Saturday, October 25, 2008
FBO: 'Colombians Are Nice & Happy (But Some Bite)'
The 70-year-old German who invited himself to sit with me at a orange-and-green restaurant near my guesthouse had bite marks on his finger, his arm and -- he indicated with a point -- his lower leg.
Bogota doesn't always have the best reputation for being a safe place. A couple years ago when I was here, a Juan Carlos (I met more than one) stopped a conversation mid-sentence in a central business office when a loud boom could be heard. 'Oh, you're lucky. It's a bomb!,' he said excitedly. Then after a moment, 'Oh, it was just a blown tire.' Outside a car driver stood by his stranded vehicle, hands on hips.
The German is travelling for half a year around South America, which I managed to understand despite his not being able to understand any English ('how are you?' 'I'm 70!' 'uh, no how are you? are you doing OK?' 'yes, I am 70'). Yesterday, his first day in Bogota, he went on a hike to a nearby mountain through one of the sketchiest areas of the city, and one everyone tells you to avoid. But the German went anyway and when two guys '50 years younger' than him approached he fought them off, and then they BIT him. Eventually he let go of 80 euro and a camera. On the way back, he got robbed again.
This is not the sort of experience I've had so far in this city of the world's third-happiest country. Sticking with busier areas with better reputations, Bogota to me has been a place that when you ender a grocery, museum or cafe, you're pretty much expected to give a smiling 'buenas dias' to whomever you see. People have been patient with my stumbling Spanish, laughing and urging me to continue. I met someone the other day who, when I mentioned I was interested in tejo (a traditional game involving throwing weights at gunpowder in warehouses with free entrance as long as you buy a 'box of beer' and use the urinal with a full view of the games), he immediately drove me -- past the red-light district, where locals and skimpily-clad woman exchanged words on street corners -- to a tejo place where a dignified group of gray hairs in suits stumbled out and warmly shook my hand. 'Ah, you like tejo too?'
--> Meanwhile, the FBO looks forward to seeing the next bit at either the Judas Priest show Nov 2, the first-ever Ratt concert in Colombia next week, or the three-day Rock al Parque (with many South American rock bands) at Plaza Bolivar next weekend.
Mobile HQ -- Bogota, Colombia