Over the last week, all of the Seeders have been leaving Bogota to go to our placements. Erica and Daniela left first last Sunday, and the rest have been leaving day by day. The four of us that are going to the Caribbean coast are leaving last, bright and early Monday morning. We are heading first for the coastal city of Sincelejo for another two weeks of orientation before finally arriving at our communities.
Therefore, we have been spending this week doing nothing, expect for a few odd jobs. It’s been glorious! Three of us have moved into the same house together and have been cooking and relaxing before heading out.
In fact, throughout these last months, little things like spending the day at the park or cooking together have been some of the best experiences of being here in Bogota. Maybe these small things don’t make a big difference in the general scheme of things, but I’m learning that in order to help others, I need to be in a healthy place. Part of that means being with friends and enjoying the small things in life, playing and laughing before heading to the coast.
And making lists! First of all, here are the things I’m going to miss about Bogota.
1. Walking through Parqueway every morning on my way to the office. There are always the most interesting people jogging by, doing exercise in bright red velour suits, walking their dogs, sleepwalking in pjs, climbing trees, pushing babies in strollers, shining shoes… The list goes on- I never know what will happen!
2. Speaking of interesting things, I love cities such as Bogota because there is always something to see. For example, yesterday we were sitting on a random street, waiting for a 1967 era moving truck to take some furniture to various houses around the city. In the span of one hour, we saw a man on a bike pulling a cart selling chocolate covered strawberries, a lady walking a small dog wearing not only a pink coat but matching pink leggings as well (the dog, not the lady), a man with amazing hair and aviator glasses, an ice cream vendor whose every article of clothing was branded, about 200 buses, and many other interesting sights.
3. Ugly Pigeon Park by the office. Bogota has the world’s ugliest pigeons and they all hang out in the same park. They are so ugly they are awesome.
4. Cafes. There is amazing coffee on every corner! I will especially miss chocolate croissants at the French Bakery.
5. The other Seeders! We are all going to different parts of the country and won’t be together again as a large group until November.
6. Having an established daily routine. I have no idea what my life will look like when I finally get to Mampujan.
7. Lectures. At TWU, going to class was one of my favourite things and I have equally loved all of the lectures about Colombia we have heard here.
8. Flowers. The countryside surrounding Bogota is a commercial flower growing region, many of which are exported north. However, there is still of abundance of beautiful flowers sold on every street corner. You can buy a dozen roses for about $1.50.
9. Anonymity and choice. Sometimes, it’s really nice not be known and have every action carefully scrutinized by those around you. In a city of 9 million, it’s a little bit easier to disappear for a while. As well, choices such as where to shop or where to worship are abundant.
And, here are the things that I’m not going to miss:
1. Toilet plunger walk of shame. Let’s just say that a Colombian focus on white flour, rice and potatoes, combined with a weak septic system does not bode well. Having to walk across the neighbourhood to borrow the appropriate ‘equipment’ is not something I will miss.
2. Sitting in the Seed office for 8 hours a day. I think we were actually crazy by the end.
3. Cold and rain.
4. Seeing people digging through trash looking for dinner every night on the way home from the office.
5. Being called princessa, reinita (little queen), mona (blonde), mi amor, etc., by many, many, many, random people. However, seeing a horse drawn wagon almost crash into the side of the street because the drivers were too busy making comments at the gringos on the side of the road was kind of funny…
6. Pollution. Seriously, I really do have black snot.
7. Near death experiences due to traffic. The leading cause of death in Colombia is not armed conflict, but traffic accidents (armed conflict is second). There is no pedestrian right of way or many pedestrian traffic lights. When we walk in groups and try to cross the streets, everyone looks both ways and we are all ready to put out a restraining arm to save each other’s lives. I have been almost hit by a taxi, motorcycle, or bus everyday. I have probably provided much amusement to motorcycle drivers by loudly shrieking as they almost run me over.
8. Lack of green.
9. Being in transition. I’m so looking forward to having my own house and community and just living there for the next two years. I’ve moved at least once every year in the past 11 years and am so excited about forming home and community for more than eight months at a time. I’ve enjoyed living with host families, but it is time to have my own place. Despite my enjoyment of the anonymity of the city, I can’t wait to be part of a community and hopefully form a home!