Where to start? I’ve been trying to take this fantasyland of a blog in a few different directions the past few posts. Maybe focus on just one situation, specific types of interactions and even putting up a little art. This post was going to be a “Hikes of Bogotá” type thing, but some of the hikes ended up being seriously underwhelming so I pulled that plug. W/o another idea we default to the default, which is just a bit of an update on life. After all, the name of the website is my name.
“So what’s up Hunter?” Great question…but can you raise your hand next time? I am still living in Bogotá (hint hint, title translated) and really haven’t been happier in quite a long time. Since I haven’t had a post about Bogotá since coming, let’s you and I start from the top.
I arrived in the city sometime around the second week of January with a dude I met in Medellin named Eli. He does some hip photography I hear. We had bummed around a few Colombian cities with a friend of his Pat before making our way here to the capital b/c Pat needed to catch a plane, who I think left for the States within a day or so of arriving here. I knew I wanted to work for my old beast of an employer as much as I could for the busy season (which coincides with tax season in the insurance biz) and Eli had a few months to kill before a photography gig so we decided to stay. I also have an old friend Anthony Traina living here so I knew that would facilitate good vibes.
It was…difficult looking for a place at first. Here’s how it works: you walk around and find some signs in the windows that read Se Arriendo, which translates into “for rent”. Since we didn’t have Colombian phones, you write down that and a few other numbers and find someone who offers minutos. This is crazy common around the city, and with a ¿Me presta minutos por favor? to a guy on the street with a sign you have a phone for 100 pesos por minunto, which is about 4 cents. Doable, yes? You then call all these numbers you wrote down and ask about the rooms. Now take note my friend: my Spanish gets better everyday, but still over the phone or a over a PA system, it’s impossible to understand. Eli and I walked around an area of town we wanted to live in a few times and I made some super fruitless calls in which very little information was exchanged. There was a like a week of me worrying (oh shit oh shit what if we don’t ever find a place and then what???) before Anthony hooked me up with a mutual friend Camilo who had a few rooms open and I signed right upon showing up. Eli I think wanted his own space, held out and found a place right up the road a week later.
At first it was weird, there wasn’t any furniture in the place and I spent too much time in my room b/c my bed was the only place to sit. Then some muebles (furniture) started to trickled in and I got a little closer with Camilo, who now is a whoa friend and I couldn’t be luckier to have found such a landlord/friend and place.
Here’s a little tour of barrio/digs I did last week to give you an idea of what my area is like.
With a place settled and the work flowing in steadily, let make some new friends, yes!?! And how easy it is here. This being a big city, there’s a lot of education in and around the city. People want to learn English and with one look at me it’s quite easy to tell I am not from here, and most likely a gringo from the States. I started attending Gringo Tuesdays at a local bar and racked up some friends right away, and what an event that is! Every Tuesday, La Villa opens up for a free language exchange in which there are tables to sit down to speak Spanish, English, Portuguese, French, German and I think I saw the Russian flag floating around. However, I would say 90% of the people there are Colombians who showed up to improve their English. And this is big event! Two floors, over 100 people? And around nine all the tables get taken away and the music gets turned wayyyYYYYYyyy up for bumpin’ party. This is when I leave, but in the few hours beforehand I am routinely a bit of a celebrity b/c of my native English speaking skills. It is something you and I take for granted every second, but our language is the premier business language of the world, and many, many people struggle to learn.
And this said celebrity status made making friends easy. Everyone wants to meet up later, swap stories, practice English and help me with my Spanish. All of the sudden you leave the United States and something you never even thought about you are an expert at! And how fun it is to help people. I have a few teachers in my family (shout out to the ‘rents and Clairebear!) so maybe this runs in my blood, but I get a nice feeling going out of my way to help people out with English. Further, most people are the same way about Spanish. Sure, there are some w/o patience when you try Spanish, but most are thrilled you are trying and are there to help.
So that is a weekly regular, along with the language exchange Anthony and his company Hiola run on Wednesdays nights. That one I actually tend to like more b/c it is smaller and much quieter. Though it only English-based by title, I find a few sentences of Spanish with anyone there will swap the language.
