An interpreting assignment in Bogotá was offered so I jumped on it. I flew to Medellín on Saturday, and today my wife and I came to the capital. It’s great to be back in Colombia even if it’s just a week.

Following are some curiosities that I found worthy of a picture.

Yesterday’s menu referred to chicken wing drumsticks as “colombinas de pollo” (chicken lollipops).


On our way to the airport today we passed this load of bricks. They tend to be hollow here and are used for structure rather than siding, although they may be exposed and varnished.


This itinerant vendor was offering pineapples for CP$2500 (90 cents US) apiece.


Colombia, Food, Language, My life, Spanish, Travel

A week in Colombia

Colombia, Music, My life, Spanish

Child of my soul – A Colombian carol

A Colombian carol sung by my favorite singer, Alicia Isabel Santacruz. Here is an English translation of the lyrics:
Child of my soul, I come to sing to you
a little bambuco by the gate, child of my soul
Sleep, my child, divine child
The angels are coming
The angels are coming to guard you, divine child

Alicia says: “Niño del Alma is a song from the record Canción de Navidad (Christmas Song), a special pressing issued by the University of Antioquia. This bambuco was written by the renowned composer Luis Uribe Bueno from Santander, Colombia in 1953, and since then has graced the repertoire of Colombian Christmas songs. The arrangement is by master Jaime Chávez from Nariño, Colombia.”

‘Niño del Alma’ es un tema que hizo parte de la producción discográfica Canción de Navidad, prensaje especial de la Universidad de Antioquia. Este bambuco fue escrito por el célebre compositor santandereano Luis Uribe Bueno en 1953, y desde esa época engalana el repertorio de canciones navideñas colombianas. El arreglo estuvo a cargo del maestro nariñense Jaime Chávez.

Colombia, My life, Spanish

Birthday serenade – Mi gran amor

I managed to pull off a complete surprise with this birthday serenade for Alicia last night. The Trio América is considered one of the best in Colombia, with a 52-year history. It is now in its second generation with dad Oscar and sons Elkin and Nelson.

This song is not as polished as their work tends to be because it wasn’t in their repertoire; they arranged it a couple of hours before the serenade. I requested it because it was an important part of my courtship of Alicia. The original version was recorded by Nino Bravo. Alicia and I were dancing to it when I asked her to marry me.

Elkin, on the right, creates most of Alicia’s arrangements. He’s a musical genius, possibly the best requinto player in Colombia (the requinto is a small guitar designed for picking), and able to play nearly any instrument.

I will post other songs from the serenade as I get them uploaded. Enjoy!

Colombia, My life

Glimpses of my father’s legacy

I received e-mails from two of my sisters last week that brought me to tears in my cubicle at work. Both recount conversations regarding my father, who was a missionary in Colombia from 1960 to 1994. The conversations occurred the same week, one in Chicago and one in Medellín.

My sister Mary Beth recently made a trip to our former home in San Cristóbal, a community on the outskirts of Medellín. The house, which my father called Casa Shalom, is now a home for nearly a hundred elderly folks who have been rescued from life on the streets. Mary Beth is developing a sponsorship program for the home’s residents. While there, she attended a church that meets in a former billiards hall in the town plaza. Here is part of Mary Beth’s anecdote:

I was able to approach the head pastor of the church, Ernesto B, at the end of the service, and delivered a pastoral letter of commendation which Dave graciously composed. As we talked, I explained why I was in San Cristóbal, my history in the town, and what I was doing while I was there, and suddenly Ernesto asked me, “Are you Paul G’s daughter?” I said that I was and asked if he had met him. He replied with a big smile that the first 3 years that he was a Christian he had been discipled by Paul G, and that he attended his little church in the city in those years.

The world is a small place, and sometimes we are graced with the opportunity to tie together the fraying ends of our ropes, to see God’s continued work in the places and the people that we left behind. And sometimes we are called back to the place where we started and we are able to see it again for the first time.

