Posts Tagged With: Bogota

Viva Colombia

I am often asked why I like Colombia, South America so much.  My response is, “Colombia and I share something – we are both misunderstood and quite often misrepresented!”  I am quite happy when people realize that in spite of my progressive politics, unique views about religion, and gay activism – I am still quite a nice guy.  The same is true of Colombia – in spite of the exaggerations of Colombian life portrayed in Hollywood movies, Colombia is quite a nice country!  Seeing beyond stereotypes opens the mind to so many new possibilities!  Also please notice… the country Colombia is spelled with an “o” not an “u” (Columbia).

Like me, Colombia is much more progressive than many realize – sorry, I mean Colombia is more progressive… anyone that reads my blog already knows I am Progressive!    Colombia’s government is a Republic with Democratic elections and three branches of government including Executive, Legislative and Judicial (that should sound familiar to Americans).  The FARC have basically been neutered and the days of drug cartels controlling the country are now mythology.  The drug lords, guerrillas, and kidnappings are great for the movies, but not a part of the typical Colombians daily life.  

I have lived in both of Colombia’s largest cities, Bogota and Medellin.  My opinion is that Bogota is more of a

Medellin, Colombia, South America

metropolitan lifestyle similar to living in New York or San Francisco and Medellin a little more like living in Los Angeles with San Diego weather.  Bogota has the larger population with just over 8 million to Medellin’s 3.75 million.  Medellin’s climate is more ideal with a very pleasant 65 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit (18 – 27 Celsius)  year round, compared to the cooler climate of Bogota ranging from 50-75 Fahrenheit (10 – 24 Celsius).  I have great friends in both cities but I feel the weather in Medellin is more conducive for Multiple Sclerosis, so now Medellin is home!

Colombia’s tourism campaign is: “Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay”.  This proved to be very true for me!  With an American Passport, 60 day tourist visits and there are other options for longer stays.  I wanted to stay longer and found the way for me to get a resident visa called a pensionado visa ( basically a retiree’s visa to encourage people to retire in Colombia) .  I do have to renew my visa annually, but that is ok with me.  Colombia could be an option for many more, especially for the benefits of the climate for people with illnesses like Multiple Sclerosis.  I invite people outside Colombia to come experience the reality of this beautiful country with beautiful, warm, welcoming people and forget what television and movies portray about Colombia!  This is a country you should experience for yourself!

*** I will be posting weekly (maybe more) about life in Colombia – follow this blog and let’s share the experiences of this wonderful culture!

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Categories: Bogota, Colombia, Life, Medellin, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It Is Cold In His Shadow

Glen Thomas Johnston

September 21, 1932 – March 22, 2011

I have learned that life in the shadow of my father after his death is even more difficult than when he was living.  Most people have idealized their father to the point of being an unrealistic character.  In my case it was real!  My Dad was a character but it the best way – everyone loved him.  I have NEVER heard anyone say ANYTHING bad about my father, where as I do not have to leave the house to find people that will speak ill of me.  My father was not perfect, and even people that did not agree with him still  respected him.  The year since his death, I have learned it will be impossible for me to have a fraction of the respect from family, friends, and community that he had – this frustrates me.

Next week I will begin therapy (AGAIN)!  Even before his death I had issues.  The more I am living at home and in this community, the more I see things I had felt were big accomplishments in my life have been undermined by some.  I miss Dad because he was proud of me and he let me know it.  Our family did not make a big deal about birthdays, they were usually a simple family meal but never a real party.  Now when I graduated from Ole Miss (University of Mississippi), he and Mom threw me a party!  I was the youngest child, but the first to graduate from college.  When I bought my Toyota 4-Runner, he would not have been happier for me if it were a Land Rover.  When I went to work for Sony, most people would, by his account, think I was hired as the President/CEO instead of lowly marketing guy.  When I bought my BMW convertible while living in Las Vegas, I hoped he would be impressed.  Even though he liked the car, what impressed him was the deal I got on it.  His disappointment was that I had bought a BMW that was 2 years old instead of the brand new Toyota Tacoma I had originally planned to buy.  When I moved to Colombia, an Ambassador’s welcome would have been too little in his eyes.  I was the first in the family to have a Passport and to get a stamp in it.  Now all of my family has Passports and stamps – other than Mom and I hope to change that soon.

