hello, you. I hope it´s been a day filled with a warm sun and cool breezes and flowers of loud and lovely colors weaving their way through your day. that´s how my day´s been so far, anyway. I´ve been living in Bogotá, Colombia the past two weeks; one week left. my sister Lauren and I have been living with a couple named Salvador and Marta and their children Laura and Diego. Diego´s 25 and a yoga instructor (and I really shouldn´t say this, but there´s no not mentioning it, so I´ll just whisper it– he´s beautiful), and Laura´s 18 and in acting school. here are some thoughts, snatches from my long, langorous days here in South America.
first of all, dispel any ideas you have about it being very hot here and me coming home with a tan. it´s cold, man. it´s officially winter here, though the weather feels more like when winter is shyly turning into spring. today´s nice, though, as if the sun has decided to assert himself and remind us that he can do more than just sit there in the sky, looking pretty. the house we´re staying in is always cold. it´s sort of small by American standards (most non-American houses are), and the kitchen opens up to a covered patio area which leads to a few other tiny rooms. hard to explain, but it´s kind of like half the house is outside. and they always have all the doors open, meaning it´s no big deal to wander half-awake into the kitchen and see a tiny bird flitting about the pots and pans.
now that I´ve led you to the kitchen, I suppose I have to tell you about food. the juices here are amazing. we have fresh juice every day from the most delicious fruits. mora (blackberry), marracuyá (passionfruit), mango, lulo, tomato-from-a-tree (??), and sometimes feijoa, which grows on a tree out on their patio. they´re so good. actual food-wise, as you´d expect, lots of rice and beans and meat. everything here is so fresh. I open the refrigerator and feel like I´m looking at the produce section of the grocery store– the shelves are overflowing with vegetables. naturally, this doesn´t lend itself to snacking, unless you´re the sort who´s happy to ´snack´ on a carrot (and I, as a rule, am not.)
the driving here is so fluid, and two lanes change into three which change into four in the blink of an eye, or one aggressive taxi driver. there´s so much weaving in and out between cars, and cutting people off is just the way things work. you really have to have quick reflexes. there are lots of motorcycles on the roads, as well as bicycles on the far right. there´s no designated lane for the bikers, but everyone gives them just enough room to get by. you do sometimes see horse-drawn carts, and occasionally even poor chaps drawing heavy carts on their own backs.
finally, there´s one feature of Bogotá that I just can´t get over. on every street corner and sidewalk are several people, men and women, with open boxes like small, brown briefcases filled with cigarettes and candy, a row of lollipops forming a colorful, plastic hedge around the whole thing. people can come up and buy one cigarette, or a piece of gum or two. the vendor usually also has a cell phone, which people can borrow and then pay for the minute they used. I don´t know, it´s just something about the smallness of the thing that I love. I mean, one cigarette!!! the simplicity of it all is so nice. makes so much sense, in a way. in another way, I guess not. anyway, that´s how things are here in Colombia.
That’s a blog post that I wrote in June 2007, my first time ever in Colombia. It’s in an old, abandoned blog that I wrote in off and on back in college. I was 20. Would you have identified my writing voice immediately? Or am I different now? That trip totally changed my life. Who knows what kind of experience I would have had if I’d met Colombia differently (a touristic trip, say, or a mission trip or in love) or if I’d gone to Medellín or Cartagena instead. I fell in love with Bogotá, and I left knowing without a doubt in my mind that I’d be back. I just had to. Had to, had to, had to. Sometimes I still feel that same certainty, that pull, that sense of inevitability. Today I was craving “tomato-from-a-tree” juice (jugo de tomate de árbol), and I’m still fascinated by cigarrillos menudiados. The honeymoon didn’t last with Bogotá (couldn’t have) and I now see the city as being in decline in many ways (not that that’s irreversible, of course), but there are still so many wonderful things about Bogotá.
Obviously, Bogotá/Colombia and I have been doing the long-distance thing for quite a while. And you know what they say . . . ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente. Also, amor de lejos, felices los cuatro. And amor de lejos, amor de pendejos. This probably can’t last.
Anyway, speaking of longevity and duration, Bogotá turns 475 today. Happy birthday, Bogotá! A chaotic, mistreated, misunderstood little city (actually, it’s immense) that I love a great deal.
Here’s an article that I like a lot that was written a year ago by a bogotano. I especially like his generous, all-embracing definition of a bogotano: bogotano no es solo el que nace aquí, bogotano incluye nacidos e hijos adoptados (bogoteños, en buen caleño o paisa) recibidos con los brazos abiertos por esta ciudad, que es como una de esas matronas que siempre tiene lugar y comida para todos en su casa. Una madre a la que pocos, nacidos y no nacidos, parecen agradecerle su afecto. I’m grateful, and I definitely haven’t forgotten.