Find your Passion, and then Live it

Medellín, Colombia

Monday, May 30, 2011

My article in The Cord (Laurier Newspaper)

About a month ago I was asked to write an article for The Cord, which is the student newspaper of Wilfrid Laurier Univeristy (the university I attended in Waterloo, Ontario).

I was asked to write about why I am currently working and living in Colombia, what made me choose Colombia, what I think so far, and any interesting stories I wanted to share.

If you´re interested in reading what I wrote, check out my article here:

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Every Sunday in Medellín two main roads block off traffic and allow people to walk, run, bike, rollerblade on them throughout the entire city. Between the hours of 7am - 2pm, you can enjoy car free roads and get outside to enjoy some fresh air. I think this is a great idea, which encourages people to get outside and be active, whether it's solo, with a friend or your family.

While Ciclovía is going on, there are multiple spots throughout each main road that is closed down where you can buy fresh fruit, water, juice, ice cream etc, as well as enjoy live entertainment, and exercise classes. Medellín is the perfect city to have this kind of activity because the weather is the same all year round, a perfect 25-28 degrees. So it's not too hot, but it's perfectly warm.

Other cities around the world have started to adopt Ciclovía programs on weekends, such as: Australia, Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, New Zealand, USA... and even Canada! In Canada, Ciclovía has started in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Ottawa and Hamilton. Within Colombia, other cities such as Cali and Bogotá have Ciclovía programs as well. So it's definitely a popular activity in Colombia!

So today, I did Ciclovía with my friend Sara. We ran/walked for an hour throughout the city on one of the main roads called Avenida Poblado, which is very close to my house. I would like to try and do Ciclovía everyday Sunday if I can, minus the weekends I travel outside of the city, because it's just a great way to exercise and switch it up from my usual gym routine. After we did Ciclovía we jumped into my pool, and enjoyed cooling off after our great workout. It was a beautiful day, so we swam, chatted and tanned in the sun for a bit. Definitely a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Museo del Castillo aka "Fast & The Furious - The Tour!"

Today a bunch of friends and I went to check out a beautiful museum on one of the hillsides of Medellín, called El Museo del Castillo, which is a castle that is now a museum. It has beautiful gardens, amazing architecture, and stunning views of the city. The house use to be occupied by a Colombian man who married a German woman, so all of the artifacts within the home are all from Europe. The man was apparently kidnapped by one of the guerilla groups a long time ago, and when he had told his family not to pay the ransom that the guerilla group demanded, they subsequently killed him. After the husband had died, the wife returned to Germany and the castle transferred ownership to the Colombian government, and now it acts as a museum! Sad story, but it's a beautiful property.

While waiting for our other friends to arrive, Lu and I found a bunch of roses around the premise because there had been a wedding there the night before. It kind of felt like a Beauty and the Beast moment, as we were at a castle, and had roses surrounding us, so romantic!

We had to wait for a bit until the next tour group started, so we hung out in a covered area as it started to rain like crazy. While waiting I decided to get artsy and take some romantic looking photos haha.

Once we did start our tour... it was interesting to say the least. First of all we werent allowed to take photos inside the museum which was unfortunate since the artifacts inside were beautiful. Second our tourguide had no personality whatsoever, and she SPED through the tour and the castle, which meant she didnt give us anytime to enjoy the tour and look around. It was "this is a painting, this is a chair, here is a bed... ok next room". So we were joking the entire time, saying how this is ridiculous we arent being given any time to actually enjoy the tour or the castle, it's just "here's an object. You see it? Great. Moving on.". Jose, one of my friends, dubbed it "Fast and the Furious - The Tour" LOL, hilarious and sadly true.

Since I felt like I didnt get my $5.000 pesos worth out of the tour, I decided to take a bunch of the roses I found at the castle home, and now I have beautiful bouquet of roses in my room... and now feel like I got my money's worth at the castle haha.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Connecting Countries

At the end of last week I was asked by one of our clients to take part in an important business meeting which was going to be done through video conferencing technology with a corporation in Korea. The reason I was asked to attend the meeting was because it was going to be conducted in English, and I am the only person in my office with English as a first language. So it was going to be my responsibility to faciliate this meeting, and help my client translate anything between English and Spanish. Pretty big responsibility.

On Monday the meeting began at 10am Colombian time, which ended up being 12midnight in Korea (what a difference in time zones!). The university I work within, has the most amazing collection of high tech gear, so we used this very advanced webcam, LCD screen, and teleconferencing system to conduct the meeting.

Once the meeting began I was responsible for taking notes, as well as translating anything that my client was unsure how to express in English. At one point in the meeting I actually did a lot of the talking, as well as discussing different topics quickly in Spanish with my client, and then translating it in English and relaying the same information to the corporation in Korea. It was probably the most intense and exciting thing I have done thus far in my job. As well as a huge responsibility on my part, since I had to make sure I was translating the right information (in a timely manner) as the majority of it was quite sensitive since these meetings and the information or discussions gained from them will be used in future negotiations.

