So I guess I’ve passed another initiation into Bogotáno life. I’ve drank aguardiente, eaten ajiaco, rolled home from a salsa club in the early hours, got sandwiched in some dudes armpit on the transmilenio and now, I’ve been robbed. It was admittedly the more passive kind of being robbed, nicer and all round more civilized than the mugging stabby, scary kind of theft. There were no knives, guns or violence just good old fashioned scamming and pickpocketing. Goodbye iPad, we had a good run, I’ll miss you.
Starting the day by rolling out of bed at the leisurely time of 6am ( a vast improvement on my usual 4:45 starts) I had some really good lessons with some of my favorite students. I took the short bus ride close to where I work and walked the few blocks in the glorious sunshine to my tutoring centre. With a smile on my face and a spring in my step I mentally congratulated myself on my lessons going well and the lovely day I’d had so far. Being the delightful model citizen and well raised British girl that I am I’d helped a woman on crutches pick up a fallen crutch, stopped a sweet old lady from falling over on the bus and had a lovely ( if grammatically poor) conversation with the guard at the office I’d worked at. I’ve often heard the saying that no good deed goes unpunished, that proved true for me because , in hindsight, it’s more than likely that one of these people stole from me.
I arrived at work in a bouncy, happy smiley and light kind of mood until I discovered the lack of iPad in my bag.When I recounted to my colleagues my days good deeds they rolled their eyes and exclaimed at my naïveté. The current front runner for criminal intention is the sweet frail little bus lady. Apparently the bus distraction is a common way of redirecting a persons attention while their things are swiped. The correct thing to have done, I am told, would of been to have let the old lady crash to the front of the bus and fall on her arse. The problem is that I don’t want to be a person who doesn’t help little old ladies, or people with broken legs. Though I also don’t want to be a person who gets robbed continually, so it’s a bit of a hard call.
I hope that this post doesn’t reflect badly on Colombians because that is so so not my intention. Colombian people are some of the most generous and friendly that I have met. Without the sympathy of the people I work and live with in Bogota my day would have been a hundred times worse. As it was I was consoled with kind words and beer and felt so much better. If I hadn’t had people around me I know I had the capacity to become a gibbering weeping wreck. As it was after a couple of hours I was laughing again and decided to let it go (LET IT GOOOOOO) not beat myself up and allow myself to chalk this one up to experience.
At the end of the day it’s just a piece of technology, a pretty expensive one unfortunately but it’s just stuff. It’s just electronics. My photos are backed up, my memories are not dependent on a hard drive and I don’t use my technology as a crutch for living. It’s unfortunate and annoying but I won’t be letting it change how I act or who I am. I’m just going to have to become a
little lot smarter.
Because this post sounds so negative I really wanted to add a link to a website with some safety tips for Bogota. Honestly I can’t find a single one I agree with. Articles about Colombia are often full of blatant scaremongering, in a city that I don’t consider worthy of such a reputation. Of course there is crime, show me a capital city of this size where there isn’t. Street smarts are recommended of course but there has to be a line drawn between caution and still living your life. Over cautious articles will advise you to always take taxis, avoid whole areas, never be alone, never go out after dark, avoid all street food, don’t eat uncooked vegetables, don’t speak to people you don’t know, only eat at established restaurant chains and never look around you or look lost. That’s great advice, you’re very unlikely to get robbed or get sick if you follow it but it isn’t the way I want to travel, it isn’t the way I want to live!
I don’t want to live in the paranoid world of under clothing money wallets, only taking taxis, always traveling in pairs and being afraid and suspicious. I want to sit in a square on a sunny day eating whatever treat I can smell drifting out at me from over the cobbles, taking in the sights and sounds of the city. I want to walk until I get lost and then try and find my way home. I want to be the kind of person that offers help when it’s needed and is open and excited to meet people. There are risks, of course, but they are calculated ones. And risks that I think are worth taking to travel and live the way I love to.