Friday, September 28, 2012

Desperate housewife?!


It's been a week since my last post and I'm sorry, but you'll pleased to find out that I'm doing great here. Unless you hate me. Then you should stop reading right now. Cos you won't like this one bit. 

So, one week since my last post and a little over two weeks since I got here. Reality has settled in and I have settled into something of a routine. But it's a good one, I like it. I get up every morning between 5AM and 7AM, then spend the day looking for jobs or, if I get a job, working. Then it's back to bed at 9PM. Yes, I'm serious. No, I haven't turned into an old granny overnight. Well, maybe I have. But this rocks, believe me. 

The first week wasn't too easy for me, because I was constantly looking for work and not getting enough positive replies. But now that work is starting to come in I have my purpose back. I'm just not a sit-back-and-do-nothing person, I need stuff to do in order to stay sane. And I love working in translation. It makes me happy in a way that few other things have in the past. 

And because there's a routine and a more or less fixed timetable for work, there's now actual free time in my life. Not just general time where I have less to do than at other times, but real, actual free time. And I have found great ways of using it: 

- exploring more of Cartagena. This place has changed so much since the last time I was here, even though it's "only" been ten months. There are new bars/cafés/restaurants everywhere and parks and squares all over the city have been remodeled. It's cool to just walk around or take the longer way when going places to see what's new in the area. Surprises every day. 

- hanging out with old and new friends. Be it after-works drinks with Béa and Álvaro or meeting up with CouchSurfers from Cartagena or who are visiting, it's great to finally be out there again. Of course, I'm still the same person who loves reading and watching movies in the evening instead of going out, but I do both now. I might not go out every day/night, but I have a real social life now, something I haven't had for quite a while, partly because of the thesis-related stress I had in Vienna and partly because I seem to have become a boring person over time. But old isa is back now - muahahaha. 

- being a housewife. Yes, really. I'm not anybody's legal wife (phew), but I look like a 50ies housewife out of a black and white movie everyday between 11AM and 1PM. Only, like, way cooler. Making up meal-plans, shopping for food and then cooking - serving - doing the dishes. I'm not a desperate housewife, though. I love it, it's so much fun! I don't do it all the time, obviously (because I'm not a real grown-up), and we actually had a bad lapse in the beginning of the week where we were back to the worst-possible lifestyle: red bull and rice with ketchup. Not that rice with ketchup is bad, not at all, it's freaking awesome! But it's not exactly healthy. Now I'm back on track, though, preparing delicious meals for our lunch every day. And I plan on continuing to do so. 


Arepa venezolana loaded with cream cheese and tuna and tomatoes and green peppers. With scrambled eggs with onion.


Couscous with a simple lecsó (green tomato, red tomato, green pepper, onion) and fresh lettuce with palmitos and babycorn.

There's still a few things that need sorting out and that package with clothes that I sent from Miami is still somewhere out there, in the limbo... but, as I said, in general everything's really good right now. 

Gotta keep this going! 

Friday, September 21, 2012

THE ISLAND!!!


I'll be honest again in this post, because I always am and because I know you know something's up. I mean, could Cartagena itself really be the only reason I wanted to come back so bad? Could Cartagena itself really be the only reason I was looking forward to living here? Just the city, without anything extra to pull my mind towards this place like a bright flame does with flying ants? We both know it can't be true. So, here we go, I'll fill you in on what's really the reason. But this is just between us, right? 

OK. I've found a reason for me. To change who I used to be. A reason to start over new. And the reason is you. 

Enough bad jokes for today? I don't think so, but I'll still tell you the real reason now. The reason is The Island. And believe you me, those capital letters are justified! Wait, what? You though I'd start talking about a guy? No, man... The Island! I still neede a proper welcome to Cartagena and Béa needed some time off to relax after three weeks of working straight through, so we decided to go to The Island for two days, spending one night out there. Because Béa knows everyone there and everyone knows Béa, it was easy to organize the trip last minute, we decided to go on Tuesday and left Wednesday morning. 

