One of the hardest things I've found is how I constantly have to eat my own words. "Sit down and talk with people, share a few laughs, dance a few songs, hug each other." Yeah right. Do that in Cartagena and you'll be relieved of whatever valuables you have in your pockets. Things here have turned me cold, but at the same time a bit wiser. Although sometimes I feel too cold, a tainted perception, a loss of compassion.
They tell me, "don't ever give money, if you give something, give food. And if you give food, rip it in half so they can't resell it for money". One kid, a clear drug addict, walks around shirtless, shoeless and has some optical deficiancy where he can't open one eye. He always asks for food, money, something for me to give him. At this point, I've been numb to these requests, even if they really need it. I just ignore them, sometimes I even get angry.
The last time I adamently said "no", he started talking to me afterwards and asked whether I was in the movie "You Got Served". According to him, I favored one of the dancers. I told him I used to bboy. With a sudden excitement he recalled how he always wanted to learn, in fact he was still trying, but with a somber, almost apologetic tone, explained that he just couldn't, find time to practice.
After a few seconds of what seemed like a silent comprehension of the distance between his dreams and his reality, he said to me, "Pero bueno. Que bueno que puedes practicar. Eso es una cosa buena" (But good. How great that you can practice. That is a good thing). Then before he walked away, he patted me on the back, smiled and gave me a thumbs up. Maybe he wasn't such a bad guy afterall.