The last few years have been very tough for me.  I finally had to surrender to my Multiple Sclerosis by taking disability.  This meant I had to say goodbye to Sony, goodbye to my BMW convertible, goodbye to my Las Vegas life and even pretty much all of my independence.  He had been diagnosed with Dementia. I had just moved from Bogota to Medellin, Colombia, when I got a phone call,

“If you want to see your Dad alive again you better get home as fast as you can.” my Mom said.  My sister’s were in Brazil.  We all rushed home as soon as we could.  

I walk in the hospital room where he was setting up, smiling as if nothing had happened and he said, “What are you doing here?  I thought you were in another country.”  

I replied jokingly, “I came home because I thought you were dying!”  

He said with a smile, “Not today!”

What I learned later was that the night I was flying home, he walked out of the hospital and security found him in his pajamas trying to get into his car.  Mom asked him where  was he trying to go.  He said, “To get Tommy.” (Tommy was my childhood nickname).  Even supposedly dying, he was thinking he needed to come get me.

My Dad not only loved me, he respected me.  He knew how much I struggled to get through college.  He occasionally would help me out with some money, but he knew how I worked to support myself and pay for my education.  I told him years later that I did not want him to leave me anything in his will because of all the help he gave me in college.  But even what I consider to be a grand gesture has been reduced to, “Thomas don’t want anything because his Dad paid for him to party at Ole Miss all those years.”  He is not here to set the record straight and stand up for me and say Thomas deserves respect because his finishing college was quite an accomplishment.  Even though he would have loved for me to have lived closer, he encouraged my dreams that required I live away.

I have given up any hope that people will have the same respect for me that my father had.  My own family can’t even muster simple respect for me and it hurts me, makes me angry, and helps fuel my desire to live away from here.  It is easier to leave and just start somewhere fresh.  People I worked with and customers at Sony had a great deal of respect for me (other that a bitch – I’ll just use her first name – Renee).  Friends that are from all over the world encourage me with my writing – even though it makes me no money, it makes me happy – and my family knows little or nothing of my writing.  My life of wanting and trying to have my family respect me fatigues me more than my MS.  I have severed my relationship with one of my nieces because of her blatant  DISrespect.

A year ago I had to say good bye to my father – and the to the respect he so easily gave me.  I miss my father!  He was ALWAYS in my corner.  Now I just find I am fighting with myself – and I am losing!  He and I did not agree on politics or religion, but he still respect me even though I aggravated him with discussion of these topics.   Maybe the therapist will help me get on a more positive path even with myself.  As RuPaul says, “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”  Maybe I have to learn to love myself in spite of how family and friend view me.  I will always be in his shadow and it disappoints me that I will never be half the man he was – even through my own eyes.

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Meet My Mercutio – A True Firework!

Mercutio is one of my favorite characters in William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.  He is a jokester; that through Romeo finds his free-spirited, privileged lifestyle challenged and pays dearly.  Well my Mercutio’s life was a challenge, he began his life paying dearly, but has now found his affable personality and I pray soon his rewards.  His mother was the mistress of a married man.  He, his brother and sister were known to his father’s family, but were scorned because of how they were made related.  His mother was the anchor to this family with their detached father.  He was marked with his father’s good looks, making the father’s family despise him even more.

His mother made great effort to make their family life the best she could with little help from their father.  But she truly loved the father of her children and accepted their place as the “other” family.  His father died when he was 7, leaving him conflicted because of the love and the hate he had for his father.  The death of a parent at this tender age would be difficult for anyone.  Now even the little help from the father was gone.

