Colombia Calling - The English Voice in Colombia (general)

Having spent several years in direct contact with the Comunidad de Paz in San Jose de Apartado (a very isolated yet violence-afflicted community) in northern Colombia, academic Gwen Burnyeat teamed up with Pablo Mejia Trujillo to make a documentary about the people, their suffering and now a feeling of hope for the future due to their organic fair trade cacao production. (see the trailer at http://chocolatedepaz.com)

The documentary spans 55 mins during which, the viewer is transported to what should be a pastoral life of farming and family in fertile and promising lands, yet, it is here and not unique in Colombia, that the communities have faced massacres, threats and displacement due to the strategic location of their land and becoming sandwiched between the Armed Forces, left-wing Guerrilla groups and the right-wing paramilitaries.

But, while the tales are harrowing and unthinkable, there is hope. Burnyeat and Mejia have produced a documentary that is accessible to all, not just experts on Colombia and we are presented with positive outcomes from the community's struggles.

Please watch this documentary, spread the word and share this film as these are real events which have taken place and in some circumstances continue to take place in Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_141.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:18am EDT

Mixing things up a little, this week we sit down with Anthony Patrick LaRose, associate professor of criminology at the University of Tampa, and talk about his work of fiction, Cathedral of Salt (available on Amazon: http://goo.gl/dzF29Z)

"Fighting depression and alcoholism, the FBI agent must evoke all of his former training and expertise to help solve the crime. While working the case, his story intersects with Santos, the local police captain assigned to the case, who is indignant having been assigned to babysit a drunken gringo; Guasá, a notorious activist for indigenous rights who claims the cathedral’s land as her people’s; Cárdenas, the arrogant salt mine executive obsessed with keeping the mine operational; and Chamí, a shadowy anthropology professor with a secret double life. Mixing ancient history, contemporary political reality, and modern forensics, Cathedral of Salt weaves a gripping, fast-paced tale of murder and intrigue over the course of several days. What starts as a simple offer of collaboration with a crime scene investigation, becomes a quest for redemption for Grant who soon realizes that the salt wants to keep its secrets."

Direct download: RCC_140.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:53am EDT

As the Director of www.tropicomedia.org, Federico Pardo holds a BS in Biology and a MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking from Montana State University. He has documented scientific expeditions in Ecuador, Perú, Mozambique and throughout Colombia. Federico’s work has been showcased by National Geographic, Fusion, The Field Museum and the Humboldt Institute in Colombia.

We managed to squeeze in an hour with Pardo in Bogota before he jetted off to another exotic location having just arrived from the Magdalena Medio region where he combated clouds of mosquitos to track and film some endemic and endangered brown howler monkeys.

With Pardo we talk about the filmmaking trade, future projects and indeed some of the environmental issues facing Colombia as the country moves towards a potential peace agreement with the largest guerrilla group. What impacts might this have on the environment and on society and more.

Tune in to a fantastic and frank interview with someone who clearly knows their trade and clearly understand the issues facing contemporary Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_139.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:12am EDT

Spoontano is an online platform that enables you to meet other open-minded young professionals with different backgrounds and the Bogota chapter is hosted by the friendly local Danny Barragan who joins us here on Colombia Calling.

In Episode 138 we sit down with Danny in one of Bogota's new cafes and mull over what it means for the Colombian capital to have an event like www.spoontano.com where foreigners and locals can dine out together and experience new and hip places.

How does a graduate of microbiology get into the dining game? You'll have to tune in yourselves to hear all about Danny's story and her love for Bogota and bringing people together.

If Spoontano.com sounds like something you'd like to get involved in, they now have a presence in 10 cities worldwide and are always looking for willing and able potential hosts.

Direct download: RCC_138.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:33pm EDT

This week in Episode 137 we strike out with Colombia Calling and take a serious turn and talk to Roxanne Krystalli in Boston. Krystalli is a researcher and humanitarian practitioner with an interest in questions arriving at the intersection of gender, violence, armed conflict, and victimhood based at Feinstein International Center.

Krystalli has served as a researcher, advisor and consultant on issues related to gender and conflict for various UN agencies, international organizations, and community-based groups. This has involved working with ex-combatants, victims and survivors of violence, and fellow researchers and humanitarian practitioners in Egypt, Pakistan, Colombia, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Uganda, Sudan, Guatemala, Mexico, and other areas.

Her understanding of and love for Colombia is unquestioned and here we talk to her about the peace dialogues and what Colombia is experiencing. As you guessed, with Krystalli's knowledge, I am well out of my depth!

For more about Roxanne Krystalli, read her blog at http://storiesofconflictandlove.com

Direct download: RCC_137.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:37am EDT

In Episode 136 we talk to Nick Kershaw, the brains behind the Colombia International Marathon due to take place on the 11th of February 2017. With a route mapped out from Minca in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada coastal mountains and culminating on the beach in Santa Marta, this marathon is set to make waves.

Kershaw has worked on some interesting marathons before this one, think Uganda! Since quitting his job in finance he has also worked on or planned future marathons in Guatemala, Malawi and Nepal.

So, what's this all about? Well, the Impact Marathon Series is in line with the UN Global Goals and all participants get to choose which local charity will receive their contribution. This, my friends, is meaningful travel.

The Impact Marathon Series is a social business designed to harness the simple power of running to sustainably build communities, bring people together around huge causes and leave a lasting impact on the world.

What are you waiting for? Sign up for February's 42km race (although there are 5km and 23km options too), I'll be there!

Direct download: RCC_136a.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

Having had the opportunity to visit a couple of prisons in South America including two in Quito, Ecuador and one in La Paz, Bolivia, I can vouch for the misery encountered within. So, in the light of recent articles regarding the poor state of Colombian prisons it was time to have someone on the show who can speak firsthand about this terrible situation here.

Wally Broderick is Colombian but with Irish and Australian roots and who, in the twists and turns of life, ended up visiting a school friend who was held in two Colombian prisons over the course of 11 years for rebellion.

We speak of the realities in Colombian prisons, the issues regarding the peace talks with the FARC guerrillas and the need to reform the penitenciary system and the atrocious human rights record found within these institutions.

 

Direct download: RCC_135.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:39am EDT

Natalia Quintero speaks with an authority and passion about what she does and exudes the calm assured confidence of someone who knows what she's doing and where she's going!

In Episode 134 we learn how Quintero left Colombia aged 9 nine and settled in Los Angeles and how the twists and turns of her life took her to New York before now heading up a team at the Socialatom Group, an entity set up to invest, build and support tech entrepreneurs around the world and with an office here in Bogota.

So, we get the opportunity to sit down with Quintero and learn not only how she has brought her effervescent spirit back to Colombia to help economic development through technology and entrepreneurship but also about her reflections on how Bogota and Colombia have changed in her eyes.

Direct download: RCC_134.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:12pm EDT

I am particularly pleased to be able to introduce my listeners to Harold Stephenson of Crook Town, County Durham in the UK in Episode 133 as we are discussing the little known successes of English journeyman futbol coach Jack Greenwell.

The mind boggles when you think of the distances travelled by Jack Greenwell, a miner with a genius footballing brain from a small market town in the north of England, and how his life must have been when you think that he was born in 1884 and over time became one of the most successful coaches of Barcelona, then with Universitario of Lima, Peru, later the Peruvian national team in Hitler's Olympics in 1936 and then in Colombia with Barranquilla and then finally before his untimely death with Santa Fe in Bogota in 1942.

