Heading Home: What to Even Say?

ColombianFlagSelfieIt’s been an experience. For someone who’s never travelled alone until this trip, I’ve done a lot of new things on my own. I’ve also never been happier than when I saw Brian’s taxi arrive at the AirBnB in Cartagena and I knew the alone part was over!

The volunteering was really great – and really hard. I have a lot of respect for all teachers, and day care workers and babysitters. And parents. But day care workers? Wow. 26 2 year olds. In 33 degree heat and humidity and no air conditioning. Impressed. Next steps? Knowing I will never be a child care worker but still love to play with kids and having the utmost respect for those who do that every day.

The home stay was also great. Warm and welcoming people and a different world for me. I definitely got to use my limited Spanish. Next steps? Spanish classes or a tutor back in Toronto. I went to a couple of language exchange meet-ups, in Cartagena and Medellin, and will seek those out in Toronto now.

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Cartagena’s Tourist Area

The guidebooks call it “The Old City,” or “The Walled City,” and the locals merely call it “El Centro” but either way they’re talking about a beautiful place to visit.

Cartagena’s tourist area is a beautiful mess of narrow streets filled with colorful buildings, art, crafts and people. The old city is surrounded by an old stone wall, which makes for a great walk overlooking the sea at dusk when the blazing sun isn’t burning you to a crisp.

Horse drawn carriages mix with taxis in the roads, and tourists work around vendors on the sidewalks. Stroll around and see old churches, modern art sculptures, craft stalls and lovely plazas.

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Ending on a high note

My last few days of volunteering have definitely not been boring! The kids don’t even know it’s my last week, but they are still making life fun!

Things that have happened this week:

  • A little girl threw up all over herself and the little boy sitting next to her – fortunately they were outside. They do have a shower here to wash them when these things happen! I didn’t know! The little boy was sitting there with puke on him for a few minutes when I finally took him and washed it off his legs. No one noticed lol. The little girl was still seated for lunch. She didn’t eat.
  • A little boy peed himself and continued to sit in it looking at himself until someone noticed and took him to the shower. He did the same thing the next day only he was standing outside. Just stood looking at the wet ground until someone took him away. He did it again today. Is this a hat trick?
  • A little girl tried to bite me.
  • Massive food fights in the cafeteria (I cheated though because that happens every day)

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End of The Home Stay

Brian is here. My days in Campestre are over. I am now living the life of a tourist with Brian in the walled city of Cartagena.

After getting Brian settled in to the airbnb, we walked around the old town a bit and then grabbed a taxi so he could meet the important people in my Cartagena experience.

Marcela was there to greet us and Libary came soon after, so we got some photos of the whole gang before we separated for good.

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Last Day in Campestre

Today is my last day at Marcela’s house. Three weeks plus three days have flown by, that’s a fact.

Brian is on his way to Cartagena as I write this and I will be moving out of my barrio home to the touristy side of the city with him.

We are having a little “meet and greet” at Marcela’s this evening so Marcela and her family and Libary will meet mi esposo (Brian). I will post photos for sure!


Crazy Cartagena

My goal after volunteer duty today was to go to the gym and do laundry. The plan was to take the bus to the mall with the gym and then walk or taxi to a place I found online called Beer and Laundry. I know I am from New Jersey and I wanted to do 2 of the 3 Jersey Shore things minus tanning. Lol I get the irony.

I did some extra research this morning and discovered Beer and Laundry closes at 6 so I wouldn’t have time for the gym and clean clothes. Priorities of not smelling won out.

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Spanish Lessons

Part of the reason I came here was to improve my Spanish. With the volunteer program, I signed up for a week of lessons. That week is still not complete.

I have now been here for 2 weeks + 2 days. I honestly thought I would have Spanish lessons each day after volunteering for the first week. Why did I think that? Because that was what was written out in my volunteer plan.  Things don’t work the way they’re supposed to – I have definitely learned that.

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Last Day in Cali

The weekend flew by and now I am sad to leave Cali. I know I’ve only been here 3 days, but I preferred Cali to Cartagena in many ways.

  • The weather is much easier to deal with! More temperate and way less humidity
  • Easier to get around: considering Cali is bigger with 2.5 million people to Cartagena’s 900,000, I can only guess this is because I stayed in a more convenient location to all the attractions as a tourist as compared to living in the barrio in Cartagena. I don’t think that’s totally it though
  • The sights are in residential neighborhoods: In Cartagena, you only go to one area as a tourist, The Old City and adjacent Boca Grande. In Cali, sights were spread out a little bit more, and were in areas where people live so it felt like I was seeing “the real Cali” while also sightseeing
  • Cheaper: apparently Cartagena is the most expensive Colombian city, and while still cheap to a Torontonian like me, I still noticed that Cali was even more affordable
  • Cleaner and prettier: Aside from the ocean and the old city, Cartagena is not that pretty. And there is trash everywhere. The Rio Cali doesn’t smell so great, but the streets and paths were very tidy and well kept.

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No Sugarcoating

So I don’t want you to think this is all a bed of roses and I am handling all the differences with no problems. I have had some setbacks along the way.

I’ve gotten lost twice, and it’s highly likely I will get lost again. So much of Cartagena looks a lot the same to me. The inner barrios are full of short apartment blocks mixed in with stores and restaurants. The stores and restaurants sometimes look like homes as well. Probably because they are or were at some point.

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