Ocean’s Three

This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, December 25, 2007 was originally posted on January 16, 2008.

DAY 35: I had one day left in Bogota between Christmas Day and my departure date for Panama, and it was slated to be a day to catch up, repack, and recompose myself from a week of settling down in one place — all before getting back on the road again, like Willie Nelson.  That morning, instead of watching the TNT Latin America continuous loop of Spiderman 2 and Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (both dubbed in Spanish), I set off to run errands with Victor Hugo.  He brought me to a laundromat for me to get my clothes cleaned, and after lunch with his parents, I was off to two malls with Hugo and Gloria — the first of which I went to a barber and got a much-needed haircut

Other than the moment I watched a couple of guys try to play Guitar Hero III on a demonstration XBox 360 (they sucked), the mall, as always, was a sort of generic experience like anywhere in the world (not that I minded).  However, this time it would soon involve a small caper.

“[There is a gallery in the mall,]” Gloria explained.  “[There is this painting I want to paint.  Can you take a picture of it with your camera?]”  Monica’s mother was a bit of an artist — painting was her hobby — and seeing I was quite handy with a little digital camera, she wanted me to take a photo of her favorite painting in the gallery so that she could copy it with her own strokes.

“[They don’t allow you take take photos in the gallery,]” Hugo told me.  “[Cameras are forbidden.  What we’ll do is, I’ll talk to the people there, and while they’re distracted, you take the picture.]”


The gallery was your regular, run-of-the-mill mall art gallery, selling commercially-oriented painted pieces of everything from still-lifes to kitschy Thomas Kinkade-esque landscapes.  Gloria’s interests were in a big painting of a typical scene in Venice.  It hung on the wall at eye level, about a third of the way into the gallery store. 

“[That’s it,]” Gloria whispered to me.

Hugo walked over to the desk in the back where three attentive employees were stationed.  He feigned interest in one of the paintings on the other side of the room (to buy it as a gift for someone, he claimed), asking how much it was.  The answers he received were too short for me to do the deed, so he basically went down the line of paintings and asked, “[And how much is this one?]”  They’d answer.  “[And how much is this one?]”  They’d answer.  “[And this one.  How much is it?]”  And so on.  (It was like that deleted scene in the grocery store in the Borat movie.)

“[Did you take it?]” Gloria whispered under her breath to me, keeping her body between me and the vantage point from the other side of the room.  “[Take it now!]” 

I whipped out my camera from my pocket, took a brief second to frame it properly (that’s important, you know), and then snapped the shot, sans flash.  I put the camera back in my pocket before anyone got suspicious, although Hugo’s constant questions were pretty questionable.

“[Oh, okay,]” Hugo said to the gallery people, already making headway towards the door.  “[Thank you.]”  The three of us walked out all giddy. 

“[Let me see the picture,]” Gloria asked.  I showed her the photo of the painting, and her face lit up.  “[Thank you!  I’m so excited!]”  I promised that I’d have it printed and sent back to her when her daughter Monica went to visit in January.

THE REST OF THE DAY wasn’t remotely as exciting as an “Ocean’s” movie remake; there were no more capers involving photographic heists, although it did involved a few hours at a mall casino for slots and free coffee.  Eventually we went home for me to get my clean clothes packed up.  My farewell dinner with Hugo and Gloria was humble, yet significant:  roasted chicken at the Compania El Sabor fast food chicken chain, where Hugo used to go many times in his youth when he was new to Bogota without much money.  “El pollo es muy rico!” he raved.

The following morning, Victor Hugo put me in an early cab for the airport, and before I knew it, my time with the Uribe family in Bogota (picture above) was over.  “Buen viaje!” Victor Hugo wished me as I departed his apartment with my bags.

A week with the Uribes had come and gone — during Christmas no less — and I was grateful for their hospitality, their companionship, and their open arms.  If I could take more unlawful photos of paintings in galleries for them I would, but I’m not quite sure how many times Hugo could put up that “How much is this one?” game before gallery employees started getting really suspicious…

Next entry: Panamania

Previous entry: Christmas In 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.

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Christmas In Colombia


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