With Stephenson we are able to learn more about Greenwell's life and his movements and indeed with my own investigations we come to some conclusions about the incredible life he led at this time.

Episode 133 is very special to me as Jack Greenwell is someone whose life is almost an enigma and who should really be heralded and lauded in the halls of fame in the footballing world, but, to most he is an unknown.

Buried in an unmarked or pauper's grave in Bogota, Greenwell's story needs to be told.

Direct download: RCC_133.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:04am EDT

Jared Wade is a hard man to pin down, Colombia Calling has been trying to get the Associate Editor of Bogota's City Paper (www.thecitypaperbogota.com), the expert on the Indiana Pacers on Fanside.com and all round freelance journalist here on the show for about eight months!

Finally, on show 132, we get to chat about how this native of Maine came to be here in Colombia, his life in the big city and his role at the City Paper. We discuss his recent press junket to the back and beyond of the Amazonian region of the department of Vaupes and its capital city Mitu to an indigenous festival.

And finally, after a brief digression regarding the Indiana Pacers, we talk about Colombia today and the significance of the ongoing peace dialogues with the FARC in Havana and what may happen on March 23.

 

Direct download: RCC_132.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:12pm EDT

Two estranged brothers adventure through Colombia to fulfill their dead father's will and connect with their family, their father's homeland, and - ultimately - each other. This is Bastards y Diablos (see trailer here: www.bastardsydiablos.com).

Penned by screenwriter Andrew Perez and based loosely on real circumstances & events from his life, Bastards y Diablos takes the audience on a spontaneous, passionate adventure through Colombia

In Episode 131 we get the opportunity to enjoy a frank conversation with Andrew Perez and his connections to Colombia and the inspiration behind this flick which is pulling in the plaudits.

Tune in to hear about Bastards y Diablos, a movie which the Hollywood Reporter calls: "A vibrantly unpredictable, emotionally charged road trip."

And if you want to get involved in the movie and help the cast, crew and producers, here's the crowdfunding page (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/bastards-y-diablos#/)

Direct download: RCC_131.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:31pm EDT

This week we invite Colombian writer Paula Delgado-Kling back on the show after a long absence to talk to us exclusively about her book which is tentatively entitled: "Stolen Lives, a Memoir of Colombia."

We discuss the need to understand Colombia's history to understand what is going on now with the peace talks in Havana with the FARC, how her family has - throughout the years - occupied a ringside seat during many of the significant events in the nation's history.

Speaking openly about her non-fiction novel and the female protagonist Leonor, we talk about this girl's life as she entered the FARC at age 11 and now as a mother of two struggles to get by. We talk about the significance of April 9 and the Bogotazo and fiery rhetoric of Gaitain and indeed the upsurge in communist sympathies in the area of her family's coffee farm in Viota.

The underlying theme is that of identity and where one fits into the complex narrative that is Colombia. Finally, we share a few words about the potential peace agreement to be signed on march 23 with the FARC in Havana.

Direct download: RCC_130.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:08am EDT

Are you an expat, a short term visitor or an expat? Well, here in Colombia Seattle-born photographer and traveller Gregg Bleakney has been all three! Listen to Gregg's story and hear about he became a travel ambassador from Colombia to the world, set up his successful business http://wherenext.com and find out why he avoided Colombia as he cycled from Alaska to Ushuaia.

A chance meeting in Peru challenged his initial and justified concerns about Colombia and now he's a resident making a difference as his visual agency produces film and still photography campaigns for those who wish to participate in the wanderlusting bug.

Direct download: RCC_129.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:14pm EDT

Interviewing native Arizonan Jennie Levitt is a distinct pleasure, why? Well, she's a go getter and a believer and her positive nature shines through as she explains to us all about her projects in Bogota.

With a cookbook coming out in 2017 - including some Colombia-inspired recipes and artwork that Jennie herself did - a new line of sparkling drinks due for sale any time soon, and giving cooking classes...one would think that Jennie needs to take a step back and enjoy some breathing space!

But no, that wouldn't be her style.

Tune in to an upbeat and enjoyable episode 128.

Direct download: RCC_128.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:29am EDT

Sometimes in life you are humbled by the selfless actions of others and Dan Eley falls firmly within this category.

On New Year´s Day 2010 Dan´s life changed irreversibly when he suffered a tragic accident near to the Colombian amazon town of Leticia which left him paralysed from the shoulders down.

Directly after his accident Dan was taken to an ill-equipped hospital where he spent three days until finally being transferred to an intensive care unit in Bogotá by air ambulance.

Dan’s condition remained critical however, and in the days that followed he suffered five cardiac arrests as well as a collapsed lung and pneumonia.

How he survived might just be described as a miracle.

Now, six years on, his drive to improve the lives of others sees him returning to Colombia on occasion and leading up the Dan Eley Foundation. (http://www.daneleyfoundation.org)

The Foundation aims to create a supportive environment where disadvantaged young children are given the opportunity to try a range of technical and vocational skills and to provide them with the professional training they need to obtain legitimate employment.

This is a story of spirit and triumph and Dan shares his tale with us, warts and all.

Direct download: RCC_127.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:42am EDT

It's always a pleasure to have repeat visitors on Colombia Calling and this week we welcome back Sam Miller the Managing Director of Colombia Internationa (www.colombiainternational.co) to talk about his predictions for Colombia in 2016.

We asked Sam back on the show on the basis of his newsletter at the beginning of 2016 which was so positive regarding the outlook for travel and business in Colombia that we felt that it was time to share these good vibes with everyone out there interested in Colombia.

So, if you are interested in the real estate market in Bogota and indeed in Colombia, you want to hear about a real go-getter and his projects for the year in addition to his thoughts on travel in the country, there may be no better episode in which to immerse yourself.

Enjoy!

Direct download: RCC_126.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:26am EDT

Sometimes academics we meet are guarded with their knowledge but this is not the case when we take to the airwaves with the Director for the Global Heritage Fund for Latin America Santiago Giraldo and talk about everything from anthropology and archeology in Colombia but mainly focus on the wonder that is the Teyuna Ciudad Perdida or Lost City.

From the elegant offices of the GHF (globalheritagefund.org) we discuss the overall work and mission of the entity, their projects around the world and indeed the issues surrounding the Lost City.

This really is a not-to-be-missed episode that will draw some light on the challenges bested and indeed yet to be confronted when it comes to protecting and managing a project of this type in Colombia and Giraldo is responsible for creating the Master Management Plan for Teyuna-Ciudad Perdida Archaeological Park in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains of Colombia.

So, have you hiked to the Lost City or is it something you wish to do in the future? If so, you will definitely enjoy this interview.

 

Direct download: RCC_125.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:08am EDT

This week we get to talk to Erin Donaldson of the widely read website www.openmindedtraveler.com and learn about her quite extraordinary life in Colombia.

Have you ever traveled off-grid, but really off-grid where the journey takes five hours over rutted and potholed roads in a chiva bus before then having to continue on a motorcycle before alighting and then finding a horse to take you the rest of the way? I thought not. And if you have, did you do it with a baby on your lap? Erin wins hands down and I have to say that I am quite envious of her lifestyle!

