I’ve been having an internal battle lately about whether I need to be more “positive” in my writing. And so I have been more positive, and I think my writing’s been OK, but I also think it’s been a bit…boring.
This morning I was looking through my old blog A Finnish Summer! to see if there was something I could recycle, and I came across a post I wrote while in Bogota, Colombia, in 2014. It was a rant about the inefficiency in Bogota, a city of nine million people where (according to me at the time) efficiency doesn’t exist.
I read the whole article and was mildly entertained. And then I tried to look for a something else because I feared this article was too “negative.” With each subsequent post I stopped reading after the first or second paragraph. And then I thought: Wait a minute, I just read that whole article about Bogota. And I didn’t have to force myself to read it. I wanted to read it. Maybe it was a bit negative, but at least it was engaging. It least it was honest.
So maybe my writing needs to be more polarizing. A lot of times I filter myself because I don’t want to sound ignorant or offend people. But it’s OK to say how you feel, as long as you’re respectful and articulate. Am I really only going to ever play it safe? Am I playing it safe? I don’t know the answers to these questions, and would love to know what you, the readers, the think. So if you’ve never left a comment, today might be a day to do so.
For now, here’s that post about Bogota, written February 21, 2014.
The “B” in Bogota
(Ed’s note: I have no idea why I titled it this)
It’s been a long time since I’ve written for Finnish Summer. I wish I was in Finland right now. I wish I was anywhere but in Bogota. I need a vacation. I’m sick of the lack of eficiency here. If you’re going to be on the beach drinking coconut water and surfing, inefficiency is the name of the game (though actually not with surfing, as that would probably involved trying to paddle your board with floaties on your arms or dragging a parachute behind you or something ridiculous like that). But when you’re in a city of 9 million people, you expect there to be some form of efficiency, somewhere. And yet there’s not. Everything is ridiculous in this country. Today I officially quit my job. Normally when you end a contract I imagine it might be customary to get a form signed by your boss or some kind of person in charge saying that the contract is over. And I had to do that. I also had to get another formed signed by about 10 other people saying that they were “at peace” with me and that I didn’t owe them anything and that as far as they were concerned I could leave. How ridiculous is this? Is this not the very reason hierarchy exists, to avoid situations like this, so that a person in charge can make important decisions without having to consult with every person who works at the company? There was a spot on the form for the cafeteria staff to sign. The cafeteria staff! In other words, there was a spot on the form for the lovely lady who gave us tea and coffee and poundcake at 430pm everyday to sign saying that I didn’t owe her any napkins or that I didn’t accidentally take seconds of the coffee. Riculous. Insane. Welcome to Colombia.
This country seems to pride itself on paperwork and appearances. For anything official there must be myriad documents to sign. It must be a process. It must be difficult. Because “that’s how things are supposed to be”. Or at least people think that’s how things are supposed to be. When you go to the park you see people working out with personal trainers doing ridiculously easy and ineffectual exercises with all kinds of equipment like medicine balls and surgical tubing that maybe target one to two muscles to 4% of their capacity, and yet that’s how it’s supposed to be. You’re not supposed to work out. You’re supposed to look like you’re working out. You’re not supposed to be a businessman. You’re supposed to wear a suit and a tie and shiny black shoes and look like a businessman. The work is completely independent. Appearances are everything here.
Should I come here just to bash the culture? Probably not. However, I think it’s natural to compare your culture to that of the culture you’re living in. Obviously you’re not going to be OK with everything. And you might even be a little unreasonably judgmental at times. I do not dislike Colombia. I really like Colombia. And for the most part, I really like Colombians. This is a beautiful country with beautiful people, it just has a ton of problems. What country doesn’t? There are some things I will get used to,but there are some things to which I probably won’t. I don’t need to go to Finland, but I do need to go on vacation, which is why my friend Steve and I are going to Villavicencio next weekend, a place where (apparently) the air is warm and the rumba and steak flows like wine. I don’t want to become jaded, because no one likes a jaded person. And no one likes a person who criticizes things only to be guilty of the same things themselves. And I realize that many times when we hate something we are really hating something that exists inside of us. I realize this. I am fully aware.
But the cafeteria lady? Give me a break….