From junk room to study

We’ve been living in our apartment for 18 months now and until today, our spare room still had nothing but an inflatable orange couch, an inflatable kangaroo and a small folding table to keep the modem and router off the floor. The cupboards held an incredible variety of toys, games, motorbike accessories, cables and cords and a ridiculous amount of cardboard boxes being saved for some creative project.

After a year of desperately wanting a desk but being unable to justify the expenditure, I said to Edwin just before Christmas “I need a desk” followed by something stubbornly sulky that represented “now!” Perhaps it was D visiting his mother for the holidays or the December bonus, but either way, I was prepared to shop and spend to get a desk that will ultimately – so I keep telling myself – improve my happiness by giving me a space away from the TV.

Edwin had been planning a day trip to some waterfalls he’d read about a week earlier and was adamant that we would go there before Christmas, however I won him over to a day trawling antique and second-hand furniture shops by telling him that my desire for a desk pre-dated his interest in that particular outing which could wait until the new year.

Having been pinning photos of desks for a year, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted. Drawers on the right-hand side, wood (definitely not that laminex wengue colour that is all department store furniture is made of), not too big, and preferably in mid-century modern style. Finding the right desk was a whole lot more difficult, but the one of the great things about Bogotá is that where there is one antique shop, there are many.

We started in Calle 79A between Carreras 7 and 9 where all the fancy antique stores are to find a store dedicated to mid-century modern I’d seen on a previous visit. Only one shop was open at the hour we arrived and it didn’t have anything from the fifties or sixties, but there were some lovely, and expensive, pieces there.

Next we went to Chapinero to Carrera 9 between Calles 60 and 62 where there is another antique shopping strip. In one of my favourite stores to poke around in, we found a huge black desk that was close to the style I wanted but too big and too black for my liking. Edwin took a shine to a desk in another store but I didn’t like how heavy it looked with drawers on both sides.

The third antique district we visited was in Chapinero again, but the other side of Carrera 7 and between Calles 65 and 67 where there are few stores. In one of the stores whose specialty is selling old furniture painted shabby chic, I found exactly the style I wanted, except the paint job was hideous. The top was a streaky white, the legs and framework a burgundy colour and sky-blue drawers. Looking beyond the paintwork, the desk was a beautiful mid-century modern desk with rounded legs, the desk top creating an eave over the framework and long, wide brass drawer handles. But it was more than I wanted to pay and I didn’t think I could live with the paintwork.

We went back to Calle 79A and I found the store I had been looking for, Dessvan. I asked after desks, but while there was nothing that took my fancy, the assistant took me a few doors up the street to another store that had the most divine mid-century modern furniture. We fell in love with a pair of yellow tub chairs and I could have gone home with a completely redecorated apartment if my pockets were deeper. But it was a desk on our shopping list.

Using my feminine wiles, I told Edwin just how much I was in love with the desk with the horrendous paint job, and how if it was in a different colour, I would be so happy with it. I think it was partly to do with the begging face I put on and the other part his patience at an end but when he said the magic words every woman loves to hear “Mi amor, if this is the desk you want, I can repaint it for you,” I was sold on it.

We went back to the store to buy the desk and I let him negotiate the price and the terms (as all good Colombians must do).

Happy as a lark, we spent the next couple of hours warding off the rain in Chapinero, eating pan de bono and buying wool for more crochet projects, before heading home to await the arrival of the desk.

When we got home, we found that despite being told the delivery man would call us when he was on his way, the desk was already there and waiting in the communal reception room. The doorman couldn’t believe that we’d paid for a desk with that paint job; he thought we’d found it really cheap somewhere on the side of the road. I guess also the fact that most Colombians like to have new things and despise second-hand or old things had something to do with his reaction.

Straight to work sanding the hideous paint back
Straight to work sanding the hideous paint back

 

Once we put the desk in the spare room, it started to light the room up. Edwin could see the potential, and immediately pulled a piece of sandpaper out of thin air and started sanding back the sky blue paint on the drawers. When I said I wanted to paint it turquoise, a colour I am in decor love with, and showed him some similar projects on my Pinterest Desks board, he also came around to the idea.

