People from all around the world travel to visit the beautiful city of Cartagena. In this episode, I try my best to not enjoy myself while I am here. 🙂 Here is how I spent my time waiting for Annie to arrive.
First, just a little retrospection.
I assume that most of you notice the little tag line on my logo at the top of the page. I usually use it to make some sort of funny (to me) quip about where I am. Over the last few weeks in Central America, the tag line has read, “Giving the business to the isthmus.” That saying, of course, is based on the greatest referee call of all time.
I’m still not sure my mentality was correct for Central America. I think I almost saw it as an obstacle to conquer rather than a morsel to savor. This was maybe another effect of my post-crash mentality, feeling like I needed to set up a victory for myself.
But though we only spent 27 days from Guatemala to Panama, I feel that there were so many wonderful experiences. The next time I’m there, I assume my attitude will be a bit better. Perhaps there will be less “business giving.”
But now we have this other continent….
Sunday, February 25th (cont.)
Ok. We’re in South America. One of my first impressions upon leaving the airport was that I couldn’t figure out which way I was facing. Normally I can just orient myself by seeing the direction of the shadows. But here, the midday sun seemed to hang right in the middle of the sky.
I knew I couldn’t do much about getting Annie back this day, so I thought I would take the time to walk to my hostel. This was surely a questionable decision. I passed through some neighborhoods which didn’t feel the safest, where I really stuck out. I was carrying all of my electronics in my bulging backpack.
Though the way the following motorcycle business was secured, would suggest that the neighborhoods are not that bad:
I passed through a bustling market, trying my best to not look conspicuous.
The kid on the left was not fooled:
My hostel was called Casa El Prado. It was only about $7/night and it was within walking distance from the port. The consequence for this convenient price was the AC situation. They would turn it on around 10pm at night and then come to shut it off around midnight. I guess electricity is expensive here. 🙂
My friend, Leebong, had taken a different flight and he arrived later in the day. After not finding any local restaurants open, we went to a supermarket and got a whole chicken, a six pack of Aguilar (brewed in Barranquilla) and a pineapple. It was a surprisingly satisfying meal.
Monday, February 26th
(Many of the following days deal with the process of getting Annie back. I am currently composing a document which is a comprehensive explanation of the process. Accordingly, the description of these events will be given less explanation in this narrative.)
I was excited to begin the process of reclaiming my means of transportation, as well as the vast majority of my possessions. Our agent, Tea, had instructed us to be at the office for Seaboard at 10am to begin the process.
I walked over and was treated to a dose of confusion. I was directed to go through a security entrance which caused a delay. I soon realized that although I’ve made decent progress with speaking Spanish, I have no idea how to speak Colombian. At one point I was bent over, head resting on the waist high counter, cupping my ear and pressing it as close as I could to the small window, trying as hard as I could to understand what I was being told. It was not my best moment.
After about 20 minutes of this, I was finally pointed to the right place: The office for Seaboard. I handed over my paperwork and was told that there was a delay in the ship, but that I should be able to begin my paperwork the next day.
This was either a miscommunication or blatant dishonesty. As more facts came out later, it appears that our boat was actually still in Cuba with a broken down crane. It hadn’t even reached Panama to load the containers yet. I’m really not sure why our agent directed us to go to the office or why the shipping company did not tell us the situation.
Leebong was working with another agent named Boris. He’d been given the same instructions. Our paths crossed just outside of the office and we returned to the hostel together. We went out to eat at a local place.
One of Leebong’s neat contraptions is a 360 degree video camera. It is super neat. In the video below, you can click and drag to look around. It’s just like you get to have lunch with us! (without having to try the bone soup)
That night we met Deva from Toronto who had just visited Barranquilla (my next song place). Not many people visit this city, but she had lots of good things to say and gave me some contacts.
Tuesday, February 27th
In the morning, we were finally given notice about the estimated arrival time of the ship: Saturday. Everybody was surprised and not too happy. Though I believe we were well within our rights to ask, it soon became clear that we would not be compensated for the extra time that it would take. They had our vehicles and already had our money. We had very little leverage.
Leebong and I decided to get out and see the city, if for no other reason than to keep our mind off of the current plight. First we got some more bone soup from the corner restaurant.
We took a bus into the center of town, which was an experience itself. I’m always fascinated by the “doormen” of these rigs.
They spend all day hanging out of the side of the bus, yelling where it is going and trying to get people to board. They are also the person who takes your money. It’s a strange mix of hype-man, cashier and acrobat.
We walked along the walls and tunnels of the old town.
Eventually we passed the University of Cartagena. Leebong wanted to go inside to take some pictures.
We were approached by a 19 year old student named Juan. He came to speak to me first and I had a hard time understanding what he wanted. Thankfully, Leebong was able to step in with his comprehensive command of Spanish and help us out. It turns out that Juan just likes meeting people from other places and offered to show us some things around the city.
We sat down for a quick discussion, which Leebong got on film. It is really nice to be able to use his media for these posts. He really does a great job of capturing some special moments. Juan asks about my “husband” and I give an answer that he did not expect:
Juan was so nice to take us around. It was a pleasure to meet him.