The Island is a special place to me, you can't imagine how until you've seen my face light up when I step off the boat at any one of its little docks. 

What and where is The Island? The Island is Isla Grande, part of the Islas del Rosario group of little islands just off the coast of Cartagena. That group forms part of the Parque Nacional Natural Corales de Rosario y San Bernardo. In a nutshell, it's a little piece of paradise just out my front door, thankyounature. I love that place so much... 

I went there for the first time in 2010, as part of that year's excursion. I never forgot it, though, and when Béa and I wanted to take a short trip somewhere last year, going back there was my first idea. I found a special offer that would take us to the Cocoliso Resort on Isla Grande and that first trip for her and second for me was so incredible, it's not only unforgettable to us but also to some of the people who work in the resort, simply because everything was so great. We happened to be the only people who stayed the night. That explains it all, right? 

Because of that brilliant first trip of 2011, we went back about five or six times. Not sure anymore, I just know we spent a lot of time there last year. For me, that island became an extension of my home. It wasn't just trips to a nice place anymore, it was like going somewhere but still being at home and I felt like I really knew the place. 

It's not like that anymore. I was gone for 10 months and, of course, naturally, I've been forgotten by most people. Béa is their superstar so I'm still very welcome there, but that's because I'm with her. It was sad to come back and have lost that feeling of complete familiarity. It still is. But it doesn't really matter, the island itself still knows me and still loves me, even if to the people I only am "ah sí, esa que vino con nuestra queridísima Béa". 

Now, why is the island so magical? I'll try to give you the full overview by telling you what we did on this trip of ours, chronologically. Because, yes, all the beautiful things that could possibly happen did really occur within a little over 24hrs. 


On the boat.

We got off the boat after a pretty smooth ride over and went to find Eduardo, the manager of the Cocoliso Resort, to say hello after such a long time (not so long for Béa, of course) and to thank him for getting us the boat reservations. Then we went straight to where we were really staying, the Ecohotel Las Palmeras. It's a little place with a few cabanas for guests and everything about it is ecological, nature is Ana Rosa's number one concern - well, after her guests. She's the one who runs the place and also an important person in the island's community, because she's very engaged in the process of making the island a better place for its inhabitants, human and otherwise. It's always interesting for me to hear her talk about what's going on on the island lately, because she, as the high-standing person she is, has a great overview over everything from politics to gossip. So nature, yes. There is electricity and there is running water for the toilets now, but you still wash your hands and shower with fresh water from a barrel - it's a coral island, fresh water is extremely scarce there! 

We got two cabanas instead of sharing one, because, no matter how strong a friendship is, sometimes it's nice to be able to sleep in a room by herself. Béa got her favourite one, which made her really happy. Deservedly, after all that work!! I didn't really care, I like the whole complex and I knew we wouldn't be spending too much time there anyways. We were on The Island after all. 

First, after dropping our things and putting on bathing suits, we walked to Playa Libre, our favourite beach. Las Palmeras is in the middle of the island, so it doesn't have its own beach, but on the other hand its being situated so far from everything else makes it a perfect place for relaxation. You don't hear the big hotels' generators, you don't hear the boats and there's no loud music all the time. And if you do want loud music, you can go to the village or Playa Bonita or Cocoliso. And to get to the beach, there's so many options, there's no way you can get bored. But because we like Playa Libre so much, we went there first. 


One of the little piers on the island.*


Soft white sand, crystal clear water, a few algae and sunshine.* 

After soaking for a little while and enjoying the fact that I'm alive and healthy and able to just come to this miraculous little paradise, I yielded to Béa's wish to head back to Ana Rosa's for lunch. She's not as lucky as me skin-wise and burns easily, even when she uses SPF70, poor thing. At this point I would like to thank my parents for passing on their no-burn-tan-easy genes to me, I'm making good use of them! 

Going back to the ecotel meant lunch, because it was already around noon and everyone who's ever been in the sea knows that salt water makes you hungry. Lucky girls that we are, we got ceviche de pez león for lunch. With a side of arroz con coco. Can food be happiness? Yes, it can. 


