Goodbye, Colombia

So I’m back from Bogotá. It was a nice relaxing vacation, consisting mostly of hanging out with my grandma, going on long walks with my sister and lots and lots of telenovela watching. It was nice to hang out with my grandma, my grandma’s old lady friends and my great aunts, as well as my Irish friend Stephen who I haven’t seen in at least three years (and who apparently still loves Colombia), and my former Caleno roommate from when I lived in el Centro right after I moved to Bogotá. Unfortunately, one week just wasn’t enough time to see all the people I would have liked to see,  but now I know that next time I need at least two weeks in Colombia so I have enough time for socializing with the under 80 crowd and traveling and exploring…it definitely would have been nice to travel down the mountain to a small town in tierra caliente! But I have to say that Bogota was sunnier and warmer than it ever was when I lived there…in fact, it barely rained and I actually got sunburned! This time around, I spent a lot of time exploring the north with my sister. I would have liked to visit some of my favorite Bogota neighborhoods, including Chapinero Alto, el Centro and la Macarena, but I wasn’t able to, partly because of my short stay and partly because of my grandmother’s intense fear of Bogota south of Calle 70. Oh well, there’s always next time! When I left Bogotá in 2011 I was so ready to leave that I kind of forgot how enjoyable, fascinating and amazing Colombia can be, but this trip helped me appreciate Colombia — and Bogotá — again, and I hope I have the chance to go back in the not so distant future.

After spending a week surrounded by noise — my grandmother’s TV at full blast, the chatter of my grandmother’s friends, horns blaring, buses screeching — the silence back at my apartment was overwhelming. And I don’t just mean auditory silence…Bogota smells like diesel and cleaning products with the occasional whiff of fried food and slightly decomposing trash; Northern Virginia smells like…nothing.  And it’s less colorful, less chaotic and less layered. So clean and well-planned. When I got to my apartment, the silence and aloneness was so overwhelming — and unsettling, actually — that I drove over to my parents’ house the very next morning and spent all day there hanging out with my parents, aunt and of course, Alfie. How very Colombian of me. When I got back to my apartment, it was still too silent, so I took a four-hour nap and then invited myself over to my friend Rasha’s house. But I’ve been back for a couple of days now and the tranquility of my silent old apartment is comfortable again; I’m back in my old routine…my commute to work listening to NPR, an eight-hour workday (I do get to speak Spanish all day, so that’s nice), lunch time walks in nature,  YouTube workout sessions, bland, half-hearted meals (no-hearted, actually), too many episodes of House of Cards on Netflix…it’s great.

But in bold and bright celebration of my trip to Bogotá, here are some flowers/vegetation from the Bogotá Botanical Gardens…I think I was trying to channel Georgia O’Keeffe here, so lots of close ups. These are all roses, orchids or giant leaves. PRETTY FLOWR 2 PRETTY FLOWER 10 PRETTY FLOWER 9 PRETTY FLOWER 7 PRETTY FLOWER 8 PRETTY FLOWER 6 PRETTY FLOWER 5 PRETTY FLOWER 4 PRETTY FLOWER 3 FLOWER 1



Categories: Bogota, Colombia

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3 replies

  1. Out of curiosity, what is the job you have where you speak Spanish all day?

  2. Well written write-up of the contrast between the socializing and “noise” of Colombia versus the solitarity and quietness here in the States. I just got back from holidays in Colombia (Cali, Valle del Cauca, Caicedonia, Perreira, Manizales), spending almost the entire time with my wife’s family, and a few days with a good friend of mine in Manizales. Her familly is big to begin with, and combine that with the fact that Colombians love to visit each other, and it was a nonstop sequence of going out to see people and people dropping in. Plus it was the holidays and everyone’s on vacation so all of it was magnified. And talk about noise and crowds,the Feria de Cali! We walked around there one afternoon and it was walls of people, crowds of cars, and certain individuals with spray cans of foam running around covering hapless people in foam. And one guy who was making an attempt to spray a bunch of policeman who were not amused and had his arms pinned back. And a couple near fights of people who were not happy that they, or their cars, were sprayed. Ah… Cali. And the day before Christmas, the young kids from the poor neighborhoods who dress up in devil’s costumes and walk around the neighborhoods with drums performing street dances for tips. And the daily street vendors who go around the neighborhoods yelling out their wares, or the people with the trucks who ride around blaring out propaganda or news or whatever. Or, in the case of the small town of Caicedonia, you pay the guy with the truck to drive around making whatever sort of announcement you want: an upcoming marriage, or whatever you want your hometown to know about.

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