I probably spend more than 15 hours a week on public transport. An experience that would be torturous if not for the wonderful people I hit in the face with my backpack and smush against until there are no barriers … Continue reading
As we get into the wet season (you see, Colombia doesn’t have seasons where temperature varies but rather wet and dry seasons where the amount of rainfall varies), rain has become part of everyday life. Cursed be the day you … Continue reading
This week I was able to experience two extreme realities of Bogota: That of the poorest neighborhoods, and that of the wealthiest. Both realities, I admit, were alien to me, and I ended up in them sort of by chance. … Continue reading
For those of you who don’t know, the Transmilenio is Bogota’s Rapid Transit System. It’s sort of like a tramway except with buses. This magical system has allowed people to get places faster in a city with the traffic jams … Continue reading
For those of you who saw “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and think that coming to Bogotá means wearing short summer dresses, dancing in the streets, and drinking goat milk let me hit you with the hammer of truth: BOGOTÁ DOES … Continue reading
It was a Thursday that started like any other Thursday. Some breakfast here, a couple of errands there, people talking about the World Cup nonstop. And then, in the middle of errands, my uncle told me he wanted to show … Continue reading
For those of you who haven’t heard, a small bomb went off last Friday (June 20, 2021) in Bogota. It only injured 3 people and broke a bunch of windows so the damage wasn’t awful. But a bomb is a bomb.
This isn’t the first bomb I have experienced. Even when you’re far away, a bomb in your city is something you experience with violence. First you feel the shock of the news, and once it settles in you have to make those awful, awful phone calls to everyone you love. The phone rings and rings as you’re praying to God that the person answers, and no matter how hard you try to ignore it in the back of your head you’re fearing the worse. Then you get an answer, and it’s as if the weight of the world has just fallen off your shoulders, and you realize you had had a giant lump in your throat that wasn’t letting you breathe the whole time. And still, the relief doesn’t last for long because you feel the anger and shock in your loved one’s voice. Because you learn that your uncle was on a bus a block away from the bomb, that your dad’s cousin had been to El Nogal that day but had decided to leave early, that you shouldn’t worry because your brother had gone away for the weekend and he wasn’t in the city when it happened.
I’ve been lucky enough to not know anyone who’s died because of a bomb, and I was lucky that the only bomb I have experienced first hand was nothing serious. Still, I was really shaken up. I got home feeling jittery and nervous. My hands were all shaky and I felt a strange hyperness. I kept thinking about Lourdes. I had passed by it minutes before the explotion and through the taxi window I remember thinking that I loved how there were always people hanging out there. I was in a supermarket really close by when the bomb went off and it stopped us all in our tracks. People went outside but we couldn’t see anything. A woman kept saying it was a bomb and I kept saying it wasn’t because there were no sirens. “That’s what a bomb sounds like,” she said, but I didn’t want to believe her. It makes me sad that people know what a bomb sounds like. We kept refusing to believe it until we got home and turned on the radio.
I feel stupid for having been so shaken up. It was a small bomb, and nothing big happened. But I keep thinking about the police and the 24 year-old civilian who got hurt. Just like that, in a second, everything changes. It’s terrifying.
I keep telling myself that I’m being silly and dramatic, that it wasn’t that big of a deal. I know, I know, it could’ve been much, much worse. I know, it was only three people…
But three people are three people too many.
After 8 years of being away, I’m finally back home!
Since it’s been so long, there are some things that I’m loving and some things that are driving me crazy. I guess that’s always how it is when you go back.
Let’s start with the negative so we can get it out of the way.
Things I didn’t miss about Colombia:
1. The insecurity:
The big question in traveler’s minds is: Is Colombia safe? First of all, let’s bust the myth that coming to Colombia means getting kidnapped or killed or something tragic (well, it can happen, but it can happen in every country). However, it’s true that here you require a kind of common sense that means always looking over your shoulder, taking care of your things, and mistrusting people. It’s risky to take a taxi from the street and you should not take out your iphone or fancy gadgets out in public.
