New Friends In The New Bogota

This blog entry about the events of Thursday, December 20, 2007 was originally posted on January 06, 2008.

DAYS 28-32 (PART 3):  Every Bogotan (or is it Bogotian?) that Steph and I knew had wondered why we had chosen to stay in the grimier neighborhood of La Candelaria for our initial stay in the Colombian capital.  They didn’t know that it’s because it’s where most of the Lonely Planet guidebook-toting tourists were led to by “the book,” as its authors chose it as a place to be for its museums and colonial architecture.  But just like you, the reader, seldomly going to touristy neighborhoods wherever you live, you wouldn’t really see the appeal. 

“Most of the people live in the north,” Monica had told me, explaining how the northern part of town was the modernized residential and commericial area, the real heart and soul of the city — that was even perhaps a bit safer.  (It was evident immediately on our first time driving through, when Steph and I marveled at families walking out on the streets at night.)  The north was where her family and friends lived, and most people of the college-educated class, including Camillo, the Colombian animation producer from Vancouver that Steph had befriended on the flight from Houston.

It was Camillo’s invitation to hang out with his friends in northern Bogota that set forth our first journey into the other side of the city.  Steph and I took a taxi to Zona T, a pedestrian zone of boutiques, bars, cafes, clubs, and restaurants along a T-intersection (picture above), flanked by the big Andino shopping mall (not far from two other big shopping malls).  “Now this is my kind of scene,” Steph said, wide-eyed at the bright lights and display cases of little boutiques.  “I have to have this,” she said at a local handbag store — she picked up some gifts for her family as well. 

As for me, I rushed through the Andino shopping mall, looking for something a bit snazzier than my usual flashpacker garb, since rumor had it we would be going out to the clubs that night.  Like other shopping malls, it contained the regular international brands, but with some trendy Colombian ones as well: Bosi, Tennis, and Arturo Calle to name a few.  (Later, we learned Colombian clubs are not such sticklers for dress codes as they are in New York City, so my rushed wardrobe revival didn’t matter.  I got a really cool jacket though, which came in handy because Bogota, in the mountains, can get quite chilly at night.) 

It was in Zona T that we met Camillo at, what apparently is, every Colombian’s favorite chain restaurant, Crepes & Waffles — the successful brainchild of two young Colombian restaurant entrepreneurs.  There we dined on savory crepe dishes for dinner, in a nice little outdoor backseating area, with Camillo and two of his friends, a young couple on their last night out before heading out to Miami for the holidays.  It was with them that Steph and I got to talking to over dinner for a while, since Camillo spent most of the time on a business phone call.

Camillo was a bit more social at our next stop, the new bar next door whose name escapes me, a new trendy spot that his friend had just opened.  With a packed house and a dance area in the upstairs, it seemed to be doing fine.  It was there that we met other native bilingual Colombians:  Camillo’s friends, and their friends of friends, and their friends of friends — so our American introductions weren’t the only new ones within the group.  It was easy to get along with people with the social lubricant of alcohol; in this case, the Colombian spirit of agua diente, a local licoricey sort of sambuca or ouzo.  “Careful with that.  It hits you later,” warned Camillo’s friend Conrad.  However it was Camillo’s other Israeli/Colombian friend who was really having a good time with it, ignoring all requests from his girlfriend to leave since she was tired — although she stopped her requests to leave after having a few more shots of agua diente herself. 

Eventually our group of about a dozen people head off to some exclusive discoteque; people were abuzz about the new American girl Camillo had met on the plane when we couldn’t find him.  “I think he’s with the American girl he met on the plane,” his friend said as we walked down the street, alive with nightlife. 

I’m the American girl,” Steph explained, blending in as one of the Colombians with her dark hair.  Camillo was straggling behind, attending another phone call or something.  Eventually we regrouped, but soon split up after half of us got into the club without cover, while some of us (including me and Steph) had to pay.  With that, and the fact we had business to attend to the following morning, we departed ways with Camillo & Co. for the time being. 

BUT CAMILLO WASN’T our only connection to new friends in Bogota.  Enter Ximena, one of Monica’s best friends from college, who I had met before during one of her visits to New York.  A 3-D computer animator, she was happy to see us after her last day of work before her holiday break — it was the only time she had for us since she’d be going away the next morning with her family for Christmas, as many Colombians did.

Hugo dropped us off to meet Ximena at another trendy area of the north, Parque 93, the former gritty park near Calle 93 which had been cleaned up and transformed in Bogota’s revival.  Now the centerpiece to another trendy neighborhood of bars, cafes and restaurants, it was also where many Colombians (not just locals, but busfulls of out-of-towners) came to view its impressive display of Christmas lights, its Christmas tree, and miniature model layout of Bethlehem where a certain baby was about to be born in a miniature model of a manger.

“Ximena!” we called out to her in the park when we noticed her.  She responded with a smile of recognition.

“Feliz Navidad,” I greeted her.  “How are you?”

“I’m good.”