After finishing the meeting, I realized that I was essentially the key link between these two countries, I was what connected them. To be THAT person, felt very gratifying since we were able to begin the processes of developing a global business relationship.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Unión de Naciones Suramericanas (UNASUR) ... or in English, Union of South American Nations, is an intergovernmental union which combines the MERCOSUR and the Andean Community of Nations (two major bilateral trade agreements in South America) together. This union was created on December 8th 2004 when 12 South American nations signed the Cusco Declaration. Member countries include: Argentina, Brasil, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Perú, Surinam, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

The Declaration of Cusco included aspects regarding the consultation of political and diplomatic coordination, the "convergence between Mercosur, the Andean Community and Chile through the development of a free trade zone" or physical integration, energy and communications, harmonization of policies for rural development and agri-food technology transfer in science, education and culture, and the interaction between companies and civil society, and corporate social responsibility.

What´s interesting about this union of nations is that it is their intention to eventually model themselves after the European Union (EU), which would include a common currency, parliament, and passport. According to Allan Wagner Tizón, former Secretary General of the Andean Community, a complete union like that of the EU should be possible by 2019.

Within UNASUR, there are many working groups which help to develop strategies and programs in order to resolve current issues of the various nations. These groups include:
- Working Group on Financial Integration
- South American Council on the World Drug Problem
- South American Council for Infrastructure and Planning
- Board of Education, Culture, Science, Technology and Innovation
- South American Council of Social Development
- South American Defense Council
- South American Energy Council
- South American Council of Health
- Working Group on Disputes Settlement

One of the main issues that UNASUR is currently working with is the creation of a single market. UNASUR is in the process of trying to eliminate tariffs for "non-sensitive" products by 2014, and then eliminate them for "sensitive" products by 2019. With fewer trade barriers present, there will be more opportunities between countries to better develop trade relations and even spur economic growth.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fav Quote #3

"I have faith. Faith in our wondrous capacity for hope and good, love and trust, healing and forgiveness. Faith in the blessing of our infinite ability to wonder, question, pray, feel, think and learn. I have faith. Faith in the infinite possibilities of the human spirit."

- James Brown

Sunday, May 8, 2011

AIESEC EAFIT Awards + Multicultural Night

This past weekend was filled with AIESEC events. On Friday night AIESEC EAFIT held their annual "@EAFIT Awards" show. This award show is to award their outstanding members for their work as well as have different categories for funny/silly awards, like the best looking, most flirtatious, best hair etc.

The event was dubbed "formal" so we were all asked to dress up for it. So I wore my favourite purple and black dress that I bought in Barcelona. When we arrived at the event, there was a red carpet with people taking photos like paparazzi, and even interviewers to ask what you were wearing and other questions. They even had video cameras set up, so they could broadcast the red carpet/awards show online to members that couldn't go that night. Everything was really professionally done, so it made you feel like you were at a real awards ceremony. It was really well put together and a lot of fun to be apart of.

The awards started off with the more "serious" awards which reflected the different AIESEC values, for example "most globally minded", "entrepreneurial", "living diversity" etc. Each person that won an award in the AIESEC Values category was given a cheque which paid for their EP Fee (which is the fee you pay to be able to go on exchange). I definitely think this was a great prize to give the members, since it promotes what AIESEC stands for and will also help them when they eventually want to go on exchange.

The second half of the awards show was hilarious as everyone was dying to see who won each "silly" award. They were all voted by the members of the AIESEC Chapter, Alumni and the Trainees. Daniel Upegui (one of the VPs in @EAFIT) was the host, and he did an incredible job with it, the entire awards show was in Spanish, and the humour and jokes he told were great. My friend Sara Restrepo won the award for "Best Trainee Service" which was obviously deserved, as she helps me with whatever I need, and has become a really great friend. So I was so excited for her to win that award! :)

After the awards show we went back out to the red carpet and had a bit of a photo shoot with everyone dressed up. Here are some pics from that:

After the awards show and our photoshoot we headed over to Parque Lleras to a discoteca (club) called Alma. This was my first Colombian club experience, as I had just been to bars since arriving and hadn't been to a club yet. The trainees got in for free which was a nice surprise! Inside the club it was pretty fancy, this had giant chandalier hanging in the middle of the bar and this criss crossed shaped structure as the main decor of the club. The music they played was great, and we spent the entire night dancing. Later on in the night, these two Reggaeton rappers came on and performed several songs, singing and walking around ontop of the bar. All in all, a pretty fun night.

On Saturday I headed to San Alejo Market with the new Trainee from Denmark, Thomas, as he hadnt been there before and I wanted to check it out again. I showed him around Plazoleta de Botero, which is the main plaza of Botero statues, as well as introducing him to my favourite drink in Colombia... Guarapo! We walked through the market for about 2 hours, since it's huge and there's so much to see there. I ended up buying a pretty large handmade basket for my laundry for $28.000 pesos... i even bargained a bit to get that price. :)

At night, I was apart of a Multicultural Night hosted by AIESEC. They have various Multicultural nights throughout the year which features AIESEC EAFIT's various Trainees, and gives them a chance to talk about their country and share their culture. I was one of the trainees presenting last night, so I decided to make pancakes for everyone that was coming to watch the presentations. Not realizing that a flipper is a common cooking utensil in Canada, we had to buy one in one of the grocery stores since Leo/Lucho's house didnt have one! I used three different pans and made over 50 pancakes in about an hour. Pretty intense.

