Friday, September 17, 2010

room with a view

For having been in Bogota almost two weeks, I haven't spent much time describing our new life here. So here are a few tidbits...

the neighbourhood:
  • In our neighbourhood, there is a crazy mix of homes with VERY traditional Spanish colonial architecture... sitting right next to the most stark, uber modern homes you've ever seen. There is no such thing as a developer buying up a whole neighbourhood and building cookie-cutter homes. EVERYTHING here is custom. From the home itself to the garage door to the sidewalk outside the home. I love it.
  • Most appliances here run on natural gas, but homes don't seem to have natural gas lines. Instead, trucks come by, stopping every few houses and ring a bell on the back of the truck. It's full of huge tanks (think the size of those big helium tanks at party stores) that they exchange the empties for full ones. The other day, I saw the poor guys who have to unload these giant gas tanks from the bed of a truck... did not look like easy work.
  • Everywhere I look, I see these amazing terracotta pots. They're huge and thick and worn and have this age and patina to them... they're everywhere. On balconies, in patios and courtyards, flanking doorways, lining walkways... and they're full of the most amazing plants. A few I recognize, but most are totally new to me. I want some. Both the pots and the plants. Our balconies (yes, we have two) are bare and bleak and boring. I want to be part of the Big Beautiful Terracotta Pot Club.

the food:
  • Groceries here are so expensive! A 200g box of cereal is about $5, as is a small jar of pickles. A can of coconut milk (around $2 back in Canada) is over $4 here. And I paid almost $10 for a small jar of feta cheese! Bread, condiments, and dairy products are also about twice the cost of similar items back home. 
  • Thankfully, fruits and vegetables are much more reasonable, especially given that most things that were expensive imports back home are locally grown here. Infact, I hardly recognize half the fruit at the stores. The other day the boys and I picked a few new fruits to try... with mostly amazing success... except for this thing.  I think it might have been a passionfruit. Whatever it was, it was AWFUL. I couldn't even swallow it. Maybe we weren't supposed to eat the slimy, greeny-orange gelatinous seed pod things, but I couldn't see a way to eat the skin. It was thick and hard. Either way, yuck. 
does this look normal, Patrycja??
  • Most Colombians seem to drink ultra-pasteurized milk, at least that's what the huge aisle of un-refrigerated milk -compared to the tiny shelf of normal milk- would have us believe. Ultra-pasteurized milk?? Yeah, yuck. After finally finding a source of raw goat's milk in Gatineau, the thought of ultra-pasteurized milk makes me more than a bit squeamish. Unfortunately, the source of goat's milk we've found here is $4/L... almost four times what we were paying in Gatineau. Ouch.
  • Not food, but toys are soooo expensive. SO. EXPENSIVE.  For example, this Bobba Fett ship Lego set is $89.99 US or  $109.99 CDN at Toys R Us, and just under 500,000 Colombia Pesos at a local toy store. That's over $277 CDN and $270 US. More than twice as expensive! In retrospect, I'm thankful for the ridiculous  (for us)  amount we spent on costumes/art supplies/Lego/other toys before leaving Canada. It will save us a bundle for birthdays and Christmas.
our apartment:
  • Even though it's so empty that most rooms echo when we talk, we're really liking our new place. The windows are huge (the light is amaaazing), the rooms are big and the closets border on the obscene. 
  • The furniture we've been provide with here is really nice. Too nice. I'm not sure whether or not the person who did the shopping for us knew that we have kids, or if they've just never met the likes of our boys. In the handbook we were given it states that the life span of embassy-supplied furniture is assumed to be eight years... well after less than two weeks the dining room chairs ALL have stains, one of the love seats was thrown up on (and the cushions don't come off for proper cleaning... who makes a sofa like that??), and the dining room table has all sorts of little dents from the end of forks, etc. Eight years??  There's no way. This is clearly not the season of life for nice things.
  • We were supplied with a "Welcome Kit" of necessities to tide us over until our shipment comes. Included were bed and bathroom linens, a set of Corelle Ware dishes, some glasses, a few pots, basic cutlery... you get the picture. Well after 10 days, we've already suffered two casualties... a glass tumbler and a coffee cup. Welcome to life with three little boys.
  • We have our own water heater, but it takes sooooo loooong for hot water to reach any of the taps, especially the ones in the bathrooms furthest from the heater. I feel guilty every time I run the water, but there are some things that you just can't do with ice cold water. But I feel so wasteful.
  • Our kitchen has all stainless steel appliances AND stainless steel counter tops. While I think it looks pretty cool and the seamless countertop/skin is wonderfully easy to wipe crumbs off of, the brand new stainless appliances are not so wonderfully easy to keep clean. Sticky-fingered, running-nosed, dirty, slobbery boys LEAVE MARKS ON EVERYTHING. Is there a trick I'm not aware of??
  • We have so much empty wall space -huge expanses of gleaming white walls that we're not allowed to paint- that I'm at a loss over how to fill it up. We have a massive hallway that runs the length of our suite (think bowling alley and you'll be close) that I have no idea what to do with, in addition to the huge living room and the separate family room. And there's also the boys' room and play room. I want to do something fun in both those rooms, but am really struggling to decide on a theme (even a loose theme) that would suit all three ages (7, almost 4 and 20 months) but that isn't too corny... and isn't Lego or Star Wars... or Star Wars Lego. 
Now want to see a picture of our building complex??

