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Published: November 30th 2011
On our return to Cartagena, we had a decision to make straight away, and that was where to stay whilst studying Spanish here. We were due in Cartagena for two weeks in order to try and improve our abysmal vocab and understanding of the language and therefore we wanted somewhere we could cook for ourselves, as it is fairly expensive to eat out here.
We chose the school’s first option of a self-contained apartment called Tom Suites that they had kindly set up on our behalf. This particular apartment was by far the cheaper of the two options we had available to us, and on entering the room for the first time is was fairly apparent why. It was by no means a terrible place to stay, however the thought of having to eat, cook and sleep in this fairly small space just didn’t thrill us. It also didn’t help that there was no natural light coming in due to the fact that there were no windows in the room either! Therefore, on first sight, we kind of wished we had taken the more expensive option over the road. Still, we were here for now until this could be addressed
so we had ourselves an early night, as we had school in the morning! Our class over the next couple of weeks was to be taken by the friendly, and very good teacher Jorge from Cartagena, alongside one other student, Scott from Paris who was equally as friendly and great company. We also met the manager Nicole, and her employee Maria who we think are probably the friendliest and welcoming people we have ever met….ever! So, after getting settled into our first few classeswe had by then decided to spend a week in the apartment we were in, and then move to the nicer place across the road for the last week.
It was definitely not something we felt was necessary, and money-wise, was a little hard to justify, however as the new apartment had a separate bedroom from the living area / kitchen, it meant that we could cook, meaning meals would be cheaper, plus it included breakfast, and a fantastic view from the terrace on the roof which also hosted a swimming pool. In all honesty it really wasn’t a very difficult decision to make even if we were indulging ourselves a little, but
hey, why not, we had a tough week of classes and homework, which we felt would be much easier from the comfort of the terrace overlooking Cartagena! We promised ourselves that these two weeks would be fairly low key as we had already seen a fair few sights in Cartagena, and as it was an expensive city compared to the rest of Colombia, we wanted to keep the cost down. We therefore decided after each Spanish class we would simply chill out, complete any homework we had been given, and stay in to watch a film or something on our laptop.
This was a faultless plan until we found out that we had returned to Cartagena on the most important week of the year, the week of their independence. The festivities were pretty much solid throughout the week and included both Miss Cartagena, and Miss Colombia within their schedule….. This was going to be a hard time to study! Everyday seemed to host a new Carnival parade or party of some sort that generally kept on going way into the night. So after class was over and lunch had been consumed (we now had great recommendations
as to where the locals eat, where the food was delicious and a third of the price of the tourist places), we headed out to the fiestas. Cartagena’s parades were large affairs with hundreds of dancers in brightly coloured costumes dancing down the main road outside the walls of the old city. The girls of Miss Cartagena were also on top of floats waving and dancing in bikinis, but I can’t say I really noticed much, and therefore couldn’t possibly comment 😉 In and around the parade though was where the party was really at, there were huge seating terraces set up around the road with live bands playing, and thousands of people wandering round dancing and having a great time. It was here where we managed to join in the fun by having several ‘Puma’ fights with some of the locals. Puma is the word they use for these large aerosol cans that spray wet foam from the nozzle causing absolute chaos among the revellers. Everybody in the crowd seemed to have at least one Puma can, and there were Puma fights everywhere! We got caught up in a ‘fight’ with a local family and their kids, and to
be honest, probably lost miserably as we were hugely outnumbered! Fantastic fun though. This wasn’t the only thing going on though, as people were also throwing powdered paint at each other, mixed with water turning everyone into a funny shade of blue, which made it like partying with the Smurfs, as well as guys walking round covered in tar / car oil that hound you, and if you don’t pay them 100 pesos (less than 5p) they will cover you in tar and oil…. Still all good natured, but, when coming across these guys, we more often than not give them the money to spare our limited clothes! The overall outcome of these fiestas was great fun, and really good natured banter where we saw a city come together to do nothing but enjoy themselves and party. The one unfortunate incident we did see was a group of teenagers target three western guys with Pumas in order to distract them and try to steal their camera. After the group ran off, everybody that saw the incident was shouting at the police to catch these guys, and some people even gave chase.
One of the thieves’ was eventually caught
and paraded through the crowds to the police car to the jeers and applause of the crowd. It was great to see such togetherness and solidarity in the contempt for this petty criminal in spoiling people’s fun and interrupting the party. We absolutely loved the Colombians for that. We did actually manage to get ourselves in a bit of bother when we were involved in a fight around dusk, whilst walking back to the apartment. It was particularly unfortunate, and I even ended up with a bloody nose…… We were attacked from the side by two Puma wielding youngsters of about 7 or 8 years old that proceeded to soak us with their foam! Luckily, we held some back from the day for this very reason, and therefore I was able to fight back.
Donna wasn’t so lucky, and unarmed, was soaked. I tried to outsmart one of the youngsters with a great little shimmy move, but ended up running straight into his Puma can, hence the bloody nose! I really should learn to defend myself better! So after the Fiestas, everything was back to normal, and we were hard at work studying Spanish.
It really is quite difficult, but we are trying hard, and hope to practice what we have been learning throughout South America in order to improve. We definitely feel that the course was worth doing, as we learned so much here, and really enjoyed the classes, and felt lucky that we chose this school to study at, partly due to the content, but also because of the people we met. So, finally time to say Adios to Cartagena, and move onto the next city. Formally the world's most murderous city....Medellin.
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