Archive for May, 2004

Cartagena

Saturday, May 22nd, 2004 | Uncategorized | Comments Off

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I don’t like this city.

I feel I probably don’t have a right to say that after spending just 5 or 6 days there, but I say it just the same. Especially after Santa Marta, it just isn’t a place I feel like spending any more time.

It is a city built around tourists, and not just gringos, but Colombianos as well. People come here to go to the beaches, to party, and to spend money. And Cartagena shows it. Everything is expensive. There is a tension in the air that I haven’t felt in other Colombian cities I’ve been in. “A la orden”, “A la orden”, “Señor, señor…HEY YOU!”. ‘A la orden’ means ‘at your service’, but here in Cartagena, it is a demand, an order, ‘pay attention to me, how dare you pass by my goods.’ Everyone is trying to make money off the extranjeros, and it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

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And the city crawls with prostitutes. More than once I have gone to a club (and just a regular club) where every single girl there is working. And the prostitutes have hard lives, and kids, and parents at home, and many other reasons for what they do. But. This is not my bag. As much as I hate getting shunned by a girl at a discoteque, dancing with a girl for half a song until she asks me if I want to “hacer el amor” is somehow worse.

Then of course there’s the crime. Of all the places I’ve been in Colombia, the streets of Cartagena, early in the morning, feel the least safe. After so many people in the day time, at night getsemani (where many hotels and hostals are and where I stayed the last two times I was there) just turns into a ghost town. Two nights ago, I was in a group of 4 walking back to our hotel, and a guy comes over, steals my beer and is about to pull a knife on us when he recognizes and starts arguing with one of the girls in our group. It ended well (minus the beer) but COME ON. I’m leaving this place.

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On the other hand, the city itself is beautiful. Cartagena was founded by the Spanish and was an important port town for them. It was also the target of pirates for many years, so there are thick walls complete with canons and parapets surrounding the old city. Much of the old architecture and it’s style remains and there is a very Spanish feel to the buildings. There is a castle to go see, and many things to do around Cartagena proper.

But, like I said, I’m out o’ here.

Mañana I travel with Charles and Paul to Medellin.

Taganga

Thursday, May 20th, 2004 | Uncategorized | Comments Off

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I fell in love with Taganga, and somehow managed to spend 2 whole weeks in this small Colombian fishing village just outside of Santa Marta.

I moved to Taganga because I found myself going there a bunch while I was still in Santa Marta. They have a really chill discoteque called the Garaje. And the beaches there are nice and uncontaminated, so if you actually want to swim at a beach… Besides that I met a very sweet Swiss woman named Diana who lives in Taganga with her husband and son, who taught me some salsa and kept throwing dance parties…that I kept having to go to :)

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While I was there, I stayed at the Casa de Felipe, which is my favorite hostal so far. The ambience is just so slow, calm, laid back, and I always felt safe which is nice. They had hammocks, a ton of other interesting backpackers going through, a clean kitchen, a television that gets cartoon network (for that occasional kick of bugs bunny) and a wonderful and friendly staff. I actually got sick right before I came, and it was the perfect place to recuperate. Oh yeah, and did I mention that it is a 5 minute walk from the beach?

Anyway, it was wonderful, I actually got to do some coding as well, as I felt okay being a little more open with the fact that I had a computer, not to mention the fact that I had my own room.

I somehow got distracted over the two weeks that I was there and missed some of the sights nearby Santa Marta and Taganga, but I hear they’re brilliant. Parque Tayrona is a not to be missed national park that doesn’t allow vehicles. It encompasses desert, jungle, beaches and a good chunk of ocean as well. You can stay there in hammocks, but bring a mosquito net. Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) is just that, a ancient city that is supposed to be quite remarkable. Six day hike though, so leave your pack, and make sure you’re up for walking for 6 days. Hear it’s not too bad a walk, and most definitely worth it.

Long story short, if you’re in Colombia, and you want a chill place to go visit, Taganga might be for you.

Poor Little Mouse

Tuesday, May 18th, 2004 | Uncategorized | Comments Off

So I’m in my room at 2am reading rss feeds on my computer. …and out of the corner of my eye I see a mouse dart behind my nightstand.

So, I do what anyone in my position would do, I get up and shove the nightstand against the wall. When I look at the back of the nightstand, I see the mouse’s little head and arms struggling at the corner. Two minutes later, it’s not really moving anymore. Yeah, that did the trick.

You’d think with the 3 cats that this place has, I wouldn’t be the one killing mice…

Albus Dumbledore

Thursday, May 6th, 2004 | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

So I’m reading Harry Potter…

I know, I know, don’t start. I held out as long as I could, but I finally saw the movies, and then I needed some books to read in Spanish that had a good story and wouldn’t be too hard. And well, I just finished book number 2, in Spanish.

