Yesterday I finally got the chance to be a tourist. However, I was accompanied by two lovely Colombian women so I felt slightly less touristy than the dozens of Americans, Canadians, Europeans and Asians also seeking to know the beauty of Monserrate and the surrounding areas. Dani, Maria Ines and I left the house around 9am and proceeded to walk to the “Centro Histórico,” the oldest area of Bogotá. Maria Ines pointed out some of the buildings and sites along the way and we soon arrived at an outdoor photography exhibition outside one of the museums downtown.
The exhibition revealed dozens of photos of Colombians all over the country who had been displaced from their homes. I took this moment to ask Maria Ines and Dani some questions- why and how were these people displaced? What had they done to deserve this? Were people still being displaced? (I supposed that answer was yes as some of the photos were as recent as 2013). What followed was a long discussion of Colombian politics and history, a discussion which carried on well into the evening last night. We discussed the various armed parties and conflict in this country, whose violence has lead to the deaths and disappearances of thousands of Colombians. I learned that many of the families I saw in Soacha last week were actually displaced from their homes all over Colombia, forced off their own land by the armed parties of the conflict, and had moved to the slums of Bogotá to survive. This explained the variety of accents and appearances of the people in Soacha. Really sad.
Moving on from the exhibition, we entered the Plaza Simón Bolivar, the typical zócalo present in most Latin America colonial towns, complete with some government buildings, a beautiful cathedral, pigeons galore and even llamas?
Next we stopped for breakfast at a local restaurant where I tried the traditional colombian dish of changua and a feijoa juice.
Up until this point, I had been pretty careful about drinking bottled water, even though most locals state the tap water in Bogotá is pretty safe. There was no filtered water for juices at this restaurant, however, but I wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to have one of these!
Finally, we made our way to Monserrate, the mountain I've been talking about in previous posts. At 3,100 meters, or a little over 10,000 feet, Monserrate is actually a church and pilgrimage site on top of the mountain which shadows the west side of Bogotá. One can make his or her way to the top by one of three ways:
1. By funicular, a train that goes straight up the side of the mountain
2. By teleférico, a cable car type lift that also goes up the side of the mountain
3. On foot
Option 3 was fairly quickly dismissed considering none of the three of us were up for a fairly difficult hike. We ended up taking the funicular up the mountain, and the teleférico back down. It was a good thing we didn't hike as well, because at the top, while the view was breathtaking, so was the altitude. I am fairly certain this was the highest altitude I had been at in my life, and I did feel a little dizzy and nauseated, though these symptoms quickly resolved once we descended. Monserrate was absolutely gorgeous however, totally worth the trip.
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around, doing some shopping, getting my cell phone set up so that I can make and receive local calls. By the time we got back to the house last night, we were exhausted and had an early night.
Today I got up early and went to the mennonite church service up the street with Paul and Carol. The service was lovely, complete with lots of energetic singing (some to tunes with which I was familiar), prayer, and contemplation. After church, I went back to Paul and Carol's and Carol and I proceeded to make Cincinnati chili for the Sunday family dinner! I had brought some seasoning packets down with me. The meat and spaghetti tasted the same, but the cheese was a modification as it is fairly difficult to find cheddar cheese around here. Regardless, the family seemed to enjoy it.
Tonight I went with Andrea and Maria Ines to a jazz festival which ended up being more of a funk festival. The music and energy were fantastic however, and we got to see Maceo Parker, a well known funk saxaphone player who performed with James Brown.
Overall, a great weekend. Tomorrow it's back to work at CCN El Progreso- just a few more days here in Bogotá. Thanks to everyone for following my posts!