I have been thinking about you a lot during my first weeks in Colombia.
It has been beautiful to tap into the people you have loved here.
To feel that Bogotá, from day 1, was buzzing with life.
Here are my first impressions of Colombia: Honeymoon Moments.
Calle 48 con 9, Bogotá.
I step into a room with wooden floors and black walls.
A girl with circular sunglasses, black hair and a shirt with laces, giving a glimpse of her side breasts, has a jumping vibe. She hugs me, introduces herself as Sara and puts a pair of 3D glasses over mine.
High ceilings, the walls all around are full of graffiti that pop up in 3D.
Figures and lines. Perspectives, blues and greens.
I notice two sexy bikes parked by the big windows.
We step downstairs to a walled garden.
A little girl is dancing around.
Tucked under the house, a DJ set.
A boy with baggy black pants and glasses
looks like the Colombian version of an Italian Marxist in the 60s.
Everybody’s unapologetically chilled:
There is nothing to do other than what we are doing.
I wander around searching people’s eyes.
It is 5 pm on December 31st – the sun is still up but
with a magic, sobering touch.
The DJ makes salsa funkier.
I dance with a thin boy with well-defined muscles,
a painted Che Guevara hat, and dark brown eyes.
I dance with an older short man, a creature straight out of the woods.
He keeps tripping, and gives me a lecture on ‘the ethics of pleasure’.
I don’t know what he is saying, but I have an intuition that it is important.
He feels like someone who has all the knowledge to live his life as a free man, minus the alcohol running in his body.
People fade in and out. Different outfits: provocative, casual, colourful… There is a coherence in the scene. It vibrates like sunsets.
It gets darker. I’m flying like a bee among flowers. My buzz sounds like ‘ay! estoy tan feliz!’ There is graffiti everywhere. I notice a huge green plant by the stairs.
What I love the most about Colombia, I tell Lia on the way out, is the amount of people with transparent eyes I meet. Honeymoon phase.
We cross the street with two other friends and a policeman asks us for ID. We pull out our IDs and the four of us remain deadly silent. I remind myself we are in Bogotá, even if I have no idea what that means.
We interact as if the police were a robot, doing quality control on us.
I can’t resist. I ask him ‘excuse me, do you think we will find a taxi at this time?’. To my desperate attempt to push the scene forward, he mumbles.
Casa del Ritmo, 10.pm.
She is standing in front of the fire with a big wooden spoon. She has been working on the meal for hours. She prepared a whole chicken, boiled it, chopped up meticulously: peppers, carrots, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, the slimy vegetable that makes things creamy…
She is now mixing the white rice with everything else. Meanwhile she dances a little, but a lot. A powerful women, with a big smile.
I ask many times if I can help. I make jokes, I hang around. Her 2 year old boy comes crying to her: ‘I will play with you later, niño’, she says, and her voice sounds like a sacred chorus. It sounds like a mama whale with its little ones.
She did not let me help at all. So I stand there and watch her stir the rice with everything else. It is a meal for 30 people. It looks heavy. The fire is high, hot, and she is revolving the pot. It looks colourful, it smells loved.
I watch in silence.
‘Pero usted es artista! – Exclamo yo –
‘But you are an artist!’
‘yo, noooo’ – la entonación que baja, un ‘no’ largo, desencantador.
‘Nooo, I am not’. ‘the intonation goes up, then down, and up again. A long ‘no’, disenchanting.
‘Como no, usted es artista!’ ‘of course, you are an artist!”
y ella rápida – ‘noo, los artistas son los que estudian!’
She goes quickly – noo, artists are those who study!”
I smile inside:
‘Noooooo, yo no lo veo así’. Respecto como lo ves pero yo no lo veo así’
‘I don’t see it this way. I respect how you see it, but I don’t see it that way’/
‘ah, bueno. Y como lo ve usted?’ – me dices
‘ah, and so how do YOU see it?’ – she says
sin pensar yo sigo – ‘Los artistas, para mi, son los que sienten. Si sientes mucho, y lo comuniques, eres artista’
Without thinking I go – ‘Artists, for me, are those who feel. If you feel a lot, and you communicate it, you are an artist’
‘ah, bueno. Enotonces Siii’ Yo soy artista! Muchas gracias por su perspectiva.
‘Ah, good- in this case yes I am an artist! Thank you for your perspective’. She says politely, with a huge smile, but no jokes.
Se juega de todo. Se juega a estar parados, a moverse.
Sin tomar una decisión consciente, Se juega a bailar.
30th hour in Colombia and I have been zapping universes.
I sit on the floor to centre in my notebook.
How did I not realize, that there was a whole other parallel dimension…
10 huge pillows build a raft.
Alegra speaks to Zac, waiting by the riverbank.
They use a walky-talky that makes a buzzing sound.
I watch them. All the other sounds fade into the background now.
I’m tuned in – a new channel.
I realize I want to speak to my mom.
I find the courage to ask: ‘excuse me, do you think I can call my mom with that?’.
Alegra is holding Zac by the shoulder
(to protect him, or to make sure she’d answer first?)
They seem hesitant. They murmur a ‘no se puede’,
but I am now determined to speak to my mom.
I explain my situation:
‘my mom is really far, and I don’t have another way to call.
Can I please use your walky-talky? Just let me try!
They accept. They pass me one and I’m so happy:
‘Ma, ma, mi senti?’
They ask me if the walky-talky works in Italian-
It might only work in Spanish. I say: don’t worry.
I am too excited to speak to my mom. I tell her about the night,
while Zack and Alegra giggle, speaking back in Spanish,
from the raft, on the other side of river.
A song that moves goes on.
Alegra runs to the other side of the room. Then back towards me
– with the beat – she grabs my hat
puts it on, to dance backwards, a la Michael Jackson.
Corner of Carrera 24 con Calle 34
The mannequin burns on the road:
right arm on fire, the torso collapses on the legs.
Alegra circles the body on the monopattino;
Zac follows right behind, closing the circle.
There is a sort of stillness in their movement.
I want to stamp my feet and make the ground tremble.
I want to lick the street and find it salty, while my pants become thick skin.
I think I want to become an elephant.
Zac and Alegra break the circle out of pure determination:
The fire shall not die!
They run away and come back with one leaf.
We stand there and watch it dissolve.
We empty our pockets of old
tissues, receipts, papelitos varios.
The fire is still burning…
A contemplation of the year que se fue.
Hands on the floor,
the first real feel of the streets of Bogota.
Knees on the floor:
I circle the fire.
I am an elephant
But the tiger’s roar comes out.
Alegra and Zac want me to be a monster.
They run away and come back,
Close enough to my eyes to negotiate with fear.
An AHHHH!!!!!! Which ends with high pitched chuckles.
‘Will you scare us again?’
A family drives by and honks,
‘Feliz año nuevo!’
Casa del Ritmo, 7 am.
The light of the first day of the year arrives to our balcony.
The background of champeta music.
Metallic unscrewing, water, powder, screw.
I stare at the fire, until the ‘ciu ciu!’ brings the aroma of the coffee to my nose.
A whole new year Gioel!
I’m here. Time runs.
Moments become stories and then dissolve.