The Vaccine

I was genuinely surprised the first time someone asked me if I got the vaccine? "No, of course not" I replied. By their reaction I immediately recognized the pattern I had seen many times before. The vaccine had mutated and had become polarized.

This post is about what causes this polarization, how to test yourself to see if you are part of the problem and then how to fix it.

Recognizing Polarization

If anyone asks me now I put it back on them and ask them why they think people aren't getting the COVID-19 vaccine. If they can't come close to any of my reasons then there is very little reason to discuss it further. The results of my personal anecdotal poll of the pro-vaccine crowd are as follows...

  1. There is none and anyone who opposes it is basically an idiot.
  2. Political reasons.
  3. Religious reasons.
  4. Bill Gates put a microchip in the vaccine.
  5. Republicans believe COVID is a hoax. (This is an honorable mention reason as it was told to me before the vaccine was available. By my former corporate lawyer no less!)

No one in the group came close to guessing any of my three reasons.

I asked the same question to people who aren't getting the vaccine. Each and every person gave one or more of my same three reasons and nothing more.

I am going to re-write the results of my anecdotal survey as a proposition.

Proposition 1
For any given polarized topic the following is true...
Group A believes Group B believes in X
Group B believes in M
X and M have no commonalities
Group A does not know what Group B believes

I have been working on this phenomenon for

Something else is going on here. I made the above proposition but the firest believes is incorrect.

I have been through this type of conversation many times. On healthcare, on gay-marriage, on abortion, on trade, on immigration.

This is one type of blocking move.

I once

How can Group A have no idea what Group B believes? I have had a long and tumultuous history with this dilemma and I think I have figure it out and will do my best to explain it. Be aware this won't be easy to read.

I have seen this numerous times.

This from just a few months ago. So she continued on in her adamant belief that I must believe in “X” which she considers repugnant. She entirely rejects all of my corrections and insists that I do in fact and must believe in “X”. The questions start flowing: Why? For what purpose? For what reason? Why in the heck would anyone want others to believe in some evil, bat-shit crazy theory? What does she get out of it?

The abbreviated pattern of conversation is…

Date “What do you believe about “T”?
Dan “Regarding “T”, I believe “D”
Date “No, you believe in “X”
Dan “No I don’t”
Date “Yes you do”
Dan “No I don’t”

Who is in Group A?

Nearly everyone. I used to be in Group A as a registered Democrat. Then I was in Group A as a registered Republican / Conservative. I now believe all moderates are better labelled as "extreme moderates" because I have never met one that wasn't in Group E.

Those in Group A will reject and impugn any idea, thought, reference, source, person, ideology, religion, argument that doesn't exactly match their own ideology. It will be worse than talking to a wall. They will never review your sources. They will never look up a quote. They will never look up the data you reference. If you cite a reference they will scoff at the source and call them radicals. If you say your believe you will be called a conspiracy nut. They will use terms like racist, Nazi prove you aren't a

I would love to talk about the vaccine. What more important and unprecedented event has occurred in my lifetime? But we can't. No longer can adults sit down and discuss important topics and share information and learn from each other. Our culture seems to love polarizing every single important topic and prefer being mad at each other.

To put it mildly having discussions with someone in Group E is pointless. The only guaranteed relief is to change the topic.

Group A are extremists who have forgotten how to be curious, skeptical and empathetic.

Maybe there is still a chance. Maybe an adult conversation can continue. Ask them "What do you find compelling about any of these arguments?" or "Why do you think these arguments are compelling to people opposed to the vaccine?"

Why not tell me

A meaningful debate must consist of at least two compelling arguments. This is an absolute bare minimum. A real debate may be too complicated. Two-sided debate are annoying shouldn't be bounded by 2 sides but open to an infinite number of answers. I actually can't stand f the debate doesn't allow for an infinite number of possibilities or if I think a truly compelling argument would hThe point of a debate and discussion is to try and determine

What answere wasn't given "I have no idea but would love to know?

The Sars-Cov-2 virus has devastated America and the world and continues to do so. Millions have died of COVID-19, the world economy is on the brink, and it has turned our lives upside down. We lived in isolation not able to see our family, friends or co-workers. We couldn't go anywhere except to procure basic necessities. This existence has taken its toll and we have seen an increase in drug and alcohol use has, domestic violence , divorce, depression and suicides. We need to get back to work, we need to get back to living our lives and we have a vaccine that can make that happen now. It has been tested, it has passed all the safety protocols. It works and it is safe and it is time everyone takes it.

These are identical in nature to studied these kinds of responses as they are similar in nature to responses on any other political topic. My only conclusion so far is there is little hope for any further rational and reasonable discussion.

The problem is

I had a feeling this was where we were going. Another relevant and important topic thrown into the polarization wastebin. This wastebin is now filled, compacted and crawling with maggots with virtually every important aspect of our lives: abortion, gay marriage, trade, middle east, taxes, climate change, sex-ed, gun rights, voter rights, police, education, religion, military, subsidies, homeless. What they all have in common is dividing America and making it impossible to have a rational discussion about any of them. Today we all sound like idiots.

