reflections on the social landscape in Bogotá

Jennifer translated this post into spanish – you can find it here.
also posted on our outpost blog and as facebook note
scanning the social fabric

As all of us from my KaosPilot team (here for a 3 month outpost) i have been asked many times what i think about Bakata (the original name of Bogotá!) and Colombia. Instead of feeling exhausted by the same question again and again i decided to acknowledge how important it is to be mirrored from the outside and to take it as an invitation to challenge myself with going deeper each time the question comes up.

So here some thoughts for now, maybe more to come… 


As we heard many times – and unfortunate experience has proofed it (robbery); we have to be alert all the time in public space! This high level of concentration was exhausting for me in the beginning as i am used to Danish/German standards where you are completely safe on the streets and most people would bring you your wallet if it falls out of your pocket. Meanwhile i see it as a training in inner work – if i choose to not even let fear or nervousness arise in my emotional body on the streets i am radiating confidence and my presence is awake, almost like a hunter :) Presence is key in public space.


I am so amazed how a city of 7million+ people has such a high level of local vibrancy – neighbourhoods have a very specific identity and all street corners have a difference in their flavor. There are little street-shops everywhere where you can buy one (!!) cigarette or pay 200pesos for one minute of using a mobile phone. When you stand in the car in front of a traffic light on a big street there will always be people juggling or selling you candies, comics, food or newspaper. I experienced a ride with a friend through town where he was basically doing his morning-shopping from food to coffee and newspaper in the car by buying things as we drove along :) So this small quantities of daily-need products that you can get everywhere have the effect that you can leave your house less prepared in terms of having had breakfast and all that because you can just get it on the go. Somehow this adds to the dynamic that people are tied very personal to the public space. And at the same time you need that alertness… so its having alertness in a much more ‘intimate’ public space than we have in Europe. That trains to hold the contrast of closeness and danger at the same time…


I notice how i start intuitively scan people all the time – what’s their intention, how do they look, who are they having eye contact with… what’s the energy for this group of people, is it only men or is there a woman with them? are they communicating without words about me? what is the angle i need to walk on this pedestrian walk so that i could run away, just in case…

I am amazed how good Colombian people are at scanning social situations and how situations occur. Its very important to know who is here through who and if that is a trusted relationship. Who is holding the strongest energy around this gathering, who called for it, what’s the crucial social points in the relational landscape. The fabric of a constellation will be x-rayed within seconds and leaders, stakeholders and relationships get identified. Even in masses of people i notice that the constellation-scanner operates very effectively. It seems the Colombian social sensors are tuned sharply on seeing groups/clusters and their fabric.

This thing about the social classes is BIG here, it’s the unwritten law that dictates everything. It’s very hard for me to see though from the outside – it seems to be the threshold of context-depth to see this things beyond the obvious. Well, and then it might be a next level of social evolution here to consciously not seeing it ;)


If i think now about Europe or the US i am getting a bored and gray feeling because everything is just too safe and perfect. The fact that public space requires your constant attention and sometimes pro-active logistical planning makes me SO much appreciate safe spaces like being at home or being with someone who i trust and who knows what’s going on. The value of trust and care in relationships becomes so tangible and present, it really ties us together on a human level.

  • TIME

The attitude around time is just amazing for me. I can feel a huge transformation in myself around delays and coming too late. First i thought its just annoying but more and more i learn that if someone is late i receive a gift of time that i can use how i want, that’s how it is!

I am amazed how the emotional field in a Colombian group keeps being clean and bright… for instance if we wait together for someone or something, maybe for a long time – but the energy just keeps being fine. I notice that i am very influenced by European culture and am used to groups getting soaked with impatience and shadows of anger if you let them wait. But Colombian groups have an incredible long social breath and a great naive-intelligent discipline in balancing their collective energy-level.


I thought a lot about what makes a Colombian character, or a Colombian look – how can they notice who is a ‘gringo’ immediately from far away? I will keep exploring that inquiry for sure, but here is my take on it for now – it might sound unusual but this came to me as an energetic picture…

So there is something around the faces, literally the skin of their faces. I feel that their skin is able to metaphysically hold the energy of the character inside! The identity of a person can grow behind that skin… a European face is more open and you can see that their identity is not held by the skin of their face, its flowing out of their pores somehow… that’s why Scandinavian people build their identity often through their outfit and German people through their cars and favourite football-teams ;) Here that’s not needed – you can see in their faces that their character had a protected space to grow in its own integrity. The word “visage” fits great here as it’s somewhat of a synonym for ‘face’ and its rooted in both ‘vision’ and ‘video’ (thanks Susan for that insight). Everyone is their own mystery and there comes an unspoken responsibility to steward your own development into that mystery…

does that makes sense? pay attention to that, i am sure you’ll see what i mean.


