Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bogota - First Impressions

Written by Karen.

Except for the dramatic - and fast moving - clouds and the altitude headache that forces you to take it slow until you acclimate to the thinner air,  it's easy to forget that you are well over 8,000 feet above sea level.  There are no dramatic mountain ranges that tower above you or surround this huge city to remind you that you are at a high elevation. But, the forces that occur at this altitude are strong and we plan to take it slow for our first couple of days.  
During this period of transition, we have started to check out our neighborhood and our new neighbors.  We have rented a small apartment for thirty days and we are not in a rush to see the major tourist sights yet.  That will come in time.  For now, we want to find out a little about our new neighborhood.  You can find out a lot about a new place by just walking around and keeping your eyes open.

Our apartment is on the fourth floor and has expansive city views.  The street is pretty quiet with mostly multi-storied homes and apartments. However, the ubiquitous car alarm is alive and well here.  It seems like every time someone enters or exits their car, they set off the alarm!  It doesn't matter if it is day or night, the alarm goes off for a minute or two. 

The parts of our neighborhood that we have seen include a variety of small businesses, restaurants, cafe's, schools, parks, and a church.  The streets and sidewalks are a mixed bag; the sidewalks are a composite of paved sidewalks, grass, pieces of cement, and raised concrete.  You really need to pay attention to the sudden drops and steps as you are walking around. 

As we walked past our street, we saw swarms of Smart-sized yellow taxis that compete for the few lanes of road, buses that belch smoke and fumes, school buses that stop to pick up and deliver children, and personal cars and motorcycles - all honking and jockeying for position.  

Speaking of jockeying, there are also horse and buggies - well, flat carts that pick up the garbage that are drawn by a horse. 

But this is the hardscape of the city - and we have really only begun to scratch the surface of our neighborhood and surrounding areas.  But a city is more than just a collection of hardscapes, a city has to have a personality, a force that resonates as a result of the people who live there.  A force that draws in outsiders and makes them want to stay for awhile. 

High School Noon Soccer Match

Max getting "love" from everyone around!
Bogota excels in this area.  My most vivid impression so far of Bogota is the people. We have consistently met and encountered warm, gracious, and friendly people who have gone out of their way to be kind to us despite the language barriers. 

From the airport, to our borrowed new home, and to our new neighborhood, we have consistently been amazed by the kindness of strangers.  And while I am sure that there are amazing things to see and experience while we are visiting this city, the warmth and graciousness of the people that we have met so far have demonstrated that Bogota is a city that has the capacity to draw us in and make us want to stay awhile.  

Halloween in the Park


Faye Brand said...

Hot Dog!! You guys are there! Congrats on starting your journey! I admit was just a wee bit concerned about your safety. However the photos and your vivid descriptions reflect a beautiful and welcoming place. It sounds wonderful. I look forward to your next update.

Observers of Life said...

Hi Faye!

Great to hear from you! I'll send you an email tonight to hear the latest! :)


Mark Horner said...

Hey Cuz!
Wow, how long will you guys be in Bogota? I have a really good friend there I'd like to introduce you to, and maybe she could show you around one day. Email me how long you are gonna stay around, and I will get you guys in touch!
Que les vayan muy bien!!


SurlyTraveller said...

Sounds like you're really having a nice time down there. It's great to have time to just explore and not rush around, sink into the local rythmn...

Observers of Life said...

Hi Mark!
We'll be in Bogota for the month of November. I'll send you a message on FB - great to hear from you :) Take care!


Observers of Life said...

Hi ST!

Being on unscheduled time has been the biggest transition of the trip so far. We are still getting used to the idea of being able to go slow, see what we see, and get into the local rhythm. It's pretty great!! :)