Bienvenida to Bogotá, Catherine!
After nearly 20 hours of airports, layovers, and long-haul flights (thanks to my Father deciding it would be "fun" to layover for 90 minutes in Toronto, because I've never been to Canada) I have arrived in Bogotá, Colombia, my home for the next five months, and have survived my first week.
It has been a very surreal first week, so much has happened, and I actually cannot believe it has only been a week since I was lying in bed in Woking, struggling to sleep with nerves and then tearfully saying goodbye to my Mum at Heathrow's Terminal 2. But here I am, in my new home in Latin America after having left my Airbnb which sheltered me for the first 4 days.
I won't lie, even though my new house is great, I will miss the views from my temporary bedroom...
Despite securing a student house from the comfort of my Heronbank bedroom, I decided to stay the first couple of days in Bogotá in an Airbnb that was close to the Spanish school I was attending for the first week. Despite already studying Spanish to a decent level, I decided to try a language school for my first week in Colombia to give me a base, a purpose, and a place to begin to understand the chaotic city of Bogotá.
I'm actually really grateful I did this, as not only did it mean I was forced to speak Spanish for 5 hours straight, from 8AM to 1PM, but they also gave lessons in how to be Bogatano, something very useful for the anxious gringa I have become since leaving my sanctuary of Surrey. Moreover, they offered a different cultural activity everyday, from classes in Cumbia (one of Colombia's many traditional styles of dance); cooking lessons, where I cooked Patacones, a deep fried plantains with a tomato salsa; a free walking tour of Bogotá's historic centre, and a traditional Colombian asado (barbecue) to culminate the week...
Yes, that is 4 different types of meat for one meal
I had heard many negative opinions concerning Colombian cuisine, hearing the words bland and basic used frequently, however, even though I have only been here a week, I have enjoyed the little that I have sampled. What I will say is, as someone who orders "Plain" at Nando's with zero shame, I have no problem with the lack of spice, which I believe is a common complaint. In fact, on my very first day, I decided to try the local delicacy, Ajiaco, a soup composed of three types of potato, chicken, corn, and served with rice and avocado, which you are supposed to throw in.
However, for every bread and meat based dish that may disappoint an exotic traveller, I can attest that there are particularly incredible fruits which can excite. Due to Colombia having such rich soil, their fresh produce is incredible, and they have fruits that I have never even heard of in the UK.
The most delicious mango I have ever eaten, and look how tiny it is!! (I assure you, my hands are not that big)
Oh, how could I forget the most stressful, yet enjoyable cultural activity which I was treated to on my first day?!? I had the pleasure of watching England beat Colombia within 12 hours of landing in the country. Despite being the only "inglesa" in a room full of Colombians, and almost losing, it was nice to see England win, something that I have decided to take as an omen of good fortune for my time here. #itscominghome
From pre-Roman England, to Henry VIII and James I and eventually the union with Scotland, what can I say, I'm a woman of many talents...
That pretty much concludes my first week in Bogotá, marking the end of my relaxed easing in process of living abroad. I won't lie, next week seems very daunting, as it sees me returning to the delights of foreign beaurocracy, trying to get my cédula de extranjería, essentially my ID as a foreigner, and trying to get a Colombian SIM, something that has proved difficult thus far. Next week also sees my two induction days at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, something that is injecting the same pangs of anxiety and excitement that starting Warwick did just under a year ago... but hopefully I will survive, gain confidence, and enjoy my first month in Colombia.