The struggling family was strong, creating a very unique closeness.  His mother became sick.  She had cancer.  His siblings were there for him, but he was the one that was there for his mother.  His mother did not want him to leave university for the unimaginable task – caring for her as she was dying.  As she grew sicker, this teenager was not afforded the care free bliss most teenagers know.  The more debilitated she became, the more resolved he became.  In his heart knew he was doing what only he could do – truly care for his dying mother as she had always cared for him.  He cleaned soiled bed linens, cooked and tried all a young man could do to comfort his mother.  All the while keeping up with his studies in his Engineering program at university.  But even the efforts and love of this young man could not save his mother and she acquiesced her final breath.

I had chatted with Mercutio online for some time without knowing this story.  I already had an admiration for his dedication and loyalty to his employer.  He had been working for weeks without pay because his boss was having a tough time financially.  Mercutio was putting himself through university and was already struggling financially, but remained faithful to his employer when I think few would.  He continued long hours without complaining because he knew again, he was doing what he needed to be doing.

When I met Mercutio for the first time in person, he was shy, quite, but very pleasant to be around for a 21 year-old.  This story was told over several beers.  I felt a cold dagger in my heart because I could not conceive such a tough road at such a young age.  He is a beautiful young man and I saw an essential need for him to tell his story.  I knew I was in a small club, few had heard this story from him.  We never talked much about his history again because seeing his smiling face – shit eating grin – I knew I did not want to ask him back down his dark childhood memories.  I only would mention it to express my admiration.

I recently wrote I Am A Firework. This young man is one of the people who ignites my spark, to let my colors burst.  He owns the night like the 4th of July.  There are few people in this world that deserve to shine more than this young man. He has shown what he is worth and leaves me in awe!  This past August, Mercutio graduated from University with a degree in engineering.  Meeting people like Mercutio is why I so enjoy my gypsy lifestyle.  Mercutio’s determination helps drive me when dealing with my set backs because of Multiple Sclerosis.  I am proud of Mercutio.  His dark days are behind him, his care free days are ahead of him – just opposite the character Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet.  My Mercutio is truly a FIREWORK!!

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My Life and the Knife

Day time photo of the location of my robbery attempt.

Talking tough has become second nature to me.  Moving to Bogotá, Colombia, was evidence I was tough enough to challenge the preconceived ideas most people have about Colombia.  I have become accustomed to defending my life decisions and opinions regarding politics, religion, lifestyle and philosophy.  But 8:05pm, Wednesday night, June 9,2010, I had to defend my life as someone attempted to rob me using a buck knife with a 6 inch blade.  I have had self-defense training, but had never needed to use it.  The training was also like 20 years ago.  In the crisis…it came back to me.  I learned I am not all talk – I AM tough!

Buck Knife with 6 inch blade.

I was walking on Caracas Avenida (a main street in Bogotá) between Calle 47 and Calle 45a (avenida is avenue and calle is street  in Spanish).  I was returning a phone call to a friend.  I had been warned talking on my cellphone in English while walking alone could be risky, but I was by the Catholic University of Colombia that had security and I was close to my apartment, so I felt no risk.  Afterall Colombia’s tourism motto is, “Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay.”

Generally when I walk in Bogotá I am walking with a purpose.  I walk fast, I try to avoid eye contact and I do not talk with strangers.  So, as a guy walking next to me said something to me, I ignored him without even looking thinking he was a bum asking for money.  I continued my conversation and I heard blah, blah – Gringo.  I kept walking and turned to him and said, “I am on the phone!”  He was about 5′ 9″ and looked like a typical college student.  Again I heard blah, blah, blah – Gringo and then he grabbed my phone.

FLASHBACK – A little more than a week earlier, while trying to renew my visa, a guy grabbed my phone.  I was holding the phone in my left hand.  instinctively I used my right hand to latch on to his arm and I stuck out my leg and threw him to the ground.  I am not sure if this was instinct or not, but I gave him a strong kick and shouted, “¡Váyase!” (Spanish for “GO AWAY!”).  He did.  Actually he was running full speed before he was even fully upright! haha

The Krzr phone that seems to be in BIG demand in Bogota!

