a little cameo

Life in Colombia and everything that goes with it

Back to study nerves

This week I will start studying a Masters degree and I’m nervous.

I had been thinking for awhile that in this country where a Masters is common educational currency to obtain work, and for my future aspirations when one day I am back in Australia, that I should go back to formal study.

It wasn’t an easy personal journey to get to applying for the course and perhaps it’s ironic that my first subject is Economics, as the opportunity cost of further study has been a key consideration player in the decision making process. The opportunity cost of the time I need to allocate, and the financial resources required were the two main obstacles I needed to overcome before enrolling.

The investment of a large sum of borrowed money and taking on the responsibility of paying that off was critical and I think many people, at some stage or other, question whether it is worth it. The commitment of time that I currently allocate to other, pleasurable activities like outings with my family and reading and writing has been another weight on my mind.

However, advancement requires sacrifices. And I always say without risk, there is no reward. So I needed to just dive in.

I spoke about going back to study with a few friends, and one of them who is doing an Executive MBA told me that we study to learn new things, it’s not supposed to be easy.

So I did it. I applied on a Monday, woke up to an offer letter on a Wednesday and enrolled that very same day. I left myself no more time or space to entertain the doubts and analyse again my decision.

I’ve chosen to study an online Master of International Business via Deakin University. The ability to study online, while not my preferred study mode for success, was a deciding factor. I know we will move to Australia in the near future, and if I only study one subject per semester, it will take me four years to complete, so the online course offers me flexibility in where I’m located.

I’m hoping to cast aside the niggling fears and doubts about balancing study with family and work commitments, the terror of studying subjects that I didn’t consider myself good at in my undergraduate course and that I barely passed, and the certainty that I won’t have time to read for pleasure.

Most importantly of all, I just need to have faith in myself and put in the work required.

Do you have any study tips to share for going back to study?

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Hand-me-downs

We bought these Cons for D a year ago but he’s outgrown them and I’ve discovered they fit me. 

Getting hand-me-downs from a 12 year old in a country where I often struggle to get ladies shoes to fit my size 9-10 foot. Strange but true.  

Would you like a side of crazy with your order?

I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days in San Francisco last week for work to visit my colleagues based there.

It was the first time I’ve spent anything longer than an airport connection in the US since the six months I spent in LA and cross-country road tripping in 2011, and my first time in San Fran since it was part of a two-day stop on my year long travels in 2004.

As is often the case when I’m in an English-speaking country again, I found myself speaking to people in Spanish, especially at the airport when they would ask me something and I would respond “Sí”. I also started speaking to my colleagues in Spanish at some point and had to go back to the beginning and start again in English.

I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised at how many people I heard speaking Spanish in the streets in San Francisco. I’m guessing there were lots of tourists visiting as I saw lots of families shopping heavily (because I spent all my spare time in the shops too!), but then the cleaning ladies at my hotel were speaking Spanish and the doorman at the office building greeted me in Spanish after he learned I live in Colombia. My first night was the night of the Copa America match where Colombia unfortunately lost to Chile and I saw people in yellow Colombian fútbol shirts pass by in the street.

I was surprised to find that in summer the weather was going to be around 18 to 20 degrees Celsius, the same as Bogota’s year-round temperature, but unlike Bogota where the four seasons in one day stays on repeat, it was bright and sunny (unusually lovely weather according to my friends in San Fran).

Anytime I go home to Australia or visit other Westernised countries now, I always feel guilty about putting toilet paper in the toilet instead of the bin. I’m not really sure how come in Latin America the plumbing system fails when a small wad of paper enters it, but it takes awhile to break that mentality and I always end up thinking about it for a few seconds every time I go to the bathroom.

I also suffer from nervous tipping syndrome. I’m not sure how to calculate the tip and how to avoid offending. Again, I had forgotten that in the US the published prices exclude tax, and that also needed to be taken into consideration. I couldn’t just pull out a $1 note to pay for the magnet which cost 99 cents because the final register price was $1.08. Americans must be excellent at maths with all these calculations to do to figure out the real price of something.

