Sunday, May 20, 2012

Straight Outta Bogota

I have never really been into rules. It probably has something to so with the fact that one of my parents still likes to end debates with statements such as "I don't have to do anything that I don't want to do, so just leave me alone". One of my earliest memories of my other parent is of them clenching their jaw in outrage in response to the Walk Sign before declaring "Nobody is going to tell me when I am going to walk", grabbing my hand, and leading me into oncoming traffic. They both just really want to be free.

As a result, I have never cared for people telling me what to do (which is surely why I was such a successful public school teacher).I have never had a great affinity toward authority. I've always thought that as long as I am not hurting anybody or breaking any laws you should just do you and let me do me. Even in elementary school I thought that the kids who went crying to the teachers were just cry babies who couldn't handle their own business. Didn't they get the memo? Nobody rats!

My feelings about authority only became worse after my arrest. In order to fully understand my feelings of outrage you must understand that it was a miscarriage of justice. After I explain a few things it will become clear why after my one and only ride in the back of a cruiser, I spent the rest of the summer listening to this CD 

and watching many, many episodes of The Dukes of Hazzard and developing a very deep and very real hatred for Boss Hog.

 Due to my high school's very strict discipline code and my own teenage neurosis upon graduation from high school I had consumed a total of 5 beers. I had never done drugs or spent much time with boys (which was not so much by choice). I didn't usually go to parties. If I did, I ended up doing the dishes. This was to distract my classmates from the fact that I was not imbibing. I spent a lot of time realizing that intoxicated high schoolers are really not that much fun to talk to when you are stone cold sober and have dishpan hands. 

Basically, I did absolutely nothing wrong except fail to clean my room and sometimes have a smart mouth (a condition I am still trying to cure). In short I was a nerd, a wet blanket, a stuffed shirt, a real Johnny No Fun. The only perk of which was never, ever getting in trouble. (I have a funny feeling I may have been having a little less fun than my amigos who spent their weekends doing keg stands and getting busy.)

Therefore, when I returned from my first year of college and my one year younger bestie invited me to a keg party in the woods I thought it would be funny. I had never been to one before and after a year at ZooMass I now knew a thing or two about drinking beer. However, our evening went horribly awry and the night ended with us standing in a holding cell with our hands handcuffed together with what I am pretty sure was a crack whore who was wearing a Ren and Stimpy T-shirt and a pair of unzipped jean shorts, or jorts. She informed us she was hiding pills in her "underwears". She then somehow managed to extract a half smoked cigarette from those underwears and smoke it. I felt like I was in the wrong place, not only because of all my years of rule following and sobriety, but because I knew tons of kids that did real bad stuff and they had never been forced to pose for a mug shot. 

However, what really made my blood boil is that at the time of my arrest I was not doing anything wrong. We had been waiting for the beer to arrive when we were arrested, there was no party happening at the party. We were sitting on a rock talking. They arrested us for trespassing and said we could all thank our friend's brother for this (who had some sort of argument with them the night before). It was all his fault because he thought he was so cool.

 These were not the words of respectable law man! These sounded a lot like the words of a jerk (which my cousin who went to school with my arresting officer confirmed that he in fact was) It was a miscarriage of justice! The charges were trumped up! The park where we were had closed 5 minutes before they showed up! You are not supposed to arrest a bunch of kids because you are mad at someone's brother (I think that they were just jealous that he actually was that cool)! I finally understood what those boys from Compton were talking about! All of my years of being a geek were totally down the drain. I had been booked! It was so no fair! I vowed never to watch another episode of this show again:

Although I have never that into rules, I don't actually do anything wrong. I realized at an early age that since I have terrible luck and an almost bizarre inability to lie, I wasn't really cut out for a life of crime. In addition to this, I didn't really enjoy my one trip to the pokey. The following day when I had to be arraigned with car jackers and prostitutes I felt pretty out of the loop(the bailiff asked my friends and I who were all 18 and wearing pretty Spring dresses if we were on a class trip) and felt it wasn't really my scene. 

Because of my feelings about Law and Order (not the show, ironically I really, really love that, especially the ones with Ice-T)I was surprised to find myself working with the 5-0 as part of my new job. Even though I am just there to teach them English, it just felt like something I would never find myself doing. I looked out into the classroom and looked at their feet and was like WOAH.

This photo is from the internets because I didn't really feel like it was a col time to whip out my camera and start snapping photos.

They were all actually really nice and not exactly what I expected. They were friendly and smiley and very interested in the workshop I was giving them. Some of them even made some goofy jokes. In celebration of Mother's Day they gave me a mug filled with chocolates (even though I explained that I was not a mother)and one of the officers played some sax solos, including Frankie's NY, NY in honor of what I claim is my home town (they seemed like the wrong crown for some kind of "I Am A Wandering Gypsy" spiel).

However, their language center is the same place where they train for other stuff. This is why I saw a group officers practicing how to load automatic weapons and another group practicing how to rescue important people from riots using defensive driving. I couldn't help feeling that it was a bad time to mention how hilarious I think Straight Outta Compton is or my feelings about Boss Hog. I just hope they don't find a way to hack into my Netflix account where Fight The System documentaries are always among my top suggestions.

