits during Colombia's "El Dorado" footballing period, Hungarian footballers exiled in Santa Marta, mafia and cartel involvement in the beautiful game and much more.

Football is seen by Watson as a nationbuilding instrument for Colombia and his enthusiasm makes for a fantastic show.

Direct download: RCC_185.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:29am EST

The future of peace in Colombia is far from assured. Three decades of atrocities have left trust a scarce good in the public realm; political negotiation will also neither unravel Colombia’s convoluted system of land ownership nor put an end to the drug trade. Critics of the government’s dealings with the FARC lambast the process as a surrender to international forces out to subvert Colombia’s sovereignty. 
 
So, we have the chance to sit down with Robert A. Karl, Assistant Professor of History at Princeton University and discuss some of the challenges on hand for Colombia and indeed talk about his new book "Forgotten Peace" and discuss some of the most important issues taking place in Colombia. 
Direct download: RCC_184.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:19am EST

Author Tom Feiling joins us once again on Colombia Calling to talk about his new book entitled: "The Island that Disappeared. Old Providence and the Making of the Western World."

In a fascinating discussion we explore the history of the Colombian Caribbean island of Providencia, how the Puritans settled there in the 17th century, what the island has become and what the history means to today's island population.

Feiling is the author of two previous excellent books related to Colombia, including the Candy Machine about the cocaine trade and Short Walks from Bogotá, exploring a little of the contemporary history of this complex country.

Tune in to hear about the themes of Pirates and Puritans and how they affect both Britain and Providencia and a frank discussion of the island today. Then, buy the book on Amazon!

 

Direct download: RCC_183.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:56am EST

The global “war on drugs” has been fought for several decades now and without preventing the long-term trend of increasing drug supply and use. Beyond this failure, the UNODC has identified many serious negative “unintended consequences” of the drug war – including the stigma and discrimination faced by a range of populations.

So, this week on Ep182 we get international finance expert Luc LaPointe on the line from the southern Colombian city of Cali where he is studying the possibilities of changing the image of marijuana and coca in Colombia to include an awareness of their traditional and medicinal properties.

We talk frankly about what needs to be done, how medicinal marijuana can be a force for change for the campesinos in the region, the politics, the meetings being held and beyond. Certainly, for LaPointe this is a challenge on a day to day basis and one which definitely merits listening to.

Direct download: RCC_182.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:56am EST

Having grovelled, begged and possibly lost a couple of friendships in the process, I managed to secure permission to visit Colombia's FARC guerrillas at their temporary camp in Las Colinas, Guaviare.

This is my summation of events and my take on what is going on in Guaviare, one of Colombia's most problematic regions. It's here we have coca growing, demobilizing FARC guerrillas, paramilitary groups, dissident groups of the FARC, little Colombian state presence and huge areas of land covering strategic rivers which lead to neighbouring Brazil and Venezuela.

Who did I meet with and what was the experience like? Well you'll have to tune in. But, I can let you know that I had a long conversation with El Medico Mauricio, a high-ranking guerrilla who was present at the peace dialogues in Havana, Cuba. It was quite the experience.

 

Direct download: RCC_181.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:28am EST

In an dynamic and fun episode we get together with Suzie Q (Hoban) of the Colombian Chocolate Club (https://www.colombianchocolateclub.com) and Karen Attman of Flavors of Bogotá (http://www.flavorsofbogota.com) to discuss two of my favourite vices....Chocolate and Coffee.

Both Attman and Hoban are working hard and have succeeded in expanding the offer available to visitors coming to Bogotá with both coffee and chocolate experiences. But, Episode 180 is not just about what these entrepreneurs and experts in some of the finer things in life can offer you, but also what you as a consumer can offer to the small coffee and cacao producer in Colombia by purchasing their products.

We take a Colombian geography lesson through the different regions of Colombia and the Chocolate and Coffee offerings they provide us with and the resulting episode is not only for foodies and travellers, but for those interested in the far-reaching importance of a quality and locally sourced product.

