An Urban Transformation

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“The kids were cheering me on.”

I had the pleasure recently of visiting Comuna 13, a neighborhood in Medellin that has had a difficult history with gang violence and the illegal drug trade but which is showing signs of both progress and renewal. Due to the investments made by both the local and city government, Comuna 13 has become a hotbed for beautiful street art and graffiti murals, which has attracted many local artists to make a positive mark on this community. Many of these artists are from Medellin and grew up in the neighborhoods of Comuna 13. Rather than discuss the past of Comuna 13, I would rather talk about why this particular community is poised to have a brighter future.

Beyond just the new street art and the graffiti murals that you can find around Comuna 13 are the relatively new escalators that connect the San Javier metro station to the communities located in the hills surrounding this transportation hub. These escalators make it a lot easier for both students and workers to gain easier access to the rest of the Medellin metropolitan area and are an easy way to get from point A to point B. The escalators are free to use for all people including the tourists who come to visit this part of the city.

While the escalators are not so numerous, it is possible that more of them will be added to other parts of the city in the future if I were to haphazard a guess. Medellin can set an example to other urban cities on how to connect neighborhoods efficiently with the use of escalators, especially those with sloping hills and steep mountains within the city limits. For the elderly and children as well, these escalators can be quite useful in helping them get around the neighborhood without too much trouble.

If you don’t feel like taking the escalators, there are concrete staircases adjacent to the new escalators so you can choose which way you want to go up or go down. The escalators are weatherproof as well which is quite genius when you think about. On your way to the metro, the overhang, which is a bright, fluorescent orange color, will protect you fully from the elements such as rain, snow, hail, etc. It only takes about five to ten minutes to get from the top of the escalators to the bottom of the escalators so if you’re in a rush, you won’t have to go through too many escalators to get to your final destination.

The city government of Medellin and local police has done a great job in my opinion with regards to keeping this part of Comuna 13 safe and secure. I noticed during my visit that locals and volunteers are instrumental in helping to keep the area around the escalators clean and orderly. There are park benches and small parks nearby to encourage community get-togethers as well as the fact that there is a big slide where the local children can use to slide up and down to have some fun in the neighborhood. Being the kid at heart that I am, I partook in one of the slides because it is pretty enjoyable and you do go down at a pretty fast speed.

Beyond just the new escalators, the cool slides, and the park benches, there are also now a few library parks, which are free for members of the community to enjoy, explore, and learn. In addition to being places for education, the libraries are great meeting places for the community and can strengthen neighborhood ties. You can also hold cultural, recreational, and educational activities such as group English classes or a family birthday party. Books in these libraries are free to borrow and use.

Everyone can use them regardless of their age, educational level or social status. The mind is a terrible thing to waste and because of the twelve library parks in Comuna 13 and other parts of Medellin, city residents here have a real chance to learn new things and satisfy their curiosity. One particular volunteer group that I’m interested in learning about is called ‘Stairway to English’, which provides free English classes with native speakers to members of the Comuna 13 community.

My visit to Comuna 13 left quite an impact on me. I did go through an organized tour this time, which I do recommend to people visiting this webpage. It was really useful to learn about the history, background, and the progress being made for this part of Medellin. Medellin is quite a large city and it can be easy to get caught up in only staying within your own neighborhood and to not see other parts of the city. Personally, I do hope that other escalator projects in urban areas will become popular in Colombia and other parts of the world.

Human beings are increasingly becoming more urban with over 70% of the world’s population projected to be living in cities by mid-century. This puts the onus on local, city, and national governments to adapt to this reality and try to make life easier and better for the millions of people who call a city their home. Other cities should take note of the social progress being made in Comuna 13 and I can only hope that more and more residents of Medellin will be able to improve their lives in different ways because of urban projects like building library parks or constructing escalator routes.

If you’re in Medellin sometime and you’re curious to check out the positive urban transformation that is ongoing in Comuna 13 and other parts of the city, I would recommend using Comuna 13 Tours, which has a very knowledgeable, kind, and helpful staff members who are bilingual and want to share their city with foreigners out of the goodness in their heart. This is not an official endorsement and I don’t get paid or receive any benefits from mentioning this tour on my website.

I’m doing it because I really enjoyed the experience I had recently with them and I think other visitors who come to Medellin should do the same based off my positive experience using this tour group. Perhaps, most importantly of all, you’ll meet a few locals during your tour and you can see how hospitable, kind, and open they are in Comuna 13. My only advice is to be careful about your photo taking, and to be respectful of both the tour guide and the locals who are kind enough to take some time out of their day to share with you. I look forward to visiting Comuna 13 again someday and I hope to use that giant slide again too.

For more information: http://www.comuna13tours.com/

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English Corner – Present Progressive Tense

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“If you’re not sure where the Present Progressive Tense fits into the timeline, I have a useful chart for you to study.”

