Life lessons and a kind of love letter to Colombia

love letter to Colombia
One of the oldest streets in Bogotá, in the Candelaria neighborhood

I’ve been reading about place attachment on the interwebs. It’s a fancy term for falling in love with places like one does with people. In case you’re curious as to why it’s because I really miss Colombia and can’t seem to process emotions without a Google search to tell me I’m not alone in my feelings. I’m sure I have some interesting cookies.

But for real, I left Colombia over a year ago and it’s not fading into the background the same way as some of my former “homes”. Let’s not read this sentence as I’m unhappy in Madrid or will never go back to San Diego. I love Madrid (see here: proof in blog form) and have cried many a tear over San Diego (just reference the entire archive of 2015).

Still, each time someone asks where we’d like to settle more permanently, Cody and I respond in unison, with a little too much enthusiasm, Bogotá!

When they ask us why it’s not so easy to respond.

Continue reading “Life lessons and a kind of love letter to Colombia”

Flavors of Bogotá Coffee Shop Tour

20160408_085550

Karen Attman, journalist and creator of the Flavors of Bogota foodie website, has a new love: Colombian coffee. I shouldn’t say the fascination is new, per se, because she’s lived in Colombia for many years.

Nonetheless, it was Karen’s deep appreciation of Colombian beans and a curiosity as to what made them unique which resulted in the Flavors of Bogotá Coffee Shop Tour, an experience that should be added to the list of tourists and locals alike.

This past week my friend Tiffany and I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours with Karen and learning about Colombian coffee from the ground up. Over the course of the morning, we visited three different craft coffee houses in Bogotá’s chic restaurant district, trying a different variety of bean and method of brewing at each.

In between tastings—in addition to letting our caffeine buzz wear off slightly—we heard about the history of Colombian coffee, the specific conditions which make it the best in the world, and why craft houses like the ones we’re visiting are only just now becoming popular.

Keep reading for a few cool moments from the tour.

Continue reading “Flavors of Bogotá Coffee Shop Tour”

What not to wear in Bogota

what to wear in Bogota Colombia
Don’t. Just don’t.

When planning a trip anywhere new, I inevitably do some googling about what to wear. While I know there’s no way to completely avoid looking like a tourist, my goal is always to land somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between the locals and those wearing fanny packs and American flag t-shirts.

Recently I’ve gotten a couple of reader questions about what to wear while visiting Bogotá, which makes me think that you all think I know what I’m talking about…at least a little bit. Part of that is true: after about two years in this city I can pick out tourists in a snap and know how to dress based on an invite’s time and location.

When you think of Colombia, Bogotá is kind of in a category of its own. For one thing, it’s location at about 8,500 feet above sea level means that it’s much cooler than the rest of the country. Temperatures don’t vary greatly and for the most part, hover around the low fifties. That said, there are afternoons when the sun can bring the temps to the low seventies, and chilly evenings where it can sink as low as the forties. December and January are the warm, dry months and  April/May and October/November are quite wet. Another way that Bogotá differs is that as the capital and center of business, dressing seems more formal and sophisticated than the rest of the country.

Keep reading for a few of my ideas of what to bring—or leave behind—on a trip to Colombia’s capital city.

Continue reading “What not to wear in Bogota”

Little ways I’ll always be Bogotana

becoming bogotano

You know how they say that pets resemble their owners or couples who’ve been married for years start to look alike? Well, the same can be said when you live in a foreign country—it’s inevitable that you’ll pick up a few new mannerisms and cultural quirks from your newly adopted home. It’s been no different for me in Bogotá!

Keep reading for the little ways I’ll be taking Bogotá with me when we leave.

Continue reading “Little ways I’ll always be Bogotana”

Sweet escape: The José Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden

José Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden - Front entrance

Between the quiet and the warm, dry smell of earth and pine trees in the sunshine, I didn’t feel like I was in Bogotá. I haven’t lived in Oregon for years, but smelling the evergreen trees growing in the José Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden, I was taken back to summers walking in Portland’s Laurelhurst Park with my dad.

