¡Vale! so we’re now located on my cousin’s beautiful finca (farm) outside of Armenia in the Quindío district in La Cordillera Central. It’s very lush, green, and tropical out here, and you can bet that I’m gorging myself on exotic fruits. But before I delve any deeper into the sweaty scene here, let me first describe the bus journey to get here, and a few more things I wanted to say about Bogotá before I’m done wid it.
First of all, you know that you’re in trouble when you arrive at the terminal de buses (bus station)—which is a very large, clean, and organized station as far as such things go—and there is a large sign situated outside of the entrance listing all of the different bus companies and their number of accidentes (accidents) and muertos (deaths) for the year. Yes, so apparently the way that one keeps track of the quality of service down here is not by cleanliness, customer service, or food options, but rather by the death tally.
Why this is so becomes apparent once one is locked into the bus, swinging from side to side sucking down fumes as the bus whips down the windiest, narrowest road descending 6,000 ft going 70 mph around hair-pin turns on the wrong side of the road passing horse-drawn carts and families sunning themselves on the side of the road and men lounging in all manner of distraction, and women in tropical wear (read: scantily clad) strutting along in heels. The scenery itself is beautiful, lush, and Hawaii/Amazon/South East Asian in greenness and density of flowers and trees. The views from the mountainsides are breathtaking, but fortunately (and I’ll get to why it is a fortune in a minute), I pretty much nodded off the entire time, happily tossing gently in my soft reclining seat like a potato in a nest. It was fortunate that I was pretty much asleep the entire time, because if I had been awake, I probably would have been pissing in mis pantalones when I saw the kinds of manuevers that my bus driver was making. As it was, I was for the most part blissfully unaware, until the latter part of the trip when I woke back up and watched the bus plummeting seemingly brakeless around a 75 degree turn with no separation between myself and a cliff-drop to oblivion.
What’s interesting about all of this, of course, is that this method of driving (i.e. without any apparent concern for safety) is completely 100 porciente normal here.
So that was the trip. Now to finish with some observations on Bogotá: on Sundays, they close off some of the main streets to cars, and runners, dog-walkers, bikers, and rollerskaters come out in force, for what is perhaps the one day of exercise for many of them. It’s a beatiful thing, seeing them all arrayed along the road in various states of enjoyment or exhaustion, women in sweats swiveling their hips and stretching, men with short-shorts running heavily along, dogs that normally never leave the house suddenly stretched along their leashes and barking joyously, children in spandex uniforms and helmets rollerskating . . . which leads me to my next point:
The uniforms. As in Perú, people here are really into clarifying their roles. Whether you are pumping gas, a policeman, someone cleaning up trash, or a worker on the side of the road, you’ve got some kind of colorful uniform on to denote your function. It seems to even be inherent in the language itself when it comes to delineating the distinctions between masculine and feminine—and thus, women and men themselves seem to have a kind of standard uniform to denote their gender: the women wear tight pants, and the men wear collared shirts (a broad generalization, but when you walk around the streets, this is the kind of stratification you’ll observe). In other words, despite the chaos that is the pedestrian and vehicular traffic, things are still very formal in many other ways.
One other thing: there are security guards everywhere. Standing next to cafés, in parking lots, in every room in museums, in malls, etc. Everywhere. In addition to the police and military standing about everywhere as well. It’s somewhat disconcerting, especially when a security guard comes up to you when you are just taking a picture of a mannequin in a storefront window outside of a mall and tells you not to take any pictures. I asked my cousin about all the seguridad privada and he laughed and said they were there to protect la policía. I guess that makes sense when you consider the broader situation in Colombia.