Bogota sights19
that's Peter walking in the bottom right corner

Bogota sights20

Our floor is the second from the top. The balcony without any lovely terracotta pots is ours... the door off it leads to the TV/family room. The huge expanse of windows to the right is the living room, and to the left -next to the tree with the lovely yellow flowers- is the window to the master bedroom.

It's pretty, right?

We were a bit jealous when we saw the huge patios that the folks on the first floor have. It runs the whole length of that side of the building! But for security reasons, embassy staff have to be on the third floor or above. So we'll make do with the little outdoor space we have. We'll fill it up with terracotta pots full of hibiscus and jasmine vines (a smell I will forever associate with Colombia now... one of my favourite smells HANDS DOWN) and succulents and some of these crazy tall grass-like things that are really common around here...

Bogota sights07
these grow 6-7' tall! any idea what they are??

So yeah. All in all, life here is good so far. It'd be nice to be able to call and talk to my family and friends a bit more easily, and we will all be super excited when our shipment finally arrives (it should have been here by now, but some mix up with paperwork that needed to be completed has delayed things by about three weeks), but other than that we're settling in quite nicely. 

Thanks to those of you who are joining us on this adventure. It will be fun to share this next year with you all.

Oh and for those who are still wondering about the pictures I posted yesterday, THEY'RE FOR GARBAGE! People put their garbage bags in them and garbage is picked up several times a week. For something so... um, utilitarian... I find them really interesting and kind of pretty. 


  1. When I spent a summer in Brazil as a young adult the nuns I lived with made the most wonderful juice with Passion Fruit. I remember being surprised at how much white sugar they used in it. Then they had me taste the fruit alone and I understood. You are only supposed to eat the jelly stuff inside (not the skin) and it is VERY tart. Almost impossible to eat on its own.

    If you can you have to find Acerola
    It makes wonderful juice (again the nuns put tons of sugar in it) and is super high in Vitamin C. Way more than an orange (by volume).

  2. sounds wonderful. i remember some of the fruit i tried while in india. some were wonderful. some were so vial you could barely be in the same room. glad to see that the adventure is starting of well (other than the late container. total bummer!)

  3. Loving these's like travelling vicariously. Before you left I wondered how you could possibly manage it, now I wonder why we all aren't taking on an adventure like this. It sounds wonderful!

  4. I LOVE your pictures! I've not put many on my blog lately because they're so grainy lately. I'm new at this photo stuff but I am loving it. Then again, pictures aren't necessarily the best idea when you are ranting about your crazy relatives or how to bribe your kids to flush the toilet! I'm heading over to your photo blog now to see if I can get some ideas!

  5. I am so enjoying reading your posts!!! Before I go any further, the fruit that you tried we call "fish eyes." Love it, but the one that you got, from the color of the seeds and jelly inside, looks rotten...sorry about that. When you get a good one though they are great. Espeically since you crack them open by slamming them against your siblings head. Don't eat the white, just the seeds, and don't suck the jelly off the seed and then eat the seed by itself...seeds by themself with no jelly are horrible.
    Your apartment sounds like so much fun! Excited to see what you do with the rooms. Maybe you could just to lots of colored accents with shapes or items. I am sure what ever you come up with will be great.
    Can't wait to hear more. Miss you guys!!!

  6. I know it's only been a few weeks, but I'm curious. What do you miss the most about Canada?

  7. Sounds like you are settling in pretty well!


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