By Janifer I Cheng (@JaniferOmniInc aka @Janifer)
Janifer runs Media Mind Candy, Haiku Theater, and ReallyBadKaraoke.com, amongst other things and works at Universal Music Group as the administrative assistant to the vice president of business development and associate director of business and legal affairs during the day. She’s also a professional part-time poker, blackjack and roulette dealer, a restaurant reviewer, and a film and television extra on top of working towards a professional music career as a performer outside of contemporary a cappella. She wishes she were kidding.
She thinks she must be somewhat decent at her performing since she won this trip; either that or she’s just a really big ham.
Me, overlooking the forest on Monseratte Mountain.
This has been the year of me flying by the seat of my pants. Going with the flow landed me in this situation, and I have to admit, I didn’t really mind.
I have karaoke to blame/thank for all of this, that and Zemoga, who hosted the karaoke event for Internet Week NY. Going into this by myself, I had no intention of winning, but feeling brave, and seeing the guy before me pull mid-air splits while channeling Mick Jagger, I decided ‘To hell with this, I’m going to lay it all out there.’ Several hours and a 2nd round of singing later, I was announced the winner…to my surprise, because I really thought Mr. Jagger was bringing it home.
Two months later I find myself, on my birthday, on a flight to Bogota, which still hadn’t sunken in. I knew my high school level Spanish had over the years downgraded to a 4-year-old’s equivalent, but it didn’t stop me from trying, and after the nightmarish stories my friends bombarded me with, I decided it was time to be brave rather than cower. It was time to write my own story, because I wasn’t willing to live my life by someone else’s pen. So I tossed fear aside, I went in ready, willing and able.
A few things they don’t tell you in the travel brochures you should know:
From atop Monseratte Mountain, city view.
- You already start out over 8,000 ft above sea level, so you’re going to require some time to get acclimated to the elevation (shortness of breath, lightheadedness).
- They love their meat, carbs, and cheese en masse, so you best come with an appetite.
- Leave the sandals at home. It’s one of the biggest tip-offs that you’re a tourist and there are a lot of hills in the area that will require lots of walking.
- Even though it’s South America, wear t-shirts and long jeans, and bring a scarf, a light jacket, and an umbrella with you wherever you go. A typical day can have you experiencing Spring through Autumn within a 6 hour period.
- Simon Bolivar will be a reoccurring name in your travel.
- Juan Valdez is their equivalent to our Starbucks.
- Post cards will cost you over $6 USD each to send back to the USA.
- Water is offered in two forms (both bottled): with gas (seltzer) and without. NO TAP!
- They have mini-casinos in malls and just down the street. It’s almost as convenient as going for a carton of milk.
- They LOVE their hamburgers (which are 4x the size of ours)
Justice Palace in Bolivar Square
With that said, the food was fabulous, the folks at Zemoga were more than gracious hosts (many of them served as our tour guides), and the views were really spectacular. We went to Monseratte Mountain, which takes you an additional 2000+ ft above sea level to the Plaza de Bolivar which is in the heart of the historical district. We met a Grammy-award winning Colombian singer and ate at some of the best restaurants in town. We had a relaxing spa treatment and went shopping with the girls. We did a whole lot in 4 full days that I needed 12 straight hours of sleep to recover from it all.
Our tour guide for the day, Beto with Briana and Kim pointing at his tee.
I will say that the Zemoga office in Bogota is pretty impressive. They really do give a damn about their staff, offering classes to their employees (languages, mountain climbing, etc.), reasonable hours, recognition of employee birthdays, and free reign to create, not just from the creative team, but with all departments…explains why they’ve done so well and have such a great office culture. The best way to continue building great product is by maintaining the machine that is used to create said product. Zemoga, at least from my view, seems to have found a sound method of keeping their staff happy in and out of the office, and even though the atmosphere is laid back, the dedication that I continued to see daily by staff showed the care they had for what they did, and pride they had for a completed project.
A few parting notes and pictures before we part. Here are a few good words to know if you decide to visit outside the Bogota Zemoga offices (because the staff generally knows how to speak English).
- Iím sorry = Lo siento
- How much (does this cost) = Cuento cuesta (este)
- Here = Aqui
- There = Ahi
- Beer = Cerveza
- Water with (out) gas = Agua con(no) gas
- Bathroom = baño
- I want = Quiero
- Iím hungry = tengo hambre
Fernando explaining to Kim and Briana the view of the city.
Empanadas and Carima Òolas from Gaira Cafe, Bogota
The historical center of Chia.
A “baby doll”: banana, chocolate, ice cream, nuts, and whipped cream from Crepes and Waffles.
One of the exhibits at the Gold Museum (Museo del Oro)
Food on the mountaintop, Monseratte, Bogota.
From the “thank you corridor” in the church on Monseratte Mountain.
Giant meat offerings from El Galapago, Chia. – I did mention there was a lot of food.
Our small goodbye party at the famous Andres Carne de Res, Chia.
You knew I had to finish this off with Simon.