Ceviche de pez león.*

I've only had ceviche de pez león once before and that was actually the last time I went to The Island in December, before going back to Europe for half a year. But at that time I was sick, sort of, and couldn't eat properly, so I only had a bite off Béa's plate and then went back to eating dry rice and stale bread. Not this time though! And it was sooo good! But if that lunch was already freaking delicious (How delicious, you ask? Let's say it's hard to eat and keep saying "oh my god oh my god oh my god" at the same time...), then how can I describe dinner? That was truly incredible. We actually got to say hello to our dinner at noon, because it was still alive!! Have a glimpse: 


A "Krebsmetzel" followed later that day, but we don't have pictures of it.*

There were two of those huge crabs waiting for us in a big bucket, when we got back from the beach. And that evening, when we got to the eating area of the ecotel, they were waiting for us on a big plate. Ready to eat, shells crushed so we wouldn't have to do that ourselves. With boiled potatoes and green beans and carrots. We got cutlery, but we didn't use it. Sometimes, you just have to eat with your hands, to enhance the experience even further. I'd never had real crab like that before, and I was smitten. Just smitten. Seriously, people. Smitten! 

If you want to eat good food - no matter if you want fish or seafood or "regular", everything is possible - then go to Ana Rosa. She is by far the best cook on the island, we go to eat at her place even when we stay at Cocoliso. Of course that crab dinner wasn't part of the regular meal plan, we had to pay for that additionally while everybody else got chicken for dinner. But still, at the price we paid, you don't even get to look at a crab in any European restaurant. Or one in Colombia, for that matter. And, again, it was sooo good... oh so good... 

But back to the afternoon. After lunch we relaxed for a bit and then went over to Cocoliso, to say hello to all our friends there - only to find out that two of them weren't there. Our dear Santa and my extra-special friend Álvaro - such a sweet guy, and the only one who will hand me the machete without hesitation. Love him so much! At least Ever was there, the best bar tender in the world. Nobody makes cocolocos quite like him, they make your taste buds flower and your bain cells die - perfection. [I'm leaving this typo in here, because it's awesome.]

For us, the key to going to Cocoliso is to go either before all the day visitors arrive or after they've been picked up and shipped back to Cartagena again. That way, we have the whole area to ourselves and tourist-free, just like that first time back in the day. We hung out at the beach, lazing around for a while. The we went up to the poolbar to enjoy the first cocoloco of the season and then back to beach. Jokingly, we'd said that they could bring us some caiprinhas (another one of Ever's specialties) down to the beach in about half an hour. We hadn't expected that they'd actually do that. We were in the water looking for starfish (I'd never seen them before outside of an aquarium and was going completely nuts every time we found one) when suddenly Tomás showed up with two caipirinhas, bringing them down to the waterfront for us. Tomás is a young guy who represents Diving Planet at Cocoliso, not a native islander but an adopted one - a bit like us. We'd met him in the forest on the way over from Las Palmeras and he is now part of our circle of friends on The Island, or at least of mine. 




Beautiful water.*

Because we felt we weren't being obnoxious enough, we asked if he had snorkelling masks we could borrow for our starfish hunt. Not only did he get us the masks, he also got one for himself, jumped in the water and showed us all sorts of cool underwater creatures: starfish, cute and colourful little fish and corals, spiny lobster, stonefish, a fish that looks like it has big blue wings and even two stingrays! Right there in front of us! RIGHT THERE!!! 


Can you tell that I'm happy?*

After all the snorkeling, Béa and I finally had our caipirinhas that had been sitting on the water's edge that whole time, waiting for us to come drink them. Poor things, but we paid them our full attention afterwards. After another while of alternating splash-around-in-the-water and be-a-sloth-in-a-beach-chair we headed back to Ana Rosa's just in time before it got dark, because we didn't have the flashlight we would have needed to make it back through the forest in the dark. 


Easy enough, but there's all sorts of roots and bits of coral on the path that can make for a bad surprise when you walk in the dark. 

