I am being assaulted by the blazing sun and staring at a young woman. She is tottering in huge heels and grasping a white umbrella that is clearly far too big – trying to avoid both burning her nose and arriving at work in a sweaty mess. We’re not used to summer in Bogotá, you see, we’re even finding it hard to give up our umbrellas.
But crisp, sunny weather is not the only unpredictable joy in this city. Let me tell you about my perfectly normal Monday. Normal for Bogotá, that is.
Travelling on the bus through Galerias, I looked out the window to see a boy riding a bicycle. He was accompanied by six large dogs. That’s three beasts in each hand, all pulling and straining at their leads while he weaved and wobbled along the pavement.
I was distracted by this vision until I felt a furry tail pass my leg and looked down to see a stray dog (which clearly had wolf or husky ancestors) pushing through the bus. It walked down the aisle and then decided to take a ride, until my fellow passengers ordered the driver to “stop and let the dog out,” at which point the stray reluctantly returned to the streets.
I jumped out too and was enjoying the sunshine when a chocolate vendor accosted at me. Normally I don’t stop, but for some reason I made the mistake of hesitating.
He told me he wanted to play a game – I could ask him the capital city of any country in the world and, if he lost, I would win a chocolate bar. If I lost, I had to buy it.
I was still digesting this when he began: “What is the capital city of Nicaragua?” he chirruped. “No idea,” I replied. “And Venezuela?” he continued. “Er, Caracas,” I blinked.
“Now you,” he ordered.
My mind was blank and still confused as to how this had happened.
“Erm, Croatia?” I stuttered.
“Zagreb,” he replied, rolling his eyes. Well that aroused my dormant competitive spirit.
“Ivory Coast,” I snapped.
He looked confused.
Clearly, it was to his advantage that we could only play countries I can name in Spanish. Eventually I had to concede with Kenya and will offer this warning; Don’t play against this man, the chocolate is awful.
I ended my day perched on the edge of an ornate fountain, waiting for a friend to meet me. Finally I felt relaxed, because I could see nothing but a sea of smartly dressed professionals hurrying home from work. Then I felt a splash on my shoe and turned to find two window cleaners hurriedly filling their buckets from the fountain.
“Quick, quick,” the taller one yelled as he scampered away, soaking everything in his path with dirty fountain water.
Life is never normal here. The day it is, I shall probably give them back the visa.