Everything that I imagined Colombia to be, seems to have come to life in a strange, but pleasant way. The music, the parties, the laid-back attitude (at least so far, on the coast). I’ve been here for a while and now I’ve finally had the time to post. I’ve decided to start with my first experiences, in Cartagena.
Though Cartagena is described by most who visit it as a magical city, cities like Cartagena are not generally my thing, at least not the old-city Cartagena. It’s too picture perfect, too concerned with pleasing the tourist masses. Considering the life outside the old-city, it feels almost sterile.
Speaking of the parts outside, a ghetto or a favela like neighbourhood in Colombia is called barrio popular. These are the low income areas. Some of these neighbourhoods are pretty safe, others are considered extremely dangerous.
It’s always tough to assess how much of what people say is true and how much is exaggerated, but, after seeing stab-marks all over a new friend’s hand and arm I thought it’s better not to venture out anywhere where I am not advised.
Funnily enough, I did end up in a barrio popular late in the evening soon after hearing how dangerous they can be. That’s where these images were taken and, it didn't seem anything out of the ordinary – kids outside, family atmosphere. The key though is that I came with some musician friends who I met and hung out with in old-town. It was their friend’s birthday party with a Christmas theme, since this was just before Christmas.
You can’t help but fall in love with the music scene in Colombia. The whole stereotype about passion for music in this part of the world seems to be entirely true. Of course not everyone is a musician, but it seems that almost anyone can bust a move, from little kids to grandpas.
In the front are Juan David and Waldry. Two really nice dudes and talented musicians. Juan David was one of the first people I met. He was singing at a thing called a rueda, which are get-togethers for musicians. I was hypnotised by the sight and the sound it – people dance, sing, and improvise all the way and using whatever instruments are there. I just had to ask someone where I could see this kind of music again.
Above is Pedro Luis. He plays the gaita, an indigenous flute that has a cult like following here in Colombia. People come from all over the country and even from abroad to learn how to play it.
Pedro Luis was the first person I spoke to at the rueda. This dude has taught me a lot about the music, the culture in Cartagena and he's introduced me to his friends. He's also the guy that got stabbed multiple times in the hand and arm. Some of the other stories he's told me are pretty horrific, so that's a bit of the dark reality to spoil the happy-go-lucky atmosphere that Cartagena projects.
Despite getting surprised looks from a couple of people in Cartagena old town after telling them where I'd been the night before, this party felt about as safe as the parties of my South American friends in Australia.
It's weird having to be so concerned about safety all the time, but I guess this is the way things are here. I bought a car here and I'll be off to the countryside, where things in theory will be different.