But I would have to say that the most confronting part of being in San Francisco, was seeing the sheer number of homeless and mentally ill people in the city streets. I was overwhelmed by the number of people talking to themselves or with someone not visible to everyone else because it would have been every second block or so.

In Bogota there are a lot of beggars, a lot of homeless people and a lot of mentally ill people in the streets. While I don’t see it often in the area where I live and work, I see it frequently in other parts of Bogota. On my last two visits back to Melbourne, I also noticed a larger number of people begging and living in the city streets than I ever recall seeing when I lived there.

But I have never seen a person shooting up in the middle of the day in the middle of the city. I have never seen a person taking a dump beside a small plaza of people eating their lunches. They were things I saw during the two lunch breaks I had in San Francisco.

On my final evening, I had dinner with some friends of mine who I hadn’t seen since I was living in Los Angeles, a friend from my hometown and his fiancee. She is an emergency room doctor at a hospital in downtown San Francisco, and when I mentioned the number of crazy people I’d seen and how shocked I’d been, she explained that San Francisco is a sanctuary city. It is where many people from across the states who are living with mental and drug abuse issues come due in some part to a more liberal and tolerant society.

My friend said that she will often see patients come into emergency who had literally just gotten off a Greyhound bus and arrived in San Francisco. And there are others that she sees on a fairly regular basis coming in and out of the emergency ward. It’s really sad.

Returning to Colombia I told Edwin about what I had seen on the streets of San Francisco. He couldn’t believe what I was describing. He hasn’t been to the US yet, so his perceptions are those that are typical for Colombians based on what is shown in the media. He has this perception of the US being clean, organised, full of opportunity, without corruption and without the poverty issues that Colombia has, with a far more advanced society and with access to programs and support for vulnerable communities.

I’m not sure if destroying Edwin’s image of the US is a good thing or not, but one thing is for sure, there is the good, the bad and the sad in all places.

Chinatown in San Francisco

Chinatown in San Francisco

Just put a little stone under your tongue

“A what?!” I exclaimed, stopping in my tracks and turning to Edwin at my side.

“A little stone,” he repeated calmly.

We were walking in the centre of Bogota from the Flea Market in the Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogota carpark along the Carrera 7 in search of pan de bono to snack on when I started complaining of having a stitch in my side. I’m not really sure how it got there, because I wasn’t exerting myself any more than a slow stroll through a shopping centre, but it was grabbing at me below my ribs.

It was then that I learned the word for a stitch is vaso and along with that new tidbit came a ridiculous-sounding home remedy. Edwin had just told me that to cure myself of the stitch I needed to put a pebble under my tongue.

I looked at him disbelievingly. How could putting a pebble under your tongue fade the pain of a stitch? I also wondered how I hadn’t heard this before, but Colombia is such a hotbed of superstitions and home remedies you could never claim to learn them all.

Edwin asked D to corroborate his story, and after a bit more feeding of parts of the story, D acknowledged that yes, if he had a stitch he knew that putting a little stone under his tongue would cure him.

I’ve gotten much better at just accepting some things since moving to Colombia, so my challenge back to Edwin was where was I supposed to find a pebble that I would be able to put in my mouth. We were walking along dirty streets that no one in their right mind would dare to stoop down, pick something up and put in their mouth after only a cursory wipe down with their own saliva. It’s the kind of street where a mum would just throw the baby’s dummy out if it fell on the ground, there would be no picking up, sucking on it and stuffing it back into baby’s mouth.

He shrugged, and I said meanly “So I’m just supposed to carry a pebble with me in case I get a stitch?”

The stitch eventually passed and so did my memory of the remedy until I was talking to colleagues over lunch and I remembered to ask them if they’d ever heard of a home remedy involving a pebble under the tongue. They hadn’t, nor had they ever heard anything about a cure for stitches. I figured that it was a costeño home remedy, not one shared by the rolos of Bogota.