I feel peer2peer comes first here! Its about people, us, relationships… then there are rules and laws, but we as humans come first (which can be quite a stretch for German rule-nerds). The respect for relationships and social structures like couples or families is surprisingly high – even so things are rough the respect for women and for basic human structures is there and guarded in peoples hearts.

Something that i am noticing with great pleasure and actually somehow a sense of fulfilled longing, at least in my circles of resonance (open minded, spiritually mature, conscious and networked people), is how much value people give to someones character, life-story and whatever you are holding as gift, wound or skill. You are seen as a symbol of who you are and you can be asked to teach about what you’re holding – you are the expert in being you and that is valued! It happens many times that people have this feeling they need to see this person or they follow symbols to find someone. What easy-minded people in Europe would call esoteric is grounded here in a very real sense of appreciating each others uniqueness and not only knowing what it can do to you when you meet someone else’s energy but actually being on a quest to create encounters with the right embodied symbol/energy for you… to meet the right people in the right order is somehow perceived as a spiritual journey even so many people wouldn’t use that term.


What i feel here is to sink from my head to my body! Things that were floating only in mental space suddenly make sense to apply! The connection between ground and sky is so much more vivid and important than i know it from Europe. Being clever and having all sorts of ideas is nice, and its enough to have only that in Europe – but here you experience how that whole cloud of thoughts and mental constructions around your head takes over your whole body and can even leave the head space for a while… your body will certainly know what to do. So many bridges to be build for meaningful knowledge transfer, i can feel i want to carry this energy of embodied knowledge with me… here thoughts actually make sense, they are not just cool mental jewelry, they have a context and a life on earth :)

There is something about the creation and development of ideas here… or the progress in noospheric space in general that i want to learn more about – it seems the long abstract mental journeys of idea-development where you loose ground and just float in the sky are possible here but not too much present. Its rather a ‘going along as it makes sense’, if this piece of idea works out in reality we continue breeding on it… constant touch base of heaven-earth connection. I believe this notion nurtures this feeling of embodied knowledge i have here.

– – –

Many social codes i don’t understand (yet) and of course barely knowing spanish has both the advantage of focusing on body language and nonverbal dynamics but also causes a great loss of complexity and nuances in the linguistic sphere…

Obviously there would be many good things to say about Europe – and there would be bad things to say about Colombia and vice versa. But for now i like to polarise it in the way i did and my lenses on Bogotá/Colombia are of appreciative and even loving nature :)

For me its a fantastic and meaningful social training ground! I feel i am becoming more whole as a body-mind-spirit system here… and (to translate the german book title “verwurzelt fliegen” of my friend Cambra Skadé):

here i learn to fly rooted

 cropped cover of Stratovarius album Elements Part2


Published by

Benjamin Aaron Degenhart

Currently pursuing a Masters in Computational Science and Engineering at TU Munich.

7 thoughts on “reflections on the social landscape in Bogotá”

  1. hello benjamin,
    i am deep impressed about your language landscapes about columbia and the films which you move in my mind and soul. its your gift for the world to be connected with human beings and systems and to find the words to speak about it in this way.
    It also reminds me on some of my experiences in cuba and… on my daily life at school. to be present and open minded to see the possibility in each person and also to have the perception to feel if a situation shifts in the dance of aggressions.
    thank you … du stehst mit beiden füssen fest in den wolken…. weiterhin guten flug und spass bei der liebe, gertrud


  2. Benjamin, you have been a fresh inspiring energy for those that have had the chance to get to know you…your reflections about the experiences in Bogota will be a window of this dimension so unknown, missunderstood and undiscovered for many.

    This will leave in you a seed for life…..I am greatfull to share parts of you living in this Kaos city that has always a good surprise to share and give to those that are open to experience it…….lots more is to come, keep on discovering the windows that are there for you


  3. I know all of us are like children, asking you all the time about your feelings for Bogota, but I’m so happy about that, because the output of those questions is very interesting. Thanks for sharing with us your vision that for sure give us better understanding of ourselves


    1. Marcela! thank you :) haha, i like the children-image and i can totally understand it and very much see the importance of getting mirrored from outside to nourish the growth of a healthy collective identity…
      talking with you about it was actually an important moment in the convergence of my thoughts into this post – so thank you!!


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