Shiny new desk!
Shiny new turquoise desk! Edwin did a great job.

My dad always says that a man has got to have a project, and the refurbishing of the desk was a good hands-on project for Edwin during his end of semester holidays. He sanded and scraped the paint off until we exposed the bare wood. He bought a caramel coloured stain and turquoise paint. He patiently painted layers of paint and varnish. He shined the brass handles to life and we ended up with a stunningly beautiful desk where I will write blogs, Edwin will use the computer and D will do his homework.

Transporting a desk chair
Transporting a desk chair

The concession to an antique desk was a modern chair, so one Ciclovia Sunday we picked out a comfortable chair that would fit in the hutch space and rode back with the box perched precariously on Edwin’s handlebars and me with two new prints to hang on the walls sticking awkwardly out of my basket.

A wooden shelf Edwin had found abandoned in the carpark after some residents moved out, finally found a home on the new study wall after being painted with a turquoise trim.

We spent New Years Eve and New Years Day hanging pictures, washing walls and cleaning out the wardrobe, getting our study into order and I couldn’t be happier.

The only things left for us to do to finish the room off are to find a rug and then get a new light fitting and a desk lamp. Oh, and wash the window so my new outlook of the cerro from my desk isn’t obscured by dust and grime.

Happy New Decor from my fabulous new study!

My fabulous new study!
My fabulous new study!

Crochet isn’t so hard to learn after all

Crochet love hearts
Little crochet love hearts

I’ve wanted to learn how to crochet for ages but have hidden behind excuses like “I don’t have a crochet hook” and “It looks hard” and my favourite “I’m terrible at knots.” Despite my desire to learn, I wasn’t ready to learn. That all changed last week.

Mum came to visit last month and for some inexplicable reason she brought with her a crochet hook and a ball of fuchsia coloured wool. It was inexplicable because whilst Mum has passing phases of craftiness, I’ve never actually seen her crochet anything. Knit yes, sew absolutely, crochet never. She had even taken it on as carry-on (I would have thought a crochet needle, despite being blunt, would have gone in the same bin as tweezers and pocket knives at the security screen) although she had barely 30 stitches finished.

When I saw her started project I mentioned that I really wanted to learn. My Nan is very talented at working with wool and even had a loom with which she made all her 15 grandchildren a tartan blanket, so I thought maybe she had been crocheting with Nan lately. Mum started to explain the process to me and then added “Except I don’t know how to turn”. Perhaps she hadn’t been getting crochet help from Nan after all. Turning seems to be a critical element and is probably why she hadn’t gotten very far into her nebulous project. She showed me how to hold the hook and wool and to make chain stitches except my brain wasn’t open to learning and I found it awkward, uncomfortable and frustrating. So I gave up. Lucky for me, Mum decided to leave behind her hook and ball of wool for me to practice, and on Thursday last week I idly clicked on a link in Pinterest with a tutorial on Maybe Matilda on how to crochet and decided I wanted to give it a go.

First dodgy piece of crochet
First dodgy piece of crochet

I had pinned pictures and links to beginners crochet instructions before, but this time, with a hook and wool at hand, I decided to see if I could follow the instructions and get the hang of it. I learned how to chain, create a slip stitch, do single crochet, half double crochet, double crochet and treble crochet. I also learned that there are different stitch names for different areas, and these US terms may be different to the Australian ones which makes it slightly more confusing for a beginner looking for free and easy patterns/descriptions on the internet.

My first piece of finished work was just practicing the different types of stitches and getting the hang of holding the tools. Parts of the square look pretty good and neat, and then there is the big stuff up in the middle that looks like a dogs breakfast.

But it wasn’t as complicated as I had expected and I figured out different dos and don’ts courtesy of the time-old trial and error method and by observing the process carefully to understand the stitches better.

