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This is portrait number 4 in our series of Colombia Portraits and finally we managed to have a feminine point of view. Welcome to Vicki Kellaway, the bubbly author of Bananaskinflipflops. Get her thoughts on why she moved to Colombia and her love for the country she now calls home.
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Introduce yourself... What's your name, where are you from and what do you do here in Colombia?
My name is Vicki, I'm British and I'm a freelance writer.
And how long have you been here?
Almost three years. The time has flown.
Why Colombia, and why, specifically, Bogota?
I think Bogotá picked me. I'd worked in newspapers in England for six years and needed some time out. I was travelling when I stopped to 'rest' in Bogotá, thinking I'd study Spanish and learn some salsa. A few months later, I realised the city suited me completely.
What did people back home say when you told them you were moving to Colombia?
My dad wrote me a letter saying "No father wants to hear that their daughter has decided to live in Bogotá," but then he came to visit a few months later and grumbled that the city was 'just like London'. My friends didn't know what to think either, but when they visited Bogotá they loved it. My best friend told me it was easy to see why I chose it.
What keeps you here? What is it that makes it a place you've stayed
for so long?
I love the attitude of the people in this city; they are so industrious, they believe anything is possible if you're willing to work for it and find your own way to achieve it. I've learned not to be ashamed of having dreams. I'm also a bit of a wanderer, I do look for greener grass, but Bogotá has continued to tame me. It's probably true that the key to happiness is struggling to achieve goals you've set yourself. If so, the city has definitely given me that.
And what would you change? What do you find frustrating?
I wish Bogotanos were less self-critical and less inclined to idealise other nations. Bogotá has a real opportunity to lead the way when it comes to the green cities of the future, for example, when public transport will be more attractive and using your car less so, but it seems hellbent on going the other way. Just because we do something in Europe or the States doesn't make it right. They should be looking to us.
What piece of advice would you give to a newcomer?
Be patient, learn to live in the moment, be relaxed about plans and be warm and open with the people you meet. Always be polite and respectful, even if you're frustrated or running late. Bogotanos loathe rudeness. You'll never entirely lose your desire for punctuality and plans that actually materialise, but life is a lot more fun when it's unpredictable and you'll soon realise that hurry and frustration are two burdens you can live without.
What has been your favourite trip inside Colombia?
Vicki in Cartagena!
Difficult. I will always have a soft spot for Cartagena. I spent my 30th birthday there, it's so beautiful and magical and it appeals to my imagination. I think it's unmissable. I also loved Caño Cristales, Punta Gallinas and my foray into the Colombian Amazon.
Any final comments?
Only to say that I'm really proud and grateful to call Bogotá my home. So many Colombians and like-minded expats have helped me here, with everything from securing the visa to singing the praises of my blog, that I doubt I'll ever be able to repay them. But I do believe that one day people, particularly artists, will flock here, just like they did to Paris and New York. And when that happens I'll be very happy to say: "I always knew there was something special about that place."
Vicki writes an award-winning blog about life in Latin America. Visit www.bananaskinflipflops.com
=> Check our previous portraits: Kevin Howlett, Colombia Politics, Christian Petersen, Bogotá Graffiti Tours and Eric Tabone, Bogotá Business English