My name is Phil Bunch and am often called Felipe here in Medellin. I was born in 1948 in San Diego, California, USA. I lived there, in Lemon Grove, most of my life although I traveled a lot both for business and pleasure. My career has mostly been spent in the environmental management field. I also have worked in the nursery industry and I am an avid gardener.

One of my bussiness assignments brought me to Colombia to work on the Cerrejon Coal mine baseline environmental studies during the early 1980’s. At that time I met my wife, Nubia. I not only fell in love with Nubia but also with her native country. Since then we often traveled to Colombia, mostly to the Medellin area.

In December of 2007 I retired from San Diego Gas and Electric. In January of 2008 we moved to Medellin fulfilling a dream of 30 years. We left behind family and dear friends to live here with different branches of the family and other dear friends. Thanks to the Internet we stay in touch with our San Diego roots.

In February of 2008 I took a position with a mining company, PPM, to assist them with the development and  implementation of a world class Environmental Management program as Director of the environmental group. PPM has now been incorporated into Minatura Gold.  My group provided environmental services to two mines and the company’s exploration and project development activities. I left Minatura Gold in late April of 2010. I will now pursue other interests not requiring the 0700 to 1600 schedule 🙂

Much of my career was spent as a consultant performing environmental studies for diverse clients ranging from individuals to major companies and  the US and Mexican governments. I also administered a first-of-it’s-kind Endangered Species NCCP ‘take permit” under California and Federal law for Sempra Energy and SDG&E.

Coming to Colombia required a major reduction in salary compared to the US market but this was not a major consideration for  us.  We love Colombia and Medellin. I am proud to have contribute, or at least having tried to contribute to the efforts of a Colombian mining company to do things right for the physical, biological and social environments where we work.

Living as a expat in Medellin has brought new perspectives, new friends and wonderful opportunities. Gardening here is a world away from San Diego. Medellin is a fantastic city filled with cultural opportunities, great transportation and some of the best people in the world.

As this blog develops I hope to communicate what Medellin and Colombia really are, at least from my perspective. We have passed through difficult times and much of what you may think about Colombia is rooted in those bad years. The international media have focused on our problems but rarely have looked beyond them. Problems continue here and we have many challenges to face. From what I know of the Colombian people we will meet those challenges and we will exceed your expectations.



  1. September 11, 2012 at 14:09

    Phil, this might be a dupe as I’m not sure my last comment made it through. Thank you for your previous help searching out gyms for my wife. I’m on my way down from JFK now and hope to thank you personally with a convivial libation. Likely staying at Casa Kiwi Wed-Sat. Best way to reach me is by direct em George (at sign) GeorgeWalther (.com). How may I reach you?

    • pbunch said,

      September 11, 2012 at 15:16

      BTW I got independent feedback on the two gyms. Two other people think they are among the best in town.

  2. August 19, 2012 at 01:50

    Thanks, I’ve checked them online and both gyms look good enough for my wife. When there next month, I’ll look into furnished apartment rentals close to the gym.

    • pbunch said,

      August 19, 2012 at 11:45

      I will continue asking around about gyms. There are a fair number in town and that might allow you to select a location independent of a particular gym.

  3. August 15, 2012 at 11:13

    Phil, you’re a terrifically helpful person. I hope you’ll enjoy a cerveza with me when I’m there.

    • pbunch said,

      August 15, 2012 at 12:36

      Sounds like a plan. We have a couple of micro-brews now. Good stuff.

    • pbunch said,

      August 18, 2012 at 22:13

      One of my nieces says Body Tech and Forma are good quality gyms. If I pass one of them I will take a look.

  4. Robert said,

    March 28, 2012 at 16:00

    Hi Phil

    Congrats on being named one of the Official Travel Bloggers by Colombia.Travel. That’s how I found your blog.

    I have twice been to Medellin. The last time was this past December when I went down for a friend’s wedding and spent a couple weeks exploring the city. That’s when I met someone.

    Now I’m getting ready to move to Medellin on a three month trial basis. I love the city and love the Colombian people and looking forward to a new chapter.

    I’ve traveled extensively, including through most of Latin America, but my Spanish isn’t great. And at my age (50+) it’s not soaking in as easily as it once did. So learning Spanish well enough to have a good conversation with a Paisas is my few concerns. Another would be the apparent lack of an expat community.