I got the chance to test out the pebble under the tongue theory yesterday as we hiked to some waterfalls outside of Bogota. On our way back to the car we had to climb a punishingly steep hill, and at the top I felt the sharp pang of a stitch. Being on a gravel road there were lots of pebbles available, so I bent over to pick up a small stone.

As I was trying to give it a little spit wash, Edwin opened the water bottle and poured it over my hand, providing a much better wash for the stone that while I could feel the dirt crunch in my teeth was a more palatable type of dirty than the streets of Bogota.

I expected it to work instantly, of course. Perhaps more strange was that I actually believed that it would work. Edwin is quite a persuasive orator and I had come to believe that in the face of a stitch, all I needed was a pebble.

“It’s not working, I can still feel the stitch,” I stated, disappointed.

“Just give it some time,” Edwin responded, keen to keep moving and not have all the other passing walkers stare and wonder what his weirdo foreigner was on about. I forced him to take a photo of the stone under my tongue so I could post it here, but lucky for all of us, it didn’t show the stone, so there is no gaping dentist’s-view of my mouth for you to be grossed out by, because really, that would have been stretching the relationship.

I started walking again, this time downhill and over time the stitch faded. I think it faded mostly because that’s the normal course of these things, not because I was sucking on a rock under my tongue.

So the pebble under the tongue cure for stitches has been debunked, but if you want to give it a try, I’m not about to stop you from looking like an even stranger foreigner.

Have you heard of any other Colombian home remedies for common ailments? I’d love to hear about them.

The pebble I tested the stitch theory on

This pebble has been proven to not work at stopping a stitch, no matter what they might tell you.

Remembering High School Maths

Maths problem solving and equationsD’s maths teacher sent through ten maths problems for him to solve over the weekend, and helping him with this has taken me back to my maths education at high school.

I never liked maths. I was always a word kind of person, enjoying English the most out of all of my subjects (although I never really liked the required reading texts much). I always struggled with maths and the different concepts presented, possibly helped along in no small part by the belief that I wasn’t a maths person. In Year 7 the problem sheets we were given for homework were always difficult and challenging but being the kind of student I was, I hated getting red crosses for anything so diligently put in the effort to solve them correctly.

Despite not liking maths and not considering myself good at it, I got excellent grades until Year 11 when we were able to choose our subjects. At Year 11 level there were two levels of maths, Further Maths, which was dubbed veggie maths, and Maths Methods, which was far more technical and demanding. My friends were all science-maths types and they convinced me in joining them in Maths Methods. From the very beginning that was a bad idea. I was in a class with all the kids who went on to become engineers and scientists, people for whom complex mathematical equations would be part of their university degrees. I had no such ambitions and really should have taken veggie maths along with the other students who were aiming for business degrees.

My Year 11 Maths Methods class became hell and I the demon who terrorised it. I mostly copied the work from my friends, still not understanding anything or how it was applicable in the real world. I spent great chunks of time distracting other students, which for my goody-two-shoes student persona was a huge departure from my reputation at school and I developed a bad attitude. In one particular class, a fellow student complained to the teacher that my wandering around the classroom and loud voice was distracting so the teacher gave me an ultimatum, to sit down and focus or leave the classroom. So I defiantly packed up my books and chose to leave the class, surprising everyone including the teacher who still considered me a responsible student.

I do not know how I managed to pass the year, but as it came to selecting subjects for the final year of school, I was not swayed by my friends’ encouragement to continue with Maths Methods, that I would make it through. So I dropped down to Further Maths at Year 12 level and discovered an interest in maths I never knew I had. Maybe it was the wonderful teacher, maybe it was being back in an environment where I understood the mathematical concepts or maybe it was because I could apply percentages and probability and the like to real life needs for problem solving. I aced the class and ended up with the best Further Maths score from my school, 49 out of 50, which equated to getting a couple of questions wrong on the end of year exam and was way higher than any of my other preferred subjects. Only years later when I organised an event of the Premier’s VCE Awards for my state celebrating excellence by giving awards to the students who received study scores of 50 out of 50 did I realise just how well I had done.

