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Adios! Adieu! Auf Wiedersehen! Arrivederci!

Goodbye Bogota

sunny 18 °C

Just woke up to our last full day of life in Bogota! Although we will be stopping through on our way back to the states after our travels, this is our last day in OUR apartment in OUR neighborhood with whatever semblance of normalcy we have created for ourselves over the last 8 months.

Its been strange to pack things up, un-decorate the walls, and fit our lives back into suitcases so to ease the transition we have mixed things up a bit. First, we reverted back to our nine year-old selves and made a fort (real mature, I know) but it really has made things not look so empty.


Aside from redecorating the interior of our apartment with children's sheets and pillows, we have been making sure to visit or revisit our favorite places, eat our favorite foods and just soak it all up before its gone. The closer we get to leaving the better we can identify which things we will miss and which things we will NOT be missing. Here are just a few:

Things we WILL miss:
1. Our neighborhood 'mom and pop' restaurant that has been so good to us
2. Empanadas from the empanadas guy down the street
3. Being able to say, "We're in Colombia!" every so often and having it still be novel
4. Pineapples for 60 cents, coconut on every street corner and most fruit in general
5. Exploring all the nooks and crannies of Bogota and Colombia- the Candelaria, Villa de Leyva, etc.

Things we will NOT miss:
1. The parties that start at midnight at our complex's meeting room
2. Dog sh*% littering every sidewalk (its a landmine worse than the streets of Paris)
3. Transmilenio
4. People making out (and loudly) in every public space!
5. Our teacup/half cantaloupe/cereal bowl/crater-shaped bed

The list goes on, but most you have already heard. The point is, it has been an adventurous, exciting, exhausting, terrifying, frustrating and rewarding few months. We are incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to experience something like this and for all the support we have had here and from home. At times its has been difficult to extract the "positives" from whatever was going on but we are truly thankful to have done all of it- the good and the bad.

Our next adventure starts on Monday as we leave behind our life here in Bogota to explore Peru and the Amazon. We are looking forward to 3 weeks of trekking and exploring and can't wait to get back to life in the States. Marty has posted the last of the pictures for Bogota and you can check them out on our pictures site.

We'll try to keep you posted on the highlights of Peru and see you all in a month!

Posted by tuffchix 09:07 Archived in Colombia Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Spice of Life!

Attitude and Guasca go a looooong way!

semi-overcast 14 °C

Life in Bogota has been on the up and up. I would attribute that to a little personal attitude adjustment on my part, but the fact the we have had (and are looking forward to) fantastic visitors, coupled with being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel definitely adds its own spark.

While January crawled by after such excitement in on the Caribbean and in the Coffee Region, February picked right up with Steph and Aaron and then Beth! Marty's latest update to the picture site details Beth's visit better than I could, but suffice to say IT WAS WONDERFUL!! We were able to make it back to Villa de Leyva (the gorgeous colonial town we visited back in early November), attempt to see Guatavita, the lake that gave birth to the legend of El Dorado where local Muisca native chiefs supposedly threw gold and jewels as offerings to the Gods, but arrived minutes after the trail head closed. Instead, we checked out the town of Guatavita as well as Bogota's many offerings including Montserrate, artisans, the Candelaria, numerous street vendors, botanical gardens and delicious restaurants! Looking forward to heading out as tourists again tomorrow when Shelby, a friend from college, gets in.

As for the more day-to-day side of life, it has been a real challenge for me to calm down and just kinda "go with it". As much as I have enjoyed all the opportunities I have had while being here, there were definitely times of frustration, say, for example when the water heater, stove, gas, water, toilet, internet, power or fridge were/are broken. Or, perhaps a good example is when the mattress turned into a giant crater. While a few months ago that would have (and sometimes did) send me into an fit of adolescent rage, stomping over-dramatically around the apartment declaring, "someone needs to take care of this right now or else..." I have managed to find my Om and basically just suck it up. Similarly, my less than ideal night shift as a university professor eats at me a little less and I have started to enjoy some of the work, despite my serious lack of qualifications (I'm pretty sure you should know what phrasal and modal verbs are, and I'm still not sure I do after an entire chapter of them!). Luckily, what I lack in knowledge of basic sentence structure, I make up for in humor (aka mispronouncing Spanish words while trying to explain an English one) and a genuine American accent (never thought that would come in handy). I have even picked up a few new Spanish words thanks to my eager students--Mom, you would not approve of these ones. Actually, Dad, you might not either. Marty's work situation has also calmed down and they have relieved him of his insanely early morning classes. He now leads 2 English clubs for the YMCA two evenings a week and may be taking on a couple classes during the week at the university he was working at earlier this year.