Here is my sister Ruth’s response:

Just like your story of talking with Pastor Ernesto: yesterday I took a Colombian YWAM couple to breakfast–they were doing a US road trip as an extended honeymoon. Paulo grew up in Puerto Asís [where we lived from 1962-1967] and was very touched to realize that I’m a daughter of Paul G. He is the son of Cecilia L, whom you and Martha may remember from the night of Claire’s DTS graduation back in 2012. His father was an American in the Peace Corps, not married to his mom, who was not a believer at the time. But she later married a Christian man and they had more children and were involved in the Christian & Missionary Alliance church in Puerto Asís. Paulo does remember visiting the “Hermanos Libres” church once, in the little chapel that Dad built.

When he moved to Bogotá to continue his studies, he became connected to YWAM. He moved to Medellín and helped to launch the YWAM and King’s Kids there, along with Jorge, the current director of training (who is from Pasto [where we lived 1960-1962]). His stepfather was killed by the FARC, so his mom and sibs fled to Medellín too.

At one point finances were especially bad and he was deeply discouraged, thinking about leaving the ministry out of necessity. But he went to a monthly pastors’ prayer meeting, and there was a guest speaker who talked about his early experience in missions, bringing his young family to Colombia, landing in Cali, feeling dismayed by the lack of development, having to live by faith month to month because of no set salary. It was Dad. Paulo was immensely encouraged by Dad’s story. He hadn’t known others in ministry who lived in George Mueller style, believing that God would supply day by day. So it is partly because of Dad that Paulo has remained in the ministry. He currently heads up YWAM’s CentroCom, which teaches graphic design, photography, and videography, and (among other things) produces short videos for TV broadcast on healthy family values.

He remembers Dad’s book and was very excited when I told him I could get him a copy of the 2nd edition.

Colombia, My life

Another childhood home on Google Maps

From 1967 to 1970 we lived at the house on the right at this location in Robledo, overlooking Medellín. The house looked very different; it was a single story, and had a big front porch. The area to the left was a vacant lot, and there was no tower in the background. There was no tree blocking the view.
Our+house+Robledo (2)

Below is a view from around the bend to the right. The steps and alternate entrance were added at some point. I suspect those are the same mango trees that were there 45 years ago. My friend Murray and I frequently used one for a rocket, inspired by Tom Swift and Star Trek.
Lucas!-1 (2)
The neighbor’s house can be seen at the right; there is a captain’s walk on top of the house, and if you look close, you can see a man standing up there. Our grumpy neighbor in the 1960s was often up there, yelling for his son or grandson: “¡¡¡Luuuuucaaaas!!!” There was a time when he also yelled at my brother from up there, possibly because Danny and a friend had thrown a bunch of rocks through his windows.

When we lived here, there was no construction across the street. We had a spectacular view of the whole city. This family picture from 1969 or 1970, taken in the front yard, gives you a glimpse. You can probably tell which one I am:

Colombia, My life

The church my father founded in Puerto Asís, Putumayo, Colombia

Puerto Asis chapel
This morning I did more exploring on Google Maps and found the chapel built by my dad and other men from the church he established in the early 1960s, a few blocks closer to the center of town. It’s the building on the left, and looks basically like it did 50 years ago, with the addition of the wall in front and the buildings overshadowing it. The house to the right (barely visible behind the tree) served as a little school, also founded by my father. I took first grade there when I was five. The church is still going strong. I don’t know how long the school lasted.

Colombia, My life

My childhood home on Google Maps

Puerto Asís house
My first memories are of the jungle town of Puerto Asís in the Putumayo province of Colombia. We lived on the road to Cocaya, at the edge of town. My dad built this house. Our lot must have been an acre or more. Across the street we had a sugar cane field, and to the right of it, Dad set up a little cemetery for people from our church. He sold the house and the cane field when we moved to Medellín (as I recall, he got gypped on the sale, which took place after we left), and eventually the house ended up as a residence for a group of nuns.

