Late Saturday morning in July, after working a week in Bogota, I change hotels, a 30-minute cab ride from the modest but comfortable Embassy Suites to the tony Radisson. A quiet time of year – schools out of session, families taking vacations. A slow period in the lobby. No businessmen heading to the office, early for check-in and late for check-out. Late for breakfast and early for lunch. Unlike my typical evening check-in after a five-hour flight, tired and anxious to get to my room, now I feel like chatting with the desk clerk and the bell boy.
I ask the clerk if she worked last week when a friend of mine had stayed there; he would have been memorable. No, she was on holiday with her family in Santa Marta, a Caribbean resort city unfamiliar to me. Providing some detail, beach activity, indigenous culture, handicrafts, she tells me I should go there some time, a beautiful place with historic sights to see. We speak mostly in English, though she welcomes my occasional tentative Spanish.
Wearing braces on his teeth, not uncommon for young adults in Bogota, the twenty-something bellboy who greeted my cab with good English, stands slight but erect, his lapel badge displaying his name, Andres. When the clerk asks for my passport, I reach for my backpack. Andres lifts it, turns it gracefully toward me, and guesses which section to unzip, holding the pack effortlessly until the clerk returns my passport, quickly zipping up the pack and placing it back atop my suitcase.
Pointing out the dining room where I should take breakfast, then handing me my room key card, tucked inside a paper pouch with my room number on the outside, the clerk welcomes me again and wishes me a happy stay.
As we walk toward the elevator, I transfer to Andres’ outstretched hand the key card, saying, “How long have you worked here, Andres?”
“Only a month, sir.”
“And before that?”
He looks into my eyes, smiling. “I just finished university, majoring in Communications.”
Good luck getting a job.
“My aunt is the head script writer for a major TV station in Bogota. I hope to get on her staff.”
Lucky kid; good connections.
He holds the door as we leave the elevator and points to the right. I follow the signs toward room 608. He reaches the room ahead of me, balances my bag and backpack, slides the card through the door slot, and holds up a palm to slow me down. He must slip the card into a receptacle on the wall just inside the door to turn on the electricity. Then he ushers me in with a slight bow.
He puts down my luggage, turns on more lights, points out the bathroom and minibar, and adjusts the drapes. I hand him a tip when he finishes the ritual.
He thanks me and tells me to phone him should I need anything. I say OK as I remove the laptop from my backpack and put it on the desk.
When he reaches the door, he turns. “Also, I am training to be a bull fighter. I want to go to Spain to become the best in the world.”
I stop setting up my laptop and look at him with renewed interest.
“I have a friend who rode Brahmas while studying at Stanford,” I say. “You’re the first bull fighter I’ve met. In fact, I’ve never been to a bullfight. We have rodeos in Texas.”
He smiles. “Perhaps I will go to Houston and Dallas to have a close look at the bulls.”
“You may prefer the smaller rodeos, like Mesquite. Easier to get up close to the animals.”
“I shall remember your advice,” He nods and backs out the door. “Again, dial 205 if you should need anything.”
Unpacking my bag, I imagine Andres striding into the ring, hat under one arm, cape over the other, scanning the adoring crowd. The braces are gone, but the eyes and smile are the same. He looks terrific in his tight-fitting uniform.
I hope to see him again, in the bull ring or on TV, or toting my bags in some Bogota hotel.
Shark’s tooth on the beach, arrowhead in the cornfield, nugget in the stream, unexpected treasures everywhere.