A Mixed Bag

by

Yesterday started well and ended poorly. At about 730 am I left the hostel to explore more of Bogota. I walked down Carrera Septima, a somewhat major road, and arrived at the Plaza de Bolivar, Bogota´s central plaza. Like any plaza in the Americas, there is a cathedral and a bunch of government buildings surrounding it on all sides. In this case, there was a big, pillar-strewn structure for congress; a basic yet ok looking building for the mayor; and a massive, overbearing Supreme Court building. Behind the cathedral, a green mountain rises at a steep vertical angle. A little church sits atop that big mountain. It looked so tiny from my vantage point. Overall, it was picturesque. In one corner of the plaza, there was a group of about 40-60 people living in a little tent city. One man stood in front of them all, saying something that was too fast to comprehend. They were, for the most part, families. I asked a police officer standing nearby what these people were doing there. He said they are “desplazados”, which means displaced. Displaced by Guerilla groups. The people were there to ask Colombia´s national government for help with relocation. I then walked around to see the plaza from all angles. I sat down near the displaced Colombians, and began a conversation with the guy sitting next to me. He was also displaced by the guerillas. He told me a story of one of his fellow villagers:

A father and daughter lived in a small village. Guerillas abducted the daughter, who was about 13 years old. The father tried to get his daughter back, but all this got him was death. And no one knows what happened to the girl.

I´ve had this opinion for a while, and it keeps getting reaffirmed: the use of violence to obtain an improvement in society´s overall condition will always end with lots of suffering and no tangible improvement. Back to the touristy stuff.

After that somber note, I walked back down carrera septima to go to el cerro de monserrate, a peak of about 10,000 feet above sea level. Bogota itself is 7500 feet above sea level. So this hill shot up about half a mile above the whole sprawling city of Bogota. To get up there, there was a thing called the funerico, which was a train that went at a very, very steep angle up the side of the mountain. If the engine and brakes failed, it would be sure death. I got to the top. I was sweating a lot(I had to walk a little bit to actually get to the train and, moreover, its hard for a smoker to walk uphill in a smoggy city). The view was spectacular. I was so high above the city that I could, literally, see almost every nook and cranny of it. Ok, this needs more explanation. Bogota is on a high plateu amongst the Andes mountains. On one side, where I was standing, Bogota is cut off by a rim of peaks. On the other side, where buildings go off into the horizon, there are no mountains. After walking around and taking pictures, I took the train back down and went to la Quinta de Bolivar. The latter was a summer house of sorts for the Simon Bolivar(you know, the guy who has a country named after him). The house itself was nothing special, but the Garden was beautiful. All sorts of strange, exotic, pretty flowers sprouted up at every corner. My personal favorite was the giant pink rose. It was about the size of a big person´s fist.

After all this, I changed my room at the hostel(again, and will have to do it again today) and took a nap. I rose and chatted it up with the gringos here. Eventually, we decided to go to the upscale Zona Rosa, in the North of Bogota. Because the beer is worth nothing here(like a light budlight), I sipped down a bottle of rum before we went out. Before that, I had taken imodiums as a precautionary measure. We went to some bar in la zona rosa. The others with me danced, I did not, as usual. I wanted to take some pictures of the revelry, but when I looked inside my backpack there was nothing there. I left my camera in the taxi, or someone stole it. Probably the former. Now, I have to go buy a camera somewhere. Oh, also, Zona Rosa was really expensive compared to the rest of Bogota. Then, as I was sitting there content, a steady wave of pain rose in my stomach. It continued to rise, until it was unbearable. Hurt like a motherfucker. It was like having to throw up and taking a nasty bowel movement at the same time and also the sharp pain doesn´t let up. Luckily, for me, I have experienced this before. Happened to me in Peru. A simple ham and cheese sandwich is the cure. I think it was a combination of the new microbes in the food, the imodium, an empty stomach, and alcohol. A perfect recipe for some of the most acute pain I´ve felt in my life. On that note, I notified my fellow gringo friends of my problem, and one person, Simon, went back with me while the others stayed out. I´m ok now, though my stomach still grumbles now and then.

Now, I have to go buy a camera and re-take some photos. Blah.

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