After finishing the square I was high on achievement and decided to press my luck and try crocheting in the round. I found another tutorial and tried a couple of different methods of creating a circle and ended up with a little purple cone that looks slightly rude. Convinced I was ready to move on to greater things, I decided to make a beanie using my new-found skills. I was following a pattern for a premature baby beanie, yet as I crocheted I decided I wanted to make myself a hat. Hmmmm. So I just kind of followed my nose and stitched my way round and round and round and into the night while mi novio slept.

Pink crochet hat
Pretty in pink

After more googling I figured out how to decrease the huge circumference I’d stitched and give it sides. Consulting the mirror a few times to get the length of the sides right I finally tied it off and grinned proudly at the result, something I would actually wear and that looked fancier than a regular beanie (thanks to my ignorant freestyling which thankfully worked out for the better).

Next on the learn list were crochet flowers. I had two different pinks, a red, a green and a Christmassy multicolour wool in my craft box from earlier pom pom and craft projects so I used the other pinks to create two different flowers and made a tiny fuchsia coloured one to pin to my new hat. I love crochet flowers. They look fabulous but are definitely more difficult to do because you really have to count stitches, something that is tedious for me and I think I ended up going off pattern again a few times.

Baby headband in progress
Baby headband in progress

Three more little things followed, crocheting the headband for a brain-squasher (with mi novio‘s baby niece in mind), making some cute little hearts that could easily be turned into Christmas tree ornaments or stitched onto something like a headband and a curlicue, a crochet firework-like spiral.

I’ve been lucky to have the time and finally the ganas (one of my favourite Spanish words indicating desire, will or energy to actually do something) to practice and create and in the space of 4 days I managed to produce a number of little things and my hat. I don’t think I have the patience or passion to become accomplished at crochet and I doubt I will remember how to do all these things without following instructions every time, but I’ve found another way to be creative and to produce and get that great sense of achievement when you finish something you didn’t realise you could do. I’ve also received requests for hats from mi novio, D and la suegra, so I guess I have more practice coming up. I just hope my beginner’s luck continues!

Crochet flowers
Pink crochet flowers

I’ve discovered that crochet requires you to look at what you’re doing, so it’s difficult to use it to occupy your hands while watching TV, unless you just listen and watch half-heartedly, but it is a great activity to do while listening to your favourite podcasts.

If you are a beginner too or want to learn to crochet, check out my Crochet board on Pinterest for links and pages I’ve found for these projects and others I’d like to make. I think granny squares are next on my crochet learn list.

 

 

Do you crochet? How did you learn and what do you like to make?

 

When is it okay to clean out your 10 year old stepson’s room?

I’m home alone for a few days as mi novio and D went back to Santa Marta for Semana Santa.

I love having the house to myself. These periods become very relaxing, peaceful (because I can function without the TV on) and ultimately very productive. So in the past couple of days I’ve managed to clean out our bedroom, my wardrobe, the spare room and now I am working on D’s room.

I can’t admit to being a tidy person. Thankfully, mi novio and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to tidying and cleaning, as in my experience that is an important element for a less stressful relationship. I am also a hoarder. I have stuff and when I go through my things to throw them out, sentimentality overwhelms any motivation to de-clutter. When I moved to the US a few years ago, I didn’t even pack up my little family cottage. Mum said if she needed the place she would clean it out and pack it up. It was a bit of a different story when I moved to Colombia. I finally realised that I was going overseas for an indefinite period of time, and it was highly likely that the bits and bobs I was saving for “some day when I have kids” or “for when I have a costume party to go to” just wouldn’t even be unpacked but stay in my mother’s container of hoarded items, so I had a market stall, dropped off three boxes to the op-shop and threw out a heap of junk.

Having entered D’s room to put some clean clothes away, I decided his room also had to be on my clean out list. D certainly didn’t inherit his grandmother’s penchant for cleaning, nor do I think he falls into the same untidy/disorganised category as mi novio. I actually think he is the messiest of us all. Maybe it’s because he’s a ten year old boy, but about two weeks ago he spent a whole afternoon supposedly cleaning up his room. In his ten year old mind that obviously didn’t mean sweeping under the bed or cleaning out and re-organising the shelves.

