Day 2 In Cartagena, Colombia: Enjoying Our Last Night In The City

After our afternoon excursion of mud-bathing in Volcán de Lodo El Totumo came to an end, it was time for us to return to our hotel and enjoy our final evening in Cartagena. During the drive back to Hotel Carribe, we came across multiple motor taxis. We were told that you can spot a motor taxi if you see a motorcyclist with two helmets—one on his head and one in his hand.

An individual would take a motor taxi if he or she doesn’t want to wait in traffic, or if he or she is in a rush. There are roughly one hundred accidents each day involving motor taxis, and it doesn’t help that they don’t have licenses to drive others or even insurance. The issue at hand is that the first rule in the constitution states that all individuals have the right to a job. Therefore, if the government were to ban motor taxis, so many individuals would be out of a job. This would lead to protests, strikes, and the blocking of streets. So, while motor taxis are not legal, they are socially accepted in Cartagena.

Similar to Bogotá, Cartagena has zones that classify residents according to socioeconomic standings. However, unlike Bogotá, the zones in Cartagena are dispersed and not in order. So, for example, a poor neighborhood can be located next to a very wealthy one, whereas in Bogotá, the nearby neighborhoods slowly progress into wealthier or poorer neighborhoods.

After arriving to the hotel, we decided to take a walk along the beach and enjoy a nice dinner before having to pack our things and get ready for an early morning flight. As sad as it was to leave Colombia, we had a great trip, and I hope I can say I’ll be back soon!

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Day 2 In Cartagena, Colombia: Mud-Bathing at Volcán de Lodo El Totumo

We had an hour or so of down time in between seeing Casa Azul and an afternoon excursion. For our afternoon excursion, we drove to Volcán de Lodo El Totumo, which is a mud volcano located in Santa Catalina, Bolívar, in the northern part of the country. The mud volcano is forty-five feet high, so it’s a small hill to walk up upon arriving. However, the volcano is 6,000 deep, but the catch is that the mud is three times more dense than one’s body density, so even though the volcano is so deep, you float in the mud.

Volcán de Lodo El Totumo has been around for between fifty to sixty years. Some individuals were claiming that the mud had healing powers, and since there was so much violence in the area, the government gave the land to locals and had the locals test the mud to see what was in it. Results showed that the mud contains sulfur and various other minerals, and it is said that the mud has helped people with different types of cancer, people with acne, and that it helps soften skin too. And if you’re concerned about the cleanliness of the volcano (as we were), there is constant circulation inside the volcano, so the mud used by a few individuals changes every few minutes with the circulation.

Companies wanted to buy the land and build hotels and restaurants in the area to increase tourism and bring in more money, but the community said no because it’s their land and they take great pride in it. The land in the area is all very natural, and only locals or relatives of locals are allowed to work here.

When we arrived to Volcán de Lodo El Totumo, we were quite skeptical about what we got ourselves into. We climbed up a small hill with steep steps and a wooden railing on the side that we held onto for dear life. Once we got to the top of the volcano, we looked down and couldn’t believe our eyes. We had to climb down a small, and also steep ladder into the volcano, where we drenched ourselves with mud. From there, a local who works at the volcano took us and moved us to the corner. While in the corner, we were passed off to another individual who works here, and received a mud massage, alongside fifteen other individuals who can fit into this mud bath at the same time. After our five-minute massage, we were passed off to a different corner of the mud bath, where we had ten to fifteen minutes to float and relax, while continuing to cover ourselves with mud.

Once we got out and climbed down the hill, we were told to walk to the lake behind the volcano. When we got to the lake, local women held our hands and walked us into the lake. From there, we were instructed to remove our bathing suit (while under the water), as the local women scrubbed the mud out of our clothing. They also helped get the mud out of our hair and from behind our ears. Once we redressed under the water, and returned to the bus to leave, I noticed just how clean my bathing suit now was, and was extremely impressed with the abilities of these women!

To say that this was quite the experience is an understatement, but it just goes to show, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Although we were iffy about getting into the mud volcano at Volcán de Lodo El Totumo, we ended up having a blast, and knowing that we were able to help support a local, hard-working community and participate in something they take much pride in, was great, too. Besides, we came out with a fun story to share with others!

Snapshot Challenge Saturday

Yesterday, I wrote about Boca Azul in Cartagena, Colombia. Boca Azul is supported by Foundation Casa Italia, and it is a school in La Boquilla that serves more than 300 of the poorest children who are in the need of the most help. The children who attend Boca Azul are between the ages of 1 to 14 years old and receive a full-time education, school support, one meal per day (which makes this the only place in the city for children to receive a free meal), first aid and medical attention, and after school activities. While taking a tour of Boca Azul, some of the students put on a show for us, and as you can see based on the picture below, they performed traditional dances of the area. The students pictured below are some of the most hardworking students in the school with the highest grades, and as a reward, they are able to learn the traditional dances. They took so much pride in their performance, and as you can imagine, it was a beautiful sight to see.

The Children of Boca Azul

The Children of Boca Azul

Day 2 In Cartagena, Colombia Continued: Touring Boca Azul

After canoeing in La Boquilla, we took a tour of a local school, Boca Azul, which is supported by Foundation Casa Italia. Boca Azul is a school that serves more than 300 children in La Boquilla, and they serve the poorest children who are in the need of the most help. The children who attend Boca Azul are between the ages of 1 to 14 years old and receive a full-time education, school support, one meal per day (which makes this the only place in the city for children to receive a free meal), first aid and medical attention, and after school activities. Keep in mind, this is an area where most children in similar situations would not receive any sort of education or medical attention, so Boca Azul is an incredible organization helping children who would otherwise have no hope for a brighter future.

Boca Azul was founded by Guiseppe Mazzoni, a long-standing Official and General in the Italian Airforce and his wife Rosy Soprano. Having moved from Italy, Rosy explains, “It was more than absolute poverty and malnutrition. The absence of any family support for these children abandoned in the street and ignored by all really opened our eyes. We had to do something.” Rosy and Guiseppe created a cultural center known as the Foundation Casa Italia in the city that promotes Italian culture, with hopes of increasing locals’ knowledge of Italy and its culture. Through their foundation, they have been able to start Boca Azul, which is the only school in the area that teaches Spanish, Italian, and English for free.

The children in Boca Azul spoke and sang to us in Spanish, Italian, and English, and some of them even put on a show for us! It was truly an incredible opportunity to see such a great school and to meet Rosy and Guiseppe. They are such selfless individuals who have dedicated their lives to helping provide these children with childhoods and futures that they deserve.

To learn more about Boca Azul, you can visit their website at: http://www.casaitaliaong.org/it/indexEN.html