Goodbye to My Quotidian Colombian Life


Since the uninhibited mayhem that was Carnaval, I have lived in a small apartment on La Calle de las Damas, in the center of the old city of Cartagena.  I shopped for groceries, did laundry, made friends with my neighbors, failed to cook anything besides jello, and threw parties for new and old friends.  I spent hours walking the cobbled streets until I knew them intimately.  I built a happy little Colombian life, and glimpsed what it might be like if I decided to stay in this magical city.  I’m still not sure why I left.

I miss my apartment.  I miss my beautiful rooftop terrace, from which I could see the Caribbean sea stretching from the fortress walls to the horizon.  It made me cry tears of gratitude more than once.

I miss walking outside and buying a heap of freshly sliced papaya for un mil pesos (roughly 60 cents).  I miss sipping cafe tinto from tiny plastic cups and sharing piel rojas with friends.

I miss drinking beers with friends on las murallas.  Sometimes, like on full-moon Monday nights, beer turns into rum and an innocent “let’s watch the sun set” turns into “let’s happily stagger home at two o’clock in the morning and still make it to class at eight.”

I miss my neighbor’s puppy.  I miss my neighbor.

I miss the smells: the freshly baked bread at the panaderia, the strong perfumes worn by sweat-conscious Cartageneros, the sickly sweet mangoes and pineapples sold by the Palenqueras.

I miss the light.  This might have been the most enchanting feature of Cartagena.  There is no obnoxious false white light after sundown.  The street lamps project a golden-orange glow that paints the buildings and flowering balconies.  It is warm and soft and lingers in the background of all my memories of Cartagena nights.

I miss patacones con queso from the street corner.

I miss the unpredictability and disorder, the mix of Colombians and Australians and Russians who showed up at my place on Friday nights, the random fireworks that illuminated our celebrations.

I miss the sea.

I will give myself time to mourn mi vida Cartagenera.  I’ll remember it and cry a few more tears.  I’ll languish (or revel) in my misery for a little while longer.  And then I’ll move on, out of necessity and for the prospect of new (Russian) adventures, with the knowledge that I will return to Colombia someday fixed soundly in my heart.

Colombia, te amo.

View of the city's rooftops and the sea, from my terrace

My neighbor's puppy, whom I named Rum

Rum and her owner, playing hide and seek

Fireworks to celebrate my last night, as viewed from my rooftop. Credit to Joseph Pinzon.

Goodbye Cartagena. Hello Newark.


  1. Pingback: 2012 in Books – Soulshine Traveler

  2. Wow…
    I was wondering where I could settle for a 3-4 weeks trip in Colombie in order to take some spanish lessons… Bogota ? Medelin ? Cartagena ? Bucaramanga ? And after your post, I’m rather sure I will be Cartagena… 🙂

    By the way, if you know some good spanish teacher or spanish school in Cartagena and a good place to stay for a few weeks, do not hesitate to email me… 😉

    • I wholeheartedly recommend Cartagena! I have also heard that Medellin is a beautiful city. But can you really beat the history and magic and the SEA in Cartagena?

      I do indeed have some recommendations for you. I studied at Nueva Lengua and loved it. I’ll email you some contact details.

  3. Caroline Scutt

    I read your last post on your life in Colombia and I felt your saddness — and loved Rum! Cartegena has moved up on my list of places to visit. I look forward to hearing about your time in Russia. I have never been but a close friend has had some wonderul adventures there.

    • Thanks Caroline, isn’t Rum a little doll? I’m slowly transitioning from sadness to excitement after having sent in my visa application for Russia. I’m sure many new adventures await me there! Thanks so much for commenting.

    • Hi there thirdeyemom! I am sadly parting with South America for the time being. My next stop is Europe, starting with two or three months in Russia.

      Colombia will hold a special place in my heart forever. I can not recommend it enough.

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