We talk about the region of the Choco, her life in Colombia, childbirth, in fact, almost nothing is off-limits and Erin responds in kind in a careful and relaxed manner that you would associate with a cowboy character as if plucked from a novel by Louis L'Amour.

It's no exaggeration to say that Erin may well be one of the most independent and adventurous people we have had on Colombia Calling and I am thrilled that she shared her insights with us.

Be sure to tun in to Episode 124 and find out why Erin travels down a notorious cocaine transshipment highway with some regularity.

Direct download: RCC_124.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:40am EDT

In this first episode of 2016 (no.123) we take a look at the key events of 2015 with regards to Colombia and how thes might pan out and affect this country in the coming 12 months.

What of the peace dialogues with the FARC guerrillas, will a final agreement be reached with the rebels to be signed in March? What are the probabilities of this and hear me explain that a final agreement does not mean peace in Colombia....yet.

Will tourism take up the slack on a faltering economy? Can it? With the Dollar at roughly 3200 pesos and the Pound at almost 5000 pesos there may never have been a better time to be a traveller or visitor to Colombia. Will oil prices continue to affect the country?

And finally, an update from Mompos and what is going on in my corner of paradise where I am running my little hotel (www.lacasaamarillamompos.com) over the high season before returning to Bogota to pick up my pen and pad and write more articles and indeed start on a new adventure of pursuing a PhD.

Direct download: RCC_123.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:47pm EDT

Can you imagine an experience as enriching as taking a secondment from your 9 to 5 grind in an office setting in London and moving to Colombia for six months to work with an NGO?

This is precisely what Briton Sarah Hornby has done and through her job at GSK she now finds herself nearing the end of a six month stay in Colombia which has seen her travel into some of the most remote and off-limits parts of Colombia to aid local communities with Save the Children.

Telling her story and sharing her effervescent love for Colombia one wonders how easy it will be for Sarah to return to London after an experience such as this. Tune in and find out about some of the projects that Sarah has been involved in here in Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_122.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

How does a young man from Bonn in Germany end up in Colombia, living in Bogota and starting up a new internet platform to facilitate the purchase of real estate here in Colombia for international investors? Well, this and many more are the topics for a lively conversation with Michael in Episode 121.

The idea behind Hallo Casa (www.hallocasa.com) is to create a space where people can get in touch directly with vendors and indeed real estate agents and then rate the quality of service provided. I for one have seen a need for some new blood and new ideas in the property market here since international investment is increasing, yet, the way real estate is brokered on the whole, remains very folkloric. This is where Michael comes in!

So, if you are interested in hearing Michael's story and indeed are interested in the Colombian property market, this is a show for you.

Direct download: RCC_121.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:13am EDT

In this Episode 120, the English voice of Colombia, Richard McColl, takes the opportunity to share some thoughts about some worrying situations afoot in Colombia. First, McColl discusses the plight of US-Colombian citizen Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, the star of the documentary "startup.com" who has been jailed in Colombia for accusations of security fraud in the US and is awaiting extradition to NY in the horrific conditions of Bogota´s La Picota jail.

And then secondly, McColl challenges the Mayor elect of Bogota Enrique Peñalosa to make good on promises, explain to the people why he will not be investing in an underground metro system which the country´s capital is so desperately in need of, and ask him how he plans to improve the city´s security situation.

McColl has declared that "he will eat a hat shaped cake" if Peñalosa is able to turn the fortune of Bogota around.

Direct download: RCC_120.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:12pm EDT

How comfortable would you be signing up to a list, paying a fee and dining with 10 other strangers? Well, there's a new culinary and social movement which is opening up private homes as venues for dinner parties. This is exactly what Sara Lisa Orstavik (a one time employee for the World Food Program) in Colombia is doing.

So, tune in to find out how Sara Lisa - with her Italian and Norweigan roots - came to be in Bogota and creating the underground dining event known as BogotaPopups.

If you are curious and want to know further details, of course tune in, but also check out the website at www.bogotapopups.com

Direct download: RCC_119.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:59am EDT

Netflix's hit series "Narcos" chronicles the rise of the Medellin Cartel and the U.S.-led manhunt to bring down its notorious kingpin, Pablo Escobar. Finally, as a foreigner living in Colombia I grew tired of the show and that's when I read Steven Cohen's excellent piece for the New Republic magazine.

Cohen has spent time in Colombia, two years in Medellin working for the Colombia Reports news site, and has clearly seen the damage done by this perpetuating of the Escobar myth and so it is a breath of fresh air to read and enjoy a coherent article about the series.

Listen to the show and read the article

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/123287/what-narcos-gets-wrong

Direct download: RCC_118.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:56pm EDT

In Episode 117, I am well out of my depth talking with the renowned Art Advisor and Curator Sandra Higgins who has recently moved to Colombia from London to pursue various projects here for the next six months.

Sandra is an expert in the field but exudes a humility unbecoming of someone so professional and well-known. Check out her websites here: http://sandrahiggins.com/
http://www.discoverartnow.co.uk/

We discuss the influence and techniques used by many artists here in Colombia and some of the issues they face working in a country in conflict and heading towards a possible peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas.

Be sure to tune in to learn more about contemporary Colombian art. Just one more thing, there's not one mention of Fernando Botero!

Direct download: RCC_117.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:22am EDT

So who is Brian Ward and why is this current resident of Sacramento, California writing a book about his experiences in Colombia? Episode 115 offers a frank and at times revealing chat about Brian's new book available on Amazon: "48,000,000 Colombians Can't Be Wrong: Finding Love In The Land of Shakira, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Fernando Botero and Sofia Vergara."

Brian comes up against up it in Bogota in his quest for true love, he falls into work as an extra in some Colombian soap operas, travels some of the country and from what I could tell, plays a fair amount of ping pong in a downtown hostel before he meets a young lady from Cartagena who becomes his wife.

Tune in to hear a tale of do's and don'ts in Colombia and check out Brian's book.

Direct download: RCC_115.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:01pm EDT

This week we receive a very welcome return to the studio by Dave Proctor, a Briton who has been based in Cali for some years, and who, with his team have successfully launched the cross Colombia mountain bike race called: The Legend of El Dorado.

Dave talks us through the seven stage race - not for novices - which takes in some of the most spectacular scenery that Colombia has to offer from deserts, to high altitude vistas and volcanos, jungle and coffee plantations.

This has been a labour of love by Proctor and his team and we wish him all the success necessary to make this one of Colombia's cornerstone mountain bike events. It's about showing off the country, biking and pushing tourism and sporting events to a whole new level.

For further information check out their website at: http://legendofeldorado.com/

Direct download: RCC_114.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:17pm EDT

In the light of the agreement reached by the FARC guerrillas and the Colombian government on Wednesday September 23 to sign a definitive peace accord on March 23rd 2016 bringing 51 years of conflict to an end, an interview with the Director of Save the Children couldn't have been timed more appropriately.

We get to sit down with Director Jez Stoner in the NGO's Bogota offices and talk about the possibilities of a post conflict situation in Colombia and learn about the realities and complexities of the Colombian conflict in an area as isolated and overlooked as Guapi on the Pacific coast.

