Cartagena, Colombia – First Impressions

I can’t believe I’ve finally arrived in Cartagena. After months and months of planning and waiting my dream has come true. My initial impressions:

It’s hot here!
And not just “oh, it’s a nice day” hot. It’s really balmy, like “oh, ok my underwear, bra, shirt and shorts are soaked through with sweat” hot. Locals keep telling me, “Hace calor” but I think they are just feeling sorry for me because I look like a drowned rat. I am thinking of stripping down naked to get cool, and I check out the locals to see what they’re wearing. Ya know what? They wear jeans and slacks and sneakers and suits and high heels (for the women). I don’t get it, but I might try wearing my jeans tomorrow.
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The People Very Kind
When I first arrive in a new city I like to just walk around for a day or two. I don’t like to do tours or museums or attractions right away. In fact, if I’m only in a city for a few days I may only walk around and skip the other stuff. I like to walk and then stop and sit and watch. I like to see what people are doing, what they’re wearing, how they interact. I just like to sit in a park and observe. I like to watch the kids running around, old men playing cards, teenagers cuddling, friends giggling. The one thing that hasn’t invaded this place is the constant smart phone use. People actually still talk to each other here. In fact, I’m usually the only one with one, so I don’t take it out unless I’m taking a photo.
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As soon as I sit here someone starts a conversation with me. I guess I stand out quite a bit, and my Puerto
Rican heritage does not let me pass for Latina. Typically the conversation is one-sided as my Spanish still sucks, but I can usually get through where I’m from and why I’m here. My goal is to eventually have a full conversation.

It’s Very Safe Here
I was alittle worried at first. When you visit a new city and just walk around alone you have no idea what to expect. My host family and everyone I have met here have reassured me that this is a very safe area and walking alone is not a problem, even at night. I know this is more than I can say for some areas of San Francisco. I still pay attention, and I don’t let my guard down completely but I am not worried here. This city is built around tourism and they cannot afford to have their visitors not have a good time or not return.

Verdict after 24 hours: I love it here. I love that I am here for at least six weeks so I don’t feel pressure to see everything quickly. If I want to take a nap in the afternoon for a hour I can (and do!). If I want to sit at a cafe and have a beer, I can. Eventually I hope to do a city bus tour, visit the museum and the beaches, but for now I think I’m going to finish this beer and enjoy the view.
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Categories: Cartagena, Colombia, First Impressions | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Cartagena, Colombia – First Impressions

  1. Lisa

    It looks beautiful! And it’s so nice to see people out and about!

  2. Dee

    Beautiful setting. Glad you are finding the town friendly and safe to walk around. Any idea if there is a meaning for the color of the beautiful homes along the street? If you need some more shorts, let me know and I will go shopping for you and mail some down.

    • Hi Dee! I think the colors are just a part of the bright culture. In the US we paint houses white or beige or other light color to blend in and have the neighborhood look “consistent”. Here, (and in other South American countries) they embrace the colors. I am planning a post about the architecture and the homes here. As for the shorts, there are TONS of stores here. In fact I am going to try to post about all of the products they have here that are the same as ours. I went to their “Walmart” called Exitó and was very surprised. Thanks for the offer though. xoxo

  3. Man this is taking me back… i have sat in that very square, enjoying a national beer

  4. Minnie

    Glad you arrived safely and are enjoying yourself. The pictures are beautiful. The narrow streets remind me of Old San Juan in Puerto Rico and the guy selling his wares at the square of Mexico. Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy! Xxxooo

  5. Josh Babbitt

    Hey… looks awesome. I hadn’t seen your posts in a while, and the trip looks amazing. My friends Jesse and Dave did something similar a couple of years ago, so you may want to check their blog at some point for packing/traveling tips or info about places (http://www.jdmesh.com/). Keep the posts coming and stay safe! -josh

  6. Hola mi amiga (and that is the end of my wealth of Spanish phrases……)
    YAY – you are in Columbia! I am keeping you in my thoughts for inspiration. If you can be fluent in Spanish in 6 weeks, I can get through Ch 4 of my accounting textbook :-\

    Hope you are well, safe and aww heck, I know you’re happy. Luv, Cindy

    • Yeah, I am now 4 weeks in and I think the fluency in 6 weeks was a bit aggressive. It is so much harder than I thought it would be! But I am loving it. Take care Ku!

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