Encontrando Normal: Finding Normal in Bogotá

My first month on this adventure was a whirlwind. Trips, tours, parties, excursions every day (and most nights, too). Month two was where the need for normalcy started to set in. The desire for at least some semblance of a routine, even if it’s a routine that will change frequently.

It probably helped that, due to scheduling, we were in Bogotá a little longer than Mexico City. Long enough to feel settled, albeit temporarily.

By week 3, I didn’t feel pressure to run around the city trying to experience absolutely every inch of the place. Some of my friends were off doing cool things, and some of them were working their butts off, and some of them were taking it easy at home. If Mexico made me feel like I had to be on 24/7, constantly in the middle of the action, Bogotá had the opposite effect.

Instead of going out on the town bar-hopping or clubbing or just trying to keep up with the hectic pace of life, one night I went to my friend’s rooftop for a pizza party. Another, a group of us had a girls’ night and saw 50 Shades Darker (yes, it’s as awful as you’d expect—but somehow enjoyable with enough smuggled tequila and a theater full of Colombians also laughing at the terrible dialogue).

One Friday, a huge group of us ventured over to a friend’s house for a homemade Italian dinner, cooking tons of different pasta dishes, fish, and gnocchi. The gnocchi turned out to be tricky without a food processor, but we had tons of fun tasting all the dishes, singing along to 90s music and just enjoying the company of the other travelers on this adventure with us.

Later in the week, I had a friend over to watch TV—but we failed to make the TV work, and wound up playing Rummy 500 with a deck of cards we smuggled into a bar instead. The next night, we had more friends over (some of whom had actual technological skills) and managed to work the TV for a sci-fi night (re-watching favorite episodes from Firefly and Next Gen, obviously).

Another night, we watched Devil Wears Prada with some people who had never seen it before, then started Narcos. It was a little trippy, but a lot more powerful, to watch the scenes play out in neighborhoods of the city that we’d already explored. Neighborhoods that until relatively recently still looked like that show. I’m still only part of the way through season 1, but I need to binge it at some point and catch up, if only to better understand one aspect of the history of the country we’ve been living in.

At some point, the altitude hit me—Bogotá is ~8,600 feet above sea level, the highest place I’ve ever lived. Mexico City, at only 7,300 feet, didn’t bother me. But I felt it here. Even just walking down the street to work made me feel as though I’d just run a mile. At night especially, I struggled to take deep, even breaths—which made it pretty difficult to fall asleep. Suddenly I understood why in medieval times, people talked about the “hag on the chest” sensation. Some nights it really did feel as though someone were sitting on my chest, weighing me down.

Coca tea saved my ass. I tried over-the-counter and prescription medications for altitude sickness, none of which seemed to make a noticeable difference. But the moment I finished drinking a cup of coca tea in La Candelaria, my lungs seemed to expand to twice their size, oxygen flooding my brain. Maybe it was psychosomatic, but either way, I’ll take it. Slowing down in this city probably also helped my recovery a bit, too.

All in all, Bogotá was a good follow-up from Mexico City. A break from the hectic pace of Remote Year thus far, and a return to “normal” life—if you can call our nomadic lifestyle normal. For this month, at least, it felt that way.

But even on chill weeks, we still have some fun. Just like this baby on a llama in a park.

And ordering a basket full of bread and cake for breakfast

Also, we did some art therapy with my Bogotá roommate’s mom!

1 comment to Encontrando Normal: Finding Normal in Bogotá

  • Randolph Goodlett

    CocoaTea…I remember chewing cocoa tea leaves as we hiked the Inca trail, with some spots taking us up to 13,000 feet. Yes, it really does work…drinking the tea or chewing the leaves with some alkaloid stuff as well.

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