Be sure to check out their websites and of course, purchase Attman's popular book entitled: "Permission to Slurp", all about Colombian coffee and now available on Amazon.

 

Direct download: RCC_180.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:37am EST

Did you hear the story about the young economist from the Czech Republic who decided to give up a stable job in Prague, come to Colombia and teach himself how to make chocolate?

No, well it's not suprising since Jiri Petrak's tale is one of derring do up there with the most impressive of stories. Self-educated in the world of cacao and having gleaned how to make chocolate (in his Colombian girlfriend's kitchen when she is away on business!) from youtube.com, Jiri has become a regular feature negotiating with Cacao farmers in Granada, Meta and selling his impressive product in the cafés of Bogotá's colonial Candelaria district.

Tune in to this Episode 179 to be inspired by a story of stubborness and creativity in the world of Czech "punk" chocolate production with www.checao.co

Direct download: RCC_179.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:18am EST

This week we get to sit down with Joelle and Alexander of Peaceworks - a Swedish NGO - which works in the empowerment of young people in Colombia with a focus on sustainable peace and a non-violent approach.

Perhaps their most important task is to provide youth organizations by giving them methodological and judicial advice and additionally providing micro funding to organizations that have a project or an idea related to creating a culture of peace and to strengthening young and marginalized people in Colombia.

So, we get to chat about the future plans being organized by Peaceworks, the details of a 20 person exchange program they are organizing for ex combatants in Colombia and further information about what they are so admirably doing here.

Check out their website and donate here! http://peaceworks.se/colombia/

Direct download: RCC_178.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:29am EST

With Colombia's President Santos lauding the possibilities for tourism growth in post conflict Colombia, we take a look around the recent annual Anato Tourism fair in Bogotá and share our thoughts on the future of this growth industry for the country.

Certainly, tourism will increase now that some of the inaccurate and negative perceptions and images of Colombia are being laid to rest such as those of terrorism, violence and kidnapping. But, are the political powers that be addressing an appropriate brand management for Colombia? Are the strategic infrastructure challenges being addressed and how does the price of the US dollar come in to play?

In 2016 Colombia received 5,100,000 tourists and in 2017 we are aiming for 5,300,000. Is there are robust plan in place? Will corruption continue to stifle growth? How will the tax reforms affect tourism and will the country's bureaucratic miasma continue?

This is an informant piece where the questions are asked and discussed by your host Richard McColl

Direct download: RCC_177.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:26am EST

This week on Colombia Calling our guest host Laura Brown is back and is talking to Janelle Gray, a Texan author living in Bogota, about her new book.

Entitled, "Echoes of the Struggle" Gray's work is about the civil rights movement in the United States. It takes the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement and places it in 2014 among the deaths of unarmed Blacks and racial divide.

According to Gray, this juxtaposition of injustice forces the conversations we should be having within our interracial communities thus fostering a better understanding of the effects our history continues to have on our present.

The author also touches on race issues in Colombia and how they can be compared to those in the US, while acknowledging that our host country is far more welcoming to foreigners than is the case in the US.

Read more about Echoes of the Struggle or purchase the book from http://www.echoesofthestruggle.com/

You can also join the conversation by contributing to the blog at the same address.

 

Direct download: RCC_176.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:02pm EST

Hailing originally from the Yukon in the great Canadian North, Anna Vogt has seen more of Colombia than most Colombians and has gained an insight into this country that is both profound and appropriately sympathetic. We sit down with Anna in Bogotá and discuss her work with the Mennonite Central Committee and their Colombian partners and how she is here working, on the ground, on peace building, relief and development issues.

Dawson City to Mampujan in the Montes de Maria is a huge chasm to breach, but Anna first spent two years in the very heart of this community - not too far from Cartagena - which had been displaced from their ancestral lands by the AUC paramilitaries. Now she is based in Bogotá but enjoys frequent travel all through the region.

We discuss the issues facing Colombia in the future, the hopes we both have for this country and indeed the issue of conscientious objectors to the mandatory military service here.

Check out Anna's blog at https://thellamadiaries.com for more insights into her life in Colombia and the work performed admirably by the MCC.

