Thursday, November 1, 2007

Cartagena folks love Halloween

November 1, 2007  Thursday

The annual Halloween party was held at Club Nautico last evening.  Almost all the cruisers made an effort to dress in costume, and some of the locals wore elaborate costumes.  Every child received a “prize” for something; there was a DJ and dancing.  Of course, Bill and I sat on our butts for the entire evening because Bill doesn’t dance any more – especially not to Colombian style music.  But most everyone else participated in the dancing.  The food served was “typical Colombian fare” which turned out to be a rice dish that was similar to paella and was served on a banana leaf with a boiled egg on the side.  I know that eggs, and especially whole eggs, are considered a symbol of prosperity in a lot of cultures.  Never would have thought of eating a boiled egg with paella, but when in Rome…….   It was nice evening.

For some reason, Halloween has reached Cartagena in a big way.  When walking downtown we saw lots of children’s costumes being sold and Halloween candy on display.  Not sure that they do Trick-or-Treat because we stayed strictly in the marina last night; maybe they just do costume parties and give candy to the kids.  But we did have 2 kids come Trick-or-Treating to our boat – Merric and Seana on BLUEPRINT MATCH looked so cute in their pirate and princess costumes.  I took some photos but I was standing on our moving boat while they stood on the dock, so none of the photos came out. 

Which, BTW, brings up the topic of just how much this boat moves while tied to this dock!  It is incredible.  Not sure why we get so much movement so far up in this bay, but our boat seems to be constantly moving.  We face bow-to the anchorage and half the time it feels like we are at sea.  This morning I was standing in the aft cabin and actually fell down on the bed because the boat was moving so much.  Don’t understand it.

Another pair of my shoes bit the dust last night.  By the time I walked back to the boat the soles and heels of my shoes had dissolved into what looked like sawdust. This time it was my nicest low-heel sandals; ones that I have only worn maybe 4 times since we moved aboard.  That makes 3 pairs of shoes that have literally disintegrated on my feet since we moved aboard.  Salt air destroys shoes?  Or is it the heat?  Any ideas?

We turned in our paperwork to our agent yesterday to begin clearing out of Colombia.  Immigration officials came to the marina this afternoon to match our faces to our passports.  We told them we plan to leave tomorrow so they would go ahead and stamp our passports and be done with that.  Actually, we hope to leave either Sunday or (more likely) Monday.  It is supposed to take 2-3 days to clear out.  We also requested a 60-day Colombia cruising permit and that “puntos intermedios” be noted on our zarpe.  By having these documents we should have no trouble when we clear into Panama.  Without these 2 items, we understand that the Panamanian officials give people a hard time or impose penalties for taking so long to clear in.  They are fully aware that people go to the San Blas Islands and hang out there for weeks (or months or sometimes years) without first going to Colon to properly clear into Panama.  By having the 60-day Colombian cruising permit, we can claim that we were in Colombian waters and not in the San Blas.  Officialdom can be a real PITA.

Yesterday we had yet another obstruction to our saltwater system on the boat.  Wasn’t barnacles this time; it was trash.  The problem was two-fold.  Some small plastic bags had been sucked into the saltwater strainer basket and were blocking water flow.  And tiny bits of debris and pieces of baby barnacle shells had been sucked beneath the diaphragms of both of the saltwater pumps for the heads.  Bill had everything cleaned out and reassembled in less than an hour.  It surprised us how fast the water flowed into the toilets after all those tiny bits of trash were removed from the pumps.  Can’t place the blame for this completely on the dirty water and trash in this bay.  Bet some of that trash has been slowly building up and diminishing the water flow for months and we never noticed it until it reached a critical point.

Now, our international finance lesson for today:  (Apologies to Boyd)

I’m sure that everyone at home knows that the US dollar has weakened worldwide.  It just isn’t worth what it used to be.  Yet another reason that we definitely are not going to the Med anytime soon and are somewhat hesitant about going to New Zealand and Australia.  There are pros and cons involved in this normal currency fluctuation.  It is actually good for the US to have a weak dollar because it brings in tourists (good for airlines, hotel, rental cars, restaurants, retail stores, etc.) and it also makes US products far more attractive to foreign markets because now “made or grown in USA” looks like a bargain to Europeans and others; thus, good for exports.  Also, our national debt is in dollars, not in foreign currencies.  So a lower valued dollar is better when making debt payments to foreign countries or international markets.  The opposite side of all this is that when US citizens are traveling abroad, then their money just doesn’t go as far. 

All that leads up to the following statement.  Bet you would never have thought that the US dollar is weakening against the Colombian peso.  After all, we arrogant Americans “know” that our country is far larger geographically and with greater population and has a more stable economy than a poor, not-fully-developed South American country like war torn Colombia.  Wrong!!  Take a look at the currency conversion history since we arrived in Cartagena.

US dollar conversion rate to Colombian pesos received from ATM withdrawals since we arrived:

9/12   --- 2222.22 pesos for one US dollar
9/20   --- 2142.85 pesos for one US dollar
9/29   --- 2068.97 pesos for one US dollar
10/12 --- 2000.00 pesos for one US dollar  Note: more than 10% decrease in 1 month!!!
10/24 --- 2068.97 pesos for one US dollar
10/27 --- 2051.28 pesos for one US dollar
10/31 --- 2000.00 pesos for one US dollar  Wow!  We are down again!

Panama uses the US dollar for currency, so at least we will not be dealing with lowering dollar value on the currency exchange market for a few months.

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