When I think back to my time as a 10 year old, I had just moved into my very own room. It had a built in desk and shelves where I could put all my little ornaments (and there were a lot of them). I loved having my privacy. I think it was not long after this that I started to have regular toybox clean ups. My ritual would involve opening up the toybox and pulling out all sorts of things – mostly junk – and then convincing my younger brothers and sister that it would be great for them. In effect, I tidied up my toybox, and would carefully put everything back in the box in neat piles, yet the junk only moved to another room of the house.

I also remember the fear whenever Nan came to stay. Almost every single time she came to stay she would get the rake out of the shed and rake out our rooms while we were at school. This was terrifying for all of us and I’m still not sure whether Mum sanctioned this behaviour or not. Perhaps Mum now feels somewhat vindicated of her own hoarding that would also come under threat whenever Nan came, because she then had to clean out Nan’s house after she moved into a nursing home and Mum discovered Nan’s very own hoarding habit hidden in a four bedroom house.

I tried to keep in mind what it was like having someone else forcibly enter my room and clean it out according to their own definitions of rubbish while I was in D’s room, but ultimately I just got on with it. My compromise was a bag of things that I would be happy to throw out, but that D should see first. I’m curious as to whether he will actually go through that bag and put away neatly any of those things.

It will be interesting to find out whether I suddenly become the wicked stepmother, or whether he’ll take it all in his stride and be happy with the new pairs of tracksuit pants I’ve bought and left on his bed as a surprise. There’s also the Easter chocolate he won’t be expecting to sweeten the deal even further. Let’s hope that at the very least, the Lego stays in one general area and not end up in every single drawer, nook and cranny of his room. I think that would be called a cleaning win.

What’s your approach to cleaning a 10 year old’s bedroom, is it their job or your job?

 

 

Pieces of home

Contents of care packageMy mum is coming to visit soon. Yay!

She was here just 6 months ago with Dad to celebrate her birthday (which I completely forgot to blog about), so it was very unexpected that she would make the long journey again so soon. She either loves Colombia, loves to travel or loves and misses me… Most likely her reasons are all of the above.

The great thing about having Mum visit is the second 23kg suitcase of goodies she can bring me. And of course the simple fact that I get to hug my mummy and laugh crazily about silly things with her; we’re two peas in a pod in that respect. The post in Colombia is notoriously unreliable and cannot be trusted, which means care packages and online shopping are out of the question, unless of course you like throwing your money to the gale-force wind. While my aunt sent a small parcel before Christmas that arrived two days after Christmas, the two parcels Mum sent in December haven’t. The government contracted post company 4/72 said it could take up to 6 months to arrive and they can’t do anything about finding it unless they have a registered mail code for a service which Australia Post doesn’t provide for Colombia. I have little hope that either will arrive, and believe that some Colombian is now wearing Chesty Bonds singlets meant for mi novio and watching my friends’ Aussie film Blinder (doubt there’ll be a Spanish option there). This situation makes me cranky just thinking about it, and I think Mum secretly has some ulterior motive to come and give the postal company here a good ear-bashing along the lines of how she managed to arrive in Colombia before her parcels.

So, the goodies!! Mum will be bringing more items from my wardrobe, that is, what she hasn’t already brought over. I just hope she can find my pink heels which are probably stored in some plastic crate in her container.

