Have you ever thought to yourself “I wonder what it is like to live in another country?” I did as soon as the travel bug hit me. I went on a school sponsored trip when I was ten to Europe. I read that silly book from so long ago “Coffee, Tea, or Me” when I was about twelve and then I re-read it! I was hooked. I wanted to be a stewardess. I relished the thought of traveling all over the world. However, I did all the things my parents wanted; made good grades, graduated early from high school, going right to college when I was only seventeen with a major in journalism. The thought of travel and working as a flight attendant was always in the back of my mind. Then one day I got really sick at college, sick enough that my parents came and packed me up and I left for the Spring quarter to go home and recuperate. I was back home and almost twenty so my mother suggested (because mom’s always know right?) I get some professional photos done and submit some applications to airlines. As it turned out only two airlines hired anyone at the age of twenty, National Airlines and Delta Air Lines. I submitted to both, threw in the photo’s and had an interview with Delta immediately.
At that interview I was a stand out, and not in a good way. I remember walking in with a dress that had a full skirt and Chinese style jacket. It was a very disco style dress with a skirt that would twirl when I danced. I had embraced the disco phase in college, was also a hair model, and I thought everyone dressed like me! As I looked around at every one of my fellow interviewees’ and they
looked back at me, I felt a little bit anxious. They all had on blue suits and white shirts, hair pulled back and black pumps. There I was in platform heels, a hairstyle that was short, wild,stylish and a disco dress! Needless to say I amused the interviewer’s immensely with my go for it “I dance disco in contests” attitude and got through the interview at the young age of nineteen and went on to be in the next class of flight attendants. My mother had always told me to “be an original not a carbon copy” and it worked. To this day I wonder why my mother let me wear what I wanted to that interview, as she never said a word to me about my choice of attire. Maybe she was letting me be an ‘original’ which worked out for me. I started training class and they called me ‘disco’ as I and one other girl were the youngest in the class, and we were kind of the ‘mascots’. I still remember my first years of flying as some of the best of my life as I grew to love travel and grew into a responsible young woman. The years flew by and I had a family but still worked part-time as a flight attendant. Towards the end of my career I flew international, finding these flights and layovers the most rewarding in my career. I had many layovers in South America and found all the countries I visited to be warm and welcoming. I could see myself living there, as the culture was inviting and the people friendly. After thirty years as a flight attendant I was able to retire. I missed the travel and my fellow co-workers but not the job itself. A job that is very hard on the body, not from just the time changes, but long hours and hard work.
Retired life was different, as I had been employed since I was fifteen. Then the worst happened. My marriage fell apart and my daughter was killed in a horrible hit and run. I was no longer that young confident flight attendant that grew up along with her career into a mother and working woman. I became a grieving wreck who did not know what the next day would bring. I was in shock for several months after my daughter was killed. I really do not remember a lot of those months, or how I got through them. My divorce was still going on, and it was nasty! I could never really grieve as something unfathomable was being thrown at me every day by my ex-husband and his lawyer. It was like he wanted to punish me for her death. I would never have thought the father of my children could be so cruel. This was a time I would never want to go back to. I woke up every morning wondering what would be next. During the week of the funeral preparations I saw my ex and his sister drive up to my house and put a note in my mailbox. It said “you did not deserve to be her mother”. I still think about why they did that, what if felt like to them to actually write such a despicable statement down and give it to me 3 days after I learned of her death? The hateful things going on kept me from allowing myself to grieve properly and I did not get real help until I moved and found a wonderful counselor here in Colombia. I became a person who was afraid. Apprehension became part of my existence. I always had been self-assured, very social and always ready to meet new people. Now I worried about everything, my mind would race with so much anxiety and heartache. A change was needed so I started taking little steps to do just that! I knew I had to get away from such a toxic environment, I prayed and meditated for answers. Then one came to me.
Enter my companion and partner. He was friends with a nanny I used for my children while flying. He heard about the terrible tragedy of my daughter’s death. He looked me up on Facebook, asked to be my friend. He is a Colombian American, who spent his first fifteen years growing up in Palmira the area I now live at in Colombia. We got to know one another and found we had much in common. We spent hours talking about life and dreams. Dreams that were similar; wanting a farm, the love of mountains and animals, the beauty of nature and solitude. He told me let’s take a trip to see Colombia. I had never been to this country and thought “why not?”. We arrived on Christmas day of 2010 in Bogotá, a city alight with Christmas decorations in vivid colors and music vibrating around the streets that was festive and enticing. I was impressed with the beauty of the season, a day I had dreaded for my own heavyhearted reasons, became a wonderful memory for me. We spent a couple of weeks traveling and ended up at his aunt’s for New Years Eve and Day. A delightful array of Colombian traditions awaited me. A meal is served at midnight and there is always lots of salsa dancing at any fiesta! New Years Day continued with more family and meals. I found myself embraced by his family that just met me. I wanted to feel alive and happy like this for the rest of my life! It had been too long since I had really smiled. Then off we went to Palmira the city in the Department of Palmira Valle Del Cauca, the agricultural center of Colombia and where my partner grew up. We took a carriage ride through the city, we rode a motorcycle around in the mountains, we visited the tourist areas nearby. I had the most wonderful time and my sadness was replaced for a few weeks with the joy of new beginnings. I realized I could live without fear if I let myself, and that I could live my life while honoring my daughter’s memory in the process. My children spent most of their summers in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, making beautiful memories of our time there with hummingbirds, hiking, tubing and nature. When I returned to the United States, we started to plan on going back to look at real estate. In late February we returned and I actually found a farm I wanted to buy. I started negotiations with the owner and putting into place all that I needed to do to move to another country.
How does one move to another country? Well, I just started researching the internet and found most answers there. I realized it is best to sell all of the possession’s you have and bring minimal items with you. I started selling everything; the house, my car, furniture, everything in my house, jewelry, clothes, basically all my material things that were not of special value to me. I looked into how to get my beloved pets into another country and I just did what I had to do! I look back at that time and wonder how did I do it? I think I was so traumatized that anything that kept me occupied was good. I could think about something other than my daughter being gone. Things began to fall into place as I slowly packed up my possession’s and made the final arrangements for my move to Colombia. I look back at what I accomplished in three months and just shake my head. I had strength I did not know I had.
I moved to Colombia in April of 2011, pets and partner with me and not knowing any Spanish! My belongings were to follow in a few weeks by cargo ship. I did have some problems when I arrived. My two large dogs were sent on a different airplane because of their weight and I could not get them for 24 hours. My dog Colleen was twelve years old and she was hoarse from crying when I finally was able to get them through all the inspections and paperwork. I was able to see them and comfort them, the airport workers gave them food and water, but it was very unfortunate for them and me. We also found out that the farm I was going to purchase had a mudslide near it right before I came and that deal fell through, which turned out to be a real blessing! However, we needed to find a place to live with our animals because my partner’s family home was not comfortable for us or the animals. We rented a little place in Santa Elena, a small Colombian town and the adventure truly began.
My next blog will continue my story. I hope all who read will join my blog and share it. I can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/VillaMigelita. I will also write about my daughter’s accident which I am still waiting for the trial of her killer. It will be four years in January and there has still been no justice. It is a source of anguish to me, I pray for closure soon. The killer was found within a week when he took his car for repairs and is awaiting trial.