At some point in the last two months supreme-awesome old-friend-from-college-days Blake Harvey moved in. Blake, like me, has a job that can be taken anywhere the internet exists so when I invited him to come here (as sort-of a half joke) he ended up taking me up on it. And why the heck not? I got a room open in a spectacular place, your job can be done here…it was a no brainer then and it’s a no brainer now. Blake and I go back nearly ten years to my sophomore year at UF and he compliments the apartment vibe quite well. Camilo hinted to me once he didn’t like gringos until he met Blake and I. Take that negative stereotypes!
Other than living in a crazy-awesome apartment, lunch with new friends, language exchanges and working right in the area of 40 hours a week the only thing left to cover is trips! Some out of town, some in, almost traversed for a hike and all worth writing about.
Out-of-town (sort of…)
Is your coffee still warm…? Let me get you some sugar, for I am your neighbor.
Monserrate is the big hike within Bogotá. Every local you meet will want to know if you’ve taken the walk up the mountain behind Candeleria. It’s all by stairs and I don’t think too bad but can be pretty taxing the first time around. Up there is a functioning church and most take the cable car or tram up the mountain though Sunday afternoons is a popular time for the hike. I’ve been up a couple of times and the last time I went (when Geena came to visit!) we took the tram down. It super steep and a plaque conveniently informs you the tracks where laid over 100 years ago, so, well, it’s going to break someday, but it wasn’t that day.
On the mountain across from Monserrate is the fabled Statue de Guadalupe. Quite unassuming, it appears across from Monserrate as a statue of Mary calmly holding her hands out for a hug. But no Colombians I could find had been there. Some had stories of dangerous little pueblas one must pass through and that to go without a guide implied some kind of death wish. For better or for worse, I think the attitude of fuck it man, let’s just go do it and whatever happens happens!! is much more prevalent in the States than here. The outdoorsy culture is for sure bigger back home so maybe it has something to do with that, but my point is people seem very wary about hikes, trails, and the such at the wrong time of day and without a guide. In the end, the hike up to the Statue de Guadalupe was a just a dumpy road. Bike riders in their colorful tight clothing gave us a Buenas Días on their way past. We has a good time, but it wasn’t the first time an overcautious Colombian vibe turned out to be nothing.
Anthony, myself and a sassy Kentuckian Couchsurfer took a trip out to Los Llanos, but I already wrote about that. Blake and I (gringo duo supreme) took a solo trip out to La Chorrera, which is supposed to be a rocking waterfall about an hour outside of town but because of a dry season it was more like a trickle, but man I got to practice some Spanish that day! Also also, since Blake already put together such a WHOA video of the day he told me I could use. Blake runs Geo Ideas, which is a hip conservation blog worth a gander that actually discusses things that matter, unlike some blogs.
And to bring all you little flying monkeys up to speed, just last weekend, Blake, new friend Sonia and I went hiking out to Laguna de Guatavita which is lake situated in a crater bordered by a really new and nicely planned out town. It rained most of the day but with a few raincoats and patience under trees what a time we had…pics below via Blake.
Is that it? So much as happened since I happened upon Camilo and his apartment it’s hard to believe I can type it all out in one sitting! After renewing my tourist visa recently I now have two more months I can stay here in Colombia before I am required by law to leave, unless I get a work visa or get married. I already have a job so looking for another for visa-purposes isn’t happening and though I did just seeing a nice young lady, well, needless to say marriage hasn’t come up yet. And unless your my mom or like….Dain, you probably won’t hear about it.
Two options call to me from the horizon. The first is Canadian super-star from the Central American days Ian is down in Santiago with talk of buying a VW Bug and driving that bad boy all the way back home. The timing looks like it might work out, and if so you better believe I’ll be flying down to Capital de Chile to drive it back up with him and get dropped off in Ecuador, which was to be my next stopping off point on this trip anyway. That all seems maybe too good to be true and option two is a working at a hotel in Otivalo, Ecuador for a six week stint and and shake off this big city vibe, which might be hard to do.
More to come…thanks for reading…