Lo siento!

It seems like I missed a day already! Well today, I have decided that I spend far too much time in my apartment, and will be working on my first article at a new cafe close to my home, called Cafe Tomada.

Without giving anything away, the first story while I am here is about a particularly interesting new development in Colombian politics, one that might have a big impact on the ongoing peace process between the government and the rebel insurgency.

It’s a very monumental process to witness, as a successful peace deal could mean the beginning of the end of a devastating 50-year conflict among guerrilla groups and state-sponsored paramilitary and miltiary groups. It has left thousands dead, tortured, and missing.

If you’d like to catch up a little on the peace process, the Washington Office on Latin America has a great English-language website here. Also, the correspondent I’m working with, Juan Forero, has been providing insightful coverage since the beginning here.

Anyways, so don’t get me wrong, I love my apartment – it’s in a neighborhood se llama “Acevedo Tejada”, and it’s very near the National University of Colombia.

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I’m sharing a wonderful apartment with a lawyer, and it’s actually ridiculous how little I’m paying per month – it’s less than one-fourth of what I paid this summer in D.C. I have a nice kitchen, bathroom, my own room, and a spacious living room with an office area. Also, we have a beautiful view!

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There’s a very nice convenience store across the street with ice cream and snacks, and five minutes away, there’s a great gym with Yoga, Pilates, spinning and “Rumba” (the Latin American version of Zumba, I think!) classes.

Sidenote: They also have Aeropilates classes, which I really want to try!

It seems like a typical PIlates class, with the addition of an apparatus that hangs down from the ceiling and lets you suspend part of yourself in mid-air! For example, if you’re doing a plank, you could hang your legs in the apparatus instead of leaving them on the floor. I can’t imagine how hard this must be..

However, today, my intention is to do work in a new place! Being cooped up in my apartment all day long is no good.

So, I am in Cafe Tomada, a lovely bookstore and cafe about a mile away from my apartment.

Outside, the cafe has a bulletin board with list of upcoming events and other news clippings. I saw an article regarding the recent death of famed Colombian-born poet Alvaro Mutis, known for his use of magic realism and his well-known character Maqroll the Lookout, a “modern-day philosophizing, seafaring adventurer.”

A student-type let me in, seeming a bit harried as he returned to a group of murmuring intellectuals sitting at a picnic table. Once inside, I was a bit confused about where to go to, until a woman came down and showed me the cafe area.

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After logging into the Wifi and finding an oulet, I ordered a chocolate croissant and tea con leche, and am enjoying them with some strawberries and a banana I brought from home.

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The collection seems electic, and interesting: Sin City and Hellboy mangas  interspersed with novels by Salmon Rushdie, Oscar Wilde, Chuck Palahniuk, Paolo Giordano, and closest to me is the “selection of the month” with books by Argentinian Jorge Luis Borges. Tonight, they will have a book club about Borges’ views and perspectives on the police in his works.

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Its a very nice atmosphere here, and I’d highly recommend it if you ever come to Bogota.

I got the idea for coming here from a list of coffee shops to try while in Bogota, and my goal is to try them all within the coming weeks!

I also plan on working at the National University of Colombia, and all the libraries on this list.

What I brought with me

Here is a list of things I brought with me.

I’m here for three months, and I let myself just bring two suitcases.

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My flowers!

A daughter returns

I have returned. It’s a realization I only made when gazing at the deep green depths of Laguna Guatavita, fathoming what could lay below the lake’s eternal depths, listening as my tour guide told us the lake was only at a fraction of it’s original depth, due to centuries of exploration, or rather, exploitation.

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Spanish explorers, mystified by the El Dorado legend and whispers of its buried gold treasure, had for centuries tried to probe Guatavita’s mystical depths.

From Wikipedia:

Conquistadores Lázaro Fonte and Hernán Perez de Quesada attempted (unsuccessfully) to drain the lake in 1545 using a “bucket chain” of labourers. After 3 months, the water level had been reduced by 3 metres, and only a small amount of gold was recovered, with a value of 3000 – 4000 pesos .. A later more industrious attempt was made in 1580, by Bogotá business entrepreneur Antonio de Sepúlveda. A notch was cut deep into the rim of the lake, which managed to reduce the water level by 20 metres, before collapsing and killing many of the labourers. A share of the findings – consisting of various golden ornaments, jewelery and armour – was sent to King Philip the 2nd of Spain. Sepúlveda’s discovery came to approximately 12,000 pesos. He died a poor man, and is buried at the church in the small town of Guatavita.

In 1898, British expatriate Mr. Hartley Knowles aquired the “Company for the Exploitation of Lake Guatavita”, draining the lake to four feet of mud and slime, leaving it impossible to explore.

We climbed to a better vantage point of the lake, whose shocking greenly waters gleamed in the sunlight.

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Our guide told us that he had once asked a park ranger, an indigenous Muisca man, if they ever thought about re-filling the lake.

“Well yes, but it happened. Colonialism happened. Why would we drain it?” said the tour guide, recounting the man’s response.

That answer got to me.

It made me think of my own identity as a woman whose birthmother chose to give her up for adoption in another country.

Unlike other adopted children, my life has not been consumed by wonders about what my life would have been. Instead, I have at times wondered, what led my mother to her decision?

The ranger’s response reminded me of the true, unknowable depths of that question, likely shrowded in the same structures of inequality, environmental exploitation, land depravation and marginalization of indigenous groups, that may have also led to the draining of Lake Guatavita.

But he reminded me of the aspects of our individual and collective pasts that make up who we are, and that must be evaluated, or at the least accepted, to move on and be present.

IMG_2164This is my first blog post – something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile. I will try to write or post something everyday – these will be my thoughts about my journey to Bogota, at the intersection of culture, gender, language and socio-economics.

How I am getting to know my country – for the next first three months – will be by reporting on the ongoing peace process for a national newspaper, with the help of a wonderful mentor and fellow correspondent.

It’s an immensely complex story, in which I have willingly, and excitedly, submerged myself.

It’s also a story wrapped up in my own roots. As I think more about my birthmother, supposedly a woman of indigenous roots who left her village to travel to a woman’s shelter in Bogota, I think about how her life and the lives of my Colombian relatives might have been impacted by decades of violence, colonialism, and yet – as demonstrated by her willingess to travel to Bogota – strength, and hope.

I hope you enjoy the stories and images I share while here, and take part in my journey!