What I Learned in Colombia

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I did a 3 week vacation in Colombia over the Christmas/New Years break a few years ago.  Amazing country.  Highly recommend going.

Maybe I'm already missing the amazing weather, beaches and the friendliness of the people but there are some things that Colombia does better than Canada that I noticed and some things that make me love our country even more...although I do miss the ability to buy Chiclets at any hour in any location.  Remember the small 2 packs of Chiclets you used to get at halloween?  Well, they're all for sale down in Colombia now.

Canada and Colombia are 2 vastly different countries for countless reasons from geography/weather to income levels and the disparity between rich and poor.  Canada too has a divide between the rich and the poor but nowhere near what a country in South America does.  From numerous conversations over the weeks with Colombians, there is a belief that where (and how much $$$) you are born into plays a vital role in how your life will turn out.  Born into a poor family, you will get a poor (if any) education and the chance to improve yourself and climb the ladder is between zero and nada.  Born into a rich family the sky is the limit.

The city of Medellin has made a major effort to combat this disparity.  The city (former stronghold of Pablo Escobar) is located in a tight valley with the city stretching up the hills as it expands.  Holding roughly 3 million people ,the size of Montreal but much more compact, the city is a perfect example of rich vs poor.

The city has decided to invest it's $$$ in 2 major things to try and bring up the lower end of the population.  Transit and education.  They have a beautiful metro line which stretches along the valley floor connecting the far ends of the city with the vibrant center.  On top of this, they have installed a gondola system to connect the most impoverished neighborhood with the main metro line.  Allowing the population easy access to the rest of the city and the potential for employment.

Secondly, they have built the most beautiful, architecturally interesting public libraries in the most impoverished neighborhoods.  These beautiful buildings are icons for these neighborhoods and a safe reaching out point to attempt to engage the younger generation in reaching for a higher education.  Only time will tell if these investments provide the return they are looking for within the population but I applaud their effort.

Another thing I appreciated about Medellin was the city's forwardness in architecture.  They aren't affraid to look outside the box and build iconic buildings.  Now, I understand that our climates are not exactly the same, +30 during the day, +20 at night (everyday), but the ability to look beyond building glass boxes and striving for the visually interesting is something to aspire too.  They want to be a world class city, we should too.  This includes creating public spaces and parks for people to congregate, sit in a social way and watch the world go by.  Yet another thing Canada could learn from Colombia.

Saying all this, travelling makes you appreciate Canada even more.  The cleanliness of our cities, the opportunity to better yourself as much as you'd like to, our education system (as maligned as it is at times), public infrastructure, clean water out of the tap and in most of our lakes.  Really the only thing we can honestly complain about is the weather but I for one enjoy having 4 seasons.  Although on a day like today, Medellin's weather does look pretty good.  Then again talking/complaining about the weather is a large part of being Canadian...how would we ever start a conversation without "is it hot/cold enough for you?"

Read 2026 times Last modified on Friday, 22 January 2016 11:23