Patriotic little bird

The U.S. has the mighty Bald Eagle, Colombia has the Andean Condor, national birds can be a beautiful symbol of determination, tenacity and a huge source of pride. Now British and Colombian scientist have discovered a new spicies of finch.

Yariguies Brush-Finch

This little bugger is actually wearing the Colombia flag (Como la ve!). I say that he will give the Condor a run for its money with the Colombian pride side, however a Condor can probably just make a snack of the little bird. Cool nonetheless. (originall posted over at Proyecto Colombia).

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Rincon Colombiano

Rincon Colombiano

El Rincon Colombiano (The Colombian Corner) is a Colombian restaurant here in Kansas City. Even though this is a little place with limited tables and space, it really made me feel welcomed. I looked for a Colombian restaurant in Michigan since I first moved in, but I only found one down in Detroit and I never had the chance to go. I was lucky enough to find El Rincon to be only about 20 minutes from where we will be living.

I have been to about 4 different Colombian restaurants in the US. Some were even in the “fancy” side, people were always friendly, but nothing like I experienced at El Rincon. I had a great “home cooked” flavored Colombian meal with “chorizo, chicharon and empanadas” but the cool thing was that in one afternoon I made some new friends. Even a famous one, I have DJ Kiko’s cell phone number who is the authority in the Colombian community when it comes to music in this city. I also have someone that can do my taxes and help with accounting and legal matters. I met more Colombians in an afternoon than I did in 10 years in Chicago. It is nice to have a very close nit community here in Kansas City.

The food was awesome and the company second to none, so my first full day as a Kansas City resident couldn’t have been better.

Wasteful Society

This morning besides road rage guy being behind me again, in a brand new Monte Carlo none-the-less, I was amazed by a story on the news. A family was kicked out of an all you can eat restaurant in Iowa.

Now, the first thought that came to mind is that the family, like some others I have heard about, spent 2 or 3 hours there eating more than their share. Nothing wrong with that, its an all you can eat place and well if you pay, why not. To my surprise, as the story was being told, they were actually kicked out for taking food, then a little bite and throwing the whole plate away.

What amazed me was not that this happens, but that the DJs on the radio were actually defending the family behavior. Their position was that they paid for the all you can eat buffet, so they should be able to get as much food and do with it as they pleased. What was even more amazing to me was the wacky DJs then switched to having people call in with stories of stealing food from an all you can eat buffet.

I am not sure if anyone of you has ever done this, I honestly cannot remember ever stuffing my pockets with egg rolls. I do however respect someone that does that a little more than someone that throws food away.

The family’s defense was the following…

”They told us we are not welcome there anymore,” said Dershem, a repeat customer at the Dragon House buffet. ”We waste too much food. But the buffet is all you can eat. And you know kids. They won’t always eat everything, and they want something else.”

The all you can eat restaurant replied with this…

“Shes done that too many times,” Cao said. “We would welcome her back if she has respect and knows what she wants.”

The people from the restaurant had observed the family on previous trips and this seemed to be a common occurrence. I do know kids, and yes they can be very wasteful in an all you can eat buffet, but after the first time in a new place I believe they know what they like and don’t. It is also the parent’s responsibility to either limit the kids on what they take or actually go serve their kids plate. I don’t agree with the free for all kids are kids, lets take four egg rolls eat half of one and waste the rest.

I worked at the fast food restaurant with the golden arches for a number of years. It was when I first moved to the US and was still learning the culture here. It was hearth breaking to me to see how much food was being wasted there every day when I came from a place where food was only thrown away if it was spoiled. There was always a neighbor or a less fortunate person that would get the food if my family could not eat it. One of my managers told me once to not make such a big deal, was I going to take the food to the starving kids in Africa?

Wasting food has always been something that bothers me. As I moved up at the restaurant I made sure that towards the end of the night or a food change, less and less food was prepared so the food wasting was kept to a minimum. It was good for profits and the owners liked it. Actually the restaurant is set up to do that very efficiently, but lazy people would prepare extra food so if we had a rush there would always be enough. I obviously don’t work there anymore, but I am still very mindful of food wasting.

One of the things that I always heard my family said when they came back to Colombia to visit and I was still living there was that the US was a disposable society. Everything was to be used and disposed of. I did not fully understand their statement until I moved here. We compromise so many things for the sake of convenience. I am not implying that the restaurant owner here was doing it because he does not believe in wasting food or is an advocate for ending world hunger. For all I know his main concern is the bottom line. The statement that makes me almost believe other wise is the one that has the word respect. I just wish that as a society it would not be ok to take a full plate of food and waste it.