Direct download: RCC_113.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:20pm EDT

It will not have escaped anyone's notice here in Colombia that more and more shows, series and films are coming to these shores to film and one company deeply involved in this process is Screen Colombia (www.screencolombia.com) run by Briton John Paul Lancaster and his Colombian wife Luna. Together they scour the land and beyond for ideal places for film sets.

In fact, I can only imagine that most of you out there have indeed watched some of the shows produced by Screen Colombia - without perhaps knowing that they were filmed here - because they include series such as Naked and Afraid and Banged Up Abroad.

So, I am thrilled to be able to share this interview with you and to be able to provide you with an insight into how Colombia is moving forward, why people are coming to film here and what's in the pipeline for the future.

Direct download: RCC_112.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:02am EDT

Sometimes you get the experience to explore a city to a profundity that is unexpected and last week I was able to visit the off-limits (drugs, prostitution, homelessness and misery) areas of Santa Fe and Martires to attend some presentations given by the Colombian department of National Heritage at the Teatro San Jorge. 

We can take the Teatro San Jorge (which opened her doors in 1938) as a central architectural piece displaying how the centre of Bogota has fallen into decadence since the 1940s. It's a socio economic change that has come about through communication, transportation access, the change in the economy and more...all issues and topics for discussion in Episode 111. 

If you are interested further in some of Bogota's hidden stories you can check them out here on my blog: 

http://www.richardmccoll.com/bogotas-forgotten-history/

http://www.richardmccoll.com/teatro-san-jorge/

Direct download: RCC_111.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:17am EDT

All too often friends and loved ones move away and in this case it's the turn of Tara Daze and Rafael Santamaria to bid us farewell. 

This couple, having met in Manchester UK and then married and moved across the world together, Colorado and Bogota amongst their homes, are now starting a new chapter of their lives in Houston, Texas. 

Listen to this Anglo Colombian couple speak of challenges bested in Bogota and their love for Colombia, the adventure ahead and more on this Episode 110 on Colombia Calling.

Direct download: RCC_110.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:21pm EDT

Taking the reins and enjoying his newfound fame as "The English Voice of Colombia", Colombia Calling host Richard McColl takes the show all alone in this Episode 109 talking all things Colombian. 

Having taken a short break in Miami Richard is back in Bogota and rearing to go, he discusses Tom Cruise's visit to Medellin to film yet another movie about Pablo Escobar, and apparently Sylvester Stallone is on his way too to look for places to film an inexplicable fourth instalment of The Expendables. 

The economy and the devaluation of the Colombian Peso are also a hot topic this week with the exchange rate swinging dramatically in favour of those wishing to invest funds from overseas into Colombia or to come and visit the country. 

And finally, we discuss the implications of the recent diplomatic spat between Venezuela and Colombia as Colombians living in Venezuela become the latest scaegoats of the Maduro regime. 

Tune in and enjoy!

Direct download: RCC_109.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:35pm EDT

Canadian surfer Brian Rea is living the dream. 

Having dropped out of university, he became a beach bum with a difference in Colombia. Using his skills and his brother Colm's knowledge they started the Costeno Beach Surf camp (www.costenosurf.com) along the Colombian Caribbean coast near to the pristine beaches of the Tayrona National Park. 

And the success story continues, running almost at full capacity all year round, later in 2015 these Toronto natives will be expanding their operations to include further palm frond huts and facilities for their guests in their corner of heaven.

Can it get any better you ask? Well, at the end of August Brian will be getting married to a Colombian pop star! People dream of this kind of lifestyle! Check out his fiancee Liliana's band Bomba Estereo when you get a chance. Described as psychadelic cumbia they are one of the most popular groups in Colombia at the moment (www.bombaestereo.com). 

But, it could have all gone terribly wrong just a few month ago as Brian was attacked by a huge crocodile after a surfing trip. Fortunately, he made it out alive and is here on Colombia Calling to share the tale with us. It's a jaw dropping account of survival, not to be missed!

Direct download: RCC_108a.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

I for one believe that there is a dearth of quality contemporary literature out there available about Colombia and while author Tom Feiling would clearly shy from the accolades at having successfully started to stop this gap, a routine search for informative and interesting books about this country would inevitably lead you to him. 

Feilings books "Short Walks from Bogota, Journeys in the New Colombia" (2012), and "The Candy Machine: How Cocaine Took Over the World" (2010) are two fascinating books and are highly recommended. So we track down Tom in London and get to discuss his latest project set for publication in 2016 all about the history of the Colombian Caribbean island of Providencia. 

Check out Tom Feiling's website here (www.tomfeiling.com) and inform yourself on Colombia before coming to visit!

Direct download: RCC_107.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:38am EDT

Joining us this week from Asheville, NC is David Seth Miller. To most travellers David will need no introductions as he's a familiar face on the travel writing scene as Matador's Senior Editor and Director of Curricula at MatadorU. Check out the Matador page if you don't know it and reap the benefits of some serious inspiration! matadornetwork.com

David is the winner of two consecutive Lowell Thomas awards for excellence in travel journalism (2010, 2011) and we get the opportunity to pick his brains about the travel writing industry, Matador and of course his new book out there available on amazon: "23 Writing Prompts that Make you Work Smarter: a radical approach to skill building for writers of all kinds". 

It's a real pleasure to listen to David's insights and this show is highly recommended for anyone possibly considering living the dream and becoming a travel writer/ blogger and so on. Find out how David broke in to the industry. 

And yes, buy the book!

Direct download: RCC-08-04.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:19pm EDT

Sitting down with Karen Attman is an education of encylopedic proportions, she knows her subject matter and so it is a delight to have her on the show. Her website www.flavorsofbogota.com is an unmissable resource for those coming to Colombia and those already here wishing to enjoy some of the finer cuisine on offer in Bogota and the rest of the country. 

But, this episode is not only about food, Karen brings with her a wealth of knowledge about northern latin america having lived in Venezuela for over a decade. I do not want to spoil the suprise, but we talk about jail time in Venezuela (both her and her Colombian husband!), travels and more.

Direct download: RCC-2015-07-28.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:16am EDT

It's not every day one gets to chew the fat (apologies, this is cockney rhyming slang for "chat") with a Franco Vietnamese expat in Colombia and less so when she's the author of the highly recommended website www.bogotastic.com! So, settle back with a good drink and tune in to listen to a fun chat with Jade Longelin on Colombia Calling who is making the most of her move to the Colombian capital city. 
 
Hear Jade and myself talk graffiti, identity, architecture, networking and more as we discuss her life in Bogota, the reasons for being here and indeed the reasons behind her website. If you are curious, drop her a line. 
Direct download: RCC-2015-06-29.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:28pm EDT

We know that Colombians love to party and what's more they are good at it, if not the best, but what about taking a look at Colombia's carnIvals, fiestas and ferias from a more academic perspective? 
 
When I heard that long time colombiaphile and Briton Charlotte McKenzie had actually written her Masters thesis on this very subject taking three celebrations to study from the Caribbean coast, I knew we had to get her on the show. 
 
Tune in and listen to journalist Charlotte waxing lyrical about the Vallenato Festival in Valledupar, the Carnival in Barranquilla and the fiestas in the small town of Cienega. This show offers a unique insight to what may be a Colombian obsession with partying.
Direct download: RCC-2015-06-22.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

This week we sitdown with the Australian master story teller, Barry Max Wills. Were he a Colombian and were his stories fictional, he would be referred to here as a cuentero, but no, Barry's stories are true and told in a fashion that makes one want to pull up a chair and listen for hours on end. 
 
