first impressions

Seth and I have not even spent a full twenty-four hours in Bogotá, and we already feel like we have seen so much. We departed on a red-eye flight from Houston, hardly slept, and arrived in a mile-high city five hours later. Our new friend Juancho, whom we met via my mom’s neighbor’s college roommate’s deceased husband (!), so kindly met us at the airport and gave us a ride into town. Since I can barely think straight, let alone write complete paragraphs after the long day we’ve had, I will try to assemble a bullet list of my initial observations.

  • The second the plane landed, I felt dizzy and thought I was going to vomit. Altitude sickness, perhaps? After all, Bogotá is 8600 meters above sea level (or, you know, 8600 meters above Houston).
  • Apparently, having a private chauffer (a la Chuck Bass) is not a privilege reserved for trust fund babies. In fact, it is actually somewhat normal for professionals to have a driver.
  • Drivers in Bogotá are the craziest and most aggressive I have ever seen. Oh and, according to Juancho, most cars do not have seat belts. (Ours sure didn’t.)
  • Pedestrians never, ever have the right of way. Also, there are virtually no crosswalks. As you might imagine, the streets and the sidewalks are very chaotic.
  • In New York City, people joke that everyone has a psychiatrist; even psychiatrists have a psychiatrist! Well, in Bogotá, everyone has a maid.
  • I am not sure whether free-standing single-family houses are a “thing” here. Juancho and his family, for example, live in a very nice area at the north end of the city. They own a property which looks very much like a house, but it is connected to several other house-like properties. All of the houses aggregate to form a giant square bounded on one side by a gate. They share luxurious courtyards and green spaces.
  • For breakfast, we were served fresh rolls, cheese, and drinking chocolate. Did I mention Juancho’s maid cooks and bakes, too?
  • Our new apartment is pretty great. We have two roommates: one Colombian girl, who works at the Canadian embassy, and one Colombian guy.
  • Looking at all of those maps of Bogotá while we were in Texas really helped. As we walked around our new neighborhood, we were able to understand where we were and which direction we were traveling in. We were even able to find my future office!
  • For a late morning snack, Seth and Juancho enjoyed fresh rolls stuffed with salty cheese and guava. I ordered my first tinto (Colombian coffee).
  • Bogotá’s bus rapid transit system, the Transmilenio, functions just like a light rail. It could not be any easier to navigate.
  • For lunch, we were served sauteed thin-cut beef, stewed red beans, steamed white rice, a small salad, and a glass of fresh-squeezed unsweetened lulo juice.
  • Bellies full and feet elevated, we had a very satisfying forty-five minute nap.
  • After some aimless wandering around the posh part of town, Juancho introduced us to the Bogotá Beer Company. We each sipped a pint and compared politics, switching between Spanish and English.
  • Colombian ATMs allow customers to withdraw only COP$400.000 (approximately US$200) at a time, with a maximum of three transactions per day.
  • It was a sunny and warm afternoon. As a result, my face is very red.
  • The sun has set. I think nature has given me permission to go to sleep.

I cannot believe I am finally here!

[photo courtesy of Paola Castaño]