After dinner, Tomás came to pick us up again - he's a surprisingly puncual young man, too. First, he took us back to Cocoliso (he has a flashlight) where he invited us to have some rum and coke with lemon, then he took us over to the laguna. 

On Isla Grande, there are many lagoons. One of them, Laguna Encantada, has fluorescent plankton. Yes, that's exactly what it sounds like. Underwater stars and sparks. It's also why it's called "encantada", because it's enchanted and it enchants you. I had never been in the laguna before, not even during the day, so I was - understandably, I think - somewhat nervous. Here's a picture I took of the laguna last year. 



That night was perfect for swimming in the laguna and seeing the fluorescent plankton, because it was new moon and the only light at all came from the (almost continuous) lightning over Barú. (The storms that keep the people on the "mainland" wet and awake don't touch the islands at all, from out there you just see the lightning and enjoy a light breeze.) Almost absolute darkness is what you are looking for when going to the laguna at night, because the less light there is, the better you see the plankton. The disadvantage is, have a quick guess before I tell you, that it's freaking scary to jump into a pitch-black body of water that, encima de todo, you've never been in before. Béa jumped in first, then I made Tomás jump in, too. He wanted to help me by jumping with me, but I was all like "No, I can do this, I just have to see that there are no big sharp rocks where I'm about to jump and you guys can't look at me either so you all have to turn around." Yes, I know, like a little baby. Whatever. I did it! I jumped in! And it was magnificent! There's no way I can make you understand how incredible it was, because you have to have been there. Only now that I've done it myself, I can understand why Béa and everybody else had been so excited about it. 

You float around in the darkness (illuminated only by lightning every 30 seconds or so - which really added to the badass-ness of the whole thing) and whenever you move your body, even just lightly, sparks fly and the water lights up. When you lift your hands out of the water, bright little stars slide down your skin, like shooting stars on your body. It is absolutely incredible. Magical, even. 

After a while, we got back out of the sparkly goodness and went back to the alcoholic goodness. Please don't think we're alcoholics, we're not. Béa got tired, though, and borrowed a flashlight from Ever to go back to Las Palmeras and sleep, while I stayed behind and after a little while I couldn't help it anymore. Tomás was right there. We were all alone. The night was young and beautiful and the atmosphere was so... well, you know....

Of course I had to go and jump in the laguna again! 

After my second swim, Tomás took me back to Las Palmeras - he knew I'd get lost because they changed the pathway due to a fallen tree on the original route and I wasn't used to it yet. 

Talk about a perfect day... because it was. 

The next morning we were completely knackered, though. All the swimming and hunting and sparkling had made us really tired the evening before and then it was so hot at night that we hardly slept in our no-A/C-no-fan cabanas. We took the morning for relaxing at the beach after breakfast and it was grand. 





Then Tomás met up with us again at Cocoliso and, gentleman that he is, showed us the way to another pretty little beach he'd told us about previously but that we didn't know how to get to. 




I am gente de mar!!


This beach is called Playa Bonita. Can you guess why?

There was also a bar at that place, because Gente de Mar is a hotel and restaurant. We each had a cocoloco, but they were the grossest thing on Earth, compared to Ever's. We'll be faithful to our favourite island barman from now on, we promise! After that it was back to the little veranda in front of Béa's cabana until it was time to catch the boat back to Cartagena. 



And here we are. It was so good to be back, genuinely good. Like, for the soul. You know, good. And I'm happy, because we're already planning the next time. 

Yay.


* All pictures marked with an asterisk are from Béa's camera. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Storm's a-brewing!


With me having a new temporary home, I actually miss my old temporary home: the Bellavista. This afternoon, for the first time since I got here a few days ago, I felt like I had enough time (and energy) to go visit everyone in Marbella. But just as I was making a mental list of what to bring with me (phone, keys, etc.) we started hearing a strange noise coming from the street in front of the side balconies, so Béa and I got up and went to see what was going on. A photoshoot! They had a generator they used to provide the energy they needed for their big camera-flash-umbrella-thingies (Yeah, sure, like you know the name for everything... shut up!*)  and that was what was making so much noise. 

