January 15, 2020
Terra Negara, Colombia
Had my first bad interpersonal encounter in all
my years of travel. I mean where my life could have been in
danger. Such a contrast to all my Columbian travels.
I was climbing very slowly up as I had been yesterday and most of the day today. I was very tired. When out of a side road came a man, moving fast. He was dressed as a field worker and very dirty. I have learned that Columbians take a shower every day no matter their economic status. It is very important to them.
The man ran up alongside of me and began yelling in a Spanish that I had not heard. Running very close as I weaved up the hill, making me nervous about colliding with him. He kept yelling and yelling. I have learned that it is best to pretend not to speak the language in such circumstances. In my case that was very easy.
As he continued to run close by and yell, I told him to go away in English, several times. He did not and the more he yelled the more difficult it was for me to continue to maintain on this difficult climb. Finally, I stopped and looked directly at him and told him to go away in Spanish. He then took out his machete and waved it in the air while making cutting motions.
OK, I am standing over my bike, holding it from moving back downhill. No way to defend myself. I was tired from climbing for 2 days and not in the mood for this action. By now he was very irritated and telling me to give him money for food. I again looked directly at him and said I was not giving him anything, that I did not have money enough for him and he should go away. He pointed at my bike saying how much it costs and I could give him some money. He was still yelling.
I had had enough! I told him I was an old man and did not care what he did to me. What I had was mine and he was getting none of it. Then I told him to go away again, in a command Spanish. He brought his machete a little closer, then put it away. Finally, he waved to me and walked up the hill, stopping a couple of times to see what I was doing. After a little while I rode on up and saw him turn off on another dirt road.
As I thought about this, I realized the man was most likely Venezuelan. The dirty clothes and body, the strange Spanish and the aggressive nature, none of which I have seen since arriving in Columbia.
Please know that is a refugee experience and not Columbian. I have learned to like Columbianos and to some degree understand them and their history. I understand why some many Americans and Ashlanders have brought their lives here. That is except for all the big hills that one has to climb on a bicycle.