The overused metaphor of the ‘deep end’ seems pretty apt to describe my first few days!  The airport ordeal started things off to a confusing start, reminding me that my Spanish is far from fluent or indeed adequate to navigate Colombian predicaments…the latest being Spanish drinking games…however, everyone I’ve met so far has gone out of their way to help me and make me feel at home and I can’t thank them enough and given that not many people speak English, I haven’t got much choice but to improve my Spanish!

I am staying with Diego, the head of CPDH who lives with his mum and Camilo, the man who came to pick me up.  Diego’s mum is brilliant – she’s always lived in the north which is much hotter so she spends her days in cold, rainy Bogota in bed with a hot water bottle, radio and television on full blast, usually ‘Colombia’s got talent’ or something similar.  My room is off the balcony which has a great view but is pretty chilly at night. 

Bogota is a hugely varied and bustling city, seemingly simply laid out in a grid formation which is deceptive as each address I’ve tried to find has been an exception to the logic of the grid – a ‘calle 19B’ miles from calle 19 or 20, or streets which are parallel until they branch off and are suddenly called different names.  Navigating the city is made easier by various landmarks and the ominous mountains providing a fitting backdrop for the incongruous city.  What I mean by that is the city has so many contrasting characters.  Walking through the romantic Candelaria with its brightly coloured houses, cobbled streets and colonial architecture leads you to the sprawling shopping centre with warbling buskers and people selling bizarre objects – one of my favourites being handmade dog costumes his rat of a dog was lovingly modelling.  At Halloween everyone, children and adults, was dressed up all day, trick or treating (quite aggressively!) in shops throughout the city.  I’ve spotted two ginger Colombians which has been reassuring!  I don’t feel as much of an outsider as I actually am as Bogota is impressively cosmopolitan – one day I’m sure I’ll blend in effortlessly… 

Image

CPDH is a really interesting organisation and I’m looking forward to really getting involved with what they do.  They have lots of projects throughout the country focusing on different themes and addressing the particular needs of certain populations.  In Bogota, of the 8 permanent employees, three are human rights lawyers who do most of their work pro bono.  Their work is dangerous and whenever I have been with then we’ve travelled in a car with blacked out windows, a driver and body guard!  Given the precarious relationship these organisations often have with the state when condemning acts of violence which continue to go unpunished, human rights organisations have to tread carefully.  Diego and others in the organisation have been threatened, really hammering home the risks these people take as they fight for social justice.  So far I haven’t done a lot to help!  I’ve been reading documents and meeting people CPDH works with.  Hopefully when Diego gets back from the states we’ll be able to plan how I can contribute.  Hoping to work in the Bogota office for 6 months ish then travel around the country and see the other projects.

I feel like I have a good group of friends already thanks to everyone’s contacts!  The conversation exchange website I was on in London has a Bogota page so I’ve met a couple of enthusiastic Spanish teachers which has been really helpful and lots of really friendly people happy to welcome me into their groups of friends despite my ropey Spanish!  I’m looking for a more permanent flat, or room in a house – so far I’ve seen a couple so will make my mind up soon.  Luckily rent is a fifth (if not less) that of London which makes everything far less stressful!

So far so good – and as always, an open invitation to anyone to come and visit!

 

Advertisements