The walled city of Cartagena sets you free. The rich and buzzing life leaves you wanting for more: Khalid Raza
Blogs are a great way to relive the experience and soak in the flavors, virtually. But I promise you, whatever I write will fall short of what I experienced this weekend. Last two days were packed with sun n fun; sand n band; food n mood, dance and well much much more.
While roaming in the market, we saw many hearts and signs showing that love is in the air and upon some questions and translation, we figured that Colombia is gearing up to celebrate Valentine’s Day or “Día del Amor y la Amistad” (Day of Love and Friendship). In most of Latin America the Día del amor y la amistad and the Amigo secreto (“Secret friend”) is quite popular and usually celebrated on the 14 of February (one exception is Colombia, where it is celebrated on the third Saturday in September). The latter consists of randomly assigning to each participant a recipient who is to be given an anonymous gift (similar to the Christmas tradition of Secret Santa).
We were also told that Cartagena or Cartagena de Indi is the place to be for this weekend. So we decided to pack our bags and go visit this lovely city and try and transform from a gringo to a local. Gringo is a term, mainly used in Spanish-speaking countries, to refer to an English-speaking foreigner, especially an American person. The term is, in and of itself, not derogatory.
We took an early morning bus and reached Cartagena and the view of the walled city made our sleepy-eyes shine with the prospect of fun and carnival! Our boat was waiting for us to take us to Rosario islands where we would spend the day – swim, eat delicious sea food or just get tanned! Our private boat hopped from one island to another and everywhere we saw beautiful people and vibrant groups dancing and celebrating the festivity of Valentine’s day and love.
As the evening approached, we decided to head back to the wonderful town of Cartagena but as luck would have it, someone found my slippers stylish and worth stealing and decided to take them away (you got lucky dude!). As we boarded the boat, something wasn’t right and the boat struggled to move on. It was getting dark and the idea of being stranded on the boat was not something we were ever looking for. Wendy Moore, our super awesome life guard, IBMer and a team member, consoled me (who can float but knows nothing about swimming). Finally the boat’s mood changed we headed back to the shore. The walk from the bank to the hotel, about a kilometer, was a super experience for me. Remember I lost my slipper and I had to walk on the road bare-foot! But by no means the day was over, neither was the fun!
We freshened up in our rooms in Hampton Inn by Hilton hotel and headed for a night out. As usual the group was split over the trivial decision of where to go. The CSC experience is all about leadership development and some of us need more help than others. I will write a special blog on people, their traits, perceptions and self-appointed leadership style near the end of the assignment. This is not an inch less exciting that Big Boss (if you find that exciting). I find decision making particularly easy, though I discovered that people cannot follow or lead all that well. The mix of alphas, gammas and betas is complex and at times tedious.
Finally sanity prevailed, with some unhappy faces; we headed to the old part of city. As we entered the gates of the walled city, the view just made our lethargy vanish and we all were jumping around like kids. We reached Plaza Santo Domingo and ordered food, which wasn’t anything close to what we have been having for the last one week. All the tables were in a big square, with live music, performers, sellers … it was lovely. We bought paintings, handmade necklaces and a lot of other stuff. The guy who was selling necklaces can be found on this Facebook page and if you plan to travel to Cartagena, you may contact him. Since Dani is the only one who speaks Spanish and helped us buy the necklaces, the guy gifted a small item to her. Now, that was sweet!
Disappointed with the food but satisfied with the experience, we had to make the night more fun. Some of us decided to head for the hotel while rest of us got into a night club and began to enjoy the last leg of our night. The place was brimming with couples celebrating their special day and more. Though, we all were super tired, the buzz of the city kept us afloat till past midnight. Finally we called it a day and headed back to our hotel, with hopes that the next city tour would be yet another exceptional day!