Archive for the ‘Colombia’ Category

There is no “U” in Colombia

We originally planned to finish our RTW with a full month of Spanish language school in one place.  With so much moving around, we thought it wise to nest a bit, and with the thought that we might pick up the language better by becoming more acquainted with one place.  It might be nice too, to become regulars at the local café (insert smile).  Our original itinerary put us in Colombia for these four weeks.  Sadly, after the first 4 days in the city of Cartagena, we reconsidered. Wait, aren’t we supposed to pack up at the end of the week?  Where do we go next?  It is H-O-T here (and quite expensive on our dwindling RTW budget as well).  It was beginning to feel a bit odd that we didn’t have a new place to go to after a week here.  Arg, I wonder what it will be like when we get back home?

But really, Cartagena is an incredibly gorgeous place, and we really enjoyed our time here.  I (Cara) took a liking to the colonial doors with exquisite hardware.  We decided to start a door project, where we photographed like crazy (soon to be a beautiful compilation of photos).  Cartagena and the surrounding cities have a regional culture of themselves.

Carnaval Parade in Barranquilla, Colombia

I wouldn’t say that what we experienced here, is the only culture of Colombia though. The region has it’s own food, dance and music that are very specific to the Caribbean Coast, and it felt very different from the short time that I experienced in Bogota some years past.  I loved it just the same, and we were even lucky enough to be in the area during the Barranquilla Carnaval – the second largest Carnaval celebration after Rio de Janeiro.

I have to say that the biggest highlight of our time in Cartagena was having our first and only visitor from the States meet us on our trip.  Casey’s sister Jen came down for a week, and we soaked up every moment with her.  She is awesome.  It was SO fun to have family with us, to get to chat up our experiences, create new and fun memories with her, and learn a bit about what is happening back in our home country.  Jen has an adventurous spirit, so it was a great way to reinvigorate our travel weary souls.  Even better, was that we didn’t have to say goodbye until we caught separate flights in Panama City just two days ago – she, to Los Angeles, and us, to Antigua (Guatemala).

Jen and Casey at Castillo de San Felipe

Coming in second (on highlights) would have to be… the most amazing pina colada I have ever experienced.  Yes, the drink.  And yes, it was an experience.  Let me explain… Imagine sitting on a white sand beach on the Caribbean Ocean (named “Playa Blanca” no less), with your handsome husband on one arm, book in the other hand and the sound of the sea breeze and waves as background music.  A man walks by with an overflowing burlap sack full of what are clearly coconuts, and he is shouting “Pina Colada.”  I immediately perk up.  The only thing to make this dream complete would be the word — “Fria” (cold).  He then says, “Pina Coladas Frias.”  We order two.

I’m not quite convinced that we’re going to get anymore than a simple coconut water drink.  Instead, after he pulls out two beautiful fresh coconuts and a machete, he then pulls out a bottle of pina colada mix and a bottle of Caribbean rum!  We then sit on the beach and watch this man, hack open our coconuts with his machete (Casey drinks off the top portion of the coconut milk to make room), and add his own mixture of rum and mix, two straws, and fresh ice cubes.  Vwa-lah!  The dream is complete.  What more could I ask for?  Colombia was great.

Oh, and to explain the title of this blog: it is simply a pet peeve of mine.

Part of our Door Project

Man with the coconut and machete - happiness in the making.


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Primer Dia de Escuela

Woke up at 0500 (yes, that is 5 a.m.) and walked in the dark up to the top of the hill to watch the sunrise.  About 2 kilometers, climbing 150 meters, in humidity of course, but lacking the scorching Colombian sun beaming down on me (phew).  I walked up to the Convento de la Popa (add link), a beautiful church overlooking all of Cartagena and the Caribbean Sea.  I enjoyed this gorgeous trek with my lovely husband and darling house-mom.

House-mom: Her name is Maria Beatrice and she is the mother of the house, or ama de la casa.

Valentina y Maria Beatrice

In other words: the Boss.

Maria Beatrice has two daughters in their mid-20s, Brenda y Carolina, and one granddaughter, Valentina.  She cooks, cleans, shops, laundries (by hand), mothers three girls (and now a couple of guests), and does it all with a smile.

She not only got up @ 5 a.m. and exercised with us, but she also came home and cooked us breakfast (from scratch), made us fresh juice and tea, cleaned up, and then proceeded to put on her tennis shoes and sunglasses and follow us out the door as we left for school.  Yes, she walked us to school!  Imagine two thirty-something year-olds, gringos no less, walking single file across town, backpacks in tow, with “mom” directly behind them chatting in Spanish.  When she safely brought us to the front door of our school, she put on a huge smile, wished us a great day (!Buen dia!), and left us alone for our first day of school – in new school clothes and all!

!Ahora…aprender espanol! (Now…to learn Spanish!)

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We purchased our final flights home today (insert pout), which is definitely bitter-sweet.  We are having the time of our lives on this RTW trip and leaving this life will be so difficult (the bitter), but also look forward to being back in our own home and near our family and friends again (the sweet).  March 1st is our return date.

We decided to split our 4 weeks of language school between Colombia and Guatemala now.  In the meantime, we have another week here in Cartagena, and will soon be joined by our first visitor on our trip!  Jen, Casey’s sister, is on her way down on Monday!  We are quite excited to have her here with us.

