Cartagena

Under construction in Bogota

by Mike
When I stepped off the plane I rubbed my fingers together and could feel the moisture in the air and it was hot at 9pm. The streets are thick with people, especially at night when it’s tolerable to be out in the open, and because the buildings are close together, and because most have balconies, the city feels heavy and low. It feels concentrated at street level. I can imagine when this city was founded in the early 1500s that it was one of those places that pirates were drunk all night and fought in the streets under the brothels. I don’t know if it’s too different now.

It feels Caribbean, though I’ve never been to the Caribbean, so I wouldn’t know. The gorgeous, colonial buildings threaten to crumble right where they stand, but there is construction. There’s scaffolding and constant painting so they’re taking care of those walls that do need attention, but not at the expense of what looks authentic.

Colombian people are very tasteful, some of the most proud people I’ve seen. Cartagena is, I imagine, as touristy as Colombia gets and everyone still takes themselves seriously. It’s great for the music – I haven’t heard any crappy Latin pop – but it also means that Azure and practically have to use dentist’s instruments to extract smiles. Fucking impossible. It’s a different culture, I suppose, and our white skin here might as well be gold in many people’s eyes, but we’re finding it hard to deal with a culture that doesn’t value the same politeness we do in Seattle. For example, we smile at someone we talk to. I know it’s different in New York as well. It rubs me the wrong way still. I was born in 1979 in Seattle, Washington and the person I’m talking to was born in – say – 1965 in Bogota, Colombia. It’s a miracle that we’ve found ourselves standing face to face after almost 30 years and thousands of miles. Anyone care?

We’ve had some great food, the best of which was on the first night when we stumbled into a tired little diner and I got chicken with raspberry sauce and fried plantains. Of course, at the same meal Azure got what can only be described as cream of mushroom soup, undiluted. She ate about a half inch of it, if that’s any indication its texture. The next day we had a whole fish fried at the beach, but the highlight was brown rice that had been cooked in coconut milk (I believe) with fresh lime squeezed over the top. I suggest you all do this now.

We’re off to a smaller town today. The beach in Cartagena is a city beach, complete with city people and a city’s pace. We’re heading up the coast to Tacanga, which is either awful or wonderful, depending on who you talk to. For just under a week now we’ve been traveling and eating with this perfect Dutch couple we met in Bogota. We’ve had a great time with them and they’re continuing on to Tacanga with us.

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An advertisement – Azure’s parents make gorgeous wooden jewelry boxes and they’re having their annual Shop Sale at their property in Redmond this weekend. The boxes are an easy choice for gifts. Their website is Wood Design by Demeules.

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