This is a reminder that there is such a thing as taking too many precautions. It’s also a story in which a bra is the culprit.
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It seems so innocent, but don’t be fooled.
But first, let’s talk about Bogotá. I arrived in the early evening on the 5th of March, and it was already dark outside. I was too exhausted from a lack of sleep and 12 hours of flying to find out how the bus system works, so I did the convenient thing and took a taxi to my hostel Sue in La Candelaria. As I was alternating between looking out the window and trying to understand the taxi driver’s questions, I was already starting to suspect my A1/A2 level Spanish might not be enough to get by in Colombia.
Apart from little misunderstandings like signing my name where I should have put my date of birth, I was still able to check-in and get settled in the hostel. I had a private room because I didn’t want to deal with jetlag and noisy roommates right after arriving.
I knew It’s fairly cold in Bogotá compared to the rest of the country. I have probably also had more miserable nights in my life. That first night in Bogotá, however, It was hard to remember that, as I shivered my way through the early hours of the morning. My room had all the heat insulation of a beach hut without the actual convenience of being on the beach.
I had expected I might get homesick at some point, but I didn’t expect to feel so wretched on my very first day. I went for a walk through La Candelaria and visited the Museo del Oro. I was a little bored, but I honestly don’t know what I expected. It’s a museum full of gold behind glass. As the name suggests. Who would have thought?
Parts of the city were really nice, while others didn’t cause me to break out into cries of joy. Palm trees can turn most places beautiful though. I drank a coffee frappé at Juan Valdez, what I would later find out is Colombia’s Starbucks and felt alright, assuring my friends and family I hadn’t died yet.
Once I returned to my hostel however, the cold and the dark got to me again and the hottest shower couldn’t chase away the dread of having to spend another night freezing.
Looking back, I probably had a bout of culture shock, but I was seriously depressed and suddenly aware of how long a month can be. Deciding not to stay in my room all night, I did the only thing I knew would make me feel better: I booked my flight out of Bogotá and went to an Italian restaurant.
Luckily, I stumbled upon what is probably one of the best Italian restaurant’s in Colombia. I’ve only tried three so far, but I feel completely qualified to make a judgement here. It was the Pizzeria Osteria Italina just down the street from the hostel Sue Candelaria, if you’re ever headed that way.
I had just sat down, as I remembered something. I looked left and right and then checked my bra just to be sure. D’oh! 100 000 Colombian Pesos gone, just like that. And why? Had I been robbed? Had someone threatened me in a dark alley? Nope and double nope. Earlier that day, I had taken the amount of money it would cost to pay for the hostel room and put it in my bra, so in case someone mugged me, I’d still have some emergency cash.
I possibly should have remembered that when I went to take a shower.
Unwilling to return to the hostel to look for the money right away, I chose to have dinner first. Instead of bread rolls I got popcorn, which I could forgive because the Pasta Bolognaise was absolutely delicious and lifted my mood considerably. I decided to stay for a little longer; my money was probably gone anyway.
The restaurant was tiny and there weren’t too many other guests at the time, so who I had assumed to be the waiter started a conversation. Once again “to assume” made an ass out of you and me, because it turned out he was the owner as well. Because of his US accent, I had pegged him for a tourist come to stay for a while. So how does a guy from the States get the idea to open up an Italian restaurant in Colombia?
“You can start a business here with the amount of money it would cost to buy a car in the US. When you know the law, you can do almost anything here. To me, it’s a little bit like the Wild Wild West.” (paraphrased)
Infected by that much enthusiasm, I returned to the hostel, determined to find a warmer blanket and brave another night. Needless to say, my money was nowhere to be found and the only things I gained were experience and weird looks from the receptionist, who seemed slightly confused when I kept talking about money and a bra.