Time to take out the trash - or at least part of it.

First step is to define one valid and compelling argument. I am going to write out the pro-Vax argument first. I didn't need to search the internet. I didn't need watch the news. Honestly, until three weeks ago I didn't even realize the entire country wasn't on the same page. This is my take on why people are getting the vaccine (If it doesn't then let me know)...

Vaccine debate is a learning lesson as to why our country is divided.

I think this about covers it. I could add more details but I don't believe the pro-Vax argument is lacking in media coverage.

Next step is to come up with at least one valid and compelling counter-argument. You don't need to think hard. It is pretty self-evident and obvious. Re-read my pro-Vax argument or your own and simply counter it. You don't need to watch the news, you don't need to read any website. Just use some common sense and curiosity.

Now re-read the four items from my anecdotal survey again. They likely aren't that compelling are they? Something might feel a bit "off". Maybe the don't sit well. Hopefully there should be some massive sky-filling red-flags. Frankly, when I heard people say these I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

The red-flag should be that none of these responses have anything to do with the vaccine. Zilch, zero and nada. Yet these are touted as "real" counter-arguments by the pro-Vax. How in the world anyone believes these are the reasons people are skeptical of the vaccine used to be beyond me. Now I get it. What these reasons do is simply reinforce the initial argument by making the other side appear to be idiots. The combination of a compelling pro-argument and baseless anti-argument solidify into a cult-like bubble. Those in this bubble are no longer able to receive any new information unless it agrees with their "cult".

If you are in the pro-Vax crowd and in any way believes any or all of these four reasons than I am not sure there is any help until you admit that you were scammed and that your were lied to. If it means anything to you I have been in the same boat a few times. Frankly it is kind of embarrassing and depending on how deep into your "cult" you have gone you may have to come to terms with some shame. Your news, your experts, the influential expert advisor you have come to trust and rely on has lied to you, has used you and you believed them. It really helps to admit it.

Still I need to deal with these pro-Vax anti-reasons. First one basically gives up without even trying. This is intellectually lazy and pathetic. Second one, political reasons. I don't even know what this means. I guess if I break my arm I see a doctor depending on who is in the White House. I am intentionally being flippant because this is nonsense. Third one, religious reasons. Since I have never met anyone using this as a reason I did some research. I found a few groups that had under 2,000 members that would fall into this category. These groups are against ALL vaccines so it isn't specific to the COVID-19 vaccine. Again they have nothing specific against the COVID-19 vaccine, they don't do any vaccines. I don't see these groups as a sizable enough to worry about but if you feel compelled feel free to track them down and while you are at it I would love to see your success rate talking to the last 555 remaining flat-earth society members. (For some reason it makes me happy that this group still exists.) Finally, the Gates chip. Any theory which you find silly simply ask for proof. Someone believes there is a chip in the vaccine then go ahead and snag a few extra doses of the vaccine and get it tested. If you find the chip and have documented proof then great - I will sit and listen and read everything you have. In the end if Billy figured out a way to create a semi-soluable chip tracker that fits through the eye of a needle I give him the win. I recommend he sticks them in cans of White Claw and he would have the entire state of Florida chipped in a weekend. What none of these reasons actually discuss and what they entirely avoid is the most self-evident and obvious reason.

Am I better off getting the vaccine or not?

Let's start there. I don't know about you but it is the only question that matters to me and the only thing I asked myself.

Right now

So how is it possible that these same people give as a counter-argument the four items I listed above?

Just use some damn common sense.

I literally can't wait until American society starts acting like adults can have discussions about topics and speak openly and plainly without sounding like idiots. To be clear, on virtually every political, economical, religious etc topic we all sound like idiots

The AdCouncil's lies about fertility and pregnancy.

Lie 1: Their question is biased and unscientific

nothing is 100% safe.

how do you plan on testing that t

The Ad-Council has 6 questions on the first page with one being "How do we know they are safe?". They didn't ask "Are the vaccines safe?" or "What are the risks of taking the vaccine?" or "How many people have died from the vaccine?" or better "What were the test results of the vaccine?". Instead they used the word "know" which transforms the question into stating a conclusion in the form of a question. So this "question" presupposes This profoundly influences and misleads both the reader and the answer. This is not an honest or unbiased question and should be rejected for more logical and unQuestions like this are not based in science, they are not intended to educate and inform but are designed to mislead. Or it could be an accident. The writer could have good intentions but just failed at the execution.

Lie 2:

Prominent on the AdCouncil's website, getvaccineanswers.org, is the statistic that 144,894,586 people in the US have received their first dose of a COVID-19 "vaccine". That is 44% of the of the United States' 330 million citizens.

Hopefully these "vaccines" work.

