“Bogotá Updates” are about the lives of a Brit and a Colombian living in Chapinero Norte, enjoying Colombia’s Little Pleasures. You can also read about the time I read a speech in Spanish to Lily’s parents, our trip to the Pacific coast and coffee country
You have to put your used toilet paper in a bin next to the loo. Nobody knows for certain why (some have mentioned small pipes), but you don’t flush toilet paper here. At some point the bag in the bin next to your toilet will get full, and you’ll need to chuck it out. Fried chicken joints give you throwaway plastic gloves when you order chicken wings.
Those are the two weirdest things. The rest is all fairly normal. The fruit is delicious, the days long and I understand next-to-nothing unless people are pandering to me with simple words.
There’s a network of dangerously fast buses in their own lanes (Transmilenio buses), which avoid Bogotá’s gruelling traffic. But, they’re so crowded that getting on them is often like trying to sink down into a ball pit. Wear your bag on your front and keep your phone and wallet in your front pockets, and you’re just about safe.
Talking of which, no knife wounds yet. Lily’s been like the all-seeing Eye of Sauron, except a maternal version that’s watching over me with a mix of fear and alarm, switching to a mother’s pride when I manage to fumble my way from Chapinero Norte (where we now live) onto the right bus without getting robbed or stabbed or lost. It’s been a little tough feeling this useless all the time, but the good news is I may not need to learn krav maga after all.
I had an argument about politics with Lily’s dad in Spanish last night. That says less about how good I am at the language than about my depth of political knowledge, but it does show some progress. My Spanish lessons are mind-meltingly intensive 3 hour slogs. I’m quickly learning the absolute basics, and can get around okay, but no past/future tenses and everything’s a struggle. No gringo friends to speak of yet, but there’s a ton of them in Nueva Lengua (my Spanish school), so it’ll come.
I’ve also been to a neurologist (I’m sorted, prescriptions were no problem), an eye doctor (I’m fine, but the polluted air is itching my eyes), a dentist (I’m English) and last night we signed a contract for an apartment. I won’t go into the details, but the last landlord fucked us just before we signed a contract, which ended up being a blessing in disguise – the new place is larger and amazingly situated. So it was great to finally sign (see our post-signing selfie below).
That’s the second-biggest reason why I’m here. From October 1st we’ll be living in Chapinero Norte, a district full of good bars, hipster cafés, shops etc etc. It’s the Williamsburg of Bogotá. The apartment is 100 square meters (1,100 square feet), on the 6th floor, with lots of light, a study, storage room, three bathrooms, a bedroom, an okay kitchen and a cool dining/living room for $2,000,000 COP/month (£430).
Otherwise, we’re working out of Wayra Colombia, which is a bit weird seeing as Wayra London has stopped responding to my emails. I can often see buskers at traffic lights out the window. Our app will be out in mid-October, we’ve got a free £5k marketing budget, developers here are 1/6th the price of New York and even office space is cheap as chips. That’ll happen in about 3 months.
Bogotá’s 2,640m (8,660ft) above sea level, so it’s easy to get out of breath, and the weather is bizarrely unpredictable – you get four seasons in one day, from bright, piercing sun (no atmosphere to protect you), to rain and back to sun within minutes. Magnificent rainbows. I wrote a lot about it on Lily and my previous trip here.
A bottle of beer is £0.50 in a shop, £1.50 in a bar, the women are Colombian, the men are Colombian, the food has been better than Colombia’s reputation (I just ate chiguiro, an oversized hamster), you can find pretty much anything here and I was right not to be concerned. Lily’s been doing a great job.
Guinea pig is top right. It tastes like chicken, sort of.
Coming up, we just can’t wait to unpack, finally, and sleep in the same bed again. Lily’s parents are Catholic and we’re sinful, sex-crazed heathens, so at their house we’ve been sleeping in separate beds in the same room. It was either move out or get married. We’re also going for a visa of some sort (still haven’t worked out which), a joint bank account and my grandfather’s desk should turn up in about a week. Decorating, losing weight, making friends, learning 3-cushion billiards (they don’t play pocket billiards here) getting bicycles…
With Love from Bogotá,