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Lionel Ferer, who many of you will remember for the great work he and and his wife Sandra did for the BPCA including running the very popular "Give and Take" days at 128 Myddleton Road; has moved to Colombia with Sandra. Lionel has agreed to keep in touch with a blog that he emails to us. Although Lionel had spent some time out in Colombia before (that is where he met Sandra) this is his take on the all the interesting experiences he has as he settles in to his new life in Cali. His latest blog is below and the others can be downloaded at the bottom of the page.
You can comment on Lionel's blog at the bottom of the page by clicking "Add new comment".The comments will need to be approved so please allow for up to 24 hours for these to appear on this page.
CREDIT AND CAR ALARMS – June 2011
Cali is in the midst of a consumer boom. Sales of fridges, wide-screen TVs, washing machines and such is at an all time high. Quite what is financing this boom, no-one seems to agree on. Whether it is from people living abroad and sending money back (every family, it seems, has a family member living and working in Spain, the USA or the UK), the inevitable flow of drug money, or more likely the accessibility of credit. The banks are spending a fortune of the money they charge customers just for the privilege of being able to leave their money with them (see future blog) on advertising bank loans.
Probably the most evident manifestation of the credit boom is the increase in the number of cars on the streets. The streets are completely full; it can sometimes take me 5 minutes to cross the road, and I read that only 10% of people here own a car – what will happen when the other 90% have one? It seems that everyone is working their socks off to pay off the loan on their brand new Chevrolet or Renault. Of course if you are going to buy a new car, you are going to pay attention to the security of it, and this brings me to my gripe at the moment.
Cali, well Colombia, well for that matter nearly all South America is noisy. No-one respects other people’s right to peace and quiet. If someone is having a party, they put the speakers in the street pointing away from the party so that everyone in the area can enjoy their particular taste in music. When someone arrives home in their (new) car they happily toot their horn so that everyone in the street knows they are home from working all day to try to pay for the car. It is part of life here and one of the things that charmed me into wanting to live here in the first place.
Now, however, it is getting annoying. All these new cars have alarms. And it seems that they are programmed to go off at any time, day or night, if someone as much as brushes past them. The most common and annoying alarm is the one that has 4 different tones going oowa oowa oowa oowa bwiii bwiii bwiii bwiii owww owwww owww owww irr irr irr iirr then repeating the whole sequence ad. infinitum.
As I write this at 9am on a Sunday morning, I can hear them go off one after the other. Sometimes it is someone trying to get into the car and forget that it is on and it just sounds for a few seconds then you can hear the ‘bip’ as they turn it off. Sometimes the owner is miles away doing something else and it just goes on and on. No-one takes any notice of them, so if I was a car thief, it wouldn’t deter me in the slightest. In fact, many neighbours would be happy for the thing to be taken away.
In the language school where I work there is an area where people leave their cars just outside the window where I teach. A few weeks ago, there was a car alarm going off every evening during my class. I was getting more and more angry until, eventually, I went outside to speak to the guard (often called ‘watchimen’) to ask whose car it was. It turned out it belongs to my boss – he was very nice about it and said he didn’t know how to turn the alarm off so just left it to run out. He did, however, promise find out how to stop it.
Another time, an alarm kept going off outside my classroom and I eventually went to the window to ask (not very politely) if they would turn it off. The student I was teaching at the time looked at me in horror that I would actually be so bold (brave?) as to complain about something like this. This brings me to part of the problem why this culture of not respecting people’s right to peace and quiet has grown up here. People are scared of complaining. They always say that you never know who you are complaining to, that they might get out a gun, or come back the next day with a group of thugs and show you what you can do with your precious English lessons.
So, it is something I am going to have to learn to put up with. Everything has something that really irritates them and I’ve found mine. I am seeing it as an exercise in self-development to try to ignore it. Just writing this blog has been good therapy for me and I’ve hardly noticed the 6 or 7 alarms that have gone off in the 20 minutes I’ve been at the computer. Not to mention the 20 or 30 ‘bwips’ and ‘bwip bwips’ that I’ve heard as people lock or unlock their cars electronically.
By the way, could someone please answer this blog telling me if I am right in thinking that on Myddleton Road, which is full of cars, I almost never heard a car alarm – why, what is the difference between the cars / people there and here?