Getting to Know Cartagena Colombia

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Now that we are staying in Colombia longer we decide to move Samadhi from the anchorage in the city to a small marina and boatyard. Our new marina was in a less than desirable part of town but it had excellent security and was a short dinghy ride to the nicer parts of town. Our previous anchorage was in front of a neighborhood called Manga. Manga is the kind of place that everyone feels comfortable walking around regardless of the time of day or night. There are many parks, coffee shops, vendors and restaurants around every corner. This is definitely an upper middleclass neighborhood.  Our current marina was right next door to a less than middleclass neighborhood known as a barrio in this part of the world. The owner of the marina highly recommended I not go for runs in the neighborhood and the security guards do not even open the gates for us until our taxis is pulled up right next to the door. Personally I think they were overreacting but I deferred to their experience and stayed behind the walls of the marina. Fortuanately the marina in Manga allowed us to use their dinghy dock so most of the time the four of us just loaded up on Rogue One and went to Manga to go shopping or run or play basketball. We were able to explore much of the Manga neighborhood as well as the Old City (the walled portion of Cartagena) and the neighborhood of Bocagrande. Each neighborhood has its own personality and history. All are full of amazing restaurants and cafes. All have fantastic parks with locals participating in many different games and sports. Everyone has been so kind and welcoming and they all seem to always be smiling. It is really a happy place to be a part of.

Being tied to a dock was a nice treat and really made things a little more convenient. Taking Ranger to shore each day is much easier when it does not involve a dinghy ride to and from shore two or three times a day. Now we just walked up to the yard for Ranger to do his business. The other plus was that we could use our A/C! Ranger particularly appreciated that little bonus as well. And there was one more even better plus to this marina. Actually, there are 6 more pluses to this marina. Kids! There were four other kid boats here and Alexander and Victoria wasted absolutely no time at all becoming part of the gang. The gang of 8 kids, ages from 8 to 14, loved swimming and playing on the docks, on the boats and in the water. We had U.S. kids, Canadian kids, Polish kid, and Swedish kid and they were laughing and playing at all hours of the day. It was a great group of boating families. Groups of us ran errands together, played basketball at the park together and had dinners together many nights. We also helped each other with projects and or advise on projects. One of these families had been in Colombia for over a year now. This family told us about a basketball league that welcomed anyone to their practices regardless of experience. Ashley and I thought this would be a excellent opportunity for our kids to be part of a sports team. Alexander and Victoria were thrilled to get the chance to play on a real team with kids their own age. We attended the practices three times a week. The team consisted of about 35 kids ranging in age from 5 to 18. The coaches break the kids up by size and skill into three groups and take turns with the court and an area for drills next to the courts. In one group the kids work on various drills to improve their fundamentals, the second group they do various basketball conditioning drills such as running, sit ups and box jumps. Needless to say Alexander and Victoria dominate this part of practice. And the final group is where they scrimmage. The entire practice is very well organized and the coaches are very encouraging and welcoming. They do not speak English, however, so it is sometimes a challenge for Victoria and Alexander to know what is going on as they speak quickly and do not repeat themselves for the two gringos in the group. As always Victoria and Alexander make it happen and they figure it out, either by their grasp of Spanish or watching and learning from the other kids on the team. It is really great watching them work hard physically as well as mentally to keep up with ever changing drills and exercises. We practiced with the team for a little over a month. Both Victoria and Alexander’s basketball skills have improved by leaps and bounds. J

Learning about and participating with the basketball team has been a real bright spot in our time in Cartagena. However the best part about us learning about the basketball team is being able to meet Laura!. Laura is an amazing girl that is on the basketball team. She is that girl that is both extremely good at whatever she does and at the same time welcoming to all the new people. She is so kind and generous and is always happy. She was the first kid to help both Alexander and Victoria when they did not understand the drills. She was the first person to high five the new kids and make them feel a part of the team. She is quick to translate and demonstrate for Alexander and Victoria. Her English is that of a native speaker and she is highly intelligent. Victoria and Laura quickly became friends and on the times Victoria just did not feel like going to basketball practice the thought of seeing Laura made her jump into action and get ready to go. We soon met Laura’s parents who are just as amazing as their daughter. Vanessa, Laura’s mother, is an ex collegiate table tennis (ping pong) player (she can crush me without even breaking a sweat), an amazing cook and a wonderful woman.  Henry, Laura’s father, is a soft spoken and always kind man. He works hard at a local clinic as an anesthesiologist and provides a beautiful home for his wife and daughter. We spent time with this family at local parks playing basketball and ping pong. We had a wonderful dinner at their beautiful home. Laura shared her absolute love of the musical Hamilton with Alexander and Victoria. And we learned about each other’s lives. They are truly wonderful people and we hope to be able to see them again in the future.

Victoria on her first day with the team
Alexander on his first day
The Colombian kids are ballers!
Alexander quickly adjusts his play and begins to hold his own.
Alexander and his group taking a quick break.
Notice the Murphy kid being one of the tallest. That does not happen too often. If ever.
Alexander getting back on “D”
Victoria figuring this team sport stuff out. It is not her first choice of athletics.
Having to learn a sport in a different language is not easy but she holds her own.
All of the kids were very welcoming to the two new kids who know very little about playing on a team or even about basketball and particularly basketball practice.
Victoria meets her wonderful new friend, Laura!
Alexander going in for a layup.
Alexander and his group working on their fundamentals
Conditioning time!
Victoria and Laura having fun talking as much as playing basketball.
Alexander and his buddy trying to be the first done with their sit-ups!
They were!
Victoria and her buddy doing hand slap push ups while discussing Harry Potter.
Victoria running shooting drills.
Alexander in shooting drills
Both the kids hustling back on defense!
These were a great group of kids and coaches! We really appreciated them welcoming us to their organization.
Some spectators to our family basketball games.
The four of us out exploring the neighborhood of Bocagrande.
Our Sunday ritual of playing ping pong with Laura’s family at a neighborhood rec center.
Laura and Victoria playing and probably discussing Harry Potter
Left to right: The tournament champion, me, Victoria, Laura, Vanessa (Laura’s mom) and Laura’s uncle who finished 2nd in the tournament. I finished last. These Colombians play some serious ping pong!
A local group playing football in the evening.
Laura and I playing a game of ping pong. And as you can imagine she is really really good and this too.
Alexander and Henry (Laura’s dad) playing a game.
A dad and daughter doubles game. They were very kind and let us score a couple of points before crushing us.
Vanessa and Victoria. Did I mention Vanessa is a superstar ping pong player? Well she is!
This is how Alexander ends his days after all of our activities with friends in Cartagena!

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