Smoke Detectors and Panini Stickers: Dirty Gritty Pretty Bogota

Sometimes I wish I had an office job so that I could swing in a rotating chair, heave my feet up onto a window overlooking Bogotá, pick my teeth with a hunting knife and then say: “I love this dirty gritty pretty city.”


dirty pretty gritty Bogotá

Eight years and counting. Wobbles and “Colombia moments” notwithstanding, things are good here. One of the key benefits to living in Colombia is that while I am jaded and angst ridden as a journalist, I am continually surprised by other factors of life that are still so alien to me.

For example, I found myself once again in the circle of hell that is Homecenter just a couple of days ago doing the ubiquitous shopping haul prior to leaving for Mompos. Due to insurance requirements we now need smoke alarms in the rooms in the Casa Amarilla. Checking out the selection on display, naturally I chose the most inexpensive and then rang them up at the check out to pay.

Crash Bogota

Crash Bogotá on the Avenida Caracas

Who knew that smoke detectors in Colombia were monitored purchases. I had to sign for them and give my profession. Why would you monitor who is buying smoke detectors? Surely you should be encouraging people to buy them? Alba and I spent a while mulling this over in the car back and the only reason we could assume is that perhaps more nefarious elements of society would buy them for ollas or “cooking” procedures. But then, a rudimentary google search informed me that these alarms would be effective even to meth smoke. In fact, almost completely overwhelmed by the intrigue, I ended up calling a company that imports smoke detectors to ask them about this mystery. Nope, they couldn’t provide me with a coherent answer.


the Amapola Cartonera

Smoke detectors aside, there is a vibrancy to the city with the political debate – and lack of it – taking place in the run up to the presidential elections on May 25th. People are trying to make things happen, no less so than the extroverted, resourceful and inventive folk of 5Bogota who saw fit to grace this old curmudgeon with one of their tours in Bogotá. Check out their website if you are looking for something more original, authentic and informed when discovering the misunderstood Colombian capital. It was most refreshing to delve into something that was more than just a walkabout in the Candelaria and a trip up Montserrate. More power to them.


My World Cup Panini Sticker album

World Cup fever is well and truly into full swing here in Colombia and understandably so since there has been a 16 year chasm since the Cafeteros last made the finals. The talismanic Falcao may or may not be match fit, but, dismiss the Colombian side at your peril. James Rodriguez (pronounced Hammis) and Teofilo Gutierrez are lethal on their day. Anyway, thankfully I am here in Colombia where I have joined the already swollen ranks of “manchildren” collecting stickers for the Panini album. People of all ages, sizes and social strata can be found doing swaps outside supermarkets on any given day. In fact, one could argue that this is the most organized I have ever seen Colombians to be. My wife, the economist, kindly printed me out an excel spreadsheet of the stickers that I still needed should I encounter a flash mob style swaps session.

politics in colombia

political debate in Colombia

So, love it or loathe it, politics in Colombia thunders on. The interim mayor of Bogotá Rafael Pardo seems to have the bit between his teeth and the aim of nothing more than erasing any remnants of the legacy of ousted Gustavo Petro. President Santos seems to have only competition from Enrique Peñalosa (he who queue barged in front of me at DiLucca). What of Oscar Zuluaga? As the alumni representative for Exeter University here in Colombia, am I obliged to invite him to our next soiree?




About Richard

Anglo-Canadian resident in Colombia. Journalist, Writer, Hotelier, Expedition Guide
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1 Response to Smoke Detectors and Panini Stickers: Dirty Gritty Pretty Bogota

  1. thellamadiaries says:

    I love Bogotá, in all its nitty gritty glory.

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