24 September, 2012

How to: cheer yourself up / Como animarse

I got robbed. The next day I set off for DAS to try and get a new contraseña. That didn't go well, as they are under the impression I should pay $300,000 COP for a new one, and I do not suffer from this misconception (when I find out who is right I'll let the blogosphere know). So, what's a girl to do?

Well, if you're in a mood at DAS head south down the Cr 15. Next to the FotoJapon there's a couple selling really good arepas with cheese, ham, and eggs-with-onion-and-tomatoes for only 2300.

I challenge you to find something that tastes this good, is this filling, this closely resembles a balanced meal, is gluten free and costs less £1 in London. And where you get called a princess when they serve you :D A packet of crisps does not count.

Keep walking south on the Cr 15, stopping to get some fresh orange juice on the way, until you get to the Cl 85 with Cr 14. There you will find....

Knitting paradise! They even have seats outside to knit in!

La Mina! It's like the entire haberdashery department of John Lewis (including tiaras! I was very tempted) came to visit me in Colombia! Two balls of merino/alpaca and a couple of hours later I had a new hat:
Stuff you thieves - you can take my cédula but you can't take my knitting! Apparently you stole my ability to tidy up the stray ends of wool before I take photos though.

And just around the corner from that place of happiness, is this hairdressers:

Zoe: is life, is beauty.
Officially a good day after all :D

Why you should talk to the police

Once you've been robbed of (or merely lost) your documents you'll have to do something about replacing them. First step: Police! Lots of chocolate! Second Step: Police!

I wasn't exactly sure where or how to report crimes in Bogotá (and to be completely honest, I forget their equivalent of 999 about five seconds after I look it up. For future, and hopefully entirely unnecessary reference: 123). Thankfully, while I was stocking up on comfort food I found a pair of police officers. They were incredibly kind and helpful - not only telling me where to report the crime (just around the corner - phew!) but also regaling me with tales of ingenious pickpockets, the various times they'd been pickpocketed themselves, and just being nice and sympathetic in general. Feeling much less tonta (after all, if the police themselves get pickpocketed, I shouldn't feel bad about it happening to me!) I strode off to the police station where another pair of officers were outside. I'd arrived exactly at closing time (6pm) - noes! However, continuing the trend of lovely police officers one dashed inside to check that the relevant desk was still open, and came back saying that as I'm a foreigner (I strongly suspect he used a different word to the lady inside) they'll stay open five minutes just for me. 

Inside I was escorted to a comfy chair where a gorgeous lady with guns on her lapels (really not confidence inspiring to someone who's heard this story) took my details and gave me a form. In the end we decided to say that I had simply 'lost' my documents, as that form takes a matter of seconds to fill out and can be used immediately to apply for a new ID card. Actually filing a criminal complaint can take several weeks before you get to the point of being given useful papers, and besides, I really wasn't paying attention to the thieves so would be useless as a witness. 

All in all, visiting the police when you've been robbed is a really good idea. Not just because it's useful, but because they're all really good at cheering you up!

How to: get pick-pocketed / Como dar papaya

Well, this week I'm grateful for something that may surprise you: I'm grateful for being pickpocketed!

Last Tuesday I was happily minding my own business (mistake #1) on the way home from work. I got on the right bus (something that still makes me feel proud every time I do it - to the foreigners who've been here longer than I have: does the triumphant feeling ever go away? :D ) and sat near the back doors so that I could get off the bus easily. Nearing my 'stop' (ie: stretch of pavement) a woman got up in front of me and waited with her hand on the bell (on Colombian buses there is only one button to ring the bell, unlike in London where there are buttons all over the place). I asked her to ring for me please, and a couple of guys stood up behind me as if they wanted to get off at this stop too (it's next to a transmilenio footbridge and major crossroads - it's usually popular so I didn't think anything of it). When the bus screeched to a halt there was a polite kerfuffle of the 'you first, no, you first' type. I ended up getting off first, and... now that I think about it... last too. I don't believe the woman or the two guys got off with me. They stayed on the bus - as did my purse (with a pair of earrings that were gifted to me in it - nooooo! ), my diary (Why? What on earth did they think it was? Or do Colombians usually keep their cash in their diaries?) and my beautiful (I made it myself) little notebook in which I had not only tucked my ID cards, but had written all the useful buses, fun restaurants and knitting shops down in.

At this point I invite you to insert an appropriate string of expletives into the narrative. I'd provide my own selection but I know my grandmothers are going to read this. 

So, why am I grateful for this? Several reasons:
  • I didn't have that much money with me in the first place. Yes, it was enough to buy me breakfast for a month, but in English money it was only about £20.
  • There was absolutely no incriminating useful information in my diary whatsoever. For the last few weeks my timetable has been regular enough that I haven't needed to write down my classes in it, and I never got around to putting addresses or phone numbers in it. It had been a present though :(
  • I have several more pretty little notebooks that I've made, so losing just one isn't a big deal. One of the ID cards inside it was from my old job, and therefore useless when not at that particular school, so no big loss to me. The other was, instead of being a real Cedula (official Colombian ID card) just the contraseña - an almost useless piece of paper that definitely won't let anyone open any bank accounts etc in my name. 

So, all in all it could definitely have been a lot worse. I didn't even realise they'd taken my things until two or three hours afterwards - vastly preferable to being mugged, wouldn't you say?

The moral of the story: wear angry boots more often :D

12 September, 2012

The Village / El Pueblo

Although Bogotá is Colombia's largest city (only half a million people less than London) sometimes it feels like a village in the middle of nowhere.

 For instance, would you really expect to find forested mountains less than 5 minutes away from the town centre (equivalent to Tottenham Court Road)?

Or see horse drawn carts that aren't for tourists, instead being used to transport (literally) all kinds of things? (No photo :( Apparently one of the things they transport is stolen goods so none of my friends have let me get my camera out near the zorros.)

 Or be entertained by chickens while you wait for your bus to work? (Or walk past cows on your way to the shops?)

Or have there be only one place in town where you can buy what you need? (OK, that's exaggerating. You can find things outside of their allotted district, but you'll never get the best price unless you go to the one shop street that sells it.)

Or see an entire roast pig on a regular basis? (My view of the countryside might not be entirely accurate, but I imagine people eat entire pigs quite often :D ) 
More big cities should do this, lechona is fantastic.

And I'm sure Bogotá is the last place on earth where there is always a gentleman offering his hand to you as you get off a bus (even at 6am). I can't imagine that happening in NY or London!

Strangely, I noticed this similarity while in a lift to the 27th floor. The view when I arrived was this:

I guess Bogotá is a big city after all...