As a student of the English language, once you’re able to understand and use the ‘Simple Present Tense’ with proficiency and are ready to move on to the next grammar step, it would be wise to start learning about the ‘Present Progressive Tense.’ This particular grammar tense can help you to describe a number of different topics and can be used in a variety of ways. By studying the examples listed in this blog post and knowing when to apply the present progressive tense, you’ll be able to advance and get better in your study of English grammar rules.

The ‘Present Tense’ is divided into two kinds: the ‘Simple’ present tense and the ‘Continuous’ or ‘Progressive’ present tense. In order to fully understand the present tense grammar form, it’s important to understand both the ‘simple’ and ‘progressive’ aspects to this concept. Please follow along and read through this blog post if you’re a student of English grammar and want to better understand the ‘Present Progressive Tense.’ We will start by looking at a couple of examples regarding how this grammar tense is supposed to be structured. I would recommend that you copy these particular examples so you have some idea on how to use the present progressive tense in a sentence.

Examples

  1. I am going to the store today.
  2. We are planning on coming to your wedding tonight.
  3. What are you doing for dinner later this evening?

For the actual structure of the Present Progressive tense, it’s a little bit different when compared to the Simple Present tense. It’s necessary to begin the sentence with the ‘subject’ word whether it is “I, You, We, They, He / She, etc.” and you can also use the question form as well with “What, When, Where, Why, etc.” at the beginning of a sentence. The auxiliary verb, which is supposed to be conjugated in the Simple Present tense would come next and is modified depending upon which ‘subject’ word is used at the beginning of the sentence.

The auxiliary verb “to be” is the most popular form when it comes to the present tense so it is meant to be used often when it comes to creating the sentence. When you conjugate “to be” in the simple present form, you’ll end up with “is, are, am, etc.” depending upon the subject word. The auxiliary verb is always followed by the main verb, which is supposed to be displayed in present participle form. When we mention the present participle form, it basically involves the verb such as “do” and adding an “ing” to the end of the verb.

For negative sentences, the form of the present progressive sentence is a little bit different compared to regular sentences. It’s necessary to put the word ‘not’ in between the auxiliary verb and the main verb in order for the sentence to make grammatical sense.

Examples

  1. I am not dancing at the ball tonight.
  2. You are not playing basketball tomorrow.

If you’re thinking about making a question sentence with the present progressive tense, there’s a clear step that you need to take in order to make it work. The ‘subject’ at the beginning of the sentence must be exchanged for the ‘auxiliary verb’ due to a necessary change in the structure of the sentence in order to make the question work.

Examples

  1. Am I doing the right thing?
  2. Are you playing the piano for the recital?

As you can see, the ‘am’ which is the auxiliary verb comes at the beginning of the sentence this time and the ‘I’ word comes after and becomes secondary in terms of its’ placement. The positive and negative forms of the present progressive tense are quite similar to each other with the only difference being that the ‘not’ is added into the structure of the sentence in order to create that difference but the actual structure of the present progressive tense does not change at all. When it comes to the question form however, there is a change in the actual structure of the present progressive tense with the fact that the ‘subject’ and the ‘auxiliary verb’ essentially change places in order to form the actual question.

Now that we know the structure of the present progressive tense in its’ main forms of usage, how do we know when to put this grammatical tense into action? Well, it’s quite simple actually. There are some fundamental principles that guide the use of the present progressive tense in formal sentences. The present progressive tense can describe actions that are happening in real time and are continuing into the near future.

These could be actions or occurrences that are happening right now and have not been finished yet. These are actions that are in progress and have not reached the completion stage yet. This is why we add the –ing to our verbs to indicate that the action is ongoing and hasn’t reached an end yet.

Examples

  1. The wheels are spinning.
  2. The tables are turning.
  3. The guns are firing.

In addition to those actions that are occurring right now, there are also actions that have no set time frame or completion date yet but are ongoing and will require some time to finish. This is the most popular use for the –ing form and there are a lot of examples that can be construed from it.

Examples

  1. John is taking Salsa lessons.
  2. Martha is learning how to cook.
  3. Bob is starting a new job.

Despite being known as the ‘present progressive’ tense, this grammatical tense can also be used to describe actions or habits that will be occurring in the near future. In order to make this work though, you must add a word to indicate that something will happen in the future. Some examples of these words include ‘tonight, tomorrow, next week, this weekend, two days from now, etc. Usually, you are describing something that has been planned out to occur in the future with a specific date or timeframe in mind. People are long-term planners and thus, we are able to talk about actions that we will take in the future having made the plans ahead of time.

Examples

  1. I am going to attend university next August.
  2. I am planning to go to Mexico this winter.
  3. We are thinking about having our honeymoon in Hawaii next month.

The plan has already been set in motion and that’s why you’re discussing what you’re going to be doing but at a future time and place. It’s vital to remember that the present progressive tense does not exist without adding -ing to any verb regardless of which verb it is. The present progressive tense may not be the most popular grammatical tense but it is extremely important to practice, create examples, and master it both in its’ written form and its’ spoken form. Before you can go on to the ‘past’ and ‘future’ grammatical tenses, I believe that it’s necessary to have a good handle on the present progressive tense first before moving on to something else. Keep my explanations and examples in mind and look out for another ‘English Corner’ coming to you all soon.