We couldn't really see what kind of ad or campaign they were shooting pictures for, but their model was quite, let's say interesting. 


I wonder where she bought that ass. And I also wonder if it's an implant of if she's wearing enhancing/lifting or stuffed panties. Either way, that thing is as fake as the shellfish in a five dollar crabcake.

So that had us distracted for a while and all of a sudden it was extremely windy - there hadn't even been a proper build-up to that wind, it was just suddenly there and blowing leaves along the street and the curtains into our faces. We quickly shut all the windows and not too soon, because it started raining almost immediately. The rain wasn't bad though, it didn't rain much, it was the wind that caused the real trouble. 

The week before my arrival, there had been another storm like today's, but even bigger, and half the roof was blown off the building. They were almost done with the repairs now, but during this storm we heard and saw tiles from the roof crashing down onto the street again. Luckily, nobody was hit, neither people nor cars. 

Something between twenty and thirty minutes passed and the wind died down again, but then the sky turned an intense yellow, as it always does before a thunderstorm around here. It's really beautiful, actually, unless you've been planning on going out to visit your adopted dysfunctional family at the hotel Bellavista and then have to scratch those plans and hope that you'll be able to go another day. 


Stormskies!

The camera doesn't capture the colour of the sky that well, take this picture and look at it through a glass of apple juice and you'll see what it really looked like. 

Soon enough, Cartagena was dancing her thunderstorm choreography again. I know that these storms are highly detrimental for a lot of people in the city, especially in the outer barrios, but I can't help but find them beautiful from where I sit, which is a safe place. And this specific safe place has a big parking lot right in front of it, where Cartagena's storm dance takes on an extra special pattern: 

Lightning - thunder - car alarm. Like clockwork. 

Here are some of the roof tiles on the street. You can't see in this picture how much fell off, but it sounded like a lot. And when the storm was over, a new sound was added to the background noise of Cartagena life: the crunch crunch crunch of cars driving over those bits and pieces of tiles from the roof and plaster and paint that had come off the building's façade.


Sorry this is a little blurry.

For people as used to cold or at least more temperate climates as Béa and me, the storm brought a huge relief in terms of temperature, because it cooled off the city that hat been scorching hot for days. Maybe this storm being on its way was the reason it was so unbearably hot and stuffy; at least in Austria you can always tell if there's going to be electrical discharge by the inmense heat preceding the storm, and that feeling of the hot air being pressed downwards, right onto your head. 

This is what Google had to say, when we wanted to know how cold our "cold" really was: 



That just shows how quickly the human body adapts to new circumstances, like the weather. When 24°C have you jumping around wanting to sing about how cold it is (of course sing, because we like a little cold from time to time), that means you're really living in the Caribbean, not just visiting anymore. 

* I haven't told you to shut up in quite a while, got to take up that habit again.

Quiet days? No way!


I thought that coming home would mean that I'd have lots of time to reflect and assimilate and just make a summary in my head of all the things I've seen and learned and lived through in these past two months of more or less intense traveling. But no! Not here. Instead, this is what's been going on: 

- Unpacking and getting settled in to make this place my home for the next month and a half (probably, we'll see). Where is "this place"? It's Béa's apartment!!! Béa didn't want me to go to my usual home, beautiful Bellavista, because we hadn't seen each other in such a long time and we get on so well that the idea right now is for me to stay at her place. And I am so happy about this! It's great. Because we really do get on like fire in an ill kept archive and it's just so easy to be living together as well. OK, it's only been a few days so far. But I have a good feeling about this. 


Brought a piece if Trinidad with me.

- Revisiting some of my favourite places, which includes having a breakfast consisting of jugo de maracuyá and pan pizza at La Esquina del Pandebono. And, of course, my beloved Éxito. The best thing about going shopping at Éxito for the first time after about 10 months was to find out that my Tarjeta Puntos still works! So I get to be all cool at the checkout and when they just assume that I don't have a card, because I look like a tourist (Yes, some people think that although the general idea seems to be that I'm either from Bogotá or from Antioquia, don't know why...), I go "Excuse me, don't you want to know my card number?" and then they're all like "Ummm, ummm, yes, yes, sorry, of course." 


