Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Leaving Cartagena and going home!

We have had such a wonderful time here in Cartagena. We arrived over a month ago and the time has gone by so fast. After our first few days at anchor we moved into our slip at the Club Nautico Marina and "Scott Free" will remain there in our absence. On the left our boat with our day glow orange kyack on the bow is at anchor while a tall Argentine training ship passes before us (we're just to right of his stern).On the right is the view from our cockpit over the dock and the harbor towards Boca Grande, the wealthy residential high rise district along the beach. Club Nautico is the cruiser hangout here and we've made many good friends and renewed our friendship with others.

We had planned to haul the boat and leave her "on the hard", but the extensive festival holidays made that difficult. We've settled into a daily schedule and will miss particularily the walks in the city every morning. Still we are so looking forward to seeing our family and friends back home. In just one week we will celebrate Thanksgiving with many of them at our new home in Vermont, the Hundred Acre Wood.

Getting the boat ready to leave, even in a slip, is still several days work. All the fresh food needs to be thrown or given away and the frig emptied and cleaned. The beds stripped, linens cleaned and put in plastic. Scott had last minute repair jobs and the new wind generator to install on the radar arch. We also put the "winter" canvas cover over the whole boat at the last minute. Terry and Chuck from "Maker's Match" next to us (shown here) gave us a hand that last day.

And, of course, we look forward to skiing (and for Heather, teaching). We plan to continue our Spanish lessons in Vermont and will be looking for a tutor as soon as we get back. Our teacher Amaury is shown here to the right with Scott and I. So tomorrow we fly to Panama City, stay one night and then fly to Boston on Friday. In January we'll spend 10 days in California seeing our our daughter Zoe and her family - husband George and two sons, Nicholas and Thomas. And then on February 25, after a few days in Panama City, we'll be back home on "Scott Free".

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Parade of the Candidates in Cartagena

We are lucky to be in Cartagena for their biggest yearly blowout. This is around their Independence day and the contest for Miss Columbia. Candidates from all over the country are competing for the title and this country takes it's beauty contests seriously. This is the only news for almost a week.
The holiday is five days long but the celebrations go one for over a week! Every day there are parades. The first day was a formal presentation of the candidates, all in white, with their escorts through the center of the city - a small affair with only a few bands and dancers. See our blog entry labeled San Fernando Fiesta for two pictures of a few of the girls and their partners.

The big parade was the next day, the first out of work holiday, and the whole city closed down for it. Hundreds of police and army personnel kept the thousands in some order and shut down the streets to cars. The candidates are on big floats, standing and dancing, surrounded by dancing groups and bands, and cheered on by their supporters The dancers vary enormously from the very young to the very old, men and women both. The energy shown by the older ones amazed us all, and there were a lot of dancers over 70. Many of our cruiser friends were frightened off by the crowds and we were one of the few who stayed for the whole parade (and were close up). Eight of us went down an hour before the parade was supposed to start.
Of course it was three hours before it actually came past us. But we had front row seats on the curb as you can see from my pictures! This festival has a trick or treat quality to it. Motor oil, corn flour, water and paint figure into the "trick" component. Young men/boys wander throughout the city all week covered in motor oil or paint and carrying small buckets
You either give them a coin or get a sample. Water and flour are just generally thrown around! One young women came up to Scott and decorated his face for him - doesn't he look pleased (she was very pretty). You can see the crowds in this shot here with the army patroling the city walls. Waiting all that time worked up an appetite in most of us. Restaurants and bars were all closed but every vendor in the city was out supplying the crowd. We enjoyed the crisp plantain chips, popcorn, ice cream and cervezas. Once the parade was over it was a long walk home through the city among the crowds but we had plenty of change and it was fun watching people. The next day the candidates moved onto the water! Each one stood in a boat rowed by four naval officers and took part in a huge boat parade through the harbor. Finally the judging itself took place in the beautiful convention center down town.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Churches, Convents and Monestaries

The variety of churches here is remarkable and most have been wonderfully restored or maintained. The Convento de San Pedro Claver now serves as museum in part. It was founded by Jesuits in early 17th century and is named for Spanish-born monk Pedro Claver, called the "Apostle of the Blacks" or the "Slave of the Slaves", he spent all his life ministering to the slaves brought from Africa. He was the first person to be canonized a saint in the New World in 1888. The Iglesia de San Pedro Claver is above left and was completed in the first half of the 18th century. The remains of the saint are in the alter surrounded by beautiful stained glass windows. Above right is the Catedral-Arzobispado of Cartagema - a massive church with a lovely dome that rises above the city. The signiture building of the University of Cartagena is a former convent, Claustro San Augustin-Hoy. The tower is beautifully restored and painted, shown here above immediate left. Two smaller lovely churches in pretty squares are the Iglesia Trinidad (right) and the Iglesia Santo Toribio de Mogrojejo (right below). The College of Beaux Arts now enjoys it's location in a charming brightly colored church in the square of San Diego shown below on the left.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

