Since I was going to write about violence, I thought I’d use this calm photo taken on the campus of my university as an opposite and peaceful scene. Two students sit and talk under a large tree.
Colombia is a violent country. Or, maybe I should say, Colombia is a country with many violent people. I think it is better today then it has been in the past. However, if I read the tabloid newspaper, Q’hubo, I see how many murders there are each day in Cali. I see the photos of the dead bodies lying on the sidewalk or street. Thankfully, most of the violence seems to be in barrios at a distance from where I live. But, today, it hit me hard as I listened to a close friend of mine, tearfully, tell what happened on her way to work this morning. She was driving in traffic when a motorcyclist cut in front of her, pulled alongside the car in front and to the right of her, and fired three shots at point blank range, killing the driver instantly. The motorcyclist sped away. My friend, besides seeing this, heard the loud shots, bang, bang, bang. She was shaking badly as she kept driving. She couldn’t stop and there was no reason to. She couldn’t identify the shooter. He didn’t have an numbers visible on a vest or plate. It happened so quickly. The shooter had to have know who he was going after. It was definately a hit job. My friend said her first thoughts were about immediately leaving the country. She didn’t want to continue to live in a place like this. I couldn’t imagine how I’d be able to function the rest of the day if I had seen and heard what she had. For myself, I have been lucky so far. I haven’t been robbed or hassled once. I’m pretty careful and watchful of who’s around me, especially late at night. Most friends can tell stories, though, of themselves or others, getting robbed or held up at knife point. I never wear a watch or jewelry. Nothing to tempt anyone. I have seen violence, though, and been close to scary situations. Once, I saw someone fire shots into the air to scare away someone that, I think, was assaulting a woman. This was about three blocks from where I live. People dove for doorways until they knew what was going on. I hopped in a doorway quickly. We waited awhile, since we didn’t know if someone would fire back or what would happen. Twice now, I’ve seen someone getting beat up. The second time happened this afternoon as I was walking home from my bus stop. I saw a man lying in the street and another man pounding the crap out of him. Soon a couple of policeman were standing there, watching. They basically waited until the man was done pounding the guy and then helped the victim to the sidewalk while they waited for an ambulance. People told me that the victim had tried to steal a motorcycle and was caught and then, brutally assaulted. The other instance, was months ago. I saw two vehicles stopped in the middle of Calle 5. The driver in the first one had gone back to the second one, a taxi, opened the door and was leaning in and beating the driver up. Eventually, other men came to help rescue the guy. I’ve also seen gangs of kids, breaking windows, spray painting graffiti on walls of buildings, and even throwing rocks at the police. Kids here can commit acts of violence and get away with it. Until they are 18, there are hardly any laws to punish them. I think, here, it is basically the responsibility of the parents to discipline them. The problem is, many of the parents are not much better, as far as their morality goes. There are kids here who will shoot someone for money. Often times, it is for very little. They know they won’t be put in prison. The professor at my university who was shot and killed, was basically assassinated from the rear as he sat eating his lunch. This was done by a 17 year old boy. On days like today, I wonder if I really want to live here part of each year. It’s something I need to think about. I have to say though that I love my Colombian friends. And, I hope I never give anyone any reason to dislike me. I’ve tried to be friends and friendly to everyone that I come into contact with. That’s nothing knew or just for Colombia. It’s basically how I am. At least, I sure hope so!