Today I started fooling around with Google Maps and I followed the Cocaya road into Puerto Asís, looking at all the properties on the left side of the road. About halfway into town, I spotted this church. Look what’s behind the wall! The roof line and the windows are unmistakable.

Colombia, Food, My life

Colombian soul food

The epitome of soul food for me is the bandeja paisa, a massive sampler plate served in Medellín and the surrounding area. It usually includes rice, beans, powdered beef, chicharrón (pork rinds), fried plantains (pictured are both patacones and maduros, green and ripe plantains respectively), and salad. The crowning touch is a fried egg on the rice. In January, our hosts prepared us a bandeja paisa as our farewell meal. They went all out, including avocado and chorizo and serving my favorite drink, maracuyá (passion fruit) juice. It was more food than I could eat at one time.

IMG_20150105_144537 IMG_20150105_144523 IMG_20150105_144222 IMG_20150105_144215

Hogao is a cooked salsa made of tomato and onion. We ate it on the patacones. The salad is a cabbage salad, but is not much like cole slaw.


For some reason, the meal usually includes ground cooked beef, a sort of powdery consistency.


Colombia, Music, My life

Publicizing my celebrity wife

My wife has been in the throes of submitting a concert proposal to the office of the Mayor of Medellín for this year’s Cultural Calendar. The application process is arduous, and we probably won’t meet tomorrow’s deadline. We’ve been scrambling to fulfill some of the requirements. There’s a section that asks about presence in social media and contact with fan base. Alicia has jealously protected her privacy, but now she’s recognizing that if she wants to reactivate her music career, she needs to be visible. So I have created a Facebook page for her, and we have uploaded recordings from her records to Youtube.

Youtube has been a pain in the neck. For some reason, Alicia appears with two different profiles under the same login. The older one features only a handful of songs uploaded by a former work-study assistant at the university where she taught. The new one displays twenty songs and has nice graphics on the banner. So if you search for Alicia Isabel Santacruz on Youtube, don’t select the entry at the top of the list with five songs, scroll down and look for the one exhibiting this nice picture. Or just click through on the link I’ve provided with her name.


On Facebook, we created a profile for her and immediately were deluged with Friend requests. She doesn’t really want to deal with that level of interaction, so I also created a Page for her. As soon as I did so, Facebook locked us out and insisted we submit a scan of her ID. I uploaded one as requested. Then they e-mailed her and asked for it again, so we e-mailed it. After a while, we were able to sign back in. I had never heard of Facebook doing that sort of thing, but I’m glad they’re concerned about protecting her. If you want to follow her on Facebook, we would prefer that you look for her Musician/Band page rather than her personal one. You might have to click through from her personal page if the search doesn’t take you there directly. This link might work: Alicia Isabel Santacruz.

In her early years as a performer, Alicia entered and won all the major music festivals in Colombia. She became known as Colombia’s best new female vocalist. She sang at inaugurations for mayors, governors, and presidents. She represented Colombia at a huge international music festival, sharing the stage with some of the biggest names in Spanish music. Her song El Chambú is featured on a collection titled Las Cien Canciones Más Bellas de Colombia (Colombia’s 100 Most Beautiful Songs).

In the late 1980s she scaled down her music career in order to live a more normal life. She got a second degree, took a position as a university professor, married, and raised a son, still performing from time to time and recording a handful of albums. Now that she has retired from the university and is ready to step back into performing, the world has  changed. Colombia’s record companies were driven out of business by the bootleggers, so musicians either record independently or work with US based studios. She has several self-financed recording projects in the works, including two children’s albums, original compositions, and a collection of love songs that we selected while we were dating.

There are still many people who remember her, and a generation that deserves the privilege of new acquaintance.  I want to see my wife doing what she loves most to do.

Colombia, My life, Travel

One day…

I will post again.

Hang tight.

I’m in Colombia for Christmas and New Year. It has been a good time. Pictures and posts are forthcoming, one of these days. In the meantime, here is a beach picture from Panama, where we spent a week.


Take care, and have a happy New Year.