"Say hello to Tanja" (a Dutch girl that joined the FARC) and "You'll probably meet a Colombian guy and stay there for ever" is what people have told me upon hearing I was off to Cartagena, Colombia. The Colombian Tourism Board uses the slogan 'The only risk is wanting to stay' and I can say that after being here a couple days, I can very well see why. Still jet-lagged and slightly overwhelmed, I share with you my very first impressions.
What needs to be said: I feel safe. I figured I would, since I had read that Colombia has changed a lot over the years. But since everyone, literally everyone, got a funny look on their face and a doubtful yet polite tone of voice when I mentioned my destination ("Ah, isn't that a bit dangerous?"), I also turned slightly worried. Of course, I will stay cautious (Don't worry, mom and dad), but I am glad I feel comfortable walking around in Cartagena on my own.
|My (very) temporary home in Cartagena|
The population is very diverse; people come in all colors and sizes, all types and styles. In Bogota, I saw a lot of indigenous people, with fair skins and red cheeks, that almost look Mongolian. Here, on the coast there are more black people with a Caribbean attitude. I am so used at picking out the bules (Westerners in Indonesia), that here I haven't quite figured out who the tourists are - since the white people can just as easily be Colombian. Also, I've seen lots of people kiss and cuddle. Maybe because it was a chilly and rainy day this Sunday in Bogota (or maybe they do it all the time) lots of people were holding hands, snuggling up on the bus and stroking each other's cheeks. It's not only young couples, no, also old married couples seem to still be on their honeymoon.
|Colombians like football as much as the Dutch do|
In the past two days, I have learned quite a lot of new words (thanks to Paola), such as 'Costeños', the people from the coast. The taxi driver that took me to the airport in Bogota told me I should look out for those flirty Costeños. Yesterday, I realized he wasn't joking, when talking to the bartender at the place where I had breakfast. He looked at me as if he could see right through my clothes and made me blush with the way he gave me back my change. I am so Dutch. So, it's true what they say about latinos then. Well, the same can be said for latinas, I guess. I have seen some miraculously pretty looking women (not as many as I expected though), but I am mostly impressed with the way women carry themselves. Be they fat or old, or both, many dress up, wear a see-through blouse and high-heels and cheer up their wrinkled faces with a dash of red lipstick. And, they get away with it! Sorry, I don't have pictures yet ;)
|My hosts in Bogota, Paola and Julian, eating 'rujak' in the park|
Sorry to bring up Indonesia again, but some things here in Colombia remind me of my second home on the other side of the world. There is a fancy busway system in Bogota, called TransMilenio, which resembles the TransJakarta bus service (even though the TransMilenio seemed a bit safer and better organised). Colombians also love Milo (Chocolate milk), they eat grated cheese on fruits (Yuck! Indonesians eat it on everything too) and eat young mango with salt (rujak!). You can buy phone credit in little shops that look exactly like 'wartels'. There are enough resemblances to make me feel at home, and enough differences to keep me curious. I'm off to explore Cartagena (and take some more pictures), and will keep you posted!