Reflecting on the years past happen a lot lately. The months spent in the Villa as Covid ravaged the world brought to the forefront a lot of thoughts about my age. I found myself remembering times in my life that shaped me and the future I made for myself. So much whirled around in my head as life seemed to be running like a freight train speeding towards some final destination of which I could only guess. Years pass by quickly as we get older, and not so much when we are young. When my dog Marley started declining this past year, I felt the pressure of time take root in my mind. He passed away in December and took many years with him. He had been a constant companion through a lot of upheavals.
I am the same age that I thought was old when my parents were alive. I could always call them for anything I needed; advice, money, babysitting, to hear them tell me they were proud of me and my independence. How is it that I now am the one giving advice? How is it that I see so many of my daughter’s friends with families, buying homes, advancing in their jobs, doing what I did at the same age? It became clear to me during the year 2020 that I was now accelerating in a different direction, towards old age. My granddaughter grew into a teenager; while my son was learning to speak Spanish and help me with my hotel. My years on Earth are no longer passing without hurry but like a parachute falling from the sky.
How is it possible I have lived in Colombia for ten years? I look at photos of when I first arrived in this lovely country, and I see glimpses of the changing years in my appearance. I am no longer a skinny redhead filled with the need to appear more youthful than I am. I am similar to a bird in flight, searching for what will be my next landing place. I have learned to navigate my business, my life, and my thoughts without so much emotion. I don’t hold grudges; I eliminate anyone less than worthy of my time. I have concluded it is nice to be independent and fully capable of a good life which I direct completely. I land like a bird in different spots depending on the day and my needs. It is part of living life with a degree of flexibility. We all need to be flexible during this unusual time of the Pandemic. We also need to be patient. I still try to accomplish being patient, which is a struggle I acknowledge about myself.
Yielding to life’s changes doesn’t make me weak. I can differentiate between what is necessary and what is not. I find my day is not complete without coffee and photography in the early morning while enjoying my birds at the feeders. If I have plans, I give myself enough time to enjoy this part of my day. I have found that a sudden thunderstorm here in the Andes Mountains of Colombia is exciting. I know I have to expect lightning striking nearby, and sometimes so much rain I have to use a squeegee to remove water off the balconies. Sometimes, I need to push my Dogo Argentino, Cash off of me too! He is a big baby when he hears lightning and thunder. I need to exercise almost every day. I am feeling the pains of my youth and the dancing and exercise I subjected my body to. Yoga helps me, especially for maintaining a calm demeanor throughout the day.
My mind thinks like my twenty-something self. I might have more years, but I am still youthful in my thinking. I have many younger friends, and I appreciate what they bring to my life. They have given me the ability to see what an extraordinary life I have designed for myself. They deliver laughs; while giving me a lot of great ideas! I improve my business as they offer me new suggestions, including event planning at my beautiful Villa. I have to continue to grow into this uncertain future during the time of the Covid-19. Life might have changed throughout the past year, but I have adapted.
Finally, I continue to improve my Spanish language skills. I am living in Colombia, my first language of English is not my first language here. I have read learning a new language can keep the mind fresh. I think in Spanish as much as I use my native English now. I continue to grow as a person as much as I continue to march onward in years. I don’t want to be that older woman who longs for the “old days.” What fun would that be? I want to be part of the future of this evolving world. I believe that means that I must adapt, grow, and enjoy life as it is now in 2021. I will continue to refuse a stereotypical role of what some deem correct for a woman my age. I will accept growing older as part of the elegance I have strived to achieve my entire adult life. As I have always said, “I want to look and be the best I can be, no matter my age.”
Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Colombia. I haven’t had a meal filled with turkey, stuffing, side dishes, and desserts in years. The meal is not what is important to me, the thankfulness of this life I have created and what I have accomplished is what I celebrate. Remembrance of mistakes but also blessings have brought me to the place I am at in my life. This year I am especially grateful to have my son with me here in Colombia. Observing through his eyes and words is the best part of a journey I began 8 years ago. He is engaged in living his best life, enjoying the nature that he barely noticed when he first arrived at Villa Migelita Ecolodge in Colombia. He is immersed in nature, Spanish, learning a new language, and he has his puppy Cash. I am witnessing what I have accomplished through his eyes and his delight in the little things that I have enjoyed since living in Colombia.
It is always valuable to view life, especially your own life, from a different perspective. Having my son here has made me appreciate the little things that make a huge difference in living my best life. I am sure when he first arrived it was overwhelming to be surrounded in another culture. He had to get used to being awoken by birds, the sounds of roosters and cows, my parrot Luci who takes delight in going on the laundry roof and staring at him through his window and squawking. Seeing the street dogs asleep on the road, the chickens running by as we drive down the mountain, cows grazing on the side of the road, and horses used as transportation to the high mountain farms only accessible by horse or walking. I see all I am used to in a new light and remembering my first year in Colombia. I am looking at my life again with that special renewal of the first year I lived here.
This day before Thanksgiving in Colombia is filled with the delight of decorating Villa Migelita Ecolodge. I don’t think my son has seen Christmas decorations for many years. The delight on his face as we decorated all the floors of my Villa makes my heart smile. This is Colombia and a life I live in this country filled with many small blessings that have grown into a huge blessings filled with my accomplishments. My Villa is my peace. I have found a way to overcome the sadness I experience from the death of my daughter.
