Day 3 :: The Bleeding City

Snippets from today.

Starving at 11PM I decided to go out in search for food, against better judgment. The streets of Bogota are frighteningly desolate at that hour; it was hard to tell if I had trouble breathing because of the altitude or the general adrenaline that comes with the feeling that you could be jumped at any moment. Luckily I soon realized that walking around aggressively led other people to believe that I was a local looking to rob them.

I woke up to the usual breakfast of metallic coffee and a harsh cigarette and met a fellow traveler – a six foot five Berliner – who goes by the name Fish. In Colombia for six month, he is preparing the necessary documents to establish an NGO in the region that encompasses the city of Cartago. Originally from the States (and vouching never to return) Fish has set up NGOs in some several dozen countries, most notably and most recently in Afghanistan.

I decided to walk as much of Bogota as I could today and so I ventured north of the historic city center and into the bustling “international district” where I was confronted with a much grimier, post-modern business area that looked more like any given dilapidated neighborhood in Athens. Camilo and Diana mentioned a great library far from the areas I had explored thus far designed by one of Salmona’s disciples; knowing I couldn’t walk it I decided to take my chances and hail a taxi on the streets (another big no-no in Bogota). Knowing what to look for to distinguish between safe taxis and those that would likely kidnap me I rejected the first three or four that came my way. 45 minutes later we arrived deep in the southwestern part of town – a landscape of brick, working class towers and shanty towns – for which this lone icon stood completely cut off from the rest of the city. It was a strange site to see this white modernist mass, a beacon of learning and progress, in such a neighborhood; it was similar to the siting Richard Meier’s Jubilee Church with the exception that the lower class here may actually learn something.

I took pictures because I figured I had to: after a while the pilgrimage of architecture becomes tired (I know, this is my first city). It was interesting none the less.

Next I went through the motions of finding another suitable cab and ended up at the Modern Art Museum (one of Salmona’s later works) that sat uncomfortably in the prostitution center of Bogota. A man was painting outside of the museum while his son of 5 or 6 patiently watched. I watched them and watched the police come deface his canvas and kick him to move his show elsewhere – his only audience was me. As a side note, I remember a great quote from Salmona worth repeating: “I am just an architect. Nothing more. Or should I say: somebody who is trying to be one. Because becoming an architect is very difficult. You never know what part of what you do has any validity. Time tells it. Good architecture will become ruins. Bad architecture disappears. But for you to know it is a ruin, you have to wait a lot of time.”

I trekked the 5 kilometer walk home and stopped for dinner along the way. Back at the hostel I met a few new people: a strange older gentleman (the venture capitalist type) whom refused to tell me what it is that he does for a living and who was in Bogota on his way to Medellin in search for a new home. I also met a young professor from Melbourne (Vanessa) whom I went out to dinner with (not hungry but simply wanted company); on our walk home we got tailed by some teenage thugs  who attempted to rob us as we got to the front door of our hostel – luckily some people were on their way out so they scrammed. Upon telling Fish the story he ran out looking for them like the psycho that he is. After an hour or so of swapping life stories we decided to go out for a drink with two French flatmates (one from Lyon, the other from Paris – both inanely boring and painfully typical in their French arrogance) to this place called ‘Pequena Santa Fe’ located in the center of the forecourt of an old church which is known for their Coca-infused Vodka Tea. We progressed on to a nightclub (not my idea but at that point I didn’t know which way was home and thought it unwise to go alone) named ‘Escobar’ – a grimy venue with the usual fare of youthful Colombian proletariat in heat.

A few more unimportant things to see tomorrow – most of all I’d like to find a way up to the Monastery overlooking Bogota to take some pictures for the progression of SCARCity.

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