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[Listen to an audio version of this blog entry here.]

Be it for good or for bad, nothing lasts forever.

So I shouldn’t be too surprised that this day has come. In fact, in my soberer, self-critical moments I’ve realised that it could be a positive development for my overall health, despite the regular guilty pleasures it has given me.

Delicious mogollas chicharrónas with a perico oscuro from the now closed Panadería Vicky in Barrio Nueva Zelandia, Bogotá.

Finding another “office” similar to Panadería Vicky will be difficult.

Considering how the odd mini-break has failed to kick the habit, a more profound rupture is what’s needed. For what is a practice I would have years ago thought virtually impossible to engage in quickly became a routine in this environment.

The pandemic made this arguably toxic love affair even more intense, more acute (I say ‘arguably toxic’ because some believe it’s not inherently bad at all). The lack of steady work and thus a regular income plus the curtailments on movement meant I came to have a greater dependence on this relatively cheap daily fix as an out, as escapism from mundaneness — even if it in itself is mundane.

Yes, Colombia may have lifted travel restrictions months ago — in truth, bar a few strict weeks, they were never really a factor — but I’ve found it next to impossible to get out of my minimalist Bogotá barrio life and all associated with it.

It would have been nice to step away from this particular vice on my own terms but the reality is I simply haven’t been able to. The withdrawal is being enforced. And I didn’t see it coming.

To be more specific, those in charge of my beloved, family-run Panadería Vicky in Bogotá’s Barrio Nueva Zelandia, what I affectionately refer to as my office, are packing up. It’s where I am right now as I type these words, sipping on an exceptionally prepared ‘perico súper oscuro’, coffee with just a dash of milk, accompanied by a couple of freshly baked, delicious ‘mogollas chicharrónas’.

It’s those latter treats — basically bun-shaped, pork scratching-filled bread — that have been the main cause of my angst, as I explained last year.

‘Trying, often with little success, to explain to new employees on an almost daily basis how I like my coffee becomes tiring. This wasn’t an issue at Panadería Vicky.’

You see, as much as I know I should eat fewer of them, it’s become part of my routine to have at least four on a daily basis — in the stricter pandemic-lockdown days, I consumed up to six.  (Although, if a study on the world’s most nutritious foods referenced in this 2018 BBC article is to be believed, pork fat is actually quite nutritious — it’s the yeast bread encasing it that’s the issue.)

The very accommodating Leo and Alba, their son Michael and daughter Shareth Michelle, namely the family who have been running this panadería for the last eight years, expect no less. Even on the odd occasion when the chicharrónas aren’t available there’s an acceptable substitute in a cheese bread or pastry.

Panadería Vicky is dead. Long live Panadería Vicky!

Here today, gone tomorrow. Sad times in the far north of Bogotá.

Considering I like to think that my overall diet is healthy, this daily panadería indulgence has always rested somewhat uneasily on my mind.

Entering endgame
Now, with Panadería Vicky coming under a new administration I’ve been presented with a chance to ruffle up this routine — particularly so considering the place will shut for three weeks’ refurbishment.

From my current abode, I pass four panaderías before I get to Vicky’s  — in Colombia such establishments are ten-a-peso — but what has made this one my favourite, outside of the quality, reasonably priced fare on offer, has been the fact that it feels homely. A crucial factor in this is that it is family-run. Due to their constant presence and amiability, I’ve come to call Leo and the gang friends.

My experience of many other panaderías, Giovanni’s in La Perseverancia excepted, is that the staff changes all too frequently. Trying, often with little success, to explain to new employees on an almost daily basis how I like my coffee becomes tiring. Inconsistency of service is something I won’t tolerate for too long.

So while my frequenting of panaderías is not going to end completely — I do find them conducive to productivity in terms of reading and writing — the change at Vicky’s does give me an opportunity to at least scale back my bread consumption. Yes, I could have started doing that of my own accord before this, but I kind of felt that I wasn’t meeting my obligations if I didn’t have my minimum bread serving at “the office”.

On a broader scale, the back end of the year tends to be my, to borrow a sporting phrase, ‘premiership quarter’. In Aussie Rules and lately used in Gaelic (Irish) football, it refers to the third quarter of a game when the decisive moments often occur that end up settling the match.

With a visa expiry date just a couple of months away, yet again I face that stay-or-go question. The smart money might be on closing out this long-running Colombian contest (with the caveat that late developments have changed what had seemed the inevitable outcome in the past. After all, it’s more than just an empty phrase when I say Colombia is home. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life here).

Take whatever opportunities come one’s way in the closing stages but mentally begin to prepare for the next challenge in another arena. Whether the score over these last ten years is in my favour or not is somewhat meaningless. What’s done is done.

The game has to end at some stage. Nothing lasts forever.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.

Facebook: Wrong Way Corrigan — The Blog & IQuiz “The Bogotá Pub Quiz”.

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La vida en Colombia desde la perspectiva de un periodista y locutor irlandés, quien ha vivido en el país desde 2011. El blog explora temas sociales y culturales, interacción con los nativos, viajes, actualidades y mucho más. Escucha su podcast acá: https://anchor.fm/brendan-corrigan.

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