I won the academic lottery and got an all expense paid trip to Bogota, Colombia. All I have to do is watch a series of parasitology lectures in Spanish and report back to home base. A great deal, yes?
This is my first trip to South America and really, outside of barrios in the US, my first trip to Latin America. How did I miss this?
Bogota is completely amazing. 7 million people packed in a valley 2600 meters above sea level. The air is so thin that I feel more like 82 than 42, particularly if I have to climb a flight of stairs.
Crime is rampant in this city and the resident are more vigilant than any I’ve seen in a while, though I wonder how much is real, and how much is hype. For all the warnings the locals give, it feels a lot like being in the South in the crack years of the 1980’s. There are still more people on the streets at night here than in Blantyre, Malawi. I guess it helps that the lights are one, thanks to the generous graces of neighboring Venezuela.
What I’ve learned so far:
1. Colombia is a booming economy (7% growth per year) in no small thanks to the US’s addictions to coffee, cocaine, petrochemicals and agriculture. In 30 years, as the economy diversifies, Bogota will have a standard of living on par with any large American city.
2. Colombians reacted to a ban on the import of vehicles by developing their own auto manufacturing sector. Buses are fabricated by hand out of recycled parts and hand hammered sheet metal. The final touch is attaching a brand name of some actual auto company. Today, I saw a Chevrolet bus (none exists), a Mazda bus (none exists), and a Ford LTD bus (the LTD was a car, the first I eve owned).
3. Coffee in a coffee producing country is beyond words.
4. Latin Americans have no reservations about physical contact in public.
5. Gold work in Colombia far surpassed any in Europe by at least 500 years.
6. Coca tea is truly a cure all, at least, it cures ones tongue of feeling.
7. Shakira has black hair and is actually 3 feet tall.