Buy the most important things first, everything else can wait.

- Running errands like getting Béa's cédula de extranjería at Inmigración Colombia, formerly known as DAS, and getting money from the ATM - with a bleeding heart, because my bank account isn't what it used to be (as in full). 

- Reading. Because it doesn't matter where I am, I can't not do that. 

- Cooking. Yes, I get to cook at Béa's place! I love that, because I miss baking a lot and this way I can still be creative in the kitchen. And it's a challenge of sorts, because of course the ingredients here are different. Not very, but still different. 


Tomato omelette on a bed of crisp lettuce, with a fresh green tomato and cream cheese topping and sprinkled with crunchy toasted corn.


Colourful tomato and shrimp fry with lime green beans and toasted flatbread. 

- Drawing up battle plans and making up strategies for the months to come. Because I have to figure out what I really want to do now that I've arrived. Work, yes. Obviously! But apart from that? I can't do nothing aside from translating and then there's also the question of where I want to do it. Do I stay here in Cartagena the whole time? Do I go somewhere else in Colombia? Do I go somewhere else entirely in a few months? Of course, those things can't be planned thoroughly right now, because if I do then life will happen and throw over my plans and as we say in German: Erstens kommt es anders, und zweitens als du denkst. So that's that. 

- Meeting up with friends. Slowly but surely, I'm starting to get in touch with everyone I know around here and I really hope that I'll continue to be able to meet up with friends and hang out and have some fun and catch up and all of those nice things. 

- Partying. What? Partying, really, you? Are you sure it wasn't just a boring evening at home and you just thought it was a party because you had a glass of wine? No! I'm serious! Ask Béa and her friends, or ask the people at Mister Babilla. First, Álvaro came to pick Béatrice and me up and we all went to Annabelle's place in Castillo Grande, via the Carrulla, where we bought rum and coke and ice and limes. There we spent some time drinking and listening to music and just chilling, basically. After a while, though, we got into two taxis and went to Arsenal. There, the group split, unfortunately, as the differences in taste and preferences were too big. But Béatrice, Álvaro, Béatrices cute friend Silvana and I continued to have fun at Mister Babilla, celebrating "el día de hacerle el amor a la amistad". Please, believe me: I was there and I partied! 

Also, in case you still think I made all of that up, here are some pictures so you can see I'm not lying. I even put on make-up! 


And not just make-up. Nice shoes, too! 


Pre-party at Béa's friend's place. That's her on the right, Anabelle. 


Plain old Coca Cola. You believe me, don't you?


Group shot of the four of us who went to Mister Babilla: Silvana, Béa, Álvaro and me. 


Silvana and me at Mister Babilla. Does this remind you of anything?

None of those pictures are posed. Well, yes of course they're posed. But I mean we really partied, we really had loads of fun and, most importantly, I really danced a lot! 

The aftermath: 


Our dresses were in dire need of some fresh air the next morning...


"Béa, why is there glitter on me?"

- Getting rid of hangovers. No, just joking. I didn't really have a hangover today, but I was awfully tired all day and so again, didn't do much. But last night was worth it. And so was every single day so far - it's good to be back. 

Now back to reading. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Happy Ending!


I tried, I really did. I even wrote most of this post yesterday, but then I went out to meet a friend "for a little while" and didn't make it back home until like midnight and by then I was too tired to keep writing. And you want me to have a social life, don't you? See, so you shouldn't be mad.  

OK, so Kingston. 

I'll be honest, I didn't do much in terms of visiting places and playing the tourist. I didn't want to. These past two months were basically one journey: from Vienna to Cartagena. It just took me longer than it usually would... to months instead of a day. More about the why and how of that a little later. The point here is that Jamaica was my last stop before finally coming home - the new home, Cartagena. 

Therefore, what I wanted was to have a few last really great days on the road before commencing the long really great time at home, with friends and as-good-as-family and work and a new routine. 

