Again I hope that I am not painting too negative of a picture of Colombia in this blog. It is a wonderful place in so many ways and I am truly grateful for the experience here. The kids are learning Spanish and new customs. I am improving my Spanish and making friends. Esteban is relaxing more and playing tennis regularly. People have been incredibly gracious and helpful. When I had to go into Bogota for the first time last week, our nanny’s sister, spent over an hour and a half with me, taking the buseta (little bus) to a flota (bigger bus) to the Transmileneo (sounds fancy but it’s a big bus that goes into Bogota) and then walked many blocks just to hand deliver me to my lunch date. Another woman who is a friend of a colleague of Esteban spent the whole morning driving me to check out public (work subsidized) country clubs since we are not sure if it’s worth it to pay a lot of money for the fancy private club. She then offered to take me to several more clubs next weekend so I can find the one I like best. And she is a working mother of three small children. She has a lot going on.
And then there is our nanny’s mom, who has devoted a lot of her time and energy to solving the alarm problem. For an update on this front, Sara and I spent several hours two days ago meeting the neighbors and collecting signatures for the petition to get the city government to issue an order to the police to cut take out the neighbor’s alarm speaker. Again, it was a wonderful introduction not only to the neighbors in the conjunto, but to the culture. Especially since Sara was giving me a running commentary on all the neighbors and the particularities of conjunto living. Most of the neighbors were extremely gracious and happy to sign our petition. They either rolled their eyes when we mentioned that we were having a problem with this neighbor and told us of their own problems with her (one neighbor went so far as to call her an “hija de puta” – a daughter of a whore – because she apparently called the cops when he and another neighbor were having a party on New Year’s Eve. “Who calls the cops on New Year’s Eve?” he asked.)
Another neighbor went to talk to our neighbor after he learned that she was the one setting off the alarm. We told him that he wouldn’t get very far with her but he kept telling us that he is good at convincing people. Apparently, this alarm has been waking up his wife ever since they moved to the conjunto from Bogota six months ago. “Imagine, we moved here to Chia from Bogota for peace and quiet and I haven’t been able to sleep here. Look at the dark circles under my eyes.” she lamented. She also complained about the homeless neighborhood dogs (another very sad reality of life here) who bark and moan into the night. Everybody has their concerns.
Of course there were also a couple of neighbors who were afraid that signing this petition might somehow cause problems for them. Apparently there are a couple of other neighbors who set off their alarms every day. Nobody has ever complained about them doing this but they were afraid that if the police take out our neighbor’s loudspeaker, would they take away theirs? Our nanny’s mom was masterful in reassuring them but later told me that nothing would make her happier than if the police could take away everybody’s alarms. These alarms are constantly going off because people don’t know how to use them. And what are they so afraid of anyway when our conjunto has a guard and a tall brick fence with five lines of electric wire above it?
So in the end, we collected twenty-two signatures. Armed with these, we went to the police station. The bored looking policeman was on duty again and busy with his video games. He sent us to the city government offices, where the letter with the signatures was stamped and is waiting for some bureaucrat to read and hopefully issue the order for the police to take out the loudspeaker. The police told us this process should take about 3 or 4 days. The city officials told us it could take up to 3 weeks. To speed up the process, our nanny’s mom went to see a friend of hers in the city government office who is in charge of moving things along. She promised to help. Meanwhile, we wait and keep our fingers crossed. And prepare to visit the police and the city council offices again and again… whatever it takes. It definitely takes perseverance here to get anything accomplished.