Unexamined Life In Bogotá

Today in Bogotá the sun was bright. The parks were full again, as many kids are on their long vacation while their parents are no longer. They have calendar A and calendar B for schools. B is like the USA, and A is like they used to have it for everybody. You get out during the summer with calendar A; the summer being when it doesn’t rain and there aren’t even clouds. Summer begins for the kids in mid-December and ends sometime in February. They also get a month or so in June or July with Calendar A. With Calendar B, they don’t get much at all.

* * *

The have this game they play on swings, the kids. They swing and kick their shoes off and see who kicks it farther. I don’t remember ever doing or seeing such a thing outside of Bogotá. I watch them and I think: if they would get off the swing and kick properly they could send the shoes really far. It never occurs to them. They swing and kick and get off and run back and swing again and kick. Are kids as smart as we generally were in my day? I look at the sorry lot–kids these days–and lean toward an emphatic NOT.

* * *

I went to our little mall to find my wife today, and it was full. Downtown yesterday was full; the skyway–the Tequendama Hotel complex that reminds me of the Minneapolis skyways–was full to bursting. People everywhere, kids, animals, congestion and confusion. They don’t really do a whole lot of observing traffic laws here, and the thing about it is that it also affects the way they transit as pedestrians. It is like being in a crowded mall in the USA, only everywhere and worse.

* * *

I went to our little mall–I say–because I thought my wife might be done shopping. It is a place of the comfort of commercialism. There are the theaters, the food court, the kid’s rides, the video games, the crowded banks, the obligatory supermarket (no mall here is without one), the McDonald’s even. These last are growing very aggressively here: saw two new McDonald’s on 7th, we have two of them (one very, very large and then the food court one) in the mall near church. The prices at McDonald’s are kind of steep, and anything they provide you can get better elsewhere for less except the fries. Anyway, I found my wife and helped her home.

* * *

Which reminds me of the fries: the fries here are good because the quality of the potato here is hard to beat. The informal fries that is. They don’t come out of a bag where they have waited frozen. They come from a recently operated upon potato. It is a land where the potato is held much in honor. I understand when McDonald’s wanted to come in they had a wrangle with the government because McDonald’s wanted to use its own potatoes and not the local stuff. That wasn’t flying with the ministry of Ag, I take it. For McDonald’s, I suppose, it meant a costly investment in research to find something and doctor up whatever they coat the fries with to make them taste exactly the same the world over. And now the restaurants are multiplying like earwigs. There is something you can always count on at McDonald’s, even here: the ketchup. Take my advice, avoid the ketchup like the pink sauce most other places here.

* * *

The service, I can say with some certainty, is as bad the world over. Never employ anybody intelligent enough to handle something as complicated as taking an order, making change, and putting fast food on a tray is their motto. Have. Never. Been. Attended. Here. With. Any. Alacrity. At. All. At a McDonald’s. Everywhere else you usually get alacrity. Not there.

* * *

What they do like is the ice cream of McDonald’s. Hard to get anything resembling creamy ice cream here–not that I’m one to eat it–and some years back it was hard to get any at all here. Now they do it more, and what they really like to do in malls is stroll around eating ice cream. And now with all these kids around, the sun so bright, it more or less as warm as it ever gets here, well, there was also today in Bogotá a lot of that.


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