As my time as an intern for Andes EcoTours comes to an end, I’ve had some time to reflect on important lessons that the city has taught me. The following stand out as some of the most important:
Hot chocolate with cheese is a revelation
For years and years I have thought that chocolate and cheese should in theory be a great combination of foods. Between the sweet and the salty it seemed great in my mind. But after numerous attempts and failures I couldn’t imagine that I would ever find a combo that actually tasted good. The Colombians have perfected it. The cheese gets delightfully melty and the bittersweet chocolate flavor make the combo simply incredible. It’s something you have to try to believe.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Moving alone to an enormous city made me so anxious at first. I was convinced that I needed to know exactly where I was going and what I was doing or face getting harassed and stranded somewhere I didn’t know. The truth is that most Bogotanians are very friendly and happy to help foreigners. This sense of community is so different from what I’ve experienced in other big cities. Sure someone in Chicago would tell you where to catch the bus, but they wouldn’t be happy about it. In Bogota its not seen as an inconvenience in the slightest. This is only more true for the rural areas surrounding the city. In the country you usually don’t even need to ask, someone will notice that you look lost, or a little cold and they will offer to make the situation easier in whatever way they can. It’s this kind of hospitality that I’ll miss when I eventually head back to the United States.
It takes time to make friends
This may be true for most big cities, but in my experience it has been difficult to make friends with people who are 100% from Bogota. Maybe it’s because I live in an international district or maybe it’s just the way Bogotanians are, but after living here for almost 4 months I still only have one friend who grew up in Bogota. After talking to some expats here, it seems to be a trend. But don’t fret! It might take some work, but it is definitely possible to get to know the locals here.
Don’t stress getting somewhere on time
This may have been the most important lesson I’ve learned here. I can’t stress enough how many times I’ve been running to catch the bus or hoping with every inch of myself that the taxi I chose would drive faster. In Bogota, and Colombia in general, people move at their own schedules. And usually that means slow (at least slower than I’m accustomed to). Here, it’s not worth freaking out about showing up a few minutes late to an event because it probably won’t start exactly on time anyway. The pace of life here is just different. I still find myself rushing to get places from time to time and it’s always important to remind myself that it’s just not worth it.
Bogota has made a serious impression on me, so much so that I plan to stay for quite a bit longer, much to my family’s dismay. The culture of this city is just so wonderful and unique, much like the people who inhabit it. I can’t wait to do even more exploring of this enormous urban jungle. It’s true what they say, the only danger in coming to Colombia is wanting to stay.