This is one of only a few topics I have been at odds with Trump on. Boasts of finding a vaccine in under a year under the tagline of "Operation Warp Speed" seemed reckless to me. Quelling fear with hope is what the mindless masses. Yet before he left office on December 11th, 2020 Pfizer received their EUA from the FDA and then on December 18th Moderna received theirs. My thoughts at the time were simply 'I can't believe he did it.' He made deals with Big Pharma and together they made it happen. Ironically many of those scrambling to get an injection of a fast-tracked drug facilitated by the Trump administration are the same people that have been endlessly complaining about Trump and his tweats. I am certain Trump will not be credited with his role in this as to do so is mentally impossible for those with hate and disgust for the man.

and do some mental gymnastics to credit t. I disagree with Trump on this issue and at least one other. No one agrees with If you agree 100% of the time with someone you are an idiot . of the Of all the complaints I have heard on Trump's tweats and boasts and now everyone is taking it. he Trump Administration made a deal with Big Pharma and gave them billions of dollars to deliver a vaccine for COVID-19.

I have doubts and will hopefully never be forced to get one.

I still had no interest in getting a vaccine for a virus. I don't wake up in fear of Covid nor have I ever except for that has very little no fear of. There were only 2-3 hours where I was nervous back in March of 2020. I rushed to

This week I received my stimulus debit card for $1400. Kind of a bummer. Free money and experimental drugs that solve everyone's fears seem

Kind of amazing but I was still skeptical.

A friend forwarded me an article by Christian Elliot titled "18 Reasons I Won't Be Getting a Covid Vaccine". Simply a brilliantly written article. Because it is so rare anyone agrees with me I had has written a wonderfully thoughtful and rational piece on the Covid-19 vaccine. He asks questions. Questions are scary. I believe it is worth a read if you are thinking of getting a vaccine.

The AdCouncil has their own website to deal with misinformation spreaders like Christian Elliot.

The answer provided is very generic and basically says that since the FDA approved it, it must be good. The same FDA that has allowed farm animals to be treated like concentration camp victims for decades and recently now pretending to an innocent bystander passing harsh and sudden rules on the farmer to change their ways, allowed medical companies to hide reports of their defective products from public view for decades, bribery, of defective products. hid defective allowed heart , foasamax osteo porosis

Do vaccines impact fertility?
There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems. If you are trying to become pregnant now or want to get pregnant in the future, you may receive a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to you.

Moderna pg46
Pharmacovigilance Activities
The Sponsor submitted a Pharmacovigilance Plan to monitor safety concerns that could be associated with the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. The Sponsor identified vaccine-associated enhanced disease (which includes but is not limited to vaccine-associated enhanced respiratory disease) and anaphylactic reactions (including anaphylaxis) as important potential risks. Use in the pediatric population, use in pregnant and breast-feeding women, immunogenicity in participants with immunosuppression, concomitant administration with non-COVID vaccines, long-term safety and long-term effectiveness are areas the Sponsor identified as missing information.

The Sponsor will conduct both passive and active surveillance activities for continued vaccine safety monitoring. Passive surveillance activities will include submitting spontaneous reports of the following events to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) within 15 days:
• Vaccine administration errors whether or not associated with an adverse event
• Serious adverse events (irrespective of attribution to vaccination)
• Cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in adults
• Cases of COVID-19 that result in hospitalization or death

Moderna pg47
Sponsor studies will include completion of long-term follow-up from ongoing clinical trials as well as the following three planned surveillance studies.
• Pregnancy Cohort: The Sponsor plans to establish a passive pregnancy registry to monitor vaccination during pregnancy within populations expected to receive the vaccine under EUA, and to submit a protocol for FDA review and approval.

Moderna pg50
Unknown Risks/Data Gaps
Safety in certain subpopulations
There are currently insufficient data to make conclusions about the safety of the vaccine in subpopulations such as children less than 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating individuals, and immunocompromised individuals.

When Trump announced we would have a vaccine by the end of the year I was not happy. It didn't make sense to me that he could make that kind of promise. I was very skeptical. Literally the only time Yet he did. All rejoiced. Trump made deals with big pharma to give them billions and they would deliver a vaccine that would alleviate all our fears.

I read it once, then again and again and again. I

There is so much content that each night I find myself re-reading a section or two and and trying to read every link for that section. After two weeks I feel like I barely scratched the surface. the . I think the I read it numerous times and spent many hours reading the EUA's submitted by the drug

I have had serious doubts on this from

You


Trackers

You need to track your cryptos.

My good friend has a sophisticated spreadsheet that tracks every exchange, every transaction and even has notes for every thing he does and thinks. This spreadsheet also tracks a lot more than that but you wouldn't believe me if I told you. There is no possible way most people will do what he does - including me.

But you still need to track it. First off you need to keep a journal that is simply a flat file of chronological notes. The journal is comforting. I have 10+ exchanges/wallets and dozens of coins and on those days when I start moving large sums around, which can take anywhere from seconds to days to materialize, I really needed something to fall back on to remember what the heck I did. No one else can track what you think you did.

Additionally I use the following three sites as coin aggregators to give me live feedback on everything I own and where everything is...

cointracker.io - tracks your coins. This is the first one I used. Seems fine. I like it.

coinstats.app - tracks your coins - similar to cointracker.io. Gives a little bit more info and in a different way and I like having multiple trackers. I pay for the PRO version ~$5/month. Basically free.

koinly.io - tracks your coins for tax purposes. Costs $99 for 1,000 transactions or $179 per year for up to 3,000 transactions. You need a coin tax tracker. I tried two others but this had a reasonable fee and easier to use with better information.

