Having a non-Spanish speaking friend visit is the best language training. After all, it was up to me to figure out how to communicate. Here are a few of the Spanish phrases that I hear all the time.
effectivo = “cash”
tres quarto = how I like my steak cooked
muy amable = “so kind”
a la orden = what the shopkeepers cry out to get your attention, and so much more. It’s like “sure” or “okay” as well.
listo = okay or “ready.”
But, just when I think I’m getting less baffled, I go to Carulla or Jumbo, and I can’t understand what the cashier is saying when they ask me if I have a membership card? At least now I understand them, I just don’t actually know what they are saying…
A few nights ago, I heard a strange sound through my open windows. It was the sound of monsoon rain. Before moving here, I was told that the weather in Bogota is the same every day. Always 60 F (15 C), cloudy with a chance of sun. Now that it’s October, I’m being told another story. In October, Bogota has a rainy season. Every day for a month, the rainstorms will last longer and may include thunder and wind gusts. And, the temperature drops a few degrees. But, I’m told that come December, the weather will be really nice again.
A street in Candelaria, the old part of Bogota.
This “cold” weather is perhaps the reason that soup is so popular here.
Zip-ah-what? I played tourist for a day and visited the salt cathedral of Zipaquira. There’s no spelunking or crawling along on one’s knees. This place is a walk in the dark, more like doing a pilgrimage (like in Jerusalem on the via dolorosa) underground. The one-mile walk leads you through tunnels which lead to the stations of the cross. The goal is the large church at the bottom. At each station, there is a cross carved from salt and some kneeling posts. At some of the stops, there is piped music playing “Ave maria” which adds to the atmosphere.
As an experience, the salt cathedral is well organized and our English-speaking guide was both pleasant and audible (he wore a microphone). All the guides wear yellow hardhats so catching a glimpse of them in the mines adds to the experience.
At various photogenic locations along the way, the staff will take photos of you which you can then buy at the end of the tour. The end of the tour, at 180 meters below ground, has a host of trinket and jewelry shops, plus cafes. For those of us not moved religiously, the whole thing is a bit like a ride at an amusement park. Apparently, the Catedral de Sal is one of the “must see” things to do before dying. That seems like a bit of advertising exaggeration. The original salt cathedral was carved by the original salt miners seeking salvation in the salt. But, they were not engineers and therefore the original cathedral is too unstable for visitors. Hence this modern version.
It is possible to take the train, very slowly, from Bogota, and I imagine that is an experience worth trying.
I also think it is better to try to get away from the crowds. Alone in the quiet dark spaces, all the better to imagine meeting that knight from Raiders of the Lost Ark, guarding the holy grail. Maybe the grail is made of salt?