Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Memories of Bogota

I'm back from Colombia! Well, I actually got back a couple of weeks ago, but between recovering from a post-travel cold, taking a weekend trip to Colorado, and getting back into the swing of working and having a social life, it's taken me awhile to get back to my internet life. But! Some pictures of my international travel are better late than never, right?

But first, a cautionary tale.
My flight landed in Bogota just before midnight and, along with my fellow travelers, I made my way to the immigration desk with my customs form and passport in hand. Now, the last time I flew internationally was 2010, so I was a little rusty. I had put my home address in the "address of your destination in Colombia" box. And when the immigration officer asked what my destination address was, I had to admit I didn't know.

I knew so many details about Annie's life in Colombia, thanks to the fact that she and I are penpals. I knew that she used to work at a university called UniMinuto and she now worked for an organization called Voluntarios Colombia. I knew she lived with a 2-year old Colombian named Vicky. But I did not know her address. Or her Colombian phone number. The immigration officer didn't seem impressed by all my other knowledge, nor did she seem particularly inclined to go look for Annie, who I knew was waiting for me in on the other side of customs. Instead, she led me to a very white office in the bowels of the airport where another immigration officer asked me exasperatedly, "Do you have any way of contacting your friend?" I said, "I could probably contact her on Facebook..." and he ushered me behind the desk and told me to log in to Facebook on his computer. Luckily, Annie had remembered a couple of hours ago that I needed her address and it was waiting right there for me in my Facebook messages. Within half an hour I had reunited with Annie and we were leaving the airport. So let that be a lesson to future international travelers: Make sure you have the address of your destination with you, lest you end up practicing your rusty Spanish with an immigration officer at midnight in a foreign country.

Luckily, from then on it was pretty much smooth sailing in Bogota. Here are some of my favorite memories:

Playing Tejo
Tejo is a Colombian game that basically involves throwing these rocks/discs (called tejos) at packets of gunpowder stuck in mud. And you almost always drink beer while you are playing. It sounded pretty dangerous to me, too, but surprisingly no one in our group was injured. The packets of gunpowder are pretty small, anyway, so they mostly just make an exciting noise if you hit one. And against all odds, I actually hit one! I feel like that got me a little bit of Colombian cred, and is also maybe the athletic highlight of my life.

Eating is one of my favorite activities no matter where I go, and Colombia has amazing food, so obviously I had a good time. We actually ended up going to a food festival, which was mildly disappointing because we went later and lots of the free samples had run out. But we did get free ice cream (pictured above) and free shots of vodka from the US Embassy booth, so overall it was a successful outing.

Colombia also has lots of FRUITS that don't exist in the US, and Annie made sure that I tried as many of them as possible. This is me standing next to a truckfull of my favorite fruit, pitayas. I also liked uchuvas (they looked like orange cherry tomatoes but tasted like sour bursts of deliciousness), but I was not the biggest fan of the granadilla. I tried a bunch of other fruits in juices, because we pretty much had juice every day for lunch, and that was wonderful.

I also tried ajiaco, a traditional Colombian chicken & potato soup. You add avocado, rice, capers, and salsa to the soup, which makes it pretty delicious. Your soup also comes with half of a cob of corn, which you stab with a skewer they provide you to eat it. It is pretty delicious - my stomach is growling just thinking about it!

Usaquen Market
Usaquen used to be its own little pueblo until Bogota swallowed it up, but it still had a distinct small town feel. On Sunday mornings they have a big craft market that is pretty popular with tourists, and understandably, because it is awesome. We saw a plant store inside of a bus (pictured above), a harpist playing Beatles songs,beautiful jewelry and hilariously kitchy aprons, and some GIANT avocados:

 The sun was out, I had mandarin juice in my hand, and it was just lovely to stroll around and look at the colorful buildings and crafts.

Botanic Garden
The Botanic Garden in Bogota is seriously amazing. There are so many funny and interesting kinds of plants, like the one pictured above that produces red puffs, and it is beautifully designed so it is easy to spend hours there walking around and taking in all of the sights and smells of the various plants.

 Oh, and the air is amazingly clean. Bogota is a city with a population of 9 million, and, suffice to say, the air is not the cleanest. But the air quality in the botanic garden was just wonderful.
And there were just so many cool plants. I literally took over a hundred pictures here, which accounts for about half of the pictures that I took in Colombia.

The Views
Bogota is really a beautiful city, and you can see the Andes from pretty much everywhere. One of my favorite vistas was from the roof of a library - which I also loved because the roof itself was so cool:

On my last day in Colombia, Annie & I took a train up to Monserrate, a mountain with a church on top that has amaaaazing views of the city. It was a beautiful clear day and you could really see how humongous Bogota is.

Street Art
 The street art in Bogota is pretty incredible. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of my favorite things - Colombia treated me so well that I think I'll have to go back sometime and see more of it!

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