Before beginning my presentation I sort of had a trivia game with prizes for people who could answer various questions about Canada, as I wanted to see how much people knew before I started my presentation. I asked questions like... name 3 provinces of Ontario, what's a famous invention from Canada, name a famous Canadian celebrity etc. During my presentation I spoke about Canada's geography, history, culture, sports, celebrities, inventions, music etc. After I finished my presentation I gave everyone a pancake and drizzled it with Maple Syrup. Everyone seemed to really enjoy them, which was great. :)

We also had presentations from Joan, a trainee from Uganda as well as Jiri, the trainee from Czech Republic, so it ended up being a very educational and cultural weekend :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Officially going to the World Cup U-20 !

So exciting! Im officially going to the FIFA World Cup U-20 in August! As most people know, the World Cup 2010 was held in South Africa, and with every World Cup comes the World Cup U-20 (Under 20), and this year, it´s being hosted in Colombia! So last night my friend Sara and I went and bought our tickets to see two matches in August! The tickets are really cheap, only $33.000 pesos and that buys you 2 matches, so essentially it costs $7.50 CDN per match (for the first round of matches), not bad for FIFA World Cup Games.

Here is a map to show which countries will be taking part in the WC U-20 this year in Colombia:

Every segment or group of teams is being hosted in a different city. Here's a map with all of the cities in Colombia hosting the games:

Group F is being hosted in Medellín, so the matches I have tickets for is between Mexico vs Korea and Argentina vs England. Both should be good games, and Im really looking forward to attending them in August!

Here's some background on Colombia, football associations and FIFA:
"The Colombian Football Association (CFF) was founded in 1924 and was recognised internationally by FIFA in 1936. The Colombian national team took part in the FIFA World Cup™ final tournaments at Chile 1962, Italy 1990, USA 1994 and France 1998, though their biggest success came when winning the 2001 Copa America on home soil. As far as youth national teams are concerned, Colombia won bronze at the 2003 edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, as well as finishing fourth at the 2003 and 2009 editions of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Among the greatest Colombian players of all time are Willington Ortiz, Carlos “El Pibe” Valderrama, Rene Higuita, Faustino Asprilla, Efrain “Caimán” Sanchez and Freddy Rincon, to name but a few of the gifted performers this country has produced."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fav Quotes #2

"Don't exist.
Get out, explore.
Challenge authority. Challenge yourself.
Change forever.
Become who you say you always will. Keep moving. Don't stop. Start the revolution. Become a freedom fighter. Become a superhero. Just because everyone doesn't know your name doesn't mean you dont matter.
Are you happy? Have you ever been happy? What have you done today to matter? Did you exist or did you live? How did you thrive?
Become a chameleon-fit in anywhere. Be a rockstar-stand out everywhere. Do nothing, do everything. Forget everything, remember everyone. Care, don't just pretend to. Listen to everyone. Love everyone and nothing at the same time. Its impossible to be everything,but you can't stop trying to do it all."

- Brian Krans

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chiva: Colombian Party Bus

Colombians bring a whole new meaning to words "Party Bus". A Chiva is essentially that, a crazy looking decorated bus, where you can fit more than 50 people on it, with music blasting, and free to drink what you want while the bus drives around Medellín.

Some information about Chivas:
Chivas are recognized nationally and internationally as a symbol of Colombian culture. They are old artisan modified buses used in both Colombia and Ecuador where they are known as chivas (kid goats) or escaleras (ladders). They are used as public transportation but more recently used as party buses in both countries. They are normally painted colorfully (usually with the yellow, blue, and red colors of the flags of Ecuador and Colombia) with local arabesques and figures. Most have a ladder to the rack on the roof which is also used for carrying people, livestock and merchandise.

Last night I had my first Chiva experience in Colombia! I went with a bunch of people from AIESEC, and the bus "tour" lasted for about 3-4 hours. It was definitely an experience, but a fun one at that. You pay $30,000 pesos .. or $15,000 if you split the cost with someone, which gets you onto the chiva and a bottle of Guaro (aguardiente... really awful tasting liquor, but it's cheap and does the job). Then you essentially stand while the bus is moving, dancing, chatting, and drinking all while the bus drives around the city. It was a lot of fun, we had reggaeton music blasting the whole time. I kind of felt bad for the taller guys, since the Chiva wasn't very spacious.

After our Chiva tour we headed to Parque Lleras to continue the party until about 3am, taking advantage of our favourite bar El Alamo, which gives ladies free Rum and Cokes all night, and dancing in the streets. Gotta love the Colombian night life!