I'm dealing with a serious post-Bogota hangover.
Honestly, I wasn't that excited about going, at first. I'd never been to South America, so I knew it would be interesting to go, but we had just finished a bunch of little trips here, and my summer felt like it was already half gone, and I just didn't know how difficult or fun or sad or whatever the trip would be. I was tired, too, and wanting to just relax a little and get into some writing.
But, the trip was amazing. Way beyond, on every level--personal, spiritual, professional. And now, I've got the stuck-in-America blues.
Here's the thing: There were a lot of bummers about living in Bogota for a week. In a new city, I love to be able to go out and walk all around by myself and explore and that kind of thing and, well, that just wouldn't have been smart in Bogota (though, for the record, I never once felt in danger). Also, because of our conference schedule, we had to get up really early in the mornings and, because of my drinking schedule, I went to bed very late at night. So I didn't treat my body so great while I was there and it led to me feeling everything a little extra much and maybe being a bit weepy and sentimental. This was amplified by the fact of so many Bogota residents coming to our conference and sharing their stories, honestly, authentically, and beautifully, with us, who normally do everything we can to not be ourselves in academic settings.
Also, I ate a lot of white bread and drank a lot of coke. And wine. And beer. And I wore skinny pants out dancing without a tunic, just in a regular old shirt. A gringa pretending to salsa, big old booty out. All while speaking what my friend calls unethically bad Spanish. Without a care! Hola! Buenos dias! Dos minutos, por favor!
But Bogota felt alive to me in ways living here doesn't. It's got the big-city excitement going on, for sure, but the people also seem more alive, more part of the communal. Food comes slowly, one plate at a time, and late at night. There is fresh-squeezed juice with every meal (god bless lulos!). There is music coming from every window. Buildings are painted bright colors. Cars careen around corners. People talk loudly in the streets until late. Fat, happy dogs, teats out, roam all over the place. People juggle, people yell, people bike, large pieces of furniture balanced on the handlebars, up hills. Everyone hugs, everyone kisses.
Above all, there is a sense that you are not alone. For example, we visited one of the poorest parts of Bogota. There were some serious security concerns because of gang activities, so we could only go to certain parts. But while we were visiting one of the safer parts in Soacha, I had to pee, and my friend Juan took me into a bar to do it. The owner personally cleaned the bathroom before letting me use it, and sent his kid out to buy toilet paper, using money they really couldn't spare. And they wouldn't accept any money for it in return. I threw some on the counter anyway, and then felt like an asshole for it.
People steal each other's stuff in Bogota, even if you're just inviting them over for a party. You can get mugged. You can get kidnapped. But you can also be deeply cared for. And seen. And you are part of the people. For me, this was the largest truth of that city.
I think, sometimes, I find living here lonely. Or isolating. Or alienating. Something like that. Not all the time, but maybe now, in contrast to life there, for sure. Here, I'm one of those people stuck in a car, in traffic that doesn't move, in Fellini's 8 1/2. Bogota was my floating out and above.
I realize I was only there a week, and my perceptions are no doubt skewed toward the tourist side of things. There is no question there is a great deal of sadness and injustice in Bogota. It just felt more real, less simulacrum, than life here. I don't know how else to put it. And that dissonance is giving me the blues.