Now as the guy on Caracas was holding my hand as well as my phone, I think he began to realize I was not just going to let him have the phone.  It is and old Motorola Krzr phone with no real value and now for the second time within 2 weeks someone was trying to steal it.  My God – what would happen if I had an i-phone?  Anyone reading my blog regularly knows I do not have the money to buy another cellphone … I do not have the money to even buy my plane ticket home.  So my rage of I am not letting a thief take something I do not have the money to replace.  This rage helped tighten my grip. This let him know for sure, if he wanted this phone – he was going to have to do more to take it.

This is when he took his stand and in his left hand he raised the buck knife.  My grip on th phone grew tighter because it also my grip on his right hand.  Knowing he could not use his right hand now and my right hand free I drew back and swung my fist.  I made direct contact with the center of his chest.  I heard a solid thud.  He fell back a let go of the phone. Then  he elevated his left hand with the knife.  I had a quick flash visualizing the knife enter my chest and I was NOT going to let that happen!  I no longer was defending my property, I was defending my life!

At this point I threw my backpack to the ground freeing my arms completely.  I drew my right arm back with a white knuckled fist ready to fly.  Pointing with my left hand with the phone still in my grip, I the announced loudly, “You better be willing to kill me!”  If I had been Superman, red lasers would have been shooting from my eyes.  The look on my face, the tone of my voice, I knew he understood me even if he did not understand English.  Our eyes locked. I must have looked cross-eyed because I was staring at the knife and looking in his eyes at the same time.  Again I visualized him charging me and sticking the knife in my chest.  Then I saw he make his next move – RETREAT!  He ran away.

This is the moment I realized my friend had been on the phone for the entire altercation.  The sad thing is his English is not good and had no idea what had happened.  I told him, “A guy just tried to rob me with a knife!” His response was simply, “Que?”  (que is Spanish for what?)  I said I would call him back later and pick up my backpack.  I walked to my friend’s café on the next block and began reporting my story.  One guy there called me a hero, but I already knew I fell short of being a hero.  Once again in my life –  I found myself a survivor!  Okay…. A TOUGH SURVIVOR!! lol

Categories: Bogota, Colombia, Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Funny How Falling Feels Like Flying…For a Little While!


The title is a line from a song in the movie “Crazy Heart”.

I love that line, “Funny how falling feels like flying….for a little while!”  How true is this?  Nothing like a country song to tap into how I often feel. Sometimes we know we are on our way down, but we pretend it is a roller-coaster and throw our arms up like we are flying.  I am in a roller-coaster cart with lose seat-belts.  I am reminded how my life was as a struggling college student with little money!


 

Me with Mom & Dad December 2009 – 212 pounds, 97 kgs

My decision to move to Colombia was largely based on the exchange rate with the U.S. dollar.  Roughly 2000 (COP) Colombian pesos = $1 (USD) U.S.Dollar.  I live next to the Catholic University of Colombia and places catering to students allows me to buy lunches at a lot of places for 2000 – 5000 COP – that is $1 to $2.50 for some really good meals.  I have a 1,400 square feet, 3 bedroom, 2 bath apartment for less than I paid to rent 1 bedroom and share a bathroom in Las Vegas.  I do not need to own a car, eliminating that expense.  So, with careful planning, I can live on my social security check alone comfortably.


 

January 26, 2010 – 207 pounds, 94 kgs

The key to that last statement was “careful planning”.  Since being in Bogotá, I have lost almost 4o pounds.  That is all well and good, but none of my clothes fit me anymore and I need new clothes.  I do not understand with the weight loss why my feet would be growing because my shoes are feeling too small, but at least my socks still fit properly!  So there were no plans to buy a new wardrobe.  I have used a corkscrew remover to poke hole in belts to hold my pants up.  Anyone knowing me knows clothes are important to me.


