Monday, November 24, 2008

Making Peace

Being in Medellín has allowed me to understand my time in Cartagena. It's difficult to arrive at a fair conclusion if you only have a myopic view of your surroundings, but it wasn't until I became defensive when one traveler snobbishly said to me, "Oh, you'll only need 3 days in Cartagena. It's shit", did I realize that I loved the coast. For all the trickery, anger, and sweltering heat, it still became a part of me.

In some ways I even preferred the coast to Medellín. In some ways it was just realer. People here in Medellín are friendly, but almost as if they force it onto you, like they need to prove something, so much, it no longer is about how they treat other people, but about what people think about them. Sure, the coast is known for its bluntness, but I've always preferred honesty to superficiality.

But when I went back to Cartagena, one thing that warmed me was to see the festivals. Not necessarily for the colors or the vibrancy of the well-tailored costumes, but of the people. It was nice to see everyone happy for a change. Nice to see everyone just forget about all that bullshit and party. It was a nice break, but eventually reality comes back.

After being in cities like Bogotá and Medellín, I'm beginning to understand maybe why Cartagenans are so angry. I don't think I've ever been to a place where the class divide was so drastic, so in your face, and in such close vicinity. I would probably be angry as well if I woke up everyday to flooded dirt streets and rotted wood walls, only to take a bus for half an hour and see the same luxurious high rises you'd find in Beverly Hills. Having to ask "why" without receiving an acceptable response would piss me off too.

I guess you could say I learned to make peace with Cartagena. Not with every street vendor that ripped me off, tour guide that lied to my face or even the kid that robbed me. But I think I learned to make peace within myself, because in the end, that's all we can really do.

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