These are my trackers until someone shows me a better one.

Notes

• Use the same email for all crypto accounts. Once you set your email they can be difficult if not impossible to change. I believe all the trackers above are easy to change but exchanges and wallets are typically not.

• Do not use Coinbase, Google, Facebook etc to login. I had used coinbase to login to various crypto apps but this became a nightmare when trying to log in to the same account on my phone. I ended up deleting everything and starting over though I think there is a way to change it later. Once I switched to simply using email and password I had no issues with phone apps.

• Getting comfortable linking accounts takes time, it isn't easy and it often fails. You will need to download csv files and then upload them, you will need to create api's and copy it along with the secret key and/or passphrase etc into a secure password manager and then paste them all into your trackers. It is annoying, it is not intuitive and it is complicated. Every exchange and wallet is different and some are easy while others are next to impossible. Sometimes I just needed to step away for an hour or a day and do the exact same thing and voila. Basically, expect to be frustrated. Or just take it one step at a time and realize this isn't easy and much of this is not your fault.

But it must be done.


Authy for 2FA

Anyone wanting to get started in crypto will have to get a two-factor authenticator (aka 2FA). I found this requirement annoying and I resisted. Why do I need yet another log in thingy? I already have to respond to emails and texts and pay for a password manager. Since starting in crypto's I quickly found that I also had to use either my laptop or phone with their built-in cameras in order to register with some sites or to unlock the features of others. Photos of driver's license and passport, pictures of my face and yet others even required specific poses like putting my left hand on top of my head. Now they say I need yet another app? Good luck in engaging in illegal activities using crypto's.

I wanted to keep on with crypto's and had no interest in human trafficking so I conceded. I tried one recommended authenticator which worked for a few sites but then not others. I just wanted one. By far the most widely and loudly recommended app is Google Authenticator. That was a problem for me. Since I prefer some semblance of privacy I refuse signing up to any new "free" google products as I would rather pay for something than be the product. If you love google and use it for everything, I get it, it is often difficult to beat google's functionality, but occasionally you can.

The only 2FA app you need to use Authy.

Virtually every site will reference the Google Authenticator app but you always just use Authy. In the world of crypto this is the one app that universally works and it works on all platforms, all phones and all sites.

Below is a screenshot from one crypt site and they note to use Google three times! I promise that Authy will work everytime. I have more crypto accounts than any human could possibly need and Authy has worked on them all.

Authy posted a blog with more info.

https://authy.com/blog/authy-vs-google-authenticator/

Only issue is Authy is that it is free. Are they somehow selling my info as well? How do they make money? I read through their site and found a number of ways that they are selling their services to businesses and developers. I don't have hard facts on this besides reading their site. I do know that their app works and works well and I believe that there is a good chance that my information is safe with them.


Crypto Basics

It took me about a 6 months to achieve a basic understanding of Crypto's - what it means, why it matters and how to get started making money. After I quickly doubled my invested money I decided to take a deeper dive.

I synthesized many conversations and online videos down to the 5 ways people are making money in this area and ordered them roughly from least to highest risk. The purpose of this post was to detail an honest and actionable investment strategy that I am using, how it makes sense to me or in Mandalorian “This is the way”.

1. Dollar cost average Bitcoin and Ethereum: This “way” is to buy and hold (aka HODL) the coins that will be around forever, will likely always go up and have the least risk of going to zero. Every crypto is “money+” meaning they are a means of payment but also do something. Bitcoin's purpose is being the most universally accepted coin which no other crypto can dethrone (BTC is a unique case), Ethereum's purpose is their code which is the basis for nearly every other coin.

Goal: Dollar cost average the 2 largest, safest coins.

Full-disclosure: I use Swan to buy Bitcoin every day (not Coinbase) and occasionally buy Ethereum on Coinbase whenever it drops.

Apps/Websites needed:
• Coinbase as the all purpose standard to buy BitCoin, Ethereum and other major coins.
Referral https://www.coinbase.com/join/barrin_ov
• Authy for authentication of Coinbase and, I think, all other crypto sites (and someday every financial site). You must install this on your phone.
• SwanBitCoin to buy Bitcoin because they have the lowest fees. (Coinbase is pricey)
Referral https://www.swanbitcoin.com/Barringer

2. High Interest Savings account - Stable coin USDC: This “way” is to move some of your savings into a high earning (currently 8.6%) savings account. Your account still has the same dollar value except it is in a fixed Crypto coin earning a much higher interest rate than in a bank. I don't know how long interest rates like this will last but they can't last forever.

Stable coins are fixed to the value of a dollar. It took me a solid week before I realized the power of stable coins and what the impact will be and is. Crypto's are money+ and one purpose of stable coins is it allow US Dollars to be instantly sent and received without fees. Think back to how many problems you have had from waiting for a check to clear or for someone to get your money. Now add some zero's to your fees which corporations, governments etc are faced with. Now imagine you or these large agencies doing the same transactions, in the same currency, but instantly and with no fees. It's already being done and those that try it don't go back to the old way. This is here to stay and will disrupt the banking industry.