Cartagena awaits Jen's visit

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Estadio Olympico Jaime Meron Leon

When we get to a new country I ask around about any football matches that may be happening while we’re there.  Not only is sport a great way to get inside a culture but it’s a fabulous way to make memories and connect with people you’d otherwise never meet.  Plus, there’s something about cheering for the home team that bonds people.  And yelling at the refs, which, as anyone knows, is the common thread that binds us all.

We found out from our host family that there was going to be a match between the home team (Real Cartagena) and a team from the Caldas region, which is near Bogota.  So we braced ourselves for the heat and humidity and headed off to Estadio Olympico Jaime Meron Leon.  We took the first scalper that we saw, bought his tickets (his surcharge: $2), and headed in.  After catching a picture of Cara in front of the riot police gearing up to enter the stadium, we headed in ourselves and grabbed some prime real estate near mid field.

There’s nothing like the sound of drums and horns at a football match.  Home team colors flying all around.  Toilet paper rolls streaming through the air.  Half the city police stationed all around the perimeter of the pitch (playing field).  The energy of football fans is different from other sport-related energy I’ve experienced.  American football is, well, just different from football.  I’m not saying its worse or better – just different.  Football is often referred to as “the beautiful game” because…well…I’m not sure.  Certainly some of the players look and play beautifully.  And the way a team has to perform together to move the ball down the field is certainly beautiful.  But I’ve also seen too much incredibly poor sportsmanship that’s gone unchecked and/or even rewarded in football for it to be called “beautiful” having anything to do with the players.  If I had to use that term to describe football, it would be because all you need is a ball made out of anything you can find and a few friends.  There’s something beautiful about that simplicity.

What I love about football is the way in which, unlike any other sport, it connects cultures, countries, peoples.  No other sport has the almost universal reach that football does.  The Olympics is an event that brings together many nations in competition but it is the football World Cup that brings them together through one sport.  The power of this common passion cannot be underestimated.

When I was living and studying in Jerusalem from 1992-93, it was during a brief lull period between intifadas but a palpable tension remained throughout the city.  Bomb scares were common and Israeli crackdowns in the Arab areas around Jerusalem were often.  Being an American in that situation was difficult from both sides: I didn’t sense the Israelis liked their dependence on American support and each Arab I met knew that the bombs and bullets the Isrealis fired at them said “Made in the USA.”  So to put it mildly, it was not the warmest environment to be at peace in.  But one day as I was walking through the Arab Quarter of Jerusalem I came upon two boys playing a game of one-on-one football, working on their technique of footwork as they tried to get the ball past each other.  I thought I’d watch for a few minutes but right then one of the boys let the ball get past him and it rolled to me.  I dribbled the ball up on to my knees before kicking it back to them and they motioned for me to come join them.  We spent about five minutes playing a game of football in the narrow street of Old Jerusalem, an American college student and two young Palestinian boys, and for the briefest of moments we put aside our nationalities and our respective government propoganda and spoke the language of football.  And that, in my humble opinion, is what makes this game beautiful.

Riot police, jumping fans, airborne confetti

The fogonator - warding off fans of the opposing team

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I am lagging

I haven´t been very good about blogging on this trip, I confess.  When I rode the GS through Baja Mexico, I did much better and blogged just about every night.  Here, on this trip, I´m blessed with a great traveling companion who not only writes good posts on the blog but who distracts me from writing.  I would much rather be out exploring with her than sitting at a computer.

No offense but them´s the breaks.

I do plan on writing some posts but they may have to be more reflective. We´re in Cartagena, Colombia and it´s pretty fabulous out there.

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iPhone, iLike, iMiss

A little over a week ago our iPhone was stolen. This was more than a disappointment, and it took a good three days for us to get over it and just accept the fact that it, along with A LOT of personal information, is simply gone.  Such a bummer.

Though I was never a big fan of it, I certainly became a believer on this trip. We used that contraption as our currency calculator, stereo (music speakers) in our hotel rooms, back-up camera when we lost our other two cameras, computer whenever we found free wi-fi to email people or get information at the drop of a hat, mobile Lonely Planet guides (pdf downloads) throughout multiple countries (serving as a map, restaurant and lodging guide), a watch/clock in multiple time zones, as well as a phone in which to call home (via Skype) whenever we found free wi-fi. The thing was a brain. and an expensive one at that. We quickly put a request in with Apple to have the information swept clean the next time someone connects our iPhone to the internet. Yes, we did file a police report. and yes, we do have traveler´s insurance. No, we don´t know how much or if we will get reimbursed. Oh, and don´t forget to add Casey´s missing luggage and our other digital camera to the traveler´s insurance claim (all of which we are required to have RECEIPTS for in order to get reimbursed)! Part of the adventure I suppose…

We are now in Cartagena, Colombia. A mere 3 hours ahead of San Francisco time. Though without our iPhone, we now have a SIM Card loaded in our unlocked cell phone (thanks again Fran – this is saving us). So for those of you who don´t mind paying a little extra to send or receive a text from us, please pop us a few lines via text (or email one of us) to give us permission to ping you via text message from Colombia. We think of our family and friends often. Here is our phone number to text in Colombia for the next 4 weeks:



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