Luckily, I have learned quickly how to be "aware" for example in America you wouldn't think twice about using an ATM basically anywhere at anytime. Here, at night you want to use one inside a store or one that is inside a locked room. At night you don't want to wander around alone or hail just any taxi off the street, it is better to call ahead and pre order your taxi so it can be tracked. That being said 99% of Colombians are friendly,hospitable people who are nice and have giving hearts. I personally knock on wood have had no problems so far. So don't let Colombia's past reputation scare you away from visiting. The only things I hate so far is the horrible traffic congestion, the four seasons in one day weather, and the beast that they call the "electric shower".
I have had lots of issues with getting lost because in Bogota it is a city that is basically totally off numbers. I will give you an example. The first coordinate is called a Carrea and the second is called a Calle. So you will have Kra. (Carrea) 72 con (with) Calle 53 and then a house or business number. There is a ton of abbreviations for the Calle/Carrea thing and they actually leave old addresses posted up! It can be quite confusing! At night it is really hard to see the addresses as they are only posted on the side of the buildings and there is no street signs :( The whole city is supposed to work on a grid system but the roads are so windy and messed up it doesn't always work like that so you end up all lost! Slowly but surely, I am getting it though. I have been lost on the bus system for four hours when I first got here and when my Spanish was terrible (that was no fun at all!)
Bogota has a really good metro bus system (Transmilenio) that is cheap (tickets are only a dollar and you get free unlimited transfers) but the buses don't go everywhere and there is no subway. The Transmilenio is really good if there is a station close to where you want to go. My only complaint is that it is always super crowded and they have the most INEFFICIENT loading/uploading system ever. Everyone just pours thru the turnstiles (both entering and exiting passengers thru the same ones) and then both exiting and entering passengers just pour onto/from the buses. It is a mad house! So, if you can't get where you want to go you have to take a "Collectivo" which range in size from a bus to a mini van and you pay the driver about 50 cents and hop on. They rarely stop for you, they will stop ANYWHERE at anytime so you have to be ready and you just have to know what bus goes where because there is no map or system. They are almost always overcrowded and sometimes you are literally packed shoulder to shoulder in a van. If you are lucky enough to get an actual seat on the collectivo you don't move at all until you have to get off. You enter the collectivo from the front and must exit from the back so if you get a seat near the back door that primo! Also because the button to "stop" the collectivo is only located in the very back! Generally speaking as soon as you push it though, they stop! Anywhere,anytime lol.
Traffic is always terrible in Bogota! It can take over 1 hour to get anywhere (I always give myself at least an hour to get anywhere) car ownership is only at 20% but there is 8 million+ people here so that is a lot of cars and add all the buses and taxis to that, with no subway system and it is always a mess! I hate it! Because for my job I have to travel to the client's house/office so I am always fighting traffic. But other than the bad traffic and the bad weather and electric showers I love everything else about this city. I even love how "raw" it is. I love how it is dirty and graffiti filled. I love how the sidewalks are sometimes broken or non existent. For the same reasons that I love Thailand, these third world cities are not "sanitized" and overly clean with no character. Obviously that is not for everyone but I feel more at ease in a city like this than I would in some sparkling clean city somewhere.
On the collectivos there is constantly people getting on trying to sell you things (they give a free whatever to the driver in exchange for him letting them hawk their stuff to you). They drive wildly (well everyone does in Colombia lol) they honk CONSTANTLY if you don't move your car/bus/truck/whatever the INSTANT it turns green and I do mean the instant! You just get used to all this noise after a while. In a city of 8 million people and me living close to the airport it is hard to avoid. I have almost sprained my ankle more than once jumping off a Collectivo because they don't stop but for a millisecond. When you are crammed into transport like that you really guard your wallet etc. But, when it is your only option to go to work you have to do it. Gas is 5 USD a gallon here so I will never be driving here! As you can see my commute can be pretty crappy sometimes lol
I am a private English tutor here and I have seven different great clients! I love my job because it is one on one and my clients are great. I have to go to their homes/offices which sucks because of the traffic but I am making good money and I really enjoy my job. I also moved to a good apartment with three Colombians, a chef,a comedian and a bartender. Only one of them speaks a little English so I am learning Spanish quickly. Being immersed in the language constantly I find that I am learning quickly! Everyone has been super nice. The only downside to my apartment is that beast they call the electric shower. See, our house (and a big part of the city) doesn't have hot water on tap. so the only way to get hot water is to rig this scary looking electric thing directly to the shower head. Thus far I have not been electrocuted haha. But, it is so temperamental! Just a pinch in the wrong direction and you are either freezing or burning! You want good water pressure? forget about it!! In a city that ranges from 40 degrees F to 75F year round with A LOT of rain, being cold is not something I like!
Now for my big news. I hope yall are still reading this far since I didn't lead with my big news haha. On my first day in Colombia I met a really cool guy named Sergio who speaks both English and Spanish and he has been to Texas! I met him via Couch Surfing. He told me he had someone he wanted me to meet, On my first day here he introduced me to a beautiful girl named Beatriz (she prefers Betty and its easier for me to say) Well Betty is now my official girlfriend :) Yes you heard that right, I Traveling Tyler am in a committed relationship! She is great! She studies biology at a big university here and she is also studying English and teaching me Spanish. We help each other language wise. She can cook and she is super sweet. Her family is awesome and I had a great Mother's Day with them. She is studying biology and she is so much smarter than I. When I say I am one lucky man, it is true! I don't know yet if we will go for the long haul or not but, I want to give us a chance.
So, long story short, for the first time in quite a while I am super happy. Everything is working out for me so far :) I have no desire to run off and travel more at the moment. I am not retiring forever just settling down for a bit. I have a great job,a good place to live and an amazing girlfriend who I like very much. I don't want to mess this up and give it a shot! So that is me thus far :) I have met some great people and I am having lots of fun. Thanks for reading my LONG rant. I had a lot to spill haha.
Til next time,Tyler