Monday, June 21, 2010

Voting Rules (Part III)

Round two of the Colombian presidential elections occured on Sunday, along with another ley seca (dry weekend) and heightened security. This time around the voter turn-out was lower; this is being blamed on voter fatigue, rain in Cali, and the FIFA World Cup 2010 games being on throughout the day. (Father's Day, however, can not be blamed as a reason since, although the rest of the world observed it yesterday, Colombia moved it one week so as to not be affected by the elections-imposed drinking prohibition.)

Juan Manuel Santos emerged victorious with around 69% of the vote over Antanas Mockus. Santos will likely continue the leadership style and philosophy of outgoing president, Alvaro Uribe, who, for the last eight years, has improved security in the major cities and much of the countryside through swift military actions. Uribe has also made many deals both in trade and in the drug war with the United States, making Colombia a friend to the US in a very socialist-dominated continent where Uncle Sam has few allies.

Mockus advocated for change, and while many of his ideas were based on the use of education to better the nation, Colombians as whole decided they were not ready to take on such a drastic shift in idealogy just yet. Partido Verde (Green Party) will no doubt be back in four years and maybe then the country will be more open to that kind of change. In the mean time, I think it is evident that change has occured in that the two political parties that used to dominate the elections did not even make it out of the first rounds this time.

I am leaving for the summer tomorrow and will return on August 8th, the day after Santos takes has taken office. While it would be nice to be here for the inauguration, I look forward to being here from the begin of what will surely be a historic and interesting presidency.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Darndest Things

"So, you're telling me I can not take calculus, move to a third-world country, and still be a player?"
This gem comes courtesy of one of my dear grade 11 students who asked me to help him with his note card for Calculus final exam after I told him that I had never taken a calculus class.

Monday, June 7, 2010


An ultra marathon is a race that exceeds the distance of a traditonal marathon (26.2 miles). Usually these events are of a masochistic distance, like the London to Brighton race, which covers 54 miles, or in insane conditions, like the Badwater Ultra Marathon, which takes place in Death Valley and covers 135 miles.

On Sunday I participated in my third half-marathon of my running "career." This was also the worst most miserable I have ever been while participating in a running event. My frequent race partner and colleague, Adriana, and I decided that this was not a normal run-of-the-mill half marathon, as advertised, but a horrible abomination of an "ultra half-marathon," if such a thing even exists.

A seemingly thrown-together race, it began in the small town of Restrepo, less than an hour north of Cali, near to the resort and vacation area of Lago Calima, a weekend spot for many Cali residents. Ignoring the fact that the race began with a blow horn from atop a fire truck and that water stations sprung up like weeds on the side of the road where ever the water-carrying motorcyclists decided to stop, the race failed for several other reasons.

First of all, it didn't begin until almost 9:30am, and in the high country around Lago Calima, that means it gets hot very quickly. Secondly, there were no clouds. More accurately, the clouds just never went near the blazing sun. Next, the course was hilly - as expected when one is running in the mountains - however, of the last 7 kilometers, the first four were straight uphill. To make matters worse, the organizer of the race coordinated with a bike race doing essentially the opposite route, so that we all would pass each other. Runners struggling up a mountain road and cyclists barreling down one, do not a happy combination make. Finally, as an added bonus, the distance between Restrepo and the finish line, a tiny hamlet called Pavas, was not exactly 21.1 kilometers (the traditional half-marathon distance), but about 24 kilometers instead.

All compounded, I finished in a painful just-over two hours. Thankful to be done, we escaped to the shade of the car and left immediately, despite the fact that Adriana had finished third for the women (I was 73 for the men out of some 300 runners). If I ever see a fire truck at the starting line of a race again, I'm going to take it as the warning it probably is.