An international citizen, Barry has lived in his native Australia, France and England, but is equally at home on his coffee finca called Rancho Grande out in Colombia's Eje Cafetero coffee region. As you can imagine, much of his humour and love for his adopted homeland stems from almost unbelievable tales about running this farm "out in the bush" as he likes to say.
 
Rather than spoil the show by revealing too much of the content, just suffice it to say that Chapter One of the collection of non fiction essays we published a couple of months ago "Was Gabo an Irishman? Tales from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Colombia," (http://goo.gl/Bmw7UE) was penned by Barry. We discuss his book in the works, "Letters from Colombia"....oh and did you hear the one about russian roulette? No, you'll just have to tune in.  
Direct download: RCC-2015-06-15.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Colombia Calling is tackling a sensitive but very newsworthy subject this week and it is that of adoptions from Colombia. Some months ago I was contacted out of the blue by Alex Westendorf, a Colombian by birth who was adopted at a young age and subsequently grew up in Iowa, USA. 
 
Now married and with two children of his own, Alex has started to investigate his past and is searching for a little more information about his identity. After having scoured the documentation available regarding his adoption he decided to come down to Bogota to have a look around, meet with the various relevant government bodies and try and trace a little of his background. 
 
We get to speak to Alex once he has returned to the US about his experiences in Bogota, whether he was able to trace his roots, find the orphanage where he lived and so on. 
 
This is an intensely personal and emotional interview this week and I hope that anyone out there who may have been through the same experience might reach out to share their findings in a similar situation.  
Direct download: RCC-2015-06-08.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Who would have thought that little old Colombia Calling would reach 100 episodes?! It's thanks to you the listeners out there for inspiring us to keep on going and keep on improving, 7000 plus downloads a week and growing!
 
This week to celebrate this landmark 100th episode, we have frequent guest, political analyst, Kevin Howlett to the show to discuss with us the realities and the concern abounding about the on-going peace dilaogues between the FARC rebels and the Colombian government in Havana, Cuba. 
 
Howlett's work as a Colombia expert can been seen here www.colombia-politics.com and his insight into the actual situation is second to none. Expect a conversation taking in the issues of the FARC guerrillas, mentions of the ELN rebels, the political cllimate in Colombia and indeed potential outcomes for the situation.  
Direct download: RCC-2015-06-01.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

What does an Australian ex accountant do when he comes to Colombia? Why, set up a food appreciation experience of course! This week we speak to Loon Lio of the highly recommended www.bogotafoodie.com website and talk to this stranger in a strange land about his new venture into the world of Colombian cuisine. 
 
Out to prove that Colombian food is anything but bland or insipid, Loon gives us an insight into how he came to create the Bogota Foodie website and indeed the Bogota "Food Safari" for the discerning visitor to the city. 
 
This "Food Safari" is described as offering something different say, "Anthony Bourdain with a dash of James Bond." We put Loon to the test and talk to him on Colombia Calling about how he came to appreciate Colombian food, why and how he is converting others to join the cause via the safari. 
 
Get in touch with Loon if you are interested in a fun-filled gastronomic journey through Bogota, the city's culture and cuisine.  
Direct download: RCC-2015-05-25.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:20am EDT

I have to be bluntly honest and say that I knew almost nothing about Creative Mornings, but now, having had the opportunity to sit down and chat with one of the organizers of the Bogota chapter (www.creativemornings.com/cities/bog), Maria Linares, I am hooked. 
 
Well, to keep it short, Creative Mornings was started in 2008 by Tina Roth Eisenbery out of a desire for an ongoing, accessible event for New York's creative community. The concept was simple: breakfast and a short talk one Friday morning every month. Every event would be free of charge and open to anyone. 
 
The Bogota chapter was created in February 2013 and has gone from strength to strength encouraging people to come each month to an interesting venue to participate and listen to creative people. That Bogota should have a chapter is more than appropriate as the city is full of young enterprising and altruistic people and speaking to Maria Linares, one gets a feel for the potential here. 
 
Linares herself is an established musician and has composed for a vast array of projects including film, documentaries, theatre and television. She'll also be releasing her own album soon. Get in touch with her here www.marialinaresmusic.com/
Direct download: RCC-2015-05-18.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:45pm EDT

Why the change? Well, to keep it brief it would be facetious to interview myself and so along with my two co editors I am interviewed by guest host, author, diplomat and former interviewee himself (Dec 2014) Ian McKinley. 
 
What is the interview about? Well, Ian gets to pose a number of questions to Victoria Kellaway, Caroline Doherty de Novoa and myself about our recently released book, the collection of non fiction stories entitled: "Was Gabo an Irishman?: Takes from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Colombia."
 
So, hopefully this interesting take on Colombia Calling freshens things up and just maybe the powerful and insightful questions asked by McKinley might make us squirm uncomfortably, but this is the game and we are playing it! You are bound to enjoy it!  
 
Hear all about our book which sold out at the Bogota Book Fair, has been featured in the Colombian and international press and which is available to buy on Amazon (http://goo.gl/zfR60Q)   

 

Direct download: RCC-2015-05-11.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:17pm EDT

This week we sit down once again with British Risk Management Consultant Ben Hockman (first interviewed on 1/9/14 http://goo.gl/xJG1ue) here in Bogota and discuss the implications for security in Colombia should a peace agreement be reached with the FARC guerrillas. We explore the significance of the recent spate of bombs placed by the country's second guerrilla group, the ELN, in Bogota, the support networks that both guerrillas retain in urban areas, the possibility of a bilateral ceasefire now since the dialogues with the FARC have been on-going since November 2012. 
 
Of course, no discussion of this nature would be complete without addressing the savage attack on a military outfit in the southwestern department of Cauca by the FARC two weeks ago that left 11 soldiers dead and placed the dialogues under severe strain and led to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to lift the suspension of aerial bombing on the FARC. Does the guerrilla group actually want peace? 
 
And finally, if a peace agreement is reached, how is Colombia prepared for a post conflict period. We discuss what took place after Guatemala's peace accords and the fallout from these poorly executed negotiations. 
Direct download: RCC-2015-05-04.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:21pm EDT

The other day I was able to interview a hot-shot Colombian start-up entrepreneur Alex Torrenegra over the phone to San Francisco. I had been alerted to Torrenegra’s existence through a Wall Street Journal piece and then a startlingly and refreshing article he has written on his website (Read: It’s Difficult to innovate in Colombia, Especially when the Government does more harm than Good.). At the end we discussed the fact that Colombia should be attempting and striving to create its own “Arepa Valley” and not mimic poorly the actual Silicon Valley.

And he’s right, but then Torrenegra is a shining example of a new and refreshingly altruistic generation of social entrepreneurs, just read the tagline on his website:Working on enabling humankind to reach its full Potential.

We also talk this week about the Bogota Book Fair and launching our book "Was Gabo an Irishman? Tales from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Colombia" and how you can win a copy.

Direct download: RCC-2015-04-27.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:59pm EDT

Far be it for me to be facetious and announce that the most important event in my life has taken place on April 9 2015, that of the birth of my son. It's just that he was born on an incredibly poignant day in Colombian history, something which we explore to greater depths on today's show for April 9 1948 is a day that lives long in infamy as the date upon which Liberal presidential candidate Jorge Eliecer Gaitan was assassinated in downtown Bogota. The resulting violence which razed much of the centre of the city to the ground is now known as the Bogotazo. 
 
