For those who don't follow me on Facebook, yes I have arrived back to Paris. However, the return has not been as smooth as I expected (if I ever expected that the return to Paris could be smooth) but petit à petit, day by day, I'm getting used to it and starting to feel better and at home.
This is it then. I feel overwhelmed; strange but somehow happy. 199 days (200 when I land), 5 countries, 74 posts, 80 300 words, 1520 pictures. I want to thank you all for reading this blog and for following my travels. Your likes, comments, inquiries and support mean the world for me. Should you have any questions regarding the places I visited, volunteering, or anything else, keep contacting me, I'm happy to help. I hope you have enjoyed reading my stories as much as I have enjoyed writing them.
As authors often do, I wrote this last chapter long ago, when I was traveling in Cuba. Back then I promised myself that I would keep an open mind for changes and for other opportunities that would certainly come along. I reminded myself that I was free to do exactly what I wanted, that I wasn’t tied to anything or anyone. That if I wanted, I could keep traveling to exciting places, and I could find a job anywhere in the world.
But somehow I knew it all along, that I would not change my mind. And I haven’t. On this day 199 of my Caribbean life, there is really only one thing I want to say. As always, one picture tells more than thousand words, and I think this picture speaks for itself.
I'm going home.
I have a strange relationship with Miami. First of all, I don't seem to get out from South Beach because I like it so much. Second, I'm always sick here (pfff). But even if I'm sick I always manage to have a good time. Miami has already become to me like a hideaway from the real world, and a break between trips or chapters in my life. Last time it was to escape to the civilisation for a couple of days between Jamaica and Cuba, and I really made the most of it. This time, I'm here to take a break and clear my head between Cartagena and Paris. It is good because I don't think I could have handled arriving from Cartagena directly to Paris. Miami is my safe haven, I don't really belong here but it's nice to be somewhere in between and not to think about anything before facing my new life.
Salsa, Reggeaton, Champeta, Bachata... Thanks to D's zumba classes, traveling to Cali, and going out in Bazurto Social Club, I have done a lot of dancing these past 5 months. I had already started very well with Dance Hall in Jamaica (thanks J and Kingston dancers for teaching me!) and some Salsa in Cuba and it was great to be able to dance more in Colombia and make it part of my weekly program. Dance Hall music I will leave to J but here comes a list of songs that I heard all the time in Colombia, and that will always remind me of not only dancing but in general about my happy times spent there. When the autumn comes and its cold, dark and rainy, turn on these latino rhythms and melodies and I'll promise they will get you in a better mood.
This is what Lonely Planet writes as an introduction about Cartagena: "Cartagena de Indias is the undisputed queen of the Caribbean coast, a fairy-tale city of romance, legends and superbly preserved beauty lying within an impressive 13km of centuries-old colonial stone walls. Cartagena's old town is a Unesco World Heritage site – a maze of cobbled alleys, balconies covered in bougainvillea, and massive churches that cast their shadows across plazas." - in short: a perfect place to live.
I hate goodbyes. And I'm not going to wallow in the sadness that I feel about leaving, I'm sure most of you know how it is and can relate to my pain, there is no need to write chapters about that. It seems unreal that my time in Cartagena and Colombia has come to an end, I'm confused, I don't even realise it yet. I've been traveling around so much lately that in a way it feels like this is just another little trip. Even if I have more luggage than usually, got into a minor ESTA confusion at the check in desk (S wanted me to stay here and was planning on tying me up to a hammock so that I would not be able to leave, well I almost had to stay because they didn't find my ESTA and wouldn't let me board the plane), and for the first time went to the "Salidas internacionales" side of Cartagena airport, I still don't really get it. But here I am, on the plane on my way to Miami. With my surfing teacher F we used to lay on our surfboards in the sea by La Boquilla beach and watch planes take off and fly over us. Today I could see La Boquilla beach from the plane window and I really can't believe it: I'm leaving Colombia.
Quoting my friend A who is volunteering with Peace Corps in Manzanillo del Mar: "Volunteers get paid in sunsets". Even if we work hard for no/little money, the life we are living here is so beautiful that it is all worth it. You already know it, there is probably nothing I like more than watching the sunset by the sea. I am not as big fan of sunrises, but there is just something about sunsets and the twilight time that makes me feel relaxed and happy, wherever I am and whatever I have in my mind. Since I left Europe last December, I've been following the sunsets in South America, and by the Caribbean Sea. This collection is mostly a souvenir for myself from these past months, but I hope you enjoy it too.
(Mum, please don't read this, at least not until I'm safely back in Paris.)
Now when I’m soon flying back to Europe, I guess I can write “the only time”, but fingers crossed that nothing dangerous happens to me anymore. I wrote this story long ago, because I knew that writing would help me feel better and get over what happened. There are many reasons why I didn’t post it right away when I came back from Brazil. Mostly I was waiting for my so called friends to send me pictures (they never did), and at times I was not even sure if I wanted to share this with you. Finally, I feel ready.
As I already said when I told you about my last days at Fundación La Vecina, I always try to keep my blog positive. Sometimes I write about things that slightly annoy me but even then I try to write from a pleasant and amusing angle, being curious and accepting that life here is different from how it is back home in Europe. Most of the time my blog is full of sunshine, beach life, cute kids, and sunsets on rooftop terraces. I admit, all these things are part of my everyday life. I love it and I know that I’m privileged. However, I rarely write about the misery I see in La Boquilla and how it breaks my heart being there four days a week and the weekends living the “chic tourist in Cartagena” – life. Nor did I write much about how I in the beginning was very lonely and homesick. I didn’t complain because I knew already then that later I would look back to my Caribbean life and remember it as a great experience, rewarding in so many ways. But some days, I felt so lost and I found myself daydreaming of going back. I thought of blogging also when things didn’t go well, but I think that by keeping my posts positive and by talking mostly about everything good, I was trying to keep this blog less personal.
That is going to change now, and what I’m about to share with you has been for me the worst experience here. This is nothing compared to feeling lonely or spending my days with a community that lives in marginalized conditions. I know that I have been extremely lucky because I have not gotten into any trouble or threatening situations here in Colombia. Naturally, because nothing bad has happened, I have started to feel less scared and to let my guard off. However, I have now seen that South America is not only sunshine, dancing and having fun. There are places that are seriously dangerous. So I’m just going to say it. In Rio de Janeiro, me and my friends visited a favela. And we got into a situation where we could have been killed.
Colombia, a country that never ceases to amaze me, has the highest level of biodiversity per square meter in the world. In addition to the huge amount of exotic flora and fauna, there is also a great variety of environs and climates. It was cold in Bogota, and hot and humid almost everywhere on the coast. I've hiked up mountains, seen rain forests and sublime white sand beaches, and swam in crystal clear turquoise water. After all this, it was time to go to... a desert! La Guajira is a department in northern Colombia, almost deserted and full of contrasts between sea, sand, coal, salt, cactus, and small green oasis. The region is characterised by the Wayuu culture, an indigenous people known for their craftwork of hammocks, bags and clothing.
First time hiking in my life, here I am, alive and feeling relatively good. Now it is time to write a short report about the Ciudad Perdida trek, that could also be described as a survival camp, boot camp, physical and mental detox, fight against the mosquitos... and a wonderful experience!
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!