I am entirely independent now in Colombia and all that I struggled with for years. Speaking Spanish was the number one hindrance. I now speak conversational Spanish without a problem. I still have difficulties with complex terms, maybe I will forever. I am grateful that I speak another language. I realize that all people should know two languages, and young parents should insist that their children learn another language. This is their future, more so than any sport or extracurricular activity! Enroll your child in a class of whatever language you want them to learn. Have them practice talking the language with someone. It will be the most valuable education you can give them. I think this could be a family activity, one that you all can participate in. Learn together, practice together. I started learning Spanish at the age of 53!
Obtain a passport for everyone in your family, travel to different cultures. Admire those who speak two languages around you, even if they are not perfect. No one should ever condemn anyone who is learning your language, it is not an easy task. I am 8 years in Colombia and I still struggle with my accent and verbiage in Spanish. I have never had one person criticize me. I have found that I am given many kudos for learning the Colombian language of Spanish. I am often told they are studying English and it is very hard to do. I always say you must speak the language to learn the language. My son is an example of this. He only speaks English with me, and Spanish with everyone else, so he is learning at a quick pace to speak Spanish.
I am grateful for many things, but I still have sadness and heartbreak about other parts of my life. I am always trying to understand why people are cruel without reason (even with a reason, I try to be kind always), and I always live what I believe. I think every person who follows my blog and my social media sites know this is true. I still suffer from sadness about the death of my daughter. Life is not fair, nor is it perfect. We have to make the best of what we are given. I think I am doing that.
When your family gathers this Thanksgiving, let go of Politics, let go of grievances, just let go and let be.
Grief is something that I have learned to live with. I have a hard time when I read of an unexpected death. It happens a lot because I am connected to many people on Facebook. I especially loved the page Hummingbird Haven started by Faye, a very dear person I came to know many years ago. She posted such beautiful photos of hummingbirds she had taken at her home in Oregon on the Columbia River. An amateur photographer who taught herself to take great photos. She encouraged all of us who were not photographers with how fast she learned the artistry of nature photography. Hummingbirds are special messengers to the spiritual world, and I have many here in Colombia, South America also. Faye had her own stories of grief, hardship, and love which she shared willingly with all of us who followed her. She helped so many of us who did not actually know her personally, she was a brilliant diamond who drew us into her world, life, and her love of hummingbirds.
I would visit her page daily just to see the beautiful posts she shared of the world surrounding her along with the photos of her hummingbirds. She posted photos of Eagles, the Columbia River, scenic landscape shots of her home, and barns. I was enchanted to visit with her every single day. I would occasionally send her a photo of one of my hummingbirds and sometimes she would post them even though the quality of my photography left a lot to be desired back when I was learning about photography myself. She would direct people to my page Villa Migelita Ecolodge and tried to help me gain followers. She was so generous in her help to others. She was instrumental in getting me and my Ecolodge started.
One day a hummingbird flew into my office through the open window. I was able to video the miracle that occurred with my other hand. I kept trying to put this Fawn-breasted brilliant hummingbird back outside with the other hummingbirds. It kept returning to me. I am still convinced it was a message of love sent to me through the Universe from my deceased daughter. I wasn’t finished with the construction work on my Villa, my chipped fingernails and hands that were very chapped from working in my organic garden looked horrible. I look back at this video and think this is when my destiny took hold, and I soared with the prospects of a new and better future. I shared the video with Faye and she posted it on her page for me. I couldn’t believe it when the video went viral. I think over 500,000 people viewed it.
As a result of this video and dear Faye I was contacted by several people and had my first guests arrive to stay at my Villa here in the Andes Mountains of Colombia in the Valle del Cauca department. I now have a popular hotel visited by hummingbird photographers, nature photographers, nature lovers, adventure travel enthusiasts, and people who just want to visit and bask in the peace that surrounds me. I know it is because Faye shared the video of the hummingbird that wouldn’t leave that I had my moment to shine. I continued to pursue my dream as a woman entrepreneur and to meet people from all over the world.
I am living a life that any retired flight attendant would love, a life that I appreciate daily when I look around at what I have created. All the while having visitors come to my place of living. I get to share the hospitality I learned from being a flight attendant for so many years. I will be forever grateful for Faye. She helped me and I am sure she has helped others as well. If you were on her page she prayed for you. I know she did because she told all of us daily that she kept all of her thousands of followers in her prayers. I can only hope that she knows how many of us loved her so much, even though we didn’t know her personally. She was an inspiration to all. God bless you Faye Marie Miller for all you did for the people you touched. I know I am a better person for having shared some of my life with you. Now you are gone to a better place escorted by the beautiful hummingbirds you loved so much. I will never forget you. I hope you meet up with all who have gone before you and continue to spread the joy you gave to all of us. Thank you, Faye, I will always appreciate what you did for me. I also hope you meet my daughter, I will always feel she had a hand in our meeting and that very special video.
My guests at Villa Migelita Ecolodge of Colombia always ask me the same thing. “How did you do this?” By this, they mean my move to Colombia and opening a hotel in The Andes Mountains. Many of my customers come to see in person what I have achieved. Curiosity about living in another country along with the love of all things nature is a driving force for many of us living in what is a chaotic time in the world. As I said in my last blog: Living Your Best Life, we must stop trying to impress others, we must breathe, live, and be ourselves. We must give up what we think others expect of us and do what we enjoy. We must change, materialism and achievement are two different things. Materialism is a preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values. Achievement is something accomplished, especially by superior ability, special effort, great courage, etc.; a great or heroic deed: both are definitions from the dictionary. I believe we all have it inside of us to achieve the goals that we set for ourselves. It might take 8 years as I have done, or you might be able to achieve your goal in a matter of weeks.