Nowadays I rely on Excel formulas for most of my maths problems, but that interest in percentages, probability and statistics remains. So helping D with his homework on fractions is interesting and something that I get. Unfortunately, though, he doesn’t get it.

I had printed out the sheet of problems from the teacher and left it for him to work on yesterday morning while attending an Escuela de Padres (Parents’ School) on values at his school. I was in a bit of a bad mood about this, as I usually am regarding Escuelas de Padres, and especially since they set it for a long weekend and with mandatory attendance, although there weren’t many parents there.

I came home to find that D hadn’t done the maths homework because he didn’t understand what to do. So this morning we sat down to the first three problems.

“If Juan, Antonio and Carlos each received 12, 36 and 48 respectively on the test out of a maximum 96, what fraction did they each receive.”

Cool! I thought. We had discussed fractions expressed as percentages yesterday while cooking lunch when I asked him to fill the saucepan 3/4 full and I checked to see that he had understood.

Unfortunately he still couldn’t work it out as I explained the problem and what he needed to do. I wrote the equations he needed to do with long division (something I never ever understood and cannot help him with, but D seems to be good at long division). He eventually solved the problem and I said how he could learn little shortcuts to help, things like how 96 is close to 100 and 48 close to 50, so 48 should be about half of 96 and that you can figure this out at a glance if you use these kinds of logic tricks.

We moved onto the second question about needing 1/8 of a gallon of paint diluted in 1/16 of thinner to paint 1 door, and therefore how much is needed to paint 3 doors. This also escaped him and we spent a good 15 minutes on it with diagrams of bottles broken into eighths and sixteenths to colour in the levels.

The third question was much more difficult, but structured in a way of being able to check your answer doing a few additional equations, yet my patience evaporated as no amount of explanation seemed to help him. I guess the additional check equations confused him rather than helped and he then couldn’t go back and put his finger on which one was the answer to the question.

So while he copies out the answers to the first three questions on a fresh sheet, trying to remember exactly which scratchings on the scrap paper are the relevant ones, I sit here typing in my blog about the time I hated maths, hoping to soothe my impatience because we still have another seven questions to go.

 

 

Why reading five books at a time isn’t crazy

Crocheted Kindle sleeves

Crochet sleeves for my Kindle

Adding a fifth book today to my ‘currently reading’ list on GoodReads isn’t as crazy or confusing as it might look.

Earlier this week I read an article on LinkedIn about how to be a more productive reader that really resonated with me. Ever since joining GoodReads just over a year ago at the recommendation of some friends, I’ve rediscovered my love of reading, and have made a more concerted effort to read more.

When I joined at the end of March last year, my goal was to read 12 books before the end of the year. Being able to monitor my progress led to me finishing double that amount, including the long-term reading project of Ulysses. I’m now looking likely to exceed my 2016 reading goal of 32 books in the next couple of months at the rate that I’m reading, although I’m not likely to exceed 100 books per year as the author of the article does.

Usually I would have two or maybe three books on the go, often flitting between fiction and non-fiction as the mood struck me. A third book was added after starting to read books on the Kindle app on my phone in December last year and having access to books while on the go.

Edwin gave me a Kindle for my birthday, not only because he knows I love to read, but because he blames reading on the bright screen of my phone as the cause of my complaints about needing to go to the optometrist. Since receiving the Kindle, I’ve noticed that my reading speed has gotten faster. As commented in the article on being a productive reader, it’s possible to read faster on a Kindle than a hard copy book. Plus, reading is a skill, the more you read, and the more often, the faster you will become.

Today I bought an ebook and opted to pay the additional amount for the narrated Audible version. I’m interested in testing out listening to more audiobooks as another way of reading more books. So while I crocheted a new cover for my Kindle this morning (I wasn’t happy with the first one I’d finished on a plane) I decided to start listening to my audiobook, making it the fifth book on my currently reading list.

I listened for an hour and half while I crocheted, I listened for 25 minutes while on the treadmill and I listened for another half an hour while doing the dishes. So over the course of today, I managed to add an extra two and a half hours of reading into my day. Wow!

