I told you I met this very nice French-Colombian girl, S. She works at a travel agency here, called Aventure Colombia. And not only does she work there, she has no colleagues at the moment so she is taking care of the Cartagena agency all on her own, that's impressive (btw, if you know someone who is based in Cartagena and speaks fluent Spanish, French and English, she is recruiting!). So anyway, S works long days, alone, for a salary that is quite a lot here but compared to France, not so much. However, she has some good employee benefits, like for example she gets to test excursions and then decide if the agency will offer them to tourists or not. That is why we spent today swimming, tanning, kayaking and eating at Isla del Sol. Thanks for inviting me to join, S!
Friday has always been my favorite day of the week. I like the fact that it’s between the work week and the weekend, you work hard but it always feels easier because it’s Friday and then you get that fantastic feeling when it's time to relax and the weekend is ahead. In my new life in Cartagena I like Fridays even more because I don’t work. I don’t know if two times in a row can be called a routine but at least I am starting to make routines for my Fridays. In the morning I have a surfing class and after that I stay on the beach for a while. Then I go home, prepare a healthy lunch (a salad and a smoothie) and do some cleaning. In the afternoon I write or alternatively skype with someone back in Europe. And well for the evening I don’t have routines yet. Today is writing day and I’m happy because I have found a Startbucks-like place where to write. This is a café chain called Juan Valdez Café, we came here yesterday with my boss N for a meeting with a partner and I decided to come back today. According to N this café has three good points: air conditioning, internet connection, and delicious coffee and pastries (although I commented that delicious pastries is more of a bad point, at least for me). I’m adding to the list cozy atmosphere, nice background music and Chai Tea Latte (!), very much like at a Starbucks Coffee in Paris.
My mum asked me to post pictures from our home. Sure, I can do that. I actually like our place more and more every day. It is a bit old and run-down but very charming in its own way. I wouldn’t want to live here for the rest of my life but for a couple of months it’s just fine. Living with A is easy and agreeable, when we are both at home we cook, listen to music, watch movies and talk a lot. This week we will welcome a third roommate because there still was one more room to rent. He is a Chilean guy and he seems cool as well (we decided we would not choose someone who isn’t :)).
And I’ll tell you a secret, my monthly rent is a bit more than 100 euros. So for my whole stay here I will pay the same what I would pay for around two weeks in my apartment in le Marais, think about it!
So here’s some pics:
I promised I would write about work, and I will. But I need to make sure first what is confidential and how much I can share with you. So I will start with telling you about La Boquilla, the neighbourhood where the association, Fundación La Vecina, is. In the this same post I will write a bit more about my everyday life here in Cartagena, because everything is linked by one incredible thing: even if I live in the city center, I am surrounded by the sea and beaches. Life is goooood.
I started my post-graduation travels on November 23rd. After a week in Dubai and Oman I returned to Paris for one day, only to pack my bags, see some of my best friends one last time, and leave again. Now, via Finland, Sweden, Denmark, US, Jamaica and Cuba, I have finally arrived to my new hometown: Cartagena, in northern Colombia. My plan is to stay here for some four or five months but nothing is fixed, we’ll see.
A couple of months ago I decided two things: 1) that after graduation I would spend some time in a Spanish speaking country (but not Spain) and 2) that instead of looking for a “real” job right away, I would go volunteering. I started planning my trip by Facebook-messaging everyone I know from South/Central America. My goal was to find the ideal destination but obviously they all recommended a different country (I understand, almost any place here must be an ideal destination). Even if I narrowed my options to a city by the sea that would not be too dangerous, there where still quite many places to choose from. And since I had never been to this continent before, I really had no preferences.
However, I got one good tip through my Facebook inquires, that was an organization called Moving Worlds. Instead of ordinary volunteering missions they organize something they call “Experteering”, that comes from the words “expert” and “volunteering”. I will tell you more about it later but basically the idea is to work with a local company or association, volunteering specific, often business-related “skills”. The goal is to contribute to an impactful project in a foreign country, that is at the same time beneficial for one’s future career. At the best, the "Experteering" project is an exchange of cultures and competences, an experience that both sides can learn something from. The website works like Tinder: you create a profile, write about yourself (one picture is enough) and tick the box with your preferences regarding the project and the location. Moving Worlds will then match you with a suitable project and you can get in touch with the representative of the company or association. I found the concept very interesting so I decided to give it a try. I think that in life things often happen quite randomly and by chance. You know someone who knows someone, or you are simply at the right place at the right time. Life is full of options and it is hard to choose. But when you just go with the flow and let things happen, it usually goes well. So that’s what I did and through lucky coincidences and helpful connections I came across a volunteering project with Fundación La Vecina, and ended up here in Cartagena.
