“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
The toilet bins have been emptying themselves. I will ask Lily if she knows about this. There are no climate controls in Bogotá’s homes because the altitude and latitude cancel each other out, so it’s never too hot or too cold here. Soldiers with automatic rifles stand by the side of the road with their thumbs out, signifying that all is well. Bogotá has a new mayor. I know more than I need to about Ricky Martin. And my shitty hair is so long that I’m actually having to brush it to stop it getting knotted.
I emailed the British Embassy on the advice of my aunt, who moved to Mexico city several decades ago, and thought I could get some social life out of meeting other expats here. Their response was perhaps the best anti-austerity argument I’ve heard:
Dear Mr. Broad, The number of events sponsored by the Embassy has reduced due to austerity measures, and boozy lunches are out of the picture these days.
No matter, apparently I don’t need booze anymore. A couple of weeks ago I danced basically sober at club “Disco Jaguar”. A week later I was dancing again, sober, at a 90th birthday party in a small town called Giradot. I’ve realised that even without booze, I will be accepted at a Colombian dance party like Mr Bean at a funeral – we might be doing all the wrong things at the wrong times, but we’re the odd one out, guaranteed to raise a smile, even if nobody’s quite comfortable with the display.
However, at one point a circle of attractive, confident 20-somethings formed on the dance floor. I doubt I’m alone in this, but dance circles are literally a nightmare for me. I panicked. I knew they were going to try to drag me into it. I squeezed Lily’s arm, brought her close and said, very clearly, “if they pull me into the centre of the dance floor and make me dance in front of them…this relationship is over.” Lily firmly protected me from the circle, answering their appeals with a smile and shake of her head, but the damage to my confidence was done. It took several whiskeys for me to stand again.
All the while, Lily’s dad was killing it – the guy’s a dancing energiser bunny, owning the space around him, a 60-year-old kid comfortably throwing out moves with abandon, impressing far more than embarrassing people, the most lively person in the room. Despite Lily’s claim that people grow old quick here, the birthday girl was also at the party until 2 a.m. Let’s remember, this is not a sweet 16, this is a holy-fuck-she’s-90. Impressive.
A quick note about work. We finished our app at 1.5x the budget, 3 1/2 months late, with reduced features and with a new developer after our relationship with the agency soured to such an extent that lawyers were needed. In the midst of the row, I woke one morning with a non-metaphorical massive pain in my neck, what I believe is called a “crick”. A “kinesiologist” came to our house and, for just £5, fixed it by massaging my neck/shoulder/back with an unnervingly sexual-looking vibrator (above).
At the same time I was unable to look left, Lily got ill, incapacitating both of us. While we were in that state, we watched two movies – one, Superbob, about a British superhero who moves to Colombia with a Colombian maid. The other, Chef, is about a failing overweight American who makes significant improvements to his life based on the advice of his fashionable Colombian wife. Guess which movie we each enjoyed more.
Talking of wives, Lily is now Mum and Dad’s “nuera” (daughter-in-law) and Will’s “cuñada” (sister-in-law). I’ll let that sink in for a second, then tell you that in Colombia they don’t verbally differentiate between in-laws and in-loves – once you’re in a serious relationship, you’re an in law, it don’t matter if it’s got a ring on it. There might soon be a four-legged nuera/cuñada in the picture, the moment we can find a dog-friendly office.
Talking of potential catastrophes, seventeen years ago a meteorologist said that one day there is going to be an earthquake that will destroy Bogotá. Ever since then, there have been staged emergency evacuations here, where entire boroughs congregate at safe points while pretend injured people are tended to by pretend doctors. It’s like when the test fire alarm goes off in your office, except the alarm is in every building for several blocks, and the streets are shut down.
Finally, there’s a sports store here called Sperm, and its logo is a sperm, and that’s not the weirdest thing about sports stores in Bogotá. If a store here sells handguns and rifles (real ones, not air rifles) it also tends to sell rollerblades, as if the two are a natural fit. Is that what a Colombian “drive-by” looks like? Or should I say a “glide-by”?
Coming up, getting a new office, beginning work on the documentary again, and launching the app around November 23rd in the UK. I’ll be back in London on November 20th, ish, for two weeks.
With love from Bogotá,