Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Alienation and la ciudad universitaria

Monday had its problems, since I got so frustrated with my continued money misunderstandings (it is remarkably difficult to tell 1000 from 10000 when you´re trying to pay for something quickly) that I burst into tears in a Transmilenio station. We had lunch at a bourgie but charming place here called Crepes & Waffles, an upscale chain with locations all over the city. The waitress was really nice, and the food was very good, so I gradually let the heat of my latte warm my heart to Bogotá once more.
This is a city unaccustomed to tourists, at least English-speaking ones. We get funny looks on the Transmilenio when Bobby and I chat and point at things out the window, and clerks usually look completely bewildered when I fail to understand what they said. In Southern California, many things are explained in English and in Spanish. Bogotá is much less international than Los Angeles. There don´t appear to be any ethnic enclaves, and though there are international restaurants, there´s no string of cheap Korean BBQ, Vietnamese soup and sandwiches, or Indian buffets to be found. Colombian food is delicious, mainly we´ve had platos corrientes (daily plates) of chicken and rice, with stewed vegetables and fried yuca. Crepes are big here (hence Crepes & Waffles), and they remind me of quesadillas. We´ve made our own juice out of maracuyá fruits, a tangy, starchy drink, but we have been avoiding all the delicious jugos naturales available absolutely everywhere.
On Tuesday we visited the ciudad universitaria, the campus of la Universidad Nacional de Colombia. There are campuses all over the country, but Bogotá has the largest, with 25,000 students according to our host´s friend. We spoke at length with our host and his friend about the historic and revolutionary legacy of the school. Once again I felt sheepish, having attended a tiny private college that looked admiringly to more politically revolutionary countries without suffering through disappearances, massacres, total shutdown of the school, and continuing battles with police. The campus has many interesting buildings, most decorated with graffiti urging arms and rejection of the state. The most architecturally interesting one is the social sciences library for graduate students. Bobby took some pictures, look here.