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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Salsa Dancing in Cali

Last night I did what they do in Cali: Salsa! A guy from the hostel, Tattoo (not his real name), took a few of us there to meet some friends of his and to dance! Tattoo is Brazilian but has been living in the hostel for a few months so he knows a lot of people in the city.

We went to this bar downtown called Topa Tolandra. Cover was a reasonable $10,000 COP, which included 2 drink tickets. The place was empty when we arrived at around 9:30pm, but that didn’t last long. Continue reading “Salsa Dancing in Cali”

Hanging with the Hostel Crowd at Petronio

After the cancelled tour and troubles with Avianca, I’ll admit I was feeling a little down yesterday evening. I didn’t want to spend my Saturday night in Cali alone, so I did what I came to a hostel to do: went downstairs and grabbed a beer and started talking to people in the lobby. Within 10 minutes, my plans for the night were set: Petronio Music Fest with about 10 20-somethings from all over the globe who were visiting for the festival itself.

Yes, I got lucky and came to Cali during an amazing free festival called The Petronio Álvarez Afro-Colombian festival. It is held in a large sports complex across town and includes free live music and a huge food tent and today is the last night. So you see how good my timing is!?

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Cali Street Art


I did so much on my 5 hour self-guided tour of Cali, that I didn’t get to include the street art I saw in my previous post.

I didn’t know very much about the street art in Cali until I walked around and saw it for myself. I now know, from this article, that it’s a growing movement here. I am a big fan of street art in general and am fortunate to live in a great neighborhood for it in Toronto (plug for my other blog!), so it was fun to take some photos of the work here.

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Loving Cali!

So I got to Cali late last night – too late for me to go out, I was beat – and woke up early today to see the town. From my searches online and with my trusty Lonely Planet guidebook, I found a lot of good things to see and do!

I started with a taxi from my hostel, Pelican Larry. I have a private room and access to a shared bathroom, which is all I need. Clean and with hot water! My room has a fan which had the dual purpose of keeping me cool and drowning out outside noise.

Pelican Larry Hostel
Pelican Larry Hostel

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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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Colombian TV

So my host family does not seem interested in the Olympics, unless the soccer is on. I have seen them watch a really bad Adam Sandler movie (is saying “really bad” in front of “Adam Sandler movie” redundant? you decide), and two different Colombian shows so far. This is another reason, besides the heat, that I do not hang out much in the living room.

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Volunteer Duty

So I have been volunteering at the institution for over a week and gotten into a bit of a routine.

Surprisingly there are no other full time volunteers. About once a week a couple of Europeans will drop by for a few hours, never to be seen again. They are with another organization whose name I haven’t caught but I am surprised they don’t return or that no one else is volunteering here.

I usually get to the institution around 8:30am. I have tried to arrive earlier but haven’t seen a bus between 730-8am so gave up on that.  The bus I need comes around 8am or after so that’s what I take.

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