Lady luck decided to come back to me after Barbados, and she decided to make my experience in Kingston the best one I could possibly have asked for. Although, no, not really. I couldn't have asked for that. Because I didn't know it was even possible. Everything just played together perfectly. Not in a tourism kind of way, again that's not what I was there for, but in a way that combined all the things that make me happy. 

Let me tell you what some of those things are, randomly, in no particular order: 

Milo. Floating in a pool. Breathtaking views. Friends. Meeting new people and taking part in their day. Ting. Being accepted instead of feeling like an intruder in someone's personal life. Chocolate. Laughter. Riding a motorcycle and feeling the wind in my face. Being able to move around a place freely. Fish. Trying new things. Geckos. Rum. A seabreeze. 

I had all of that and more in Kingston. 

Let's do this chronologically. 

On the flight from Bridgetown to Kingston I got a window seat in an exit row - view and legroom: yay. And I shared the row with a lady from London who had gone to Jamaica on a vacation, but then, while there, decided to take a trip within a trip to Trinidad, which is why she was on that plane with me. It was a Caribbean Airlines flight and they were doing their hop-hop-stop style of flight, so there were people from Trinidad as well as Barbados going to Jamaica on that plane. We talked for a while about her trip and mine and what we liked or didn't like about Trinidad (What I liked and she didn't like, I didn't have anything negative to say.) and then we got to the topic of transportation in Kingston and she said she was going to a hotel close by Half-Way Tree. Knowing that I'd have to go past that place to get to my host's house, I asked if she wanted to share a taxi and she said yes. What I didn't know was that she had already organized a ride for herself and her boyfriend and was planning on just taking me with them to the hotel. She didn't even want any money from me. Her driver then called a taxi driver he knew and trusted (there was the careful-in-Kingston issue again, but I'm grateful for the help) and that guy took me the rest of the way. All the way up into the Red Hills. 

I got to P's place and we headed back out almost immediately, because some friends of his were getting together for a BBQ and he brought me along. Such a nice evening. Of course, my English isn't good enough for Jamaica and I have to confess that I was only able to follow about thalf the conversation that evening, but nobody seemed to mind and they still included me in their talk. P wasn't feeling too well, so we went back home early, but it was a very fun evening nonetheless. Talked for a while after coming back and then retired, me being completely overwhelmed by the amazing view from P's place: 


Kingston.

The next morning he showed me how the public transportation system in the area worked in a learning-by-doing kind of way and we made our way down the hill/mountain to Price Right, where we did some grocery shopping. Which is where I got my Milo. I love Milo. We went back home after that, in a packed minibus, but not the most packed one I've been in on this trip. In this 12-seater that took us back up the hill/mountain I counted 18 people. Eighteen. And that's excluding the last row, so it must have been 22 or 23 people, actually. The next day, the bus was even fuller, because there were children, so there may "easily" have have been 25 or 26 people on that bus. Gotta love that about a place. 

Back at the house we proceeded to play card games for half the day, then have lunch and then spend the other half of the day in the pool. Yeah, P has a pool. How cool is that? Very? Wait a second until I tell you that his pool also has a view over the city. Now the coolness of it can't even be measured anymore! After enjoying the cardgames and the pool and some rum and coke, or in my case rum and Ting, we headed out again, this time to go to Port Royal. Another one of P's friends was celebrating her birthday and again I got to go. 

I was already hungry, because I always get hungry when I drink alcohol, so we stopped on the way to get some jerk chicken from a street food vendor. It was really good, but I only ate half my portion and none of the bread, because I didn't want to spoil my appetite completely - we were going to Port Royal to eat fried fish, after all. 


You jerk!!!

Really, though, I only ate a quarter of the portion, because of that half I had to throw half out - all bones! But it was still very good. Also, eating chicken in a car in the dark and throwing bits of bones out the window was a lot of fun and definitely a first for me. 

So we got to Port Royal and first of all, P gave me a little tour of the place. Then we parked the car and walked to the seashore, the outside one, not the inside one. Have a look at a map and you'll see what I mean. From there we went to Gloria's, the original one not the new one, and met up with his friends who arrived shortly after we did. 


