Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hola From Columbia

Greetings from the people of Columbia, at least that is what I have been asked to pass on. By the time that I post this Saturday morning, I will have just returned from a five day trip to Bogota, Columbia. There were a couple of things in this short trip south that I couldn't help but notice, and I thought that I would share them with you briefly (mostly because I am exhausted from another 15 hour travel day).  

For those of us in Toledo who are complaining about there not being enough police serving the city and that those out there are not visible, let me tell you that things in Bogota are very different. This city of a little over 3,000,000 people has some 10,000 police officers. As a consequence, I can tell you that the police presence here are very visible. They are on many street corners, at the newspaper where I worked this week, and very much in evidence at the airport; and let me tell you that they and their counterparts in the army are readily apparent to even the most casual observer. 

As someone who is a stranger here in Columbia (and simply strange in most other places), and who does not speak the local language, I must tell you that this highly visible presence of protection was extremely comforting. The second thing that struck me this week was the concern of the Columbian people for us. I cannot tell you how many people who have stopped me to talk to me ask how things were going in the US and what the long-term economy looks like. 

While I expect that there was a self-serving aspect to some part of this questioning, as the US is Columbia's largest trading partner, I sensed a real concern on their part for what might be going on and for the people of the US. They are likewise curious about the feelings of the American people on the massive bailout packages in the US that have been making news all over the world. The only honest answer that I could share with them was our similar concern (and the fact that I was yet to clear US Immigration had nothing to do with it). Quite frankly I don't know of anyone who is sure that our government has done the right thing (though many of us suspect that they have not). I likewise don't know of anyone who knows if it will do any good, or how and when all of this might end.  

While I have to say that I am grateful for my safe return to the US (even Toledo looks pretty good right now), I must again extend my thanks and gratitude to the people that I met and worked with in Bogota. They were universally friendly and helpful to a stranger (and who is stranger than me), who spoke no Spanish and was mostly helpless in trying to get around the city. I have seldom been treated so well in any city in the world.


1 comment:

Ben said...

I find it very interesting that the people of Columbia were so interested in the US economy.

And they should be concerned.