The bus to Bogota left at noon and was supposed to arrive around five in the morning. There was a motorcycle rickshaw that I took to get to the station. My seat was right up front, but wasn’t the window seat I’d requested. Since no one was next to me, I took the window for the time being. The countryside was flooded. I watched fishermen bringing their boats right up alongside the road to unload their catches into cars. Brahmin cattle looked marooned on tiny islands. Hundreds of white cranes stood watch in the fields.
At the first station we came to, a woman stood over me to claim her seat. Before I could slide over, she took a different one near the back. Later, a girl with a teddy bear ended up in the seat. She hugged the bear to her chest and looked out the window as the sun went down and the sky grew dark.
I’d asked if we were going to stop for dinner and was told yes, sometime around eight. By eleven o’clock we still hadn’t stopped, and I was sorry now not to have invested in more snacks. There was a new guy sitting next to me with his arms propped up on both arm rests. I wanted to give him a little nudge.
Sometime after midnight, we stopped outside a small row of restaurants for ten minutes. One of them had papas, the deep-fried mashed potato balls I’d gotten addicted to. These ones tasted strange, however, as if they’d been stuffed with hairy leftovers.
We arrived on the outskirts of Bogota sometime around five, and the guy next to me got off. It was only then that I fell asleep, nodding in and out for the next two hours as we navigated our way through the worst traffic in the world. Bogota is tied with Rio de Janeiro for having that distinction. Since we’d be arriving at the bus station the same time as rush hour, I assumed that the conditions would be the same once I got a taxi, and was not disappointed. The driver quoted me an astronomical sum for Colombia, but once we got underway, I saw that he was only making a few cents an hour as there were some long stretches where we didn’t move one inch.
The hostel I’d booked was in the Candelario, close to the historic district and universities. When the driver got to the address I’d given him, the hostel was gone. He shouted to a man across the street and then drove to a different location and dropped me off out front. A man came out and said the hostel had moved again. He told me to go two blocks and take a left. I did and there was no hostel. I asked a man in a bicycle rental shop if he knew the place. He said to continue one more block. It would be on my left. Thank God, it was.
The hostel was cold when I walked in. The woman at reception was sitting there in a winter coat and wool hat. She showed me to my room. I’d reserved a private for a week, so I could work on my galleries, but now, with the lack of storage on my website, I wasn’t sure how much work there was to do. There were still about one hundred and fifty pieces of writing that I needed to find matching images for, and out of the matches I had made, about a third of them weren’t very strong. We’d passed a lot of street art coming from the station to the hostel, and from what I’d seen of the neighborhood, it looked like a hotbed of it. I figured I’d use the time to gather some new images and take stock of what I had.
The room I’d been assigned had three beds in it. One of the walls was a window, with no curtain, that looked out on a stairway that ran upstairs. The only electric outlet was next to the bed beside the window, so if I wanted to work, I had to do it there, almost in the open. People coming down the stairs could gaze into my room, as if it were an exhibit at a zoo. You’d see few animals demonstrating such strange behavior. At the end of my rope, and with no resources left but a credit card, I was determined to keep working on my art. A more logical response would’ve been to bang my head against the glass.