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Showing posts from October, 2011

A Death Wish

There are times when I can’t hold my tongue. When I was younger, there were many more times I just couldn’t do it, but away from home, I have learned to just observe and keep my thoughts to myself. In Cartagena, I witness many things that bother me: garbage on a beautiful beach, school cancelled for no good reason, loud music outside my window, constant beeping of car horns, flooding in poor neighborhoods, politicians using misery and poverty to their advantage, etc. As a foreigner, I play the role of a therapist as Colombians release their frustrations about their country and how it should be more developed by now. I listen, but I don’t judge, openly.
My silence abroad can only be broken by only one thing: stupid Americans. Last Thursday afternoon, I was eating pizza in a cute little place near my house and in walked in five big, white, sunburned, and very drunk Americans. They all wore Panama Jack hats, black concert t-shirts, long cargo shorts, and white sneakers. They were loud an…

Top 10 Things to Prepare for Unexpected Visitors in Cartagena

10. Make your bed and straighten up right when you wake up. 9. Empty bathroom trash cans frequently. No one wants to see or smell your TP! 8. Have lots of salty snacks. Potato chips, banana chips, pork rinds, and peanuts with raisins are always a hit. 7. Don´t forget ham, cheese, and bread or saltines. They can go a long way! 6. Have soda (any flavor, but not diet), fresh juice, whiskey and beer  on hand at all times. 5. Go to the corner pirated music stand and buy the latest party mix, Salsa by Joe Arroyo, and Vallenato hits. 4. Play music at all times to create a warm and fun environment. 3. Offer at least cold water and a seat, even if you really late for something and need to leave.   2. Never feel embarrassed if you were napping in the middle of day and answer the door in a haze. 1. Always smile when people arrive at your door unannounced. If you don´t, they will never come back and spread the word you don´t like visitors. You'll be another just another unfriendly gringo.

Common Knowledge

Today marks my one year anniversary in Cartagena. I am no longer an official Peace Corps Volunteer, but I continue my work as an English teacher and being an American in a foreign land. I have started a new life here and I don’t have the Peace Corps to full fill my basic needs of shelter, IDs, and bank cards. I have moved into a new apartment which requires signing leases, getting documents notarized, paying utilities, buying housewares, and putting food in the fridge. In the US, I can do all of these things with ease. However, now I need the help and patience of my Colombian friends and businesses to explain what to them is common knowledge.

In the US, getting things notarized is simple and free. You go to the bank, show your ID, sign, and leave. Here you pay for each page being reviewed and each stamp and signature they decide that they need “legally.” It is quite a lengthy and costly process. In Cartagena, the most common place to pay utilities is at the supermarket as you pay for y…