I missed you, Cartagena
The travel begins
Jen and I woke up at some un-Godly hour to catch our flight from JFK airport to Cartagena. The travel went smoothly, and I bought a new novel (The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki) and a notebook at the newsstand. On the in-flight television we watched Sunday morning news, including a horrifying interview with Donald Trump.
Landing in Cartagena is always a bit of an anxious experience for me. First there’s how close both the sea and the houses are to the landing strip, it feels like the plane is either going to make a water-landing or crush someone. Then there’s the heat. After the intense air-conditioning of the plane, the heat and humidity hit you powerfully in the face the moment you step out of the airplane door. Luckily it’s only a few hundred feet until you’re back inside an air-conditioned airport again, but it’s still a shocking change.
I was nervous that all my Spanish had disappeared from my brain while I was in the United States for a few weeks, but thank goodness I was wrong. I felt better once I had successfully spoken to both the customs agent and the taxi drivers that were taking us to Manuela’s house (where I live). The whole ride there I was wondering how the city must look to Jen. I know my first impression was of dirt, poverty, and chaos. But after 6 months, the place had really started to grow on me and I was happy to be back. Seeing Manuela and Maria Clara was a joy, and I was proud to give them the gifts I had brought from the United States for them (headphones, chocolate and peanut butter for Manuela, work out clothes for Maria Clara.)
Jen and I had a few days to spend in Cartagena, and we ended up doing a lot of things I had never done before. Including the free walking tour of the historic city, climbing to the top of the San Felipe Castle, and going to some sweet little restaurants. It felt really nice to introduce someone from home to my new home in Cartagena.
Autumn met up with us after 2 days, and I was very happy to introduce the two of them. I knew that they were both going to get along well, and by the end of the trip I knew I was right. They almost got along too well, and by the time we were in Bogotá, Jen and Autumn had teamed up against me to laugh at all my silly mishaps.
From Cartagena we were moving onto Santa Marta, the second leg of our journey. I found it difficult to pack for all the types of weather and activities I had planned. It’s around 90 degrees on the coast, but as you move into the center of Colombia, the elevation rises dramatically and the temperature goes down to around 70 in places like Medellín and Bucaramanga, and 60 in Bogotá. Another complicating factor was having clothes for sports activities like whitewater rafting and hiking in the Amazon, but also more formal clothing for a week of professional development training in Bogotá with the Ministry of Education. My backpack was a bit heavier than I’d have liked, but in the end I had nearly everything I needed for the 3 weeks of travel.