San Diego Fiesta

Scott went downtown to the San Diego district with Richard, Tom and Colleen to see the local fiesta parade on Sunday afternoon. They didn't know what to expect but it turned out to be a mini carnival parade. Groups of dancers (children & adults), musicians and individuals (like the fellow in red with Richard) thronged through the streets. It was a colorful display and our little cruiser group was

inspired to join them. At first they stayed in the back but later were moved forward among the groups. Our carnival in Grenada last summer was very much like this, although much bigger. Later this week however we may see similiar displays on a larger scale. Richard and Debra saw a parade to present the candidates for Miss Columbia on Saturday. They and their escorts made a beautiful sight. See two shots below.

Halloween in Cartagena

Halloween is now celebrated in Cartagena, although it isn't a local holiday. It is part of a week long carnival which ends with the crowning of Miss Columbia. This includes days of parades, fiestas, competitions and of course eating and drinking. Orange and black ballons and decorations hang outside many of the bars and costume parties are a new fixture. As in the US, occasionally a home will be decorated with a stuffed figure and other elements. Here at the Marina cruiser families went from boat to boat and "trick or treated". Two young children from "Blueprint
Martch" visit in their costumes here. Most of the cruisers attended the party given by the management and there were some wonderful costumes. Buddy and Melissa from "Indigo Moon" are shown on the right. Buddy was pretty impressed that I was able to kiss him with those teeth! There was live music and the crowd danced all evening. One of our cruiser friends is obviously having a wonderful time above right. Corn floor is
traditionally rubbed on people's faces during this whole holiday period. Water ballons are also thrown and it is necessary to carry small coins to buy off individuals covered in motor oil (from hugging you). Scott and I found doctor's uniforms downtown and they looked very realistic with our blood pressure cuff and syringes. Colleen had a clever spoof of the Mastercard ad - Priceless! Richard and Debra made fabulous pirates and won a prize in the contest (bottles of rum). Another prize was won by a family that all came covered in ballons (see picture below). They got a big round of applause as they landed in their dinghy and piled out. We had a witch and a wizard, and a skeleton and a fortune teller, among many others. Most of the locals wore what looked like carnival costumes. They uniformly looked really elegant and nice (especially compared to the crazy motley looking cruiser types).

A local meal of chicken and rice was served on a banana leaf. Drinks were passed around on trays most of the evening. During the first hour they included scotch and wine, but later rum and beer predominated. This cost $12 per person and was more than worth it! In fact as you can see from these pictures there was more than enough alcohol available for all!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A visit to the Market in Cartagena

One morning we changed the normal direction of our walk and crossed over the bridge to the "new" section of the city. This is where most people live in Cartagena and the location of the huge public market. It is possible to buy ANYTHING here. Saturday is the busiest day of the week and although it was early, the place was packed. Some sections were very like a small mall, with tiled walkways and glass cases. Other sections were mud floored, narrow and dificult to negotiate. This is a warren of alleys and easy to get disoriented. In between the stores and produce/meat
sellers are food vendors of all kinds. "Fish Heads, fish heads, jolly, jolly fish heads..." was the opening line of a favorite kid's song of ours" and very appropriate here. This gentleman shown in the picture is enjoying an early morning one for breakfast. I had a paella one lunch with a fish head (and some fish attached) as one of the many seafoods represented.
Most people enjoy a deep fried pastry of some kind for breakfast (and who wouldn't?) but at the market meats of all kinds were also being cooked and enjoyed. These are all VERY well done and exercise your jaw considerably. A nice accompaniment to our usual arepa huevo (fine corn meal pastry with an whole egg and a mixture of meat and potatoes inside - all deep fried) is a fresh fruit salad.
The vendor cuts up a variety of fresh fruits in front of you and piles them up on a paper plate. You can indicate which ones you like best, tasting some if you need to make a tough decision. This is good chance to try some new fruit! Scott favorite vendor stand is the fresh orange juice option. The oranges are squeezed right into your glass and it is wonderful. It's hard to believe that people pay twice as much for coke! We bought some buttoned shirts and shorts for our two youngest sons at a very trendy shop on the edge of the market. This market extends for five NYC city blocks square, solid with shops and vendors.