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My Grandfather’s Favorite Quote – La Frase Favorita de mi Abuelito

“Estudia y no seras cuando crecido, el juguete vulgar de las pasiones, ni el esclavo servil de los tiranos”
-Benito Pablo Juarez Garcia

Version en Español

The quote translates as “Study and while growing up you will not be, the vulgar toy of passions, nor the servile slave to the tyrants.” I was very young when I first heard this quote. Come to think of it, I think my love for quotes and proverbs came from my Grandfather.

“Mi Abuelito” (My Grandpa) is in the hospital in critical condition. I got the call last night that I have been dreading for quite some time. It makes me mad that I am so far away and I cannot be by his side right now. It frustrates me that I might never get to see him alive again. It saddens me that I did not get to spend more time with him as an adult and learn more life lessons from him.

Growing up I was always spending time with my Grandfather. I loved listening to him, to his stories, to what he believed. A lot of my values and respect driven life come from him. While my father always led by example and reinforced the values, my Grandfather was the one that educated me in a lot of life lessons through his words. He is a very generous person, and even though he never had real monetary wealth, what he gave me in knowledge is worth more than all the gold he could have ever given me. Compassionate, accepting and always in the search for justice.

My Grandfather led one of the first unions in Colombia at one of the big chemical companies. He accomplished everything he could not just at work but bringing up his family. He is the first one to admit that he is not perfect, that he made a lot of mistakes while growing up, but he tried to always be true to what he believed. I hope he gets better and I have the opportunity to hug him at least once more. I have told him how much I love him over the phone but I just don’t feel like he can truly know until I wrap my arms around him. I miss him so much.

The quote is a beautiful one that I will always remember and keep close to my heart. It really encompasses what education should be about. Sometimes we think of education as the means to money, but in reality education gives us so much more. My Grandfather always advocated education as one of the most important things you can obtain. If you think about it, everything in life can be taken away from you, money, family, dignity, even your freedom… but knowledge is something no one can steal from you.

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Street Smarts

What would your rather be, school smart or street smart? I am lucky enough to say that I have a little bit of both. I am not sure if I can really equate street smarts to common sense, but I believe that to be street smart you have to begin by having common sense. I think you learn to be street smart by learning common sense the hard way.

Colombia is a country that is portrayed as dangerous and full of violence. While some of those reports are over inflated and at times misleading there is true to some of the insecurity in the country. There are a lot of people that are living in very precarious conditions. Some are simply thugs; some are people that need to steal to survive. Living in an environment where you have to always be alert changes things about your world perception. The Unites States is no different. There are places where people struggle or chose a life of crime. There are neighborhoods where you also have to watch what you do and how you do it.

The big difference between the US and Colombia is that there are pockets of innocence all over the US. There are plenty of communities where the “Pleasantville” atmosphere still lives. Is this a false sense of security? Or Are their communities really that safe? I am not sure, but I believe that in today’s age, everyone can do with a little street smart.

Is it something that can be taught? I don’t know. Let me tell you a little story of how I learned to be street smart. Before I moved to the US I had a fascination with baseball caps. Here in the US they are both cheap and attainable, but in Colombia they were kind of a hard to get accessory, especially if they were team licensed. I was about 12. I was painting the fence in our front yard when a couple of guys in a motorcycle approached the fence. I was wearing one of my baseball caps. The guy pretended to ask for directions and kept on lowering his voice so I had to get closer… I wanted to help him out, so I kept on getting closer… when I got within an arm length he reached for my cap and took off. At the time I felt safe, I was behind the fence inside my own front yard, but I still got mugged. That thought me a valuable lesson about talking to strangers even in my own house.

I also believe that knowing street smart also encompasses being able to talk to people from all different backgrounds and social statuses. Being able to roam around different social circles has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I attribute a lot of it to street smarts and respect. Knowing what to say and what not to say can open door for you everywhere you go.

I’ve had plenty of people make fun of me for the use of the word Sir. I use it quite often during conversation specially when I don’t know a person. I also use it with my friends when I greet them. A lot of people from past generations still regard that as a sign of respect, even if some people from my generation might see it as a way to put myself down or kiss butt. I believe that my elders should be addressed as Sir or Mam in most situations.

There are plenty of other stories that I can tell you about learning lessons from just being in a tough environment, but would you really learn from them or do you have to live in a city to really learn street smarts? I think it is a good skill to have.

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