BY RYAN MORGAN
I had never gotten a passport before. I had no idea how strenuous (and expensive) the process could be. It ultimately culminated in needing to send in my one-of-a-kind original birth certificate, along with several other important documents in a envelope to "The Government".
Really, There was little reason to worry. Ultimately other than having to swallow a fast processing charge that I did not even end up needing, the process of doing the application was simple enough. Just dont forget to make an appointment!
We were a bunch of strangers. We had met a handful of times already, I did not share many of the same classes as these students this year. They were second and third year ITE students for the most part, and three Santa Fe employees.
For some of my fellow students, this would be their first time on a plane. In-between the in-flight games and entertainment we spoke as we flew over Cuba, talking about the various things we expected to see and experience, giving my first real insights into these students as people, not just classmates.
The plane ride was long, but ultimately uneventful. Landing however was entirely different. With all the signs in a different language, signboards in Pesos, and conversations overheard were in rapid-fire Spanish -- It left me quickly overwhelmed.
The SENA Students were our compatriots through every lab, and every cultural outing we could get them into. They are kind, understanding, generous, and open. By the end of the trip, I was proud to call them my brothers, and I sincerely hope we maintain contact in the coming years.
We got around town on this bus every day, for hours on end. Sometimes the air worked, sometimes it did not. Driving in Cartagena is insane, with it's hundreds of busses and mototaxi's. I highly suggest not driving if you can avoid it.
$1 = 2,824 Pesos. This is a fact I had to remind myself so many times in Cartagena. "Mil" means "Thousand" in Spanish. Not Million. Also, you are expected to barter. Never pay the initial price. Walk away. Let them call you back. Make a joke about how they are taking all your money and you will have nothing to eat. Then counter-offer for half.
The Rosario Islands
On our second day we took a trip to the Rosario Islands. We had a (entire) fried fish, swam in deep blue Caribbean waters, visited the natural aquarium on Isla de Pajarales, and helped a classmate trim his jeans into jorts.
It was a surreal experience. We were harassed at the dock from across across a plexiglass wall, with both our tour guides and our SENA chaperones warning us about the "rude people" there that set up shop.
The boat ride was nowhere near what we would consider safe in the United States. With a flimsy plastic tarp (that I had to hold up myself) in hand, I desperately tried to shield myself from the water and mostly ended up soaked.
The national aquarium on Isla de Pajarales was wonderful, and so not what I am used to. I am used to being 15 feet from a live animal, between two feet of saftey wall. Here, I could just reach out and touch a snapping turtle warned only by a 'they bite!' sign. Here for 50,000 pesos ($17.50) they would let you get in a wetsuit, hold the dolphin under one arm, let him kiss your cheek and pose for a photo. I even blatantly stuck my gopro in a couple of the fish tanks, to which the faculty seemed to actively encourage.
The resort itself obviously catered to tourists. From open air bungalows, scuba diving and swimming to a shaded hammock lounge the island really did have it all. It even had vendors set up from the nearby town who sold coral and shell necklaces that they dug out of the water themselves.
But it was really the ride back that was eye opening. Unable to take the ocean route due to choppy seas, we took the river route. It took longer, but we saw men in football (soccer) jerseys swimming up the river in canoes net-fishing. Kids playing by the waterside. Most of them without electricity or running water, but all of them waved to us on our way up the river, and back to Cartagena.
We were a big deal
SENA President Meetup
Personal Camera Crew
Local Tour Guides