We made with the introductions, the pleasantries, and the catching up at a cafe/bar with an outdoor seating area in the back that wouldn’t let us order coffee unless we also ordered alcohol for some stupid reason.  Regardless, chatting with Ximena was great; we caught up on work, relationships, and life in Bogota, New York and beyond, over coffee drinks and pisco sours. 

Soon joining us at the table were two friends of Ximena, including Daniel, a fellow animator/co-worker/friend who had started his post-work holiday celebration early with rum from a little carton that looked like a juice box.  “I want to practice my English,” he told us with an accent and tone of voice that made him sound either shy or drunk, or perhaps both.  With that said, it was he who joined us for dinner for more English-speaking conversation.

“Where should we go?” Ximena asked.  “What are you in the mood for?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“We can go to Crepes and Waffles,” she suggested.

“We had that last night.”

“Everybody in Colombia seems to like that place,” I noted.

Eventually we settled on sushi and curries at Wok, a trendy pan-Asian place overlooking the park.  The rest of the night we enjoyed Ximena and Daniel’s company until we tired and went home to catch up on sleep.  “I really like Monica’s friends,” Steph told me.  “She’s someone I could be friends with.”

STEPH SECONDED THAT SENTIMENT when we met another one of her college friends, Claudia, on a Sunday in yet another trendy northern neighborhood in Bogota: Usaquen, the former artsy, trendy suburb in the eastern hills that had been consumed by the city as it expanded outward.  Usaquen still retained its artsy, trendy vibe and was everyone’s suggestion for the place to be on a Sunday since it was then that a holiday craft market was in full swing, selling trinkets, tschotchskies, jewelry and the like to those looking for last minute Christmas gift ideas.  Also there were street musicians to set the festive vibe.  It was in Usaquen’s markets and nearby mall that Steph and I did some Christmas shopping ourselves, picking up gifts for our gracious hosts, Monica’s parents, and her brother Victor Hugo who had been hosting our accommodations.

It was Victor Hugo actually brought us there to Usaquen, in his rickety Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, to point us the right way and introduce us to Claudia.  Claudia was a fun person to meet, and I had no regrets on trying to contact her through a series of Facebook messages.  A writer for a children’s variety television show, she was taking a break from her somewhat flexible work schedule to have lunch and spend the afternoon with us.  One thing we noticed about her was she was very smiley (if I can use that as an adjective); plus she giggled at herself after almost every sentence. 

“Some people say I look Filipino,” Claudia said all giggly.  I agreed. 

Despite Steph’s desire to have Italian food (she reaches the threshold after three days of local food), it was local food that we had for lunch — although she didn’t seem to mind since it was a different take on local food, at a fancy restaurant we went to (whose name escapes me), with delicious soups, salads, and the obligatory roasted chicken.  It was at lunch that we made friends with two more of her friends, who were doing the Sunday thing of just hanging out and catching up on their magazines.  With them we spent the afternoon, hanging out and shopping.  Claudia was very helpful at the market, haggling prices for Steph in Spanish, with the hawkers selling jewelry and miniatures of famous Botero sculptures.

“There’s that hippie smell,” Claudia noted as we walked by some hippies selling wares on the street.  “Hehehehehe!” 

“That’s the same smell of hippies everywhere,” I told her. 


While this abridged account of her bubbly personality does her no justice, it was evident to me when I agreed with a text message that had come in from Monica: “Claudia is a cultural icon.”

Eventually we parted ways and we bid our new friends farewell at the Centro Comercial Hacienda Santa Barbara, a mall in Usaquen that had fortunately for us had a free gift-wrapping service. 

“Nice meeting you!” Claudia said, still smiling.

“That’s for meeting us,” I told her.  “Really, you’re the only one that replied to Monica’s Facebook message.”  (Monica had sent out a mass Facebook message to her Colombian friends in attempts to get someone to show us around.)

Steph finally got her fill of Italian food when the two of us went out for dinner at a nice Italian place that night in Usaquen — she was a happy girl.  “We have so many friends in Colombia!” I added.

“I know!”

Even without Monica, Steph and I had managed to make friends with the locals.  In fact, Claudia said that Camillo’s open invitations weren’t unheard of.  “Ha, that’s typical Colombian,” she told us.

And so, Colombians, I deduced, were amongst the friendliest people I’ve encountered in my travels, whether they’re drunk on agua diente or just plain giggly.

Next entry: One Crazy Night

Previous entry: Classic Colombia

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This blog post is one of thirty-nine travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: The Central American Eviction Tour* (*with jaunt to Colombia)," which chronicled a six-week journey through Central America, with a jaunt to Bogota, Colombia.

Next entry:
One Crazy Night

Previous entry:
Classic Colombia


Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.

Spelling or grammar error? A picture not loading properly? Help keep this blog as good as it can be by reporting bugs.

The views and opinions written on The Global Trip blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official views and opinions of the any affiliated publications.
All written and photographic content is copyright 2002-2014 by Erik R. Trinidad (unless otherwise noted). "The Global Trip" and "swirl ball" logos are service marks of Erik R. Trinidad. v.3.7 is powered by Expression Engine v3.5.5.