First Impressions of Cartagena

My new home is magical.  It’s chaotic.  It’s musical.  It’s messy.  It’s delicious.  It’s noisy.  It’s muy caliente.  It pulses with a rhythm completely foreign to me, and I’m not just talking about salsa.

Cartagena is unlike any place I’ve ever been, but I don’t feel alienated or uncomfortable.  Quite the opposite:  I feel like the city has welcomed me with open arms and un fuerte abrazo.  It’s also highly likely that I’m going to gain forty pounds over the next two months.

I live with a family of four in a house that is full of love.  Make that a family of five, if we include Lua the Siberian husky pup.  Lua and I have a lot in common.  We are both constructed from genes intended for much colder climates.  We both have blue eyes.  We are both sweating and floundering in the heat like fish out of water.  We both should be outsiders here, though somehow it doesn’t feel like that is the case.

I study Spanish five days a week in a colorful school building teeming with Swiss people escaping the cold.  Not only will I be learning heaps of Spanish, but apparently Swiss German as well.  Chuchichäschtli!

When I’m not wrestling with el subjuntivo, you can find me relaxing on the beach, sipping jugo de lulo, or passed out on the side of the road from heat exhaustion and/or sun poisoning.

Much more to come regarding my experiences in “The Door of the Americas”.  Enjoy some photos for now!


  1. Oh my gosh, twin… I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if I can come back and read about jugo de lulo and look at the plants hanging off the balconies and the colored walls and not burst into tears of nostalgia every time. Cartagena is so full of love — you hit it right on the head. That is my memory of Colombia at large. It came into my life at a point when I was (re?)learning how to love and will thus be inextricably linked to that. I distinctly remember having some incredible pizza near one of the plazas with the whiskey bars in the Old Town. Two children, no older than 8 or 9, were playing next to me and Elijah. The boy found a rose, offered it to the girl, and told her he loved her. I remember Elijah and I talked for two hours after that about whether certain cultures emphasize love and how that affects the upbringing of children in them. That is the kind of culture I want to live in, those are the kind of children I hope to have if I ever have children one day. Cartagena is a school of love, compassion, beauty and contradictions (and a further school on the importance of anti-perspirants…).

    Sorry this comment ended up being so long. Your reflections move me more than ever and, once again, my heart wishes it were traveling with you. I love you.

  2. annathrax

    these pics are simply stunning! the colors are amazing. colombia is definitely the next country on my hit list! im curious – these spanish lessons = how long will you be doing them? would like, 4 weeks total immersion really help with my spanish? thanks
    – anna

    • Anna, that is great! I really hope you’re able to visit Colombia. It’s fascinating. I am personally attending language school for six weeks. I came in with Spanish learned mostly by ear, so I lacked some of the grammatical structure beneath. I’m doing advanced level classes and I’m finding them challenging but really effective.

      I think four weeks of immersion would make a huge difference for you. Living with a family and going to school every day is like a one-two punch! Have you ever studied Spanish (or a romance language) before?

      Feel free to ask any other questions you might have!

      • annathrax

        thanks for your response meghan!
        currently learning spanish once a week in classes here in australia. so picking up basics, but of course, i think being in south america/spain is totally different (picked up more in 4 weeks in argentina/chile back in 2006 then my classes sometimes! lol)
        married a peruvian fellow, so really trying to learn. we have discussed perhaps going to peru for 3 months – perhaps learn at a school there, live with husband’s family for cheap stays and all that. if we do that, i’m definitely hitting up cartegana, looks sooo nice!!! cheers mate!

    • Haha no there are still plenty of people around. But yes, most of them do try to spend as much of the day indoors as possible. But at night, when the sun and the unbearable heat disappear, the city really comes alive!

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