This “common sense” has been really helpful in my travels, as all the things listed in blogs and articles about safety seem really obvious to me. But being on this kind of survival mode constantly that can be a bit exhausting.
2. The pollution:
Sometimes walking through Bogota will make you sick because there is just so much pollution. I’ve gotten home nauseous after inhaling all the poisonous black fumes emitted by the buses. Grossmister!
Someone -maybe it was Mario Vargas Llosa?- once said that what Colombia has aren’t social classes, but a caste system. For example, everyone here can have a maid because maids are so extremely underpaid, and they eat in the kitchen separate from everyone (reminds me of that scene in The Help). But more than that, there is a general separation of class in everyday life that is very strong.
Every country in the world is sexist, and the US and France definitely are, but I feel like sexism and gender differences is a bigger part of the daily discourse here. “You’re worse than a man,” “You’re acting like a woman,” “You shouldn’t carry things, you’re a girl” etc etc yawn! Here, it is completely normal at a dinner party for the men to sit down while the women serve everything. Honestly, it makes me grind my teeth.
6. Dubbed movies:
The silently moving mouths, the unnatural voices, the cheesy lines no one would ever say in real life. What could be worse than a dubbed movie?
As I’ve been recovering from having a wisdom tooth removed, I have watched a lot of dubbed movies and tv shows… the worst part is that it’s starting to sound pretty good!
Well, now that we got the negative out of the way, let me tell you all the things that I love and that I have missed so much,
Things I missed about Colombia:
1. The people:
So of course, more than anything, I mean my family and friends. Nothing compares to being around people you love so much and that you haven’t seen in a while.
But this goes beyond that. I mean people in general. Colombian people are in general colorful, funny, creative, and more than anything, happy. In fact, Colombia has ranked the world’s happiest country. We have been born and raised in violence, and the frustration and sadness caused by the armed conflict runs deep within our bodies and souls. And yet, we’re still an incredibly joyful country. Joyful in the face of war and adversity. I think that’s what makes Colombians beautiful.
2. The food:
Bandeja paisa, Colombian coffee, empanadas, arepas, pan de yuca, sancocho, the list goes on and on and my mouth keeps watering. Our food is just too good!
And the best news for all you lucky travelers who will visit Colombia, is that going to a local restaurant gets you this delicious traditional Colombian food for extremely cheap. Avoid the tourist spots (except Crepes & Waffles, always go to Crepes!) and go for the hole-in-the-wall places. You will never be so happy with a decision in your life!
3. The mountains:
I want to see mountains again, Gandalf! Mountains!
Oh the gorgeous, gorgeous mountains of Bogota! Heck, of Colombia! It has been so so many years since I lived in a place where I can see mountains everyday. I had almost forgotten how amazing it feels to be near them.
4. The language:
I’m not biased at all, but Colombians speak the best Spanish.
I’m just kidding, but it’s definitely the Spanish that I love the most. And our slang is just so colorful!
It also feels so good to just speak Spanish all the time! Lord had I missed that.
The only down side is that I feel like I’m losing my French! I need to get on that…
5. The environmental diversity:
I love that, unlike in most other countries in the world, Colombia’s regions have extremely different climates. Within a same week, you could be basking in the sun at the beach, climbing up snow peaks, camping in a t dessert, trekking through the jungle, and enjoying a template climate. If you love one type of weather just move to a region that has it and you never have to experience any other climate again…unless you want a little change, then a small roadtrip will do. No but really, I love that we can escape Bogota’s constant ~16C (~60F) and be in tropical warmth by just taking a 2 hour car ride to Apulo.
It’s so beautiful I could cry*.
6. The music:
Like the people, Colombian music just has that bit of sazón. It’s rhythmic, contagious, and fun. My siblings make fun of me because I love traditional songs and dances, but what can I say? They’re the sounds of our history! And it’s always great to hear a song that gives you the irresistible urge to dance.
And on that note, I leave you with and invitation to visit us, and with a song about mi tierra querida:
*On the downside, if you’re planning on traveling around Colombia, make sure you buy clothes that are appropriate for all the different climates you will be going to.