Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Monday night in Quibdó

Quibdó, Department of Choco, Colombia

Monday night after dinner (fried fish, coleslaw, fried plantains and guava nectar), I spent some time at an internet café two doors away from our hotel. I was catching up on work e-mail and believe it or not, approving my department's time sheets. I was also trying to drop an e-mail to my family at home who I hadn't called since I had arrived

The café was on the second story and the computers were outside on a covered patio tiled with slabs of terracotta. The computers were set up in wooden desks that had high plywood sides for privacy. They were built to allow a padlock to secure them when the place shut down. Some people were online and others were chatting and drinking beer and juices at little tables.

I had a bit of a wait until a computer would be free, the music and talking and laughter made me forget how far away home was. I wanted to relax and forget about the immense problems I was forced to confront here in Colombia. I wanted to make a connection with people who were not involved with the saga of displacement.

The evening shift had ended at the police barracks across the street and young policemen busied themselves online. They were dressed more like soldiers with camouflage uniforms and heavy black combat boots, and they were probably e-mailing their girlfriends back home.

A computer became free so I sat next to Matthew Bristow, our interpreter, who was busy lining up an assignment for himself as a reporter since tomorrow was our last day together. Matthew, an extremely likeable and knowledgeable guy, was somewhat of an expert in the other scourge of this country—coca production.

For many in journalism Matthew is the "go to" person for this topic. He publishes a blog, Colombia News (the last post I saw was dated last September) currently featuring a fascinating video he shot about a paramilitary commander dealing with FARC. This same blog has another interesting piece of footage that he shot about narco-terrorism called "The Cocaine Trail".

Matthew left for the hotel to retire for the evening, but I was a little restless and stayed at the café just absorbing the rhythms of Quibdó at night. When I finally left I paid my bill for the use of the internet and it came to around $3.50, including the Coke without ice that I drank.

When you are wide awake, in a foreign country and it's night time, a hotel room painted turquoise without any windows is really the last place you want to be. But, I dutifully returned, knowing that I had to get up and see more programs in Quibdó before our flight back to Bogota tomorrow afternoon.

Luckily, the color tv was hooked up to receive some English speaking stations. My head ached from trying to speak and think in Spanish. So Starsky and Hutch reruns looked mighty fine to me!


© Copyright 2009 Guy Arceneaux All rights reserved

No comments: