Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Finblog Finale: The Final Chapter

Of course everything happens suddenly when you're moving this slow...

Driving away....

Goodness Finbloggers, is that the time? How odd that a whole month has past since last we spoke. I bring you this, the final Colombia correspondence from the safety of England, literally a world away from Crazytown, on the eve of my next adventure: Finblog; Barcelona

It is bizarre relating events of the Caribbean from England, almost like talking about someone else, or as if I were making it all up. Walking through London yesterday it seemed like we were all attending some mass funeral; everyone wearing black and unwilling to catch another eye. I was told that when I returned I would burst into the pub to find everyone sat around the table in exactly the same positions as six months ago and after ten minutes of exuberant anecdotes someone would say, “Well you’ll never guess what Dave did last Friday…” And while people do seemed to be intrigued by my Colombia tales, they soon become bored of my wild eyed enthusiasm for the theme.

Juanita, Jair the dancer, Camo the photographer and some idiot with really small eyes

And so to the final events. By the end of November it had become clear that the teaching was coming to a natural end, when classes of 15 became classes of 8, and then 2, and then 0. It seemed better to end it on a high. So, I began working for El Universal, a highly esteemed broadsheet newspaper, writing captions for photos in Spanish and a blog in English for expats and English speakers; Cartagena through the eyes of an English girl, i.e. Finblog, but with less use of the word “megalolz”. I wrote from the heart, casting Cartagena in as beautiful light as I had been accustomed too. However, this inoffensive, rather bumbling blog earned me a vicious enemy. Operating under the pseudonym “Block”, an embittered Englishmen began writing essays (there are over 7000 words in total. To put that in perspective that is 3 times the length of a Bristol University 2nd year essay) of hate mail. Terrible, filthy, personal stuff, most inappropriate for a 21 year old girl on work experience. Below are a few of my personal favourites:

  • “ I found this article condescending and completely superficial. It reads as if the author is an arrogant or pretentious young adult who thinks she knows more than other people about Cartagena just from having lived there for a few months. As a gringo who lived there for almost two years total, I can say that you're almost completely full of sh#t.”
  • “ I'm curious as to what exactly qualifies you to be writing anything about Cartagena in the first place, besides the fact that you've been living there for a few months. How did you get this position? Do you actually get paid for it? Because I could offer much more pertinent and relevant insights into the costeƱo culture if given 5 seconds to come up with a coherent thought.”
  • “Also as a brief aside: I wouldn't let all of the compliments you are receiving from the Colombians go to your head.”

YEESH. This dude got more issues than a Ricky Lake participant. It also sparked something of an internet war between Colombian fans who were relieved that their city was finally being celebrated and this big old mental head who had far too much time on his hands. An interesting moment in my Colombian career, and definitely a test of the “sticks and stones” philosophy…

The island farm. It was nice

Far more happily, my family joined me in Cartagena for Christmas, which was a triumph in itself. I don’t know if you noticed, but apparently there was a bit of snow in England just before Christmas. A lot of snow. So much snow that it looked as if Family Fin were not going to make it. For two days I sat alone in my room singing “It’ll be lonely this Christmas” and “Have your self a merry little Christmas.” I announced to my friends that Christmas was cancelled. However, at the 11th hour a miracle was performed and at 6am on the 23rd December airports were re-opened. My family’s flight was at 7am. Christmas eve was a stunning night, with dinner at Hotel Santa Clara (the 5 star where I had done some translation work and attended the v swanky party) and then an after party in the beautiful old town house that had a pool in the living room.

No words

Now, I could bore you with lists of parties and beach and island expeditions but then I would sound like an “arrogant or pretentious young adult.” Cheers for that Block. Instead, I’ll cut to the end, to my final week and leaving party. The despedida took place on a friend’s farm on the island of Baru just off Cartagena and was to be shared with the birthday party of her husband. The place was unreal. All carpets of white wild flowers, hammocks, mango trees that at dawn looked like hands held up to high five the sun with rays splitting through each gnarled finger like sand, and frightening expanses of sea. Of course we had some home comforts: a darts board strapped a tree and an outdoor cinema scrambled from a sheet held between two trees, a projector and a lap top. Robert Downey Jnr has never looked so good. I was supposed to arrive on Friday and leave on Sunday, but Sunday came and I couldn’t leave, and then Monday came and I couldn’t leave, and then Tuesday morning, and then Tuesday afternoon and the realisation that my flight was the next day and I was yet to pack. The Saturday was the main party night, with about 20 friends showing up. As a surprise for the birthday boy (yes you still are the birthday boy at 41) I had devised with 2 dancers a sort of “show”; I was to walk down to the beach and the congregated party through a path of candles playing MGMT’s Kids on my little guitar, and once settled, Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah, while the boys performed a choreographed dance. On paper, it sounds horrible and cheesey and brassy, but on the night, through the moonlight and sound of the lapping sea, it was magical, and I finished shaking, as if tectonic plates in my chest had just moved a little. The rest of the night was full of beauty and creativity and a surreal celebration of the friends I had made.
On Tuesday when I finally left, on the back of a motorbike along the dirt track to the ferry I imagined I was in Ernesto in The Motorcycle Diaries, leaving behind a seemingly unthinkable world to the dust.

Outdoor darts

Goodbyes were very, very painful, and I cried for 4 hours of the flight back home. Embarrassed onlookers kept asking me what I needed and I repeatedly gasped that I was just very sad. But how far I have come, and what a lot I have learned. I have lived alone, learnt some Spanish, made many many beautiful friends who have taught me everything that they could, survived a robbery, fallen in love, out of love, in love, sang a lot, danced some more, grazed my knees and brushed them off. What on earth will happen in Barcelona?

Birthday boy Javy and Albert the dancer

Finblog Colomblog; over and out.

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