Bogotá is noisy, except the bits where it’s not.
Out on the street, you can always hear the rumbling of cars, or people walking by on their phones. If it’s a Friday, you’ll probably be hearing people starting to play salsa and reggaeton as early as 4pm, as they get an early start on a party weekend.
If you’re by a neighbourhood, you’re definitely going to hear kids playing football out on the street, even if they need to use sweaters as goalposts.
Then if you’re on a bus or on Transmilenio, our red massive transport system, you’re going to hear an University student or homeless person play a guitar or harp, and sing popular songs. You might hear the clink of coins afterwards, if they played good music, or seem polite enough (I sometimes give them money just to hear a “gracias, señorita!”)
Of course, you might also have someone get on and tell you a sob story. They might be wearing an eyepatch and tell you how they were brutally mugged when visiting from the country, or they might show you medical papers showing how their kid is asthmatic and needs urgent treatment or they’ll die. It’s difficult not to feel bad for them; you might see a guy with a broken arm and give him some money, and then 2 months later see them on the same bus, after they’ve apparently had another car accident and broken the same arm!
Bogotá is rainy, and sunny. Both in equal measure, usually every single day. I’m looking out my window now and I’m seeing blindingly bright sunlight, but it’s coming from a darkening sky which will almost definitely end in heavy rain after lunch. It’ll probably be sunny again by the time I leave work, though.
It’s sometimes chilly here, but you always go for a jacket rather than a cardigan, because odds are in three hours it’ll be blazing hot and you’ll need to take a layer or two of clothing off.
Our city tastes like many things. Like the reggaeton and salsa, it has a certain taste on weekends. It tastes like smoke in a pub and a shot of tequila, some aguardiente in a little shop, or a bit of rum in a club. Weekend mornings, of course, taste like a heavy hangover.
Most other mornings taste like changua, a Bogotá specialty, or café con leche, a Colombian one. Changua, if you’re wondering, is water, with an egg and some milk. I know how it sounds, but don’t knock it till you try it. Café con leche is simply ground coffee beans dissolved on a cup of warm milk. Hmmm.
I love my city in the way a parent loves their child: in as many ways as it’s changed through time.
There’s the Bogotá I knew in high school; my friends’ neighbourhoods, the parks where we played football, my school, the mall… There’s the Bogotá I knew when I went to college; the library I spent so many afternoons in, the gas station I got drunk for the first time at on my 18th birthday, and the patch of grass in my apartment complex where I tried to nap some of the drunkedness off before getting home (with mixed success.)
Then there’s the Bogotá I’ve gotten to know after moving out of my parents’ house. There’s the apartment I live in, with its shiny hardwood floors and large windows, with its crisp and cool mornings, and the children playing in the park outside my window in the afternoon.
The way I love Bogotá the most, though, is how it looks dressed up in its Sunday best.
See, for the last 42 years my city has closed down major streets on Sundays, and only allowed people exercising to use them. So you have people jogging, some on roller-blades, and some walking. Mostly though, you have people on their bicycles, enjoying wide streets and the chance to breathe in wonderful Sunday morning and go around the whole city.
I’ve gotten in the practise of waking up early Sunday morning and slipping out, helmet safely fastened, gloves on my hands, and a huge, dorky smile on my face. I follow different routes, and sometimes cut my trip short if I’m tired, but I’ll usually bike the 65km it takes to go around half the city. I’ll ride by my parents’ apartment, my favourite cosy library, and the old railroad, nearly unused except by tourists. I’ll stop by a park, where we usually have someone playing kickass music and people making salpicon, a delicious drink with sliced fruit. I’ll pass our museum, which I will occasionally visit, mostly for our modern art exhibit, and to touch the meteorite that was the museum’s first attraction.
Bogotá, ultimately, feels and tastes and looks like every other large city. Just better in every way.