Los Diarios del Gringo – A Preview

Forced by a mysterious Microsoft malady to use the computers at Kelvin Grove’s QUT library I have only today discovered some pretty cool news.

As of Friday the 13th (whether the date proves ominous, we shall see) of January your intrepid reporter (blogger, whatever) has been informed that come second semester, I will be blogging, posting and worrying the socks off your mother from none other than Bogotá, Colombia! Both readers will be thrilled!

My application for a year as an exchange student has been accepted by QUT. Natural disasters, wars, revolutions, (all apparently quite common and ongoing in Colombia) or any kind of mishap at the Australian end of the operation notwithstanding, I will be attending Universidad del Rosario in the heart of Colombia’s mountain capital for second semester 2012 and first semester 2013.

No, there will be no palm trees swaying in a gentle Carribean breeze, no mojitos by the beach. Instead there will shortness of breath due to 2640 metres of altitude, mountains and, if SBS weather is to be believed, an abundance of rain. But there will be culture by the gutful, a latin swagger to life whose origins I experienced for a brief but glorious month in Spain, the colonial mother of almost all latin America. There will be dances to learn, a language to master, kidnappers and a civil war to avoid, latinas to chase and a whole lot of fun to be had that I just haven’t found in warm but adolescent, naive, self-important Brisbane.

Despite weekly lessons my Spanish is, at best, imaginative and financially I’m hopelessly unprepared. There’s a waning, but still ongoing, civil war between the government and the revolutionary, drug dealing FARC, a massive drug trade that is nevertheless subsiding, and the decreasing, but still present, chance of kidnapping. There are slums. There is poverty and violence. There are a lot of Colombians in Brisbane who have come looking for a better life, but who are adamant that I will never want to leave their country. Already many have asked why you’d want to not only visit, but live in such a place?

One answer is “because there’s not too many others who would”. As an aspiring freelance journalist with a lot in the way of ambition and not a lot in the way of talent, the willingness to go to places many wouldn’t consider sending their in-laws to is the only edge I have. And damnit, I’m going to exploit it.

The other answer is, of course, that it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun and an awesome experience.

Nevertheless, Colombia is no Somalia. Many of the stories may be true, and the bad reputation in terms of general safety may be somewhat deserved, but Colombia is a country where violence and the drug trade are on the decline, being combatted by a hard nosed, take-no-prisoners conservative government. There is violence, crime, drugs, and the odd province to be avoided, but it’s not near as bad as it used to be. It’s a transition that will be interesting to observe first hand.

So this is the first in a series I will entitle ‘Los Diarios del Gringo’ (‘Gringo Diaries’, for those of you playing at home) that should get underway with gusto come June/July. It’ll be a document of my experiences, observations, journalistic output, and proof of life for anyone from my dear, long suffering mother to the casual clicker through.

This blog is about to get a whole lot more interesting muchachos, stay tuned.

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