I saw a fountain dripping idly in an enclosed courtyard; the setting sun shone through its running strands of hair. The sun was bright all day on Bogota, and we climbed up to 68 degrees.
The flowers are everywhere: great roses, calla lilies, bougainvillea, flowers on shrubs and climbing vines—everything grows here. Even the spiky palms look fine against the clear blue sky. Not without its dirty places, great, urban, mostly dry, concrete waterways, trash and dust and traffic, still, Bogota is a pleasant place, and they’re always working on cleaning it.
You aren’t supposed to go too hard when first arrived because of the altitude but we managed to walk a deal, to have good coffee, to have a good lunch, to have fresh fruit (the only expensive fruit or vegetable here is the avocado which can get almost up to a dollar for a great green, big one). So come visit us and eat! We walked a lot because the transportation thing, without using taxis, can be a bit strange. We met an Australian girl who has been here for three years and she cannot explain it.
What I haven’t found in Bogota is the niceness of restaurant interiors like in Sogamoso. Bogota is a large, great place and I have not been much around it, but it seems restaurants are very small, or very charmless toward downtown, or else of the expensive-looking variety. I’m sure it is a matter of time. Once we built up more immunities . . . I want to be like the people here I’ve met who when asked if they knew what KFC was like down here or McDonalds did not know, having failed to even want to try such establishments.
I have a cell phone now, or I should say we have a cell phone. It was pretty easy—everybody here has cell phones and if you need to you can stop at a stand on the street and pay to use a cell phone—but if you don’t use up the minutes you paid for in a month, then you lose the money. Now to understand the ins and outs of cell phones.
We have lots of little bags—talegos. Anytime you buy anything anywhere, in a store, from a person carrying a tray or sitting with a blanket of wares on a sidewalk or pushing a cart on the street, they give you at least one bag, some two. When we bought half of a roasted chicken it was interesting to watch the girl lick her fingers to get the thing open to put the chicken in.
And the crowds. It gets to be like Dublin with so many people walking, pouring in a constant stream out of the Transmilenio (aboveground, bus-like subway system), walking everywhere over the hazards of the sidewalks. Here the rule is that pedestrians look out for themselves or get beeped at very vigorously. Things are interesting in the day, but after dark the smells from the little sidewalk stands become even more interesting and the pedestrian traffic does not appear to let up.
On the way to Bogota
Hardest of all is to leave behind friends. That has been going on over the years, but culminated today. The hard part comes when you look at each other and say things you mean. Better, I can imagine Montaigne saying, to say things you don’t mean—and he’d write an interesting essay on the rationale and perhaps include some practical suggestions.
Now we’re at the mercy of wireless for a while, and we don’t know our way around that yet. I thought any public place in America would have free wireless. Not so, apparently, or I’ve found one of the few places without. Maybe O’Hare will be better. O’Hare my old friend—how well I know the place from going through it at least six times in my life.
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Curious place, Miami. Heat, shabbiness—it is an outpost of South America with North American infrastructure and government. We stayed in the Pit of the Arm Hotel. Curious smells in the tiled lobby and even more curious smells in the hallway. Cold room, large with walk-in closets, and general hot weather feeling: plain walls, space, stark lights, and shabby. I think I’d like Miami.
The J concourse at MIA is recent and shows signs of intelligent design. I think the concourse from which we flew out with American last March kind of evolved and had not reached any stages of discernible design or intelligence. Still no free wireless . . . I’m wondering if I ought to pay for it.