LESSONS FROM BOGOTA

I recently had the absolute privilege of traveling to Bogota, Colombia for work.

Bogota is the capital of Colombia, and when I visited last month, I got a small glimpse of life there. Traveling for work is so different from traveling for pleasure because you are often, by nature of business, interacting with locals, which I yearn for while traveling. For me, it can be difficult when I'm traveling for pleasure to make real connections with locals, so I was very grateful to be able to work side by side with my Colombian counterparts and learn about them and life in Bogota. Working abroad can be stressful, but rewarding. I was excited, yet nervous to really practice my Spanish, which has been waning ever since I stepped foot out of Chile. 

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I was there for five days, and after work each day, we tried to see a sight. In all, we got to see Montserrate, the Botero Museum, and the Quinta de Bolívar. The food was absolutely exquisite - truthfully, I did not get nearly enough - and the people were kind and welcoming (and very patient with my Spanish!). 

One conversation that really struck me, was with one of my Colombian colleagues who grew up outside of Bogota. We were talking about different places in Colombia - her favorite places to visit, must-see locations, etc. - and I nodded with familiarity when she mentioned a few locations, like Medellín and Cali. She was surprised that I knew of them, and I mentioned that my first Spanish teacher was Colombian, so I learned about Colombia then, and that I had recently watched the Netflix show Narcos, which features many cities in Colombia. I knew that talking about drugs in Colombia is taboo, but what happened next surprised me. She scowled and told me she couldn't watch shows like that. She then shared with me that she was personally affected by Colombia's drug war, like many other Colombians, I'm sure. She explained that she grew up in a small town in the countryside, and at one point it was under siege by the guerrilla fighters for over five months. She explained how frightening it was - how they hid from the fighting every day - and how people didn't leave their homes because the violence was so bad. I knew that the violence was real, and recent, and when watching the show I often (perhaps morbidly) think about how each actor killed for our entertainment probably represents at least one actual death. But hearing about it from someone who was affected by the war first hand really put things into perspective with me.

  Carrabomba, a painting by Botero paying homage to the many victims of car bombings during the drug war. 

Carrabomba, a painting by Botero paying homage to the many victims of car bombings during the drug war. 

I did a bit of research to see how the show was received in Colombia, and if they did anything to help the Colombian people whose pain they were profiting from. It seems that overall the show is well-received, and viewed as painfully authentic among Colombians (other than the Spanish accents). The show was filmed in Colombia, bringing money to the economy, and employed Colombian actors and actresses. Still, I can't help but feel differently about the show after hearing a first person perspective. 

Overall, I felt the trip was really enriching, and I hope to go back on pleasure. I'd like to visit other major cities, like Cartagena, Medellin, and San Andres, which is one of places that my colleague raved about.

If you're interested on reading more about how Narcos was received in Colombia, check out these two reads, here and here.  

Hasta la Próxima/Until Next Time.