Because I like doing things I never thought I would do, it is actually a kinda perfect assignment for me. Besides, it seems that even though Bogota is way safer than it used to be having some some 5-0 to contact if you find yourself in a bind just can't be a bad thing.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

But I'm Sooooo NOT a Millionaire!

When I first arrived in Bogota I was faced with a little problem. On my second day in the country I went to a meeting about security where I was told to never take the bus because they are targets for the the guerrillas. I was told the only safe mode of transport was to take a taxi. However, when I met any Colombian person the first thing they would say to me was "Please don't take the taxis. They are not safe." One person I talked to went as far as to tell me that each time his wife leaves the house he begs her to please never, never take a taxi by herself. This left me with no idea how to safely leave my apartment. The taxis are safe if you call them and get a password to give them when they pick you up, however, my 8th grade Spanish does not always allow this as an option. 

As a result I spent more time than I'd like to admit at the mall down the street treating myself to McFlurry's. Nothing says glamorous, international traveler like sitting at the local food court alone in a pair of yoga pants. Jealous?

I found out that all of the Colombians were warning me against taking a taxi solo because of the Paseos Millonarios. This translates into Millionaire Ride. Apparently, a thief will pose as a taxi driver. However, instead of taking you where you want to go he will pick up some of his friends who will pop in the back seat with you carrying some knives or guns and ask you to withdraw as much money as possible from various ATMs until you hit your daily limit.

Firstly, this made me nervous because of my bank's crazy security policy. The last time I tried to make a wire transfer they flagged my account for suspicious activity and I had to spend several hours verifying my identity by answering various security questions. Some of them I didn't even know, and I'm me. Honestly, does everyone really remember the year their Nana was born, what street their aunt lives on, and the address of the branch they opened their account at over ten years ago? It seems like if I found myself on a Paseo Millionario and my account was somehow flagged I would probably have even more trouble answering these questions and the robbers would probably not be too impressed.

I was also nervous about the possibility of them wanting some sort of larger payment. Unfortunately, when a lot of people think of Americans they think we all grew up like this guy:

Sadly, this was really not true in my case. I didn't have one of these in my childhood home (but it would have been so cool if I did which is what I used to think every time I watched the show when I wasn't busy thinking about how cute Jason Bateman was.):

I thought it would be really great if I could get some sort of small tattoo on my wrist or carry some kind of official card letting potential robbers know that I am really not even close to being a millionaire so would be a real waste of their time. When I really racked my brain I realized that while I probably did know about two millionaires, neither one of them like me enough to pay my ransom or anything.(I would like to add that is in no way a result of a lack of wishing and hoping on my part.)

       My own personal philosophy is something like this:

            Which has led to me doing a lot of this:

Through copious amounts of travel and a choice of a low paying career I have managed to avoid most of the problems that Biggie warned us about back in the day. I guess when I read The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer and she talked bout society keeping us in line by giving us the illusion of security when such a thing does not actually exist I took her a little too seriously.I have questioned this plan a time or two but then I realized that a new plan would require a job that forces you to work TWELVE MONTHS a year. This is just ludicrous. How could I go on road trips and watch The Wendy William's Show? 

           It's really such a good show. How you doin'?

However, I have a feeling that if I ever find myself on a Paseo Millonario I might be questioning my path and wishing I had become a businessman who could call an assistant who could wire some robbers a large sum of cash. 

Because I knew a Paseo Millionario would not work out well for me or anyone else involved, I decided to start taking the bus. I reasoned that not only did all of the Colombians I met think they were safe, but they were way cheaper than cabs and part of deciding not to be a businessman means giving up some luxuries (I can't lie. Many times while dragging heavy suitcases through Port Authority and sitting through 6 hour rides on the Hound I have felt as though I have taken a wrong turn somewhere at which point I have to concentrate on the three months out of the year that I don't work.)

The buses were scary at first since they don't have specific stops, you have to flag them down. I also can't figure out if they have numbers or anything. I have to strain to read the painted signs they have in the window to see if I recognize any of the locations and then hope I get on the right one. Once you get on the driver immediately takes off with a jerk. He then takes your money and makes change while both steering the bus and driving stick. This seems like too many jobs for one guy to be doing in heavy traffic, but it only costs 75 cents so it's hard to complain.

However, once I get on and sit down without falling down (which I always consider a big accomplishment)I find I m surrounded by seemingly normal people who all look as though they are on their way to work. While living in San Francisco, I saw people pass out, nod out, freak out, do heroine, and forget to wear pants on the bus. The buses in Bogota actually seem a lot less frightening. Everyone is always wearing pants!

Besides, I think it would be best for me to do everything in my power to avoid a millionaire ride since I am not sure any Colombian robbers would like to hear my take on Germain Greer, the dangers of materialism, or the magic of The Wendy Williams Show. I'm also pretty sure that they don't take IOUs.