I’ve officially regressed.
Every morning, a breakfast of eggs or toasties, fruit and tea or hot chocolate is set out on the dining table, each evening delicious smells of rice, meat, vegetables and “arapa” wind their way into my recently tidied bedroom and yesterday all my clothes were washed and hung up by the time I’d finished my afternoon nap (gimme a break, I thought a had food poisoning!). I’ve only managed to convince Magdalena, my house mum, to let me do the washing up twice which I’m beginning to suspect is because I don’t wash them properly. Alfonzo and Magdalena are officially my Colombian parents. I’m going to buy a bigger suitcase so I can take her with me on the rest of my travels. The only drawback to Bogota so far is that it rains about 80% of the time and my two hour ordeal twice a day travelling for Spanish school.
You haven’t really experienced Bogota until you’ve ridden peak hour on the Transmilenio Bus System. It begins at 7am by joining one of the pools of people, 8-10 deep and usually as many wide, loosely grouped at each of the four areas marked on the platform where the red, bendy-bus double doors will soon open onto. These groups are scattered all the way down the three block long station, like herds at a drinking hole.
It would be a mistake though to think that when the the bus arrives and the doors open, people will get on it. 9 times out of 10 the bus pulls in like a BonsaiKitten on wheels, palms squished against the windows, staring faces imagining themselves any place that does not require touching body parts of five different people for an hour at a time. Doors swivel open from the middle, literally rotating the two people unfortunate enough to land next to them.
Its a blessing in disguise though really because the Colombian ability to fit large numbers of people in small spaces surpasses that of the Polish and despite there being more air in a can of tuna, one or two locals will always manage to push their way in. If you have to choose an object for your face to be pushed into, a door is much more preferable than a sweaty chest.
My first day here I watched a lady squeeze her way onto a biscuit-sized piece of flooring before the doors closed, trapping her handbag outside the bus and her shoulder against the door. The bus drove on, keeping schedule, a passengers’ handbag bouncing off the side in the rain and the passenger herself feigning resigned casualness at finding herself pinned to a wall amongst a crowd of awkward onlookers.
The anticipation of checking each bus to see if its “full” or “empty” (there is no in between) is rewarded when a bus pulls up with no passengers inside, especially for our station. Its like Christmas has come. All the Colombians begin restlessly shuffling preparing for the great stampede for a seat (a seat!!!) which comes as soon as the doors pop open.
Yesterday, a woman got caught pressed up against the side of the bus between the two entrances, a damn against the flowing tide of humanity shoving and jostling through the doors on either side of her. I tried to make space for her to unstick herself, perhaps even just roll a body part into the current so she could semi-flop into the stream of persons filling every nook and cranny but it was impossible. You can’t fight the Colombian Peak Hour Transmilenian shoving. I am swept along, eventually sandwiched in the aisle holding my bag to my chest, trying to work out a less awkward angle between my arse and the middle-aged man’s crotch behind me. At this point, the two most important things to remember are; watch your bag and if you catch a whiff of a bad smell, think about something else while floating above the sea of dark heads. Save the odd male, I am the tallest person in Bogota.
Woebegone any poor suckers attempting to get off the bus at a busy platform. BYO Machete.
Colombians are seriously lovely people though; I’ve found two girly friendship groups, one consisting of shop assistants from the mall where I bought a coat on the weekend. They introduced me to Guaya, possibly the strongest drink in the world with no less than 7 types of alcohol and absolutely no coincidence in the fact that its name closely resembles the word “guayabo” (hangover).
It’s a fairly bad idea to follow a Guaya with a few shots of Colombian Rum on ice. In fact, if you do, you’ll probably find yourself passing the seriously good Aussie feature band on the stairs of a 3 story club at 2am in the morning exclaiming “Ohhh de Australianos!!!! Me Gusta!!!” (Oh from Australians!!! I like!!!) in heavily accented Spanish. Unfortunately, my record for badly formed spanish sentences doesn’t peak at drunk on a Sunday morning; on Tuesday I told three sales assistants that “I am learning a Spanish person more slowly, sit down please.” Winning.
The best is saved for last though; tomorrow night we are going SALSA DANCING!!! Ahh that moment a beat takes over your body and the rhythmic syncopated tapping of heel against floor speeds up as the room spins; anchored by a firm hand here on your waist and then there on the tips of your fingers, you land in both arms, toss your hair with a laugh and step back for a repeat…
Heres hoping I can find a dance partner tall enough!!!