Comuna 13

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Camera: Canon PowerShot SX710 HS

LocationMedellin, Colombia

Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu

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Camera: Canon PowerShot SX710 HS

Location: Machu Picchu, Peru

Cusco

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Camera: Canon PowerShot SX710 HS

Location: Cusco, Peru

Lima

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Camera: Canon PowerShot SX710 HS

Location: Lima, Peru

The Wonder of Machu Picchu

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“The hardest yet most rewarding part of my visit: Hiking to the top of Huayna Picchu mountain.” 

There are few places in the world, which you can truly regard as being special and awe-inspiring. We describe these places as being a ‘wonder’ of humanity and one that represents our brief yet influential time on this planet. Before I came to Machu Picchu, I believed that the only other place that would classify as a ‘wonder’ to me would be the archaeological site of Petra in southern Jordan. A ‘wonder’ both of history and of architecture that goes back thousands of years is what sets apart places like Machu Picchu in Peru and Petra in Jordan. These places that touch on the cultural and historical legacy of man are what drive us to be resolute in protecting these artifacts of mankind and making sure that they are around for future generations.

I consider myself to be incredibly lucky to have visited Machu Picchu just recently a couple of days ago. For those who don’t know, Machu Picchu is quite isolated from any major modern city or town but is possible to get to by train and bus due to the wonders of modern technology. Situated between towering mountains and located alongside the flowing Urubamba river, Machu Picchu is not only a wonder of Incan architecture and construction but is also a natural marvel due to the backdrop it has with the surrounding green mountains, wispy clouds, and the numerous kinds of plants that inhabit this part of Peru.

Among the things that stand out about Machu Picchu is that you feel isolated from the rest of the world. It may be the towering mountains that surround this archaeological site or it could be the fact that wispy clouds envelop your presence but you feel very that you’re secluded from other kinds of environment. The higher you climb in elevation, the world gets much quieter and you’re able to reflect more on not only the site of Machu Picchu that lays before you but also about life or whatever is on your mind in general.

I’m far from being an expert on ancient civilizations, especially the Incan civilization of which I know relatively little about but you have to give the people of this group considerable admiration and awe by the fact that they were able to build such a city in the most remote of places. The fact that it was possible for them to create an infrastructure out of rocks, stone, and wood in order to sustain themselves under ever-changing weather conditions is quite remarkable.

To be able to plant and harvest food, create a running water supply, and be able to construct encampments to house hundreds of Incans is very impressive to consider. Not only was there a high risk of death or injury to climb these mountains with heavy rocks or stones attached to your backs, it is likely that you would be on your own if you sustained serious injuries given that there were no modern medicines or hospitals or rely upon.

It is difficult for me to list a favorite thing about my trip to Machu Picchu. I really enjoyed climbing to the top of Huayna Picchu at 2,700 meters in total altitude despite my exasperated breath and tired knees. The views from this perching point above Machu Picchu are extraordinary and are something that I will never forget. Besides being able to take a bunch of pictures, it was great to sit and reflect on the wonder that lay before me. At a couple of thousand meters in the air, all your problems dissipate for a moment and you can truly hear the sound of the wind and the movements of the clouds. You can close your eyes and hear nothing but the sound of your own thoughts if you are so lucky.

Thanks to the efforts of the Peruvian Ministry of Culture, Machu Picchu is amazingly well preserved and should be around for future generations to enjoy. A limited amount of tourists, a couple of hundred in total per day can visit Machu Picchu and is a good idea to make sure that none of these famous Incan ruins will be damaged, tampered with, or destroyed. To lose such a precious treasure such as Machu Picchu or any other wonder of the world would be a tragedy for humanity and its’ history on this planet. While it was not cheap to get to Machu Picchu, I can fully understand why we as tourists pay the costs of admissions to visit these beautiful sites.

We do it to make sure that other people have the chance to experience these places firsthand and are able to share it with their children and grandchildren. I am quite lucky to have been able to visit such a wondrous place and I will remember my day at Machu Picchu quite fondly. If you’re reading this blog post and desire now to visit Machu Picchu, I would recommend that you do it with the knowledge that you do some research about the place, respect it during your visit, and do your best to take the experience in not just through your camera lens or smartphone but through your own eyes and ears.

To me, Machu Picchu is more than a lost Incan city of hundreds of years ago; it is a beautiful and awe-inspiring place of natural scenery. With its’ many mountains, huge river, and hundreds of diverse plants, this place can help you reflect not only about the past but on the present and future of yourself, humanity, and the planet itself. With any tourist site that’s located in a unique location, precautions and steps must be undertaken to make sure you have an enjoyable visit. Please make sure you bring some sunscreen, an umbrella, appropriate clothing and a lot of water. The weather can be quite unpredictable at Machu Picchu and it would be good of you to prepare to experience all four seasons in just one day at the site. Best of luck to you reading this post if you decide to take the journey to Machu Picchu. I promise that you won’t regret it.