31 October 2023 Santa Marta
In search of the Halloween
“The creation of preferences which we then satisfy gains us nothing. We can think of the creation of the unsatisfied preferences as putting a debit in the moral ledger which satisfying them merely cancels out… Preference Utilitarians have grounds for seeking to satisfy their wishes, but they cannot say that the universe would have been a worse place if we had never come into existence at all.”Peter Singer
Breakfast at the Hotel Casa Bethel was a very Colombian affair with simple eggs and corn cakes, juice, fresh fruit and a coffee. All served at once and no top ups. It was all a bit too plain and simple for my tastes, so I asked for some Chilli Sauce, which made a big difference.
I am in need of some cash so off I go in search of an ATM. The first one I found doesn’t work so now it’s quite a walk to find another. When I get to that part of town there are several ATMs all within sight of each other… and all of them have long queues extending along the streets. Well, at least it’s not raining. I choose a queue and settle in for a long wait. I can’t work out what’s going on. Individual ATM users seem to be taking 5-minutes or more to complete their transactions. The queue is not moving very fast!
As I am waiting patiently, I notice the variety of wandering street vendors selling everything from bottles of water to mops and brooms. There seems to be an army of coffee trolleys on the move. I did notice one woman in the queue ahead of me buy a small coffee from one vendor only to tip it away almost instantly on tasting. Another coffee was purchased from a different vendor which seemed to be much more palatable. I can’t imagine how many mops and brooms get sold by wandering street to street in this way. Life seems very hard sometimes… well, all the time in reality. Unless we strive, we don’t survive.
After more than 30-minutes I reach the front of the queue for the ATM and I am able to make a failed attempt at withdrawing cash, followed by a successful transaction, all complete in about 2-minutes. I am still mystified by why the queue moved so slowly but nevermind, I can head to a cafe for coffee and cake now.
I had to walk along the town seafront where numerous people, individuals and families, were playing on the sand and swimming. I took the opportunity to have a shallow paddle myself, finding the water warm but not particularly inviting simply because of its location. When it rains, as it was yesterday when I arrived, the streets flood quite badly until the excess water runs off into the sea. This leaves the streets relatively clean but the everyday detritus from cigarette butts to discarded bus tickets gets flushed into the sea.
I had coffee, water and a savoury pastry at the cafe at the Tourist Information Office. While sitting there checking my options to leave town tomorrow, I saw that there was a minibus service based a few streets away that operates buses from Santa Marta to Barranquilla (and beyond to Cartagena). I took a stroll to the ‘Transportes Marsol’ office to confirm the schedule and prices. Everyone seeks certainty, and this is one way that I manage my own anxieties by securing some confidence that I can get from point A to point B in a certain way and at a certain time. Now that I know where I am going tomorrow, I can relax a little this afternoon.
I made my way back to the Hotel Casa Bethel to join a Zoom meditation meeting with some fellow students of ‘Secular Dharma’. Normally, when I arrive in a hotel room hot and sweaty, then it’s on with the aircon and off with all my clothes, but even if today is Halloween, I spared my fellow meditators the horrors of my naked body by remaining fully dressed. It was a very pleasant and agreeable meeting and I am fortunate to have such a resource even when I’m travelling.
I have a ‘healthy boundaries’ report to produce for a Safer Sangha project at the Buddhist Recovery Network, which I have been putting off for far too long, so I settled down and made a good start on this review. I will feel a mentally ‘freer’ once this piece of work is complete and has been delivered. I need to be careful about taking on future commitments and not overstretching myself.
The centre of Santa Marta comes alive at night – when its not raining! And, perhaps more so tonight because it’s Halloween. In the narrow streets and lanes behind the seafront, there are an abundance of bars, restaurants, cafes and ice-cream parlours, along with all the usual tat and tacky merchandise offered in tourist focussed towns.
It was a delight to wander the busy streets full of adults and children dressed for Halloween. I found a Colombian restaurant and ordered a sort of giant Subway type baguette. It was filling but not very tasty, but what left a really bad taste was a huge ‘service’ charge on the bill. I paid the requested amount and walked away disappointed at being taken advantage of, and at myself for not arguing the point. I have resolved that I won’t accept this happening again!
Duolingo Essentials: “me estas estafando” - you are scamming me!
Time for bed… buenas noches.
- Coffee, water and savoury pastry total € 6
- Dinner € 11 (including rip-off ‘service’ fee)