11 November 2011

The November Parties

Keeping my beer safe from the shaving cream attacks!
That's a literal translation of Las Fiestas Novembrinas, but it doesn't do justice to what's happening here. This past Monday the 7th was a public holiday, celebrating All Saints Day (which was the Tuesday prior, many holidays are moved to the following Monday to make a 3-day weekend). Today, November 11, is the anniversary of Cartagena declaring itself independent from Spain, another national holiday, and it just so happens I'm here for the 200th anniversary of that. Most people had yesterday & today off, and add to that last Monday, and it's party week!
The Colombian flag starts off the 10K!

This past Saturday there was a 5/10K held around the old part of Cartagena as part of the November fiestas. It was free as long as you signed up, you got a t-shirt, support, etc. People young & old, fit and working-on-it, all sorts were out for it. It was held in the late afternoon, when it would be at least a bit cooler than in the morning plus there is always an afternoon breeze by the Caribbean. But still, the sun was hot. I got here too late to register (ah, shucks) but tried to volunteer, although it doesn't seem to work that way here, or at least not for this event. An "I ran the Cartagena 10K" t-shirt would have been good tho!!

Decorative lights line the streets of Getsemaní

The streets in the old city have been decorated with lights making it all look very festive & there are street parties in the different neighborhoods all week. For some reason during these parties there are various things that one must do: cover yourself in blue chalk &/or cover yourself in black substance &/or shoot off small firecrackers to scare the heck out of everyone &/or throw water at people &/or spray everyone you can with shaving cream. There are probably more "to do's" that I've missed on this list. 

By the Caribbean Sea....
Yesterday I watched the Miss Colombia contestants parade, held on the main avenue that's just between the city fortress wall and the Caribbean Sea. (I like saying that: "Caribbean Sea", as in "I live on the Caribbean Sea"; "I'm standing here looking at the Caribbean Sea"; "I'm watching the sunset on the Caribbean Sea"....am I making you jealous?!?! But I digress....) The Miss Colombia contest is always held in Cartagena during the Fiestas Novembrinas. We got tickets in order to be able to sit in the grandstands underneath a tent; having shade was key. We got there at 1 pm to get a good spot and entertained ourselves for the next 3+ hours until the parade actually started going by where we were.
Shaving cream, anyone?
There was Latin music blasting the whole time, the growing crowds constantly dancing, shaving cream was being sprayed at all times (there's even a song which tells people to spray at various points during the song, surely put out by the shaving cream company to boost sales?!), and vendors selling just about anything you wanted. There was a tent at the base of the grandstand where you could buy water, soda, beer, and small bottles of chilled rum. Yep, chilled rum. It was an entertaining day, with the parade itself not even being the highlight.

In front of the Chiva bus.
On the Chiva bus.
Not to be missed is the Rumba en Chiva trip earlier this week. A "Chiva" is a long, wide bus with benches which is apparently what all the buses of Colombia used to look like. In many places they are now used for tours/party trips. There's a Vallenato band on board, a type of Colombian folk music (that of course gets you moving). They provide drinks, a snack of traditional Colombian arepa as well as commentary during the trip. At one point all the Chivas stop at a section of the old city & the bands go up on the wall to play. People dance, there are other street buskers there, it's a party!
Chiva party on the wall!

Ok, time to go to Juan Valdez Coffee Shop (the Starbucks of Colombia) for my Spanish class. Yes, I have class during party week, the studying can't stop! :) Hasta luego!

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