Gloria's.

I had really good fried fish (in my fish top five, in my fish and seafood top ten) and it came with bammy and festival. That was something new for me, I'd never had or even heard of either of those two. Bammy is a bit like a fried arepa, but made of cassava. It tastes almost exactly like yuquita frita, but it's crunchier. And festival P described to me as "fried sweet bread" and all I can say about it is YUM!!! Here's the food: 


My juice, my water and P's "fish tea" (a fish soup, basically, spicy and hot).


Fried fish with escaveche, toss salad and bammy and festival. 


The quarter-pacmans are bammy and the thing that looks like a fried chicken leg is festival.

Again, I did not finish my food, this time because I was already so stuffed I couldn't even think of eating any more. The good thing was that when we went home, I got to take my leftovers with me, and had bammy and festival for breakfast. Awesome way to start your day, seriously. 

The next day P had to work, so I had the morning and early afternoon to spend by myself. I spent the first hour or so of my day talking to my dad via Skype and Gmail chat, because it was his birthday (Yaaay!!) and then after that I went for a walk around the hillside/mountainside. 


View by day.


Ackee on a tree by the roadside.

I enjoyed the sunshine and the view of Kingston for a while, then I took a bus and a route taxi and went to Half-Way Tree, because P had told me about an ice cream place in Devon House, a historical complex in Kingston. He called it the best ice cream in the world, so I had to go try it. I wouldn't say that it was the best I've ever had, there's others I love way more, but that might have been because the yellow part of my ice cream (you'll see it in a sec) tasted like mango, which I hate. Devon House used to be a plantation and now it's a little park with a cluster of small buildings in its centre, where you find a bar and restaurant, a bakery, an ice cream parlor and various little shops. 



Half-Way Tree. Kingston proper. 



Cute. 


My ice cream sundae with chocolate and nuts over the special anniversary flavour "Jamaica 50".

After spending some time on a little park bench in the shade, watching people and enjoying the pleasant day, I headed back to Price Right. Yes, correct, I was about 10min from the Bob Marley Museum and did not go. I didn't want to. I said it before, I wasn't in Kingston to be a tourist, I just wanted to have a nice time and in order to continue having a nice time I had to go back. So I walked back to Half-Way Tree, took a route taxi to Price Right, got some more water and cranberry water and Milo for the next morning and headed back to the house from there. A little while later P got home from work and guess what we did? Yes, pool. Obviously! 


And then, guess what, P took me along to a family birthday dinner, because his birthday was also the same week. So not only did he include me when he spent time at home or with his friends, no even when it was family time. That just made me feel so special, because it's not something usual, not even on CS. Yes, you do let a stranger into your house and share your space and time with them and you might become friends. But it doesn't often happen that you have an instant connection with the person you host or you surf with. It happened here, though - and, lucky me, not for the first time. So I got to go to a really good chinese restaurant with P, his parents and his sister and her husband and it was great. 

The next morning was uneventful, I packed and we chatted a bit and then the taxi came to pick me up and take me to the airport. At the airport I had breakfast, which completed my Jamaican food experience: a patti with DG and then a Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. 

Pretty good. <                                                            > Incredibly good!

And because that awesome time in Kingston apparently wasn't enough, I also had a great evening in Fort Lauderdale! My friend Robert had offered to let me stay at his place, because he didn't want me to spend the night at the airport as I'd originally planned. So I took a GO Shuttle (right route this time) to his place and then we went to a steakhouse to stuff ourselves with cows and cake. 

It's a chunk of cow wrapped in pig and with more bits of pig on top. And more bits of pig on the baked potato, too. BACON!!!

Molten Lava Cake. Yes, that happened. But don't worry, we shared.

The next morning Robert dropped me off at the airport on his way to work, which was incredibly kind of him as it meant that I didn't have to take the bus with my big backpack. 

And now, here I am. At home, in Cartagena. 

We'll see what happens and if it is what I wanted it to be.