On December 31st, 2016, my alarm went off at 3AM to get me up for our 7AM flight from Mexico City to Bogota. I was sad to leave Mexico City as I loved it very much, but was happy to be starting the South American leg of our journey. The travel from CDMX to Colombia was seamless, and we arrived in Bogota the afternoon of 12/31. This would mark our first day in Bogota, our first day in South America and the last day of 2016. Being New Year's Eve, I couldn’t help but reflect on the year. 2016 was a great year with a lot of ups and downs, but all and all was a great year and I was still in awe that I would be ringing in the New Year in Bogota, Colombia. Below you will find my favorite things about my time in Bogota.
New Year's Eve
One of the advantages to being on Remote Year is that the amazing people that work for Remote Year do a helluva job planning events. This was the case for NYE. We knew for a while what our plans were going to be for NYE, which was great. After getting in to Bogota on New Year’s Eve, the last thing you want to worry about is planning something for New Year’s. An event had been planned for us at a place called Andres Carne de Res. This was a gigantic restaurant with live dancing, great food, and it was full of people ringing in the new year. It was about 35-45 minutes away from where we were staying in Bogota. We all met at a park, hopped on some buses and set out for the night. Upon arriving, the place immediately had an energy to it. The décor, the atmosphere, the food, and the music were just pulsing. We got a bunch of different tables, sat down, and were served a variety of Colombian food. There was live dancing, and it seemed like a place that a lot of locals were at. The night was fun, and our group of Remotes rang in 2017 with each other and a bunch of Colombians.
Parque El Virrey
The New Year’s festivities came and went and after catching up on some sleep, I woke up the next day for my first full day in Bogota. When you are on Remote Year, that first full day is always a lot of fun. When you arrive from travel day, you are always tired, sometimes it is night, and you don’t get the whole feel of the area you are staying. The first full day is made for exploring. I stepped outside my apartment and started my wandering. We had met at a park by my apartment to depart for New Year’s and that was my first stop as it looked awesome, but I couldn’t really see it at night. The park was everything I could have imagined and more. It was enormous, and full of life. It had walking paths, running paths, workout areas, tall trees, beautiful green grass, and seemed to be the epicenter for locals to enjoy their free time. I walked through the park for a long time, soaking in the new city and checking out all that it has to offer. This park would become a place I would frequent during my time in Bogota.
Monserrate is a lookout point at the top of Bogota. You take a cable car to the top and get to view the whole entire city. It is beautiful, and the views from up there are spectacular. There are several things to see at the top, a church, several restaurants, and a little market to walk through. There is nothing like being on top of a mountain to look down on a city and see how truly big it is.
There is a ton of street art in Bogota. I wouldn’t say there is as much as Valencia, but it is close. Bogota offers a Street Graffiti tour that goes through the history and showcases the various art that is painted on the city walls. The tour starts in the downtown area and walks through several neighborhoods. There is some amazing work out there, and it was great to hear the stories behind the art and the various messages contained in the art.
I know I have probably seen Botero’s work at some point in my life, but it wasn’t until I got to Colombia that I feel in love with his unique style. Botero’s style is somewhat simple, but the look is unique. His style is to take his subject and paint them in a round kind of way. Examples are in the pictures below. He is a Colombian artist and the museum is located in downtown Bogota. It is definitely worth the free admission to the museum to check it out. There is also a gift shop in there if you feel inclined to get a tshirt, like I did.
SenderoQuebrada La Vieja Hike
Hiking trails in Colombia are unique. The SenderoQuebrada La trail is one that we did one weekday morning. The reason they are unique is that they are only open in the morning, and you must be down by 9AM. I was told the reasoning for this was due to the amount of robberies they had on the trails. Thieves would wait in the bushes and rob people as they hiked up. They now have police throughout the trail to prevent that from happening, but couldn’t have police there all day, so they stop it at a certain time. It was a fun hike, you go through jungle like terrain, also pine trees, and then have a nice view of Bogota. The view is better on a clear day, it was a tad cloudy when we went. Thank you to Bogota’s finest for keeping us safe.