We stopped by the statue of Catalina, a symbol of the city.
We actually went to the mall that evening and it almost felt like being back in the US. We had Chinese food and an ice cream cone from McDonald’s. 🙂
Wednesday, February 28th
The saga with our vehicles showed no sign of resolution, so we decided to switch hostels and move closer to the center. We met up with a couple from France, Stevy and Alizee, to have lunch at a chicken place. They had also worked with Boris, but their car had been put on a different boat. They had it back already.
(A peace sign is not my natural photo gesture. I’m much more of a thumbs up guy. Perhaps I am evolving.)
They gave us a ride to our hostel in the back of their car.
Our new hostel was called Three Dogs House II. I would be making my home here for quite a while. That night, one of Leebong’s friends arrived: Katrie from Australia. Our four person dorm room also had a guy from France, so we had four continents represented. 🙂
I haven’t met many Australians on my journey so I was eager to ask Katrie if she knew the original, Australian version of the song. I think her comment was, “I didn’t even know there was an Americas version.” Here’s the Australian version again:
Thursday, March 1st
Vehicularly (I don’t care if that’s not a word) speaking, this would be a day of no progress. Leebong, Katrie and I decided to go see some more of the sights.
We began with lunch at a local restaurant. We ordered “gallo de la primavera” (literally “chicken of the spring”) which seemed like a safe choice. As we were eating it, however, it became clear that this was no chicken. We asked after the meal. It turns out it was tripe, just with a more palatable name. 🙂
We proceeded to the Cartagena fortress. Entrance was about $8. It was quite a sight.
We never got our jumping picture right though:
We dropped by the mall for some ice cream. It’s become common place for me to see motorcycles for sale in these department stores.
As we walked back to the hostel, we saw a scene which offered quite a contrast to the sterile setting of the mall.
It appears that a local person just brings their pigs to a vacant lot where people dump their trash. Though it was kind of a sorry scene, I had to at least acknowledge the efficiency of it.
My Brother commented that it sounds like this place is a real mix of first and third world. That’s an apt description. For all of the swanky hotels, there are just as many dilapidated buildings and vacant lots.
Colombia, as a country, has made huge strides in the last decade or so. It really feels like a place which is actively transitioning. Despite this progress, though, there are still some signs that anarchy reigns:
I’m eager to discover more about this country as I go.
We used the last of our daylight for a dip in the ocean, about a 15 minute walk from the hostel.
Friday, March 2nd
I was actually able to begin the process of getting Annie back this day. Once again, most of that story will be told in my document dedicated to the crossing (link here when it’s done). I had another long walk to the office, where I met up with the Swiss gals who were shipping their van in the same container, Severine and Margeaux.
We ran around to various offices all day and made it to the port around noon. We had lunch underneath a tent, getting to pretend like we were dock workers.
Things went fairly smooth and we were told that we could get the vehicles the following day. Talk about music to my ears.
Leebong and Katrie decided to take a bus to Santa Marta. Without my partners in crime, I had a quiet evening.
I was beginning to get impatient, though. Only having three sets of clothes in a sweat-inducing environment is a tough balance. I didn’t have my towel (used a shirt), fingernail clippers (I almost entered a Freddy Krueger look-alike contest) or a razor (good thing my beard stops growing after five days). The extra time without my belongings was wearing on me.
Saturday March, 3rd
I took another long walk to the port. At least I got to pass by the fortress each time.
As we had been instructed the previous day, we had all of the people for our container with all of our paperwork at the port at 8am. We were told that the ship was “here,” but that it couldn’t dock for some reason. We were stuck in the waiting area for about three hours just so we could get this news.
To add insult to injury, a monkey stopped by to heckle me.
Sunday, March 4th
This was a really slow day for me. I was just done.
Done with waiting. Done with Cartagena. Done with being in cities. Done with not having my things. Done with catching up on my blog…..wait, that’s actually a good one. 🙂
That evening, I made a really fun connection. In my room, there was a girl from Japan named Yuka. We were early in our conversation when she asked what part of the US I am from. After saying, “Nebraska,” I always segue into explaining its geographic location without a break. She looked excited to hear this, so I naturally assumed that she had mixed it up with Alaska. Why would anyone be excited to hear about Nebraska?
It turns out that Yuka had studied abroad at my proud alma mater, Nebraska Wesleyan University. This is a small liberal arts college with an enrollment of only around 1,500. Needless to say, we were both shocked.
Cue Han Solo!
It’s been a long time since I could say “Go Prairie Wolves” to somebody. We had a great time talking about shared experiences.
Let’s end on that happy note! A whole week in one blog post. I think that may be a new record. I guess there is much less of a story to tell when I am sans-transportation. My next post will probably be the long story of the shipping process. It’s guaranteed to make you pull out your hair. 🙂
Stay fortified, everybody
Realtime update: We are reunited! The journey continues. I’m currently in song place, Barranquilla. I’ll check out the city for a couple days before I start heading south.