Thursday, 22 July 2010

Boobs, loos and tear gas

I took a bus yesterday morning. A taxi furiously hooted as we got on at the bus stop, he was beside himself that we should fly in the face of the one rule of the road: anarchy. Buses conventionally swing across to pick up passengers whenever they happen to nonchalantly stick out an arm, finger or flick their eyes.

The driver did adhere to the conventional go-kart style of weaving through the traffic. Like his colleagues, he was a discontented fellow who treated life like a fake £5 note that he was doing his best to gamble away.

My destination was the airport. There are always those who feel the need to dress up if they are going to fly. As I swept blushing out of the Ladies toilettes (the symbol really is very androgyneous), I bounced off a woman who looked like an unsubtle edition of Maxim. I’ve never been so close to such a heady combination of silicon, perfume and cleavage—and certainly not in a lavatory.

Later in the day, I went down to the bank. It was a beautiful office that had closed at 4pm (banks are a by-word for wealthy, self-serving bureaucracy everywhere. What other industry has a holiday named after it?).

Outside on the Septima, a thousands’ strong march streamed past. At its vanguard, angry men carried sticks. Behind them, a few young women appeared, some in flip-flops. They were mostly black or indigenous and there was a militant-looking group in light green t-shirts and bandanas.

I asked one man who they were; he ignored me. So I asked one of the militant-looking women, and she refused to speak to even look at me. As I turned away, I knocked into a young man. We apologized and he called me: “Patron”, which means land or slave owner.

They were some of Colombia’s 3.3 million displaced. Hungry and understandably angry, they were wanted their rights. What I suspect they were going to get was tear gassed.

The day before had been Colombia’s bicentenary of independence. The same road had been packed with people but these were much more good-humoured.

I was impressed by them, a similar event in London would have been heaving with people out on the lash. The few drunks stumbling about were embarrassingly conspicuous as opposed to depressingly unremarkable.

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