a little cameo

Life in Colombia and everything that goes with it

First random act of kindness in Bogota

It’s  been a big and exhausting week filled with adjusting to Bogotá’s altitude, wrapping up in warm clothes, being in the big city, finding my way on local buses, starting my new job and apartment hunting.

We spent a full day on Monday going to various inspections we had lined up and also traipsing around the general area we are looking to live in looking for Se Arriendo signs that indicate a vacant apartment. Renting an apartment in Bogotá is not easy because of all the requirements you need to meet, and I’m sure I’ll write a post about the house-hunting process sometime soon. We had a couple more inspections on Tuesday and Wednesday and currently have our application in for a fabulous apartment very close to my work. We have our fingers crossed everything goes through fine and that we can move in next week!

On Tuesday I started my new job and I already love it. It’s going to be interesting, challenging and I get to work with a great bunch of professionals in a bilingual office environment. I also have an office window that looks out over Bogotá with a most incredible view, so you can be sure I’ll be taking regular ‘rest your eyes and look into the distance away from the computer screen’ exercises.

Last night on the bus back to the hostel where I’m staying until we get an apartment I was on the receiving end of lovely piece of Bogotano kindness. Buses are notoriously jam-packed and if you end up standing in the aisle, you have to hold on with two hands firmly gripping the rails in a white knuckle embrace so as not to be flung around like a bowling ball as the driver brakes and swerves at high speeds. The girl standing next to me, who wasn’t tall enough to reach the ceiling rails, slipped into the newly vacated seat directly in front of her (but not before hovering over the seat for just a minute in a Bogotá idiosyncrasy I had read about on Banana Skin Flip Flops and Sarepa). I moved a step down the bus to where she had been standing and she obviously saw that my oversized shoulder bag was heavy, awkward and in serious danger of smacking her in the head, so she said “Te ayudo?” (can I help you?) motioning to take my bag for me. So I handed over my bag which she nursed on her knee until I got off. I had seen the exact same kindness the day before by a girl sitting next to me taking the unwieldy backpack of a guy standing in the aisle and resting it on her knee and the day before that when a man gave up his seat for a pregnant woman and she returned the favour by minding his bag for him.

This small gesture is surprising because it is where famous Colombian hospitality and Bogotano politeness meets an ingrained mistrust of others and wins. Mi novio keeps telling me to be careful on the buses because they have a reputation for thefts, and here I am handing over my bag with all my important papers and valuables to a perfect stranger to mind for me. I have seen and heard of many examples of Colombian’s mistrust in others, right up to not trusting family members, although I think that is mostly about not trusting anyone with your money. But I love that regardless, people are lovely and helpful and kind. It makes me love this city a little bit more.

This week has passed by in such a blur that I’ve had to pinch myself that yes, I am in Bogotá and yes, life is great.

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6 thoughts on “First random act of kindness in Bogota

  1. Pingback: House hunting Bogotá – living in Colombia. | sarepa.

  2. I’ve seen this in Barranquilla, too 🙂

  3. Pingback: Settling in to Bogotá | a little cameo

  4. I just read this post, and it’s funny you should mention the kindness on the bus, because the exact same thing happened to me yesterday for the first time on the transmilenio, when I gave up my seat for an old lady and then another lady offered to hold the bag I was carrying! A sweet little Bogotano quirk! I was wondering if I could pick your brain for some advice about applying for a Colombian partner visa, as I don’t really want to get married right now, but my Colombian boyfriend and I were told this morning by a notary that to get a ‘union marital de hecho’ I had to have been living in Colombia for at least 2 years (which I haven’t..). I read your post and wondered if you could offer any more tips for getting a notary to oblige and give us the declaration we need without any kind of marriage being involved!

  5. I just read this post, and it’s funny you should mention the kindness on the bus, because the exact same thing happened to me yesterday for the first time on the transmilenio, when I gave up my seat for an old lady and then another lady offered to hold the bag I was carrying! A sweet little Bogotano quirk! I was wondering if I could pick your brain for some advice about applying for a Colombian partner visa, as I don’t really want to get married right now, but my Colombian boyfriend and I were told this morning by a notary that to get a ‘union marital de hecho’ I had to have been living in Colombia for at least 2 years (which I haven’t..). I read your post and wondered if you could offer any more tips for getting a notary to oblige and give us the declaration we need without any kind of marriage being involved! (Just tweeted you!)

    • It’s such a nice gesture. I try to repay the favour whenever I can. If you’re lucky enough to get a seat it’s nice to ease the load of someone who isn’t as lucky.

      Have sent you some extra info about the visa experience. Hope to catch up soon!

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