We should reflect on achievements in our lives and not materialism. I am a spiritual human being. The Universe is my religion. I am not a believer in organized religion. I am not saying it is unacceptable, it is just not for me. I believe in a God of all people who made the beauty of nature that surrounds me in Colombia and the rest of the world. I am worried about the upcoming generations and what is happening to our climate. Spiritualism is my way of life. I do not expect others to follow my beliefs. I do believe we should be civil to each other and respect the Earth. I have shown this is possible by my lifestyle change. I live what I write.
Achieving my goals took time and I have a beautiful hotel. I worked hard and went through difficulties to get to where I am. I didn’t do this when I was young. I did it in my 50’s and now I am a senior citizen according to the definition. I don’t live as a senior. I play volleyball, I hike, I include myself in many adventure travel activities offered at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. I am surrounded by many young people. I work with them, and I have them as guests. I laugh when I realize they don’t ever consider my age and expect me to keep up on all things adventure. I am thrilled they feel this way. I enjoy my life and all that I have accomplished. I am doing what I love, and you should aim for this too. Do what you love, do not look at other’s lives to decide what you need for your life. Do what makes your heart happy.
As for materialism, let it go. You don’t need a new outfit for every occasion, or the latest phone, car, jewelry, or whatever is the flavor of the moment. Living in Colombia has made me see how superficial we all can be. I was that way. In Colombia we wear the same clothes over and over, we don’t have new cars. I joke with my guests about the Toyota truck I drive. They actually say they love my truck. Then they see it is a good investment needed to do all the adventure travel options offered at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. I wish I could have given myself this advice years ago. Being older has a lot of advantages, especially when you have lived through a lot of changes: good and bad. Take my advice and let the good things that surround you bring you joy, not material objects. Fun with your family, the beauty of a perfect day, frolic on the beach, in the mountains, or just play games with your children. We play volleyball almost every single day at Villa Migelita Ecolodge, even with our guests sometimes. It is the little things that bring joy. Not material objects.
I recently watched a movie on Netflix that reminded me of myself and my life. A girly movie called Falling Inn Love. I haven’t fallen in love with a person, but I have fallen in love with a new country and opened a hotel. I have found that changing my lifestyle and country changed me also. I have a new outlook on how I live my life. So there were definite parallels between myself and the main character of this sweet movie. Although the woman in the movie changed her life and attitude in a short period, it has taken me 8 years. I moved to Colombia without speaking Spanish, and I had to learn to live in a new culture completely different from the United States. This movie made me think about all that has changed in my life, and how I have evolved into the person I am now.
For most of my adult life, I lived and worked with the perception in my head that I was doing what I did to achieve not personal freedom and happiness but to achieve a certain lifestyle I thought was necessary to live a good life. As every human being knows our intentions sometimes take a different turn and we find ourselves in situations that are beyond our control. We find ourselves with problems that pop up unexpectedly, usually not of our own doing. We find ourselves having to fight for what is best and we don’t think of ourselves but of changing others. As I have grown older I have found out to change others is an impossibility. We can only change ourselves. We need to live our best life and let even the most beloved people in our lives see that they must also live their best life too.
Living in the rural country of Colombia is a lifestyle change of a magnitude I never thought possible until I did it and adjusted to the lack of accessibility to ordering a pizza on a whim or running out of an item and just running across the street to the grocery or drug store. Buying everything you need in one place, not going from store to store to complete my errands as I do here in Palmira, Colombia. We have errand days here in Colombia and we have it down to a science now. The years leading up to my now complete organization were difficult. I was not able to do things by myself because I couldn’t communicate well and I was nervous about driving without being able to speak Spanish well. Now I just hop in my truck and go.
Recently my son moved to Colombia to live with me. He, fortunately, doesn’t have to go through what I went through except learning Spanish. He is enjoying complete cultural change without learning hard lessons. He came from the rat race lifestyle that many Americans live to my place of peace filled with the beauty of nature, birds, and animals. He even has a new puppy that he can nurture with love and attention. I am surprised at how fast he is understanding Spanish conversation and speaking some Spanish words! Jovenes, as he is called here in Colombia, learn quickly. We even have a volleyball net set up with all of my friends and family coming to play many afternoons a week. I watch with pleasure as I see him transform into a fun-filled person making friends quickly with all whom I cherish in my life.
Cash the new Dogo Argentino at Villa Migelita Ecolodge
There is an important lesson in this syrupy movie on Netflix that can teach all of us. Stop and take time to enjoy the life you live. Look for pleasure in the little things. Get out and go feel fresh air on your face, exercise more, meet your neighbors, open your curtains up in your house and stop living in darkness all day so you can see the television better, change your diet by actually cooking food instead of ordering from menus online, be kind, stop the political posts on Facebook because you will not change anyone’s mind and put nice moments from your day online, show people how to live their best life!
When you live your best life you live the life you deserve. It might happen quickly, or it might take 8 years as it has for me. I have found myself with a lot of difficulties, but I am the best person I can be. I am fulfilled, I still have problems because that is what life is about, learning to navigate problems and still be a good person. Show by example, stay strong, fight when you need to, and give complete authenticity with all you do. Don’t let others influence who you are. Just be the person you are, and be proud of it!
