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It has been said that the first item on the agenda of a newly formed Irish political party is the split. Ireland just doesn’t do unity very well it seems.
Borrowing from that, after over eight years of Bogotá as my base, it would seem the first item on my imaginary agenda when I move into new accommodation is ‘Where will I live next?’
A moving target
I count 16 room rentals, excluding hostels, that I’ve had in the Colombian capital. That is to say, two house moves a year on average, although, somewhat embarrassingly, I’ve just completed move number three in as many months. Come on, we are living in, wait for it, unprecedented times, so this year’s upheaval is excusable.
(I’m pretty sure I would have stayed where I was from June 2019 to March of this year had there been no lockdown, coming as it did with the prospect of sharing a house with a noisy six-year-old boy — the rules of engagement changed and I didn’t like what I was facing into.)
Also, it’s important to note that in the period from September 2016 to September 2018 — when I returned to Ireland for a family event, uncertain as to my Colombian future — I stayed in the same place.
You could say I found something resembling comfort in that apartment share on the city’s northern reaches, 175th Street just off the motorway (autopista norte). Indeed, that greater area, especially Barrio Santandercito/San Antonio, remains my “stomping ground” of sorts.
Granted, it’s quite far away from the centre and “hip” Chapinero and its surrounds, parts of town that could be said to be a little more cosmopolitan — they certainly have more foreign faces about in any case.
‘My Colombian life has never really felt that “real”.’
Despite that, or perhaps because of it, I certainly don’t miss living in the historic centre, La Candelaria, for one. In terms of city living, I want for little in the far north — bar my own place of course.
So, you ask, why haven’t I got that after all this time? For starters, had I known back in 2012 that Bogotá would be my “home” for this long, it’s fairly likely I would have made finding my own place a priority, thus nipping this housing headache in the bud.
Alas, like a garden bush you keep promising yourself to trim back but never get around to it, this issue has grown rather wild over the years. Now it just seems overwhelming to tackle.
And every time I’m reminded of it, i.e. I have to move again, I usually think I won’t be in the city too much longer so a short-term solution is the best approach, especially from a financial perspective — that’s not only the more expensive rent but also the cost of making a vacant property a “home” for what may only be a couple of months.
The Colombian dream
You see, I’ve never been at a stage here where I’ve said to myself, ‘Yea, this is it. I’m happy with what I’m doing so if nothing changes over the next while I see no reason to leave.’
Basically, if somebody had asked me that highly annoying, completely unoriginal interview question, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’, from a what-part-of-the-world perspective, on no occasion over the last eight years would I have answered ‘Bogotá’. (In fairness, my general response to such a question is, ‘Sorry, my clairvoyant skills just aren’t what they used to be.’)
At the risk of getting somewhat philosophical here, the thing is my Colombian life has never really felt that “real”. I came here on a bit of an adventure, to “give it a lash”. A return to “real living”, you know, a proper, relatively well-paid job, maybe even “settling down”, having children, that kind of stuff, that’s for somewhere else, not here.
That’s been my thought process in any case. Nothing this year has changed that. In fact, it’s only been reinforced.
The question is, what next? If I can find a satisfying answer to that in the coming months, great. To borrow from one Irish “party” that has managed to avoid the inevitable split, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
Of course, one has to define what one is looking for before it can be found. With that in mind, I’m as confident as I can be that having my own place is a necessity. It’s a start at least.
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