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Angell Kim

Always doing things you never would have done.

Bogotá, Colombia

My name is Angell Kim and I am a Korean-American residing in Bogotá, Colombia. I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas and went to the University of Texas at Austin for International Relations. I worked and then served in the Peace Corps in the northern coast of Colombia for two years and then moved to the capital of Colombia, Bogotá to work for a reproductive rights NGO. I would like to write a novel someday and make people feel or laugh with my stories.

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Losing My Breath in Colombia

Nov 12, 2019 1 month ago

Riding the Transmilenio in Bogotá, Colombia isn't a smooth, five star limousine ride to your destination. It's a metro-like transportation service for around nine million people that gets you from one place to another in the bustling city of Bogotá. It's known for being one of the top places to get pick-pocketed. It's where homeless people sneak inside the buses without paying and poor people beg for coins by making a speech that will make your heart wrench. The buses are so packed throughout all hours of the day that you may almost kiss the person standing next to you. You can see true savagery when you try to get on one or off one of these packed buses during rush hour. It's like a scene from the zombie movies with hoards of people trying to get in while you are desperately trying to get out. Despite all these negative descriptions of one of the major transportation systems of Bogotá, I had a humanizing life-saving experience. As I was heading home one evening, I enter and see that it's not that full but all the seats are taken, per usual. I grab a handle while contemplating my day and looking outside through the windows. I notice there is an older man seated with very blue eyes who catches my gaze but I quickly turn away because this is normal in Colombia as a foreigner with Asian features: you just stand out. I notice a few people standing next to me checking their phones and chatting by tapping their keyboards quickly and I grasp my handle tight as the bus speeds north. As I pass the station, Calle 100, I start to feel a little bit nauseous. I try to stand up straighter with better posture and get closer to a window. I then start having a hard time breathing and as I blink my eyes, I get dizzy. I can feel my heartbeat racing and I start to shake my head to pull myself together. My vision starts clouding and I start seeing stars, like that feeling you get when you crouch and stand up too fast. I try to pull out my cellphone to start calling my boyfriend and in a blink of an eye, I see nothing. I had fainted in the Transmilenio. I am not sure how many seconds or minutes passed, but as I opened my eyes, I realized a circle of Colombians are staring at me. One guy is sustaining my right leg straight upwards and another guy has the other leg. Another guy's face is close to mine telling me, “Respira, respira, respira…” in a controlled tone. I blink my eyes several times and am dumbstruck. A lady next to me asks who she could call from my contacts and I whispered, “Please call David, my boyfriend.” She explains to David what has happened and gives me back my phone along with my headphones and tells me to keep them safely in my pocket. The guy who advised me to breathe deeply whistled to the bus driver to stop for a moment longer at the next station, Calle 106, and him and the older man with blue eyes both accompanied me out of the bus. They must've been family and both started to speak to me in broken English to breathe and have a seat outside of the station. Along came the police to understand what had happened and the two men bid me farewell and I cough up a proper, “Muchas gracias por ayudarme.” The policeman asked me general questions like what's my name, where am I from, who is coming to help me as I regained my consciousness. I am still a bit flabbergasted that I just fainted in probably the worst place to faint but keep blinking my eyes steadily to sharpen my focus and attention. Moments later, my boyfriend, who lives around 20 minutes from the scene of the incident, arrived in a record speed of 8 minutes and called me when he was at the entrance of the station. The policeman and I walked towards him, and David and I hugged as he asked how I felt. This experience shed light on how not everything is terrible, negative, dreary, or hopeless. There are a lot of stereotypes for people and places, but moments like these prove otherwise. When I told this story to my friends, they all immediately asked me if I had gotten robbed. It is a bit sad to think that this would be the reaction, but again, we are surrounded by negativity that we fail to see that there are good people and good things happening in this world. The Transmilenio is still not my preferred choice of transportation in Bogotá, but I remember that people lent me a hand that evening when I was in a state of vulnerability and weakness. In every part of the world, there is insecurity, but despite that, there are good people. I think we have to remember this so we don't become an additional negative or hopeless person in a society engulfed with pessimistic news and gossip. This is how I lost my breath both literally and figuratively in Bogotá: fainting in a foreign country and losing my breath in awe of those who helped me that evening.

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