Direct download: RCC_175.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:23am EST

When I first met Stephany, I knew she had a story to tell and I am thrilled to be able to have her on this episode discussing her family's departure from Colombia in 1998 and the circumstances around her return to this country to live in 2016.

In a frank and descriptive episode, Stephany talks of the hardships she encountered in moving to the USA, her upbringing in Houston and her search for an identity now in Colombia with her husband and two young children.

We conduct the interview in the Social Coffee House (http://socialcoffeehouse.com.co) which Stephany runs with her husband Alex...bringing a little piece of Austin style to Bogotá in the form of high quality coffee and great vibes.

So, I insist you head on down here for a brew either of coffee or craft beer (coming soon), check out their coffee tasting experience or perhaps some live music in the future.

Direct download: RCC_174.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:22pm EST

This week we sit down with a good friend of mine from the UK who is also another veteran of 10 years here in Colombia and we discuss, from her perspective, the dating scene in this country we call home.

Perhaps you are heading over to Colombia for a holiday or to work, you'd do well to listen to Episode 173 and hear about some of the experiences encountered by one lady and her adventures in the dating arena. At the very least, the stories told may well prepare you for what may be in your future!

So, strap yourself in for a rollercoaster ride of anecdotes, tall tinder tales, cultural nuances and hear all about the experiences of one foreigner here in Colombia in the turbulent waters which make up the dating game!

Direct download: RCC_173.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:09am EST

How corrupt is Colombia?

Alarm bells should be sounding in the presidential palace and across the nation's institutions as the evil beast which threatens to undermine growth and our ability to trust in public bodies, corruption, continues to plague Colombia. Sure, Venezuela is the worst country in the region for corruption and Uruguay may be the least corrupt nation in Latin America, but we are here in Colombia where the long tentacles of influence and payments for contracts by the Brazilian firm Odebrecht have brought down two significant political players. How far will this go and how high will these cases reach?

So, tune in to Episode 172 all about corruption in Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_172.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:13am EST

This week we sit down with Pablo and Leslie of the forward-thinking fashion company based in Bogotá and discuss their incredible business plan. This company named Paloma and Angostura (http://palomayangostura.com) has a great deal going for it. Not only does the team design and produce stylish and comfortable clothes from sustainably produced and organic cotton, but they have taken their altruism to another level by actively seeking out and employing former combatants from armed groups involved the Colombian conflict and aided them on their way to a full reintegration into society.

You'll know from this podcast that I speak often about the peace agreement with the FARC rebels signed in 2016 and the up and coming talks to be held with the ELN guerrillas in 2017 and one of the main questions is how to reintegrate former combatants into society in a dignified and useful manner. Paloma y Angostura is a trailblazer in this effect and is the proof that you can design a business plan and bring about positive change in a society as fractured as that in Colombia.

So tune in and find out how Paloma y Angostura came about and learn from their admirable experience.

Direct download: RCC_171.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:21am EST

"In this World nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Benjamin Franklin.

This week we do an executive summary in an informant style episode explaining the changes which have taken place under the new tax reforms and how they might affect you.

Whether you are Colombian living in Colombia, a Colombian living overseas or an expat in Colombia you'll want to tune in to learn more about what the government has done.

Did you know that if you are caught evading taxes you could receive jail time?

How much tax can a foreign teacher expect to pay?

Why has the price my bottle of whisky increased by so much?

Tune in to Colombia Calling to find out the answers to these questions and more...

 

Direct download: RCC_170.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:06am EST

We open 2017 with a brief informant style episode giving my breakdown to the year as a "Morrongo" experience. What is a Morrongo? Well you'll have to tune in to find out, but suffice it to say that we are looking at a "two-faced" 2017 here in Colombia as the peace agreements and demobilization of the FARC trundle on against the backdrop of politicians gearing up for a savage presidential campaign period. Who will throw their hat into the ring? What is likely to happen, and how will the Morrongo throng keep the real issues buried beneath gossip and political intrigue?

Direct download: RCC_169.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:31am EST

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