Cartagena-Living Our Daily Lives in Colombia
The overall structure of each day was pretty much the same: Breakfast at 6:45, walk in the heat to school, classes begin at 8 a.m. and finish at noon. We would have a 15 minute break each morning where they would serve us “Cafe Tinto” which was very black, strong, Colombian coffee.
During the break the students would all intermingle and discuss options for the afternoon. The school offered gratis tours in the afternoons for those interested. Usually several of us would eat lunch together and then go our separate ways for the afternoons. I would sometimes walk back to my apartment (about 1.5 miles) just to check in with Jenny or rest a little while before venturing back out into the heat. Often times, Jay and I would meet in the afternoons at an internet cafe and then spend the rest of the day walking through the old walled city of Cartagena. Sometimes we would meet up with other students to visit various tourist sites or just meet for “cafe tinto” to discuss what we were each discovering on our own.
Many of the streets in Cartagena are very narrow and it is easy to get run over. Taxi drivers abound. You have to nail down the price with the taxi driver in advance. You can take a taxi anywhere for around $2
Shopping in Cartagena is diverse. There are many vendors on the streets mainly selling jewelry and assorted crafts. Colombia is known for emeralds and there are plenty of opportunities to purchase them. There are people on the street that will sometimes try to steer you towards a particular store for “special emerald discounts” but I wasn’t a buyer.
I had read on the internet that the accent of the Cartageneros (persons that live in Cartagena) would be quite different than the rest of the country. I found that to be very true. At first I was quite intimidated by the heavy accent, but the school director told me if I could understand the Spanish of Cartagena then I could understand it any place in the world. After a few days I relished the challenge of going into the streets to talk to the people to help my ear get accustomed to the special accent. I’m not sure how much I really got, but it was a confidence booster!
Everyone I met would ask me: “What is the perception of Colombia in the U.S?”. I always told them the truth: “From afar, many people in the U.S. consider Colombia to be a very dangerous place with killings, kidnappings, and drugs”. The Colombians always agreed that they knew their reputation is not always good, but it is a reputation of the past. Then they would ask me what my perception was after being in their country after a few days. I always told them I was really surprised it wasn’t the terribly dangerous place that everyone thought it was. It was a beautiful country and the Colombians were very friendly people. Of course, there were plenty of opportunities for danger in Colombia–you had to watch what you were doing and where you were going—just like any big city. The F.A.R.C. guerillas don’t help the cause any. With over 700 hostages it does make you think a little. For me, it really wasn’t too different from any other Latin American country to which I have traveled –or Los Angeles or Miami for that matter!
Next-Cartagena-Interaction with my family
See my other travel blogs on NewsOk.com:
Caribbean island of Barbuda: http://blog.newsok.com/thewanderer/category/barbuda/
San Juan with a 5 hour layover: http://blog.newsok.com/thewanderer/category/san-juan-puerto-rico/
Fly around the U.S. for the day: http://blog.newsok.com/thewanderer/category/day-trip/