Bogota Travel Blog

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In Colombia (or at least in Bogota) you have the huge malls like New Zealand.  But Janneth{s stepfather has also taken us to wholesaler areas where there are entire streets of shops that all sell exactly the same thing.  For example, Willy (Janneth{s stepfather) because he makes shoes, goes almost every day to the wholesaler area that sells shoes and their components, i.e. leather, soles, heels, zips, etc.  Now I know what good leather means.  When I think of how much boots cost in New Zealand that are made from low-quality leather, I can see why Janneth refuses to buy shoes.

Back to the point.  You can start at one end of the street and walk several blocks and still all the shops will sell shoes.  No deviation.  It{s great if you want to shop for one particular thing.

The other day we drove through an area where they sold bed components and mattresses.  That was bizarre.

It{s hard not to spend a huge amount of money as everything is so cheap - especially sports brands as Colombia manufactures a lot of sports equipment and exports it to other countries.  For example, a beautiful stylish woollen jersey that in New Zealand would not be less than $140 sells here for 30,000 pesos - $20.

And did I mention that Colombia is the emerald capital of the world?  We briefly visited the Emerald Trade Centre - a huge multistoreyed building in central Bogota that houses shops that all sell emeralds.  While the price of the emeralds (very good quality) is cheaper than anywhere in New Zealand , it{s still expensive so I haven{t succumbed to temptation yet (sigh of relief from Simon).

Everywhere on the streets are people selling minutes on mobile phones.  You can make a call on their phone for only 200-300 pesos per minute which is about 20 cents.  Everybody everywhere is trying to sell things to make some money.

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Janneth{s family are poor but they are wealthier than many Colombians.  We visited today an uncle and aunt of Janneth{s that live further south in the city, in an area called Bosa.  They do not live ina house but rather have created a roof over the space in between existing two buildings.  The roof is made of sheets and bits of asbestos and the floor is not a "floor" as such, just carpets and wood placed over the dirt and piles of concrete that were already there.  Electricity is provided by extremely dubious-looking wiring that runs everywhere.  The whole residence is on a slope so you walk up the house to the bedrooms at the back.  Bizarrely, they have a computer and a washing machine!

Janneth{s aunt was a wonderful hostess.  Despite the fact that we were unexpected, she bade us sit down and made us "tinto" (black sweet coffee) and chattered away in Spanish.  All Colombians treat their guests as people of honour and make them very welcome.  If you offer to help they refuse politely but insistently and ask that you simply relax.

Then as a contrast we went to a shopping mall which is like any other shopping mall in the western world (apart from the signs in spanish, the different merchandise and the size of the complex of course!).  And the food.... everything here is so yummy.  We have been introduced to so many different foods here, man of which are typical Colombian foods.  It makes me think that in New Zealand we don{t really have food that is quintessentially kiwi that is sold on street corners everywhere.  Except maybe L&P (which isn{t food) - try explaining L&P to the people here and see how far you get.

The local drink - Colombiano - is very much like ice cream soda sold by the Budget brand in New Zealand.  Yummy.

Supermarkets here sell everything from motorbikes to sheets, plasma TVs to fresh fruit and packaged foods.  I tried shopping for the ingredients for macaroni cheese so we could make it for Janneth{s family but problemo numero uno: they do not sell hard strong'flavoured cheeses here.  The only hard cheese we could find was parmesan but that wasn{t much help.  Scott and I both agree that the cheese here is always soft, salty and quite mild in flavour.  I{m desperate for some good old tasty cheddar.  In the end we bought Gouda ... we{ll see how that turns out.  Next problem, spices.  Spices are very difficult to get hold of.  We found curry powder and pepper but no nutmeg or mustard powder.  And bacon? The only bacon available was very fatty american-type streaky bacon so we substituted chorizos.  This should be very interesting macaroni cheese.

photo by: caliphil007