 

February 20, 2010 – 203 pounds, 92 kgs

Moving first from size 38 waist pants to 34, the belt just was not cutting it anymore.  I bought a pair of inexpensive jeans size 34.  I never thought I would be that size again.  Then a couple of months pass and the 34 waist is too large.  Here is where I started flying…. I bought a pair of Diesel jeans to mark the occasion of needing a size 32 waist.  Rent from the 2 unused bedrooms financed this idea.  I never expected to be in a size 34… so investing in size 32 waist seemed a safe move.  Along the way I did by some Exito store brand shirts (Exito is Colombia’s version of WalMart).  For most… the fact I was buying discount store brand shirts was evidence I was falling, not flying.  But I was so happy I kept my arms up enjoying the ride.


 

March 20, 2010 – 194 pounds, 88 kgs

One roommate moved out, now the other roommates were moving out at the end the next month and was faced with living on the “careful planned budget” and still needing clothes that fit.  The rent from the rooms was not much money because I do not pay a lot to start with but the extra helped.  I kept flying with my arms up, eating out most meals.  The meals are inexpensive I thought and can’t add up to much.  Then I noticed I have 1o days until payday and only 10,000 COP ($5.00) in the “carefully planned budget”.  It is amazing how far I stretched that 10,000 COP.  I was able to buy a pack of ham, a loaf of bread and splurged on a pack of cheese also.  I would have sandwiches if nothing else, I would not starve those 10 days.  5,000 of the 10,000 COP was in coins. The other day I had 1,200 in coins left and the ham was running out so I decided to buy eggs.  I found eggs here for 300 COP each and I was proud to get my 4 eggs.  It is a humbling experience counting eggs and counting the change to pay for them.


 

April 5, 2010 – In the Diesel Jeans! lol 185 pounds, 85 kgs

The exchange rate was not the only reason for wanting to move to Colombia, I wanted to learn to live and fit in living in a new culture.  The common misconception is that all Gringos have money.  I am proof that is not true.  Most Colombians live on carefully planned budgets and I will now be right along with them, counting my eggs, sometimes paying with coins; but I will learn to feel like I am flying….even if it is just for a little while!


 

May 10, 2010 – 178 pounds, 81 kgs

I am not worried about starving, but worried about being hungry.  There is a difference and someone wearing relatively new Diesel jeans cannot say they are starving.  I fired my last egg a couple of hours ago and my pay for the month will be available in the morning.  I survived. The feeling of flying has passed and now I see I am falling, but if I can eat 10 days on 10,000 (COP) I know the next month will be more carefully planned and I will just poke holes in my belts again.  I have another problem that is also a mixed blessing, the Diesel jeans are too big now!!

No photo at this time… But May 24,2010 – 175 pounds, 79 kgs

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I Am A Mexican At Wal-Mart!

When I was living in McComb, Mississippi, it was more and more common to see a group of Latinos at Wal-Mart…. I am not sure they were Mexican or not… but for this story we will pretend they were.  They would move in a pack doing their shopping.  Occasionally one would break from the heard.  I would almost see fear in his eyes until he returned to the group.  When together they would laugh and enjoy their time at Wal-Mart, just like us local Rednecks!  Wal-Mart can sometimes be social and entertaining for anyone – a way to pass some time.  For many they may not understand the simple joy of killing some time at Wal-Mart and maybe even seeing friends to catch up with.  But for some, spending time in Wal-Mart is fun and entertaining. I see these Mexicans finding this simple way to enjoy some time.  They keep to themselves, speaking Spanish, and usually they are having a great time.

I remember at time when I would walk through Wal-Mart looking for things I did not need.  Now in Bogotá, I find that simple pleasure for myself again.  Here instead of Wal-Mart, it is called Exito. Sometimes I am alone in Exito and have a fear in my eyes expressing please do not talk to me! But I spend time looking, reading Spanish packages translating to myself, and sometimes laughing at the similarities between cultures…. I found myself thinking – I am like one of those Mexicans in Wal-Mart back in McComb. There are people who say they should go back where they came from and I see that look sometimes myself.  Sometimes I get a look from someone who says…. I remember exploring Exito and enjoying it.  I see a look of I hope this guy is enjoying Bogotá.