On Saturday I had to kiss Chuba goodbye and leave the beautiful Viñales region. In Santiago I told S and H that I would try some other transportation mode than Viazul bus when coming back from Viñales. I kept my promise and shared a taxi colectivo with a French couple, a German man and two local ladies. The car was from 1965 (and looked and felt like that) but the trip went well and I got a ride until my casa, where Señora J was waiting for me. She said that my Spanish has improved a lot! That when I came to Cuba I didn’t speak much but now I’m talking all the time. So it’s not only my imagination. :)
As I told you already, Viñales is small and there is not much to do here except for walking back and forth on the main street. If Trinidad had a certain old town charm, Viñales is just a tiny village in the countryside. That’s a bit too much for me, I would go crazy if I had to live here. But for a few days this is perfect. Even if Viñales is very touristic (every house in the “center” has a casa particular –sign) the ambiance in this town still feels authentic and the locals seem to be very attached to their culture and traditions. And even if Viñales is just a minuscule agricultural village, the region is said to be among the most beautiful in Cuba and there are heaps of places to see and things to do a bit further away: caves, tobacco and coffee plantations, beaches, natural lakes and pools... Everything is around the Viñales valley where the landscapes are simply amazing.
This trip to Cuba is soon coming to an end, in just a few days I will be on plane flying to my new home town, Cartagena. That also means the start of my new job and new everyday routines, and the end of two and a half months of active holidays. My last stop in Cuba before heading back to Havana is in the Pinar del Rio region, far in the west. My base from where I will be exploring the surroundings is in the tiny little town of Viñales. From what I already saw from the bus, this part of Cuba looks very different from the other cities where I have been. If I had to describe the landscapes in one word, I would say green. Everything is green, I have never seen this much green fields and forests anywhere. There are also mountains and valleys, as well as caves and tobacco plantations to visit. No big cities, nothing special to do, just nature. A perfect place to take a rest before starting my new life
Today S and H left early for Baracoa (I hesitated to go as well but finally decided to spend more time in the Pinar del Rio region where I’m heading next) so I woke up as well and had breakfast with them. I then went for a long walk around the city, before the sun was too hot. A saw a residential quartier called Tivoli, famous steps Escalier Padre Pico, and some everyday life of the inhabitants of Santiago. A big town chaos, shops opening, people going to school and work.
Before you start reading, I must tell you that today has been one of my absolute favorite days so far during my travels, and a perfect example of how fascinating traveling alone and randomly meeting new people can be.
I decided to choose one thing to do outside the city and thus took a boat to Cayo Granma, a nearby island. Getting there was not easy but with a lot of patience (that I don’t have) I made it. There are ferries that leave from different places, the challenge is to know when and from where. I first went to the Malécon but I would have had to wait for two hours so I decided to try my luck at a close-by town called Ciudamar. I figured I was in no hurry so I refused to take a taxi (even if I was offered one about thousand times) and instead decided to travel as a local. A bici-taxi wanted to take me to a bus stop for 1CUC so I accepted and started with that. The bus stop was not called a bus stop but a “transportation point” because you can take all kinds of transportation there: bus, truck, taxi, horse carriage... I asked the people who were waiting there, and soon understood how it works. Whenever a transportation, any kind, comes and stops, you ask where it goes and you hop on. After at least 30 minutes of waiting (and asking each time something passed by) a truck finally arrived, with destination Ciudamar.
It looked like this:
I'm Emilia, Finnish-Parisian, a recent Master's graduate. I'm currently traveling around the Caribbean and on a volunteering mission in Colombia. I'm passionate about writing, music and different kinds of sports. I can't wait to discover new places and cultures - and share my adventures with you!