I also took the opportunity to do some online shopping and have it sent to Mum. I bought some Bonds underwear because that is a staple. Did you know that here in Colombia that don’t let you try on white bras?!?!!? I don’t get it, are my boobs supposed to be dirty?!?! Anyway, I also bought some new pajamas because I like a slouchy style that is difficult to find here in nice patterns and colours ie. not cutesy prints on white or a bedtime version of the legging. Speaking of leggings, I also bought a couple of pairs of them too since I haven’t had much luck with the leggings here. Two out of three pairs developed a mysterious illness called “Camille is too grande for these poorly made, imported from China, tight pants” and have split while trying to contain my backside. This wasn’t just a seam split, but a failure in the fabric that saw it disintegrate and leave a huge gaping hole directly under the buttocks while riding my bike one Ciclovia Sunday; hardly a modest look for a girl in her mid-thirties and truth-be-told it’s scared me off buying more leggings.

My shopping spree wasn’t just all about me and my penchant for Australian brands, I also bought the boys some clothes. A tee and hoodie for D and a couple of singlets for mi novio because he is obsessed with showing off his biceps and rarely finds formfitting singlets for males here and so spends most of our shopping outings drooling over women’s active-wear. If I don’t feed his need for tight muscle-flashing singlets I’m convinced he will one day buy a women’s tank top and work a bit more on his pecs just to fill it out at the front.

I also bought a really cute dinosaur print doona cover for D. As it’s a kids print, the biggest size was a double and I’m now worried that his doona is queen size. That may require another shopping trip to buy a new doona for the dino cover…

I think that was about all the online shopping, but as if I haven’t already spent enough money on things just for the sake of it, I’m still toying with the idea of buying an on-sale Charlie Brown dress as she is my favourite designer and makes such flattering clothes for my shape and has great prints. I’ve also been researching fleecy-lined leggings/footless tights. I asked for a pair of these last time Mum visited since my one and only pair have started to emulate the dodgy street-bought leggings, but think they were either out of season or unavailable in Target or Kmart. Actually any hosiery in general is good. Cool colours and designs of good, non-ballsy quality are hard to find, and if you find them, chances are the biggest size still won’t accommodate the legs of an average sized foreigner who towers over most Colombianas and will leave the crotch hanging about mid-thigh height.

As far as what I’m leaving it up to Mum to buy, Australian food is high on the wanted list. I’ve got a good stock of Vegemite and recently received a care package from a friend via her colleague’s parents who live in Bogotá which included Vegemite. Tim Tams are always in fashion (original flavour or the dark choc covered bites are the best). I also love, love, love Cherry Ripes and ask for Caramello Koalas which D loves (not sure if it’s because it’s chocolate or if he likes the koalas because they seem so Aussie to him). I usually also get Murray River Pink Salt, which if you are Australian you really should have in your house, not just for its great taste and cool colour but because it helps overcome an environmental issue and is one of the flagship brands coming out of my hometown. I also recently got pink salt from my friend so I think I have enough until the next visitor comes.

Other great Australian products I love are Lucas’ Papaw ointment for my lips, Thursday Plantation tea tree ointment for insect bites and, it’s a bit icky to say, feminine hygiene products. I have plenty of papaw and tea tree ointment, and can get by with OB tampons (even though they’re not as great or technologically advanced as my favourite brand back home) but I have been unable to find a good pantyliner here that is thin and doesn’t feel like photocopy paper, so I put in a request for those from Mum.

Living in another country makes you appreciate all the little everyday items from home, and due to their scarcity they become little luxuries. While I’m looking forward to Mum arriving with a suitcase of little luxuries and a taste of my homeland for us, I think she’s hanging out for the luxury of eating patacones, arepas, empanadas and mi novio‘s special arroz de coco.

What are your top three care package items from home? How do you get around unreliable mail services in Colombia?

The hoarding must stop

The live-in help's bedroom turned storeroom
The cleaned out storeroom with just one bag of plastic bags remaining. Hard to believe you couldn’t see any of the slats pre clean-up.

We live in an apartment that has a tiny room and bathroom for a live-in maid.

At least half the apartments we looked at had a room for such purpose (cuarto de servicio), and being from a country where people don’t have live-in help (unless they are super wealthy) that came as a bit of a surprise.

Knowing that we would not be having live-in help, the tiny little room that is about as big as a double bed and its attached bathroom off the laundry became our storeroom. A better name would be to call it the junk room and that spells disaster for a genetically programmed hoarder.

