Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cartagena in Color

On Friday the Ambassador called all of us who worked on the Summit of the Americas into one of our large conference rooms to have a wrap-up thank you session. We piled into the room and found tables and buckets of "toasting" material: a few wine bottles, bottles of beer, juice and soda. It was just a few weeks ago that we were in this same room for our final Summit countdown meeting, where he gave us a pep talk about how well the preparations were going; how important our roles were to properly represent the Embassy to Washington, and the US to our Colombian hosts and, of course, to the rest of the Western Hemisphere. Everything was still exciting and stressful in equal parts.

But yesterday, with all the answers  already in our heads as memories of "how it all went," the group was naturally more lighthearted, more relieved, and probably feeling pretty proud. We assembled with our chosen drinks and the Ambassador began to speak, starting by complimenting us on the work we all did on the President, the Secretary, a handful of CODELs and other cabinet-level Secretaries' visits. This was his seventh Presidential visit during his career, and he noted that this one was by far the smoothest... even with the "scandal." Because the Summit was, despite evidence to the contrary in most of the press, much, much more than just the Secret Service's shenanigans. It was our President and 30-something others talking, for great uninterrupted lengths of time, about matters that concern this entire hemisphere. It was about the incredible potential of Latin America to the US. It was our President, doing more listening than talking, learning about what Latin America is growing into. It was about granting land titles to Afro-Colombians; about bi-laterals, about tri-laterals, about women's entrepreneurship, about electrical interconnection for the entire hemisphere, about business opportunities for all of us, a bit about drugs and yes, even about "what are we going to do about Cuba?"

It was really exciting, and yeah, the shivers of pride to be here in the midst of it all came over me more than once.  For as much as it's easy to complain about the stress level in the preparations, the unending demands, the long hours, the wee hours, the last-second changes and, yes, the "scandal" - when it's all over and we can reflect on what was accomplished - it's certainly all worth it.

Without further sentimental babbling - I'll now wrap-up the subject in pictures:

Putting out the welcome flags

Cartagena fruit lady and her beautiful dress
Typical buildings in the old walled city

Now THAT'S a flower arrangement!
Local guys playing checkers

The pastel colors and flowering balconies are enchanting

Clock tower at entrance to the walled city
Batallion of women police from all over Colombia in Storm Trooper gear - way cool!

Look - it's the President arriving!
Tough, yes - but a lady at the same time

Row of artisan shops

Shadow cat

Beautiful details everywhere

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