Friday, February 26, 2010


Cazuca is a neighborhood on the southern outskirts of Bogota.  It's one of several neighborhoods populated mainly by displaced people.  These are people who lost everything fleeing their homes because of the conflict; often, they are the victims of people targeting them in order to take over their land.  These are people with traditions rooted strongly in the lifestyle of the campo and of farming, who know how to make their living using skills related to that lifestyle-- and who are now uprooted and forced into a city where few of those skills and traditions are relevant.  It's a very poor area.

My NGO partners with a children's organization in Cazuca called Growing Together.  One Thursday, my coworker and I took the hour and a half-long busride to Cazuca to visit them. Here is what Cazuca looks like:

Twilight beneath the mountains

Just two photos I took on the way home from work. 


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sunday Stroll

So, my second Sunday here, after my first full week in Bogota, I went out in search of a bike.  It was kind of a long walk, and by the time I got there all the shops were closed.  But, I got these pictures, and got to spend a nice sunday afternoon strolling through Bogota.  

I walked through this plaza on my way home from work every day (I have a bike now, so I'm not there as often).  It's at the intersection of the east-west street closest to my apartment with the Septima, 7th Ave, the main street.  The Gold Museum faces onto this plaza as well.  

Different corner, same plaza- a street performer has gathered a crowd.  

...And picks someone to dance with!

Next up, a clown.  

In a much bigger, farther away plaza, people mill around.  These two little girls in matching outfits made me happy.  

Finally, I got to the street with all the bike shops.  My disappointment was curbed by the pretty view out to the mountains- still just as dominant a part of the skylines twenty blocks away as they are two blocks away, where I live.  


Bogota has 7.3 million inhabitants, so it can get pretty crowded and lively.  Shortly after taking this photos, I stopped and bought a bunch of fresh tangerines from a man with a handcart piled high with them.  I ate one as I mosied the rest of the way home. 

I swung by the Plaza Bolivar (the main square) on my way home, where I joined some other people in smiling ridiculously at this tiny, tiny little girl giggling hysterically as she chased after these two adorably petite puppies- one was a little puffball, the other a baby terrier.  Sadly, my camera's battery was dead, but trust me: it was a cute overload moment. 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Animals in the City

There are so many animals in Bogota!  dogs chill out on sidewalks, horsecarts trot down the main streets next to taxis and colectivos, and it's not uncommon to pass people leading donkeys laden with supplies.  I'm moving chronologically through my photos here.... I know there are more coming up later, but for now, here!  I give you a horse!

This is a plaza near my apartment; you can see the weekly flea market going on in the background. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Friday Evening in Bogota

My first Friday in Bogota, I decided to walk home from work- and happened upon the other time per week when the main street is closed to traffic for miles.  Imagine if every Sunday morning and Friday evening, Washington DC closed 18th Street to traffic from Adam's Morgan through Dupont, the business district, past the White House, all the way to the Mall... and everyone walked along it, people set up kiosks with fruit, jewelry, and artisan crafts, and street performers carved out space to dance, sing, or even paint.  That's what Carrera 7a is like in Bogota, except that Bogota has ten times the population of DC!  It was a lot of fun.

I stood up on something in the sidewalk to take this picture, and this guy at a kiosknext to it started goofing around, joking that I should take his picture.  So:

He even got a friend to pose with him!

These paintings were surpisingly good for something done so quickly on the street!

The Transmilenio is less than a decade old, and is the only public transportation in Bogota.  Don't get me wrong, there are a ton of buses here, but they're all privately owned.  The Transmilenio is the only bus with a map, and it has stations where you can transfer for free.  Plus, for much of their routes, they have their own lane, allowing them to move much faster than other traffic.

The light was gorgeous.

Then, twilight fell.

I stopped in a plaza with a market.  People wandered through the kiosks, and sat laughing and chatting with friends around the statue.

I loved the way the jewelry hanging in some of the kiosks caught the light, and almost hid the shopkeepers inside.  I bought a bag that ended up breaking within a week, but I've since reinforced the seams with my own stitchwork. 

A street in La Candelaria.

That night, I went out on my own to explore the nightlife.  And what did I find?


A group of street-performing clowns had attracted a large crowd in the plaza near my house (which, it turns out, is something of a social center).  They had the audience eating out of the palms of their hands (me included), juggling fire and machetes and riding six-foot-tall unicycles.

I even got a picture with one!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

First view of La Candelaria

The day after I moved into my apartment, I headed out on a stroll through my new neighborhood, La Candelaria.