So by having books available to you in different formats – hard copy, ebook, audiobook – it really does open up so many more possibilities and enable you to get through more books than you think is possible.

For the record, I’m currently reading the following:
Hard copy: The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton which is on my bedside table and Collected Stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez a short story collection where I’m reading one story a day during my lunch break at work.
On the Kindle: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg which I am slowly making my way through, reading a chapter or idea and then letting it sink in over the course of a week or two and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante which is the third book in the Neapolitan series and has short chapters.
On Audible: The Forgotten Family by Beryl Matthews, which while it isn’t my first audiobook, it’s the first one I’ve listened to that wasn’t originally on a CD.

How many books do you have on the go? Do you read in different formats, or stick with one book format?

Walking for exercise

We recently bought a treadmill. It’s for me, really, because Edwin uses the treadmill at the gym at which he is a regular and dedicated member.

When I announced this purchase at work, one of my colleagues laughed and told me it would end up being a giant clothes hanger and why didn’t I just walk outside. Why indeed? I’ve never even remotely considered buying a treadmill before as I’ve always gone for walks in the great outdoors on walking trails or isolated river tracks near my childhood home, so what is different now?

Well, you see Bogota isn’t exactly a city made for people who like to walk for exercise. There are lots of parks, playgrounds and green spaces (depending to a degree on where you live) but there are not many easily accessible trails you can walk or jog around on an everyday basis. Driving to a trail is out of the question given the hideous traffic and lack of parking that Bogota is notorious for, and walking around in the streets is a surefire way to either get frustrated at not being able to cross streets or wind up getting hit by a car. I guess many people have a gym membership, however I felt that getting a gym membership just to walk on the treadmill was, for me, a guaranteed way to never use it.

Today, Good Friday, dawns and unlike spending my Holy Thursday holiday in my pyjamas reading books and organising my wardrobe, I write a to do list, topped with “Get on treadmill”. Probably a good idea given that it has sat, unused and collecting dust, at the foot of my bed for the good part of a week.

However it is too nice a day to stay inside our apartment praying that the narrow windows will let in some soft breeze along with the sunshine and views of blue sky. So I look to Google Maps to help me find somewhere green I can walk to and around. I’m open minded to try anything really, as there is hardly any traffic after the mass exodus of Bogotanos to celebrate Easter outside of the city. Then I see the Rio Molinos with strips of green along the sides. It’s not far from our apartment, so I decide that I can do a loop of it between Carrera 11 and the Autopista.

It’s the best idea I’ve had in a long time.

You would hardly call Rio Molinos a river. It is a typical Bogota river, a cemented aqueduct that is stagnant and stinky like a sewer. But after the smell stops bothering you, the beauty of the trail begins to emerge and gives you a perk in your step. The river is lined with many trees, some flowering, some providing shade, playgrounds and grassy nooks, there are even bottlebrushes with their red flowers coming out and reminding me of home. It’s quiet. Being in the middle of a peaceful residential area there is very little traffic around, although crossing the Carreras 15 and 19 are still a bit challenging even on a quiet traffic day without a convenient pedestrian crossing nearby.

Fifteen minutes into my walk and I’m planning when I can get here next. I fall in love with Bogota all over again. I feel an energy and lightness enter me. The barnacles of the everyday frustrations of this city release their hold on me and I’m smiling. I have an extra bounce in my step, the air sucks deeper into my lungs and the vitamin D leaches into my skin.

Even though the Rio Molinos is ugly and in no way compares with the magnificent Murray River I grew up alongside, today Bogota has given me an extraordinary gift, and has proven me wrong in thinking I needed a treadmill to get exercise by walking here in this city.

A bit about driving

Bogota trafficI always thought that Colombian drivers were terrible. Period. No ifs, buts or exceptions. However since buying a car last year and having experienced Colombian roads from the driver’s seat, I’m prepared to cut them some slack in the driving stakes.

I’d long held the belief that Colombians received their license in a Weeties pack (although of course there are no Weeties here), yet in actual fact the current requirement is that they complete a 30 hour course and pay more or less a monthly minimum wage for the privilege. That’s pretty intense and quite a commitment.

