Entry 16, March 21st, 2011, 11:23pm (ship time)
Today was my roommate Tyler's birthday, and so we went into Cartagena for a celebratory lunch. We ate at an outdoor café called "Café Columbia," which was nice (I had some delicious Ceviche) but was unfortunately located next to the Cartagena street vendor hub. We got offered watches, braclets, hats, cigarettes, booze, coffee (hot), candy, clothes, emeralds (protip: if a well-dressed guy who speaks excellent English offers you his card in Cartagena's Old city and gives you directions to his emerald shop, he's not trying to sell you emeralds) and other things I can't even remember -- most of them multiple times. The one thing we couldn't find (which our British training director, HR manager, and occasional drinking buddy Nikki was looking for) was shoes, even from the guy who emphatically claimed to have everything ("I even have Yeager!").
Perhaps the most interesting, however, was the crazy toothless old woman who came around and alternated between trying to sell us pieces of raw chicken out of a plastic bag (raw as in still had blood and feathers) and trying to kiss us on the side of the head. I was the first victim, unfortunately, as our first warning of her presence was a pair of greasy old lips on yours truly's cranium. Took a shower when i got home.
Afterwards I went with Lincoln (Grandeur's bass player and resident young precocious Aussie, he's been on the ship for almost ten months) and Nikki (the aforementioned Brit) to walk around the old city and look for shoes (she's going to a friend's wedding in a few weeks). I got some great pictures which I hope to get up on facebook later tonight.
The city reminds me a lot of New Orleans. The architecture is very similar, although without the strong French influence that New Orleans has (the Old City in Cartagena smells about the same as the French Quarter, too). There are narrow streets, lots of buildings with second floor balconies and interior gardens, and open plazas in the center of the city with bronze statues of various 17th century military heroes.
There was one particular hotel that caught our eye. It was just a small building on the street, but once you step inside the archway it opens up into a posh interior garden with trees rising up several stories. It was a fascinating mixture of old and new, with three hundred year old plaster and brick mixed with glass, steel, and art deco furniture. I'll post pictures of that as well.
A friend asked me the other day what I'm doing with my money now that I'm getting paid. The answer is a little complicated. Eventually I'll have a wire transfer set up from the ship, and at cost of 6$ per transfer I'll be able to drop money straight into my checking account. Unfortunately, this takes between four and six weeks to set up once you've dropped off the paperwork at the ship's HR office. Until then you have a couple options. You can either use Western Union to send money home (expensive, I think they take a percentage) or you can hold on to it here. That's what I'm doing now -- the HR office has safety deposit boxes that the crew can use with a small deposit, and so that's where my pay is staying for now. This has the added bonus of keeping me from spending it all on land!
I think that's all for tonight -- we've got a birthday to celebrate and I'm only two beers in. Hasta luego!