I was 7 days into my stay in Bogota.
A faintly dismal grey seemed to constantly pervade the city. It was not unlike back home in England. Rain broke out routinely, ranging from drizzle to tropical storms. The streets could flood within minutes. My feet were often wrinkled thanks to the holes that the ragged pavements and heavy rain had worn through the soles of my cheap, formerly white trainers.
The noise outside my window was at times unbearable, depriving me from sleep. If it wasn’t traffic, it was the clicking and clacking of bottles and cardboard being collected by zorreros: people from vulnerable areas of the city that would come to more affluent areas on horse and cart to collect recyclable waste for money.
I awoke drearily each morning, my desire to explore sucked out of me by fatigue. This was far from the tropical paradise you might imagine Colombia to be, and still people talked about the dangers. Don’t go here, nor there, they said.
On that 7th day, however, as I lay asleep in my room in Chapinero, a determined sun came boring through my window. It peeled my eyelids back. I squinted to make out the view from the window. I saw miles upon miles of urban landscape. I could see more of Bogotá than I’d seen all week. I could see all the way to the distant buildings of the west of this city of 8 million people. I could see all the way to Monserrate, the spectacular church that sits atop a mountain. I could see all the mountains that surround Bogotá, dutifully taking care of the city.
Things changed for me then. This was a new dawn, a new Bogota, a new Colombia. Now I wandered the streets with giant, excited strides that found me in the bohemian cafes of La Macarena; the high-end cosmopolitan shops of Zona T; the buzzing bars of youthful Chapinero; the leafy streets of the quaint village of Usaquen. And I spoke to people. I spoke to people and instead of warning me of where not to go, they opened up to me with beaming pride in their city. All of a sudden the museums, the galleries, the restaurants were mine to explore, lit up by the brightness of this new day.
I sat having a coffee in a small, quirky bar. I heard French being spoken between a Parisian and a Bogotano; I saw Germans huddled in a corner drinking a beer; I saw Americans gingerly practicing their Spanish with locals.
This, I found, was Bogota today. It had crawled from behind the dark clouds that kept me from exploring it before. It was now my duty to forget the past I had endured – it had endured – and allow the city to surprise me.
And it continues to.