Diaries Magazine

¿hablas Inglés?

By Danielleabroad @danielleabroad
Sure, I went out once in Medellín, but I was traveling for almost three weeks. I was desperate to mingle with a younger crowd again by the time the following weekend came about. Luckily, Cartagena is one of Colombia's most attractive cities for visitors. It's obvious: the restored streets of the Old City are refreshingly safe with fabulous restaurants, boutiques, entertainment options, and hotels around every corner. And if that's not all, the 400-year-old stone walls that encircle it are all intact and easy to climb, thus encouraging romantic views ofthe ocean ¿hablas inglés? With that said, tourist circles aren't necessarily easy to infiltrate; they're usually made up of family members, or couples, or groups of one or the other or both. Backpacking crowds on the other hand... ¿hablas inglés? So when we passed a group of five foreigners walking back from dinner one night, I decided to be proactive in my quest. I assured my grandmother I would simply walk back to the restaurant to chat with them. If they appeared nice and normal, I'd ask them what they were doing that night and see if I could join them in their plans. She was nervous for me, but understood, and so she wished me luck and sent me on my way. I went back down the street, saw them sitting at an outdoor table... and walked straight past. Talking to strangers is kind of scary! Especially when they're a group of five good looking guys. Oh, did I not mention that detail? Well, in addition to knowing backpackers are friendlier than tourists, I've also found I am more well received by a guys than I am girls. Unfortunate, but true.  "¿Hablan inglés?," I asked.  "Yes," they replied, in varying accents. I then proceeded to ask them what there is to do for fun here, being that I'm only in Cartagena for a short time and am approaching the nightlife scene solo. They admitted to hardly being experts but invited me to join them and their friends that night. I did, and it ended up being the most fun I had with peers on my entire trip. Sounds risky, does it? It was, I'm sure of it, but not in the ways you're imagining. To begin with, as I said earlier, the Old City of Cartagena is safe and secure and tourist police, in particular, are plentiful. Secondly, I approached a table of strangers in a public setting at a time when there were plenty of people out and about. Thirdly, I am trained in self-defense and had my cousin's cellphone to use if I stumbled into a compromising situation. And finally, I'm thoroughly familiar with the hostel scene. I've discovered, time and time again, that people who choose to travel that way are interesting, fun, and well-versed in the lifestyle of quickly making friends and appreciating new places. In addition to the original five guys I met (from Ireland, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, and the U.S.A., none of whom knew each other longer than a couple of days), I met a teacher from Holland, two students from Germany, a former Israeli soldier, a scientist from New Zealand, and two grad students from Oklahoma that might very well know my best friend's friends. I wasn't carrying anything valuable, I was a few blocks away from the apartment, and I was open to good times with an amazing group of human beings. I'm just so glad I had the nerve to approach 'em.

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