It has been over eight years since I moved to Colombia. Many people felt that I was “loca” to move to Colombia. Joyful vibrations were in the air when I arrived on Christmas day 2010. Latin music, festive decorations, the country was alive! I fell in love from that moment and I am still in love with this beautiful and fascinating country. I am living my dream come true. Surrounded by nature, living in my castle in the air, and meeting new people from all over the world who share my passion for nature. I would never have predicted my future to be the owner of an Ecolodge in Colombia when my daughter was murdered in 2010.
I am writing this blog on the day of what would have been my daughter’s 30th birthday, July 22, 1989. Her final resting place is here under a beautiful garden filled with flowers. Butterflies and hummingbirds visit while she is surrounded by the mountains. She was always enchanted with the hummingbirds and mountains during our summers spent in the Smoky Mountains. I dedicate my accomplishments to her. She has been my driving force to find peace. She is in my mind whenever I achieve a new goal. I live for what she lost. Her life.
Lessons learned through hardship are saved in my soul now. I am not the same person I once was. It seems so long ago that I lost that person I once was. I am filled with the wisdom I never knew I could achieve in life. It is not important that people I thought would want to see my Paradise in Colombia have never visited. I have so many people from the world over who come and stay at my nature retreat in the Andes mountains of Colombia. The delight I see in their faces when they experience everyday moments is sufficient to remind me I have created something special at Villa Migelita Ecolodge.
I have made so many friends from different places I knew nothing about! I always thought I was an expert in travel because I was working in the skies for years as a flight attendant. I have visited so many countries, states, and smalltown cities. I knew nothing about any of the above until I experienced a different culture and moved to a really small pueblo. I have learned to honk at everyone I pass in my truck, to give a lift to someone going to Palmira our main city, and to speak in Spanish about how life is going for them. I have found that every guest leaves me with a fresh perspective on what I have created. I have made so many friends that I may never see again but I will always keep them in a special place in my heart that has opened up so much since the death of Misha. I appreciate all that is given to me through the knowledge of others who bring experiences that I can learn from. The sadness from the loss of my child is replaced with the happiness I feel when a guest gets to hold a rescued hummingbird, or they feel the wind against their faces while riding horses in the mountains, or they see the mist of a waterfall that touches them with tiny droplets, while they soar above the clouds and look down onto the mountains below them with awe when experiencing Parapente. These are moments that I keep with me after they leave. Then someone new comes and I get to start again with new adventures.
Everyone who follows my social media sites knows that hummingbirds are my spiritual reminder of Misha. They surround me with their rapidly moving wings, flying backward just like I experience sometimes when I think of Misha and my memories of her. I know hummingbirds surround me with ethereal knowledge of life that exists beyond this earthly world. Misha is with them in every flutter of their wings. I am blessed when I have a guest who comes to photograph them. Each guest gives me more knowledge than I have taught myself. I have made some very special friends through these special jewels that bring peace and tranquility to Villa Migelita Ecolodge.
Recently Carole Turek of The Hummingbird Spot on Facebook came for a short visit from California. You could say we “clicked” immediately. I had joined her group and began posting hummingbirds from my Colombian Villa. Carole has a goal to photograph all the hummingbird species of the world. She had never been to Colombia but has a trip planned for November 2019. I am honored she decided to visit Villa Migelita Ecolodge first. She spent five days photographing Colombian hummingbirds and wrote a blog featuring her time at my Ecolodge and showcasing the species she was able to photograph while at my home. She also taught me a lot about photography and more about hummingbirds, myself being self-taught through the internet over the years. She is an anesthesiologist in Los Angeles and she also is an expert on hummingbirds.
I had a lovely family come in June who brought with them a love for hummingbirds and photography, but also the delight of having a precious little 6-month-old with them who gave us smiles all day long. Then, of course, my friends from the airlines that come to experience Colombia for the first time, and find a totally different experience than what they expect. I am able to dispel all bad rumors about Colombia immediately and show the magical realism of this country through ecotourism and adventure. There are people who find me through this blog, or my Facebook pages, Instagram (all at Villa Migelita) and the many groups I belong to. They come from Canada, Australia, Europe, and many states in the USA. All become lifelong friends. This is the blessing of customer service, interaction in a personal way. We definitely strive for that here as I never take more than one group at a time. I like to keep my Ecolodge exclusive and the personal service and customized menus are all part of the experience.
My hummingbirds are the most prized gifts that I show to any guest for whatever reason they come to visit Colombia. This is because they fly free in nature, glittering in the sunlight, sharing something special to all who view them. Besides the beauty of the hummingbirds, I have many species of Neotropical birds and butterflies that flit around all my gardens on the property. I like to think all who leave have been blessed in a way that only nature can achieve.
This is my eighth year of living in Colombia. I am a resident of this wonderful country. Colombia can’t escape a bad reputation no matter how hard she tries. She is like the girl in high school who was called awful names, the girl whose rumors were spread no matter how untrue, she just could never escape her past. She changed as she grew up and into her beauty. That is Colombia. Colombia is growing into a major tourist industry despite the reputation she has. She is winning, but then something happens. Just one thing and she has to fight again to regain respectability.
