flying over and landing, Bogota looked a lot greener than I expected
it to. One great security feature in Colombia is that whenever you
fly, you are not allowed to leave the airport before your bag tags
are checked with the receipts that you are given when you check
in your bags - we all were really impressed by this and do not understand
why it is not internationally standardised like that! We were greeted
with a cold rain, which felt strangely refreshing, I knew that feeling
would not last.
limit on number-plates
rest of the day was spent in and around Bogota. We had to drive
to a shopping centre in time before we would be fined! In Bogota
depending on your number-plate there are different times of day
you drive, to restrict the congestion problem. I remember they also
have similar laws in the Philippines.
you are caught driving in these restricted times, you can face a
fine of up to 300,000 pesos equivalent of around £60. We were
so close to being liable to pay this fine that, instead of driving
around the horrendous one way system, we ended up reversing a good
few blocks and entered the car park with minutes to spare!
really surprised me. I'm not sure what I was expecting - perhaps
I thought it was going to be similar to Mexico City. It was cold
however, between 10 to 16°C. The city is also around 2500 metres
above sea level which meant during the day we seemed to be surrounded
by the clouds. Dan Uno met us in the afternoon, arriving from staying
in Menizales with Jen. We walked around what seemed to be a lively
bustling city. There were lots of bars and restaurants like Covent
Garden in London or Brindleyplace in Birmingham.
to stay away
and family had specifically warned me to stay away from Bogota and
my original plans were not to even spend the few days that I did
there. However, it was a great way to finish my trip in Colombia
and it would have been such a shame to have missed it out.
reminded of the dangers when I was told to put my camera away in
the mall, due to security reasons, photography was forbidden. The
mall we were in had been bombed a few years earlier.
street in Bogota
only full day in Bogota was spent touring the city, visiting the
old streets. The trans-millennium bus service was an amazing aspect
of the city, with two dedicated bus lanes for this service. I think
it runs in less than half the city currently but it's still in its
infancy. In areas that it doesn't serve, there are free buses that
take you to the nearest stop. The system seemed to be far more advanced
and modern than anything I've seen in Europe.
chocolate & cheese anyone?
choc.... with cheese
walking around the old city, we stopped in a café for a warm
drink. We ordered a hot chocolate. It was served with cheese! I
was hungry, so it went down well but I was a bit surprised when
I walked through the streets filled with typical street-sellers
that you'd find across the world, it was strange to think that in
48 hours this adventure would be over and it would be back to the
daily university life.
in over 80 countries
later part of the afternoon we visited one of the universities where
AIESEC had just recruited their new members - it was really great
as we were part of a role play to explain the exchange process -
which is the core work that AIESEC does. It was great to see local
people training and people learning about AIESEC.
Last night in Colombia
on the tables
last night in Colombia was celebrated in true style in a club up
in the hills overlooking Bogota. The atmosphere was amazing - we
were in a crowded amphitheatre-like room, dancing the night away
on tables to all our favourite South American tunes that we had
come to love, one after the other.
night hot dog!
night ended with a customary stop at a late night local fast-food
place. We stayed at Cesar's one of the local Bogota AIESECers. Both
he and Andres another local AIESECer were very helpful during our
final few days: greeting us at the airport and letting us stay with
them, organising our leaving party as a social for the AIESEC members
as well as showing us the city and finally saying goodbye to us
at the airport.
somebody say Business Class?
the last day in Bogota, we packed up our things and went to Yvonne's
house for lunch. Yvonne was another local AIESECer from Bogota.
in subtle Colombian kit
Uno and I were flying out on the British Airways sponsored flight
in the afternoon; the others went to a local football game. We checked
in, with the prospect of problems because we had stand-by tickets.
Originally, we weren't sure if we were going to be able to get on
the flight - but it was amazingly simple and we were issued with
none other than Business Class boarding passes!
and Shane were also booked on the same flight unfortunately arriving
slightly later were told they had to wait until check in was closed
for the flight. Andres, Jorge, Cesar and a few others arrived at
the airport to say final goodbyes along with Juliet and Dan Dos
(see photo at the top of the page).
was time for Dan Uno and I to go through. We hoped the others would
get on so we waited in the departure lounge (after getting some
Colombian coffee for family and a final bottle of Colombian rum
for friends). I saw Jen approaching the security desk and could
not believe it - all four of us were on, and in Business Class!
Due to the donation of the flights we are given whatever class is
available on the flights! Lucky us!
shortly boarded and were on our way, landing in Caracas Venezuela
to pick up the remaining passengers. We were informed that they
would be spraying the plane with pesticides before we took off again
- it was a bit strange they then walked through the cabin with handheld
pesticide canisters... We were on the ground for about an hour.
chocolate - this time with cookies
in Business Class
and I spent the 12 hour flight reminiscing over the last two month
and what we were going to miss. We enjoyed the comforts of the plane
and claimed our hot chocolate and cookies in the early hours as
the sun rose over the Atlantic.
greeted at the airport by my elder brother. It felt good to be home
yet strange saying goodbye to the others who I'd been so close to
and shared such an amazing summer with.
at university now, it seems all but stories and memories. It's already
a few weeks in to the first term I really miss Colombia and the
friends I made, the Latin American music and clubs, the food and
atmosphere - I know I am so lucky to have been given the opportunity
to see such a different culture and reality.
people questioned me on my return about how safe it is and why I
went to Colombia this summer. It's difficult to convey. On so many
occasions while away, I wished people could have seen where we were
and what we were doing. The bomb in Jakarta before we came home
unnerved me. We flew back on 12 September - I could not help to
wish that I did not have the flight home. Where are we really safe?
With a policeman having been shot in Birmingham a short time before
the end of the summer semester, is it simply the unknown that makes
I know is I had an amazing experience this summer and I would want
to live it all over again if I had the choice. Before I left, family
and friends were unsure why I was going to Colombia and why I couldn't
go somewhere else. I did not choose Colombia, it was chosen for
me because I applied for the AIESEC programme.
that life is to live and is not a rehearsal. Pushing the AIESEC
experience to the extreme: crossing cultures, living and working
in another society, understanding local and global issues.
hope by sharing my stories with you that you are open more to the
idea of visiting Colombia or other far off places that previously
you never considered. If not now, then when?
years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that
you didn't do than by those that you did. So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover."
by James Eder
James in his hammock