Goal: Earn a high interest on your savings account.

Full-disclosure: I put 10% of my savings in BlockFi in USDC coin and I selected all interest to be paid out in Ethereum. I think the USDollar might lose value substantially over the next few years so my plan is to limit investment to 50% of my savings.

Apps/Websites needed:
• BlockFi: Referral https://blockfi.com/?ref=dcbd998d

3. High Interest Savings Account - Non-stable coin BTC, ETH: This “way” is the same as above but instead of USDollars you put Bitcoin (6.0% interest on BlockFi) or Ethereum (5.25% interest on BlockFi) into a savings account instead of USDollars. This is obviously only for people who already own crypto's.

Goal: Earn a high interest on your crypto savings account.

Full-disclosure needed: I haven't done this yet but I will soon. My plan is to have 50% of savings in stable coins and 50% in non-stable coins.

Apps/Websites:
• BlockFi: Referral https://blockfi.com/?ref=dcbd998d

4. Speculative Cryptos - Buy the minor cryptos in the hope that they achieve wide adoption: This “way” is the most exciting and the one aspect those “in the know” want to talk about the most. Only problem is it is far more complicated and confusing than it sounds. It isn't possible to jump from old-school banking ideas and investment strategies to this “way” before investing time and money in the previous crypto "ways" above. If you don't own Bitcoin and Ethereum you shouldn't invest here. Period. There are thousands of coins, there are hundreds of websites. Every website does something different, most websites don't accept fiat currency, every site has regulatory restrictions (USA vs Germany vs Japan), every site sells and trades different coins each each with wildly different rates and fees, every coin has its own story, and every week countries are passing new regulations impacting everything. This requires a lot of time and effort to manage. Just a hint at the complexity: I opened a KuCoin account a month ago and now US citizens are banned. Also, since cryptos are money+ what they do gets bizarre: they can be artwork, they can be a contract, they can be a parts supplier via 3D printers. etc. Beginners should ignore this area entirely!!

Goal: Make tons of money on speculative coins.

Full-disclosure: I have some money in a few coins but I am wary of recommending any of them to beginners. I own ChainLink and I will be buying PolkADot. These coins allow the transfer of all other coins in the banking world and are basically essential. After that I get totally lost and give up.

Apps/Websites possible:
Hundreds of sites. I likely have an account with whatever you find so you can ask for a referral.

5. Trading Crypto: This “way” is the same idea as trading in the FOREX currency market.

Goal: Make money on the volatility of the crypto market.

Full-disclosure: I haven't done this yet but I spend hours every day working towards it. This is high risk.

Apps/Websites I use:
• I am not telling because you shouldn't be using them.

Receiving Cryptos: This isn't a "way" but soon we will need a simple method of transferring money. Step in Unstoppable Domains. You buy your own user friendly domain name so anyone at anytime can transfer money to you.

Goal: Simple user friendly system to be paid. One link does it all.

Full-disclosure: I purchased one account: danielbarringer.crypto. I have not used it yet but feel free to send me money.

Apps/Websites:
Unstoppable Domains. Referral: https://unstoppabledomains.com/r/2f956b9a3a48448

Final Thoughts:
• I didn't write this to make money on referrals which amounts to like ~$20 we each would get, but I added it anyways and to prove these are the sites I am using and to limit correspondence.
• I have found Crypto websites to be challenging to navigate. You will be required to go through a lot more security than a regular bank.
• I am not anyone's financial advisor. Invest at your own risk.
• Thanks to M.T. for teaching me everything.
• Goal was to explain this using the simplest possible terms. Advanced crypto users will find "errors" in my explanation. Suck it, no one cares.

I have spoken.


Medellin Quick Guide

Featured image I took from the top of El Peñón de Guatapé.