Bogota had an attack in January by a rebel group. A fringe element after the peace agreement was signed and President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This was the first such attack in nine years. Meanwhile, in the United States, there is a mass shooting of some sort almost every week. Some are so horrific that the rest of the world, including Colombia, cannot comprehend why these guns are easily available to these domestic terrorists. In Europe, we read of terrorist attacks frequently, sometimes I worry because I have friends who still are working in the airlines and the places attacked are popular layover spots. So because I haven’t needed to write about how wonderful Colombia is in quite a while, I thought I would share some facts about life here in Colombia. Why Colombia is an undiscovered Paradise and the most bio-diverse country in the world.
Colombia doesn’t meddle in other countries problems. Colombia is a democracy and modeled after the United States with similar governing styles. However, Colombia is pretty much self-sufficient and doesn’t need to go after other countries oil. They are really helpful to Venezuela right now with the humanitarian crisis that is happening. When Colombia was going through bad times, Venezuela was there to help the Colombian people and Colombia has never forgotten.
Colombia is a frugal nation of people. The people pay in cash more than with credit cards. I don’t live in a big city but in The Andes Mountains, the children are raised very much like I was raised in the 1960s and 1970s. They are raised to be self-sufficient, the boys by the time they are adults can fix and do almost any repair, the girls know how to cook, clean and do their own laundry, they can also do almost any repair too! When the children have a vacation from school they go with their parents to jobs and work alongside them. At the schools here in the country, the children keep the school clean. They all have assigned chores for once a week, and once a month is a day that all the children clean the school completely. The school system is really good. They have a bus that transports the children to school and back. School starts at 7 am and for the older children, it is over at 3 pm. They have many classes and homework just like the children do in the United States. They also have physical education, art, and music. Exactly like I had at Nova elementary and high school in South Florida in the 1970s. Art is encouraged with all classes.
Colombian people are brought up to be polite. They will always be attentive and respectful to everyone in person. However, they love to gossip and embellish on any story and usually by the time you hear the “chisme” it is so untrue and I can only compare it to the novelas they watch on television It is part of the culture and I have learned to just ignore and live my life. Everyone here thinks I am a wino who drinks wine every single day. I do. I don’t care if they like it or not. I enjoy my wine, and my health is good. Colombians will never act rude to your face. They will just talk about you later. I find that as I grow older, I enjoy my solitude from anyone who is a fake person. No matter if they live here in Colombia, or in the United States. Fake is fake, and I have no room in my life for this. If I find out a person is fake, I let them go without thought. No matter what you think of a person here in Colombia, you greet them politely. This is how it is living here. Personally, I find this the best way to live. I just let things go. I say hello, but in my mind, I am saying goodbye.
I live in the Valle del Cauca department of Colombia. I am in a very safe area. There is a department called Cauca (This department has some warnings). This is not the same as the Valle del Cauca. I am a birding paradise in the mountains. My Ecolodge is Western style with mountain views surrounding the entire villa. My area is called La Buitrera de Palmira and the areas encompassing us are filled with the biodiversity Colombia is known for. Neotropical birds are abundant, along with many different species of hummingbirds, small mammals like the black jaguar, monkeys, armadillos, and owls. I have yet to see an owl on my many eco-hikes but I see many photos of them from a friend who is a guide in the mountains. Colombia is colorful whether you are in the city or in the countryside. Flowers are bountiful, including orchids, roses, lilies, bougainvillea and many species of Heliconia and exotic plants. Fruit is everywhere in the country, and you can just pick it right off the tree, so are butterflies. Colombia has the most species of butterflies, birds, fruits, and is considered the most biodiverse country in the world. I live 20 minutes from Palmira the city and an hour from Cali, Colombia. There are many fun tourist activities in the Valle del Cauca, including my new favorite tour of birdwatching while on a small motorized boat through a nearby jungle reserve. We are also known for Parapente (para-gliding in English) which is a wonderful bucket list adventure. I am a legal hotel Campestre registered with the Chamber of Commerce but do my taxes in the USA because my guests are always from another country and they do not pay taxes for lodging in Colombia.
Cars are expensive in Colombia. I bought a 4 x 4 Toyota Hilux when I arrived and it is old. I just replaced the motor, because having a truck is important when living in the country. The roads are dirt in many outlying areas. If you are thinking of relocating to Colombia, you cannot bring a car with you unless it is brand new and shipped here. We keep our cars forever in Colombia. The cost of maintenance is very low, and to buy new is really pricey. I love my old truck and it takes my tourists on many adventures, many into the jungle surrounding me at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. I keep it safe and always up to date with repairs and maintenance. Colombia is about being humble and not showy at all. When you buy a good car, you keep it. I became a minimalist since relocating here. I also live like a millionaire. My views, my lifestyle are completely different than the life I left behind in the United States. I live simply, but elegantly. I was very lucky to find the home I did and for the price I paid. Real estate is expensive in my area now.
I have made a good investment, and I hope to continue to live like I do well into my old age. I can never describe the views I experience while watching the sunset in the evening, nor the climate I live in. I have perfect temperatures year round. We are on the cool side, but perfectly cool. I advise my guests to bring real pajamas for sleeping and jackets because we are cold in the morning and evenings. Palmira just 20 minutes away is hot. I do my errands early because I hate the heat now. I am spoiled with this wonderful lifestyle I live. I love to be at my villa more than I have loved anyplace I have ever lived. You just never know what bird will show up and even enter through our open windows and doors to the balconies. A completely different lifestyle than living in an enclosed space of regular homes such as I grew up in and lived my entire life in the USA. I enjoy the fresh air, no air-conditioning, and the food.