I came upon this lovely intersection, which had a pretty yellow church, and art museum, and a large library.  I went into the library to get a card, and was disappointed to discover that in Colombia, libraries have membership fees!  The cheapest membership allows you to take out three books at a time for a five-day period.  For more money, you can take out videos and other materials as well, with increasing numbers and increasingly long time limits.  Libraries should be free, dammit!  For shame, Colombia, for shame! 

In any case, I moved on to the main square, called Plaza Bolivar, where people of all ages were out enjoying the Sunday afternoon. 

In this last picture, you can see the Biciclovia.  Every Sunday, the city of Bogota closes the main street to traffic, and Seventh Ave becomes a lane for bicycles, rollerbladers, pedestrians, dog-walkers, and little kids being pulled in fake plastic cars.  Vendors with brightly colored umbrellas sell their wares- fruit, candy, jewelry- along the way.  I mostly managed to get pictures of the slower-moving or stationary sights along the Biciclovia; there were some really delightful faster-moving sights as well-- like the guy carrying his dog on his bicycle.  The dog had her back paws resting on the man's lap, and her front paws on the handlebars, just inside of where the man was holing them.  Adorable!  Also, an old, frail-looking man in royal blue sweats and a baseball cap, cruising along on a rusty old bike.  Anyway, here's what I did manage to take pictures of:

At one point, a military guy asked to search my bag (I assume in an effort to prevent terrorism), so in return I took his picture.  I enjoy taking photos of police/military; there are more to come of the men in riot gear near the march I saw this past Saturday.  My perception of military culture is that it's very impersonal: you are the uniform, you do what you're told without questioning, etc.  Taking a photograph seems very personal- it is a record of the individual, not the role.  So here he is:

I walked along the Biciclovia for maybe a half mile before turning back.  At one point, I stopped into an old church and sat in a pew for some moments, thinking.  On my way back out the door, two girls ran by laughing and chasing each other, and I thought to myself, God is out there more than in here. 

As I headed back up the hill toward my apartment, the sky darkened and filled with clouds. 

On my way back home, I stopped in at a hostel to ask for a job, and chatted with some people who were staying there.  I left my contact information with the boss, and I told me to check back in a month.

It started to drizzle.  

 When the drizzle turned into a full-blown rain storm, I was in a cute little plaza which I've since realized is actually a bit of a social center in my neighborhood.  I ducked into the nearest cafe  to stay dry, and sipped on a hot chocolate while I read my current book, Hija de la Fortuna (Isabel Allende's Daughter of Fortune, in Spanish).  When the rain had subsided, I snapped a quick photo of the plaza and headed home- an afternoon well spent!

Monday, February 8, 2010


After ten hours of winding mountain roads on the way back from Cali, the driver and I went straight to my new apartment (I had been staying with Lilia).  Marcela, my flatmate, is a 36-year-old artist, graphic designer, and human rights activist.  She'd just gotten back from a trip and was still clearing things out of my room, so I sat on the couch reading until my room was ready.

My apartment is awesome! Apparently some crazy architect lived here, and made a lot of modifications; none of the other apartments in our building have the thick tiled floor and chunky wooden island in the kitchen, nor the arched tops to the doorways.  It's also old; the sink in the bathroom doesn't work, so you either have to go out to the kitchen sink, or lean into the shower (which is also arched on the top and curved on the bottom).  The decor is appealingly artsy, including plenty of paintings on the walls.  My room is still pretty empty; I use a sheet pinned onto the doorframe of my balcony instead of a curtain, and will until the end of February.  I don't have a real bed yet, either- just a mattress on the floor.  It's not very comfortable.  The bedframe was supposed to make an appearance.... three days ago.  Marcela explained yesterday that when Colombians say "tomorrow" it doesn't actually mean "tomorrow."  I told her, thanks for the cultural lesson!  I have neat in-wall shelving, but nothing to put in it.  Marcela has given me free reign to scavenge the house for artisan crafts or knick knacks to fill up the space.  She also let me use a bunch of her art prints and some original pieces by her to brighten up the walls-- including a gorgeous poster she made with a portrait of Tina Modotti.

Marcela is awesome, and the few times we've had conversations about things other than the apartment,  I've been really grateful to have such an intelligent and interesting flatmate.  For those who can read Spanish, here is her blog:

 My building

 The living room

 The living room

 It even has a fireplace... although it's rarely cold enough to use it.

 The view west from the living room balcony

The view northeast from the living room balcony.  See that church at the summit of the mountain?  It's Monserrate, and it's on my list of things to do very soon.  

 The kitchen

The kitchen, again

 Funky shower

 My bedroom.  That bed is NOT comfortable. 

I love the arched doortops!

 My favorite wall decor- a Marcela Vega original


 The view from the balcony in my room

 The laundry shed in our building's courtyard, as seen from my bedroom's balcony.