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.
As I told you earlier, I grew up by the sea and because I missed it so much I decided that I had to spend a couple of months by the sea again. I also decided to upgrade myself from the European winter to the Caribbean and my plan worked out even better than what I hoped. I now live literally 10 steps away from the beach and I also work 10 steps away from the beach. The sky is blue every day (I have barely seen any clouds and I've heard that it won't rain until April, that is a bit worrying though) and apart from some heavy wind almost every evening, the weather is perfect. To sum up, the surroundings for a restful and untroubled life could not be better.
My home beach in Marbella is cozy, very plain and simple, like it just happens to be there, in the middle of the city. I love to walk there at sunset and watch the massive waves that hit the shore. As I said, it is not the prettiest beach but it is great to have a beach in the city center, it is a welcome contrast and breeze to the crazy traffic and high buildings. This morning we spent a couple of hours there with my roommate A, tanning, or as A says, "toasting ourselves". I have to say it one more time, it is amazing to live so close to the beach! We were finishing our breakfast when A asked me if I wanted to go to the beach, and 5 minutes later we were there. The water was especially high today so we constantly had to move so that we wouldn't get wet and in the end we were almost at the avenida where cars drive by. Nevertheless, it was a nice morning swim and tan. I tried to read my Spanish verb book but I fell asleep..
In the afternoon I went for a walk in a quartier called Bocagrande, on the other side of the historical center. It looked again a lot like Miami and Dubai, just a bit older and less sumptuous. There where nice beaches as well so I sat down for a while and took some pictures.
For late lunch I went to a shopping center called Plaza Bocagrande (I didn't buy anything, only lunch). I had some sushi (that was long ago I last had sushi, miss you big sis M, my sushi mate!) at a restaurant with a view over the sea.
Nothing to do with beaches but I absolutely love shopping here. Some would say that I love shopping everywhere but that is not true, I for example am not a fan of shopping in Paris. I mean, I can do it but mostly it drives me crazy because there are so many stores and too many people and because it is impossible to find what whatever I happen to be looking for. I like shopping centers though, Aéroville is great and of course Les Quatre Temps which is like my second home since I worked there for two years. I like the fact that all the shops are compactly at the same place and there are nice restaurants where to take a lunch or coffee break. Bref, I like the vibes of shopping centers and I can easily spend a whole day in one. Centro comerciales here in Cartagena are top! I have been to three different ones now (because after having bought things for myself I needed to style my room), they all have been very clean, air-conditioned, and mostly quiet. Never have I stayed in a line for fitting rooms or to pay. The shopping centers are not very big but big enough for me to spend too much money, though without getting exhausted of walking around for hours. The shops are very different from what we have in Europe and prices a bit cheaper so I'm in heaven. From brands I knew before I have only seen Naf Naf, Esprit, Bata, Chevignon and Mac Cosmetics, everything else is new and exotic.
Sunday afternoon, strolling around in a shopping center, sushi at a rooftop bar with a stunning view, I like it. It is also so different from what I live four days a week at work. I like to be on the posh side of the city but at the same time it breaks my heart and divides me in half because I know that not everyone is living that kind of life. When I take a bus to go to work I hop on it in Marbella and we pass by other residential, middle class neighbourhoods. We drive back to the seaside and then, in a minute, right after a bunch of fancy hotel complexes, it drastically changes. The bus turns in to La Boquilla and the atmosphere is suddenly very different. We are in a poor, forgotten area, that some 10 years ago was a slum in a very bad condition. Since then there has been a lot of improvement and reconstruction but still, as you can see on these pictures, La Boquilla is nothing like the Miami-style Cartagena.
My boss, N, told me that during the rainy season in April-May, when it rains a little bit every day, it gets very muddy and dirty because there are no real roads in this area, everything is sand. Now at least a part of the buildings are stone-houses and thus more stable and solid so it doesn't get that disastrous when the weather is bad. However, even if the neighbourhood is poor and less developed, and the people live in marginalized conditions, I feel so at ease there. When I walk in La Boquilla I always wear my La Vecina t-shirt so people recognize that I am from the foundation. Thus, even if I've been told to be extra careful there, I believe and trust that no one would do anything bad to me. Or if someone tried, someone else would come to help me. In La Boquilla people seem to be so smiley and warmhearted, and they always greet me when I pass by. I see them sit outside their houses, some selling something, others just chatting with friends, and kids running around. They are often barefoot and by looking how they dress or peeking into their homes you can tell that they don't have much. Somehow they still get along, and La Vecina, as other associations, do their best to help. There are also small local businesses like restaurants and convenient stores and all in all life in La Boquilla looks like being in a small rural village.
It is really hard to believe but La Boquilla is this close to where travellers lodge but I bet most of them have not visited this side of the city.
La Boquilla is also on the beach, and it is my favourite here. I have already made a habit of walking some 15 minutes on the beach every afternoon before taking the bus home. Around 5pm (yes, I actually finish at a reasonable time here), right before the sun starts to go down, it is not that hot anymore and I feel relaxed and stressless. Walking in the sand and breathing the fresh sea air really is the best way to finish a day at work.
About taking the bus to work, I'm slowly getting used to it. One reason why I moved to the flat with A was also because it is a lot closer to la Boquilla than the first place where I was living. From the house in Manga I had to walk 30 minutes to the bus stop and then wait for the bus for you never now how long. The bus would then stop at million different places before eventually arriving to La Boquilla. Now I live right next to a bus stop and I am already halfway to work compared to the other place. Still, it is not always easy. There are no timetables, busses come when they come, so no point in trying to plan in advance when to leave. Also, the route numbers are not very clearly marked so you are supposed to be able to tell the busses apart because their design and colors are a bit different. In theory, I know which bus I have to take. In practice, it is not that simple because there are two busses that look almost exactly the same. When I hop on a bus I always ask if it goes to La Boquilla playa, just to be sure. However, one morning it didn't even if the driver told me it would. So I ended up somewhere else and had to take another bus + a taxi to finally get to work. Luckily I don't have strict working hours so I try not to get stressed. I will get to work eventually, sooner or later, depending on my luck. The bus ride in itself is ok, not the most comfortable one but I survive. After four months of this I think the Parisian metro will feel like luxury!
This is how it looks:
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!