But now, I hope that next time I see Mexicans in Wal-Mart I will give a look of welcome with a smile and maybe even say in Spanish – hello (hola) because I know how that kind of small gesture can improve my day.  I am in Colombia looking for a better life and I hope anyone that seeks to improve their life receives support from the new location whether it is just a new city, new state or even a new country!  I hope they can find a better life also!  As Immagration Reform becomes a topic in the U.S., I hope people will think that immigration is a good thing.  People make changes like moving to a new country to have netter lives.  Like my wish with healthcare…. I hope people learn how blessed some are and we can SHARE!  We can share healthcare and our country.  Try to remember a simpler time in your life and try recreating it… enjoy it again.  Everyone deserves to be happy – even Mexicans in an American Wal-Mart!

Categories: Bogota, Colombia, Life | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Day at Cerro de Monserrate

I have lived in Bogotá for more than 3 months and visited a total of 4 months before moving here.  So, after more than 7 months in Bogotá, I finally felt good enough to go visit one of the top tourist attractions in Bogotá – Cerro de Monserrate.  Cerro de Monserrate translates as Monserate Hill.  Now where I am from, Monserrate is much more than a hill (lol) it is a mountain.  Monserrate is part of the Eastern mountain ranges of The Andes.  So I would have named it Montaña de Monserrate (Monserrate Mountain), but they did not ask me!

My friend Ricardo was visiting from Cali, Colombia and since I had someone who could help my old, disabled ass… I was finally able to visit!  There are 3 ways to get to the top: 1, Pilgrimage – walk up the mountain (not going to happen!!); 2, Funicular – Train up tracks on the mountain (not running this day) and 3, Cable Railway – A sky-ride on cables to the top (fastest and easiest).     So off on the cable railway we go.  As the cable car ascends… the enormity of the city of Bogotá starts to become obvious.  The top of Monserrate is at an elevation of over 10,000 feet (3152 meters), that is almost 2 miles above sea level. The city of Bogotá is at 8,600 could be called the 1.5 mile high city!!  The views are AWESOME! (http://www.cerromonserrate.com/eng_files/index_eng.html)

Atop the mountain is a sanctuary, a monastery, the remains of a previous sanctuary, restaurants and flea market style shopping for souvenirs.  There is park like landscaping with flowers that bloom constantly because of the relatively constant spring like temperatures.  Along with the beautifully landscaped trail are viacrucis (sculptures) that commemorates the events of Christ’s walk to the crucifixion.  For me, the beauty speaks more of God than all the religious “stuff”…but it is a location with a history of people making religious pilgrimages.  I was able to experience a clean, freeing energy here and will plan a return just to spend time relaxing and enjoying the views and positive energy.

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Bus Stike Continues!

Okay … update on the bus strike.  The taxis’ strike to support the striking bus drivers today lasted only like 30 minutes.  So today, again, schools were closed and many had difficulties getting to work.  My understanding of the issue is that the small bus drivers do not want the new “day pass”.  It would be a pass that would allow someone to ride Transmilenio or the small buses for the day with one purchase and I call it a “day pass” because I do not know the real name!  This day pass would help so many that struggle to pay seperate fares every time they need to change buses while commuting to work, school or even somewhere just for fun.  It would help students, the working poor and really – anyone that does not own a car in Bogotá.  It makes sense… so the ones that could also benefit from this change – the bus drivers – instead of negotiating and using skills, words and knowledge, the bus drivers result to being bullies and forcing their wishes through the brut force of a strike that hurts ALL of Bogota.  I have little respect for strikers.

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Bus Strike in Bogota!!

