Feria Artesanal y Cultural del Caribe in Cartagena, Colombia

Colombian arts, crafts and souvenirs on sale at the 63 Feria Artesenal y Cultural del Caribe. A row of vendors’ stalls in the background at left.

Overview: The 63 Feria Artesanal y Cultural del Caribe (translation: The 63rd Caribbean Craft and Cultural Fair) in Cartagena is a great place to go for foreigners and Colombians looking for traditional and apparently authentic Colombian arts and crafts. You’ll also find plenty of souvenirs or gifts with a distinctly local flavour: toys, sweets, authentic Colombian-style hats, knick-knacks, leatherware, pottery, clothing, sculptures, paintings, and musical instruments. Be ready to haggle and don’t buy the first item you see: most items are sold by multiple vendors. We found one item at nearly half of what another vendor was selling it for.

Theatre and music: The fair also includes folklore music (Festival Folklorico) and popular theatre (Teatro Popular). There is a large stage set up at the back of the venue, presumably for music and drama productions. Neither of these appeared to be underway during our visit.

How much: You’ll pay COP 2,000 per person to enter. Typical Colombian fast food is sold inside: arepas al carbon con todo, perros calientes, salchipapas, pizza, etc. Prices are reasonable.

When: The 63rd edition was held this year from June 30th to July 31st. From what I understand its held twice a year, and will be back again in January during the peak tourist season.

Getting there: You’ll find it in the Chambacú sector, on the right side of Avenida Pedro de Heredia as you’re heading past the old fortress of Castillo San Felipe on your way into “Centro”. From the entrance to the Feria, you can see the huge new shopping centre “Mall Plaza El Castillo“. Check out the map made available on Quedesparche.com (a Colombian entertainment website similar to “What’s On”) – note that the price listed there is incorrect.

Special note: Its hard to know if all the arts and crafts sold at this fair are “authentic”. In this article I read online, some Colombian-style hats are made in China these days and sold at low prices, undercutting traditional hat-makers. In addition it erodes confidence in the market since unscrupulous vendors may claim they are made locally. According to the article, at least one vendor has gone to lengths to convince her customers that she is by showing them what a fake hat looks like. As for the quasi-governmental organisation Artisans of Colombia, it defines a craft as not made through a standardised or mechanised process, but by a craftsman or artisan using a special skill or knowledge.

Got a sweet tooth? This vendor sells all sorts of sweets and snacks.

Best life advice ever: Just travel!

Your friends have traveled to distant, exotic places to discover the unknown and have come back richer and wiser for it. You’d like to do the same too.

You could be 20 or you could be 40. Now you too face a decision on whether to put responsibility aside and discover the world through travel. NOW is the time to do it. Trust me, it’ll get harder to find the time as you get older. But an interesting thing I’ve learned – the earlier you start, the quicker you learn how to find ways to follow your dreams because 1) you realise you can and 2) making them come true makes them that much more important and REAL to you.

The places you see, the people you meet, and the things you’ll do – all of this is travel: gazing at the Milky Way in the middle of nowhere with the woman you love, teaching children in an African slum how to dance to salsa music, or pondering the meaning of life over chai on an Indian train.

Through travel, you’ll discover your passions, face your fears, and learn how to take care of yourself and the world we live in. And learning these things gives you the strength to be a better person and to live a rich and full life. And this is wisdom you’ll pass on to your kids.

The experience of travel is an investment in yourself worth making as early in your life as you possibly can.

As the video says:

now’s the time
pack your bag
and GO

Atletico Nacional wins the Colombian champs (again)!

Out in Cartagena, Colombia last night and I walked into a restaurant to have dinner and discovered the final match of the Colombian football championships was on. Imagine my delight when I discovered that Independiente Santa Fe (Bogotá) was playing Atlético Nacional (Medellín), in an almost identical repeat of the national championship game I watched eight years ago when I was working as an MBA student intern in Medellin. It was a nice little trip down memory lane, and even more so, when Nacional won last night’s game 2-0, same as it did eight years ago. In total, it has won 12 times, and is the second-most successful team nationally, according to Wikipedia. Soy feliz! Soy verde!

Cheering on Nacional in Parque Lleras in Medellin. The team lost this game on 19th June, 2005 against Tolima (2-4) but went on to win the national championships one week later.

Is it singing? Is it music? Both, it’s beatbox!

This fellow Tom Thum is an Australian beatbox artist who gave a delightful performance at TEDx Sydney last week. I’ve watched the video three times since I first saw it (and it has 3.3 million views on YouTube and counting!). On a day when I was feeling down, Tom’s upbeat nature, wacky humour, stage style and most of all, his quirky sounds, made me happy. Following your passion and bringing others joy in the process. Ain’t nothing better than that!

How different might your water look if you were poor?

Fantastically simple and touching video! We can all relate to the need for water, but depending on how wealthy we are, it may look and taste very different. Thanks CP for sharing!

The source of this video is the YouTube channel of the Korean office of US faith-based NGO Food for the Hungry. A Google translation of the caption suggests that the NGO is working to increase awareness of the need for safe drinking-water in Cambodia.