Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cartagena on a hot Sunday

Today was very very hot but after walking the beach and cleaning up, I decided to go into the city to walk and explore. It is sooo fun to see families out strolling, kids running around and vendors peddling their wares. This is part of the old city wall...standing next to this, I could look out to sea and there was a very brisk, but hot wind today.
Botero is a famous artist here and his paintings and statues are all of very large men, women, children and animals. Alex found Botero's works quite ugly when he was here, but here in the plaza is his reclining woman. I like her a lot.

And this statue is found outside of the Naval Maritime Museum. Quite a few things to see and do in this area of the city. I went to the Palace of the Inquisition and checked out some jewelry stores that sell gorgeous emeralds. Didn't buy any...wasn't even tempted.
Long day...walked miles and got my outline for my manual I am writing for Somalia done and one of my powerpoint presentations for Rwanda is now finished. More to do this evening and cannot wait to get home.

Hard work...lots of fun

Usually, we work 1/2 days on Saturdays but yesterday was a full day, working with advertising designers and then on the 2010 marketing plan. But, Pedro Luis, the Executive Editor and I went to lunch near a marina. As usual...I ate new and different foods. Pedro Luis ordered icaco for me which is a fruit but cooked in a sugar syrup. The fruit is round, twice or more the size of a cherry but with a huge pit inside. Delicious...that was dessert. And then, he ordered me a fruit juice instead of the usual boring water which I insist upon drinking. This juice was made of the tropical fruit, corozo. Apparently, people make their roofs out of this palm like plant and the fruit is made into juice...cannot explain the flavor. Good but not good enough to order it again.

And, as a gift, Claudia, the Ad Director, gave me several bags of Rosquita, which are melt in your mouth rounds of lightness that melt in your mouth and are made out of a corn flour but not maiz. No clue but delicious. I have several packs to bring home for the men folk to try, along with the usual Santander chocolates and coffee.

Today, Sunday, I have already walked the beach, eaten breakfast and am now off to walk more of the old city. Michelle, who is introducing me to a friend of hers who wants to come here to visit, sent along with the intro email a bunch of photos she took when she came here to visit me in 2006. I have forgotten to revisit the plaza where she took so many photos near the that is my plan for today. Afterwards, I need to work on the Somalia and Rwanda work I am contracted to do.

Cannot wait to get home!!

Friday, February 26, 2010

More of the good life....

Another shot of Gloria's birthday celebration. The woman in the low cut dress behind Gloria is Claudia, the Advertising Director.

Walked the beach, as usual tonight and my doggie followed me. I gave him the leftover steak from my lunch yesterday and he was grinning though I am not sure he liked the chimichurri on the steak! He was glued to my side through the whole walk.

And tonight, I saw something I, thankfully, have never experienced or seen before. A man was literally hitting and kicking a woman and wrenching her arm backwards and up to her neck. She was screaming and crying and he took her to the ground and kicked her. As I looked and walked, I was trying quickly to think what I could do. NO phone with me, no camera, no money...nothing. I kept walking as I saw a security guard run towards the couple in bathing suits. The man decked the guard and shortly, the police came on motorcycles. They clearly were trying to get the bikini dressed woman to go with them on the motorcycle. They talked and screamed at the man and eventually, all left. The couple walked off with the man screaming and waving his arms at the woman. An elderly woman near me talked with me about the increase in violence amongst couples here in this country. Thankfully, this type of violence has not touched me...and praying it does not touch those I love. Very disconcerting. I sat down, talked with the old lady and pet my doggy friend and eventually smiled at the gorgeous sunset.

Another day and many more experiences under my belt. I have been asked to stay on another two days. We shall see if I can change my tickets. Missing home. Missing my men. Missing my bed.

Cartagena ...more

The woman in pink, Gloria, celebrated her 29th birthday with a cake and we all sang happy birthday to her. David, the controller, is patting her on the back and Johanna, the woman clapping in front is the assistant publisher, of sorts. She is very involved in everything and both young women are delightful to work with. I bought the cakes based on what the secretary said we needed/should buy. There were two and one was a vanilla fudge ice cream cake with arequipe and huge. Gloria ended up taking the second cake home. The ice cream cake is the one to the far right.
Las Botas, a statue of a working man's boots were recently relocated near the newspaper downtown which, as you can see is near the old fortress located at one point of the city.

These are huge boots and the character the artist lent to these beat up boots is impresionante.
Because of the birthday party yesterday, I ate in the office working on projects which upset just about everyone. People do not eat and work at the same time. But, I had a huge feast brought in and I had some left over beef so asked for a plastic bag to wrap it in so I could take it to my buddy, who walks the beach with me every evening.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Today was a day of tastes of food quite different than I have tried before. I had mongo mongo for dessert...totally sweet and very very rich and made of six or seven fruits, including papaya which is the base, mango and more. And for the lunch, I had "mote con queso y berenjena" which is a soup, very garlicky with cheese cut up and with eggplant. Thick and delicious...ate only half of the portion. And then, for dinner, I had a salmon dish, with maracuya and tamarindo sauce....again, a flavor I had not had before. Taste sensations all day.