Its crazy to think that we have just over 3 months left in our adventure here. Thanks to visitors when we needed/need them most, we have been able to stay sane (for the most part) and make the best of our time here. We learned to make Ajiaco, the traditional soup from these parts (secret ingredient: Guasca leaves) and I took an impromptu "cooking class" from the restaurant owner of our favorite 'mom and pop place'. We have really made a point to relax, read and not get too caught up in things we have no control over and it looks like its working for us.

As we start to allow ourselves to get just a teeny bit excited about reuniting with life back stateside, we quickly remind ourselves that in addition to the wonderful family, friends, beer, BBQ, oceans, camping, driving, seafood, (well, you get the point) that await us, that constant sidekick, Unemployment, is also there to greet us with open arms. Fearing this dear companion, we have started our job searches if for no other reason than to get to know what is out there so we can kick it into full gear once we are back in CA.

Tomorrow Shelby arrives and just a couple weeks after she takes off we are off to Santa Marta where we will be hiking to the Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) on a 6 day guided trek through the northern Andes/Colombian Jungle. You can check out the trip on this site. After that, we will be meeting up with Marty's family on the coast for an extended spring break. By the time we get back we'll have a little over a month of work with the YMCA before taking off to discover other parts of South America. Definitely looking forward to it all and will try to keep y'all posted on life as it comes. We love hearing from you and all your emails, skype calls, chat messages, etc. really keep us going here. Thank you and keep 'em coming!

And, as always, you can SEE us at http://beyondbogota.shutterfly.com

Posted by tuffchix 22:11 Archived in Colombia Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Getting used to things

rain 15 °C

It’s not unusual to be riding one of the busetas (the crazy buses with no stops and no routes) and to have someone get on, ask the driver if they can make an announcement (aka collect money) for some booklet/poem/cause/candy etc. Tonight was a first for us though. After finishing up a meeting at the Universidad Libre where I will be working M-W-F, we hopped on a buseta right behind a Colombian rap duo. Boom box in hand, they quickly introduced themselves and hit ‘play’. The beat started (courtesy of an Eminem) and the two of them- one at the front of the bus, the other in the back started this impressive rap advocating for peace, social justice and overall love “en el corazón” (in the heart). Money was given, applause was awarded and they deserved both. If our crowded bus rides could just include good entertainment like that, I may enjoy the smog ridden, bumper to bumper autopista that gets me home.

As you can see, life continues to be exciting. We are still going through introductions to some of our work and Marty has yet to get any details on the schools he will be working with other than they are ‘colegios’ (schools for K-12). We are continuing to explore and are hoping to get a chance to get out of the city this weekend for the 3 day weekend. You should note that Colombia has more official holidays than any other country in South America. In fact, so many that when you ask them what exactly we are celebrating this Monday, they don’t know, simply proposing everything from a celebration of race, to Colombus’ discovery of the Americas. Colombian’s are by no means unintelligent, they just (admittedly) prefer the don’t-ask-questions-just-enjoy-the-day-off attitude. This, I could get used to.

Other things we have learned after being in Colombia another few days:

(1) Experiencing all 4 seasons in 1 day is the norm (we are technically in the rainy season, so the ‘winter’ part of the day is reoccurring).

(2) Fortunately for us, the rain clears the air and makes the view of the gorgeous and imposing mountains lining the eastern side of the city even more striking.

(3) Traffic lanes are merely suggestive, not obligatory. As are stop signs.

(4) Baby’s here don’t cry- apparently the violent rocking of the Transmileneo buses is just the ticket to sedate an infant.

(5) Men’s shoe generally go up to a size 42- that’s barely a 10. Women’s pants fit any hip or waist, but if your legs are proportionate to your hips or waist, nothing will fit. A.k.a. Ladies, if you ever played a sport, did yoga, used your legs for any sort of exercise or manual labor, you will not find pants that fit. We found this out the hard way after a full day of shopping in 2 (yes folks, Marty ventured into TWO) malls, we can officially make this claim.

(6) Lastly, and most definitely the worst things I have yet to taste here, a soda called Pony Malta, a favorite among the locals here has made the ‘One more reason I’m a Coca-Cola fan’ list. This raisin flavored soda smells far worse than it tastes and has earned itself an adjective by the same name. For example, beets; they smell like boiled dirt when you cook them and they taste wonderful, especially chilled- you would could say, “those beets are totally Pony Malta-ed.”

If it’s not painfully obvious by now, we have been lacking our creative outlets (when making up adjectives becomes your form of creative expression, you know you need to get out more). To remedy that situation, I made a little trip to this quaint little yarn shop for some wool and a crochet hook (no jokes please, its soothing), and David offered Marty his extra guitar for the nine months we are here in exchange for guitar lessons. Personally I think I get the best end of that deal as I just get to sit and listen to guitar, catching up on my celebrity gossip on David’s in-apartment internet (can you say jealous?), trying out whichever Colombian food David insists we test out that night.

