Never forget how beautiful you are.
I confess: I’m not really much of an antiquities aficionado. I’ve been known to bolt through the ground floor of The Met in less than ten minutes, muttering obtusely that all those broken columns and marble statues look like plain old rubble. So when I headed for Bogota’s National Museum, the biggest and oldest museum in Colombia, with an entire ground floor wing dedicated to pre-Columbian archeological treasures from 10,000 B.C. and centuries forward, I knew exactly what I planned to skip.
But this museum pretty much had me at hello. Built in 1874 as a prison, it was known as the Panóptico and its 104 cells were used for incarceration until 1946. The place was renovated in 1975 with lovely courtyards and fountains, and the galleries extend in a Greek cross in three directions–so there is always something hidden and beckoning you to explore.I started with the black & white photography show of Leo Matiz’s decades of photojournalism and avant-garde work – which was mesmerizing and profound.
Then I headed for the third floor — for fine art by Colombia’s beloved Fernando Botero, Alejandro Obregón, Andres de Santa Maria,and Guillermo Wiedemann. And that was… okay. I wasn’t really feeling the magic, so I cruised through the second floor which is mostly a history of portraits and odd stuff from Colombia’s founding fathers, none of whom I knew – except the inimitable (and incredibly gaunt supermodel) Simon Bolivar.
Finally, since I had the time and about 15% of my art energy left, I headed for the artifacts, figuring I could race through and said I did it. And boy howdy, did I get an eyeful! Here was all the magic I was missing from the modernists.
This didn’t feel like boring antiquities; it felt like having a conversation with somebody from 5,000 years ago… who just happened to have a nagging wife attitude like me.Or was poignantly sharing a secret with a friend…Or maybe was just having a really f@#*ing bad day. The pieces were so unbelievably charming….…I just about laughed out loud. It was incredible to believe I was looking at things created by people from cultures as far-flung and ancient as the Amazonas, Orinoco, Guajira, Andes and Pacific Coast …… when they really could have been people you’d see on the streets of New Orleans or Soho any day of the week. A little whacked but what the heck? And I’m pretty sure a few of them had to be inspiration for a video game or animation film …. I was just walking on air as I left .. until I got to the final little vault in which the museum keeps the 1500-year old mummies, surrounded by their graven gold.
That put a morbid chill in me! So I headed out to the cozy Museum Cafe for a cute cup of Juan Valdez’s special blend — and believe me, like so much in this sublime Colombian museum, it’s nothing whatever like Folger’s American model.
As I sat there marveling at my exhilarating, unexpected afternoon experience of photography, painting, creativity, caffeine, nature, incarceration and yes, antiquities… I thought this must be why I love museums so much. Because despite all our preconceptions and prejudices, they can sometimes show us who we are .. and who we apparently have been for thousands of years.
(I’m aghast that I didn’t bring my real camera and only have these iPhone photos to share with you…. just goes to show my cavalier attitude that was SO unwarranted!!)
Larry & I arrived in Bogota, Colombia on Saturday night on a recruitment trip for Oglethorpe University, trolling for new international students. Because we were heavily scheduled with recruitment meetings on Monday (don’t you hate when work interferes with travel?) Sunday was our one day to get out and explore.
At 8,612 feet in altitude, Bogota is naturally breathtaking (or breath-gulping) but it’s also a surprisingly easy city to adapt to. Sure, there are 8 million Bogotanos living here– but instead of being caught up in overwhelming traffic and chaos, most of them seemed to be out walking their dogs, taking a yoga class in the park…
… or biking, rollerblading and practicing their high-wire tricks in the multitude of city parks.
First stop: the Carrefours Supermercado, simply because the fruits on display looked so enticing. Eventually, the polite employees did kick me out for taking photos, but not before I got my fill of exotic tropical fruits you’ve probably never seen in the USA (who knew there were 11 kinds of mangoes??)
Next, we bopped over to the colonial enclave of Usaquen to check out my two favorite words in any language: flea market — a Bogota Sunday tradition and my destination to replace the genuine fake Dior sunglasses I bought in China (duhhh!) that naturally broke in half upon my arrival here.
We found lots of things to like in the market stalls: a new wallet for Larry to replace his bedraggled one, and a chartreuse long wallet for me to replace my 25-year old Tumi model. I’m a bit nervous that my new wallet is so bright & pretty, I’ll trash it out in a matter of weeks… so knowing me, I’ll just admire it and keep on using my old black indestructible model. (This type of thinking drives my husband nuts.) True to my original mission, I scored a cool pair of shades (not fake Dior) to keep me from squinting all day long, and only had to go back and return them once because a scratch on the lens was making me dizzy (my habit of returning things that I just bought likewise drives my husband nuts). Along the way, I fell hard for a beautiful leather purse for Lulu (hope she’s not reading about her surprise here!)….and succumbed to the charm of a super cool juicer that was bought as a present but that now I don’t want to give away (a constant moral quandary that I face when buying adorable things — which also drives my husband nuts).