I won’t deny that at first I was afraid of driving here. I told Edwin that we would buy an automatic, because there was no way that I was going to drive in Colombia – on the other side of the road for me – and try to think about changing gears in Bogota’s infamous traffic. I had a car and drove in the US for six months, so I wasn’t a complete newbie to driving on the right hand side of the road, but I was still petrified at joining the chaos on the roads.

Getting behind the wheel was a huge lesson in understanding the challenges that every single driver faces and it made me realise that I’d been a little too hasty in my judgments about Colombian drivers.

  1. When there are no lines marked on a 4 lane road, how do you expect people to stick to their lane?
  2. When there are large, car eating holes that suddenly appear before you in the road, how can you not swerve to miss them?
  3. When speed limit signs seem to have been selected at random and placed 20m apart by road workers, how can you expect people to know how fast to drive?
  4. When street parking is as rare as hen’s teeth, how can you be expected to do drop offs and pick ups without holding up traffic?

While I’ve cut some slack to Colombian drivers, there still remain some eternal frustrations that make driving a not-so-pleasant experience.

  1. People who think it’s okay to drive in the fast lane (ie left hand lane) of a 2 lane highway and never pull into the fa right hand lane to let faster traffic past – especially when they choose to travel at 50kmph.
  2. 85% of drivers* do not use their blinkers (indicators) to change lanes or turn into streets.
  3. The people who beep their horns for the cars in front to take off from the traffic lights when the lights are still red.
  4. Never giving way to pedestrians at traffic lights – every day as I walk to work I am almost hit by a turning car that refuses to give way to me.
  5. Drivers with a complete disregard for their children’s safety letting them bounce around the car unrestrained, or in the arms of another passenger, or even worse, allow them to sit in their lap in between them and the steering wheel.

This last one makes me very angry because if you can afford to buy a car, you can afford to buy your baby or child a car seat.

I’m also quite baffled that everyone parks in reverse. In my home state of Victoria the only reverse parking people do is to get into a parallel park on the side of the road. Upon telling Edwin he could drive frontwards into a carpark he told me that he simply cannot park forwards, he can only park the car in reverse. Bizarre. I think it takes longer to park in reverse, and it gets very frustrating when you have to wait some time for a big SUV to manoeuvre their car into a narrow space using three or four line ups so you can pass and find a space. Surely putting the nose into the park and not having to rely on mirrors or a passenger to get out and guide you in would be far easier.

I’m still not super confident driving in Bogota and I leave most of that driving to Edwin while I crochet the time away, but I’m getting better and am starting to take the car out more, although only when I know I can easily find parking near my destination. The suddenly appearing motorbikes remain a cause for concern and driving anxiety, as do the even more unpredictable buses. But the best part of having a car is that I again feel like I have freedom. I can get in the car and go somewhere if I want to. We can go away for the weekend or on daytrips or longer trips as a family. We had the same feeling of freedom when we got the motorbike in Santa Marta, but unfortunately 3 don’t fit on the motorbike.

A car is not a necessity in Bogota for us like it was for me in Australia or the US. We live close to my work and to shopping centres so I don’t have to drive there. We managed to live in Bogota for almost two years with just the motorbike, public transport and our own two legs, so even though our car spends most of the week without leaving the garage, it’s handy to explore the outskirts of Bogota and pick family and friends up from the airport.

Now that we have 4 wheels and 5 seats, the motorbike has become Edwin’s runabout taking him to classes and work and filling in the gaps when we have pico y placa (restrictions on driving the car depending on the date and the last number on your numberplate). I’m not sad to no longer ride the motorbike, quite the opposite in fact, because even if it is faster in traffic jams I feel safer and more comfortable in my own private metal bubble.

 * so I made this up, it’s a fictitious statistic most likely for exaggerated purposes, but it feels very realistic to me.

