Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Welcome to the Caribbean

I only arrived a few days ago, but it seems a lot has already happened since I've been here. On Friday (my second day), I went to a dinner to meet all the other people in my program. Somewhere around 10:00 it came up that a group was leaving the following day for Islas de Rosario, or the Rosario Islands. They were leaving around 7:15 - did I want to come? Absolutely. So I got up the next morning at 6:30, packed my bag, and headed off with them to the docks to chart a boat. At that hour it was already hot enough to make my waterbottle sweat, and I was anxious to get on the boat and feel the breeze. Of course it took a few hours to bargain for a price and wait for the boat, but the cool and refreshing hour-long ride to the island made up for the wait in the sun. The boat stopped at one smaller island in the middle of our ride, but our destination was La Isla Grande, the Big Island in Islas de Rosario.

What greeted us as we arrived wasn't exactly what I'd expected...it was better. The woman back in port had mentioned a kind of touristy, resorty place. The five guys in chairs and hammocks didn't exactly exude tourist central, which I was glad for. Juan, our adorable, house-elf sized host greeted us with a huge smile, and we agreed to pay 40,000 Colombian pesos for one night's accomodation in cabins and three meals. $20 - not too shabby.

That night we ate dinner early because the sun sets around 6:30, and Juan and our other host Gorgi needed light to cook our meal. Our site didn't have electricity. Our dinner had been swimming only an hour or so before, and it was absolutely delicious. After dinner I wandered out alone to the end of the long dock and sat down to watch the sunset.

Soon moon-spangled waves sparkled around me. The only noise was the waves beating underneath me and the scuttle of crabs who shared my dock. Once 3-D clouds now bled into the sky like deep eraser marks of someone trying to smudge the stars, and lights of neighboring villages lit the shore. Apparently I was out there longer than I thought, because I started to hear voices from my group shout across the water, so I wandered back to convince them I hadn't been eaten by a shark.

There were seven in our group. We came either from AIESEC, my program here, or knew someone in AIESEC. Most of us had only met that morning, but we all got along really well, and just spent the evening talking. I think we were all pretty friendly, laid-back people, but then again clear turquoise water, beaches, and beer aren't exactly conducive to awkward social situations.

The next morning at breakfast, we were graced with a visit by Javier, the village drunk. He sat down and proceeded to tell us that he was jealous of no races, that he loved everyone, and then asked if we believed in God. Apparently some of our answers in the affirmative didn't convince him, because he asked us again several times to make sure. After breakfast we followed Gorgi around exploring the island. Highlights: the battered door with "50 Cent" graffiti-ed into the green paint; chickens; and the stone offering to La Virgen de Rosario, the Islands' patron virgin protector. Lowlights: mosquitos. Gorgi showed us the local way to keep the little bloodsuckers away. It involved taking a light branch of leaves and gently flogging yourself while you walked through the forest. We flogged. The mosquitos kept biting. My branch broke. I gave up. We did find the more resorty-type place with a full bar and cute little huts, but I was glad the boatman had dropped us off at our location.

After an afternoon of more swimming and beach-lounging, we headed back. A weekend on the island was the perfect introduction to Cartagena. I didn't spy Jack Sparrow anywhere or come across a secret stash of rum under the coconut trees, but the trip was amazing nonetheless. Sun, clear water, wonderful people, and fresh seafood? A girl could get used to this.