miércoles, 22 de julio de 2009

First steps in Bogota (or how not to be too much of a European tourist)

"Cuidado!" this is what I heard the most as I ventured for the first time into Bogota's streets. Some will call it "preventive paranoia", others, basic comon sense, but all will remind you, perhaps ad nauseam, that around here one principle rules: "no hay que dar papaya". This popular Colombian saying may be translated to foreigners as a list of Dos and Donts which will propably prevent oneself from being robbed, or else.

It includes, for instance, not wearing external signs of wealth, not walking or grabing a taxi alone in the streets in night time, trying to avoid the center and forgeting about entering the southern neighborhoods. Those advices are clearly not the prerogative of Bogota, and could easily be considered as a basic "welcome guide" to understanding life in most of large cities in the world.

Nevertheless, it remains quite difficult for a new comer to precisely comprehend to which extent Bogota is or is not a secure place. Security, after all, seems to be a very biaised concept. One only needs to compare personal testimonies (which greatly vary from one another) with the french foreign affairs' webpage to understand the ambivalence of the judgement (cf. map above: red areas are strongly inadvisable/ orange areas are inadvisable!). So here I am, five days after my arrival in the city, perhaps even more at loss than I was before. The right path away from ridiculous paranoia and insane boldness shall be discovered over time, I guess.

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