Asides

Navigating 64 Squares in Colombia’s Capital

“I stay on the 64 squares, while patrolling the center/ Trading space from material, the time zone, I enter”

Gza

There was always chess going down in the centre of Colombia’s capital, Bogota. At a number of different points throughout the city tables were set up and cats would have them packed out.

Even the rain which frequented the city daily during my visit could not stop the dirty and weathered boards being attacked by a range of eccentric characters. Players ranged from well-dressed elderly gents to odious smelling dudes, playing off last night’s hangover.

The boards were a mixture of those engaging in speed chess to those enjoying games at a more leisurely pace.

There was always a fair share of spectators including a number of kibitzers who would freely distribute their unwanted advice to players deep in concentration.

Each day, I saw this same dapper gentleman vanquish one and all. There was less than gentlemanly conduct when some opponents refused to shake his hand after he had dished out another devastating beat-down.

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The rib injury that has kept me off the mats has given me more time to work on the 64 squares but my own chess game was very much in its infancy;  I was scared to death of stepping up to play. Nevertheless, each day I would stop and watch a couple of boards, in the hope that I could pick up some knowledge that would elevate my suckage.

Finding Jesus on a Bogota Street

Colombia’s capital city, Bogota is awash with churches; it would be a struggle throwing a stone without breaking some stained glass.

Generally, I have found Catholic churches in South America to be less severe than their European counterparts, maintaining colour and vibrancy while still reveling in delicious gaudiness.

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But, visiting Bogota’s Primatial Cathedral, I was surprised to find the iconic Baroque structure light on ornamentation. This included artwork, there was a shocking lack of iconography.

This was a disappointment. I am always intrigued at the almost perverse morbidity of long-dead Catholic artists in depicting their saviour in the highest states of duress.

I actually discovered the most striking images of God’s only begotten son out on the street.

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The street was where homeless artists ply their craft, creating haunting images of Christ for mere pennies from passers-by.

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The use of chalk ensured the Son of Man was put to death each night, trampled out of existence by thousands of walking feet before his eventual resurrection the following day.

How I Found Myself In a Football Riot In Brazil

Brazilian football fans are presented as passionate and fun-loving, a fanbase that dance in the stands with their faces painted, and turn games into one giant party. I recently discovered this isn’t a complete picture.

Leaving the Tijuca Tennis Clube on Sunday, sporting broken ribs and an insatiable desire for pizza, our group managed to walk into the middle of a pitched battle between Brazilian football hooligans.

Brazil’s most popular team, Flamengo were playing Sao Paulo based, Corinthians that afternoon. Whilst not a local derby there exists a passionate rivalry between the two teams.

As we reached the end of the street, in the square across the road, chaos was unfolding before our very eyes.

There was none of pseudo macho posturing or the usual ‘come-on then’ rhetoric that is predisposed to the idiots at home, I didn’t even see a single ‘wanker’ gesture. Fists were flying from all angles. Many of the angry looking men had acquired weapons of sticks and bats and were using them to bash each other.

Whilst we were close to the action it seemed a relatively safe vantage point, that was until a mob decked out in Flamengo’s red and black charged in our direction.

As they entered the street, there was a collective ‘shiiiiiit’ from our group as we sprinted to get away from these weapon-clad brigade of hate-filled mentalists. Broken ribs or not, I moved like the Flash.

There appeared a very realistic possibility of being beaten by a large blunt object had we failed to react. We weren’t the only ones who’d come to this same conclusion, a middle aged woman, apparently more attuned to the danger, had taken off slightly earlier and left us in her dust.

Other fleeing people took refuge in whatever shop or business they could find as shutters slammed down.

We made it back to the Tijuca Tennis Clube, figuring a venue full of grapplers would be the safest place in Rio. As we reached the entrance in an effort to help an acai vendor save his stock, the doors were shut on us, we had to plead to be let in.

The word soon went out and jiu-jitsu athletes started pouring into the street, many appearing far too eager for an opportunity to choke out some football fans.

Making it home later that afternoon – after eventually acquiring pizza, to discover this violence was just the tip of the iceberg following serious disturbances within the stadium.

Brazil might have some of the most passionate and fun-loving fans in the world, but they are equally passionate about punching each other in the face.