  • DENTIST: My dentist, Juan Carlos, was great and I will go back.
    international@clinicaartica.com +57 300 3832 926
  • SAFETY: City seemed safe and I rarely felt concerned though I didn't spend any time outside past midnight and was very conscious of not doing anything stupid or ever leaving my drink unattended. One of Michael's hotel neighbor's was drugged and robbed by two ladies he brought to his apartment. The next morning Michael helped him remember how to tie his shoes, turn on a computer and eventually he secured more money for another attempt at his dream.
  • CELL PHONES: I read a number of articles on cell phone safety which warned that thieves will snatch your new iPhone from you in public, through the window of your cab or simply just mug you. One solution they mentioned was to bring an older phone to hand over in a mugging. This didn't seem very practical to me and I heard stories of how muggers caught on to this trick and would get angry if you handed them an old phone. My iPhone is a 6s and though I brought a 5s for this scenario I never bothered carrying it. Better if someone would just steal my 6s. I limited my use in bad areas, always checked around me before I did and didn't use it in a crowd.
  • MONEY: I should have brought a little more cash. On previous trips to other countries I brought too much cash and ended up just using ATM's the whole time. However, in Colombia few ATM's hand out much cash and many have high fees. After trying a few banks I settled on Bank of Bogota as my go to ATM which would give out COP 1,500,000 (around $490) for reasonable fees. There could be a better ATM but I did not need or want to withdraw more cash than that at one time.
  • HOW MUCH MONEY?: Prices are written many different ways. And "mil" is not million it is thousand. Examples I saw...
    49mil = $49mil = $49.000 = COP 49.000 = COP 49,000 =~ $14USD
  • HOTELS: Do your research and read reviews. Go with a real Hotel, unlike my selection of Soul Lifestyle Hotel, or go full AirBnB. This time I spent over $100 per night the whole time. Next time it will be half that. $100 should get you a great hotel. $50 should get you a great AirBnB.
  • LOCATION: Next time I will stay at areas outside of the center of Parque Lleras, possibly Laureles Park, to reduce street vendor interactions.
  • STREET VENDORS: By the end of the trip I was exhausted by their constant and never ending sales pitches. One tour guide told me to start with 'Gracias' and if they ask again say 'No Gracias' and just keep walking. That is what I did. Now sitting at home and reflecting on the trip one strategy might be to just walk around with a bunch of COP 1,000 coins and hand them out. I might try that next time.
  • RESTAURANTS: You can order a world class entree for around $15 (COP 50,000). I didn't see the need to pay more than this. You can order an average meal, like a medium pizza from Dominos, for around $9 (COP 30,000) and there are cheaper lunch places for $3 (COP 10,000) which will be outside of the tourist areas. Do research on both the restaurant and the meal. I was happy with what I did by finding two really excellent restaurants for dinner, Carmens and Ocio, and eating there every night.
  • SPANISH: The more Spanish you know the more fun your trip will be. No doubt about it. I muddled through and learned a lot but it could have been better.

Medellin Last Day & Coffee

I woke up late and did nothing for a while. I was still grumpy with management at my new pad, Soul Lifestyle Hotel. Management's latest email apologized for their staff, whom they promised would be dealt with, and a generous offer to clean my hotel room once - for free. All I had to do was ask for it. All that goodwill combined with yesterday's peace offering of an extra roll of toilet paper had worn me out.

Basically Soul Lifestyle Hotel isn't a hotel. I was misled by both their name and their stated marketing proclaiming that they have all the amenities of a hotel plus more... However, the day before I found myself begging for more toilet paper and I could see that the staff wanted to give it to me but weren't sure if they were allowed to or not. I won't go into the unpleasant issues that started the conflict but I was eventually given everything I wanted and they refunded me one night. Soul is a long term apartment rental that has a concierge desk.

I went up to the roof to check out the pool and ran into one of my favorite hotel staff members. I let him know that Soul's management, the woman Ximena, was trying to blame the staff, basically him, for everything. I let him know that I had responded to management's pathetic email appropriately by condemning her for trying to blame her own staff for her faults. I could tell he felt better as the on-site staff was doing their best given the impossibility of both following management's strict rules while also making the guests stay comfortable and easy. So I asked him what should I do on my last day - he said El Tesoro Mall.

Not far away but basically straight uphill I did the 3/4 mile walk up to El Tesoro Mall. When I arrived it became clear no one walks to this mall. There is no front door, no sidewalks, just an entry for cars. Security waived me through a brief break in the queue of cars and I entered the parking lot, then up the stairs and escalators to the security lady for temperature check and a dollop of goo.

It was clearly an upscale mall and except for about half the storefront names it was the same as any mall in the US. I came for the food so I followed the signs to the upper floor food court which contained four fancy sit down restaurants. One restaurant had an open table next to a glass railing that provided an unobstructed view the city below. I sat there for whatever food they were serving.

Michael texted me the moment I sat down to say he was coming over to wherever I was to drop off the print I had bought during our Communa 13 walk. I had made him carry it that day and every day since and he wanted his responsibility to be over with. 10 minutes later he was there with the print. I ordered ribs which were good, too sweet of course but after two weeks in Medellin I knew that going in. I also had my favorite drink of the entire trip Limonada de Coco. Coconut lemanade. It was amazing and I want to learn how to make it.

We talked and then walked the mall. He went back to his place and I still had my last errand of finding some coffee to buy for all my coffee aficionados back home. I went to Carulla on Michael's suggestion but they only had ground coffee. I wanted whole bean.

I gave up and went home.

For dinner I made the mistake of not going to either Carmen's or Ocio's for once and tried a new place, Panko. It was next door to Ocio's but for some bizarre reason I went there instead.

I ordered the octopus on mashed potatoes. They had whipped the potatoes with a blender into a gelatinous goo. I had done this myself once thinking I was a genius to reuse my hand blender for something other than a shake. I found it doesn't work. The texture and feel is all wrong. Three bites later I paid most of the bill and walked the 20 feet to where I should have gone in the first place. Ocio.

I ordered braised pork shank on mashed potatoes and it was delicious. My waiter, Julian, saw me enjoying the potatoes and mentioned the chef's recommendation of pouring the provided gravy on the potatoes but I couldn't bring myself to do it. They were so good without it. I tried to imagine a way of bringing some of it over to Panko's chef so they could taste what mashed potatoes should be like but it would never have the outcome I wanted.

