I’ve been in Cartagena now for just over two weeks, and my days are beginning to have a shape, a routine.
The one element I haven’t been able to place yet is my shower. My shower has one knob. You can turn it on or off. You cannot adjust the temperature. Luckily, the temperature is what I’d call ‘refreshing.’ Bracingly cool against my hot skin, but not icy or cruel.
On most days, a shower gives me about 30 minutes of clean before I’m drenched in sweat again. So the question is, do I want to enjoy my few minutes of feeling fresh during my morning coffee? When I go out in the evening? Or do I want to feel clean when I slide between my sheets at night? I’m still experimenting with this one.
In the mornings, I make coffee, read e-mail and news. I settle in to getting some work done around 10am, sometimes later if I’ve slept in.
Around 1 or 2:00, I break for lunch. I’m trying to adjust to the Cartagenian pattern of eating a hearty breakfast, a big lunch, and a snack at dinnertime. It’s just too hot to cook and eat by late afternoon. But my idea of a ‘hearty breakfast’ is full-fat milk in my coffee, and I struggle with my appetite at lunchtime.
Lunchtime might involve some cooking, and usually involves sitting out on the balcony for a bit. I let my overworked eyes focus on faraway things and watching the waves come in.
I try to finish work for the day by around 5 or 5:30 so I can sit on the balcony and watch the sunset. By that time, I’ve had enough solitude and productivity — and when the sun goes down, it’s cool enough to walk outside! So I clean up and go out.
I may have dinner out (just me and other gringos in the restaurants at this hour, the locals eat out at lunch). Or I may eat a little bite at home and then have happy hour, or a limonada de coco, or a beer. I might walk around to see what’s going on in some of the squares in Old Town, or I might go grocery shopping. Always I walk home, along the coast road, by around 9pm because I’m not sure how safe it is to be out after that. I make a point of walking at least 3 miles each weekday, it’s my recreation, food for my soul, and my workout. The Old Town area, and the wall, and the sea are all so very beautiful in the evenings.
Last night I went to a free orchestra concert (I had spotted the flyer on a wall, took its picture, and went over it at home to make sure I hadn’t misread any of the Spanish). The night before, I had to work late and didn’t get to leave the apartment except for a short walk to the store. So there is variety and texture in the evenings…except that I am always alone.
Weekends are a different animal, though. I try not to work. I do my laundry and tidy up my room. I read for pure pleasure, not for work. And I walk like crazy! Usually I get in at least 6 miles on a Saturday and again on Sunday.
I have a few acquaintances. A bartender who speaks English and knows my name (Noah). A guy on the street who knows who I am and likes to talk to me (José). I’d like to add the waiter at the delicious Indian restaurant to my regular contacts, but I might have to start selling blood plasma if I want to eat there a lot (Johnny).
Last Saturday, I tried to go to the beach. There is a whole row of free beaches just outside my door. But I was stopped by someone – apparently the beaches are free, but if you want to sit in one of the little chair-shelter cabanas ( a piece of fabric draped over two chairs) you get hit up for 12,000 pesos. (about 6 bucks). I wasn’t planning on being there long enough to get that much use out of it, and strongly suspected that was a gringo price anyway, so I didn’t stay. No one seems to just leave towels & bags on the beach, so I couldn’t go in the water. Very disappointing.
So I went home, changed, grabbed my camera, and walked all over creation. I saw fishermen pulling in their nets. I saw Pegasus and family. I saw pirate ships, and metal men. Here are some of those pics.