I am cheating on my Portuguese tutor with another. Yes, I am a two-timer. Please don't tell. But the goal is a lofty one, thus requiring as much help as possible: learn Portuguese in the next five days. Can it be done?
After a two-week whirlwind tour around Colombia, I am now back in Bogota, and it was a formality that brought me here. You see, I rarely follow the path of most "normal" people - that is, plan ahead - and so it turns out that I need to spend a week in Bogota while my tourist visa for Brazil is being processed. Otherwise, I won't be getting on that plane to Rio come Friday night.
I hear the question in your mind right now... and yes, all American citizens need a visa to visit Brazil. A rather expensive visa, I might add. This is because the U.S. requires the same of Brazilians, so it's really only fair. And considering Brazil has long been at the top of my list of Dream Destinations, I have no doubt that it will be well worth the price of admission.
So I figure that while I am waiting around for the Brazilian Embassy to do their thing, I might as well try to learn the language. You may wonder how I managed to find two local Portuguese tutors within a matter of one day of being back here. I would tell you, but this is one girl who doesn't reveal (all) her secrets.
And anyway, I need both of them. Because the truth is I am nervous about being in a place where I can't easily communicate. Despite the rapid-fire pace with which the locals speak around here, Colombia has been too easy, and I have taken for granted my relative comfort with the Spanish language. Portuguese is a whole different, complicated but beautiful-sounding story, one I am trying my best to understand. The challenge though is that I fly into Rio on Saturday morning. Time is a-ticking.
In the meantime, I am making the most of this week in Bogota, and fully enjoying my time here. Despite the dodgy-by-night streets of the La Candelaria area (where my hotel is located), the cold weather, and the general consensus by other travelers that Medellin is a much cooler and more happening city, I like it here.
To me, Bogota feels more authentic than the heavily-cleavaged Medellin. Here there is a surprising degree of sophistication and elegance throughout the city, particularly in the way people dress. The new - global commerce, fancy cars and shiny high-rise buildings - seems to blend seamlessly with the old - a rich history, ubiquitous cultural institutions and well-preserved colonial architecture. The streets are easy to navigate, taxis and public transportation are plentiful, and every service you could ever need can be found here - including, I am thrilled to report, many, many yoga studios with kick-ass instructors. This is the kind of modern, interesting and fast-moving city in which I feel completely at ease - and if I can just manage to not get mugged during the next few days, it will be a very good week indeed.
Meanwhile, I have noticed something rather funny about Colombia - or annoying, depending on your perspective. (Editor's Note: This is not a wholly original observation, but one that was brought to my attention in a Medellin newspaper for gringos). In everyday speech, and throughout the country, there is this odd habit of "ito"-izing everything. For example, poco means a little. And it is super common in most Spanish-speaking countries to say poquito, meaning a little bit. But here in Colombia, everything is a little bit. The bank is cercita: A little bit close by. Pay the bill ahorita: A little bit right now. We are leaving in a media horita: In a little bit half an hour. I would make a good esposita. A good little bit of a wife. Um, ok....
In the spirit of this dimunization of absolutely everything, I have decided to be a tourist-ita while in Bogota. Meaning, I will probably spend more time sitting in cafes, drinking a warm canelazo and reading about all the things there are to do in Bogota, than I will actually spend doing them. Because more than anything, it feels great to stop moving, settle in a bit, and have time to just be here, doing all the things I would do back home - meet friends for coffee, take a language class, go salsa dancing, grocery shop... but do it all in Spanish. A "little bit" of living in Bogota feels like a great way to end my three-week tour of this amazing country. And although I am more than excited about Rio, come Friday I suspect I will be very bummed to leave.