Surviving Columbia: Part Two

Only a few blocks from my hotel in Columbia is the breathtakingly beautiful, tree-lined, Parque de la 93. It has wonderfully lit fountains, vibrantly colored flowers, and is surrounded by restaurants equipped with outdoor seating options. If the food doesn’t brighten your day, as it has for me amidst all this rain and wind, the people watching surely will.

With each passing day, I am more and more amazed at how one city could have so many pretty people. Another keen observation is that almost no one is overweight. I guess the fact that everyone seems to be riding bikes, walking or taking public transportation is definitely keeping them fit. The traffic is so unbelievably gridlocked that you’d be crazy not to look into the public transportation option.

But, I think I like this place. I may not have seen the sun in 6 days due to the weather and my 12-hour work days, but I can tell that this place has just about anything that any city dweller might need. Shopping. Restaurants from all over the world, and did I mention that everyone is so good looking? It’s like a million little Eva Longorias running around! Clearly, the multitude of Casas de Estheticos (plastic surgery clinics) are being frequented by the locals.

In spite of this, the Colombians are very genuine people that seem to be absolutely delighted that you are visiting with them for a short time. Everyone has been incredibly friendly and passionate when answering questions about their fair City. Juanito has taken us to some out of the way places, veering sharply off the path of our frequent 45 minute ride through traffic to explain which neighborhood is which and still managing to get us home at about the same time.

Thankfully, the Colombians speak a sort of “sing-songy” Spanish with a deliberate cadence, much like the folks in Mexico. It makes it a lot easier to understand than, say, folks from Chile who take the liberty of chopping off the latter half of every word and refuse to ever pronounce the letter “s” in any sentence.

I’ll probably need to devote a whole other post to dining around Bogota to do it justice, but I will mention lunch for now. I’m working in a neighborhood that I probably wouldn’t be caught dead in if it were in the United States, but even it has its own charm. La Barria Castilla (the Castilla neighborhood) contains many mom-and-pop shops that are literally open for business right out of the kitchen and living room of their homes. There are no menus. You just show up and sit down and you are served whatever they are having. What a treat!

When I’m on the road, one of the things that gets old real quick is having to eat out for every single meal for days on end, so this place gets extra points. One day it was stewed chicken with rice, some platanos (sweet fried bananas), cauliflower with cheese on it, and a bowl of what looked like barley soup (I believe they called it sopa de la cebada) with vegetables, and some bread. Another day it was an egg, over-easy on top of some rice, flanked by beans and vegetables. It was sort of like a “Loco Moco” if anyone has had that in Hawaii. There was a little boy still in his school uniform that must’ve been home for lunch to help mom, who walked around pouring everyone some orange juice in a glass. No Coke or Pepsi, just orange juice. It’s an absolutely charming little place where the people seem ecstatic to be receiving you as an esteemed guest of their country. What does this cost? Four of us ate from big, hearty plates for $10 total.

On the work side of things, the project has hit a few glitches, so it appears as though I’ll be indulging in Bogota until at least June 5. No complaints here. Adventures in Bogota shall continue. Oh, I almost forgot about strike 3. Never assume that just because there is a major divider in the middle of a large expressway that this means 2-way traffic. On the contrary, many of these streets are one way with the traffic traveling in the same direction on both sides of the dividers. I stepped off the curb looking in the direction where I expected the traffic to be coming from and, were it not for one of my alert “companeros” yanking me out of the way, I may have become the hood ornament for a Peugeot taxi cab.

Destah Owens is a single father of two from Northern California and proud UCLA Bruin who travels the world for his job as a computer engineer. His blog, “Souffles in Saigon,” is exclusive to Urban Thought Collective.

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