In Getsemani, we took photos of the brightly-painted houses.
And fantastic murals.
“It’s almost too perfect,” I remarked to Lynn. Everywhere I turned was a beautifully-composed photo. If you can’t take great photos in Cartagena, you can’t take them anywhere.
Even a corner store offered a photo opp of “Still Life with Egg Cartons.”
It was Saturday night and the streets were thronged with people out for a good time. Who knew who was a tourist and who lived here?
“Air BnB is ruining Cartagena,” Nora had said. “Rich people are buying places to rent to tourists and Cartagenans cannot afford to live in the center anymore.” I’ve heard similar laments from Amsterdam to Venice.
We passed through a bustling square with restaurants and bars. “Want to eat here?” Lynn asked.
It was almost completely dark and there were few streetlights, but naturally I said, “Nah … let’s walk around a bit before it’s pitch dark. Maybe we can find more photo opps.”
Lynn agreed so we stepped off into a side street. “Let’s use the trick we used yesterday,” Lynn suggested. “Where we just keep taking right turns so we can’t get lost.”
But of course the streets in Getsemani weren’t straight, or thoroughfares, and within 10 minutes we were lost. There were streetlights, but half of them were broken. People were hanging out drinking and playing cards on the sidewalks. Murals had been replaced by ugly graffiti. There was trash, broken and boarded up windows, and mangy dogs wandered past menacingly. The smell of pot was everywhere. There was no doubt that this was not a tourist area.
“If we were in Africa,” Lynn said under her breath, “This is when we would hear the drums getting nearer and nearer.”
I laughed. We smiled at the people we passed, who were staring at us as if to say, “You’ve taken over the rest of our city. This is our patch. Just let us enjoy our Saturday night socializing in peace.”
We spent 15 minutes walking through a completely dark, deserted warehouse district. “If we were in Mississippi,” I said, “This is when we would hear the hound dogs baying, closer and closer.”
After much drama in our heads, we emerged onto the square where we’d started.
“See?!” proclaimed Lynn, “Going in a circle worked, eventually.”
We ate at a nondescript Italian restaurant that had a nice outdoor patio. I needed to use the bathroom but judging from the exterior it appeared to be a latrine. Finally I plucked up my courage and entered. It was a regular indoor bathroom, which I actually found a bit disappointing, but it did have this mysterious sign:
Do Not Point to the Toilet? Do Not Shoot a Gun Down the Toilet? Do Not Throw a Brick in the Toilet?
And as always, too soon, it was time to go home. A driver picked me up at 10:30 the next morning; Lynn would begin her arduous return via Amsterdam later in the day. The airport was only five minutes from the center.
This sign left no room for interpretation.
“Drug trafficking is punishable by pain of death or life imprisonment in China, Qatar, Egypt, the UAE, Indonesia, Malaysia, and 28 other countries.”
In Miami, I went through immigration and customs and then walk-ran to get from the last gate on D concourse to Gate E16, as indicated on the American website.
I followed the signs for E 2-33. When I reached E11, the next gate was E20.
“E16?” I asked two American Airlines agents.
“There is no Gate E16,” they replied dismissively. I showed them the screen shot and they doubled down, acting as though I had made it up somehow. American—the airline that dragged that poor man off a plane when he wouldn’t give up his seat for no reason.
The video system went down midflight so, since the same had happened on my arrival flight, I never saw the end of The Color of Water. They offered free drinks, so I had a beer and chatted with my seatmate.
“Isn’t Colombia a third world country?!” she asked. “I’m not a racist—I have mi-norities in my family.”