The World & Beyond

The writings of a global transient.

Tag: Travel

A Medellin Thanksgiving

I have written previously about happiness.  (See here)  It is something that I think everyone has struggled with at one point in time or another.  I have been happy consistently for a number of years now and I do what I can to help those around me be happy as well. The holidays are a difficult time for many.  It is at the holidays that family and money pressures all come together.  On top of that the very nature of it being the end of one year and a start of another creates an artificial point in time by which people feel the need to judge their progress and their position in life.  Naturally suicides go up during the holidays and divorces increase when the holidays are over.

When I think back on holidays that didnt go well for me there were always two reasons.  Either:

1.  I was alone and felling bad for myself, or

2. I was doing things for the holidays that I fundamentally didnt want do.

That doesnt happen any more.

I didnt have my kids this year for thanksgiving so my best friend Kent Mennem of Hell on Earth Blog and Mennem Foto came down to Panama.  We decided to do a trip from here and chose Medellin, the City of Eternal Spring.

At least two or three people asked me Who the hell goes to Medellin for Thanksgiving?  The answer:  We do.  Thats the whole point.  Its your holiday.  Why should you conform to what your sister in law or someone thinks you ought to do on your holiday?  Usually the people who want you to conform are miserable themselves.  They convince themselves that they are at least doing the right thing by having meals with people they dont really want to have meals with and they see your deviation from acceptable behavior as an attack on their own poor decision making.

You know what?  Thats their problem.

So let me tell you about the greatest thanksgiving in history:


I cant think of a better place to start with than thanksgiving lunch.  We went to Llaneritos in Centro Medellin.  Massive skewers of meat are cooked in brick ovens and then served.  Two plates of meat, some potatoes and yucca and 4 beers each came to 23 dollars.  Total.

With a number of days on hand and not too much to do we needed a game-plan, so we did the research and conducted our own self-directed tour of Pablo Escobar sites.  I never actually knew too much about Escobar until a while ago when I saw the excellent 30 for 30 documentary The Two Escobars which I highly recommend:

Our first stop was Escobars aunts house where he was killed.  Here is the picture I took from the front of it:




According to our research when the police came Escobar jumped down onto the one story roof to the left and went towards the rear where he was gunned down.  Incidentally on thanksgiving day we walked around Centro Medellin where there are over 20 statues by the famous Colombia artist Fernando Botero   Botero has a famous painting of Escobars death that I admire:



Next stop:  Escobars grave.  It was a few miles outside of centro.  We took the Metro and then had to walk for a mile or two until we reached the cemetery.  I learned in The Two Escobars that Pablo was beloved by the people of the slums of Medellin (which today seem to be about 75% of the city).  Escobar consolidated the citys criminal gangs into one organization and prevented street crime while plowing a significant portion of his earnings back into the slums.  His reputation lives on as while we were there numerous young men came to the grave to pay their respects by knocking on his gravestone.  Here is the pic I took:


Our third stop was Escobars mammoth office building/home, and command center.  It was built in a nice neighborhood close to the trendy Poblado district.  It has sat empty for almost 20 years now.  (note the parrots on the trees in front):


Absent my children, I cant think of a better way to spend a holiday.  If the holidays have you down dont despair.  Endeavor to fix the things that are wrong in your life and most of all dont let other people suck you into their unhappy holidays.  Its your life, celebrate it as you want.

Oh, Kenya

I love Kenya.  It was the first African nation that I landed in and I lived there on and off for 2 years.

The recent headlines from Kenya are startling.   (Gunmen in Kenya Kill Four in Mombassa)

“Terrorist” attacks are occurring against Kenya citizens by Al-Shabab, the Islamic forces in Somalia.  Why?  – Because Kenya has invaded Somalia on behalf of it’s British and American patrons.  The results in Kenya are not going to be good.  It is the nature of history and humanity that dominant powers – as strong as they are- can’t rule vast swaths of land without loyal local forces who do their bidding.  The British Empire is the best example of this.   The British ruled much of the modern world not with it’s tiny Army, but with it’s Navy backed by a keen diplomacy that fostered allies in regions the Empire wanted to control.

The question is:  How exactly does this work out for those who sell out their sovereignty Usually not very well.  The dominant countries survive no matter the outcome of their foreign wars.  The Americans in Vietnam built an alliance with the Hmong. Hmong_women_at_Coc_Ly_market,_Sapa,_Vietnam The Hmong – long the oppressed in the region – wanted to support their new and powerful ally.  The result was a mass exodus from Vietnam when the Americans had decided that they’d had enough.

History seems to suggest, however, that the worst thing that you can do is to be a minor ally of the British.  At the start of World War 1 Italy was allied with Germany and the Austro Hungarian Empire.  The alliance obligated the signers to the defense of each other if attacked.  Italy declined to enter the war on the theory that the Austro-Hungarian empire was the aggressor.

Britain entered the war thinking that 6 divisions was going to tip the balance.  As the war plodded on the Entente continually mislead itself on casualty figures and Entente leaders therefore felt that the Central Powers were always just on the breaking point if only one good offensive or one more front was opened up.

As a result the British and French did their best to entice Italy into the war on their side.  In the Treaty of London Italy was promised numerous territories after the war.

How did this work out for Italy?  For well over a year Italy attacked the Austro-Hungarian positions in the mountains with no gain.  Eventually The Austro Hungarian Empire and Germany routed Italy at the Battle of Caporetto. Eventually as the war neared an end Italy made some progress but the damage was done.  Italy suffered between 460,000-650,000 combat dead with over 900,00 wounded.  italy world war 1

After the war, Britain and France of course turned their backs on Italy, which  was a large part of Italy’s choice to side with the Axis in World War 2.

If this sounds bad then you don’t know much about Romania’s experience in World War 1.  Again thinking that surely the central powers needed just one more push.   The Entente convinced Romania to enter the war on the promise of the territorial gain of Transylvania.  Fighting took place from August 1916 until December 1917 at which point Romania suffered total defeat.  Transylvania was gained (only to be lost again, and then regained after another ruinous war)but at the price of 250,000 killed out of a population of less than 8 million.

What is the point of it all?  The point is that the great powers of any age hold a tremendous amount of sway over smaller powers, and churn them up and spit them out for their own purposes.WWI_Poster_Rumania

This is what is going on in Kenya.  In it’s never ending war on “terror” (which seems to be about as effective as the war on drugs) the United States and it’s allies are enlisting minor powers to do their bidding.  Kenya is ill-prepared for this conflict and has nothing to gain from it.

You can rest assured however that the Kenyan people will continue to suffer.

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