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reality from a distance... and up close

We climb over the massive Eastern range, leaving the ever-growing urban Monster called Bogotà behind. The view is amazing. You think you’ve seen it all, after living so long here. But you haven’ t even seen the tip. The patchwork quilt of farm land beneath me sugests how far we have come, from the time when all this was a forest, and spectacled bear, not human, was ruler. And for the first time since I heard it in class I see the reality, how little is left of the original Andean forest. It’s a shock, although it’s nothing I didn’t already know.

My neighbour is undisturbed by the great gap in the mountain, where sand and pebbles are being blown out. Or by the fact that thousands of people live in almost inaccessibly steep parts of the mountain. Or that most of what little bits are covered with trees are, in fact, covered with foreign Eucaliptus or pine trees. This is why I went into education, so that when people see this landscape they will understand it like I do, they will see the truth and not just pretty colours and skinny cows. Granted, it is beautiful, but it is not complete. I need to see the dark greens and blacks you only get from mature forests. And the redish-brown of the Encenillo leaves, and the yellow of the Gaque flowers.

20 minutes into our flight I see the fall, the abrubt end where the Andes turn into flat land, as far as the eye can see in the early morning sun. The Niño is here, you can tell. Normally the fields would be green and the cattle fat, but the plains, as we call them in Spanish, Los Llanos, are golden yellow. As we land on the tiny airstrip, the employees begin their work day. Working in an oil field 14 days a month is commonplace here. They know the drill, they collect their luggage and move into the vans which will take them the 40km through thecontrovertial African palm plantations and into the camp. Fossil and biofuels, side by side. Feeding off each other. Both fueling up climate change and global warming. yuck. From the airstrip you can see the chimneys, or what ever they call them, sticking out of the oil wells and burning the gas that's stuck underneath. Oil, petroleum. Where am I, have I sold my soul to the enemy?

The guard at the entrance greets us and gives us quick safety instructions: always wear big boots and long sleeves, in case of gun fire or explotions, consider it a serious situation and a possible take over by the guerrillas. Get down on the floor, on your belly, open your mouth in case of expansive waves, don't run or you might have an accident, even get killed. Any questions???

Comments

catalicu's picture

Close up to Colombia

Most of the knowledge we carry is in the back of our heads. The moon turns around the Earth every day. There is people dying of hunger in that same day. Molecules of water evaporate in the sea and travel in the shape of clouds until they reach the sky above us and it pours. We know it, we just don´t really believe it.

It is only when you plant a seed you believe in germination, when you visit a house made from spare container parts you believe in poverty, when you see the Llanos on one side and the Andes on the other you believe in Colombia. It is when the kids surround you with smiling faces you believe in hope.

"We will have to get dirty if we want to know the truth".
Is education enough?

Big hug

zbremmer's picture

Wonderfully written--keep it

Wonderfully written--keep it up!

jadefrank's picture

yuck

Hi Juana,

Your writing is beautiful and creates a wonderful image of the beauty that is the Colombian Andes, as well as the scars that oil companies are leaving in the natural landscape.

I am from Alaska, and your description of flying over such beauty, made me think of flying over my homeland. And the horror I felt when this summer, because of bad weather, the plane was unable to fly its normal route to land in my hometown of Fairbanks. So we circled around the northern outskirts of the town and flew over Fort Knox Mine, one of the largest open pit gold mines in the world. A large turquoise lake of waste is eating a giant hole in the land. Trees cave in at the edges to join those before them that were sucked into the slime of chemical tailings left over from extracting the gold from the rock. Gross is the same feeling I felt flying over this mess. So gross I reached for the barf bag in the seat in front of me, thinking I would be physically ill from this site.

Thank you for sharing this.

Cheers,
Jade

marietta64's picture

HI

NICE

vida.olive's picture

You're an incredible writer

You're an incredible writer and your words painted this memory in my mind. Thank you and keep writing!

Nusrat Ara's picture

It is a sad state of affairs

It is a sad state of affairs and unfortunately one finds it everywhere in one form or the other. We are greedy and in our greediness we fail to see our impending doom.

Nusrat

Juana Munoz's picture

on gold and other demons...

Thanks a lot for the encouragement!
Funny how gold, which brought so much devastation and missery to the native american indians four centuries ago, is still causing so much of a problem for all of us. Whereas much of the gold mining here is done in artisanal conditions, it is one of the most dangerous ways since it still uses dangerous chemicals like mercury. Currently some environmentalists and wise people are trying to stop an expoitation licence for AngloGold Ashanti to threaten water supplies for many, and wreck even more natural wonders in Colombia by making the biggest open pit gold mine in the world, La Colosa (the colossus, in female). And again we Colombians are proud to have the biggest in the world, no matter how bad that can end up being for us all.

In my personal opinion, gold is highly over rated anyway!

Lots of love,

Juana

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