Salsa, cerveza, street food and dancing are all what can be expected during a night out in Bogotá, Colombia’s bar district.
I have been dragging my godforsaken duffle bag around Colombia for more than three weeks now. That bag holds bathing suits, dresses for a job I don’t have and even gym clothes (which are actually used as pajamas.) But it doesn’t contain a cute club outfit. Not even at the very bottom where rogue tampons roll around.
It was Friday night in Bogotá and I was on my knees desperately digging through the massive bag like a pirate digging for treasure. (If treasure was a cute blouse that made boobs look fabulous while hiding a tummy pooch.) My new roommate invited me to hit the town with him and his friend. I met my Venezuelan roomie a few hours earlier when I arrived at the apartment.
He later admitted he extended the invitation because he felt bad that I didn’t have any friends in Bogotá. That’s cool. I’ll take pity invites all day. How else do you think I had a social life in the United States?
I cobbled together a decent outfit, smeared on some makeup and followed Roomie out the door. We walked a couple of blocks from our apartment to the bus station.
The apartment we were occupying wasn’t in the worst part of town, but the neighborhood could never be considered charming. The sidewalks had wide holes and trash littered the street. A young man beckoned for us to come into his restaurant for a late dinner. A woman begged for spare change.
The bus ride took about 20 minutes. New parts of Bogotá whooshed by in the night. I tried to commit all the bus stops to memory, but remembered I was living here now, there would be time to get it all figured out.
We got off the bus and walked a few more blocks while I sized up Roomie. If something popped off that night, would he have my back? I saw protein shake powder in the kitchen before we left, so maybe he was a little strong. Or maybe he just liked the taste of chalk.
We met up with his friend and his friend’s girlfriend. Was I on a double-date with my roommate? Should I have held off on the garlic bread I had for lunch? It didn’t matter, we were definitely going home together whether I had stinky breath or not.
The club was similar to the clubs in Florida, but there were a few differences. For example, the cover was 10,000 Colombia pesos, which equals about $3.50 USD. Cool, I could afford that.
The DJ played salsa, reggaeton, bachata and merengue. Roomie was a great dancer and was patient as I floundered around. I thought back to my father’s enormous kitchen where he would try to teach me to dance salsa. “Anneliese Karina!” he would enthusiastically yell as he grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the chair. It was in that kitchen that he taught me how to lightly put my hand on a man’s chest so he doesn’t pull me too close to him on the dancefloor. “It’s like the brake,” my father, also from Venezuela, said in a thick accent.
I wanted so badly to be like those other women. The true Latinas. I yearned for my movements to flow on the dance floor just like I so badly wanted my Spanish to flow when I spoke. Both would improve with time. I was determined.
Roomie and I decided we should head back to the apartment at 1:30 a.m. Exchanging several cheek kisses with his friends, I told them it had been fun. I wasn’t just being polite. I had a great time.
Through the window of our taxi, Roomie and I saw a young woman punching the chest of a young man outside another club. He was trying to shield himself from her blows, but became helpless when she grabbed him by the ear and yanked him down the street like a schoolboy who just got caught putting a frog in his teacher’s desk.
“There’s a lot of crazy people out here,” the taxi driver mumbled in Spanish. Roomie agreed and struck up a conversation with the cabbie while I looked out the window, reminding myself this was my new home.