Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.
– Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., American author 1809 – 1894
In the past thirty days, I have escaped from yet another awkward living situation that I agreed to and got myself into; a situation that turned out to be a bad choice rift with life lessons in human psychology as well as some self-reflection. One day soon, it’s all going to make for a fantastic book, but for now it’s a painful reminder that if we step outside of ourselves for a moment, most of what we experience is continuous learning in everything we do.
The leap from a 10th floor bedroom to a sweet little ground-floor apartment took perseverance, patience and persistence. As with circumstances before, it paid off, costing me only a haggled-for “added fee” not discussed prior to the move-in, and one giant reminder of how powerful a weapon silence is during appropriate moments.
“Sometimes the words people don’t say are as powerful
as the ones they do.”
― Ann E. Burg, American author
I bid farewell to the Bocagrande digs around the week of March 27th; up to this date, the days were so extremely odd (and at times unbelievable), I did what any extranjera in a strange situation who aspires to publish a book would do: I wrote about it. Each time my former housemate pitched a fit or questioned me up close with an unpredictable smile, I retreated to Rapunzel’s room to write about the event(s).
Charity begins at home, and justice begins next door.
– Charles Dickens, English novelist
Upon leaving, which happened with raised voices and calling a co-worker for backup, I created an amusing short story quite suitable for screenplay material. For now, it must remain among the rest of the tall tales about Colombia, at least until I am out of the country and far from an arm’s length of hair-pulling and mysterious spells.
As soon as my two suitcases landed, they took off again, this time on a spontaneous Semana Santa getaway to Barranquilla to stay with the wonderful family I found (manifested) last year in April. The two hour Berlinas bus ride had me so excited to be back in La Arenosa, that I somehow lost my $40 mil text-and-talk only pay-as-you-go (read: crap) Movistar phone I purchased during my first month in Colombia. Que pena.
Somewhere, someone found the little celulár without a camera (but with an FM radio) and talked away the remaining $10 mil of minutes. Movistar was surprisingly easy to contact via Facebook (of all places) and the stellar customer service agent cancelled the SIM card immediately, assuring me that I could keep the same number. Ah, the notable ways of business in South America.
Arriving in the Terminal de Transportes and taking La Carolina to La Ocho felt like coming home. I was greeted with hugs and kisses and some of Marina’s delicious Colombian cooking. Buzzfeed recently did a piece on Colombian food, and left out half of my favorites, including the bebida de campeones, Pony Malta, and Marina’s amazing arroz de coco.
Anticipating “one or two days tops” for a visit, the reality was five full days, which passed quickly with riotous laughter, sit-down meals and gift exchanges, as well as feeling truly blessed to be considered family with these incredible people.
My Colombian “sister” and I joked about dating, gossiped (nicely) about the neighbors and caught up on the latest music blasted from the discoteca next door. We rode the bus clear past Centro Comercial Buenavista one afternoon, missing the stop for Estadio Romelio Martinez and heading out to La Playa, a cute little town between the top of Barranquilla and nearby Puerto Colombia.
On the return route, we stopped at the stadium to purchase low priced souvenirs, walking a few blocks to La Frutera Barranquilla, to enjoy plentiful pizza, flavorful bolas de papas and amazing fresh juice. If you ever visit the city, check out this wonderful place. It’s located at Carrera 38 near Calle 70B in Barrio Parque Olaya, and often very busy.
During my stay, I was happy to hear Marina is hosting another WorldTeach volunteer this year, and noticed that many of her friends visit the house at all hours of the day. Marina is a generous host, welcoming the extranjeras and shooing her kids out of the living room when things get crazy. One evening, we returned home to find five gringos on the couch planning their evening: a fantastic sight to see in La Ocho, as people often told me how dangerous it was to live there (mientiras!)
After visiting with a teacher friend from Colegio Distrital Hogar Mariano and seeing familiar neighborhood merchants, the journey back to Cartagena felt bittersweet. While Cartageneros are known for their culture-savvy style, there’s no doubt Barranquillernos have a reputation of being relaxed but always ready for la rumba of life. After more than a year amongst warm, wild Costeños in both cities, it’s difficult to declare a favorite, as each has it’s equal share of admirable traits.
Returning to Cartagena at the end of Spring Break still allotted time to play tourist, with a long-awaited tour of Casa Museo Rafael Nuñez. While amable security guard Jhon Haido recited many interesting facts about this former Colombian President, a visiting crowd perused the grounds and peeked into rooms of the home once occupied by Nuñez and his second wife, Soledad Roman.
This impressive couple kept busy during and after Nuñez’s multiple years as President: while Soledad had a church built across the street from the house, Nuñez wrote the words to the country’s national anthem, Oh! Gloria Inmarcesible, and eleven-verse poem set to music by opera singer Oreste Sindici, at the request of José Domingo Torres, an actor from Bogotá.
(Ojalá! Are you feeling the total Colombian history nerd vibe now, or what!?)
As Holy Week came to a close and normal life returned to Cartagena, knowing this journey may be ending sooner than anticipated makes savoring every moment a requirement, not an option. Watching another day slip beyond centuries-old colonial walls, gratitude and appreciation for the present moment – and this screenplay-worthy life – radiated outward like the Caribbean sun setting over the deep blue ocean.