Tomorrow is Gloria's 29th birthday. She is the director of marketing that I am working so closely with here. I ordered a cake for her and we will celebrate before our 2:00 planning meeting.

The boat I posted the other day, where the young kid was bailing water was out in the bay today with about 20 teenagers in it. When it came back, and the kids started bailing, I asked about safety. They laughed and said when the water gets half way to the top of the boat, they come back....not to worry. I took a picture but it didn't come out.

Am now spending time working on my Rwanda presentations....and having fun learning and doing something new. I considered buying a necklace is a white gold rosary which fits around one's neck with the cross falling in one's cleavage...kinda sacriligious but love it. The cost? Only $500 dollars!! The woman sent it home with me to enjoy, think on, and look at. Told her I had to talk to my husband but cannot buy something that expensive that I won't wear at home...I like gold..they call it yellow gold. Beautiful but non-essential.


Sunday, February 21, 2010


Here are a few was a day for walking the beach and the old historic center. This is Las Bovedas...through each of these arches are found artisan shops selling stuff to tourists and way too high prices. This place is a zoo when the cruise ships come into town. And here is a woman selling her fruits, seen atop her head. The blur in the photo is a bird which swooped in!!

Check out this kid's boat...his dad ran down the beach, leaving him in this wooden boat which had to be taking on water. Holes and patches everywhere and he is offloading water as I took the photo.

And this parrot lives here at Las Americas and can be found spying on one at all times of the day and night from any of a number of perches. He is high up in a tree and not cages. He speaks Spanish and whistles at women...not indiscriminately either. He doesn't whistle at me but young sweet things get a piercing man like whistle which often surprises the young women...hard to see where the whistle comes from and most are not expecting it high in a tree or in a bush.
Today was a bit interesting...a day of walking and enjoying the heat and the sun. Forget how fast one can wet one's clothing from sweat in this climate. I walked miles today and while on my morning beach walk, a car tore down the beach at maybe 45 miles per hour. This is highly dangerous and, of course, illegal. The police and security guards from all around were chasing it and yelling ahead. Car was stopped with its front wheels stuck in the sand and surf. Didn't go see what was up because of all of the guns at the ready. Thought it more prudent to walk in the other direction which is where I saw the young boy in his leaking boat.
I mentioned yesterday about the in the paper was a story about people stealing pure bred dogs to sell to others. Saw a man with a golden retriever puppy and asked him if he had seen the story in El Universal? He had not but we began talking and his puppy's name is Cumbia, a type of music here in Colombia. He knew of people who had had their beagle meeting folks on the street and talking. What is most fun is how surprised they are that I can communicate. I bet they go away and tell their friends they ran into an old gringa who spoke horrid Spanish...but it was amazing that she COULD speak to him/her. Gotta love the surprise part.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cartagena at its finest....loving Saturday

This dog approached my beach chair, sniffing at my purse to see if I had anything for him to eat. Dogs run around feral, looking for whatever they can to eat or drink but generally, they stay away from strangers. As I read, this guy came closer, sniffing and then snuggled against my leg, settled down right at my feet and began to cry gently. He let me pet him and a man nearby brought over a hunk of bread and this dog was literally smiling at the offering. Need to pack something in my purse from now on. Felt terribly sad but was happy he came close. Miss Paco and Chica.

Sunset photo taken near Las Americas on the beach. The color storm was extra gorgeous tonight. Stiff winds blowing the sand around as the people left the beach after a long hot day. Worked half the day at the newspaper and then walked the beach, sunned a bit, read and then took a long walk down the road toward town which upset the guard as I left. I told him I would be careful and he was happy to see me return. I am reading Ingrid Betancourt's book right now about her work in the Congress and her being sequestered for six years. Gutsy woman.

Cartagenan women are so comfy with their bodies as I have mentioned before. Love this lady in her thong...and so did most men who walked by her. Her husband didn't appear to mind at all.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Tonight, I was listening to a pair sing accompanied by a rather rotund man on the keyboard and I realized that there were a large number of couples sitting in the open air lounge and that all seemed/appeared to be happily sitting together. I began watching them and noted that hands were being held, backs being touched, smiles being exchanged and this was amongst young and old couples. Am thinking on American couples and then, my coupling and wondering where it all went wrong that we are not physically and mentally in tune? I watched an older couple of about 70 and while the man couldn't hear anything, the woman kept trying with a huge smile on her face. Lessons to be learned.

And then, I was watching the women here. Even the heftier woman appears to be comfortable in her own skin and not at all ashamed of her weight or that her shirt, which is two sizes too small and gaping everywhere, may be inappropriate. I mean, really, do we need to see each other's fat? What I am enjoying is the comfort and the lack of caring about what others think. These women are dressed to please themselves and their men...forget everyone else.

The pair singing tonight are not a pair or a couple. Yet, they sang to each other and acted as if there was no one else in the world for him/her. I want that...badly.