    Is there another way to contact you when I arrive in June?

    • August 15, 2012 at 00:53

      Phil, your blog is so thorough, helpful, clearly written, and altruistic. Thank you. My wife and I move to a new country each year. Barcelona right now, Medellin next. Our crucial consideration is an outstanding gym for my wife, as she’s severely arthritic (though you wouldn’t know it) and will be there half of every day. Thus, we’ll live very close to wherever the very best gym is. Money’s not an issue. I’d deeply appreciate any suggestions. I’m coming on an advance planning trip in September to check it out. George@GeorgeWalther.com

      • pbunch said,

        August 15, 2012 at 10:31

        I don’t know much about the gyms here. You will likely find what you are looking for in the el Poblado area as that is a high income district and I have seen a fair number of gyms that look good there. I mostly exercise by walking. I will however put out some feelers and see if anyone has suggestions.

      • Ellie said,

        October 4, 2012 at 21:44

        Hi George, My husband and I currently live outside of Panama City, Panama. We would be interested in hearing about your visit to Medellin. Would also like to ask you about the other countries you have lived in and how you handled the visa situation in each country. Hope you don’t mind sharing. TU.

  5. Chuck said,

    July 22, 2011 at 21:30

    Wow, I see I need to get involved here! I just stumbled on your site and read your intro, and the comments, and now replying. Well, Phil, (if I may dare since this is my first message) I beat you by one year, and lived the first half in NY, the second half by San Fran, and this half for the last 9 years in Med and now in Santa Fe where I teach Spanish(HAH) Gringo. I see I need to spend time to sift through all the things you offer-and it’s a lot! I congratulate you. How refreshing to see someone mentioning classical music.

    • pbunch said,

      September 25, 2011 at 08:35

      Thanks Chuck. Sorry to be slow to respond. My wife has been having a major health issue and I have been wrapped around the axle. Looking forward to getting to know you. I have some interest in providing people assistance with English language issues. Hope we have a chance to meet sometime.

  6. John T. said,

    May 7, 2011 at 17:50

    Phil –
    I enjoyed reading your blog. Any news in 2011? I too have roots in Medellin and would love to return. It sounds like being able to communicate in both English and Spanish is a big plus. Are there jobs available for a wnnabe teacher or consultant that used to work in real estate finance? I am definitely looking to get ouit of the US – What do you think?

    • pbunch said,

      May 18, 2011 at 07:30

      John: I am not in touch with the job market for gringos here. I do however suspect that work is available. There is a big demand for people to teach English and a native speaker has a big advantage. Most people here recognize that local English teachers frequently do not have good pronunciation skills. Another thing I have noticed is that there is a lot of material published in English which needs editing by a native English speaker. People really want to be able to communicate in our language.

      In the real estate area there may be a niche in helping English speakers find properties to buy or rent.

      Beyond that what interests you?

      • jack said,

        August 20, 2011 at 03:56


        GREAT website Phill!

        I am coming to Medellin in September for work.(permanent job)
        I was thinking to rent a small place for the first month before signing a longer lease contract.

        Any suggestion? I am fluent in Spanish, and I can get a guarantor easily through my job.

        I don’t; want to spend more 500$ per month , I mean no rip off for foreigners etc..

        500usd is a lot of money in Colombia already, and I don’t want to spend more than I would spend in Europe or US, just because I am not Colombian.

        Any suggestions?



      • pbunch said,

        September 25, 2011 at 08:42

        No direct recommendations but you should be able to find a place for much less than $US 500. Check out the Conquistadores, Laureles and Robledo areas. El Pobaldo and Envigado can be very expensive but there are some deals unless you are looking for a “status” location. Looking forward to meeting you when you arrive.

  7. Jim said,

    September 26, 2010 at 21:50

    You’ve come a long way, Pilgrim! All the way from San Diego-to-Bogota-to Medellin, musica folklorico, plato typico, spuma, aguadiente, Ismael, Choco basketry, ruanas, Rio Hatcha, fincas, futbolito, papayas, Africanized bees, mata pajaro, Guajiros, the Carpentarios, mattoral desertico, Nubia, and who could forget the plaintive call of the bosque seco raptor “flaco, flaco, flaco, flacoooooooo….Congratulations, My friend.

