It’s officially been a full week since I arrived in Colombia, so I figure it’s a good of time as any for an update on life. Let me start out by saying the weather here is incredible – and it’s like this year round. HELLO, THE MOST GENEROUS MOTHER NATURE OF ALL! Even with all my hours of research at Starbucks, I still didn’t know what to fully expect and it was a glorious surprise to walk out of the stuffy airport into the crisp air of a fall afternoon.
Anyway, throwing it all the way back to pre-departure and anything substantial from that point on. As pops and I are driving to the airport half still asleep, half staying awake with adrenaline, he tells me this:
Maybe don’t be your usual self and tell everyone you meet on the plane your life story agenda for the next couple months…?
What’s the first thing I do when I get to my gate at FLL (besides leave my sleeping bag in security)? Find myself a new
friend acquaintance that is also traveling through South America until December. Once in Bogotá, her plans are to stay about an hour outside of the city for a week then travel north to a small town named Minca to work at a restaurant for about a month. We ended up running into each other at the Bogotá airport and shared a cab into the city – you’re welcome, dad. I’m already following in your footsteps and channeling the stubborn Rivera demeanor you most certainly passed onto me. The cab ride in itself was an adventure – back to a ‘no parents, no rules’ type of Latin driving and wishful thinking that the driver knew where he was going. Once I arrived at my pseudo-home, I realized my hands had literally been at a constant quiver since I stepped off the plane. I guess the morning’s adrenaline was out of commission and jittery nerves had stepped up to the plate.
I was greeted on the 5th floor of a beautiful apartment building by an ever-so-friendly Sara Patricia and a giant bowl of tomato soup, complete with a refreshing glass of fresh fruit juice at its side. Who knew that’s all a gal needed to ease some angst and calm the nerves? For my first week in Colombia I have been staying with family friends that I had not met until last Monday, but whom my dad knows through his studies at the air force academy. I could not have asked for better hosts and have been in awe of the hospitality I’ve received. Although the two daughters work full-time during the day, their mom, Sara Patricia, has benevolently shown me the must-sees of Bogotá throughout the week. I’ve become very familiar with the bus system, Transmilenio…but not familiar enough to attempt travel on my own quite yet. We’ve toured everything from el centro, the downtown part of Bogotá, to Museo Nacional de Colombia, a museum dedicated to exhibiting the history of Colombian culture. I even got to spend an evening dancing the night away at Andrés Carne de Rez in Chia with Maria and Julianna, the two daughters of the household – a word to the wise: stay away from aguardiente.
Amongst all the museum visits and regional tours, though, I’d have to say my favorite adventures have been exploring Usaquén and the hike to Monserrate. Usaquén is a beautiful suburb of the city filled with shops and restaurants to boot. I could have spent an entire day walking around the town and even doing a little window shopping. Monserrate is a 10,341 ft mountain located in the center of Bogotá. I don’t want to give you too many details of this one, though, because it deserves a post in it’s own glory. Guess you’ll just have to wait and see! To sum up my first week abroad, I’ll throw some observaciónes de Paola y’alls way.
Colombian findings: Week 1
- Juice (or I guess jugo) is the word: fresh fruit is everywhere in Latin America, so that can only mean one thing: fresh juice. While coffee is the go-to for a morning meal, a plethora of juices are provided as lunch refreshments. Either blended with water or milk, I have yet to be disappointed. See ya never, soda – it’s a juice-kinda world and you’re just livin’ in it. Hoping to have a definitive list of the best juices of Colombia by the time I leave. So far, I’d have to say jugo de mora (a tart blackberry resembling fruit) or jugo de fresa (strawberry) are topping the charts.
- PDA is not only accepted, but widely practiced: Colombians love to love. Don’t be surprised if you visit the country and find canoodling Colombians everywhere you look; restaurant tables, park benches, city streets – they’re all filled with romance and a lot of kisses. Oh…and on the subject of restaurant tables: SO MANY SAME-SIDERS AT BOOTHS. I guess the people just can’t get close enough here in Bogotá.
- Public transportation is a way of life (and also my own personal hell): If I wasn’t already aware I’m not meant to live in a big city with busses and taxis and traffic (oh my), then I sure as heck am now. With close to 11 million inhabitants in or around the Bogotá metro area, it’s no wonder people would rather dart through bus stations to get to their destination than sit in 3 hours of traffic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been really great spooning all passengers on the busses, but I am not about this life.
- I scream, you scream: Colombians all scream for ice cream. I am not exaggerating when I say I’ve never seen so much ice cream being eaten in one place. Whether it be 10 a.m. or 10 p.m., I guarantee you can find someone enjoying the beloved sweet treat. I don’t know if I’ve ever (silently) laughed so hard than when I saw a group of men in suits sitting at a table, obviously deep in business talk, all with cone in hand. Hilarious!
- Bogota is rugged: Not in the sense of, say, dirt under fingernails and greasy hair kind of rugged, but more like a little bit of scruff on a man making his way down a mountain kind of rugged…does this make sense to anyone else but me? It is grimy and there’s graffiti everywhere you turn, but it’s perfect. The streets aren’t squeaky clean and, true, you probably shouldn’t wear all gold everything and flash around your designer handbag while in el centro, but I don’t think this city is given enough credit for the spunk it possess. The people are kind and the food is to die for – I’d say there isn’t much to ask for (except for maybe that man with a little bit of scruff making his way down a mountain).
So far, the trip of a lifetime is off to a brilliant start full of all the iphoneography (waiting on my DSLR) and all the good eats. It’s been thrilling getting to know the capital of Colombia, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m ready to get out of the city. The beauty of travel is how incredibly easy it is to do so – how plans always seem to create themselves and new opportunities always arise. I’m headed about 3 hours north of Bogotá with my dad and pseudo-family this week for their air force academy reunion in Villa de Leiva. (Side note: After lugging my suitcase and backpack…and sleeping bag through 3 airports, I decided something has gotta give – I will be downsizing and my dad will be taking my oversized suitcase back to the States when he returns to Florida after the reunion. Be on the look out for a post titled ‘Confessions of a Stubborn Packer’ in the next couple weeks…) After the trip to Villa de Leiva, I’m hoping to travel even farther north to work at a hostel/restaurant in the coastal region of Colombia for an experience a little more my style. I’m eagerly awaiting an email back from the hosts, but will hopefully have some good news in the next few days. Until then, I’ll be continuing my studies of the Spanish language and Colombian food, all while doing my best to keep up to date with this here blog of mine.
Be sure to follow me on Instagram @paolamrivera for a view of Colombia through these Missouri-raised eyes.
Hasta luego mis amigos!