Bogota · Colombia · Parque Metropolitano Simon Bolivar · Pope · Pope Francis · South America · Teaching English · Travel

The Pope comes to Colombia

Today is Pope Francisco day.  This city and country have been going crazy with excitement and anticipation for his arrival.  It is so interesting to watch the people get geared up to see their idol.  His image is almost everywhere you look!

I’m going to see him at Parque Bolivar with another fellow.  The soldiers I work with are given tickets on a lottery basis in the VIP section in the park, but not being enlisted, I don’t get one of these tickets – fair enough.  Although this is a free event, they have a limited space, so one needs a ticket to enter.  Because there are so many people who have come from all over South America to see him, as well as Colombians, there has to be a limit to who can enter and this is one of the most fair ways of doing this.

bogota pope francis

My supervisor has a friend who has some extra tickets that he will give me.  I just have to go up north to get them.  Obviously, not a problem!  I am so excited about this opportunity.  I get there and pick up my tickets and see that my entry time is 5:00 am. The pope doesn’t give mass until 4:30pm!  That’s a long time to wait for him!!  Again, because of the amount of people, there is a staggered entry.

 

So we get up early.  I take an Uber to the Transmileneo Marly station to meet my friend and we take a taxi to the park – or as near the park as we can get as the roads all around the park are closed off.  So we walk the 20+ minutes to our entrance.  There are people everywhere.  We get in line and are fairly far back.  People try to go to the front and make a new line are yelled at and shamed until they admit defeat and go to the end of the lines.

The gates open and we enter.  We walk about 5 minutes and find more entrances where we are checked again and they take our tickets – we are through and now racing to find the best vantage point.  We find a great place where we can see his platform as well as a large screen showing all that is happening.  I have water, a book and some snacks.  I didn’t bring that much as the last time I came to the park for a show, they took most of my stuff.  Apparently today one could bring much more – people had whole picnics.  This was good for them as there were not hot drinks – no coffee! – and only snacks like chips.

We made friends with people around us and chatted and watched each other’s spots and told people off for trying to shove past us.  Then it began raining – we had to close up our space and stand and cover our things as our space got gradually smaller.  More and more people were pouring into the park and looking for somewhere close to stand so they could see the pope.  We were being pushed and shoved and invaded upon.  It was frustrating and understandable at the same time.  Colombian personal space is very different than that of Americans!

By this time it was 2:30pm and beginning to rain again.  Candis and I are introverts and neither of us Catholics.  We were losing the excitement of the whole, ‘Let’s see the pope, ” experience.  She had been sick and tried sleeping on the ground for a couple of hours but kept being stepped on.  We were also trying to hold our need to use the bathroom at bay. I had used them about 10am and they were bad then, so now, I shudder to think of the state of the porta potties!

We called it a day and decided to start to the edge of the park about 3pm where we could see him drive by and maybe some of the mass depending on the rain.  Well, we made it a little ways and the heavens opened. A deluge started.  We encountered more and more people on the way out of the park as we kept walking.  The whole way we were asking for forgiveness as we walked past and over people and their picnics.  There was no path, just person after person as far as we could see.  I began to despair of ever getting to the edge of the park.

crowd parque bolivar

I had put my phone in my bag as it was crowded and many people have their phones stolen here.  But as the rain continued, my bag began to drip with water as it was thoroughly soaked.  I was afraid to put my phone in my jeans pocket because it could get wet there too, so I put it in my water-proof jacket pocket where I kept my hand over it.

The crowd of people starting to leave began growing.  There was a crush of people and we were carried along with them for a while, then they were pushing and pulling and I began panicking – we were literally unable to move.  A lady starting banging into me and I put out my hand out to hold her back.  I fought being crushed by the crowd and then there was a release and we were able to move out of the crowd.  I felt for my phone again and it was gone.

I was hoping that it fell, but unsure about getting caught up in the throng again – Candis urged me on and took off to look for it on the ground – there was no way to see – we tried and all we saw were feet and puddles.  I am sure that someone in the crowd saw it and grabbed it from my pocket in the crush of people.

I was gutted and panicky – I felt vulnerable and naked and wanted to be home immediately.  But…. we were still trying to exit the park and plus, the streets around the park were closed AND without my phone, I couldn’t use Uber!  We made it to a path that was closed for the pope-mobile.  The Swiss guards were sweeping the path and there was no way through.  The guards and the police were not allowing people out that way.  We were told that the park was closed until after the pope-mobile went by and the pope got up to speak.  Again, the panic rose in my throat.