I was getting ready to leave when I saw their beautiful display case of coffee beans. Wood casing with glass doors and lit perfectly. It was a sign and I wanted them.

Julian opened the case and brought me one bag. Perfect. Whole beans, clearly not something you can get anywhere else except here and smelled wonderful. I was bracing myself for the price as he said they were expensive because they were made by the families impacted by armed conflicts.

Julian told me the price. I felt relieved and said I would take 10. He was clearly surprised. So I said, well, how about 15. He and another got to work emptying their display case of coffee and also two jars of honey from the top shelf for me. I bought all of their blood coffee beans, 10 bags, and bought 5 bags of Huila coffee which I had read about earlier in the day as being very fine coffee.

From the back of the Paz coffee bag.

Este cafe ha sido cultivado y procesado artesanalmente en el municipo de Granada pro familias victimas del conflicto armado en tierras a las cuuales han retornado despues de haber sido desplazades. Es fruto del esfuerzo familiar de pequenos caficultores quienes encuentran en el cafe un sustento, una forma de volver a relacionarse con su territorio, de reconstruir sus vidas y su economia local. Urbania, en alianza con @tejpaz con el respaldo del PNUD, los apoya por medio de la comercializacion de su cafe y la asesoria en produccion de cafes especiales. Este producto simboliza La Paz, el Perdon, la Reconcillacion y la Esperanza.

This coffee has been cultivated and processed by hand in the municipality of Granada by families who are victims of the armed conflict in lands to which they have returned after being displaced. It is the result of the family effort of small coffee growers who find a livelihood in coffee, a way to reconnect with their territory, to rebuild their lives and their local economy. Urbania, in alliance with @tejpaz with the support of UNDP, supports them through the commercialization of their coffee and advice on the production of specialty coffees. This product symbolizes Peace, Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Hope.




Medellin Barrio Transformation Tour

Real City Tours doesn't do a Comuna13 tour. Hundreds of tour groups do that one but they are the only ones who do a Barrio Transformation Tour.

Tom had texted me wondering if I was going or not. Tom and I met on the Real City food tour which was just ok and I doubt I will write about it. I had my final appointment with Juan Carlos in the morning and was also checking out of the Charlee Hotel so I kind of gave up on the tour.

I finished with Juan and was mostly packed and ready to leave the hotel by 1:30pm and realized I couldn't even check in at the new place until 3pm. Barrio Tour starts at 2pm. Why not? I texted Real City to say I was coming who doubted I could make it on time. I finished packing, dropped off my bags with the concierge and was in a taxi 8 minutes later. I found Tom at the Caribe Metro station and together we walked a long way in the wrong direction and then back again finally finding our tour guide leader and our group at 2pm.

It would be impossible to fully explain this tour. This tour and their El Centro tour were more similar to a masters lecture on Colombian history than any walking tour I have been on. Without a recording of the entire tour to make it real for the reader all I can do is my best on a couple of the stories.

To give some background, Real City Tours doesn't just do tours, they are part of this Barrio and invest in it. From murals to buildings they take proceeds from the tour to help in the transformation and have been doing it for years. They have a more intimate relationship with this community than I would have believed. The tour was led by Pablo and he had with him a community outreach liaison. I can't remember her actual title but that is close.

Years ago her mother started an ad-hoc kindergarten for any and all the kids in the Barrio which allowed their parents to go to work. Her efforts were instrumental in helping rebuild the community. Real City tours commissioned a mural of her mother and when a real kindergarten was built it was named after her. Today her daughter is taking up the lead role as the spokeswoman for the Barrio and works with the local governments to direct funds to where it is needed most. When the city was going to invest in street lamps and roads she fought against it and insisted that what they really needed was a community center. Today the community center is used constantly (except during Covid times) for learning, training, studying, arts etc. and is the center of the community. This was clearly one her biggest accomplishments.

Years before this new community center was built Real City Tours provided money for the construction of a small community center and with the help of students from a German Architecture school it was built. These students come every year and do a project. One year they built the center, the next they built concrete steps up to a previously difficult path to the homes up the hill.

I will sum up 6 hours of lectures on Medellin history: Medellin grew and it was ok. Then armed conflicts arose throughout the countryside. Many fled these areas and settled on the outskirts of Medellin and they came in waves over the course of decades of conflict. Houses were built, shacks were built, no plans were submitted, no planning was done. It was a mess. Medellin government leaders attempted to help and made some things worse and other things better. Pablo discussed it all.

The rain came hard and heavy for a few minutes and we sheltered under a roof overhang on a man's porch. I stood next to the homes owner who sat in a folding chair. He was a large and serious man and though older I felt a strong desire to stay on his good side. Pablo spent the time talking about the delicate relationship between the government and this Barrio. The gruff large man then went into his house and brought out an enormous hand painted protest banner which was used in a protest earlier that day which said "Major of Medellin - Leave us Alone." As the rain cleared and we walked on, Pablo told us he was the man who built the sewer system for the entire Barrio and unnecessarily told us that you don't want to mess with him.

