The first thing I notice about Bogotá, when descending the rickety stairs of the airplane, is the smell: a strange mixture of damp clay, lush green vegetation and diesel smoke. The altitude provides a lightheaded feeling of well-being and forceful palpitations of your abdominal aorta begin somewhere between your sternum and navel.
Then there are other memories that come flooding back as I fumble with my passport and my immigration forms in the long disorganized line that snakes through the airport, reminding you not to be fooled by the apparent modernity of everything around you. I remember the apartment I lived in for a year, adorned with bamboo sticks and exotic flowers, the thick, green parks where I´d walk Coco, back when he was a Colombian dog and, of course, Transmilenio, the relatively modern busing system that is, at the same time, a mark of progress and a mark of disorder, a constant reminder that you´re not in Kansas (or Toronto) anymore. Then there is the warm welcome of Joe’s explosive family, the jokes, the comforting reminder that I still speak Spanish that, somehow, I actually got better after a one-year hiatus from the language. The connection over food, eating soup with every meal, even in 30-degree weather, trying to explain that I don´t consume lácteos, or dairy (a rather impossible feat in Colombia, the land of the cow) and meetings with old friends that always seem to take place in the presence of a large, bottomless bottle and loud background rhythms.
The theatre is free, expansive art lies behind plain-looking wooden doorways, only accessable through word of mouth. Politics is a passionate, frequent topic of conversation, even (especially) among strangers, and discussions almost always go nowhere. Hardly anyone has a webpage, bank accounts are always empty and yet lives are rich and there always seem to be the resources required for warm comforts and generosity.
In the constant noise and disorder of Colombia lie millions of beautiful places to experience. Like polishing a dirty diamond, you find yourself surrounded by warm comfort food (which I appreciate more in small doses), warm friendly, funny people whose ideas are adorned with a clear, musical Spanish, winding roads that loom over steamy abysses, endless mountain ranges with icy cold rivers slicing through them, every ecosystem imaginable and, of course, great music that is always transforming itself.
I will post in a few days with pictures but, for now, I leave you with the latest from Bogotá, a traditional South American and French-inspired band called Monsieur Periné. The video is shot in La Candelaria, Bogotá’s historic downtown neighbourhood.