Saturday, August 06, 2011

Waiting for the Cable Guy

Waiting for the cable guy…
My first success so far in my new life here was the negotiation of internet and cable TV service with the nice lady from TelMex who comes to the embassy every week to sign up new subscribers. She only spoke Spanish, so I was quite proud of myself for being able to successfully understand the plan options, make a selection and schedule a date for the installers to come out. That day was today, specifically, this morning. I was woken up by the Tabbies who discovered that I hadn’t fully closed my bedroom door and proceeded to walk across me, nudge me and knead me all the while meowing incessantly. I fake-ignored them for over an hour before finally getting out of bed way too early for a Saturday (0715) to feed them. But hey, this was going to be a great day; the cable and internet dudes were going to be here anytime this morning after 0730! Heck, I’d better hurry and get dressed and showered, I thought. And just look at that gorgeous bright sunshine streaming over the mountains and into my windows; it’s going to be sooome day!
Silly me.
It’s now 4:14 pm and I think you can tell by the change in my tone that I have spent the entire day inside this apartment waiting for TelMex to no avail. They didn’t call, they didn’t text and they certainly didn’t come by, despite my giving all my contact information to the earnest representative. It seemed toooo easy to be true, and apparently it was.
So instead of relating to you all one simple success; one solitary process that went from A to B without visiting all the other letters in the alphabet first, I’m going to tell you about a day in the life of a nice Bogota neighborhood. Because frankly, with no TV and no internet, I’ve got some time on my hands. Oh, and yes, I already scrubbed the toilets (all four, two never used), swept and vacuumed the floors and dusted the furniture. Let me start at the beginning of a day:
This morning at 0413, I was awakened by a strange sound. It was the sound of utter silence. There was no party downstairs with its deafening bass line. There were no loud conversations reverberating through the brick airshaft and into my windows and vents. There were no cars! There were no Skil-Saws or hammers or tile cutters and there were no doorbells or other-people’s-phones ringing to make me dash across the house expectantly. Everyone within earshot of my bedroom was doing the same thing I was doing: they were simply being quiet. It was so pleasantly amazing, and it lasted about two minutes.
Squatters house
Out my bedroom windows is a row of two-story, semi-demolished connected homes. In the center house, there appears to be a family squatting. They have no electricity and I watch the parents go out to the back yard to collect water from some kind of man-hole cover over a well. I’ve seen the mother doing her laundry in big plastic tubs that she hides among the rubble of the neighboring house. She tucks away a bag of detergent and some other little wash buckets and climbs into the debris to retrieve them. The kids, they could be twins and are about four years old, play in the yard and scream and run as kids that age do. I can see into what was once a lovely glass sunroom to the broken up bits of furniture and a few of their things. There are dolls, or perhaps just doll heads – it’s hard to tell, but they move from place to place inside the room, so I think the kids still play with them. I’m certain that this row of small houses will be torn down any time now. In its place will eventually grow another elegant brick apartment building like mine, which will completely block the mountain view and eastern sunshine, not to mention what it will do to this family.
Rising above the broken-down houses across the street is a six-story brick apartment complex with big picture windows and balconies. While waiting fruitlessly for you-know-who not to show, I watched my own neighborhood TV: people playing with their dog on the balcony, a dog too small to see anything but the tips of its ears; the mother with her new baby; the young woman smoking and texting on her balcony; the man rearranging his living room furniture and the older women sitting at their kitchen table all day. I wonder what they’re all thinking of me?
My view east

There are dog walkers in the neighborhood in the mornings; men escorting five, six sometimes seven dogs at once through the streets and into the parks. The dogs seem to be very happy to be out en masse and I haven’t seen a fracas yet. There are also flower guys who set up buckets of long-stem roses and lilies and all other sorts of flowers for sale. They work alongside the parks and sidewalks, carefully trimming the stems to equal lengths and stripping the extra foliage. Flowers are one of Colombia’s biggest exports (yes, ONE of the biggest exports… we needn’t say more on that) and so the bouquets are very cheap. Also, in the midst of this modernity, are the horse-carts. I’m not sure what they’re hauling, but they could be scavenging recyclables from the trash outside of the apartment buildings and carting their take off to salvage yards. I’ve seen – and been told – that we don’t have to worry so much about separating our recyclables from the trash as this de facto service will take care of it. It was a bit surprising to see such a fragile horse and cart merging onto the busy highway in front of the embassy van the other day, however.
Flower sellers

So now let’s talk about traffic. It’s not crazy-crazy here, like India or China crazy, but it’s well… how about nutty? Something slightly less than crazy. Lanes are optional, space between vehicles negligible and there is no guarantee that the car to your right isn’t going to swerve in front of you to turn left. But that’s all standard-issue outside-of-America driving. I imagine Italy is like this, too. What I find interesting among this chaos and danger is that all the motorcyclists, of which there are many (not like Vietnam many, but still a lot), wear their license plate numbers boldly marked across the back of their helmets (yes, they wear helmets!) and across the back of their reflective safety vests. I’m not sure why all the extra care goes into identifying motorcyclists; is it so that they can match the body with the bike after a wreck? So you can more easily identify the driver who just ran you off the road or stole your purse? Why spend so much effort towards safety for these guys and so little towards, oh say, making sure that people don’t swerve across four lanes to reach their exit? Although my little blue truck is currently en route to Colombia, I’m not convinced I’ll be doing any of the actual driving (thanks Tim!).
That’s it; that’s my new home life.
A pretty house in the neighborhood

PS I'm using my neighbor's internet to write this.... called TelMex after getting the phone number from her - they have no record of my account. Good times.


  1. Great entry. I feel like I just spent the day in your neighborhood! thanks :)

  2. Was there a missed cue where one greases the plams of the Tel Mex rep to get the installation done promptly?