A few nights ago I couldn’t sleep, and as I lay in the darkness, listening to the amplified sounds of the night – a creaking water pipe, footsteps from the apartment above – I began to think about the things I miss from England. In my mind, I came up with a short list (which mostly included different foods and home comforts) before I realised that this is the trip I have been dreaming about for years, and I should be enjoying everything on offer here rather than thinking of what they don’t have from back home. So, I decided to make a list of some things that I like about living in Bogotá:
1 Here it is socially acceptable to eat tomato ketchup with everything. If you know me, you will know that there are certain things I can’t eat unless I have ketchup to accompany it (such as fries, pizza, toasted sandwiches, pies; the list goes on) however, in England I can’t help but feel slightly ashamed of this affection at times. Eating at restaurants (especially Italian ones) in the UK, and the rest of Europe too I suppose, I always feel an acute sense of guilt when requesting this most vital of condiments to accompany my calzone or whatever else I am eating. The waiter will always look at me with disdain before reluctantly bringing me the sauce, with an expression on his face which silently tells me that he thinks I’m an uncultured buffoon. Some restaurants refuse to serve it at all. Disgracefully, I have even taken to bringing my own ketchup to Zizzi’s – this being the prime non-ketchup-giving-restaurant culprit. Here in Colombia however, this is not the case. For example, one of the countries national dishes, arroz con pollo, is not complete without a generous splodge of ketchup over the top of it. And this is a traditional Latin American dish! Me and Colombia are going to get along well…
2 The moon is bigger and brighter. It might sound stupid, but it’s true, and I have come to the conclusion that it is because of the altitude. Being 2,625 meters above sea level, compared to London’s 24 meters, we are (if only minutely on the grand scale of things) closer to the moon here in Bogotá. The moon is something that I love. I can find myself staring zombie-like out of the window at it for hours – and even more so here in Colombia, where, being in the southern hemisphere, it looks completely different to how it does in England. The face of the moon here looks a lot more relaxed that the ‘English moon’s’ expression of permanent surprise. (if you are in the UK and haven’t noticed this before, look at the next full moon and you will see a shocked face staring back at you)
3 Transport is cheap. Though at times it seems life threatening (sitting in the back of a taxi which weaves a path around other swerving vehicles; or darts through a quickly closing gap between two rapidly accelerating cars; or veers abruptly aside into someone else’s lane to avoid an unforeseen pothole – all of this at high speed and in a car which has no seatbelts) the price makes up for it (as well as the thrill of adventure). Here, I can pay 4000 pesos (£1.30) to take a 20 minute taxi ride, which in England would cost at least £8; or just 1,400 pesos (40p) to take a bus from one side of the city to the other.
4 Rice Pudding. Growing up in the UK, I have always loved rice pudding – a traditional English dessert. However, I can’t deny that the Colombians do it better. Here they use butter, vanilla, cinnamon and condensed milk (which could make me like almost anything) to make a richer, sweeter, creamier and 100 times more amazing version of the dessert. Trust me, you have to try it.
Arroz Con Leche Colombiano
5 People here are more polite (unless they’re driving, and especially if they’re taxi drivers). Whereas in London people don’t look at each other, not to mention say anything, the people here always politely acknowledge one another. If I’m honest, it took me a while to get used to. At first it would catch me off guard when a complete stranger would greet me while passing them on the stairs, and I would respond to their enthusiastic “buenos dias” with a curt nod, or one of those quick smiles (which are not smiles at all) that all English people seem to be expert at, whilst I briskly kept walking and tried not to make eye contact. However I have since become accustomed to it, and I enjoy participating in this aspect of Latin American culture.
Here is a scene I stumbled across when coming out a restaurant, and a good example of friendly people in Colombia: they were all helping to push a broken-down bus down the street!
6 The mountains. I know I have mentioned them at least once in every one of my posts about Colombia, but the mountains that surround Bogotá continue to charm me. Being from England – a mostly horizontal country – I am unaccustomed to mountains, and every time I look out of the window I am enchanted all over again by the rugged, green peaks which tower above the edges of the city, providing a permanent reminder of nature and the insignificance of man. Necessary, at times, as an antidote to the constant, frenzied activity of the big city.
Mountains Surrounding Bogotá
These are just a few of the things I’m enjoying about living in Colombia, aside from the fact that I’m thousands of miles from home and in a warmer climate.
I’m hoping that during the next week I will have a chance to visit Cartagena, a beautiful colonial city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, but nothing is final yet. I will let you know what happens in my next post! Hasta luego!