How this city is growing on me! I think I realize it because I have something to compare: last year’s search for an apartment and this year’s. Last year’s confusion and frustration and this year’s lack of much of that. The sense, not that they’re stupid and hostile, but helping and generous—the natives. I know my way around; I know how to get things done; I ended up walking a lot, but it is fine and even pleasant, something of a bonus.
I’m almost at a point where I can be considered fit, I’ve walked so much. But not the wandering stuff of last year, the vain searching. I remember walking in the sun for ages looking for a bank that would allow me to pay a bill last year. This year I found not one, but two banks I needed right in a row and briskly. I did a lot of walking, but it was all purposeful, which is another thing (I hate to amble, but I love to pass people and walk faster, more efficiently).
Today I walked along Carrera 11th at a medium fast pace. (Carreras, as you may remember, run north and south, generally, and Calles run east and west, more or less. There are also Transversales but lets not complicate it with that. What, you may ask, happens when Carrera 91 drifts too far east and is more in the range of the 80′s carreras? It is known by a regular name, La Avenida Cali, or just La Cali. Not all of them have names, but the big long one’s that wander tend to. It’s a really good scheme and generally very easy for finding your way around.) I went more or less 30 blocks from Cll 100 to Cll 70 along 11th, and it was a good walk. I’d had some coffee and an arepa, besides my egg on toast for breakfast, by that time, and so I had strength to go on (when I eat arepas I think of what the angel prepared for Elisha; its probably the same basic thing only with a little cheese). I sweated, but I can get over that nowadays. I walk, I sweat, I teach my class, I come home, I have a shower, no problem.
11th in that area runs through the better zones of Bogota. There are avenues with old trees, and it itself has great, old trees; the architecture is varied and often interesting, and there’s all kinds of things to see (French people lined up outside their embassy, looking squinty, gallic). The sidewalks are enormous (one day somebody here is going to wake up to the fact that traffic can be relieved by cutting most sidewalks in half and then things are going to change), and there are always plenty of people on them, vendors along them, besides the lurching traffic in the three or four lanes making up 11th. It’s a pleasant walk if the day is cloudy, and even if it is sunny in bits. I watched a shower of autumnal yellow leaves come fluttering down across the road at one point.
And lunch? I found a good cheap place and they were having pasta soup to start things off. I stirred the potatoes in my pasta soup, and then followed it with a plate of the obligatory rice, french fried potatoes, guacamole salad, half a platano and a large piece of seared chicken breast. The juice is included with these kinds of working man’s lunches, and today’s was lulo—one of the best.
When you know where to find that kind of good lunch for a decent price, where to stop to get a 1000 COP (a little over 50 cents) tinto they make with an espresso machine, where to get an arepa with cheese an inch thick inside it, a good empanada with a corn crust and potato filling, or a 500 COP cheese arepa; when you know where you can hop on a bus, or you can catch a Transmilenio that in seven stops will have you at the Portal and then a feeder that in one will leave you within three blocks, or one that in four will leave you at your block, or even one that will leave you at four blocks distance in a very short time; when you have your things to do and get them done one right after the other in a way that you never could have when you first came, the place starts to grow on you.
Don’t hold me to it, but perhaps more on the locations and places of this great city in the future. I feel it coming on.