Banana Skin Flip Flops may not be the New York Times but because Bogotá, especially among our little corner of English speakers, is more of a village than a city, I do meet people who’ve read it.
Sometimes they’ll write to me after our meeting and say: “You never said you were that Banana Girl,” or, better, “I feel like I know you already,” to which I always mumble something about the “carefully constructed version of myself I put on the Internet” and insist I am not a worry-stricken, culturally-confused, disasterous-at-dating blonde woman who runs around Bogotá in too-tall shoes, but actually someone who is always cool, calm and well put together.
I started Banana Skin Flip Flops to let my family and friends know I was safe during my six month trip to South America. At first it was awful – the classic ramblings of a journalist who’d spent six years writing to format, with space in mind and didn’t know what to do when someone said: Hey, write what you want, make it as long as you want and, er, no-one is going to edit it.
I called it Banana Skin Flip Flops because one of my dear friends in Liverpool was worried that South America would turn me into a hippie. “Please don’t come back here one of them,” she groaned, slurping her cocktail and kicking off her shoes in whatever bar we would have been in at the time. “I worry you’ll be one of those people boasting about the banana skin flip flops some guy made on a beach. Totally cheap and ecological man.”
Then I decided to stay and live in South America and the name became ridiculously apt as I slid precariously through everything from the language to the visa, from tax returns and bus issues to the time that man tried to mug me with a knife and I walked away because I didn’t understand his Spanish. Sometimes I make mistakes in this town and I still can’t believe I’ve made them and then beautiful things happen like when I couldn’t get my key in the door the other day and I eventually turned around, swearing, to find the taxi driver still patiently waiting for me to go inside.
For a hobby, Banana Skin Flip Flops has done quite well. It’s well on its way to having been viewed more than 200,000 times, around 300 people get it sent to their inbox each week and it has 1,000 followers on Twitter, 700 on facebook. More than 25,000 people have viewed 101 Reasons to love Bogotá alone which makes me cringe (I wrote it back in the days when I knew all of my readers) until I remember that President Obama wrote that book about smoking weed when he never expected to be President. Maybe I am one day destined to be Mayor of Bogotá and I won’t mind being haunted by that article.
Anyway, I should mention the real purpose of this post. I left the UK exactly three years ago on April 10 and that’s when I started this blog. So I was wondering if on Friday, April 12 you would like to come to Banana Skin Flip Flops birthday party? I know loads of you live all around the world but some of you live in Bogotá and it would be nice to meet you. We (that’s the blog and I) are going to have it at La Villa in the Zona T, from 5pm so you can come after work.
Let me know if you can make it and no gifts please, it’s not my real birthday (that I spent at the Hotel Villa Colonial in Cartagena. I found them through HostelBookers who gave them a 2013 Excellence Award so well done to them!)
Like this? You’ll love Colombia a comedy of errors.