The narrow single bed is built in at waist level atop cupboards where we store suitcases and boxes (kept for the time when we have to move again). The built in floor to ceiling cupboard is the linen press with shelves dedicated to cleaning equipment and one shelf for the Christmas decorations. The Christmas tree, wreath and tubes of baubles are stored in the shower of the bathroom, along with the polystyrene base for the fridge box. On top of the slats for the bed is where the hoarding happens. This is where the reusable shopping bags and backpack are kept, thrown on top of whatever old newspaper or handful of plastic bags. It is a huge mess and a pile of absolutely unnecessary crap that I think has been stressing me out and making me feel blah.

Sending the boys off on an adventure to Nemocon salt mine, I attacked this room with the mission to get of crap and plastic bags.

I started by removing all the recycling to in front of the apartment door so that the boys could take it down to the basement on their way out. I’m rather ashamed to admit that there were 20 egg trays that I had ostensibly been saving to make some egg carton flowers I’d found on Pinterest but never made. They went out, along with the newspaper magazines and catalogues. We had a full sack of plastic bottles I sent down as well. The biggest surprise for me was the sheer quantity of plastic bags we had cluttering up this little room. La suegra had bagged them up neatly when she was here last, but still, they had gotten out of control.

I think it’s worth mentioning the unhealthy relationship that Colombia has with plastic bags. I have never seen anyone take a reusable shopping bag to the supermarket. There seems to be something of a push to get people to use reusable bags, but it’s not embraced. At the supermarket they sometimes even ask if you want your shop double-bagged so it doesn’t break. All bags also come printed with a message saying to reduce plastic bag use, but I don’t think many people have actually read that, and no checkout operator pays any attention to it. So despite using plastic supermarket bags as bin liners and halving the plastic bags we receive at the supermarket by taking a backpack and another jumbo carry bag, we have an unhealthy mountain range the size of the Sierra Nevada in plastic bags.

Reducing the number of plastic bags in our possession was one of my top goals. I started by reviewing the shopping bags and separating the ones with holes from the whole ones (no pun intended). The good ones we could use for bin liners were put in a long plastic bag that had originally contained 6 x 1.1L bags of milk. That is now strung up and is where all the bin bags will be kept. I also kept the jumbo sized bags as they often come in handy, but only kept the best ones and put them all in one bag. I also like to keep the nice ones that you get from clothing and gift stores, and again only picked out the very best that I may actually use one day. We now have the two infrequently used bag types stored in the laundry cupboard, where it should be noted that I found even more stashed bags…

While I just kind of chucked about 5 bags of plastic bags, I am starting to wonder if the supermarkets here have bag recycling points. I feel like I may have seen a few, but then I don’t know if my mind is playing tricks on me and superimposing an Australian supermarket over my local Jumbo. I felt guilty about just chucking them without checking for a supermarket recycling point first, but if I had waited then it would probably end up like when I bag up clothes to take to the op shop and instead of making an immediate trip there it just ends up being stored away again and no space is de-cluttered.

In addition to the massive plastic bag chuck out, I also reorganised the kitchen cupboards and cleaned everything thoroughly, getting rid of the greasy grime on the cupboard doors. Now I just have to hope that my boys will live by the new plastic bag rule, and that I don’t fall back into this old hoarding habit.

What do you hoard?

Settling in to Bogotá

I’ve spent the past few weeks settling into Bogotá, my new job and our apartment. After seven months living with la suegra, I’ve been busy creating a home with mi novio. The shopping and nesting has been aided somewhat by three long weekends in the space of a month.

Apartment hunting in Bogotá isn’t as straight-forward as I thought it would be, and we ran into one huge obstacle, the aseguradora. It seems the majority of apartments for rent send the applications off to an insurance company who scrutinise your income and debts and those of your guarantor (in Spanish it’s called a co-deudor). Your guarantor needs to not only own property, but have an income higher than your monthly rent as well. They also must be Colombian, or here in Colombia to sign the paperwork, a difficult requirement to meet if you are a foreigner. All this is just to RENT an apartment.