But ANYWAY.

Albus Dumbledore is an interesting proposition.

In the books Dumbledore is always perfectly balanced, in that you can’t really surprise him. Always full of joy, always smiling, laughing, and childlike in that he takes pleasure in simple things like hot chocolate, or orange sherbet. Extremely wise. Intelligent. Understanding.

He comes across as many of the things I want to be. In a lot of ways, he comes across as my idea of the perfect father.

I saw “Cheaper by the Dozen” with Steve Martin yesterday. It’s weird how similar Steve Martin’s character, the father of 12 and a football coach to boot, is to Dumbledore. Steve Martin’s character basically rides the hurricane that is his household and “fits”, he seems comfortable in the chaos. And he gives back, in the same way, as Dumbledore, with a smile, and by feeding energy back into the chaos instead of trying to control it and kill it. Of course the movie is about him losing his balance, but that’s kind of beside my point. I REALLY like the picture he paints of being able to balance patience, joy, wisdom, understanding.

How do you get to that? In my life I touch on one piece of that and sometimes stay there for a little bit, before forgetting about that one piece while I concentrate on another.

I think joy is the thing I have the most trouble with. I can be happy, for me happiness is a decision I’ve learned to make (and it’s a good one). But to be joyful… To share that joy with everyone. I am like that when I’m in love, I suppose we all are. But to have that all the time…

How do you learn that?

Santa Marta

Wednesday, May 5th, 2004 | Uncategorized | Comments Off

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Santa Marta seems to agree with me. It is a little city on the Carribean coast of Colombia. Beautiful beaches, reasonably safe, beautiful, friendly people, not too many tourists. Very laid back.

I’ve been diving, snorkeling, reading, learning how to play with poi, talking to people, walking, taking salsa lessons, and (yes, I know) even doing some coding. It’s actually suprising, how much I need to talk to people, and how much the extrovert in me comes out, after a couple days in front of a computer. I’d actually forgotten, it’s been a long time since I did the kind of coding where you aren’t constantly talking to people. I will say this, the extrovert in me is a lot better at learning spanish :)

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My hostel is…interesting. I think it’s starting to grow on me, but it is a total dump. I’m pretty sure all the colombian girls that stay here are prostitutes. Needless to say, the backpackers here are often smoking out or doing coke. But where other hostels I’ve stayed at forced people to be discreet, here one of the guys that works the hostel actually does drug runs for people. It’s kinda funny actually. But it’s cheap – it costs about $3 US a night. And not only is it in a good location, right near the beach, in the reasonably safe “centro”, but it’s also got character. Every night people congregate outside the hostel in chairs, drinking a little beer, and talking, telling jokes, listening, or playing with poi. And to be honest, with a single room and a door I can lock, it’s actually quite cozy. I can write on my computer, and not be too worried about other stuff. A little privacy is something I’ve started to value. At the same time, there are always people outside on the sofas (speaking spanish) so I can be out talking to people as much as I want.

As far as the rest of Santa Marta, I find it charming. The spanish here, is still pretty clear, but no where near as clear as in Bogota. This is Costeño territory. Lots of slang, and there are certain letters that people don’t pronounce. But it’s not that different from Mexico, and I can understand most people.

I think I’m going to have to go pretty soon. Part of me is glad. I’ve been here for almost 2 weeks, and that’s a long time. I need to be trekking along to Argentina. But the other part of me is going to miss Santa Marta very much. It’s just a really…comfortable place. It’s really easy to make friends and I’m going to miss the ones I’ve made.
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One thing that’s really made an impression on me is how resourceful people can be here. For example, take Luis and Marta, two of the cooler people I’ve met here.

Luis has a girlfriend in Israel, and is trying to save up money to go visit her. What does he do? Well, he’s a scuba dive instructor, but he also does tattoos, but he also teaches salsa with this Swiss woman at her house (that’s how I met him) and he pretty much does a little bit of everything else too. Whatever you need, he can find and get you a good price on.

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Marta on the other hand has a job at the port, where she basically talks to the captains and crew of boats as they come in, and gets them anything they need. How did she get this job? Well she speaks 6 language (and she’s learning 2 more) and she’s really good with people. She can talk to the captain and crew in their native tongue and she’s amazing at connecting and connecting with people. She learned all these languages by giving people spanish lessons in exchange for lessons on their language. 6 languages She is also a connector in the sense of default.TheTippingPoint, and has a database in her head of all the people she meets. It’s amazing to walk through Santa Marta with her, wherever we go, there are like 5 people she knows. Santa Marta is small, but it’s a city, not a town. And of course, she knows a bit of Capoeira, she is awesome with her poi, and she knows more jokes than my brother.

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