Cartagena

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I´m sitting in a nice, air conditioned internat cafe. It is sweltering out there. I´ve probably lost 5 pounds already just trudging through the thick humid air. On to less banal, more exciting things.

Yesterday was the first full day I explored Cartagena. The city´s main highlight is the ciudad vieja(old city). It is surrounded on almost all sides by a rather large stone wall. The latter was built, way back in the day, to protect Cartagena from dastardly pirates. Most of the original wall is still in place. So, packed within these stone walls is a magically steamy place. The whole old town is made up of brightly colored colonial buildings with dainty balconies. Flowers hang from many of them. The narrow streets are filled to the gills with people of all sorts of shades and nationalities. By that, I mean there are lots of foreign tourists here. There are also a couple of quiet, shady plazas located throughout the old city. Prominent churches, like in most of Latin America, also exist in the old city. I don´t think I mentioned that Cartagena is located on the Carribbean.

I walked throughout this tantalizing maze of narrow streets, taking in the sensational colors and beautiful architecture surrounding me. Then, I got hungry(I start my touring awfully early). I got something called Arepa con Huevo from an upscale cafe. Dios Mio! it was delicious. It will be hard to describe, but I have to try. The arepa had an appearance of a high class hot pocket. The outside was two golden fried pieces of corn dough. The two pieces were connected. I put my knife and fork into the arepa, and some yolk leaked out. There was meat mixed in with the egg. On the plate, there was some sour cream for dipping. I took a bite, and my mouth rejoiced. I´ve got to find out how to make that.

After I was satifactorily full, I left the restaurant and walked towards the walls surrounding the old city. I walked up some stairs, and behold, there was the sea below me! The water here is not the magnificent azure that many associate with the Carribbean. It´s like a light blue. I walked along the top of the wall a little, absorbing the sun´s penetrating rays. Damn, do I sweat here. After wandering around the old city some more, simply taking in the view, I decided it was time to take a break. I went back to the hostel.

I am staying at a hostel outside of the old city, in a neighborhood named Getsemani. There are some dodgy characters there, but I like it nonetheless. In terms of architectural beauty, Getsemani does not compare to the old city. So I settled down into a chair at the hostel and proceeded to drink beer and smoke cigarrettes, all the while chatting it up with fellow gringos. The people at the hostel include but are not limited to the following: canadian, americans, spaniards, irish, israelis, and colombians. Yes, I thought it strange that there were fellow colombians staying at a gringo hostel. Curious, I asked a one of these girls some questions. The conversation went something like this:

me: where are you from?
her: Medellin.
me:what are you doing here in Cartagena
her:working
me: what kind of work?

She did not answer in words. Instead, she made a humping motion. Yeah, there are prostitutes staying at my hostel. Strange. Don´t get the wrong idea. The hostel is not a brothel; it´s just that a couple of prostitutes call it home.

After some more drinks, two canadians and I decided to go out. One of those canadians is close to my age, the other had to be in his forties. He is a high school biology teacher on vacation. We walked outside the hotel, then asked a taxi driver if he could take us to a place that was hopping. I made it quite clear to the driver that we did NOT want to go to a strip club or brothel. We arrived at our destination, buttt, as it turned out, it was a strip club. So we didn´t stay. Next, I reiterated to the driver(same one) that we wanted to go to a normal bar. However, he took us to yet another strip club. We then proceeded to go to a third place, but it was more or less a shitty bar. Good news is that I got some great street food. It was a fried plaintain, kind of in the shape of a leaf. On top of this fried plaintain, there was beef, sausage, cheese, and something else i could not discern. To top it all off, this was further covered with three different types of condiments. I´m not sure what they were. The end result: yummy in my tummy but also all over my shirt because there was no fork and one napkin.

After this pointless tour around the city with this cab driver, we were dropped off where we began, by the hostel. We walked towards the old city. It was about 1230 a.m. Prostitutes were everwhere. The canadian biology teacher was interested, and sat down to talk with a couple chicas. The other guy and I stood around, drinking a beer. I served as a translator for the canadians, since there spanish was not up to the task. It was funny, one of the girls asked me if I was from Mexico. Yes! my spanish is that good. Or maybe they were just trying to get some business. Oh, and while all this was happening, two cops stood above us on the wall, looking down. It was a little shady overall. After waiting for what seemed forever, the Canadian teacher decided he didn´t want a girl at that time and we could go back to the hostel. Oh, the poor hookers were so dissappointed. It´s almost like the canadian gave the prostitutes a sort of blue balls, but in a financial way. More to come soon….

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