When our application for our favourite apartment failed because our co-deudor didn’t have one document they were asking for and we refused to pay a deposit of COP$9,000,000 (US$4,680) we had to start all over again and about COP$100,000 (US$52) poorer with the application processing fee of COP$80,000 and the zillions of phone calls that were made over it.

We were more than a little disheartened, but thankfully mi novio spent a day traipsing around the neighbourhood where we wanted to live and set up four inspections. We loved the first one. It was very similar to the previous favourite, but had three bedrooms plus a servant’s quarters (something that I’ve never seen in Australia except heritage properties) and was a little bit more expensive. We loved the apartment so much that we called the owner and managed to arrange a contract where in lieu of going through the aseguradora, we drew up a contract with the owner and agreed to pay one month in advance so we will always be a month ahead of our rent payments. We cancelled the rest of the appointments and started jumping around with joy.

Because we were dealing directly with the owner – who conveniently is a lawyer – we were able to move in three days later. Woohoo! No more hostel!

After the early morning handover with the owner, we hit the shops to start buying homewares. We happened upon a great bargain on a TV at 25% off the regular price, and although it wasn’t the highest priority, it found its way to the register along with a fridge, washing machine, crockery set and a few other bits and pieces. When I went to pay for everything with my Australian credit card it came back rejected. Uh-oh! It turns out my credit card had been blocked after withdrawing cash from the ATM (which I never do) and in three transactions in order to get the amount we needed to pay our landlord that morning. We then had to reprioritise our purchases as I couldn’t pay for all of them with my Australian debit card either and mi novio had nothing left in his account. So we took the TV home as that was on sale for one day only and I wasn’t prepared to lose the COP$300,000 discount.

Despite the stretched daily finances, we went to another store where we bought an inflatable couch that flips into a mattress so we had something to sleep on. Realising that we hardly had any cash, I went to the ATM to withdraw enough to get us back to the hostel and then a taxi with all our bags to the apartment. I had insufficient funds. Slightly preoccupied, we went back to our new apartment, complete with big screen TV, and counted every last coin to come to a grand total of COP$14,000 (US$7.30). We needed COP$3,000 for the bus to the hostel, and then we only had COP$9,000 for the taxi back, which was going to be a stretch. We were also starving because we had hardly eaten all day.

First night in our apartment with just the essentials.
First night in our apartment with just the essentials.

I thought mi novio had a few thousand pesos in his account so I said we should go to the supermarket to get some food. Unfortunately his card was rejected. So I tried my credit card again. No go. I then handed over my debit card praying the purchase of COP$12,000 would go through, and it did. We had similar pure luck in flagging down a taxi and negotiating with the driver to peg the fare at all we had, COP$9,000. So rather than celebrating our first night in our own place in a grand style, we sat on our inflatable couch/bed in front of the TV on the floor eating bread rolls and sharing a bottle of Coca-Cola.

The next two weeks were filled with the arrival of our furniture and belongings from Santa Marta, shopping for more homewares and four deliveries of white goods (although I should call them silver-goods since the fridge and washing machine aren’t white) and furniture. Delivery by delivery, our apartment transformed from a shell into a home.

I love the process of setting up home – must be my Taurean traits shining through – and this is the second time in two years that I’ve furnished a place pretty much from scratch. This apartment of our own has been such a long time coming that I’ve been reluctant to leave it at the weekend, which I’m sure has caused my housebound novio some frustrations. I’ve been baking and although the oven isn’t perfect (the temperature dial requires the use of pliers and the temperature range doesn’t have precision markings) it is holding up to my needs and placating mi novio somewhat with sweet treats.

The best part is that we live a short walk from my work so not only do I avoid the gridlocked commute,

I can come home for lunch. If that’s not luxury in Bogotá, I don’t know what is.

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.