The food is always organic in my area. Even when buying produce from the grocery store the locals sell to the markets. The fruit and vegetables are sometimes still covered in dirt. For example, when I go to a local fruit market and buy potatoes, they are sold by the pound and just taken from the earth. The meat, chicken, and pork come from a store that is always fresh from the country, all free range. Fish comes from the Pacific coast and is caught by local people. I have special stores for all my purchases. I don’t just walk into a store and do all of my shopping. I have a store for the meats, and one for the seafood, a regular grocery store for staples. I haven’t been sick with a cold in a long time. We eat healthily, and we cook food that is tasty and with the Colombian flair. Breakfast is at around 8:30, then our main meal is at around 1:00 pm. We eat light at dinner, which is usually a soup, sandwich, or salad. We make desserts from bananas growing on my land, or oranges. We don’t have junk food here. There are fast food places in the cities but I never see many people inside if I am around one of these locations. Colombians eat well and food is a serious business. We always have food in the house that is fresh, no boxed juices that are so common in other countries. We make our juices, lemonade, and we use very little sugar.
Colombia has the most holidays in the world also. There are many three day weekends throughout the year. Colombians do not work on Sundays ever unless they are employed by a supermarket or restaurant, or health professional in a hospital. Sundays are for your family and friends. This week is called Santa Semana. The Easter week. It is as special as the Christmas holidays. Forget doctor appointments or anything important during a week of celebrating in Colombia. However, you will find many fiestas and fun. The Colombian people love to party. They also enjoy any time they can spend with family. Nothing is ever stressful here in the countryside. I just look out at my view and I remember I live in complete peace, in a mansion surrounded by nature. I never had this in the United States. Never. I have it here and I appreciate my life more every day.
I could continue and I will in another blog. Life is delicious here in Colombia. I have a manicurist come to do my nails every week. She does designs which are another special part of Colombian life. You must have a Colombian manicure and pedicure if you visit this wonderful country. You will see for yourself the myths perpetrated for years when you visit. Just remember to be humble, to leave jewelry home and buy some of the beautiful artistic jewelry sold here by the Indigenous people and locals, and to relax. Colombians love to wear jeans and nice shirts, and pretty shoes. We are simple and we are fun. Come visit Colombia. Look for more soon in my next blog. Michele
Kira came to live at Villa Migelita Ecolodge in December at 2 months old. She was so little and very calm. We decided against crate training because I have so much land and she has senior dogs to teach her. I also don’t like the look of a crate in my Villa. I have a minimalist view of decorating. Anything that disturbs my image of a house with simplicity will not work for me. The first month was hard, she cried and wanted to go outside to use the bathroom at least three times a night. She is a fast learner. Because no crate is being used, Kira goes along with us a lot. Tomorrow she is going to the hairdresser. In the country of Colombia they are very relaxed about dogs.
She went on her first journey in December to see the park in La Buitrera, and she wasn’t really leashed trained yet. She caught on quite well. She was also carried around a lot.
We then took her to get her vaccinations and she did really well with that too. Then we went to the city of Palmira to see the Christmas lights, she was still so tiny and did very well on the leash while touring the city. She is being held in the photo-op frame and her little legs barely reach the thighs of the twins.
She did so well in Palmira we decided to take her with us on a long journey back to her birth place of Cali, Colombia to see Christmas lights there also. She was really becoming adaptable to being out in crowds, also to a lot of attention. She was not frightened of the crowds at all, nor the people who came to admire her beauty.
As you can see in these photos she is still pretty small, but her weight was changing and to carry her was not easy. Then she started losing her puppy teeth and growing longer. Orion was her best friend and mentor throughout her first month at Villa Migelita Ecolodge.
Her teeth have grown in already in front and she has lost bottom teeth now and they are growing in. She has a toothbrush and it is very difficult to get her still, but she does allow it once we have her on her back between our legs with her front paws held. She is a handful, and it is now necessary to always have a collar on her. As you can see she is representing Colombia in the cover photo. She runs away so fast if you try to grab her. She also sticks her nose in the other dogs bowls and that is never a good thing. I have to stand right next to her when they eat. She is learning, and I am finding her to be the most delightful addition to Villa Migelita Ecolodge.
So let’s look at how she has grown from the above photos.
She is adaptable to all we do. We go for hikes and we do let her off the leash if there is no traffic around. I don’t have much traffic where I live, but there is a lot of motorcycles and other dogs. It is best for her to be kept close, she also doesn’t listen well yet. She ignores a lot that is going on around her.
When we get back to the main road she has her leash back on. However, she becomes very tired quickly as she is still only 3 months old. She always wants to be carried. This cannot happen much longer because she is growing by the day and will be a large dog. I love how the twins have adapted. They spoil her so much. Seriously, Kira has no idea she is a dog!
It has taken a few days to complete this blog because Kira goes on adventures every day! Yesterday she went to the hairdresser. This was an interesting adventure because she was so quiet and laid back. She is very well-behaved but she is very active at Villa Migelita Ecolodge because she can go outside anytime she wants and has a lot of land to play and frolic. Jazmin and I could not believe how quiet she was in this noisy salon. There is traffic outside, there are all kinds of noise inside the salon, with blow-dryers and people coming in and out. Kira slept the entire time, in different places. She was the center of attention when she would open her eyes. We think it was the temperature change. It is hot in the cities.