All that spending (a whopping $75) and resisting the urge to clobber me gave Larry a big appetite — so he treated himself to a gorgeous paella whipped up in a giant wok alongside some delectable sauteed mushrooms ..
Fortified and shopping-satiated, we jumped in another cab and headed out to El Campin stadium to watch the Millonarios professional soccer club play. Now that was an experience — aural, visual and physical. First thing you notice: Bogotanos don’t just watch soccer – they jump up and down in place for the entire game (and why NOT take your shirt off, while you’re at it??)
They also those blow non-stop on those insanity-inducing vuvuzelas, bang on timpani and kettle drums that they lug to the game, and holler at the top of their lungs over every play. For my husband, who routinely watches the most obscure games from around the world on GOL TV, it was a trip to paradise and even though that generally drives me nuts, I was a good wife and threw myself into the spirit of the game.
Back at our cute hotel, I collapsed from the 6 straight hours of walking & intense shopping/sporting and watched Joan Rivers on “Fashion Police” while Larry went up to work out on the three antiquated fitness machines that make up the rooftop “gym.” We finished with a delicious Italian dinner in the T-Zone at Luna, followed by a quiet stroll through Bogota’s streets.
The obvious question is — “Whoa! Is Bogota really that safe to wander around? ” And the answer is — for the most part, Si! In the 1990s, Bogota was considered one of the most violent cities in the world (an unenviable claim now held by Caracas next door) with a murder rate of 81 per 100,000 people. Today, that rate is down to 17 — a 500% dramatic reduction accomplished by putting a staggering number of policemen on the streets and rigidly enforcing an integrated security policy. I have to mention that there has also been a forceful campaign to ban carried weapons on the city’s streets — and guess what? It actually works.
So far we love Bogota, even if we do now have to go to work. Stay tuned for more Colombian travelogues as we fly on Wednesday morning to Medellin (famed for having the most beautiful women in Colombia — but we’ll let Larry be the judge of that!), then onto Barranquilla on Thursday night. Hasta luego!
You may find this hard to believe but I love it when things get a little wild. The only problem (well, some people feel it’s a problem) is the line between fun wild and out-of-control wild can sometimes be a tiny bit difficult to recognize. Particularly in a garden. So all day Saturday I spent my time slashing my out-of-control plants back into some semblance of decorum. 10 giant dracaena spikes that I always forget to take out of the pots during the winter (because I like to watch them blowing in the wind) I had to literally saw out of the soil… and then settle for wimpy little tadpole seedlings.
The wall of embedded variegated vinca vines with pretty blue flowers that I also neglected to discipline last fall when they were tumbling over their containers like a tsunami? Cut back to the nub … and pulled out of the mortar. Enter mild-mannered pots of crimson geraniums.
My swamp sunflowers that got so unruly they can’t even be staked anymore and have smothered my echinacea and sweet little white daisies?Pulled up by the roots and replaced with Mexican sage & a pomegranate dracaena which is supposed to get 10 feet tall.
Oh rapture! That almost makes up for the golden-yellow masses of sunflowers that won’t be showing up at my window in late September. Almost.
Even for a Catholic like me, the Guatemalan religious traditions of Santa Semana (or Holy Week before Easter) are something to behold. Almost 40% of the country has switched from Catholicism to evangelical Christianity, but that hasn’t made a dent in the high holy days.
But the best part of the celebration was a tradition unique to Antigua — as overnight and through the day, people painstakingly created gigantic sidewalk murals out of colored sawdust. It reminded me of the exquisite sand paintings created by Tibetan monks – so precise and so temporal.
Some paintings were religious; others just beautiful. But everywhere in the city, people were out in the streets, making their beautiful mark. It’s such a cool tradition from such a remarkable culture.
Happy Holy Week!
As required by my last post, here’s the humor you’ve been looking for, sent in an email from my friend Mimi:
Young people have their acronyms; now Seniors have their own texting codes:
* ATD- At the Doctor’s
* BFF - Best Friend’s Funeral
* BTW- Bring the Wheelchair
* BYOT – Bring Your Own Teeth
* CBM- Covered by Medicare
* CUATSC- See You at the Senior Center
* DWI- Driving While Incontinent
* FWBB – Friend with Beta Blockers
* FWIW – Forgot Where I Was
* FMI- Found My Insulin
* GGPBL- Gotta Go, Pacemaker Battery Low
* GHA - Got Heartburn Again
* HGBM - Had Good Bowel Movement
* IMHO – Is My Hearing-Aid On?
* LMDO- Laughing My Dentures Out
* LOL- Living on Lipitor
* LWO- Lawrence Welk’s On
* OMMR- On My Massage Recliner
* OMSG – Oh My! Sorry, Gas
* ROFL…CGU – Rolling on the Floor Laughing…Can’t get Up!
* TOT- Texting on Toilet
* TTYL – Talk to You Louder
* WAITT – Who Am I Talking To?
* WTFA – Wet the Furniture Again
* WTP- Where’re the Prunes
* WWNO – Walker Wheels Need Oil
Now this is what the Internet is for.