There are two bus systems here in Bogota – Transmilenio, the City buses that run only in designated lanes (similar to a subway line but bus lanes) and the other I simply call the small buses (knowing the derogatory connotation if I called them short buses for my U.S. readers lol) that ride various routes on just about all Bogota city streets.  Today, the “small” buses went on strike and caused many complications as they are a vital part of the daily commute for many.  Well it is expected that tomorrow, the yellow taxis (the largest majority of taxis in the city) plan to join in support.   This has made many stressful and angry.  I still do not see that the small bus drivers are gaining sympathy as much as making citizens angry.  Tomorrow with the taxis showing support for the bus drivers… I want to see what the feelings of the people will be.  For me, it only makes me appreciate that most all I need is a short walk!  lol

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I Do Not Understand How People Can Be So Damn RUDE!!!

My Multiple Sclerosis has given me hell as of late and that combined with a cold has me on my cane and in a very bad mood.  I had to go to Exito ( Colombia’s version of WalMart) to get a few things after being stuck in the apartment a couple of days.  Walking the streets of Bogotá, people are not polite and will not vary their course except for their own desire.  There are no exceptions – not even when I am on a cane…. they do not care!  Two girls between 18 and 21 years old were walking to the handicap access for wheelchairs on the sidewalk and did they care I was on a cane and needed to use the access? Hell no!  They stood blocking my way and I just raised my cane and said “Really”?  I refused to move for them and eventually they step aside to let me pass.  Okay, maybe this was just kids being the little bitches they can sometimes be.  But then, inside Exito a woman with a buggy hit my cane as she passed, no excuse me (con permiso) or anything!  Maybe it is just women in general?  Then a man hits me mid chest with his shoulder as HE passes knocking me into the sugar display and my cane even tripped him just a little as he pushed on by and he gave ME the “f*ck you” look??  I have not had to use my cane while in a city this large before, so I do not WANT to say it is Colombians or even Bogotans, but what else would explain it?  I am a Gringo, which is old code for Green Go Home referring to the green uniforms the U.S. military wears and the desire for the U.S. military to  go, so is that it?  Is my being an unwanted American the reason that even on a cane people are so rude here or is it everyone?  Colombians in general are a great, friendly and even welcoming people…. but on the sidewalks… there is no evidence of this!  I have talked about this with others even before the incidents on my cane and they have all said it is part of the Bogotá cultural experience and has nothing to do with my being American.  But how can people who are so friendly otherwise accept this behavior?

Before any of this, an incident two days earlier may have heightened my aware of this behavior.  I ventured out (on my cane) to my neighborhood coffee shop, just to get out of the apartment.  Zaltan,the owner of the coffee shop, and I were visiting on the sidewalk in front of his coffee shop.  From behind, I was knocked off-balance by someone passing by and when we looked to see who it was, it was an OLD man.  I would say he was over 90 and walking very slowly on his cane.  I guess he was so determined not to change his path to walk around me that he could not even say con permiso (excuse me) for me to move, but it was just acceptable to push me out-of-the-way.  If the sidewalk was crowded, I would have been more understanding but it was not.  His being on a cane I thought he should understand my difficulty walking or standing with a cane.  I guess it is only an American cultural thing to say excuse me when something like this happens.  I respect the elderly and would have gladly stepped to one side to allow him to pass, but my eyes looking forward are bad enough that the eyes in the back of my head do not work like they once did and did not allow me to see him coming from behind me.  I do not know a lot of Spanish, but the first things I did learn were: con permiso (excuse me), por favor (please) and gracias (thank you)!  Spanish for move is simply mover, so even if he did not want to be polite and ask, I would have understood if he had barked for me to move for him and I would have.

I do not know why this is bothering me so much.  I love everything about being in Bogotá but this.  It is the burr under my saddle now.  It has always bothered me, but this past week, it has escalated to ANGERING me!  Maybe because this is the only flaw I have found with life in Bogota that in my mind I have to exaggerate to the point of making it a problem so I can say Bogotá is NOT as perfect as I once thought!  It is the one thing that is making me unhappy here and I see no way it is anything I can change or effect change.  If the effects continue to make me so emotional and angry, I will consider moving to another city to give it a try there.  Nothing like this happened in Medellin!

Categories: Colombia, Life, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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