Monday, July 5, 2010

First Impressions of Bogota

It was pitch black outside our plane window as we began our descent into Bogota, the capital city and largest in Colombia. Even though it was dark, the view was absolutely amazing. Every few seconds the sky would light up from beneath the clouds, making the top of the clouds look foreign world. I was in a trance- the lightning storm was amazing. But it was nothing compared to the gorgeous Colombian beauty sitting behind me. My next hurt from straining so much during the flight. I'm a sucker for brunettes, so I knew I was in trouble before coming here, but my God, I did not expect to see for many beautiful women. By the time we had gotten our luggage I had fallen in love a good 5-7 times. True love. It was unreal. I had forgotten that Shakira is from Colombia.

Moving on, we got our bags, found our translator, and starting packing a small bus. The drive from the airport to the church was anything but inspiring. I had read up a little on Bogota before we left, and from all I read I was expecting a modern city with most of the comforts of home. Driving past some of the slums to the place we were staying only reaffirmed that we were in South America. But I really didn't give it too much thought. I mean, you do have to drive through Kenner to get to New Orleans.

We got to the church and were greeting with open arms. That's probably the first real thing I noticed about Bogota. The beauty of the people, inside and out. Complete strangers acted like we were family. Somehow our hosts made us feel more welcome than I've ever felt before. It was great.

We found our rooms and took a tour of the place. First thing to note: do not flush toilet paper. Instead, put it in a little trash can right by the toilet. Yep. Next thing, there is no water heater. Your water gets hot by running through an electrical showerhead that heats the water as it passes through. Oh well, at least we have hot water. I didn't realize until the next morning that in order for the water to be hot, it could be no more than a trickle. This only ensured you from freezing to death and taking 5 minutes to rinse the shampoo out of your hair. Oh well, if this is as bad as it gets we'll all be alright.

Yes, those are electrical wires sticking out of the showerhead. A bit unnerving...

We've had a busy couple of days, so we haven't had much time to actually explore beyond a few block radius of where we're staying, but already I can see the major contrasts of Bogota. In front of the church you have a downtown feeling- tall buildings, busy streets, shopping, restaurants, tons of people...

...and on the back side you have huts, crooked and crazy streets, makeshift roofs that sprawl into the nearby mountainside... Just one block away from each other and there might as well be a difference of a hundred years.

We haven't seen much yet, but this weekend we have a lot planned. So far, so good. There are a lot of stray dogs running around, there are a lot of people selling a lot of random stuff on the streets, and the drivers are absolutely nuts. Crazy is an understatement. There seems to be no traffic laws. I mean, they do have stop signs and traffic lights and lanes... but they are largely ignored. You could not drive here, I promise you. You would killed or in a wreck before you could shift out of park. The drivers seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to driving. I've been to Europe where the driving it considered crazy, and it has nothing on Colombia.

But all of these things (maybe apart from the driving) are true of most other countries I've been to. It is far too early in this trip to make a call on Bogota. More to come.