The Guardian

Speaking good Spanish isn’t enough, you also have to listen

by Michael Evans

Colombian chiva bus
Photo by Michael Evans

I recently found myself stuck in southern Colombia during a student strike. Protesters were blocking the Pan-American Highway, so I had no choice but to wait it out. After a few days, I found a bus company that would take me to Cali, just north of the road blockage. Relief washed over me, and a mental image of my comfortable bed came into focus.

Escape solutions headed to my mental back door and a new set of thoughts replaced them: “From Cali, I can go to Buga, stay overnight at the Buga Hostel, then on to Ibagué the next day, where I can catch a taxi back home to Líbano. I’ll make beef stew for dinner when I get there.” I had been in English gear all morning and didn’t realise it was time to shift back to Spanish. I vaguely remember standing at the ticket counter, seeing the face of a dark-haired man mouthing something, as he took my money and handed me a ticket…continue reading at The Guardian

International Living

Health Care in Colombia: Top Quality and Affordable

by Michael Evans

FOSUNAB Hospital, Bucaramanga, ColombiaPhoto by Michael Evans

Before moving to South America in 2008, I worked independently and couldn’t afford health insurance. Here in Colombia, where health care costs are low, I used to pay out of pocket for medications and basic services, such as a dental checkup, which costs around $25. Even so, I often went without the care I needed to avoid extra expenses. But I don’t have to worry about that anymore, because I recently enrolled in a health insurance plan. Getting started in the Colombian health care system has been a bit of an adventure, but one that has revealed many pleasant surprises…continue reading at International Living

The City Paper Bogotá

What ‘Holy’ brews in Buga?

Photographs and text by Michael Evans

Holy Water Ale, Buga, Colombia
Photo by Michael Evans

It’s Saturday night in Buga, Valle. You may have passed through here to Cali, but chances are you’ve never stopped to look around. That’s a shame, because Buga isn’t your average slice of Colombia; even though it’s filled with elegant colonial and Republican-era buildings. It has a few things you don’t find in most places like meter-long iguanas in the main plaza, a gigantic pink church and a population obsessed with creativity. It’s a town where newcomers find a place at the table and where history and modernity stroll hand in hand…continue reading at The City Paper Bogotá

International Living

How Russell Escaped Alaska for the Warm Hills of Colombia

by Michael Evans

Paraglider, Bucaramanga, Colombia
Photo by Michael Evans

Former Alaska resident Russell Agnew, 43, doesn’t wait for the weekend to indulge his passion.

“Before all of this, my profession was as a graphic designer. I was making way more money then and had great benefits, but I lived in a cubical,” Russell says. “So I moved to a ski town, Girdwood, Alaska, where I learned to paraglide. I was able to start a new career in paragliding and support myself that way.”

Now he flies almost every day, gazing down at Bucaramanga, one of the loveliest cities in Colombia, where he lives. He’s turned his dream into a reality…and he’s making a living at it, too…continue reading at International Living

The City Paper Bogotá

Murillo: Mules in our midst

Photographs and text by Michael Evans

Pack mules wait outside the general store in Murillo, Colombia.Photo by Michael Evans

When you drive into Murillo on weekdays, its shuttered windows and empty streets may lead you to believe you’ve stumbled upon the site of an alien abduction. The town lies in the Tolima department, about 10 miles east of the Nevado del Ruíz volcano, the last community you’ll pass through on the way to Los Nevados National Park.

Founded in 1872, Murillo still has a handful of rustic Republic era buildings, all brightly painted in tones of orange, yellow, green, and blue. It’s a place where the walls of a general store hold decades of coarse history and creaky wooden floors intone folk songs. Although the town boasts around 100 businesses, you won’t find chain stores or strip malls, and the surrounding area is devoted to cultivating potatoes and tree tomatoes, and raising cattle, chicken, and pigs…continue reading at The City Paper Bogotá

Fox Business

Help Most Wanted: 5 Biggest Worker Shortages

by Michael Evans

When the economy is tough and millions of people are pounding the paMurillo: Mules in our midstvement searching for jobs, you don’t expect to read about worker shortages. But it’s true: Employers in some industries can’t find the workers they need.

Each year, the giant employment agency ManpowerGroup asks employers to name which workers are most in demand and the reasons it’s difficult filling those hot jobs. ManpowerGroup’s Talent Shortage Survey for 2012 polled more than 1,300 U.S. employers and found nearly half are having trouble filling vital positions…continue reading at Fox Business

International Living

Falling in Love with This Charming Colonial Town in Colombia

by Michael Evans

Cafe Jesus Martin in Salento, Colombia
Photo by Michael Evans

As the bus rounds the bend, a town appears in the distance—perched majestically atop a mountain, surrounded by deep green forests, cattle ranches, and coffee farms. White-washed walls reflect the golden afternoon sun and a church bell tower rises into the heavens. This is where expats go to live a stylish country life.

Salento is a tourist town, no doubt about it. Artisans peddling handmade jewelry share space in the main square with food vendors serving trout. In the downtown, you find restaurants, coffee shops, an Internet cafe, a grocery store, bars, a farm supply shop, and a hardware store, most occupying colonial buildings with brightly-painted doors and shutters…continue reading at International Living


They Call Me Memphis Mike: A Memphis Native’s Life in Colombia

Photographs and text by Michael Evans

Photo by Michael Evans

The story of how a Memphis dreamer landed in rural Colombia is too long to tell in detail. After all, I wouldn’t want to bore you. I’ll give you an abstract sketch of what I’ve run into from there to here, but don’t expect it to make any sense.

I sometimes think of life’s chapters as a quilt of mismatched swatches never intended as companions. Over the years I’ve crossed paths with teachers and politicians, celebrities and grifters, leaders and terrorists…continue reading at Medium

The City Paper Bogotá

Living in a ‘green’ house

Photographs and text by Michael Evans

Photo by Michael Evans

As we drive up to the entrance of Atardeceres de la Pradera, a gated community north of Popayán, a guard emerges, flashing a smile and waving us in. Tony Clark is behind the wheel and I’m riding shotgun. Kim Macphee, Tony’s girlfriend, occupies the backseat with Ally, the couple’s five-year-old pooch, who’s chewing on a rubber ball and taking up more than her fair share of the seat.

I check out the homes in the development—one- and two-story dwellings, with well-manicured lawns, some with visible swimming pools. Nice. As the pavement ends, a dirt road begins. Approaching what appears to be the end of the road, a white single-story house appears on the right. It looks like a normal home, as Tony and Kim had described it. But it’s actually not so normal, because this house operates completely off grid, the first of its kind in Cauca.

“We’re not hippies,” the young couple is quick to point out to anyone who wants to talk about their house…continue reading at The City Paper Bogotá



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