I am grateful that my fear of children and teens does not extend any
further than the classroom. As a novice English language teacher, one
of my first classes was a group of Japanese 17 year-olds who, on my
first day, hung me out to dry and pissed at the foot of my crucifix.
And that was before I had finished taking the roll. Any teacher will
advise that to overcome a fear or find answers in your search for
educational Nirvana you need to observe, and learn from other
So, in my gradual preparation for parenthood, (disclaimer: neither my
girlfriend nor I is pregnant. With my child. So she tells me) over the
last two weeks settling into our new hometown, Bogota, Colombia, I
have found it interesting to observe how parents manage themselves
across cultural borders.
As a city for kids, Bogota seems to be a surprisingly family-oriented
one (despite the rain and the cold and my lingering parasite
infection): in fact Sunday, it turns out, is Family Day, when 121km of
roads through the city are closed for 7 hours in the morning, and
every four weeks all museums are free.
We only learned this as we stumbled out of bed last weekend to be
attacked by hoards of pre-teens on their in-line skating dog licenses,
5 year-olds wearing body harnesses on bikes with flailing parents
jogging behind them and mums showing off their $2000 triple-Ds which
should have been in harnesses (plastic surgery is a national past-time
here and if you can fit collagen or silicone under it, or suck
something out of it, you can pay someone to do it, though not
necessarily tastefully. I for one have found myself having frequent
internal conversations with various parts of people's anatomy as they
march past me in the street).
Observation #1: No matter how bad the weather, or how
much it hurts, kids are better out than in (they love being
Observation # 2: Bigger breasts don't make your kids
listen to what you say, but it will make my girlfriend and I stare at
Observation #3: Putting your kid in a harness will
make people stare at you as if they expect you to pick their shit up
off the footpath.
Bogota's Museum of Gold, which is free every Sunday, is also a popular
alternative to dodging swaggering homeless people and tots on roller
skates while nursing a hangover. Go figure. Displaying, well, a
shiteload of gold, the museum apparently houses "the most important
collection of its kind in the world" - but then so would the Museum of
Tropical Intestinal Flora, and the Museum of Google Fonts.
I've never really understood museums. I usually leave them in a haze
of guilt because I feel like I should be getting more out of them,
which is not unlike eating too much hash and spending the afternoon
wondering what it is that everybody else knows and I don't. But I try
my best not to let this prejudice impair my potential to see new
things so that one day, I’ll have free things to do with my kids, just
like everybody else in Bogota on Sunday afternoon.
As for the kids - there were no tears. No tantrums. Most seemed
preoccupied taking photos on their phones of EVERY exhibit and paying
pertinent disregard to any of the information written on the walls.
It seemed many families had recently spent all their disposable income
on smart phones and were taking advantage of the free entry policy.
Observation #4: Free museums are good places to take
your kids, because they won't pay attention to anything inside anyway.
I, for one, was intent on taking in the museum's offerings and spent
as much time as I could tolerate reading the information above each
exhibit. Until I arrived at yet another collection of rings and nose
pieces to find written above on the wall "In the period to 500 A.D.
the Quimbayan population in Northern Colombia used to eat chicken."
As it turns out, even the people who write the shit in museums don’t
read the crap they write, so neither should you. Take your iphone (or
give it to your kids so they stop complaining), look at the pictures
and everything will be ok.
Observation #5: Everything, even obscure museum
jargon is more interesting with an iphone.
The Hairy Chef is a swimmer, a writer, a baker, a photographer and a
teacher from Perth, Western Australia. He holds the 2009 record for
the fastest relay crossing of The English Channel and the
(self-proclaimed) record for the hairiest person (man or woman) to
complete both English and Rottnest Island Channel swims. He is
currently teaching English as a second language in Bogota, Colombia.
Follow the adventures at The Hairy Chef