“At the end of the game, the pawns and the kings go in the same box.”
Since this was my first foray into South America, I really had no idea what to expect. I flew into Bogotá, the capital of Colombia. Now I know Americans perceive Colombia as an unsafe country, and sadly, I think that perception is somewhat correct. There wasn’t any single moment when I didn’t feel safe during my six days in Bogotá, but from what others have told me, this is the Wild West of South America.
To give you an idea of how things are here, I’ve had probably a dozen local people warn me about being careful and watching my back, especially when it’s dark. There are certain areas of the city where you simply don’t go after nightfall, and they look like ghost towns after the sun sets. The police here are corrupt as hell. I’ve heard that they will bust people for drugs, and then turn around and give them to other civilians. How messed up is that?
There is an airborne chemical that thieves can use to rob you, but I forgot what it’s called. What they do is throw it into the air, and then you breathe it in. After that, you can’t remember anything, but you are fully awake and able to function. I’ve also heard that prostitutes will put cotton balls in their noses to block them, and then they will put some of this dust on the inside of their nose so that an unsuspecting person will breathe it in when they get close. WTF?!?
I know this all sounds pretty dubious, but I didn’t actually see or hear anything that made me feel like I was in danger here in Bogotá. Even still, the city just seems really sketchy. I called an airline to make a reservation for a flight out of Bogotá, and I got cut off. I called back two minutes later, and both the flight time changed, and the price had doubled despite there being plenty of vacancies for my original flight when I checked online. Huh?
Within five minutes of arriving at the hostel, I was fortunate enough to meet a really cool guy from St. Louis named Mike. He helped me find some late night food since I arrived at 11:30 pm, and then we decided to go out to the posh area of the city to see what was going down. It wasn’t too crazy of a night, but it was a good introduction to Bogotá.
The next day, Mike and I went on a bike tour of the city. I rented the crappiest bike in South America for the afternoon for around $8, which seemed like a rip off. Whatever, it still allowed us to check things out. We biked to one of the highest points in the town, and the view allowed us to see a lot:
We also biked past the national park, and we also made it through some of the smaller side streets. Although these pictures will lead you to believe the city is decently clean, there are a lot of areas that are littered with graffiti and trash. The pollution is pretty bad, and some women even wear fabric masks to cover their mouths when they are walking on the street.
Mike volunteers at an orphanage once a week on Fridays, and he invited me to join him. I enthusiastically agreed, and it turned out to be the highlight of my trip so far. We biked about an hour to get to the house that served 15 children ages six to 15. They were so fun! Although I was supposed to speak with them in English, we mostly communicated in Spanish. Nearly all of them called me profe, which is short for profesor, or teacher. The kids asked me a million questions about my muscles when I arrived, and I individually hoisted half of them with one arm as they held on to me. They really wanted to arm wrestle me, so we went a few rounds:
After nearly tearing my arm off in a 5-on-1 match, we wandered over to the park across the street. The group was supposed to play soccer, but we ended up rough housing for the rest of the hour. I helped a couple of the smaller kids climb a tree, which they enjoyed. Mike is in the first picture below.
On Saturday, the entire city celebrated Halloween. Mike and his friend Thor invited me to a party, along with a bunch of other people. Before that, we went to Bogota’s zombie march where thousands of people lumber along in zombie costumes. It reminded me of Halloween on State Street in Madison, but with fewer people, and we actually walked a pretty far distance. At random points the crowd chanted, “Sangre, sangre,” (“Blood”), or “Morir es vivir,” (“Dying is living,”), which was cool.
After the zombie march, we headed back to the barrio where I lived to hit up a party in one of the other hostels. Most people dressed up, and some people went all out. I laugh every time I see the girl in the Hitler outfit:
I haven’t eaten a ton of foods specific to Colombia, but I did get a dish that I was told is about as Colombian as it gets:
I was disappointed that the lighting on this picture didn’t turn out well. The dish is a completely random combination of things that countryside workers would eat to keep up their energy. It includes chicharones (fried pork bits), fried bananas, ground beef, avocado with spices, a mini sausage, white rice, an egg, and an arepa, which is kind of like a small, thick tortilla that tastes like nothing.
The rest of the days in Bogotá were pretty chill on purpose. I didn’t want this trip to be like my European tour where I was rushing through cities. I certainly feel more relaxed on this voyage, and I’m probably not going to see Ecuador like I thought I would.
Another reason why I’m taking it easy this trip is because I’m training for the CrossFit Games which start in 2013. The workouts are really demanding, and I’m trying to be a lot more diligent about getting good sleep and making sure that I’m getting in as many workouts as possible. I know that with only four months of training, it’s going to be really difficult for me to make it to the finals in July, but nobody ever accomplished great things by having mediocre goals.
I’m going to start and end with a quote in some of my posts because I have so many great ones that I want to share with you guys.
“Sweat is fat crying.”