She went back to the couch
With me on the couch
Kira woke up for a minute
She wanted to lay on the floor
Today we went on a short ride to bring up some organic fertilizer for the garden of Villa Migelita Ecolodge. As always it is an adventure and we brought a kitten home with us that my gardener decided to adopt. Kira was very gentle with this new kitten and the kitten will get her vaccines and be sterilized because I will do this for my gardener. In Colombia, people are very uninformed and they allow animals to roam the countryside. Then there are babies without homes. I will make sure this kitten who will be named Layla has proper veterinarian attention.
I could keep delaying publishing this blog of fun Kira stories and adventures because we bring her with us a lot. Today she goes for her second set of vaccinations. Kira is growing up to love people, the social life and adventures of course! She will become a great addition to my Villa, as all of my animals are. They blend in nicely without being annoying. When an animal is shown love, they are secure and adapt quickly to the household they enter. Animals want to please us, and when they feel protected they thrive. Look for another blog as Kira grows up with her adventures continuing every single day.
Some musings from the year 2018 and how I have found patience to be my most valued possession. The year 2018 started off so wonderfully as I was leaving 2017 with success in my business and starting with customers in January. I had new-found independence. I was pleased with the way my Spanish was improving after two men who worked with me had left and I was able to start working with Jazmin. I actually felt comfortable in my home for the first time in years. Working with Jazmin in my business and having her as my assistant, along with her family as a support system totally changed my life.
Then, out of the blue, I was sued by the man I had been working with here in Colombia. He had already been given a liquidation amount for his time working at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. In Colombia, apparently it is OK to sign off on a liquidation agreement as a paid employee, but then sue me again for 1/2 of my Villa. I had paid him a lot of money already and now I had to hire a lawyer to fight this ridiculous lawsuit. In the meantime, I had hired another man to work with me. He left without notice and broke his contract. The first man who was suing me had not done any work with my customers or on the farm for over two years and was just living here, even though I had asked him to move out. I fired him with the help of the second man and a lieutentant of police here in Colombia. I will always appreciate them, and I didn’t mind the second man breaking his contract as this forced me to change myself and my attitude of needing help with driving, translating, and dependence on others. The first man lost the lawsuit and was forced to pay court fees, and he also had to pay me for some of his things left at my house for over a year and a half. So out of this situation I found self-sufficiency.
I began chatting with my son again this year. I have found it very frustrating that through many attempts to make peace with my son, my ex-husband has found a way to hide truth from me and sabotage our relationship. My son who is an adult now also has to accept responsibility for keeping things from me, and he is old enough to know that I have always been a good mother, and someone who has his back. We were supposed to go on a cruise together in March, I even trusted his word enough to buy tickets for this cruise which he cancelled on me out of the blue. This cruise was the beginning of another bad episode. I brought my very best friend of many years with me on the cruise and met lovely people and enjoyed all three days. Before the cruise I spent a week with my grandchild. She was different also. Before when I would visit she was a delight and filled with joy and happiness. This time she was very withdrawn, quiet and even had an episode of extreme sadness and anger, asking why she couldn’t go with me on the cruise, who did she belong to and more. I had no answers as her other family told me they didn’t have her birth certificate, which I offered to get for Amaya. It is quite simple. I was then told they didn’t know her social security number, nor did they have papers for who had custody of her. In other words, they lied to me. They also didn’t tell me they gave Amaya away to a family Misha knew from her school years. Yes, I found this out later. I didn’t realize it is legal to just give a child away. It is in Florida. It is not legal to collect my daughter’s social security death benefits and not use them for Amaya, which they are explicitly meant to go to. I found this out also.
I met someone on the cruise the very last night and he seemed quite nice. He knew my friend from high school so I gave him more trust than I usually would with a new man. I realize now this friend new he was a con man, a loser and someone who doesn’t even have his own home. He was living at my friend’s house which he said was temporary because they needed help with a hotel they own on Hollywood beach. I visited with my friend and had no reason to believe anything was untrue as my friend didn’t tell me that he was in dire straights and they were helping him out. He came to visit me here in Colombia and brought gifts, paid for everything we did, and was quite charming. I had no reason to believe he was after me because of my hotel or what he assumed I had. I made plans to visit Amaya in June and see him again. My plans to see Amaya were thwarted. I was not allowed access to my granddaughter and this man put me in the hotel on Hollywood beach in a tiny little room and said he would upgrade to another room as soon as it was ready. I was miserable. I live in a mansion here in Colombia. This room was about the same size as my office here. The internet was spotty and I was sad to be in the same State as my granddaughter and not be able to see her. I also didn’t have a car because this con man was supposed to let me use his. I was very unhappy and cried for a day off and on. He dumped me, thank God! However, I stayed in Florida and rented a car and lived at different places waiting to hear from my lawyer about an emergency hearing in front of a judge, which did not take place. So I spent money I didn’t have, and it was a total disaster. Including seeing my son, which was not a great encounter either. As I am trying to find positivity in everything that happened this year, I will say that living in Colombia is the best thing I have ever done for myself. I am at peace here and I have many great friends and my business is fun also. I meet new people and enjoy new friendships.
