For the most part today, I’ve been looking out the window. I’ve recognized time and time again that I love watching the world through a window… riding the train between Beijing and Datong, bus ride after bus ride during my year with Up With People, watching the clouds from 35,000 feet, car rides when I was a kid, car rides as an adult…..I’ll take a window seat to an aisle seat any day.
Experiencing Colombia through windows was so visually stimulating and invigorating. On our way across Bogotá, at 5:30am and in a van, you see a city awakening. It is not only the rising sun that signals the advent of the day, it is the bustle on the street and sidewalks filled with students of all ages making their way to school. Traffic looms large in this city of 8 million, the queues for the Transmilenio spill off of the platforms. Motorcyclists weave in and out and so close to my window that I can see hair on the knuckles of the left hand pulling the clutch.
Dogs are ever-present and are abundant as we head into the neighborhoods. They are calm and integrated; people seamlessly step around the dogs sleeping in the middle of sidewalks.
Through the windows I pondered the abundance of graffiti — not entirely attractive, although some pieces are exceptionally beautiful - what is the cultural norm?
Leaving the city, heading to Zipaquirá, I note the universality of toll both transactions, behold a Santa Theresa parade - cars, vans, motos, buses decorated with paper flowers and statues of Santa Theresa strapped to grills; the caravan heading to the Salt Mine cathedral for mass.
Acres and acres of green houses where fresh flowers sold in Bogotá are grown in abundance, with great care and order.
Cartagena is so different from Bogotá - vibrant with color and heat. Zipping along in taxis it was easy to default to prayer - I don’t want to die in a cab in Cartagena! - watching the path a driver would create where there, to my eyes, was no path to be taken. My intuition said brake while driver’s instinct said accelerate. We were saved by Pedro who generously and safely transported us to and from our hotel and the school, allowing for opportunity to converse and to inquisitively look out the window without clutching onto the seat.
In Bocagrande we could see the Atlantic Ocean between building as we we made our way toward the Centro and out of the Walled City. The Clock Tower was a comforting site, providing a home base to understanding where I was. Tourists lined up at the dock for day trips out to islands just west of the Convention Center. At 8a street vendors are setting up their wares in no great hurry - their days would be long into the evening. Beyond the Walled City, the city buzz brinked on city clamor. Daily, we pasted an outdoor market, down the street from a mall and across from a little water way where large, brown pelicans would scavenge. From the car, the market was one dimensional — I could see the fruits and vegetables, tables of fresh fish, animal carcasses hanging from posts.
Luckily, Allie, our Peace Corps friend, invited us to take the public bus out to Rosalia’s and Pedro’s home for Sunday lunch. I sat at the window which opened from my waist to near the ceiling. Discreetly holding my camera, I could capture the streets teaming with vehicles and the occasional donkey-pulled cart. The market we had passed many times before was now a new experience — I could smell it and hear it. I could have reached out and touched a hairy knuckle, the traffic is so cozy.
I like being here. And I like being there. And I really do like the journey in between in a way that the cream filling really makes that Oreo Cookie truly worthwhile.