Last weekend I went out with some friends to a Colombian restaurant / bar / salsa dancing place called Cafe Libro in the middle of northern Bogotá. There were about 6 or 7 of us, including one girl and her visiting father, a Swede about 50 or 55 years old. We arrived around 8 pm and ordered drinks and dinner.
The place played salsa music most of the night, and it was fun trying to learn some beginner’s moves with the girls that came with us. For the most part, we were focused on our own conversations and our own group, as it was somewhat loud and hard to hear in the restaurant.
Impressive Colombian Women…
Somewhere a long the line the Swede noticed a group of 4 or 5 women in the table next to us, who had ordered a full bottle of aguardiente. The Swede looked at me and said in an exquisite British accent, “Look at that! They came to drink! That is quite impressive!” Later on, the same group ordered another bottle and the Swede was even more taken by them.
The night went on until about 12:30, when just as we were about to leave, one woman from the other table came up to the Swede and said “Quieres bailar?” Do you want to dance?
Quite surprised, but fully interested, the Swede– with the help of my translation– answered in the affirmative and off they went to the dance floor.
(I have heard in some places that if you are a Swedish male (or look like one) with blonde hair, you are incredibly attractive to Colombian women. Yes, it seems like many Colombian women are attracted to foreigners in general, but particularly to these golden-headed extranjeros.)
At this point, the Swede had had several shots of aguardiente and a few beers so he was definitely enjoying himself and welcomed the attention. And, I’m not sure if he was even able to communicate with the group of women, especially because he didn’t speak any Spanish, but he came back to our group wide-eyed and smiling.
The Story Continues…
It was only a few minutes later that I found myself in a taxi with this “happy” Swede nearing 1 am in the morning. OK, not so bad, except for the fact that he doesn’t speak Spanish, and my Spanish had yet to be tested in late-night taxi rides. And, in case you didn’t know, taxi drivers in Colombia generally do not speak English.
So there we were, and we had to find our way home at night in a city that is not known for its obvious street signs or its impeccable safety record. We dropped off the Swede first because our friends had told the taxi driver his address. And then, there I was, alone in a Colombian taxi for the first time, in the middle of the massive city of Bogotá, at 1 am, myself almost falling asleep.
At that point, I chuckled and said to myself, “How the hell did I get here?”
I am in the middle of a foreign country where I do not speak the language anywhere near fluently. There’s a chance the taxi driver won’t understand me. There’s a chance we will get lost. There’s a chance I will get out at the wrong stop and I will be left to roam random streets of Bogotá at the most dangerous hours of the night.
It was awesome being in that moment, because the level of necessary self-reliance was so high. I had the address of the place, but I had only been there once before, it is hard to find, and it is not obvious based on the street numbers.
I woke up a little bit when our first turn was a wrong one, and we were combing streets looking for the address I had written on my paper. It was late at night, and from his intermittent mumbling the taxi driver sounded like he didn’t know where he was. The houses all looked the same to me, so I wasn’t quite sure where I was either. In Spanish the driver asked me what the address was, and, getting a teeny bit anxious, I read him the numbers as best I could.
Turn here… No wait… Turn around.
We continued to drive around for a little while. I remember at one point saying “Por favor, regresa allí.” Please return there… back to the place we had just driven, because I thought we were going in the wrong direction! The taxi driver responded with something Spanish that I couldn’t understand but didn’t sound very reassuring. He then turned down the next street, looking for my address.
Eventually, though, it turned out the taxi driver made the right turn. At the end of the road stood my building. Whew.
What I learned
It was such a great feeling to get out of the taxi that night because I wasn’t sure I could make it home, yet it turned out all right. I am confident that I can now ride a taxi speaking in a foreign language and end up at my destination.
If you can harness the challenges of self-reliance that will inevitably come to you when visiting a foreign country, traveling abroad instantly becomes more attractive.
And, of course, Colombian girls help in that area as well…