The following article appeared in the City Paper, Bogotá, this month.  The piece was written by Brian Ward, based on a recent interview that he did with me. Thanks, Brian.

The neighborhood around Parque Nacional, also known as the lungs of Bogota, is home to an Irish-American writer and artist. His name is Christopher Burke and he arrived in Colombia just two and a half years ago. Burke has truly achieved many of his goals at this current point in life.  His achievements include having a very welcoming and warm living room. On his work desk sits a black and white photo of two middle-aged European women in trench coats standing in front of white-painted walls confidently displaying their bicycles. On the shelf above the photo is a small wooden Turkish man in red pajamas, and on the shelf above him is a small collection of miniature Colombian churches. Finally directly behind Burke’s iMac is a small figurine of the Nino Divino, Bogotá’s own Child Jesus.

This comfortable living room belongs to a man who is not content to float through his Colombian life without weighing in on the bigger Colombian world at large. For instance, on wondering why the Américo Vespucio statue on Calle 97 and 7th is missing his head, Burke observes  “I was distracted from my day by two busking guitar players and by the cell phone conversations of my fellow passengers.  We passed Américo fleetingly.  But in that brief moment, I did notice that the statue’s head was missing.  I also noted that Américo was graffiti rich and most probably because of his missing head somewhat bereft.”

Burke has just recently completed a 97-page book about the last two and a half years of his life in Colombia. The book is called, Colombia, Observations. Don’t be fooled, this is not an armchair travel book for aging divorcees living with their parents. Burke’s book goes far beyond giving a list of bus schedules and that of the Lonely Planet guidebooks. Colombia, Observations was written to, “….offer a very personal view of what it is that makes Colombia unique.  With this book, I hope to share some of the joy, vision and enthusiasm that Colombia has offered me ever since I first fastened my seat belt for my descent and arrival into El Dorado on October 17, 2008,” states Burke.  The  iTunes website is currently selling the ebook, available for the iPad, at US $5.99.  The book is available on iTunes sites in 50 countries.

Colombia, Observations gives perspective on everything from neighborhood vacuum cleaner clinics in Bogota and how Colombians in Bogota are “….are not living….day to day life in the throw away world of consumerism….” to the meeting of international leaders in Cartagena. In this meeting Shakira, “…..reiterated her and Colombia’s commitment to the enhancement of the distribution of resources worldwide.  Learning is an essential resource.  And just perhaps this learning gave the escort in the Cartagena scandal the right to demand her negotiated payment, and gave the Colombian police the empowerment to back her up,” says Burke in Colombia, Observations.

In addition to his literary exploits, Christopher Burke also publishes his cartoons on occasionalplanet.org. In one of his cartoons, two waiters with long sagging pants stand side by side and observe, “Everyone wants to eat at the governor’s table but, nobody wants to do the dishes.”

As Mr. Burke shows me his cartoons, he gets a call from AxURE Technologies, a Colombian company, where he works as Communications Director. He quickly shoos his Siamese cat Agatha off of his lap, grabs his phone and responds to an email. “Espera…..como es…..” he replies to a co-worker who has asked him to review some of the wording on a brochure he is designing for AxURE for the Expo Oil and Gas 2012 fair in Bogotá. His job at the Expo will mostly be meeting and greeting the various representatives of many international companies and explaining AxURE’s vision of a technology future attentive to the environment. One of Burke’s eco friendly initiatives for the Colombian service provider, AxURE, is called The Year of Ideas. Through this program, Burke looks to challenge employees to think of ideas which can create new products, streamline logistics and improve efficiency.

Beyond the challenges of dealing with the day to day corporate world, Burke’s passion is writing for a global audience, eager to look at a country that is deeper and more mysterious than many of the blurbs posted on the blogosphere.

Article written by Brian Ward. His book, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Through the Backwoods of Korea” can be viewed at http://www.amazon.com/First-Contact-Korea-Teachers-Backwoods/dp/1466338024

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