But, rather than simply dwelling on this historically important date, we also take a look today - since it is so fresh in my mind given that I have survived of late regarding the birth of my son James - at the realities of the healthcare system in Colombia and what you might require as an expat here in the country with regards to your health insurance. It is complex and at times very unpleasant and incredibly costly so pay attention! 
Direct download: RCC-2015-04-20.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:27pm EDT

I don't believe I've ever met anyone from Newfoundland before so imagine my delight at getting to chat to Newfoundland native Beverley Caddigan here in Bogota! An expert in the Canadian legal system we discuss some of the differences between laws in her homeland and in Canada. 
 
Find out what brought Beverly here to Colombia and learn all about her business here (www.beverleycaddigan.com/). Beverley worked for years as an advoctae and as an adjudicator with the provincial government in Ontario, Canada. In her tenure in this system she became an expert in many facets and apsects of law.
 
If you are thinking of coming to Colombia, if you plan on working here, this is an episode to tune into as you'll want to hear all about the legal system, the reliability of contracts and the miasmi which is known as "la tertulia". 
Direct download: RCC-2015-04-06.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:49pm EDT

This week we discuss the new project being launched by Mancunian Dave Proctor who has been based - working as a teacher - in Cali for six years. When Proctor is not introducing the delights and cultural magnificence that is the English pub quiz to the sometimes confused yet good folk of Cali (where's the salsa dancing?), playing cricket for the Cali cricket team or playing in a football league he's planning a new mountain bike route across Colombia. 
 
This is the Legend of El Dorado (www.legendofeldorado.com) and the idea is to revolutionize the mountain biking calendar in Colombia. 
 
This eight stage race will begin in Zipaquira (home to the world famous Salt Cathedral) and then continue down the Magdalena River Valley through Guaduas before then making a huge ascent over the Nevado de Ruiz volcano and then down through the city of Manizales and taking in the national heritage town of Salamina before ending near to Medellin. How about that for a cross country mountain bike adventure across Colombia? 
 
For more info about Dave Proctor and his projects check out his blog: http://www.latinodave.blogspot.com/
Direct download: RCC-2015-03-30.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:32pm EDT

This week I am thrilled to have anglo french citizen Marie Quinney on the show live from the southern economic hub of Cali talking to us about finding a job down in her city, working and living there and indeed her thesis on the issue of "Fatalism and Povery in Cali" while studying at the London School of Economics. 
 
We'll discuss the class system and segregation in Colombia, how she conducted her research and interviews and how her life is developing in Cali and how she came to be in this city. 
 
What is most exciting is that Marie is an academic who is determined to shirk away from the sugarcoated blogs about parties, attractive women, sun and salsa and write, from her educated perspective, about life in Colombia. Check out her ruminations here: http://honestlycali.weebly.com/
 
Also, she is leading a funding drive to enable her partner Juan Felipe to be able to go and study at Cambridge University for an MPhil in Neuroscience focusing on addicition. Get involved people! http://www.gofundme.com/ly22b4
Direct download: RCC-2015-03-23.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:36pm EDT

In the light of recent events and announcements made by both the FARC guerrillas and the Colombian Government regarding the on-going peace process, we have taken the time to discuss the significance of Transitional Justice here in Colombia. 
 
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced the suspension of all military bombing raids on FARC rebel camps last week. This was the most recent declaration that has gone a long way to securing an atmosphere of trust between the two sides. Remember, just a week ago, the announcement was that of FARC guerrillas working alongide official military in aiding the eradication of landmines in Colombia. These are major steps forward and so we discuss the repercussions and importance of the peace dialogues and the real meaning of transitional justice. 
 
Also on another note, something which has been dominating the headlines has been the government's complete capitulation to the yellow taxi unions in Bogota by outlawing the private online taxi service of Uber and UberX. We talk about what this means for the city's beleaguered consumers and our right of choice in the matter. 
 
Don't forget! March 17 is our to chance to protest on what is no being called a: "No Taxi Day" to promote the right to choice and to fair competition. 
Direct download: RCC-2015-03-16.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:31pm EDT

Rather than cornering a travel blogger to wax lyrical on the tropical fruit available in Colombia, this week we speak to Briton Francesca Tarrent, a keen observer of Colombia. We talk about Francesca's recent journeys around Colombia which have taken her to the haunting and harrowing ruins of Armero, where, 30 years ago this year a massive landslide brought about by a volcanic eruption killing almost 20,000 people from a population of 29,000. 
 
After Armero, Francesca visited the former country mansion of someone you might have heard of, Pablo Escobar, the former global godfather of international cocaine trafficking. His finca, Hacienda Napoles, located near to Puerto Triunfo was once an opulent structure where he housed tropical animals and entertained his visitors. Only this week, the main building collapsed putting paid to the possibility of an authentic museum to illustrate the havoc wreaked by Escobar. 
 
And finally, our conversation turns to that of the elitist nature of Colombian society with a discussion about recent events involving a character named Nicolas Gaviria which has dominated debate with the hashtag #ustednosabequiensoyyo (do you know who I am?) in the Colombian national press. For more information about this story, read on  http://www.richardmccoll.com/ustednosabequiensoyyo/
Direct download: RCC-2015-03-09.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:19pm EDT

Recording this show made me want to give everything up, pack it all in and spend my savings on a 4x4 and go on an adventure. Although, any adventure I take would pale in comparison to that achieved and being undertaken by dutch couple Karin-Marijke and Coen. 
 
Karin-Marijke, Coen and their Toyota Land Cruiser BJ45 have been on the road in Asia and South America since 2003. They are often characterized as the slowest overlanders in the world but for them it’s all about staying in places and connecting with people. Can you imagine my excitement to be able to sit down and chew the fat with Karin at a coffee house in Bogota and hear about their adventures in Iran and in Colombia and beyond before they headed off along a little known route to Puerto Carreno at the far end of the Colombian Llanos bordering Venezuela! 
 
Read more about their incredible lives here on their website: http://www.landcruisingadventure.com/ and tune in to the show to hear a first account of life on the road. 
Direct download: RCC-2015-03-02.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:13pm EDT

In today's show we get to explore a little more about the situation of scarcity of household goods in Venezuela. Last week it was condoms and so as a first on Colombia Calling we have launched a competition to find the best or most appropriate or most amusing name for the state funded condoms which President Maduro is promising to produce. 
 
After tackling this lightweight topic, we move on to the issue of tourism and being a tourism operator here in Colombia. This is based on jy own experiences operating a hotel here in the small town of Mompos. www.lacasaamarillamompos.com As we have the big tourism fair coming up in Bogota at the end of the month I am talking about what to expect and how to survive it and the difficulties we face in this industry in Colombia. 
 
