Dear Boys and Girls,

I did go to the Castille de San Felippe in Cartegena, the Spanish fort I wrote to you about in my last e-mail. The tunnels under the fort were very interesting. They ran under the fort something like ant hill tunnels, connecting with each other, some open to the outside. They were designed so the people in the fort could see the enemy enter as well as hear them talk and their footsteps on the cemented tunnels. I don´t know how the engineer in charge of the construction knew how to figure all this out. The tunnels were cemented floor to ceiling with a stone floor. All along the tunnels were ¨cubbies¨- spaces where a soldier could stand quietly in the dark just off the tunnel. The hiding soldier could hear and if there was a torch throwing light could see, but there was no way the hiding soldier could be seen by the enemy. The guide had me stand in one of these cubbies, it was like stepping into a dark cave, just big enough for one person. It was scarey to step into the dark space. The guide took me up and down and all around in the tunnel. Today the tunnels are dimly lit by lights placed along the way. At one place she left me in dim light. I could hear her footsteps for quite a long time. Then silence. ¨Can you hear me?¨ came a voice in a soft whisper. Then I heard a tap, tap, a soft clap and a loud clap. It was long time until she came back. I sure hoped she was returning, because even with the lights, there were so many twists and turns that I was sure I would be stuck down there forever! When she got back to me, she had me follow her to where she had been standing. It was quite a walk with 2, maybe 3 turns. To think I could hear her whisper as if she had just been around the corner was amazing to me. This fort was never taken.

It was built with the labor of 20,000 enslaved people. All these people needed food to be cooked, clothes to wear, and tools. Then the engineer needed lots of people to carry out his plans, to get the materials that were needed like lots and lots of cement and stones. It was unbearably hot when I took the tour. My guide carried an umbrella to get shade. I kept thinking of how hard these people worked to build the fort, and how extremely uncomfortable and difficult it would have been to do the work, especially to work digging and hauling dirt out, then mixing the cement and carrying down into all the tunnels, and all this without electricity, flashlights, only with torches which would add to the heat and danger.

And now, over 350 years later, this fort has long been obsolete as a system of defense. The Spaniards no longer own and rule Cartegena and most of South America. Standing on one of the fort´s ramparts, I could look across to the old walled city and knew it was full of people and cars, buses, taxis, small horse drawn carts. To the left I could see the pennisula stretch out along the harbor filled with hotels tall, 20 or more stories high and air conditioning. I kept wondering, what would the Spaniards, the indigenous folks – the Indians who had lived here before the conquest, the enslaved people, the soldiers, all think about this fort´s only job now to be a tourist attraction, something old to come and see and marvel at. What would they think about Colombia being a country, and Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Bolivia all being their own country? Could they believe that Spain no longer ruled this vast area of land? And what would they think about cars, internet, airplanes, telephones, the way people dress today? What do you think these people from 350 years ago would think if they could come back today to see the fort they built and the town they lived in, Cartegena?

And then there is the next question, if you and I could come back in say 100 years, what will we think about Seattle? How will people get around? What will they wear? What buildings and homes that we know in Seattle in 2007 will be tourist attractions in 3007? In fact, there are so many changes happening in Seattle right now today, what will Seattle look like when I arrive home?

And what will you boys and girls look like? How much bigger will you be than you were when I visited you in your school? What new things will you know how to do that you have learned in school? Will you look the same or different? And I wonder if I will recognize my granddaughter Isabel. She grows so much in just one week when I see her in Seattle. Will I know her when I get back? Will she remember and know me?

When one takes a long trip like this, there are many such interesting questions to ask when it´s time to come home.

After three days in Cartegena I flew to Bogota, then transferred to a plane to Armenia, a city high up in the Andes in coffee country. I was to be met at the airport by Isabel´s uncles, grandmother and aunt. Some of these people I had never met. How would I find them? How would they find me? Fortunately for me, I am a gringo, a white person, an American, and to people in Colombian I look and move differently, plus, the minute I say something in Spanish, they know I´m not from there. It would not be hard for them to spot me.

It was deliciously cool and pouring down rain when I got off the plane in Armenia. And sure enough, there was Isabel´s Colombian family waiting for me! I don´t speak much Spanish, and only Jair spoke English, but he hadn´t spoken it for many years. So, it was interesting communicating. We passed a dictionary around and pointed a lot. I listened a lot as they talked to each other in Spanish trying to catch a word I knew. I went to Parque de Cafe, an amusement park something like Disneyland. I saw a small coffee plantation where I learned how coffee is grown, picked, cleaned and turned into coffee beans to make coffee. I also learned the bananas is an important money crop.

High as we in the mountains, because Armenia is close to the equator, it has a warm almost tropical climate. There is always an abundance of wonderful fruits — mangoes, papayas, bananas, plaintain, guanabana, pineapples and many more fruits whose names I no longer remember.

I also went to a small town — in Colombia a small town is called a pueblo Solenta, which was quiet (nice after all the traffic in Bogota, Cartegena and Armenia) and a pleasant drive in a lovely green cool valley following the Rio Quimbaya. Armenia was totally decorated for Feliz Navidad (Christmas), the whole town and homes were bright with lights and Christmas trees. The first days in December is a special time here for celebrating.

Before long my stay there ended, and I was on my way to more adventures, all in cool weather, with lovely scenery, and bus rides along winding roads where the side of the road dropped off steeply to valleys below.

Now I am in Bogota again, and tomorrow will board my Continental flight for home. It was fun to come back to a city I now was familiar with. It gets wearing to have to figure out a new town all the time. But now in Bogota, I knew where I was and where I´m going.

So, this is my last South American letter. I look forward to visiting you when I return. I have a lovely CD from the Galapagos trip that I can hardly wait to share. I also look forward to answering any questions you may have.

It will be a while before I get my photos sorted out, but I hope you´d like to see pictures of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia so you have an idea of where I´ve been.

And, perhaps, these letters and the pictures will get you thinking about where in this very wide world of ours you would like to go. In fact, I would like to hear of the places you would like to visit some day.

So long,

Galapagos Grandma/Diane