During my time in Cartagena, February 2015.
My childhood friend Mario and I just finished eating at El Bistro in the Walled City. We were the only two brown-skinned, Asian-decent Canadians in the fully occupied Cartagena restaurant with Colombians and tourists. Mario and I are both in our thirties and work full-time. Getting vacation time with North American employers to travel often is a treasure hunt.
I sometimes think to myself, “I don’t want to do most of my exploring during retirement. I fear not travelling after 50 due to possible physical limitations or worse, not reaching 50. I try and find time to travel now.”
An elderly gentleman was chatting with the bartenders. Mario realized the gentleman was Jack, who had been sitting beside him on the Sunwing flight, from Toronto to Cartagena, a day earlier with Jack’s wife Kate. Mario mentioned he was talking with them the entire flight and “they are well travelled.” Jack is a retired executive from Wahl Clipper Corporation. Kate was at her table finishing up. “Hey Jack,” Mario said while Jack walked back to his table. Kate soon joined and it was like a family reunion. Kate gave Mario a lifetime worth of hugs.
Many couples from Canada usually just stay at the all-inclusive resorts without really exploring a city. I was excited to hear Jack and Kate were staying at a boutique hotel and were going to travel around Colombia for two weeks including my favourite city, Medellín. “Show me an underdeveloped country and I’ll show you a good time,” Jack said. I always thought to myself, “tourists stay in resorts; travellers stay outside of them.” But these two are retired travellers.
We said our goodbyes and were on our ways.
The next day, Friday, I headed out alone at 5:30 p.m. looking for the infamous Crepes and Waffles. I found one at Carrera 4. The interior was stylish with slightly dim lighting. “Para llevar o para aca,” the cashier asked. I hesitated and replied, “para aca”. The cashier directed me to the upstairs dining area.
I saw Jack and Kate eating there to my surprise. They were with another friend, Margarita from New York, who has been living in Cartagena for the past thirty years. I joined the three for a quick bite. All three of them met in the Peace Corps. I felt destined to meet Jack and Kate again. This time I took Jack’s card so I can email him back in Toronto. It was refreshing to sit with the three and see how lively they are. “Only if liveliness can be passed on to more people,” I thought.
I paid for my chocolate fondue with strawberries and we said our goodbyes. I was in a hurry for the Friday party bus. Going down the stairs, I looked back at Jack and Kate, and wondered if I will be like them.