And finally, in the last segment of the show I provide you with snippets from my interview with the infamous Christopher Kavanagh or "the Mick" who I interview with the aim of writing a story about him. Some of you may remember him as being the subject for the new novel "Mad Outta me Head" by Colin Post featured on this show some months ago. The Mick was imprinsoned in Colombia in 1986 for trying to smuggle cocaine bback to Ireland and he has remained in a legal limbo ever since. For the first time, I sit down with for a beer or seven and interview this legend of Bogota's underworld. 
Direct download: RCC-2015-02-09.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:07pm EDT

This week we sit down on Colombia Calling with Briton Naomi Dalton, the author of the a fabulously informative website entitled: "How to Bogota." (www.howtobogota.com)

How to Bogota is divided into seven helpful categories including those of, Life in Bogota, Transport, Money, Enterntainment, Food, Shopping and finally, Safety, must be giving the guidebooks on Colombia a run for their money. Dalton writes it as she sees and experiences it as each entry and chapter is both instructional and personal making it an enjoyable page to read and indeed re-visit. 

This is a fascinating interview with someone making a life here in Bogota and who has set out her stall to help others in the same situation. You can read her pieces on how to procure gainful employment, the ins and outs and the bureaucracy of renting an apartment and how to avoid being a target for common crime in the city. 

Dalton's website is highly recommended and is a must read for anyone thinking of coming to Bogota for an extended period of time. I only wish that she had set this up back in 2007 when I had to take on all these challenges alone!

Direct download: Colombia_Calling-2015-01-19.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:30pm EDT

Finishing up the series and Episode 81 of Colombia Calling in Mompos, we sit down this week with Briton Chris Bell and discuss the finer things in Colombia such as the differences between birding, birdwatchers and twitchers, Radamel Falcao's move to Manchester United, traveling in Colombia and what 2015 possibly means for the peace dialogues. 

Hailing from rural Shrewsbury we discover what has brought Chris Bell to Colombia and how he became the editor in chief of the See Colombia Travel blog (www.seecolombia.travel/blog) - voted best blog of the Americas in 2014. The Colombia Travel Blog, the most visited travel blog about Colombia in English and Spanish, was created to smash the widespread and long outdated stereotypes about this astonishing country. Their team of international travelers are passionate about sharing their fresh perspectives about traveling and living in Colombia, traveling around the world and keeping you up to date with what you're missing by not being here.

So, tune in for a frank, enjoyable and amusing chat with Chris Bell.

Direct download: Colombia_Calling-2015-01-12.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:21am EDT

Clearly, we are all aware that Colombia's Nobel Prize Winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez did not, in fact, hail from Ireland, but, in the first episode for Colombia Calling in 2015, we discuss with authors Victoria Kellaway (Colombia: A Comedy of Errors) and Caroline Doherty de Novoa (Dancing with Statues) a new collection of "Gabo" inspired essays written by Colombians and foreigners alike and due for publication in April of this year.

With submissions from all over the globe and with a number of heavyweight contributors, this new homage to Gabo will be launched at Bogota's Book Fair which runs from April 22 to May 4 2015, and be edited by the aforementioned authors and myself and published by Papen Press. 

Noting the change that is taking place in Colombia, the new year ahead and new challenges for the country, the three of us sit down in the garciamarquian setting of Mompos (www.lacasaamarillamompos.com) and discuss the inspiration and the reasons behind this new book, who it is aimed at and why it should appeal to anyone interested in Colombia. As yet, we are still sifting through the submissions but it is so interesting and exciting to have personal articles from a true variety of backgrounds, countries and contexts and all of which are very different from one another.

Listen in here to an exclusive sneak peak of "Was Gabo an Irishman" and whet your appetite for a fresh look at the magic realism of Colombia.

Direct download: Colombia_Calling-2015-01-05.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:38pm EDT

Jim Davies is the kind of person I want to sit down with and buy a beer or three and listen to his tales of derring do here in Colombia. The incongruity of it all is almost too much to fathom as he regales us in this week's episode with stories about his new friendship with the one and only Faustino Asprilla, his facebook friendship with Dania (of secret service fame, you know who I am talking about!) and further notbale personalities in Colombia. 

But, the real reason we have invited Davies on the show is that he is yet another foreigner in Colombia doing something for Colombia. Every conversation one has with Davies is punctuated with mentions of social projects that he has planned, has executed or has underway. Tune in to hear about the photography inspired workshop which produced proceeds for the more down at heel barrios of Soacha in southern Bogota, about his plan to start a "sponsored rubbish bin" drive in Cali so as to increase cleanliness and environmental awareness. 

Why Davies and why Colombia? How does a picture editor at one of the UK's most prestigious newspapers end up in Cali. Hear it all on this show "An Englishman in Cali."

Direct download: Colombia_Calling-2014-12-29.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:18am EDT

Forgive me for saying this from the off, but I am particularly pleased with this show for you with Julia Symmes Cobb. It has the perfect balance between history, Colombia, journalism and quirky eccentricities of the past. So, get this, I met Julia - a freelancer in Colombia for Reuters and the Washington Post - through another journalist and over the months we have become friends, in fact her parents even came down and stayed in my hotel in Mompos...but this was all part of their research into a long deceased relative who travelled the Magdalena River exploring towns and tributories in this region on a search for gold. 

So, Julia's great grandfather was in this very area of Cartagena, Barranquilla, Magangue (all Caribbean areas of Colombia) and even further adrift back in 1900 and until 1902. The diary is a wonderfully embossed collection of letters about his travels and travails with a beautiful turn of phrase that you would expect from an educated individual of the era. We never really learn how the gold dredging business fared for this adventurer but what we are treated to is an unrivalled insight into Colombia during the initial phases of a conflict. References to Conservative forces and Liberal forces litter the text and there are even carefully drawn maps of the river and indeed of Barranquilla. 

Be sure to tune in to learn about a little known period of Colombian history all told through personal anecdotes placed in a treasured diary.

Direct download: Colombia_Calling-2014-12-22.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:07am EDT

Doing his first ever media interview as a writer here on Colombia Calling, we take the opportunity to talk about Colombia and his new novel The Gallows Gem of Prallyn with Canadian diplomat Ian McKinley. 

As always, the interview takes the form of an interesting exploration of the experiences people encounter as they move through Colombian life. And indeed as his new direction in becoming a published author! Perhaps most interestingly, we ask how is it that a career diplomat writes a fantasy novel!

So, tune in to enjoy a free flowing discussion of Ian McKinley's development as a diplomat who writes, from absorbing the atmosphere of the situation of civil war in Angola, to missions to the peace negotiations in San Vicente de Caguán in Colombia, from Guy Gavriel Kay versus Tolkien, to the publication of The Gallows Gem of Prallyn. Check out the book here: http://northernfire.net/

The e-book version of The Gallows Gem of Prallyn is easily obtained through either Kobo or Amazon so be sure to check it out on either of these pages. (http://goo.gl/eZg8kt)

Direct download: Colombia_Calling-2014-12-15.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:04am EDT

Creative writing has hardly ever been my forte, I am a journalist by trade and therefore try as best I may to stay within the limits of creativity as defined by the facts of the story as it is delivered or suggested by a source, so, it was a great pleasure some weeks ago to be invited to participate in a sit down and feedback session with the Bogotá Writers (http://www.bogotawriters.com/). I suppose these groups exist all over the place, but this was my first time participating in something of this nature and how exciting to know that something like this exists in Bogotá.

