All too routinely when I make mention of having experienced a “Colombia Moment” on these pages or in conversation it is related to something altogether negative in its nature. Since my term has started to take flight into the lingua franca of the expat community, perhaps it’s worth mentioning that there are favourable connotations to a “Colombia Moment” however bizarre or backwards they might seem. Perhaps we could liken a “Colombia Moment” as the personification or the acting out of a Colombianada? If you are unsure as to what a Colombianada is, then check out this page.
Having spent the last few weeks in my de facto hermitage away from Bogota in Mompos, I was able to hide away from the crowds of tourists behind the tall colonial walls of my own home, read, sleep late and reflect on events. Colombia once again has been lauded as one of the happiest countries out there, this time we’ve come in at No2. There is no denying it, Colombians are a jovial bunch. I would argue that Colombians can make light of almost any situation.
So, as I returned to Bogota last week from my coastal retreat, I was immediately hit with two versions of the “Colombia Moment”. Are they more frequent in Bogota? It got me thinking, whereas in Mompos I would probably refer to these moments as Macondian in nature and indicative of the garciamarquian heritage of the town, in Bogota, they are most definitely “Colombia Moments”.
Colombia Moment #1
Catching a taxi just the other day I had to almost aggressively convince the driver that there was in fact no more contraflujo. I realize that this decision to reverse the North to South lane of the Carrera Septima – after 31 years of allowing commuters living in northern Bogota to enjoy four lanes in which to return home at the evening rush hour – may have come as a surprise to many despite the fact that it has been painfully overdue in its execution, but, were I a taxi driver, I would make it my very raison d’etre to know the ins and outs and fluid routes within the city. That his radio was on and had actually just made mention of the fact was also quite remarkable.
The more I think about it, there are moments such as these in every city and location in the world. This is far from unique to Colombia, it’s the style and the nature which are unique I think. Perhaps I experienced my London moment last October when I visited my home city after an absence of five years and felt more comfortable speaking to Hispanic shop attendants and baristas in the West End in Spanish. And maybe I experienced a Canada moment in Calgary some years ago when I was accused of queue jumping in the post office. Being English, I would never for the life of me dream of jumping to the front of the line, perish the thought. But after so many years in Latin America, I found that in Calgary, given the enormous space left between those waiting in the queue, I could not tell where it began and ended.
Colombia Moment #2
In the Centro Andino over the weekend and looking for a diary for 2015 I ended up entering some upmarket shop selling only pens and asked after a year planner. “We do have diaries,” said the helpful shop attendant, “but the ones for 2015 have not arrived yet. If you would like I can sell you one for 2014 at half price?”
With a beaming smile set, disguising the confusion that was whirring in my head as to why I might need a 2014 diary, I left the shop and went home. Methinks that 2015 will not be short of “Colombia Moments”.