The travel blog is back! Continuing with the theme of Spanish speaking countries, I am now living in Bogotá, Colombia, where I will be working as an English assistant with the British Council for the foreseeable future. As the first month comes to a close, here is a summary of my Colombian adventure thus far….
After a journey wrought with self-inflicted panic and sleep deprivation – who’s terrible idea was sleeping in the airport? Oh yeah… – I arrived alive and well in Bogotá on Monday afternoon and met the rest of the British Council bunch in our swanky hotel in the Zona Rosa. Thankfully everyone is super friendly and I was soon feeling ok about being the other side of the world. We stayed in our little all expenses paid bubble until Thursday, spending most days in workshops and talks organised by the British Council and its Colombian partner, ICETEX. I’ve never received such a constant and plentiful supply of food, some would say it was too much… Those few days left me feeling both reassured, knowing more about my job and having a lovely bunch of new friends, and terrified that I was going to be mugged. Nevertheless, after having been scared senseless I have since come to the realisation that the British Council’s “security talk” may have been somewhat extreme.
On Thursday I bid farewell to my new (and only) amigos, and was whisked to another, even swankier, hotel. Apparently I’m some kind of celebrity. I met my tutor from the university I’ll be working in and had a fun few days organising stuff. After a frantic last minute house hunt, in which I rejected a windowless cupboard with a minimum stay of four months, I have now ended up living in my tutor’s girlfriend’s aunt’s attic! Fortunately it boasts a window and a lovely view of the mountains surrounding Bogotá.
Unlike most of the other assistants, I only started actually teaching last week, as the English courses at my uni began much later. But so far things are going well! I have also managed to acquire a pupil to tutor. After having our first lesson I was invited, in true Colombian fashion, to her uncle’s birthday party, where I met the whole family, ate A LOT of food and was constantly greeted by the assumption I was about 15… Other exciting things I have done include learning how to make arepas (a fried, bread like thing made of maize flour) with my host “mum”, discovering that you can get a delicious three course lunch for the equivalent of £1.20, sitting outside the stadium at 10 pm listening to a Carlos Vives gig, seeing Cafe Tacvba for free (!!!) and going on a fun little excursion to the town of Facatativá with some of the other assistants. We had a wander round and visited an archaeological park (Colombians bloody love kites) and experienced the most full bus I’ve ever been on – 30 people in a combi anyone? All in all it’s been jolly good fun thus far and I have already learnt an important lesson for the months to come; avoid aguardiente like the plague.
So far I’ve noticed several unusual things that I’m going to make a note of here so I can reminisce and laugh at my ignorance when I’m back in England. Firstly, in Colombia the weeks seem to last not seven, but eight days. It took me a while to understand why people keep talking about doing things “every eight days.” Confusingly a fortnight is referred to as “every fifteen days” and even more inexplicably, three weeks are generally referred to as twenty days… Yep. Food-wise I’ve found that most meals contain rice and/or chicken. On the bright side there are lots of fun and unusual snacks to be had, such as hot chocolate with cheese (nicer than it sounds), and there are bakeries everywhere. As far as the Spanish language is concerned I’ve found that the already confusing tu/usted distinction has somehow become even more blurred in Colombia – my host mum frequently combines the two in the same sentence. Colombians seem to love putting everything in the same place. So far in Bogotá I have come across whole streets dedicated to kitchens, bicycles, book shops, pet shops and pretty much anything you can imagine. There’s even a corner where Mariachi loiter.
Making arepas – yum!
Since writing the above I have done a tiny bit more exploring, this time to the town of Guatavita, an hour or so to the north-east of Bogotá. After having lunch in the town, we went to visit Lake Guatavita, a sacred place for the pre-Hispanic Muisca people and the origin of the legend of El Dorado. At 3000 m the lake was even higher than Bogotá so the effects of the altitude were very much felt. The views definitely made up for it though!
This weekend I’ve had a lot of fun celebrating my birthday, Bogotá-style. This included two trips to Crepes and Waffles, a restaurant that only hires single mothers and women in need of work, and my new favourite place! I was also taken on a fun trip to Chia, north of Bogotá. All in all it was a jam-packed weekend full of lovely people, yummy food, wine and ice cream! I was even lucky enough to receive not one, but two huuuuge bars of Cadburys. Apparently it can be sourced here after all.
Birthday meal no.1
Birthday meal no. 2
Crepes and waffles loooove
A blurry birthday shot complete with a very overenthusiastic photobomber
As the following photo illustrates, Bogotá is absolutely bloody enormous and generally cloudy. In the coming weeks I hope to do more blog worthy things, i.e. finding my way around and seeing the country, so you can look forward to a much more exciting read!