Though I am a resident of Colombia, I am not allowed to vote as I have not taken the citizenship. To be honest, with a British passport it’s far less complicated travelling than with a Colombian one, so I don’t see any incentive to go through what is probably a lengthy process with plenty of frustrating red tape designed to anger even the calmest among us.
I remember when I travelled in India; the procedure for booking a train ticket was exceptionally bewildering. On each of the three or four occasions that I tried to buy a train ticket the routine was the same. On arriving at the train station first you had to get a small printed form from one of the ticket windows, then go and look at the board in the station with all the train departures and arrivals displayed and complete the information needed for the form.
The next step was to take the piece of paper to another ticket window, where every time, the man behind the little glass window would say the train was full, but that the tourist office had an allocation, and that maybe if we went there we may be able to get the reservation. Off we trudged to the tourist office only to be told that there were no seats available with them either. So we bought tickets without a reservation.
On the day of departure we would arrive at the station and wait on the platform for the train. When we saw the train chugging along the tracks approaching the station my wife would take the backpacks, and I would line up on the edge of the platform along with the local Indian population who also planned to travel on the same train.
As the train edged its way slowly into the station we would all start running alongside, and when possible jump onto the train through the open doors and grab the nearest unoccupied seats. There were always plenty of seats available for those who got on while the train was still in motion. My wife would wait for the train to stop before boarding and walking up the aisles to find me.
Finally, once the train was in motion, the ticket inspector would saunter along the aisles asking to see the tickets, and for the reservation fee. Each time I would protest that I didn’t have a reservation, to which he would counter that we had seats so that was a reservation!
Occasionally in some of these little shops I have seen people drinking shots of the local firewater, aguardiente from little cups designed for coffee, or people drinking beer, but hiding the bottle somewhere at the back on the shelves and strolling in and out of the shop to take sips as and when needed. In the supermarkets the corresponding section is usually cordoned off, and they won’t even sell non-alcoholic beer or a drink called cola y pola which is similar to shandy in Britain.
The reason behind the law is to reduce violence during the elections, as in the past, election time was sometimes a catalyst for aggressive behaviour, and alcohol tends to increase violent conduct in people who get involved in arguments.
I was returning from an early morning class and entered a small shop to buy some milk. I immediately noticed that the lady serving had a grey mark on her forehead. Feeling that people would probably not say anything and she could be with that stain on her head all day I thought I should tell her, and was about to do so, when another person came into the shop with a similar mark on their forehead. I was dumbstruck. I paid for the milk and left without saying anything.
The porter at the building where I live also had a grey mark on his forehead, and so on entering my flat, the first thing I did was phone my wife at work to tell her about this strange phenomena that was happening, and seek answers. She told me that in Colombia it is common for the devout Catholics to go to church and have a cross daubed on their foreheads with a cream resembling ash mixed with water. Priests go to the offices of some companies and spend a few hours dabbing crosses on the workers who otherwise probably would not have the time to get it done.
Shrove Tuesday on the other hand doesn’t seem to be that symbolic here whereas I remember at home in Cardiff my mother always made pancakes, though I didn’t associate them with religion; it was just Pancake Day for me. In Welsh it is known as Dydd Mawrth Ynyd. The word shrove comes from the archaic word shrive which means to confess or ask for forgiveness. In other countries it is known as Mardi Gras, meaning Fat Tuesday. As this day is the day before the season of Lent, when one is supposed to fast the idea is to eat food which you won’t during the Lenten period, such as rich fatty foods or sweet foods.
You can read more about Shrove Tuesday here.
And about a Shrove Tuesday legend here.
Eisteddfod is a Welsh word and is a festival of literature, music and performance. The word is formed from two Welsh morphemes, eistedd meaning sit and bod meaning be. The plural of the word is eisteddfodau. The tradition of the eisteddfod dates back to the 12th century or earlier.
If you are interested in linguistics you can read all about morphemes here.
You can read more about eisteddfodau here.
On St David’s Day we usually wear one of the two national emblems, the daffodil or the leek on our lapel. Most people tend to wear the daffodil, usually a freshly picked one, though those made of material are also available. Sometime in primary or junior school that was one of the tasks we were given in the weeks leading up to March the 1st, to make a daffodil or leek out of material. As leeks tend to be large and smelly it is not common for the people to wear a real one, though I remember in school occasionally a kid would turn up with one and the classroom would stink of leek all morning, the smell being similar to that of onions.
St David was recognised as the Patron Saint of Wales during the Welsh resistance to the Normans and St David's Day has been celebrated since the late middle ages. Parades are held throughout Wales to celebrate the day, the largest being in Cardiff. Young schoolgirls often wear the traditional Welsh costume to school on St David's Day.
You can read about the traditional Welsh costume here.
You can read more about St David here.
The leek being a national symbol of Wales arises from a battle when the Welsh soldiers distinguished themselves from the English enemy they were fighting, and who had similar uniforms, by wearing leeks.
The flag of Saint David is flown throughout the country and is a yellow cross on a black background. The Welsh dish Cawl is prepared by many families on St David's Day. Cawl is a cross between a soup and a stew and is made with lamb. Here in Colombia there is a similar dish known as Sancocho.
So there you have it, a series of special days in March.
If you would like to receive email notifications of updates to this site click here, fill in the relevant details and press submit.