People began to riot and shake the barrier calling out, ‘derechos’, ‘policia’, ‘dejanos pasar,’ ‘somos gente,’ and other like phrases.  It was getting ugly as people became desperate to leave the park.  They opened up an exit to the park finally and routed us around to that exit – about 20 minutes away from where we were.  With my phone gone, I lost my interest in seeing the pope drive past in his little car.  I was wet, tired, cold and panicky.  We left the park.

I then realized that all my pictures and snaps were gone – the snapchat couldn’t send as I took them because so many people were in the park on the signal.  I had had no reception all day.  I felt upset over that as well – there went my memories.  I realize that I am way too attached to the little hand-held device!

We made it home – I was thankful that I had my computer and could talk on Facebook Messenger – all in all – life was not over, but it sure felt like it.  This day started out so very hopeful and exciting – a chance in a lifetime and ended up quite the opposite. Perspective – that’s what I need – perhaps tomorrow!

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Bogota · Colombia · Parque Metropolitano Simon Bolivar · South America · Teaching English · Travel

Puente Day Two

Today Ekat woke up super early and began trying to make coffee – she went through every possible thing in the house! Eventually we all got up and it was only 9:30am – we had only gotten max 4 or 5 hours of sleep – we were all super tired.

We decided to go hang out at Parque Bolivar for the day instead of going to Monseratte – we were all too tired to climb all those stairs!  Parque Central Simon Bolivar is a huge park in Bogota that is even larger than Central Park in New York.  It has an outdoor amplitheatre, a boating lake, several restaurants, a library and ample room to hang out in the grass and relax.

plano sbolivar

We walked there after taking a short transmileneo ride. They were very excited to ride it – which I totally understand at it is very exciting and something unique to Bogota.  I had forgotten how exciting it is – it can be packed and that is a cool experience coming from other countries who don’t have this kind of mass transit.

It was a nice walk on a beautiful day. We were really lucky with the weather this weekend. There was lot’s of sun and no rain at all – it helped the girls to fall in love with the city as much as I have.  When they were here before for orientation it was rainy and cold.

We were tired by the time we reached the park. I had to pee and it was hot and we were sweaty. We sat on the grass in the shade and drank some water and relaxed. There were people everywhere and most of them had their dogs with them. It was amazing how many people and their dogs were everywhere. I was surprised that there were cats there with their owners there as well. There were a lot of cats, on leashes, hanging out and in their carriers. It was super sweet. At one point I saw a young girl with her hamster in its cage. She wanted it to get ‘fresh air’!!

We have been told time and again about the number of phones that are stolen in this country. Apparently it’s quite a problem. So I have always been very protective of my phone and watchful over it. We went to a little shopping area near the park to get a snack and a coffee and find a place to pee.  We started walking back to the park when I realized that my phone was not in my pocket. I started panicking and then thought that maybe I had left it at the table. Rachel ran back for me and the phone was on the ground. It had fallen when I stood up. It was still there! I was so very happy – I feel so lucky!  It was very freeing to realize that I could live without my phone though.  I have gotten very attached to it here as it is how I stay in contact with my family and the maps guides me around the city.  It has become a life-line for me – I really need to re-think how dependent I am on it.

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After walking around the park and going to the boating lake, looking at all the animals, passing an area where guys were working out, we decided to look for something to eat.  There were various stands in the park, but no real food.  On Sundays in Bogota, there is a surprising lack of restaurants open in the evening.  It is kind of weird.  We looked around Chapinero, but found none, so were forced to go up to Zona G.  This is a touristy area, so they have chain restaurants that are open later.

We found this Mexican restaurant called El Carnal. It was kinda divey, but we thought why not – they didn’t have Margaritas, real Mexican food, plates, silverware, etc., it was kinda fast food – but we were way too tired and hungry to keep looking.

While we sat there and started on ‘nachos’ Ebony saw a bug in the food. I complained and sent the ‘nachos’ back. They said that they were sure the bug had just dropped into them because of the lights up on the ceiling, therefore it was not their problem.  They cautioned us to be careful and showed us other bugs flying around the lights.  So I guess bugs could fall into our food at any moment. We chose to leave to avoid eating any bugs! They were difficult about us paying for our food but we got out of paying for the food we’d ordered but didn’t get yet, however, they still wanted us to pay for our ‘nachos’. I was upset with the lack of good customer service. The guy told us ‘have a good evening’ sarcastically as we left, will NOT be returning.

The cultural difference between customer service and waiting on tables is very notable.  I am getting used to it, but still need to work on being more ‘tranquila’ even when I am tire!

We went to a Crepes and Waffles and had a satisfactory meal, went home and drank some wine and chatted before crashing.  Another long and delightful day and some well earned sleep!