A tale of a priest, churches, nuns and oh God!

Trip Start Dec 10, 2011
Trip End Sep 29, 2012

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Where I stayed
Casa Viena Cartagena
What I did
Cathedral Cartagena

Flag of Colombia  ,
Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I visit another basilica, simply called 'Catedral' in Cartagena de Indias. Dates back to the 15th century and has suffered conflict damage over the years. As I enter, the daily service is in progress, people are standing as the priest preaches at the large altar. We say the lord's prayer and the congregation queue to receive communion. We shake hands with the people around us after the prayer. There's a real sense of community here and people stopping at 10am each day to come here to pray to God.

Again I am reminded aout how many times religion has jumped up and said hello to me since I have been travelling. I also think it's drawn to me or I am experiencing a greater exposure to it since in the countries I am visiting it is more religious. I recall my first week of my trip in San Jose, Costa Rica. My host family attend church and I did feel I wanted to go with them, but with no Spanish and a sense of, it's their private time, I didn't ask to go. When they return I ask them lots of questions and Carlos had taken photos as they met with the extended family. He proudly describes that there was standing room only at the service. I also remember fondly one of my Spanish teachers, Angela. Originally from Limon on the carribean side, black, sassy independent woman with a keen interest in my handbag and ordering her next Avon products. With another classmate from LA, they share their similar stories of losing their brothers. I listen quitely and feel for both of them and their losses. They tell the stories of death at young ages, 20's and 40's is. My teacher talks about how she found solice in god and religion. People prayed for each other she described. She tells of when she got into a taxi and the driver said outright to her, 'You are in belief' (In God). She is astonished as she's not considered god after what had happended in her family life. Now she says without god, there's nothing. She also said something so memorable for me it really will stay with me forever in my mind. 'Without love, there is nothing'.

I recall back to the time I first met the young 28 year old German priest in training in the relaxing beach resort of Cahuita, Costa Rica. It was my third week on my traveling, so farwhen I have askee, I got put into a female only dormitory room,. When he entered my room, I gave him a strong stare and said to him this is a female only room. Immediately growing anxious. He looked confused. I looked angry. He saw my upset and returned with the dutch lovely owner Willekee who explained she gives out the places as the need arrives. I reply saying I thought it was female only and feel a bit rubbish that I am going to have to share with a man for the first time. Looking back now this seems nuts as the hostel life is anything goes and I will have to share often, with men and women!

After all this and one night's sleep, he moves to another private room that became available and after that, well we became friends. I apologised for my gutsy explosive reaction to him (Gregor) and to the owner, from then on we spent most days chatting together over cold beers and others in the hostel. Sitting in ricking chairs putting the world to rights with the ever memorable soundtrack of Costa Rica, Bob Marley playing in the background! We agree that eating in Cahuita is expensive since it is by the beach. I share with him my little found secret of a gem place, a soda where the food is cooked every day on large clay ovens fuelled by wood fire. I was only eating twice a day because the portions were so large. One evening he asked to join me and I proudly tell him what's good to eat, we order the same with a lychee and water type drink and we finally chat about why we are both traveling and alone.

This was after some three days (that's a long time in travelling days) after that first terrible meeting and now very embarassing. He tells me he studied for the last six years in Theology ( I did not know what this was) and that he is going to return to be a priest and complete two more years of 'priest work experience' in Germany preaching and/or teaching. Then he will become a fully fledged priest.

I was a bit speechless and thought, oh god! excuse the pun. Wow I thought, a young intetlligent man who is going to dedicate his life to others who is perfectly normal, drinks and like beer and wears a orange hawaiin flower shirt most days. After this and my story of quitting my job to travel the world, we hang out even more almost it was like we had spilled our 'self-confessions', so much so that others in the hostel thought I was his wife! He has a girlfriend who is also going to be a priest. We find as we sit there, lots of others come and talk to us, share their personal stories. On my last day there in Cahuita, it rained alot, ALL THE DAY in fact. I even took a video of the rain as it was hard but calming rain that almost had a musical melody to it. I sat with Gregor the priest chatting and drinking tea, with both of us writing out our respective post cards to back home. We venture out when there is a small gap in the rain only to eat at the soda, then walk around the two or three main streets of Cahuita. We stop by a cool flea market shop and I feel a bit like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffanys where the couple enter a joke shop try on some animal masks and run off out, well we try on some shoes but difference is we don't steal them or even buy them. Wrong size for me. We both visit the post office and ATM for more money, before returning to the hostel. We both left the next morning, I to Moin via Limon and he onto Panama. I think that if I hadn't got my flight soon from San Jose I was very tempted to also keep travelling south. He gave me his email address but sadly has never replied. It may have been incorrect as he had to repeat twice as he had forgotten how it was spelt. I hope one day I will be able to get in touch with him, to at least share how our life journies end.

The next time that I'm touched by religion was in Venezuela. Naylin my friend picked me up direct at the airport before we headed straight to a dress fitting and her church ceremony practice. I sit quietly at the back of the church watching and listening and munching on my emergency chocolate in my bag discreetly (it was 7pm and I was starving after the journey and light airplane food). The choir was practicing the songs and one really did send a shiver down my spine, the first and the second real time they sang it. The same went with Naylin's father walking her down the aisle and the second time was breath-taking, to see her father grinning widely, looking around side to side like a peacock displaying it's beautiful feathers, in this case the stunning bride Naylin.
The next time is when I am taking a taxi on my own for the first time from Caracas airport. I feel that it's important, even in my broken Spanish, to be polite and make conversation when deep inside I was a little nervous. As we headed to my new hotel in Playa Grande, Caracas, we talk about where I have been , where was I from?, did I like Venezuela? The Spanish I'd praticed a lot by now. He complimented me n my Spanish, I laughed. It isn't very good at all!, but it is sweet of him. I ask him about if I walk to the beach will it be safe, he said yes, I never did it in the end. I did not feel good here, I was always stared at and the kind of stare that goes right through you. He then asks me my view on religion. So I answer honestly, I don't have a belief, I am visiting church twice a year for weddings and for Christmas. He is not sure how to reply to my answer and I feel like I have disappointed him. Also creating a sudden halt to our 'Spanglish' flowing conversation. He tells me it, or 'Dios', god, is very important and very important for him. I smile and nod as to say I'm in agreement and that is good. He wishes me good travels as I get dropped off at my hotel, safely! and without any cause for concern. God must be watching over me.
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