We ended the tour on the top of a hill. Many years ago the hill was actually a lagoon that had been filled in and then raised up by trash. This hill was the initial focus of the transformation with the plan to relocate all of the people who had built homes upon it though some remain to this day. The rain started again as we trekked to the top on concrete steps and arrived at a small shack. The patio was crowded with motorcycle police officers escaping the rain and intently playing games on their phones. Their green dual sport bikes stood parked exposed on the grass in front and across the level field was a large greenhouse filled with flowers, plants and succulents. I took a picture of the logo on one of their helmets but asked before I did. It was a good day.

Final note. Pablo told the story of COVID in the Barrio. As I, and many others predicted, COVID restrictions would impact the poor disproportionately and if actually implemented would kill many times more people than COVID ever could. While "good" liberals, who still bizarrely believe that their policies are compassionate, were at home collecting pay checks and telling everyone to stay at home, members of this Barrio were waving red flags from atop their trash hill to the cars below trying to tell the world that they were starving to death. Later the Barrio en masse revolted against the restrictions and saved themselves. Thank God.




Medellin Comuna 13

Michael and I headed up to Comuna13 to check it out. He had been multiple times so we didn't hire a tour guide. We took an Uber but he let us off far from the start. As we walked a young lady passed and Michael asked for directions. She brushed him off and kept walking. Michael asked again, she stopped, talked with Michael briefly and then walked with us the 2 or so kilometers to the start of Comuna13. Michael tipper her COP 20,000 for her 30 minutes of guiding.

I basically looked at amazing murals and walked up windy streets with vendors and ongoing tours all around me.

We stopped for a bit at an art studio. I loved the painting featured on this post. I looked into buying the original which after a phone call to the artist I was quoted COP 8,000,000. I was very tempted but left with just a print of it done on canvas for COP 15,000.




Medellin Fruit Tour

This is my second walking tour with Real City Tours and the one I was most excited about. I met Tim on my first walking tour and I talked him into doing the Fruit tour with me.

Not exactly what I hoped for. I imagined new delicious fruits I have never tasted before. Reality is that I already have access to most of the best tasting fruits on the planet, these are just the ones that not enough people like to justify mass production.

I took the metro to the closest stop to Plaza Minorista and walked the 1/2 mile through some pretty tough areas. Some areas had small clumps of drug addicts, but most were industrious people trying to make a living. The first area of work was three blocks of motorcycle repair shops who did all of the work right on the sidewalk. Then I passed a few blocks of ornamental iron workers fabricating, welding and painting metal door and window frames on the sidewalk. Everything was on the sidewalk.

Met our tour guide and Tim at Plaza Minorista and started the 1.5 hour tour. The highlight for me was the arepas which is not a fruit. By a large margin it was the best arepa I ate during my trip and besides being round and containing corn it had nothing in common with any other arepa.

Near the end of our tour our guide asked me my impression of the market. I said it was surprisingly clean and empty. He said "exactly - that is why we do our tours here and not at the larger more popular markets. We do them here to help bring people back to this market." He then told the history of this market which for a time was extremely dangerous. Criminals had taken over the market under a protection racket and those vendors who didn't pay were gunned down which included the nearby shoppers. Over time the Plaza degenerated and most avoided it. Some years ago the vendors pulled together and formed a collective that repelled the criminals, convinced the police department to construct a police station inside of the market, added security cameras and made sure it was clean. It's like Detroit.

https://youtu.be/T_ocuZKR5Zo



After the tour I asked our guide where to go for lunch. He directed us to a fish place in the basement where I finally was able to try sancocho soup. The soup was good and large and served with a huge chunk of catfish.


Medellin by ATV - video

I found this option while re-booking my trip and looking up more things to do. Ride ATV's in the mountains around Medellin - seemed like a great plan.

I ended up booking it right through the Charlee Hotel's best concierge lady, Daniela. Michael went with me and it was all that I hoped for.

It was a 40 minute drive and right near the airport (one of the pics below actually shows the planes parked at MDE airport - we were a few hundred yards away!). I set the ride length at 2hours and they recommended a complete change of clothes from head to toe.

I loved every minute. It helped to have 15 years of motorcycling experience but I think the one day I went snowmobiling in the mountains of Tahoe helped even more. "Always stand up, never slow down, and use your body to steer." was my "friend's" primary instructions. I hated that day because "my friend" expected me to drive his new snowmobile up and down the side of a forested mountain perfectly - routes that had taken him many hours to master. After 3 hours of treacherous riding and constant verbal abuse, 2 sprained wrists and 1 run in with a tree I gave up in protest. Riding an ATV was easy compared to that.

We arrived at the ATV staging house and quickly signed a release form, put on the jacket, gloves and helmet, listened to the 2 minute summary of ATV controls and we were off.

I had to hold the camera in one hand and drive with the other so I couldn't film me riding the more challenging areas. The best one being the steeper-than-it-looks watery hill climb which I did film Michael doing. I stood up and gunned it until I reached the top and had a huge smile the whole time.

https://youtu.be/iMWZYGJoG-Q

Other photos from the day