Just a free eBook that includes a selection of my animal photography.
A cool evening breeze travels and wraps around ancient buildings and down narrow brick streets touching the sweaty flesh of people walking everywhere. As it continues, people begin to feel re-energized after the typical hot day of this tropical climate. This is Cartagena, Colombia and the ghosts here are many. There is a 20 foot high wall surrounding the original old city and within it the original architecture, much of it hundreds of years old, still stands and has been transformed into shops, restaurants, and small motels. Friday and Saturday nights feel as though a magical force raised the spirit of this city from the ground as you can hear music around every corner. Several performances are always occurring by surprise, much of what are traditional ones of ancient times such as slave dances. As the deep-tone drums, squawks of performers, and several torches dance about, I can feel a chill run up my spine and I’m suddenly into the moment and absorbing everything with every one of my senses. It’s a truly unique place. In countless ways, I feel as though I’m standing in a living work of art while there.
Cartagena was founded by Spain in the 1500’s and eventually fortified to protect against invasions. The protective strategies never seemed to be enough though, as repeated successful invasions left it held for ransom by pirates on many occasions. It was truly a precious city for Spain and they once invested what would equal two trillion dollars today into its defenses. One evening during my 4th visit to Cartagena, I decided it’s time to tour the castle. As we arrived we realized that visiting hours had ended 2 hours earlier, but after this many visits to Colombia I had learned enough to know what to do. I said to my friend “tell the guard I’ll give him 30,000 pesos ($17 US) to allow the 4 of us in” and he did allow us in. So there we were with a large castle all to ourselves. No tour guide. Just an entrance guard that had no interest in what we did. I think the top of the castle is 200 feet above the ground and I could see everywhere. In some moments I felt as though the ghosts of past were still there. I could imagine cannons firing and people running and shouting in their defense of an invasion. Events such as what I used to see in old pirate movies as a child actually took place in this very spot, many times.
One thing I’ve recently been realizing is that there is so much art and literary masterpieces created and written in the countries of Latin America. Colombia is no exception and I believe my goal of learning Spanish will help me discover more. Reading another blog yesterday of a lady that is visiting Cartagena today, she mentioned a book “Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Love in the Time of Cholera” in which he writes about Cartagena. I downloaded the English version. The same author wrote a Noble Prize winner “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and I downloaded that as well. For anyone interested, please see the links to these books (in English) at the bottom of this post.
Now, I’d like to share a writing in Spanish that a 14 year old friend/cousin of mine (Laura) wrote recently. She lives in the coast of Colombia and this is in Spanish, but you can go to www.google.com/translate and paste it into the box for an instant translation. (or if using Google Chrome, just right click and choose translate) It’s amazing, the deep thoughts that the mind of such a young lady can produce. Read and enjoy.
Desperté y me encontré con un mundo frente a mis ojos, un mundo que solo en mis sueños más remotos había visto, un mundo surrealista, de encanto; por el cual daría todo por verlo nuevamente un segundo.
Ese maravilloso lugar de árboles de colores que se mueven solo para darte algo de sombra y la deslumbrante luz que refleja el inmenso sol acompañado de esas nubes de hermoso rosa con un cielo estrellado, aquel sitio de grandiosos pastos naranja y cascadas amarillas donde saltan y nadan peces de colores en busca de algo nuevo y desconocido; los grandes caminos de piedra que te llevan a esas montañas púrpuras con verde nieve y extrañas flores de figuras que te dejan maravillado con su aspecto; y al llegar a aquella puerta de largas pestañas me doy cuenta del cercano retorno a la realidad, miro hacia atrás y tal es el sentimiento que se apodera de mí que es imposible tratar de evitarlo: Ya no volveré a aquel mundo de fábula, lo cual me llena de tristeza…
By Laura Pico
“Como te sientes?”
“Hmm… I actually understood that” I think to myself after my Spanish speaking friend asked it. He was asking “how are you feeling?” after I forced more food into an already full stomach. I had a large lunch of delicious Colombian food that his wife prepared just 2 hours earlier and then we came to this very small and rustic town where other family members insisted I eat more food they prepared. I answered him “bien, bien, pero tengo mucha flojera ahora” (good, good, but I’m very lazy now.)
We came to this rustic town to buy most of a pig that they would later prepare for me to try some different traditional dishes such as chicharrón (fried pork rinds) and another one that is like large chunks of bacon. I’m not much of a pork eater, but I generally always try things once at least.
I love this little town and it’s my third time here in three years. The other visits were later in the afternoon and consisted of drinking beer, dancing to vallenato, and socializing with about 30 others well into the dark evening hours. The feeling a visitor such as myself gets here is hard to explain. As the cool night begins it seems that everyone comes out of their houses more. Side streets are just a narrow dirt path and feel exactly like a jungle. Many people don’t wear shoes and they seem to move swiftly through heavy forestation and the narrow maze of paths. Some strange kind of cricket can be heard everywhere. Even the people in their living rooms are outside, because the average living room is just a concrete slab with a straw roof over it. While there are many motos and a few cars, it seems that many continue to prefer riding on horseback still. They don’t see “gringos” often here, so of course everyone is always staring at me, but I’m not bothered by it. The same happens in remote parts of Mexico and other cities here in Colombia. Family and friends of family are abundant in this town and I’m always getting many hugs and welcoming gestures. Since they know me now, it’s like I’m an actual close family member when I first arrive. The beautiful pleased looks on their faces as they run to greet me. I love this country and these people. They have now become part of who I am and they feel like my own family.
So, we began our drive back to Montería. I love long drives here because the landscape is beautiful. Small mountains, small patches of jungle, and many rustic towns and farms are a treat for my eyes. After we returned I watched my friend cut up the pig on the patio as I talked with other visitors that came to see me again while I was in town. I still can’t carry on a conversation in Spanish with them but I can often understand enough words to answer questions, but there is almost always 1 of 2 of my translators near. One of my first goals this year is to learn Spanish very well and my company just approved it as a training that they will pay for. In fact, today I just received the materials, etc. I need to get started doing it. I have many long term goals that require the completion of short term goals. I can feel things getting under way and I’m ecstatic!
Make it a great weekend everyone!