    • pbunch said,

      September 27, 2010 at 07:57

      Thanks Jim. All of that is part of day-to-day life now. Perhaps with the exception of Ismael. I wonder what happened to those guys? Take a look at the Cerrejon Mine on Google Earth!

    • pbunch said,

      September 27, 2010 at 08:42

      I believe that that rather vocal bird is a Collared Forest-falcon. Every time I hear one it reminds me of you and the work at el Cerrejon 🙂

  8. Emmanuel said,

    August 3, 2010 at 15:34

    Dear Phil,

    I am Emmanuel from France. I also live in Medellin. I’ve read your blog and enjoyed it a lot!

    I currently work for Buena Nota, a Colombian non-profit organization which seeks, through its portal http://www.buenanota.org, to spread and connect positive changes and projects that improve the reality of the country and the well-being of the population as well as encourage people to be part of the change.

    We’re currently working on a new project: “Colombia in the heart of foreigners”. For this project, we are looking for non-Colombian tourists, students, professionals etc… who live or have traveled in Colombia and who wish to convey their vision, experience, or knowledge of the country on our website. Through articles in their mother tongue (whatever it is) or their authorization to publish articles from already existing blogs on our website, we hope to change Colombia’s image in the world.

    Reading your blog, I was then wondering whether you’d be interested in helping us with this: it would be a chance for us to count on your support!

    My email is eboros@buenanota.org (cel: 00 57 300 473 94 31) and I would be more than happy to reply to any questions you might have!

    Many thanks in advance for your help!


    • pbunch said,

      August 5, 2010 at 09:46

      This effort interests me. I also am committed to communicating to the rest of the world the realities of life in Colombia. I will stay in touch and see what I can do to contribute. Right now is not a good time.

  9. Claudia said,

    July 17, 2010 at 13:45

    Mr. Bunch

    I was born in Colombia 32 years ago. I was brought to the US when I was 6 years old. I have never been back. My mother grew up in poverty and the first chance she got she came to the US and she has never looked back. From my understanding there are TONS of family from both her side and my father side (he went back when I was seven and passed away last year). However I guess from growing up in that enviroment, once she left she has never had communication with them and neither have I or my siblings. On the other hand over the last couple of years I have had this ever growing curiosity of Colombia. Growing up here (US) you don’t usually here anything about Colombia except for the usual negativity (I”m sure you are aware). Except for the kidnapping I would assume that one would take the normal “common sense” precautions as growing up in a big city “I lived in D.C. for 8 years”. I would very much like information about places to stay if I were to make it to visit Medellin. What would be a good resource tool to find out prices for homes or to attempt to make an investment in property. Since I don’t know anyone maybe some trustworhthy websites would be helpul. All I have found so far are very expensive International Real Estate websites. My husband and I usually spend $2,000 on family vacation trip to Nags Head, N.C. Is it feesible to assume I could make a trip to Medellin within that price range? Thank you in advance.

    • pbunch said,

      July 26, 2010 at 08:56


      I guess my first question is did you learn to speak Spanish? A lot of folks in your situation don’t really know the language of their country of origin. I hope you did! If so you will find visiting Medellin much more satisfying and probably a lot less expensive than a non-Spanish speaker would encounter.

      Transportation would be a relatively high cost item depending on where you leave from. There are however some very good deals on airfare if you chose the right time of year (in advance) and airline. Spirit seems to be the low price leader right now.

      Next would be the cost of lodging. This is all over the place and depends on where you stay and what you need in terms of accommodations. You can spend anywhere from a couple of hundred a night (or more) at the big fancy hotels or anywhere from $US 20 to 60 and a good hotel that normally caters to locals. Since we don’t stay in hotels in Medellin I don’t have a good handle on prices. The previous numbers are very ball park. Once again speaking Spanish would allow you to find a really nice room at a very reasonable price. When we travel here it is usually to places in smaller towns or in the country side and prices are much lower. A good room generally would cost you between $US 15 and 40.

