Where I Am Living in Cartagena

So I have mentioned that for almost four weeks I am staying with a Colombian family in Cartagena. They live in an apartment in a middle class barrio called Campestre. I stayed with them for two nights in their old place, but they have since moved to a bigger and better place a few blocks away. This post is about where I am living in Cartagena Colombia.

Overview of where I am living in Cartagena

This is by no means the lap of luxury. Part of my plan in coming here to volunteer was immersion, and living with a family was better for that than living with other foreigners or by myself. This is a simple home with enough amenities but not everything we are accustomed to having. I realize everyday here how spoiled we are at home and how little we actually do need to get by. I am not saying I am thriving in this environment because I’m having some internal struggles being a spoiled brat. But it’s going OK so far, and the people are so great it helps a lot! Still, there have been a few times I’ve dreamed of checking in to a hotel for a night – with AC of course, including a search I did on hotwire a few hours ago!

I took some photos of the common areas and my room so you can see where I am living in Cartagena.

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Cartagena City Tour

Cartagena is a city with a rich history and a lot of sights to see.  Since I only have my weekends to be a tourist, I did a Cartagena city tour yesterday to maximize time. The city tour was going to hit at least two of the Cartagena must sees which would have been difficult to get to on my own. City tours are a great introduction to a new place, and especially good for a solo traveler!

Booking the tour

I booked the 65000 peso (approx $28 CDN) tour through a hostel in the old town, El Viajero. I met the tour guide at the clock tower at 1:30 pm. The plan was to see a couple of the big sights and get a ride around the city to boot.

I didn’t know until the morning of the tour that the barrio was going to have a party that day. It turned out to be a good time to leave though because the sound system was blaring from 10am and was still going when I got home and then some! I wore ear plugs from 10a-12noon when I left for the tour.

Slow Down

So this is the Caribbean and nothing moves fast.  About 12 of us loaded into the bus and waited.  Then we drove around for a bit and returned to the clock tower to pick up some latecomers. Then we drove around some more and picked up other tourists. Most of those were in Bocagrande, a big tourist section on the beach. Bocagrande has a lot of big hotels and fast food restaurants and I am glad I got to see it on the ride because it confirmed what I thought: I don’t need to hang out there.

Cartagena City Tour Bus
Our bus for the city tour
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First Day at Pre-School

Today was my first day volunteering. I am going to be spending my weekdays at “the institute” a division of an organization called Granitos De Paz, which is a free day care for parents who need it so they can work to support their families.  So today I got to spend the day playing with 2 year olds. 26 of them. In Spanish. Yea, I am tired after my first day at pre-school in Cartagena!

Getting There

First I had to take the bus. The buses here are not like back home. First off, no AC! Second, they are super cheap. Like 65 cents US.  And third, the ones I’ve been on (3 today) all play loud pop or dance music and have disco styling. I felt like royalty in the tassel curtained bus! I would have loved AC though, but I think that’s just going to be my lament for the month!

Check out my morning bus today:

First Day of Pre-school getting there on the bus
Fun bus ride to volunteer

I had a guide for the bus ride so it was uneventful, but tomorrow I ride alone, so wait for that! Fingers crossed.

At The School

The institute was great. I spent the day assisting one teacher. She has a class of 26 x 2 year olds so yea, I think I helped some.  These kids are adorable and full of life.

Colombian children
At the institute with the 2 year olds

The most interesting part of the day was lunch. Tables upon tables of kids (not just our classroom) trying to eat some kind of broth, pasta and meat, all in separate compartments on their plates. And then, the adults, trying to shovel the food into them so they got some nourishment instead of spilling everywhere.

I quickly pitched in to help feed the slow dawdlers. OMG The place was a MESS!! No food fight, but it looked like it! The kids had so much food on them, that we then had to take them to a huge sink to wash them. Not just their hands, their arms, faces, and necks. And then, when we brought them back to the classroom, all their shirts came off!

Then it was naptime. Isn’t napping the best?

Kids Napping First Day of Pre-school
Nap time

Not everyone slept, but there was a period of mostly silence so who can complain?

Busy First Day at Pre-School

My first day at pre-school was busy in itself but today I was ambitious and had tasks to complete. Here’s the other things I did today:

  1. Visited the Old Walled City and Bocagrande and will return many times. The bus there was easy. The bus back less so (see 2)
  2. Took two more buses one of which was driven by a crazy person racing another bus to pick up all the riders until everyone on the bus yelled at him. I need gravol from now on for bus rides
  3. Visited a scuba shop – may go diving this weekend. Will probably go diving this weekend
  4. Got a Sim card
  5. Had a Colombian cerveza
  6. Ate yummy plantains and soup

Yea, so way more to come!! Good night!

First Day in Cartagena: Buenas Dias

So it’s my first full day and I thought I’d get a post in before I move around this busy city. I am excited and nervous as a new solo traveler for my first day in Cartagena!

Sleeping In My New Home on My First Day in Cartagena

I slept well despite the heat. As Marcela hosts volunteers regularly, she knows we gringos can’t take the heat, so I have lots of fans. I have one ceiling fan and two area fans, which are both blasting straight at me, because it is very hot in Cartagena! If you want to know more about where I am staying, you can read more about the homestay.

Breakfast in The Homestay

My desayuno (breakfast) and coffee were provided by my Colombian mom, (who is my age but treats me like a mom) Marcela. Juevos revueltos and pan (scrambled eggs and bread) and both were a little sweet and delicious!

desayuno scrambled eggs first day in Cartagena
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I’ve Arrived in Cartagena

It was a long eventful day but I’ve arrived in Cartagena and am looking forward to what’s next. Here’s a recap of the planes and automobiles that took me from Toronto to Cartagena.

Getting to YYZ

I took an uber pool in Toronto at 530am thinking no one would share the ride at that hour on a holiday Monday. Wrong! I ended up with two drunk girls who hadn’t gone to bed yet and were hilarious and woke me up for my flights. They got dropped off in Mississauga and I got to the airport with plenty of time for my flight. Gotta love the people you meet in uber pools.

Flight 1: Toronto to Miami

The Toronto to Miami flight was also interesting because the woman in the window seat of my row kept complaining about her health. Now I am not a medical professional so can’t say if it was legit but the Air Canada staff took it seriously and were very caring. I ended up getting to know the guy sitting in the middle seat because he and I kept having to get up to accommodate the flight crew and a doctor. Yes! They made an announcement looking for a doctor on the flight just like in the movies – and at least 3 people came forward. Anyway, my seat mate had just had a great visit to Toronto for Caribana so we had lots to talk about. And I think the lady in the window just had indigestion. Again, not a medical pro, but she ate a lot.

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