My second hate comment, from “Julian”:
Please get the fuck out. dude, seriously, you’re the only piece of walking trash in that beautiful city,
Wow, he doesn’t know shit about Bogota! Or he has a warped definition of “trash.” He may honestly believe that Bogota’s biggest problem are the gringos with work visas teaching English and going to AA meetings. What this city really needs is more drunks and addicts panhandling in the street!
No, even Julian isn’t that warped. He just saw a limited side of the city. I might’ve said something like that after a few days. You have no idea about the city at that point. I’ve been here five months now and still have a lot to learn.
But after a short stay in La Candelaria taking taxis to party up north every night? You really don’t know shit.
When I heard there were 14,000 indigentes in Bogota, I was skeptical. But you see so many you can’t dismiss it outright. They’re on every block, usually tearing apart trash bags in search of recyclables.
Despite the few, truly needy displaced Colombians, most Bogota street bums are addicts and alcoholics. Drugs are insanely cheap. In America cocaine is expensive enough so cokeheads have to hold a job to stay high. Cocaine is hoarded. Guys take it into bathrooms with only their closest friends. Here it’s cheaper than beer. It’s done in public and shared like cigarettes. Colombian addicts don’t have to be as active as American crackheads. Simply begging and collecting recyclables keeps them high.
You see drug use in the streets. You lose sympathy when you see them smoking, snorting, and drinking out in the open. One time I saw a kid smoking a pipe near a cop on a downtown corner. The cop didn’t bother with him. That kid’s one of thousands.
I’ve been to major cities all over the world. There’s nothing like the drug abuse in Bogota. There may be similar scenes in the worst parts of high-crime American cities, but at least it’s contained. In Bogota you see drug use everywhere. One day I saw a bum, sprawled out on the sidewalk like it was his master bedroom, nursing his crack pipe right there on Avenida Caracas in Chapinero. One time I passed a young kid huddled against the brick wall on my block. He inadvertenly blew a thick cloud in the space I passed through. I smelled crack. Marijuana has a strong scent you can smell a block away. Crack, on the other hand, has a faint smell. You wouldn’t know it if you hadn’t been up close and personal. That’s how close I was to this kid. Just another day in Chapinero.
If Julian gave money to anybody who asked for it during his short stay, he should know that money was up in smoke before he could dole it out to the next one.
Bogota is like Night of the Living Dead. During the day eveything’s fine because there are millions of normal people out and about. But as soon as night falls, zombies come out and normal folks go inside. The zombies prowl the streets with aprovechador eyes.
I got the Night of the Living Dead analogy one night outside my building. An indigente was on his knees, tearing apart a trash bag and rifling through it for goodies. There was another in the middle of the street, staring down a sideblock. And there’s another who’s always walking around talking to himself. He holds a stick in his hand, banging walls and corners as he passes. Zombies!
The worst thing about Bogota bums is their attitude – they have the right to your pockets. You owe it to them. It’s not uncommon for a bum to follow someone for a block or more relentlessly begging.
One day in La Candelaria I ran into a gringo I knew. A zombie bum zeroed in on us. He had long hair and a 2-month shadow, clearly disorientated as to what was going on. He seemed drunk, but maybe just displaying the long-term effects of smoking bazuco. After we refused to give money, he asked for the bread the other gringo was eating. He asked for a piece of his bread. This gringo was weird; I was only talking to him to be polite. He abruptly left to ditch the bum, who gave chase.
I’m writing this on the same day two different gringos from my English institute got robbed in La Candelaria last week. One lost his leather jacket, money, and cell phone, and another lost her purse with EVERYTHING of value she owned except her passport.
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