Meanwhile, through all of this drama I found out I had a rare condition called CAM in both hips and would need surgery. I had to live in Cali, Colombia for one month after the surgery and I lost a lot of business because I was unavailable during the best months of August and September. I also had to do therapy full-time and could not participate in the many activities we offer at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. I have great insurance here, and I didn’t have a lot of medical expenses, but I did have to pay for two households. I had Jazmin with me in Cali and I had her sister staying at my place in the mountains. To say I was thinking about that disastrous trip to Florida and the unnecessary money I spent is an understatement. The positive part about my surgery is this: I am completely healed, I had the wonderful support of my friends and of Jazmin and her family, and I can now participate in all activities offered at my hotel. I find that my clients like for me to accompany them, which I really enjoy also.
I had to also have a lot of work done on my Villa this year, more hits financially. When I returned to my Villa I was so happy to be back but was still dealing with the work being done and doing my physical therapy. However, I found myself enjoying my life so much because that short time I lived in Cali, Colombia made me appreciate how peaceful my Villa is, along with being a perfect temperature year round. I found myself relishing my time writing, watching my hummingbirds, Neotropical birds and enjoying the cool breezes that pervade throughout the house. I end the year feeling exhausted from having no contact with my granddaughter, the people who have her don’t let her call me, nor does Amaya have a phone number I can reach her at. I have been speaking regularly with my son, and I was feeling positive about that, but that ended recently when my ex-husband became involved. My son was supposed to come here and live for a while. I was really happy about that. Then I had a phone call with my ex and he gave me a list of demands that CJ needed, and frankly I found this quite absurd because my son is a grown adult and in our conversations we had discussed some things he would like and I would be able to accommodate him with them. I had also discussed how we live here in Colombia. We live quietly and peacefully. We live normal hours of going to bed at night at decent times, and getting up in the morning at normal hours. We are a place of order. Even the dogs know their schedules. I explained this to CJ and he was fine with that. I wanted him to start college online and would give him some outdoor chores that my gardener would oversee. I tried to explain to my ex-husband how to get a Visa for CJ so I could put him on my health insurance. I also asked if I could send Amaya a Christmas gift to his house as I am unable to communicate with her anymore. This is when it got ugly. My ex used Amaya as a way to blackmail me and to make me listen to his demands. I am no longer married to him, nor do I approve of the way he has raised CJ. He did the same thing with CJ when we divorced, it is called parental alienation. He is doing this with Amaya now. He knows she was given away, he is the executor of her estate, so he knows that Amaya is not getting the death benefits of our daughter Misha. He should be concerned about this, and he should take action that the money is used for Amaya only. So he ended hanging up on me, my son will no longer talk with me again, and I don’t know if my granddaughter received her Christmas gift which I know arrived at their home.
So I have decided Amaya will someday contact me when she has control over her life. She must be so sad that she is not chatting with me. I can’t imagine what is going on in her mind if adults are saying bad things about me. It is so damaging psychologically. I know this because it was done to my son. Many think I abandoned my son because that is what my ex husband said to everyone, it is not true. Now my granddaughter who has loved and adored me is being kept from me. Living in Colombia has made me realize that even when I am super sad, I can find joy in the little things around me. I am starting the New Year off with a houseful of guests here at Villa Migelita Ecolodge . I am busy, my hips are healed and I have Jazmin and her family as my family. Sometimes, we just have to accept the bad things people do to us and get on with our lives. That is what I have done since my daughter died. I am filled with joy every single day because we have a sweet new puppy Kira. She has been a light in the darkness that has followed me this year.
Kira has learned quickly because my other dogs are seniors. She follows their examples, and therefore is quite calm. She sits when they sit, she sleeps with Orion when he sleeps. She eats when they eat, and is quite orderly with learning potty training. She has really surpassed all my expectations of bringing a baby into the house with older dogs. The one who accepted her unconditionally was Orion. The others have followed suit because Orion is teaching her to be calm. She has been disciplined by the other two dogs a few times and has learned to not wake them up, bite them and to sit quietly by them if she wants them to be her friends. She is an exceptionally intelligent dog, her breed is Dogo Argentino. She goes places with all of us here at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. She is leash trained and loves attention from everyone.
Orion plays with her, and is so gentle. He has taken her as his own. I am so overjoyed by this, because he is 9 years old and I wanted him to train her to be just like him. She even follows him out when he barks at noises. She is learning from a pro! He is the most patient and loving father Kira could have.
So I end this year with jubilance in my heart. I have let go of the difficult year of 2018 and have a good plan for my future in 2019. I am going to let go and let be. I have learned since the death of my daughter and even the years before her death, we can only control ourselves. What others do is their decision. We all have free will. I choose to be kind, peaceful, and forever hopeful to have my relationship returned to normal with my beloved granddaughter and my son. Amaya cannot control her situation, but someday she will be able to. She will have all of our many memories made together during my times with her. She will never forget them, even if others tell her differently. I believe my son has all those memories in his heart too. I know he knows the truth about what happened during my divorce and Misha’s death. I will be covering all of that in my upcoming book. I will leave nothing out. I am going to write it down for both my son and my granddaughter. If they have been told one thing by me it is to never lie, to be strong and to show people who you are by the way you live your life. I live my life now that I am free of a bad marriage in a way that exemplifies who I am. I am transparent and without any kind of subterfuge. I want to share this with everyone. I want my lifestyle to show who I am. The unacceptable actions of others are theirs to bear.
I wish everyone who follows my blog a very Happy New Year 2019. I wish for all who have had a bad year to begin anew, just like I am going to do. Leave the past behind and head into the future with love and peace in your hearts.