Sunday, February 28, 2010

Healed by The Cure

So, yesterday it hit us that we actually gave up our apartment, said goodbye to our friends and family, sold all of our crap, and left New York.

And it made us very sad.

Which is weird, right? Cuz we've been planning this trip for at least 18 months. And we're feeling super thrilled and blessed to actually be able to do it. Looking at our itinerary is this embarrassment of emotional and financial riches. But fuck. We are scared. And yesterday, we really missed home, and everything that home means.

We actually had a great day. Juan Pablo, Gabe's dad's cousin, whose house we are staying at in Bogota, dropped us off at Zona T, a Soho-ish neighborhood in Bogota. We windowshopped, had a long lunch, then sat at a cafe for cappuccinos and pastelitos and people watched. It was all kinds of wonderful.

But back at the apartment that evening, we started getting mopey. We had been invited by Diana, Gabe's cousin, to her boyfriend Santiago's birthday party at a chic cocktail bar in Macarena, an artist's district. It was an area that we had wanted to explore and of course we wanted to spend time with Diana and Santiago, who are just the most charming couple imaginable. But again, the mopey mcmopersons we had become were stalling. Honest to God all I wanted to do was cuddle on the couch we no longer own, order takeout from Cheers, the neighborhood Thai in the neighborhood we no longer live in, and watch Law & Order SVU on the TV we gave away. We ended up getting there half an hour late, telling ourselves in the cab ride over that we would put on our happy faces, buy Santiago one drink, then head back to the apartment to lick our homesick wounds.

The bar, El Libertador, is modeled after the home of Simon Bolivar, who led the liberation of Colombia from Spain. Ironically, it also looks like an elegant version of a bazillion restaurants in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side - textured wallpaper, modern industrial lighting, comfy seats and even a goddamn deer head mounted on the wall. Weird and surprising and comforting all at once. Gabe and I start to loosen up. We had gotten there late, so after a few drinks Santiago's friends left, and Diana asks us if we want to go to another bar with them for "a little party."


We head back to Zona T to Armando Records, a rooftop bar packed with hipsters. (Rooftop bars are a big thing here. Across the street from Armando was a rooftop disco on top of a giant supermarket. Amazing.) They are dancing and rocking out, happily belting out Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out." Diana gets a few Peronis.

The hipsters are feeling familiar. The roof is feeling familiar. The beers are feeling familiar. And the music? The music is the aural equivalent of kimchi and Spam (or mac and cheese for you gringos). After Franz Ferdinand comes the Beasties. And then Mr. Brightside freaking blasts through the system, and Colombians all around us are dancing and jumping around unabashedly, screaming about coming out of their cage. Depeche Mode. The Clash. The Cure. The Violent Femmes.

Then the DJ drops New Order, and that's it. We lose it. Me and Gabe? We're home.

Two hours later, we find ourselves with Diana and Santiago eating hot, messy arepas with a bunch of other sticky nightowls. Everybody is talking too loudly. The arepa ladies are heaving sighs of annoyance at the drunken masses. Diana and Sergio are nuzzling adorably and arguing about the best arepa condiments. I spill avocado sauce all over myself and somehow manage to squirt some up the sleeve of my jacket. Gabe is infinity patient, and then starts eyeing my food.

Yeah. Home.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A touch of politics, eh?

We've now seen this graffiti at least 3 times. Decided it maybe had something to do with arms sales and the United States. Mmm-hmm, it's good to be an American abroad.

Colombians think highly of their government

A public art installation, "Casatomada" (House Occupied), is currently on display at the Colombian Congress. It's 1,300 giant fiberglass ants plastering the exterior of the building, which Marta thought might represent the desire of Colombians that their government work as hard as ants. The artist, Rafael Gomexbarros, says the installation represents the impact of "immigration, globalization and displacement."

It's actually a pretty exciting time for Colombian politics. The supreme court just ruled that the current, very popular president, Alvaro Uribe, can't run for a third term. Now, Enrique PeƱalosa, the controversial, visionary former mayor of Bogota is considering a run for president. It all sounds very Bloombergian to us.

At any rate, the hormigas are pretty fucking wild. Can you imagine these crawling over government buildings in D.C.?

Museums of Gold and Fat People

On Friday, we went with Marta, Gabe's aunt, to the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum) and the Museo Botero (The Museum of Fernando Botero) in the Candelaria neighborhood in downtown Bogota.

Museo del Oro was funky. Metallurgy was a big deal with native Colombians. They had incredibly refined ways of molding gold and copper, and felt that it was their duty to then return the gold to the earth. The sculptures were pretty badass, and represented this really rich spiritual cosmology. Shamans and chieftans all had their own animal souls, which were represented in their gold jewelry and sculptures.

Gabe is pretty sure if he were a shaman, he'd be a jaguar. Which is wild, because when the jaguar shamans adopted their animal form, apparently their subjects were also their prey. Uh-huh.

If you captured another shaman or chieftan, you could not only take their land and gold, but their spirit and their freaking CHANTS. Yeah.

The Spaniards, of course, then came and mucked it all up and tried to take the gold. Damn Europeans.

After the Museo del Oro, we headed over to the Museo Botero, which celebrates one of Colombia's living legends, the artist Fernando Botero. This free museum feels a lot like the Cloisters, except way modern, of course. Anyways. He makes sculptures and paintings of funny fat people. We liked them.

First morning in Bogota

After a boisterous Tuesday night with family building a family tree (more on family and the 19,458 men named Juan to come later), we wake up on Wednesday to some serious momming. Irney, Gabe's great aunt, wakes us up with tinto (black coffee), arepas con queso, and huevos, followed by hand-whipped hot chocolate. Life is hard.

The day was spent doing oddball errands, like going to the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (Colombia's Department of Homeland Security) in order to extend our visa by a few days. Totally thought it'd be some huge process. Turns out we hand the guy our passports, he looks at us, and writes a note saying we are cool until May 3. Seriously. So now we have handwritten notes in our passports. Sweet.

We also swing by the U.S. Embassy to check in, and it is rather fortress like, though not quite like the concrete-and-steel scariness of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. We are a wee too unnerved by the guard dogs to take a picture.

*Where we would normally put a picture of the embassy.*

Then a bit of grocery shopping at Exito, the Walmart of Colombia, and back for dinner with the fam.

Me! And a guanabana!

It begins...


February 23, 2010. 5am. JFK, International Terminal. Gabe practices his sleeping-while-standing skills.
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