Category Archives: Expat Living

Lines and Laughter in Bogotá



I gasped for air and kept peddling, my head down so the spinning instructor wouldn’t see me laughing.

“Is it just me, or is he doing a sexy dance on top of the bike?” my friend Kari said on the bicycle next to me.

In the dark room, a spotlight highlighted the instructor’s deep-set eyes as he stared out into his audience. Beads of sweat rolled down his neck. He turned up the electronic salsa music and increased the resistance on his bike. His hips were thrusting back and forth as he shouted, “uno, dos, tres!”

Kari and I laughed about it the whole walk home.

This is just one example of the sexual nature of Colombian men—or the sexual undertone that envelops the city of Bogotá, my new home.

At restaurants, couples sit next to each other instead of across—kissing one another’s necks and lips in between bites of food. Young lovers can be found making out on stairwells outside department stores and on street corners. Everyone can dance salsa.

Just three days after landing in my new city I met a Colombian guy named Santiago. A casual meeting in the park turned into a hike to Monserrate, hot coco at a restaurant overlooking Bogotá, then a bottle of wine and tapas at an outdoor café. When he dropped me off at the hotel he asked to kiss me. “I don’t know if it’s your perfume, but I’m intoxicated by you,” he said as his lips touched mine. I almost spit in his mouth.

Santi and I have been out several times since then, and every time he says something that makes me bite the sides of my cheeks to keep from laughing.

“They’re not lines,” he tells me. “I’m just telling you what I’m thinking, and I’m thinking about you.”

I admit, it’s nice to hear. And I suspect in a few months the sight of my spinning instructor gyrating on top of his bike will be commonplace. But until then, I’m going to enjoy the unbridled laughter that Bogotá brings me. And I think I’ll take Santi up on salsa lessons.

You Want me to Pee Where?

Going to the bathroom in Korea is like receiving a box of Russel Stover chocolates—you never know what you’re gonna get.

Day two in Korea, still jetlagged, I had a 9:30am health check appointment at the hospital. A vision test, hearing test, lung X-ray and four vials of blood later, it was time to pee in a cup.

After being pricked and poked in front of what seemed like half of Seoul, a little urine sample sounded relatively painless.

I was wrong. My first public peeing experience—in a hospital mind you—ended up being in a ceramic hole in the ground.

What way do I face? Do I take my pants off? And if so, where do I put them? How am I going to pee in this damn cup with my skinny jeans around my ankles?

So many questions and so little time. My new boss was waiting for me outside the bathroom. So I planted my feet around the hole in the ground, shimmied my way-too-tight pants down to my knees and peed.

And not a drop of misplaced urine.

After the hospital I was off to see the school for the first time. And somehow, by the time we reached the building, I had to pee again. No ceramic holes, just miniature western-style toilets built for 5-year-olds and a few pairs of shower shoes placed at the entrance. I’m still not sure what they want me to do with these.

A few more facts about the bathrooms in Korea: There is no liquid hand soap. That’s right, these people wear masks everywhere they go and don’t allow outside shoes even at a gym, but they’ll happily share a piece of bar soap at their local watering hole. Sometimes you’ll even see it attached to a metal stick protruding from the bathroom wall.

Toilet paper, if there is any, is usually available outside of the stall. I’ve learned to carry tissue paper with me just in case. I’ve also learned that no matter what the bathroom may be like, sometimes you just gotta go.