Friday, April 30, 2010

As seen around La Candelaria

For a full array of Candelaria street art ... check it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I'm 31! Holy shit!

Last year on April 27, I was driving through the San Joaquin Valley, reporting a story on how entrepreneurs in Merced County were -- maybe -- shaping themselves to be the region's economic salvation.

Today I ate fried chicken and papas criollas on Carrera Septima, and was followed around the Museo Nacional in Bogota by a bunch of schoolkids who had clearly never seen an Asian before. Two girls had the balls to come up and chat. I admire them.


Just when we start to relax ...

... Bogota had to be all, "oh YEAH, you gringo backpackers?"

Let's backtrack.

We left the city in early April for some serious descansando in Cartagena and Medellin. It was wonderful. There was ron. There was playa. There was gay and Egyptian-themed clubbing, though not all at the same time. But more on that later.

Both Cartagena and Medellin felt significantly safer than Bogota - far fewer homeless, very traveler-friendly, and visible, though not overwhelming, security presence. And of course, stunningly beautiful cities, both of them. Vibe = chill.

We got back to Bogota on Sunday evening, feeling verrrrry vegged. A new guy was working the front desk at the family-run hostel we've been staying at. He's young, kinda scatterbrained, the nephew of one of the owners. He gives us the keys to our apartment, a few blocks from the main hostel, and we head out. We end up having to call him a few times for things, like lack of towels, help ordering food, etc. He is a total space cadet and we end up annoyed.

We go out for pizza and fall asleep. We forget about Young Dude.

Monday morning, Gabe trots over to the hostel for towels, and Young Dude has a bandage on his nose. He tells us that at 2am that night, an extranjero rang the bell to the front door. When Young Dude opened it, the extranjero busted in, followed by two trampas. They promptly tied him up, took his keys, and stole all the cash from the hostel security box - 7,000,000 Colombian pesos, or roughly $3,500.

We feel bad for bitching about Young Dude when he obviously had such a bad night. We also remember we are in Colombia.

A few hours later, one of the owners comes by the apartment with a locksmith. He is sad and frustrated. His story casts Young Dude in a different light. He finds it very suspicious that Young Dude is pretty much unharmed, and doubts that the thieves had a gun. (Knives are really the thing here, but that's another story.) He doesn't like that the thieves appeared to have such intimate knowledge of the hostel and its operations -- that they came Sunday night, when the weekend's cash payments would all be in the safe.

Most of all, one of the hostel guests had happened to be out in the hallway going to the bathroom at the very moment the robbery was supposed to have occurred, and he said he saw Young Dude talking with only one man, not three. Estaba mentiendo? As the Colombians like to say: Quien sabe?

At any rate, since the thieves stole everything from the safe box, including all spare sets of keys, the hostel was changing all the locks on its property, hence the Monday morning locksmith.

Did Cartagena make us soft? Possibly. But within 48 hours of landing back here, we're feeling lots of things. Feeling at home. Feeling like the family loves us. Feeling angry and conflicted about Young Dude. Feeling energized by the city. Feeling a little scared by the city.

Yup. Bogota.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Travel lesson #4872

Everrrrrrrrrybody's got an opinion.