      If you like the country side and nature, we are working with a group up at Santa Elena which is helping local people there develop bed and breakfast operations. This is in a major natural park area and is very safe. We will be participating in the program in the future. As I recall the prices will be between $US20 and 40 with breakfast included. If you are interested in the option let me know, my wife Nubia would be glad to fill you in. Santa Elana is located in the highlands just east of Medellin. It is about 45 mins to an hour by bus or cable (see blog entries on the Metro Cable). Also google Parque Arvi. Weather there is cool, think San Francisco rather than Dallas 🙂

      Meals also vary a lot. Figure on prices a bit lower than in the US in the more tourist oriented restaurants. We can generally find something good for between $US 5 and 15. The latter would be fairly high. If you like Antioquian food there are a lot of good small restaurants around town that provide good, large meals at a very reasonable price.

      In general prices are pretty similar to the US although a lot of imported items are higher. The following is a link to one of the supermarkets in town. http://www.virtualexito.com/HomeSupermercado.aspx# It will give you an idea of prices, The exchange rate is around 1860 pesos per dollar right now. This varies but has been between 1800 and 1900 recently.

      I hope this helps.

      • Claudia said,

        August 3, 2010 at 18:12

        Mr. Bunch,
        This has been helpful indeed! I do speak spanish very well. Although I have lost my accent. I always know when I run into someone from Colombia because of their accents. I suppose I will have to do some research as to where I’d like to visit first. I live in Northern Virginia, and I do love the country side and nature (close to the Battlefield Parks and the Shenandoah). I also do love going to the beach (Ocean City and Nags Head). If you and your wife do become involved with the bed and breakfast in Santa Elena, I would very much appreciate information on that as well. Thank you for the information and I really enjoy your blog.

  10. David Beck-Brown said,

    February 22, 2010 at 11:24

    My month stay in Colombia was an eye-opener and a pleasant surprise. I had thought Colombians had the arrangance (of what I have experienced) of Mexican-Americans and border town Mexicans. I was surprised that the Colombian Latinos were much like USA Americans. I quickly let down my diffensive guard. I hope this does not change. It is a wonderful country.

    • pbunch said,

      February 24, 2010 at 08:28

      My travels in Mexico left me with the impression that folks outside the border zones are pretty much like Colombians. They are friendly and interested in getting to know people from other places. Nubia and I felt welcomed everywhere we went. I think a lot of this has to do with speaking Spanish. People feel comfortable and their natural curiosity and friendliness come out quickly.

      A lot of people here in Medellin want to or are trying to learn English. I don’t know how that plays out in Mexico. Many here seem to accept that English is the new “international” language and intend to hop on board before the train leaves the station.

  11. Brian M said,

    September 29, 2009 at 12:16

    Thanks! I have visited Barranquilla and Bogota several times, I have never been to Medellin.

    • pbunch said,

      September 29, 2009 at 14:10

      In that case I think you will really like Medellin. The climate has the other cities you mentioned beat hands down. It also is friendlier than Bogota. I don’t know about Barranquilla never having visited there.

  12. pbunch said,

    September 29, 2009 at 05:15


    I would recommend visiting the city to check it out before moving here especially if you have not traveled in Latin America. Perhaps I’m just conservative that way. Speaking Spanish is a big advantage. The people are generally friendly and being able to communicate opens many doors.

    As you can probably tell from the blog I love Medellin. It is a great city and is full of interesting people and things to do. In so far as the women here are concerned there are many very attractive gals looking to get married.

  13. Brian M said,

    September 29, 2009 at 00:29

    I enjoyed your blog and comments. I am an American, single 42 yrs old and I have been doing research about different cities in Colombia. I will be moving soon,I think Medellin is my best choice. I am looking to settle down and meet the Latina of my dreams. I hope I am making the right decision, by moving to Medellin.

  14. Douger said,

    September 14, 2009 at 22:19

    You’ll be fine.
    Manana……. Things take time. You understand by now.
    Pura Vida !

    • pbunch said,

      September 15, 2009 at 05:42

      My concern is the general misconception that most of the world has about Colombia. Much of this is rooted in the past problems. Out in the countryside things can still get tricky but even those problems are being worked out. I understand why the media report as they do, what is needed is a counter balance, reporting on the “soft news” of day-to-day life.

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