The weather for one thing. The weather in Bogota is like England in spring, four seasons in a day, never know what to wear, always have a jacket. There is something similar to the famed Cornish mizzle. Sometimes referred to as brisa [sic] which makes me nostalgic, except there is more sun involved. Bogota is in the altiplano at an altitude of ‘oh my god I can’t breathe’ for the first two weeks and is surrounded by super green sabana which is full of cows and family homes. This is where the similarities end.
I am frequently asked how Bogota compares with Barcelona. It is safe to say that they are like chalk and cheese. However it is as unfair to make a comparison between these two cities as it would be to compare the various successes and failures of Spain and Colombia. The former is spiraling into a perverse decline, drowning in its own culture and trying to plug the holes with tourism without paying attention to the impending tidal wave. The latter is emerging from decades of conflict and attempting to create an identity for itself. Bogota is booming and the growing pains are evident.
Many of my (new and old) local friends have pointed out the social stratification and inequality in the country, that is also easily visible in Bogota. There are around 9 million people in the city (whose counting?) but the corner in which I live has a noticeably compact feeling. I have already run into friends of friends and this person I saw at that party. Mentioning the fact to a friend they pointed out that we live in one small part of the city where everyone makes the same circuits. “You will never see the south” I was told somewhat derisively by another acquaintance, and unless I make a concerted effort to do so they are likely right. The strata seis spend their time in the wealthy north which is starting to look more and more like Miami.
In between here and there are booming roads and streets full of cars and buses belching fumes. Breathing is a serious consideration in Bogota and the pollution makes it a necessity to find sanctuary in the countryside with some frequency. The city lacks centralization, even in the northwestern corner the various locations in which you can find the bars and cafes you want to waste your time in. It is necessary to travel everywhere, and to make the dreaded comparison, unlike Barcelona where every corner of culture was within walking distance, here it is necessary to strike out into the concrete jungle. This is another great theme of Bogota, transportation. The classic methods are taxi and collectivo, the small farting buses that fly around like spaceships from the seventies. There are no designated stops so you can flag one down or get off anywhere on route. More or less.
The modern alternative is the Transmilenio which is has made the best of a bad situation in a country blighted by corruption. There is still a confusing situation where some routes require a blue card and other routes a red card. There may or may not be a green card that allows you to travel on all the buses. The buses run within a closed system on the roads and there are stations that look very much like any metro. The downsides are unbelievable overcrowding and the struggle to get on and off as people will not wait for you to exit or stand aside to let you on . The Metro, they say is coming. Bogota is praying for it, like the good Catholics they are.
I’ve been here two months. I stayed with a friend of a friend in the most beautiful apartment for a little over and month and have just moved into a new place a few blocks away in a cool spot called the Macarena. I sing the song in the shower with embarrassing frequency. I haven’t fallen over yet. In true Bogota style, the Macarena is not completely safe (where is?) as the next neighborhood, Perseverencia is somewhat notorious for crime and poverty. I am frequently reminded by friends to take care. My small mercy is black hair and a confident stride; I am not the most obvious target in a town with a growing tourist industry. We shall persevere.
My plans are to get out of the city as much as possible and see the country. Bogotanos seemingly live for their holidays to the coast and the apparent paradise of islands like San Andres. When I get there I will post photos to make you all green with envy (shout out to Emma). This is supposedly a country of massive cultural, ecological and climactic diversity. I will write another missive when I have seen it all. For the time being I am working in the middle of the old colonial centre where I can walk to and from work. Orientalism, bigotry and misogyny will all be tackled the next time round. How nice.
I have more pictures on instagram for those of you that care: gorrangorra
[There is a strong chance I have misspelled something, Please don’t judge me.]