Because of the skyscrapers and cloud cover, Bogotá can be a pretty gray place. Multiple people have recommended I visit and I’d been meaning to go for months, but if you know anything about traffic in this city, then you know how your excitement to venture out can be quickly tempered by the time of day and direction of your destination. Thankfully, Bogotá empties the week after Christmas and the visiting in-laws and I were able to make an easy afternoon visit.

Continue reading “Sweet escape: The José Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden”

Don’t miss in December: Expoartesanías and Día de las Velitas

The holidays can be a bittersweet time for expats. On the one hand, it’s hard to celebrate away from family and your normal traditions; on the other, it’s an amazing opportunity to adopt some new ones! This being our second holiday season in Bogotá, I’m feeling a little like sophomore year—you know, you’re still relatively inexperienced but have lost a bit of that deer-in-headlights look of total bewilderment. Now that I have my holiday sea-legs, I was readily anticipating two December happenings, both of which are unique to Colombia: a visit to Expoartesanías and lighting candles with my fellow Bogatanos on Día de las Velitas.

Continue reading “Don’t miss in December: Expoartesanías and Día de las Velitas”

Why no one needs Narcos

images-1
Wagner Moura as Pablo Escobar in the new Netflix series, Narcos

A couple of months ago I was walking home and saw an ad for a new TV show at a bus stop: white powder formed an outline of South America, a breeze just beginning to scatter the dust. Narcosa new drama which chronicles drug kingpin Pablo Escobar’s violent rise and years in power, was now available on Netflix and apparently Colombia was a target audience.

I’ve made no secret of the misconceptions I had of Colombia before we moved to Bogotá—misconceptions that are still common because each time I tell someone from the U.S. that I live in Colombia, it isn’t long until a reference or question about the C word tumbles out. Generally, this is quickly followed by some expression of concern for my safety. Colombia has moved beyond its notoriety for drugs and violence. When will the rest of us?

Continue reading “Why no one needs Narcos”

Sembrando Confianza: Organic eats with a social impact

sembrando confianza

I come from California, the birthplace of fancy—but unregulated and therefore technically meaningless—food buzzwords like local and natural.   That said, my first reaction at these kinds of terms is a little bit of an eye roll.  Moving to Bogotá, I wasn’t too concerned with finding an organic or local label. I find little buggies in my broccoli every week, which says to me that what I’m eating is probably more on the natural side.  However, if I can directly support small operators who really are doing their best to organically and sustainably farm, all the better!

This past week I learned about a really cool non-profit organization who is using a CSA-type program in order to make a big social impact here in Bogotá.  Sembrando Confianza, which translates to Seeds of Confidence, is a non-profit which seeks to help Bogotanos in two specific ways. Firstly, they provide education on healthier food habits and help neighborhoods in Bogotá install self-sustained, organic gardens. Secondly, they support already operating urban farmers by connecting them with a market.

Continue reading “Sembrando Confianza: Organic eats with a social impact”

An ode to micro-empresas

microempresa

Each morning and afternoon as I walk our dog I see them, dotting the walkways along the park or on the corners of the busier streets: small wooden carts, sometimes pushed or with a bicycle seat, generally with an umbrella, each offering neat rows of snacks, sweets and cigarettes.  The fancier ones have glass cases perched at one end, where cups of fruit wait or empanadas steam up the glass.  No matter where you are in Bogotá, you aren’t far from a bag of peanuts or a cough drop.  To my eyes fresh from the U.S., these little carts and stands dotting the sidewalks in Bogotá initially seemed disorganized, unattractive and cluttering the already crowded streets.  Now, I see them as a charming part of the city’s backdrop and something I’ll miss once we leave.

Continue reading “An ode to micro-empresas”

Cristal Artesanal – Handblown glass in Bogotá

small glassware shelf

Don’t let the simple façade fool you, there are treasures inside Cristal Artesanal’s  warehouse in La Candelaria.  As soon as we stepped inside, I immediately regretted bringing a purse…firstly because I wanted to buy everything in sight and secondly because I quite literally felt like a bull in a china shop and was terrified I’d knock something over.  This past week I spent an hour happily (and carefully!) browsing through the seemingly endless shelves of glassware, adding things to my “spot” at the checkout counter.

Continue reading “Cristal Artesanal – Handblown glass in Bogotá”