Like many other avant-garde travelers, I wasn’t sure what to expect when arriving to Bogota. This trip was a personal one and so I preferred to let things unravel naturally. Before arriving, I was warned by countless people to watch out for pick-pockets, kidnappers and criminals in general.
Despite the borderline frightening moment I’m about to explain, I find Colombia to be a safe and happy place. From my experience, it is far from the dangerous city it was in recent history.
While I still have another day in Colombia, here is my most Bohemian Moment in Bogota
Unlike in the United States, where workers celebrate Labor Day by eating and drinking, the same cannot be said of Colombia. Here, the day is all about protesting the government. Deciding to meet Robert from Leave Your Daily Hell on this particular day turned out to be an unwise decision. Hundreds of policemen with guns and shield protectors lined the streets although I didn’t witness much protestation from the workers. (Again, this is not normal in Bogota the other 364 days of the year)
While leisurely sipping my cup of coffee and chatting with Robert about our love for travel, all of a sudden we looked up and saw about 50 people panically sprinting in our direction. People inside the coffee shop started yelling and scrambling to find a hiding spot. To be honest, I thought there was a rogue protester on the loose with a gun in hand. For a split second, I feared for my life.
The next half hour involved us moving from one part of the coffee house basement to the next to avoid the effects of tear gas. In between the bursts of tears and panic, everyone seemed to go about their normal business, making small talk and laughing about the absurdity of it all as we moved further into the building’s basement. It was a strange yet thrilling thirty minutes to say the least.
So where is the silver lining in this story? Well, it took this “faux trauma” for me to finally speak Spanish without fear of making a mistake, however broken is sounded. I even began speaking in Spanish to people who were talking to me in English. Also, tear gas is a much better alternative than anything involving weapons. During the whole experience, I met some pretty interesting locals. One woman lent me her cell phone and even offered to drive me home to my apartment.
Most Ironic Line: My boyfriend came looking for me and was stopped by a guard outside the coffee shop.
“Hello, there was an American girl here.”
“Oh, yes, we have her in the basement.”
Again, looking back, this was not as extreme as it may sound. I’m sure that far worse things happen on a daily basis in New York City. In fact, I’m positive they do.
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