An interesting and full day...Q'hubo folks here from Barranquilla, Medellin, Cali and Bogota to meet with us and figure out sales approaches. I spent little time with them because I was involved in Human Resources and then, spent a couple of hours trying to overcome resistance to placing paid obituaries in the paper. A fascinating cultural conversation ensued...I think I overcame all issues but we shall see.

For lunch and dinner both, I ate "camarones". Shrimp Thai style and then with Robalo, a mild white fish that is just wonderful. Dying to have time to walk the beach...guess that will happen this weekend. Claudia, a friend in Bogota has asked me to fly over this weekend which I would love to do, but won't. Next visit, I will plan three days there.

I am thinking I need to take Addison to Puerto Rico this summer....feeling a need for my grandkids to appreciate this culture. Hoping.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cartagena...el dia dos

I am ill which is making me a bit cranky. Cannot remember when last I had a cold and a runny nose. I feel contagious...everyone is looking at me as I blow the nose and honk my way through the day. I, however, did much better than the HR Director who fell asleep three times during our 3 o'clock meeting. Our controller, who is much nicer than most controllers, dropped a pile of papers on the floor to get the HR guy's attention. After the meeting, everyone was laughing not at him, but at me because I have only 3/4s of my normal energy which is more than 1/2 that of the rest of the group. I enjoy laughing with these folks a lot.

Right now, I am waiting for a guy to come show me another room. This room, as always, gorgeous. Unfortunately, it fronts onto the hotel drive where the Chiva bus (loud screaming hooting music) parks, and is the first room next to the band. There is a new group every evening and while I enjoy the music and enjoy watching the munchkins in the pool...I need my sleep.

Back...the room is perfect. So, have to repack everything and be ready to go in the room and to the office by 7:30. NO sweat.

Had a couple of grammar issues...used ascender instead of subir and Gerardo, the owner, indicated that the HR guy, who I wanted to "ascender" could not...only God and the angels can do that. I should have him come up, or subir. Brain is tired but loving trying to communicate clearly and give ideas and direction in a way that people will hear and use the info. As I am sure I have told you all..."la perra esta aqui" meaning the bitch is here. German, the news editor has a song he wrote and sings, "Teresa vuelve" and everyone laughs at it. Meaning folks are pressed to get it done in a way they don't normally.

For Alex, I am having an arepa for breakfast tomorrow. This morning, I had coffee and fruits. The hotel left a huge basket of fruit and I think I am taking it into the office tomorrow. NO way I can eat it all.

Shortly off to dinner. Went to the supermarket for kleenex, wine, water and Claritin D. Quite a mix of items, no??

Missing you all.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Today is not going well and praying this is not the direction for the rest of the trip. My breakfast meeting was cancelled so have been at the Ft. Lauderdale airport for hours. Still have 1.5 hours to go til takeoff. And then, just got an email from the people in Rwanda re: a change in my dates which would put me there later in March and into April which I cannot do and still make the family and work commitments I have already made. And then, just to grouse some more...I waited in line for 80 minutes to check in...they had three women checking in about 250 people and another six employees checking in about 25 and these brilliant folks couldn't/wouldn't take any of the international travellers. So, there we stood, old women, babies who were crying, kids who wanted to go potty. Finally grabbed a Spirit manager and told him that the most dense person alive could adjust the super inefficient system...I got a standing O...oh, we were all standing but people clapped!!

The only good news is there is now free wifi here...don't remember that from prior trips but just may be my poor memory catching up with me.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Far Behind.....But Happily Far Behind!!

Photo of me at DeSoto Falls...see better photo below. Never will get the hang of how to get the text next to the right photo!! Sheryl was the photographer!!

After Christmas and after the trip to Alabama, Kristin, Pat and their three kids came down. Love this photo below of Owen and grandpa. We had a great time despite Addison's getting ill, followed by Alex's projectile vomiting and then, Paco got IT. Whatever IT was. Still, the kids were able to enjoy the frigid pool, see alligators, manatees, birds and turtles. A good time was had by all.

I took a trip with Sheryl, my sister, to Huntsville, Alabama to see my elderly Aunts and Uncle. We took a small side trip to DeSoto Falls which was gorgeous. Went on to meet cousins and the older set and had a great time with them all. Had to help put my Aunt in a nursing home but that is where she should be...and Sheryl and I were able to support our family as they made the hard decisions. The falls were somewhat frozen...and here, in Florida in February, we are experiencing some of the coldest weather ever. Since returning from Tajikistan, I have had nothing but cold in Michigan, Alabama and Florida. Nothing though like what is hitting the northeast...DC now has feet of snow which is unusual indeed.
In my spare time, I am visiting Hospice patients both in nursing homes with Chica and I have two home patients I with Chica, our chihuahua and the other alone. I have been surprised how upsetting it is to go visit x person only to find that he/she has died since my last visit. Chica can run into a nursing home, hit the second floor and she knows exactly what room/bed/patient we will see. She literally sat and cried the other day at the foot of a bed where our patient used to be found. Must be smell. And of course, it is rather humbling to visit patients with dementia who could care less that I am there....really, the highlight of their day is to see, snuggle and receive kisses from Chica. Those smiles are indelible and unforgettable.