Everyone thinks Bogota is a dangerous place. Here’s why I can’t wait to go back there.

A few years ago I was choosing a country for my internship and I fixed upon Colombia. You can imagine the reaction of parents and best friends of a Russian girl who wants to cross the ocean and spend several months in the country of drug dealers, thieves and extreme poverty.

At least this is what they imagined. I’m sure Colombia is not proud of some facts of its history, but I was lucky not to have any stereotypes about the country. Of course, I wasn’t sure about anything and I had no friends who have ever been there so it all was about me and my curiosity.

Right at that time, there was an extremely popular TV show in Russia about travelling and by chance, an episode about the capital of Colombia came out. All of my friends and my family were shocked. So was I when I saw it. My first thought was: no way I’m ever going to Bogota.

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El Dorado International Airport in Bogota. Very modern and convenient. Several floors and availability of official taxi service (always yellow).

The only project there was on the coast of the country in a really small city Sincelejo. I had to spend there at 3 months and I was pretty nervous if it would be okay. This time was absolutely amazing and I understood that Colombia was totally different from what most people think of it.

Time passed and I totally forgot about that episode of the show or anything I have ever heard of Colombia. I had my new Colombian family, tens of Colombian friends and I decided to stay for a bit longer. I found the only available project in… (where do you think?) Bogota!

A lot of people pronounce this name incorrectly. But the stress is at the end. It’s Bogotá.

As you already got the idea of the article I fell in love with this city and its people. When I was taken an interview about my experience, I couldn’t express anything else but gratitude. It was nice to dip into a megapolis life. Bogota appeared to be so unique and so charming. It has its own atmosphere, its perfect combination of completely different details: the seriousness and a fast pace of a capital with joyfulness and friendliness of people; strong autumn winds all the year round with a summer heat only an hour away from the city; extreme poverty and unpleasantness of the south of Bogota with the modernity and powerfulness of its north. It is not a perfect place to live in, it is not the safest city. But it’s a place that will capture you in its embrace and will never let go.

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Bronx. The most dangerous part of Bogota, as they say. The centre of drug use, the lowest levels of society. I didn’t dare to go to that side of the street and took a photo from a bus station, but even being four road lines away, it’s creepy, especially if I’m a foreign girl. I was with a local friend, who hold my hand and forbade me to speak or look scared, while we were getting to a local school (his place of work).

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15 minutes away from Bronx by bus. A completely different neighbourhood, tall buisiness centres, bank offices, modern apartment buildings. A really nice place to live in.

For me, it comes as no surprise that Colombia got the first line in a WIN/Gallup International’s Annual global End of Year survey in 2015 as happiest countries of the world. And I think I discovered the secret. It’s a simple balance of life and work, enjoyment of «here and now», family and friendship… Everything that Colombian metropolitan has in their soul.

I want to mention that it was a project of AIESEC, a student organisation, that invites 200 foreigners to participate in a teaching project twice a year. 70% of them leave the country with an endless love to Bogota and 30% stay in the city for longer because it’s never enough. Luckily more and more people come to visit Colombia, for the last five years it received so many tourists than never before. It really makes me happy for my second home.

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Plaza de Bolivar, Bogota

I’ve learned so much from Bogota and it definitely became my home. After the end of the project, I found two more to stay there longer. It wasn’t an easy decision because I was very homesick, but I just couldn’t let myself leave that incredible city and country. Bogota helped me find myself with an example of its people – so open, careless and happy. It also inspired me to become a travel blogger that gives me so much delight now.

 

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The view from an apartment building

I was living in the centre of the city admiring the Andes Mountains, enjoying fresh air and dancing salsa all the weekends in local bars. Later I moved to the north, the most modern part and had a quite luxury life for a pretty affordable price for a foreign teacher salary. I had a chance to travel around the country, see two oceans, dinner out at very fancy restaurants, go to the best clubs and enjoy a private pool in my residential area.  Now I can say that I absolutely got spoiled in Bogota. With love, friendship and beauty of life.

 

What is Bogota for me? Bogota is the most agreeable people in the world, the most sincere smiles, the most undoubted help. Bogota is a full enjoyment of life, it’s love for life despite all the difficulties. Bogota is high mountains, bright sun, dark clouds and strong showers. Bogota is a throng in rush hours. But at the same time, it is a fresh air, four seasons in a day. It is empty streets for Cyclovia on Sundays. It is delicious food. It is tall and splendid glass business centres. It’s red brick slums of the south. It’s fancy restaurants and the greatest night clubs. It is vast green parks for family-dog walks and music events. It is tiny dirty and bad smelled streets of poor blocks. Bogota is a huge gap between society levels, but the united point is that all of Bogotanos are open-hearted. Bogota is the contrasts that shock at first, depress later and don’t leave you indifferent at the end. Bogota is light smiles that return tenfold. It is a feeling of spiritual bankruptcy when you leave. Bogota is bright memories and enormous gratitude that it happened to you. Bogota is it something that you have to see at first-hand and live on your own.

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It’s been already 7 months since I came back home and every single day I am thinking about my beloved Bogota and Colombia. It is extremely difficult to recall vividly, again and again, all the bright moments I had there and every single minute I have a desire to buy a ticket, board a plane and have my life there again. As one of my friends wisely noticed, life is unfair and I can’t go back there yet.

Now I want the world to know the true face of Bogota, to realise not only its cons but get inspired to experience its beauty. I want to say f**k you, that TV show that shows only ugly parts of the city, just see how many beautiful places you can visit in Bogota and Colombia staying COMPLETELY safe! Never be scared because you’ve heard something negative. Be sure there’s always a great amount of unexplored joy and beauty of incredible Bogota and the whole country.

Love,

Diana

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