I recently went to Minca, a town near Santa Marta. It’s up in the mountains, and is technically a Peace Corps site, although the volunteer who is supposed to be there had an accident and was medically separated. Which is sad, because it really seems like the perfect PC Colombia site, tucked away up in the mountains so you get that smalltown feel, but close enough to Santa Marta if you need to catch up with volunteers/shop at exito. Cooler than any other site, in a mountain, greenery, waterfalls, swimming, hiking oh my! And a really nice bakery that we patronized not once but twice in our two day stay, with really sweet owners.
We had some adventures like swimming in an ice cold pool feed by river water, wading in said river, and walking back up the hill in the pitch black, raining, electricity-out, night-and-thunder which was awe-inspiring. And cold. How many times have I been cold since I got here? Assuredly less than once a month, but I’m pretty sure I was cold at least once a day in Minca.
Also went to Santa Marta, before going to Minca. It’s one of the three cities that have volunteers but this was surprisingly my first time to visit in the 10 + months we’ve been in country. I don’t get out much. It was pretty cool. The three cities all have very different feelings, but it’s hard to pin it down. We had a good time hanging out with Santa Marta, Barranquilla, and Cartagena volunteers. I don’t get to see the Santa Marta volunteers too often, and it was interesting to see them on their home territory. Santa Marta is the smallest of the three cities, and it definitely feels smaller, but besides that I don’t think I was there long enough to get a feel for it. Oh well. I’m sure I’ll come back in the next 15 months.
Also went to an island off the coast of Cartagena that’s another PC site. It’s a very, very different life than what I have here in Cartagena. Besides the obvious differences of no cars, no running water, no orchestra practice, it also just has a different feeling. The volunteer is known by everyone in town and can’t go twenty feet without someone greeting him. It’s way more like what I envisioned my future Peace Corps site to be when I first applied, and I think I still have a little Peace Corps envy. Well, grass is always greener on the other side, and there are definitely downsides to being trapped on an island (less privacy, having to brave the waters every time there’s a Peace Corps conference on the mainland, nothing to do but hang out and drink beers, and no running water). I rather enjoyed the visit though, and hope I can make it out again.
On the way back from the island, I hitched a ride on a boat (standard procedure for island dwelling), which happened to be some-wise Navy associated boat, so we picked up people from little naval outposts, and directly off ships, etc, before turning our motor for the mainland. Unfortunately, all this time there was a storm brewing and we kind of got caught in it. I took out the rain cover for my backpack, and used it to at least cover my face from the rain and the spray we were rushing into, and left my backpack to its fate. When I finally arrived back home I was wet, bedraggled and cold. Another of the remarkable and memorable times when I was cold in Colombia.
In the near future, I have plans to travel to either the sleepy river town of Mompox, or the bustling city of eternal Spring Medellin, but there are a few factors that will need to be worked out first.