It seems that things are kind of working themselves out here slowly, but at least in the right direction. Chau, till next time and HAPPY BIRTHDAY CARLA!

Posted by tuffchix 07:29 Archived in Colombia Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Welcome to Bogota!

And other interesting tidbits.

rain 15 °C

Thanks for your patience. Here is installment one:

“Dos Mil Metros más cerca de las estrellas” – 2000 meters closer to the stars- that would be the Bogotan’s romantic description of their city, and a perfect explanation for the dizziness, nausea and headache that welcomes you to Bogotá, Colombia. Actually, before the altitude sickness set in we were warmly welcomed by our co-worker and new friend/tour guide/social planner, David. After a great trip to Florida to visit Steph and Aaron and Busch Gardens (a theme park with free beer- genius!!) we made it safely to Bogotá. Mission Impossible #1: Getting our all 8 pieces of our luggage, both of us, David and his two friends who had come along to the apartment in the roller skate they drove. Solution: Car = luggage carrier, taxi = people carrier. Mission Complete.

We arrived at our apartment where we met our roommate, Jairo, who will be living with us until the end of the month. It’s a small apartment really only big enough for 2. Marty and I have the upstairs which is technically up a flight of stairs affectionately referred to as the Stairs of Doom for obvious reasons (see picture gallery). The apartment is starting to feel like home however, there are a few things that may take a little more time to get used to; (1) No oven or drawers in the kitchen, (2) concrete cut-outs in the wall opening directly to the outside- especially fun in thunderstorms (3) a few mattress pads stacked on top of each other posing as a mattress, and (4) noise- Bogota is 8 million people strong. We still have a lot to explore about our neighborhood, but Suba (in the northern part of the city) has its own centro comercial (shopping center), tiendas varias (mini grocery stores), panaderias (bakerys), empanada and arepa stands, and the opportunity to get chased down the street by a giant telephone advertising for a local phone company.

We ventured outside our neighborhood for the first time at 6:30am the morning after we arrived to meet up with David who was taking us to our first day of work which would last 12 hours- quite the welcome. Staring with a gnarly ride on Transmilenio, the rapid transit bus system here, transferring to a taxi ride that may be up there on the crazy scale with Italy. After speaking in front of a lecture hall full of university students bright and early we flagged down a city bus, that’s right, flagged it down, hailing a cab style because city buses here don’t have stops, set routes, route maps or any sort of schedule. We made it to the YMCA office where we exhausted ourselves. Twelve hours of work, navigating a crazy city, speaking Spanish and trying to settle in was a little too much. The rest of the week wasn’t any less hectic but it got easier. We rushed from office to office of the different organization we will be working with and eventually started to get a feel for the layout of the city and how things work.

Friday could not come soon enough, a feeling I’m sure you are most familiar with. David and his friends invited us to “Rumbiar” at their local hangout (Rumbiar is a made up verb that means to go out). It was this great little bar where we helped ourselves to beer out of the fridge, met the Colombian version of Marty’s cousin Eric, tried the local drink; Aguardientes (a licorice flavored drink) and managed to close down the bar; an evening of accomplishments if you ask me.

We still have a lot to explore but are quickly learning our way around the city. Adjusting to the smog will definitely take some time, as will getting down the language. We have had the opportunity to stroll through some of the major areas. Mom- you would love Calle 93! In our exploration we have seen some rather unusual things. For example, power lines being fixed by a man standing on a large collapsible ladder leaning against the very power lines he is fixing being stabilized by a couple of co-workers on the street. Hearing “Gringos!” being yelled from somewhere on the street and being solicited for Colombian soap operas may also become a regular occurrence here in B-town.

Saturday we finally got to venture out and play tourist in our new city. Bogotá is actually very modern, but most of the newer parts are simply laid on top of older, formerly impoverished areas. El Centro (the city center) is entirely different. Its home to most of the museums, old cathedral, and government buildings and is absolutely gorgeous. The cobblestone streets are very reminiscent of Europe and are a nice break from the craze and chaos in the larger more metropolitan city streets further north.

It’s been a fascinating, overwhelming, exciting, and exhausting week. Welcome to our life in Bogotá, hopefully entries to come will be slightly more insightful. At this point it’s a little different to be objective describing people, behavior, and the way things work here as everything is different than what we are used. We haven’t been here long enough to really have a great understanding of why things are they way they are. So, while I was tempted to write something a little more crass and critical (Dad- aren’t you proud of my self editing?), I’ll reserve those for times when criticism is actually warranted and not an expression of jet-lag, over stimulation and unfamiliarity. But until then, I/we hope you enjoy hearing about our adventures! You can check out some of the sightseeing we have done at the picture gallery, here. Until next time, Chau!

Posted by tuffchix 12:13 Archived in Colombia Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

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