Volunteering with Tu Sirves
Tu Sirves is an organization in Bogota that organizes various volunteer activities. Remote Year partnered with them to organize a trip to a local prison in which we would visit with prisoners and talk with them. This was such an eye-opening experience. We met at the bus station in the morning and took the bus to the stop closest to the jail. The jail was about an hour bus ride out of town. We got off the bus and we weren't in our normal part of town that we were used to. We were told to make sure not to have anything in our hands, as it would most likely get stolen. Once we arrived at the jail, we had to go through several security measures before we could get in. This involved being searched, having our fingerprints taken, and making sure that all our belongings we brought were left behind. We were accompanied by a staff member at the jail. I have been in prisons before, but I had never been this close to inmates. We walked through, and surprisingly people were friendly and a lot of people said hello. We were then given a tour of the various workshops they have for the inmates to work on stuff. The first stop was the woodworking shop. Several inmates were in there and working on various projects. There were some cool things, and the inmates were proud to be able to show off their work to us. One of the inmates even gave one of us a gift, a wooden car he had made and painted. It was truly amazing to see, and really got my head turning about how the prison system could be different to help inmates become better, and not just be locked away. The next area we visited was the painting area. This was not as busy as the woodshop area, but there were some cool things happening there, and was also where some of the items made in the wood shop were being painted. One of the inmates showed us how he painted flowers, and explained that he just taught himself, by looking at, and reading art books. One interesting tidbit was that the inmates had to get their art supplies from their family. The family would drop the stuff off, and then the inmate would have to buy the stuff for a minimal fee. The inmates were able to sell their art and therefore had a way to make money. It was an interesting approach to say the least. After the painting workshop, we went to the leather/sewing workshop where several inmates were making wallets, purses, and sewing clothes. Once again, it was great to see inmates being able to build and develop skills that could help them in the future if they were to get out of prison. After the tour of the workshops, we made our way to the courtyard where we would meet inmates and spend about 45 minutes talking to them. We were given training before our visit, and went over the exercise that we would be doing with the inmates. The section we were in was the drug section. This was where inmates who were caught with various drug violations were held. There were a variety of ages, races, and nationalities amongst us. We started our time by doing a dance, to break the ice and get everyone comfortable. It was a lot of fun, and helped the inmates become more comfortable. We then broke off into groups, and spent our time talking with each other. It was an amazing experience to be able to understand where they were coming from. The exercise we did was to list people we have hurt, and people who have hurt us. It is an interesting exercise and was good to hear the inmates open up on how the actions that landed them in prison affected others. There was a language barrier at times, but I was still able to pick up on things. The visit ended, we went back to our lives, and they back to theirs. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the visit, but it opened my eyes and my heart to another world that I would have never sought out in my past life. If you are ever in Bogota and are looking for volunteer opportunities, consider Tu Sirves, they are a great group of folks, who love what they do and helping others.
Colombia is known for its coffee, this is no surprise. Being in Colombia allows for you to really understand the process of how coffee is made. I did this by taking part in a coffee tasting. The tasting was hosted by one of only 25 coffee sippers in Colombia. To get to this level, you have to understand coffee and pass a series of tests that take place over the course of a week. Our host had done that and so we were in good hands when it came to learning about coffee. We were taught about the whole entire process, how the plants grow, and how it ends up in your coffee cup in the morning. It is something that I never knew much about, and to hear about how it is all done is truly fascinating to me. We learned the process, then started the tasting aspect. We tried three different types of coffee, while our host gave us all the things to look, taste, and smell for. After that, we then talked about and tried the different ways that coffee can be made. We made coffee in a French Press, an arrow press, a Chemex, and a regular coffee maker. It was amazing to taste the differences. The experience ended with me leaving with a much higher appreciation for the drink that I have most every morning.
Cave Exploring in Suesca
One Saturday, we got on a bus and drove about 2 hours outside of Bogotá to a town called Suesca. This is a tiny town and is home to a bunch of farms, and is surrounded by beautiful trees and hills. We met our guides upon arrival, and they proceeded to take us on walk. We would walk through all sorts of terrain, cross a bridge over a river, and eventually ended up at some caves. Once at the caves, we put on helmets and headlights and started making our way in. It was incredible and challenging. We crawled in and out of caves that in the past were used as prisons. It was hard, claustrophobic, and painful, but ended up being one of my favorite day trips of Remote Year. I made a video to highlight it, you can see what it was like by watching.
Making A Short Film
One Saturday a fellow Remote and I set out on a mission. The mission was to make a video for a Vimeo weekend challenge. We brainstormed ideas and came up with a few different ones. After a little more deliberating, we finalized our plan and made a short film. We didn't win the challenge, but we had a great time making it. Below is the final result of a little Saturday afternoon movie making.
Food and Restaurants
Colombian food is interesting. It is a lot of meat, plantains, veggies, and a corn thing called an Arepa. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t my favorite food country. Bogota has a great food scene and I did my best to discover as much as I could. There are some great restaurants and places to eat in Bogota, and I definitely did my best to check as many places out as possible.
Until Next Time Bogotá
All and all I enjoyed my time in Bogota. It was a challenging month for several different reasons which allowed me to reflect on a lot of things. Another exciting that happened this month was the birth of my nephew Finn. Finn is my first nephew. I have three nieces, so it is nice to have a boy in the mix now. It was hard to be away for this moment. My little brother and I are close and I would have loved to be there for him as he became a father for the first time, but I count the days until I get to meet and hold Finn in person. As for me, I am doing well. The dominant question as time keeps ticking away on Remote Year is “What are you doing after RY?” I don’t have an answer right now. I have a few ideas in mind that will hopefully lead to more clarity soon. Until then, I have so much to accomplish and will keep doing so. Thank you for reading. The next update will be about Medellin, which has a nickname of the “City of Eternal Spring” stay tuned, adios!