Vacation in Bogotá

This week, for the first time since I moved here, friends came to visit. My high school friends Drew, Gabe, and Ben arrived last Saturday night and spent a week here, getting to know my new city, experiencing parts of my life here, and just hanging out with me.

I can’t overstate how great the week was. Being able to share my new life with them was maybe the greatest pleasure. Showing them around the city, introducing them to friends of mine here, taking them to class, and otherwise showing them how I live was a delight. And just having them here and spending time with them–especially after hardly seeing them for the last six months–was awesome.

On top of that, check out some things we saw, did, ate, and otherwise enjoyed: Ciclovía, el Museo Botero, el Museo de Arte Banco de la República, la Casa de Moneda, la Universidad Nacional, la Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano, UniAndes, Paloquemao, Monserrate, La Calera, tejo, patacones, arepas, ajiaco, obleas, buñuelos, almojábanas, Juan ValdezCrepes & Waffles, and Andres Carne de Res. The guys also went to el Museo del Oro and spent a day in Zipaquirá without me. All that in six days.

Two of those things need to get special mention, and we happened to do them both on Friday, so here’s how Friday went.

Because I switched my Friday morning class to Thursday evening, I got to sleep in that day. I worked for a bit in the morning before the guys came over; then we took a cab to a neighborhood where Isa had told us we could find tejo clubs. After Ben read the sport’s Wikipedia page–whose first paragraph ends with, “It is so much fun”–he all but demanded that we play at some point. So we headed out there and found a few tejo clubs amid all the auto shops in the neighborhood. We picked a club, grabbed lunch in its attached restaurant (not our first huge lunch for under $3 each), and headed back to the main building to play.

For those who haven’t clicked through to Wikipedia to read about it, here’s how you play tejo: You heave a stone weighing about five pounds toward a clay-filled box at the end of your lane. In the middle of the clay are a few targets–filled with gunpowder. When you hit them, directly and with enough force, they explode. They literally explode. That is the point of the game. Meanwhile, you’re drinking beer. Because you don’t actually pay to play tejo. You buy a case of beer, and with that you get the stones, the gunpowder targets (mechas), and the lane to play on, for as long as you have beer. The game ends, we guessed, when you finish the case. And whoever has exploded the most mechas at that point is the winner. By the way, no one explained anything about it to us, so we did what we saw other people do. If there are any complications in the scoring or rules, we didn’t know about them. Between the three of us, we exploded three mechas over the several hours it took us to finish 29 beers (the guy who cleaned up our clay targets halfway through took one beer as, we assumed, a tip for himself).

After sobering up, we headed out to Chía to go to Andres Carne de Res. I have never heard of another place with such an amazing reputation. Literally everyone who had mentioned the place to me before I went had raved about it. And though I could imagine a very fun restaurant/club, I couldn’t imagine one that would please so many people, and leave each one of them so happy. The first time I heard about Andres was from an American contact who used to live here. Early on in my time here, she wrote to me, “If you are looking to have a nice time this weekend then try to get your roommates to visit Andres Carne del Res (in Chia, outside Bogota) for the best party ever : ) (and I don’t like to stay up late but this place was infectious).” As someone who doesn’t buy into a lot of parties that other people I buy into, I was skeptical, but at least intrigued. After a number more sterling recommendations, and after my visiting friends got the same recommendation from other people, I finally had a weekend where I couldn’t avoid going. Having heard so many positive things, I was excited. But I still couldn’t imagine the kind of place that can earn such an overwhelmingly positive reputation from so many people.

Well, here’s that kind of place: Andres Carne de Res is a restaurant with great food and a huge menu, a club with multiple dance floors, more decorations coming out of more places than you can imagine or count, and more happy people surrounding you than just about anywhere else. The pictures only begin to convey the vibe. Upon entering, you know you’re in a special place. And if you don’t mind (or don’t look at) the prices on the menu, there is not a single thing to stop any type of person from enjoying the place. At one point Isa remarked to me that Andres was great because it had people of all ages, from teenagers to grandparents, enjoying themselves. I think that, more than anything else, nails what’s so fun–so infectious–about the place.

Tired out from all the dancing we had done, we left Andres at around 2 and got back to Bogotá around 3. I hugged my buddies goodbye and headed to the apartment, while they headed to the airport a couple hours later to catch their flights home. Yesterday and today we all rested, and tomorrow we go back to our usual routines. But–I can speak at least for myself on this–much happier for the last week having happened.

One final story to relate: On the day we planned to go up to the top of Monserrate, we weren’t sure where the funicular (the cable car) left from. As we wandered around Candelaria trying to find it, I noticed a little alley that headed up the foot of the mountain and suggested turning into it. Ben was in front of me; Gabe and Drew were behind me. We walked about twenty feet up some stairs and into this alley when a dog popped his head up and barked at us. Within a second or two, four more dogs popped up. Almost as fast, they all began barking, and then moving toward us–a few steps, then a trot, then a run. Drew, last in line and with a life-long fear of dogs (which is subsiding, I should note), turned heel and bolted. Gabe chased after him almost as fast. I like to think I waited a second longer, but then I too hightailed it. As I was running away, I looked back at the dogs and Ben. There I saw Ben standing, staring, moving backward slowly, challenging the dogs and winning. Unlike the rest of us, he didn’t run. He didn’t turn his back to the threat. And he didn’t let the dogs see he was scared of them. They congregated at his knees, but pacified enough to let him to back away from them, and to let all of us back out of the alley. Half-joking, but half-seriously, we all thanked Ben for saving our lives.

Oh, and as we ran out of the alley and almost literally bumped into a police officer, rather than asking us what had happened or whether we were ok, all he said was, “¿Que hacen? Es peligroso allá. Es muy peligroso.” — “What are you doing? It’s dangerous there. Really dangerous.”

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