The Bogotá Writers group consists of eight individuals – all of them published authors – who share a desire to write, perhaps to enable them to be lifted away from the monotonous grind of Bogotá’s traffic or perhaps to facilitate an escape from the reality of the 9 to 5. There is the quirky self-proclaimed “professional geek” who seems to be inspired by the more sinister aspects of writing (you’ll have to buy the book), the author who was stifled in her youth by the glaring failures of the English schools system in weeding out an uninspired educator (you know who you are), the ubiquitous Irish writer (we’ve had her on Colombia Calling) and the incredibly well-travelled and well-informed academic amongst others. It’s an interesting group to say the least. In French you would call it a perfect métissage des cultures. 

Tune in to hear of an example of why Bogota boasts such an educated citizenry.

Direct download: Colombia_Calling-2014-11-24.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:25pm EDT

The ongoing peace dialogues between the FARC guerrillas (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the Colombian government began in November 2012 and so to mark almost exactly two years to the date since they began, we sit down with Gwen Burnyeat and Andrei Gomez, two academics and intellectuals involved in a group called Rodeemos el Dialogo (https://rodeemoseldialogo.wordpress.com/).

ReD is a group of Colombians, and friends of Colombia, resident in the UK and Colombia, who wish to express their interest in, and active support for, the peace negotiations between the Colombian Government and the FARC.The name of the group – ‘Rodeemos el Diálogo’, ‘Let us surround the dialogue’ – draws its inspiration from a popular Colombian saying referring to the need to provide support to an important cause in difficult times.

ReD is convinced that the path towards the end of the armed conflict in Colombia can only be assured through negotiations between the Colombian Government and the FARC, which should be based on the principles of truth, justice and reparation. They also believe that a lasting peace in Colombia has to be built on the active participation and wishes of the whole of Colombian society.

I have had the opportunity to attend a couple of their meetings and it has been refreshing to listen to people from all sectors of society voicing their concerns and hopes for peace in Colombia. So, if you want to hear about the peace dialogues and what is going on, tune in!

Direct download: Colombia_Calling-2014-11-17.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:53am EDT

Several years ago author Brian Kevin came through my little town of Mompos and stayed in the Casa Amarilla. I had no idea he was following in the footsteps of one of my favourite authors, the forefather of gonzo journalism, Hunter S Thompson. I had no idea that Thompson had travelled South America in 1962/63 and as a shrewd observer of political events, his journey during the height of the Cold War and during dictatorial latin american regimes was partially reported in the now defunct National Observer newspaper and in his collection "The Proud Highway". 

Kevin speaks to us from Maine where he currently located and tells about the journey in writing this book, his reflections on "the gringo trail" through South America and his reflections on the nature of travel in his recently released "The Footloose American: Following the Hunter S. Thompson Trail Across South America".

Read more about the interview with Brian Kevin on my blog (http://www.richardmccoll.com/footloose-american/) and buy the book (http://goo.gl/edaGX8) for a fascinating insight into contemporary South America seen through the eyes of someone who clearly has found his voice as a pioneering writer of his generation.

Direct download: Colombia_Calling-2014-11-10.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:43am EDT

This week we sit down with renowned Dutch Photographer and Journalist Fetze Weerstra who has just been to Mompos for the 3rd Jazz Festival as a guest of the Colombian tourism board. Can you imagine that in his time here in Colombia, Fetze was an innovator in creating a line of postcards with which to promote through their sale in major hotels and bookstores. So, in doing this he has been able to provide picture perfect images to the long overlooked tourist public and has been, albeit amusingly, very successful in perfecting an old concept and reconsidering it for the twenty first century. Check out his work here http://www.fetzeweerstra.com/

Of course, taking full advantage of his time to Mompos where, as you well know, I run my own little hotel, I get to discuss with him the various phases of tourism in Colombia and indeed the importance of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and how he found the town. As a photographer one hopes that he was able to capture the picturesque and authentic nature of out garcia marquian town.

Direct download: Colombia_Calling-2014-11-03.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:14am EDT

This week we catch up with Maryland native Matt Aaron and speak about how he came to be in Colombia - full time now since 2010 - and his work over the years here. Aaron initially worked for a volunteer project and so we get a good insight into the realities of that world here in Colombia, before experiencing an epiphany and deciding to live his life in a more healthy fashion. 

From 2011 Aaron has been working on creating health food products for both sale in Colombia and for exportation in the United States. His initial plan was to sell coca leaf tablets, but, realising that he faced an uphill battle on this for the obvious reasons, he turned his attentions to panela. 

For those unfamiliar with panela, it is the unrefined whole cane sugar derived from the boiling and evaporation of sugarcane juice. Aaron has taken the bricks of panela, ground them down and has created a new organic energy drink containing panela and mixed with various fruits such as lulo, passion fruit and red fruits. The result is flavoursome and natural and soo he will be exporting to stores in the Miami area. Check out his product at http://www.panelamix.com/ if you are interested. Aaron can also source exotic products for you via his other enterprise http://www.valorfoods.com

Direct download: RCC.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:02am EDT

At this point in time when Colombian politicians are talking only of reconciliation and of a post conflict phase to the situation in-country, we here at Colombia Calling have the opportunity of taking a step back and finding out who are these international people actually investing time and effort into improving the lives of the most humble. Alice Dow and her husband Agustin are two of these people. 

In a fascinating interview we get to sit down with native New Yorker Alice and talk about their foundation Healing Colombia (www.healingcolombia.org) and the work they have been doing for over a decade with some of Colombia's most needy communities. What makes this most timely and poignant is that they have been at the fore of launching a mentor program - similar to those in NY and London - where Colombians and/or foreigners can commit to a year of being a mentor with an individual from a marginal barrio in Bogota. 

This has been a roaring success and now Alice and Agustin and their team are embarking on the second phase of the mentor program. Tune in to hear about a foreign couple giving back to Colombia.

Direct download: Colombia_Calling-2014-10-06.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:36am EDT

Can you dance like a Colombian? Sadly I have to admit that even after eight years here I am a poor imitation of any Colombian, so imagine how British writer Neil Bennion (www.wanderingdesk.com) felt when he decided to train himself up in a six month stay in Colombia and write a book about his travails. 

Bennion begins his journey in Colombia's de facto capital of dance, the city of Cali, takes lessons, suffers, succeeds and then takes off around the country. In what is an informed, digestible and enjoyable travel novel, Bennion details a history of Colombia and her regions through the music discovered and explored. His travels take him through a variety of destinations including Medellin, Bogota, the Eastern Plains and up onto the Caribbean coast where he finds himself in San Basilio de Palenque, a community of former African slaves with their own independent identity separate to that of the rest of Colombia. 

We catch up with Bennion in Poland and grill him about "Dancing Feat: One Man's Mission to Dance Like a Colombian", his first book and find out if, after his lengthy stay here, he is in act able to dance like a Colombian and how this skill benefits him now. Download his book here on Amazon http://goo.gl/e6Qv3n .

Direct download: Colombia_Calling-2014-09-29.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:40pm EDT

Expat Briton Kevin Howlett brings a wealth of parliamentary knowledge from the UK and is using it for good here in Bogota, his home town since 2011. Talking about what it is like to live and work in Bogota, Kevin speaks of his love for Colombia and why he chose to make a life here. We discuss Colombian politics, the peace dialogues, security in Colombia, the strength of family ties in Colombia, literature and where to travel.

Direct download: Colombia_Calling-2013-06-03-1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:29am EDT