Out of place in Ciclovia

Sunday Ciclovia in Bogota

Sunday Ciclovia in Bogota

Bogota is blessing us with continued beautiful summery weather, which makes Sunday Ciclovia even more enticing for people, although today I felt rather out of place.

You see Ciclovia has a dress code. Ciclovia activities – walking, running, bike riding, rollerblading, skateboarding – are all categorised as sports, so you must wear sportsgear. It is expected that you will be decked out head to toe in matching attire. Your runners will match the colours in your lycra leggings and the top you wear. Anything else is not acceptable. Like, for example, my outfit of denim shorts, singlet and thongs (the Australian definition).

A couple of weeks ago I got incredibly burnt on the Ciclovia (even despite sunscreen applications). The backs of my hands were red for days and I still have a very pronounced t-shirt line. I didn’t want to get burnt today, but I wanted to spend some time outside, so my idea was to ride to a nearby park where we could buy a coffee and sit and relax (in the shade) outside on the grass. While the boys took a soccer ball and frisbee along, I had a book with me. Hardly categorising as a sweat-raising sport for me.

Edwin gave me funny looks when I refused to put sneakers on and when I didn’t pull out the lycra leggings. He tried to reinforce that we were going to Ciclovia, his stress on the words confirming the association between Ciclovia and sports. He still didn’t get it when I said that my bike was a mode of transport to get me to our destination of the park.

As I cruised along on my non-sporty bike with a non-sporty hat on, I was surrounded by Bogotanos who clearly haven’t understood that the weather is hot as they were riding and running in long pants and long-sleeved sports zip ups. I sat tall in my seat, soaking it all in and received a passing remark from another cyclist who said “You look very elegant riding with that hat on.”

It made me wonder if one of the barriers to more Bogotanos using bikes to get to work and other places is because the bike is seen as a sporting accessory, not as a mode of transport.

 

 

Stop it Bogota, you’re making me homesick

Mildura sunrise

I’m thinking about home

The past week in Bogota can only be described as glorious. The skies are blue from the mountains in the east stretching out west across the sheet plains of La Sabana. The weather is warm, a little too warm to fall into Bogota’s usual weather cycle.

 

When you step outside into the bright day, the warm air clings to you, offering up a gentle caress that you know could soon turn to a Chinese burn. At 2600m the sun has the same strength as in my land under the hole in the ozone. Slip, slop, slap.

This wave of homesickness hits me as I think of my hometown. It’s summertime there now. The temperatures there are pushing 40 degrees Celsius, but this unusual heat in Bogota, which is really only about 25 degrees, takes me to an Australian summer.

I can smell the sausages sizzling on the barbecue and feel the contrast against the tossed salad, cold from being in the fridge. I relax into the heat and see sunlight sparkling on the river where I’m waiting with my toes in the sand for my turn to waterski. I flinch as I feel the spray from the misters at the beer garden touch my hot skin. I can feel the delight as a cold bubble of water floats downstream, breaking up the warm surface water. I’m squatting beside the road by a tar patch with tiny bubbles on the surface and I can smell the tar as I pop the bubbles with my fingertip. I get sleepy as I sink into the carseat, the hot, trapped air lulling me into slumber.

But here I am, just basking in this glorious weather. Breathing in the lightness of the air that reminds me of holidays, and a slower pace of doing things.

The news talks about this strange weather, that bakes us during the day, and then in neighbouring farm towns just 40km away how it frosts the pastures with minus 3 degrees at night. It’s part of El Nino they say.

My phone tells me it’s cloudy and 5 degrees Celsius, but then again, I never look at or believe the weather prognostications here and at least another 20 degrees needs to be added to even be in the same ballpark as what’s outside my building right now.

This weather has taken me on a nostalgic journey back home. Usually I’m used to the weather nostalgia in name only as Bogota’s predictable four seasons in one day (twice over) is in line with Melbourne’s fame for having four seasons in one day. But now I’m reliving summers of my hometown, and desperate to cling to this sensation.

While this nostalgia brings me a certain sadness, the perfect weather is giving me an energy that was absent. I wake up with a smile and open myself wide to embrace what I’m sure will be a great day.

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