Evening Stroll along the Walled City

Cartagena, Colombia, winter 2020

Dear Reader,

I have an idea for an invention – a virtual reality snow globe. To explain this idea, I would like to take you inside the beautiful scene that I witnessed in Cartagena, Colombia.

Cartagena was founded as a port city on the Caribbean coast in 1533. The city still retains much of its historical charm with the colorful, colonial architecture, stone roads, street vendors, and the occasional horse-drawn carriage. One particular feature that makes Cartagena stand out is its walls. Cartagena’s downtown area is surrounded by 11 kms of walls with a few fortresses nearby (now a UNESCO World Heritage site). Some parts of the wall are quite wide and can be used as gathering spaces. Other parts of the wall are more narrow and only allow one or two to pass by. It is easy to get from the north to the south side of downtown just by walking along the walls.

Although I had already explored the walls in the mornings, yesterday evening, when I was looking for a restaurant for dinner, I decided to walk along the walls again. The difference from day to night in Cartagena is astounding. The walls in the morning were near empty and comprised mostly of locals (smoking, sleeping [homeless], joggers, and those waiting for their work shifts to begin) with some early-bird tourists on a morning stroll in the mix. In the evening, the walls were lively; people seemed to be occupying all parts and even dangling limbs from some edges attempting to capture the view of the sunset over the Caribbean.

The scene on the wall in the evening was absolutely beautiful. It was the sort of moment that engaged my senses fully and made me feel as if time had slowed down. A wedding ceremony had just wrapped up on the wall and the bride and groom were being photographed as guests were moving to the reception venue (which was conveniently located just down the wall). The wind, bells from street vendors, car horns, and the sweet and melancholy sound of a trumpet made up the haunting soundtrack of the moment. The scene was purple and orange from the setting sun, the air was comfortably warm, and the breeze appropriately gentle.

There was so much joy in the air that evening. The wedding party certainly added to the delightful feeling. We bid farewell to the hot Caribbean sun and turned our gaze to the magnificent view of the city (the Bocagrande neighborhood) at night. There was so much life in that moment, a shear contrast from the morning crowd.

Now, what if I could bundle up this experience and serve it to you as a virtual reality snow globe? Unlike a traditional snow globe, my VR version would allow you to experience the scene right from the center. The viewer would be able to witness the beauty of the lights and sounds from all angles for a period of, let’s say, 90 seconds. In that time, you could walk forward or back, turn your gaze towards the setting sun or the city. You could watch as people passed you by and see their expressions as the wedding party processed to the reception area. Wouldn’t this be a cool little gift to bring back home to friends and family members? I did my best to capture this scene, however, I must say that my 34 second video (i.e. me turning slowly and shakily in a circle with an iPhone) just does not do the moment justice.

Some moments are really beautiful, Dear Reader. Until my VR snow globe hits the market (only in my dreams) these special times may only truly live on in our memories. When we have beautiful moments like this one, let’s capture them, remember them, and share them to prolong their beauty. This little moment reminds me that sometimes I just need to unplug and experience my surroundings. The evening was beautiful, uninterrupted, and complete even though it had no clear beginning or end. I am excited to experience more of these moments and I know that I will because good things happen when we seek them out. When we start looking to see the beauty around us, we will find it, indeed, time and time again.

Love,

Raven

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