Years ago, when I was a young flight attendant for Delta Air Lines travel by plane was quite different than what became the future of the airline industry. We had to work in cigarette smoke! I remember the first 11 years of my flying career as a time when I hoped I would get lucky enough to work in the front sections of the tourist class, or in first class where the smoke wasn’t drowning my lungs and nasal passages in toxic fumes. I had always wanted to be a flight attendant, but the smoking part I did not like. Our uniforms smelled like smoke, we always felt dirty because we were serving hundreds of passengers who blew smoke right into our faces as flight attendants. Eventually, the regulations brought forth through a lot of hard work gave us smoke-free cabins. No longer did we have smoking and non-smoking sections. Second-hand smoke was real and did cause damage to anyone who inhaled it. This was proven through science and many studies. The tobacco industry was powerful but we eventually won the right to work in a clean and safe environment. Those constant lung infections I had miraculously disappeared along with the stench of cigarette smoke that would follow me to my hotel room when I would hang up my uniform.
Back in the late ’70s and early 80’s we didn’t have to go through security as we do to this day. Airport security was lax as flight crews we would show our company ID and pass by. Then many hijackings and other incidents happened, as an example, the historic day of 9/11 then everyone had to go through security. We all had to start taking our shoes off after the thwarted attempt of a would-be hijacker, and now we go through body scan machines. All of these regulations are to protect us from the people who want to harm us and cause death and destruction.
Those of us who are older remember not wearing seatbelts while driving or having car seats for infants, people could drive drunk, smoke anywhere they wanted and the list goes on. Rules were put into place for safety. We now bring our own shopping bags to the grocery store to help preserve our planet. Many have solar energy in their homes and use much less electricity, there are electric cars now. The New World Order is a progression brought forth by technology and science. Imagine a world without antibiotics, or without the wonderful doctors who have found cures for diseases that once were incurable, or those doctors that devote their lives for the vaccines that have eliminated many diseases that once were part of the human race. As an older woman, I have seen a lot in my lifetime, but I have never seen a Pandemic, nor did I think I would.
I like to think of myself as intelligent. I enjoy reading I am a great believer in science and technology. I remember when we did not have cell phones! I would get my messages on an answering machine, I would listen to music on tapes, and I even remember the 8-track tapes. When email first came out on our home computer’s life changed. We stopped using the postal mail to send out invitations in the last decade. MySpace came along, then Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, blogging, you name it we can find it now. All of this is progress. Social media connections have taken dark turns in the past years. I was thinking of leaving Facebook I reconsidered because I have too many friendships that I cherish. However, I have unfollowed many who spread conspiracy theories and lies. I try to make my social media postings friendly, informative, and to bring the beauty of nature to those that might not know about living in another country immersed in natural surroundings. My daily life is one surprise after another which you can see in this video I took yesterday of a resting hummingbird.
Surprise can be a good thing, it can be a bad thing. I think all of us were surprised by the Coronavirus Pandemic. The cover photo of me as a twenty year old looking surprised is a memory of a lovely time in my life. Young people have so much to navigate. My time was a simpler time. There was no social media, nor competition with online social media. Raise your hand if you think what is happening is like a movie on Netflix that you never thought could happen? I am still processing what has happened to my business. I can’t imagine how you feel like a young family, a twenty-something who wants to explore and travel, a young person looking for love, a person employed in the airline industry, or if you have lost your business in the blink of an eye. What about having to homeschool your children now? I couldn’t do it when I was raising mine. Progress continues even in schooling. Everything changes, even in teaching methods from generation to generation. My business is on “hold” as all is up in the air for every person in the world. We are all so confused as the days of the week become intertwined while we become more despondent. Colombia’s Coronavirus cases continue to go up. We have borders with Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador. The Amazon department Leticia near Brazil is overwhelmed.
So we need to be patient. I have found patience while living in Colombia. I don’t see that happening in the United States. I see terrible behavior by others. Please go back and read my above paragraphs about the progression of history in the world throughout different decades in this condensed blog form. Stop being selfish. Put on a mask and social distance. Young people, I get how you have no life at all right now. You are becoming infected also. As a real party animal from the 80’s I understand your frustration. My lungs have scars from working in the smoke during my first eleven years as a flight attendant. I am at risk if I contract the Coronavirus. You are too. I see the statistics that are showing younger people contracting this disease. Put on the damn masks and social distance. I would have done whatever it took to save other’s lives and my health. Stop spreading lies on social media. Some people believe them. Be a warrior for your children and future generations. Stop political rhetoric that has nothing to do with this virus. You cannot outrun a virus. It will kill you or someone in your family.
I am looking for a roommate during these uncertain times. If you are interested please contact me at my email. The cost is so reasonable and you can obtain great health insurance also.
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.
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.
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
This is a short excerpt of the book that I am writing about my life and adventures. My book will include using my skills as a flight attendant to open an Ecolodge in the Andes Mountains of Colombia. I have never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I worked for Delta since I was 20 years old until I retired in August of 2008. I was given the best training to open and own a business in the tourist industry. I will expand on the stories and memories I have shared with many more tales in my upcoming book which I am actively working on. I am still working on a title of my book. However, I often think of calling it “Two Empty Seats” because I have been to hell and back since my daughter was murdered in 2010.
At no time would I think I would find pieces of my past in Colombia. They are in a Museo Aereo Fenix . I visited this museum and saw silverware, cards, uniforms and more from Delta Air Lines. This museum left such a lasting impression on me, along with my 30 plus years as a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines, I decided on a name for my book after visiting and spending hours checking out the museum. I realized I have had a very interesting life, which will include my time as a flight attendant for the best airline in the world, Delta. I grew up with Delta. I am sharing a blog that I wrote as a guest writer for another blogger below. I hope you will enjoy. It will only be one chapter in a book that will include more than just my time as a flight attendant.
Flight Attendant Living
As a retired flight attendant I look back on memories of my life as a hostess in the sky with fondness. I was hired at the age of 19, by Delta Air Lines, then I started training when I was 20 years old. The year was 1978, and air travel was still elegant and the job was considered glamorous. I had always wanted to be a flight attendant since I read the book, “Coffee, Tea, or Me,”when I was quite young. I took a trip to Europe with my elementary school and I was quite fascinated with the stewardesses who were all so pretty and elegant. I remember the plane ride like it was yesterday. I really wanted to travel the world like they did.
In 1978, the interviews were held at the corporate offices of Delta in Atlanta, Georgia. I was sent a ticket to Atlanta and really had no idea what the dress code was nor what was expected of me. I was very fortunate to get an interview and it is still very difficult to get hired by Delta Air Lines. I arrived at the interview with a dress I found to be quite pretty. It was brown, with a Chinese style jacket, and a delicate embroidery. I had on 5 inch heels that matched my dress. I walked into the waiting area and 40 other people (mostly women in those days) turned and looked at me with surprise. They all had on the same clothing style: a plain navy suit, including the men. I was a little intimidated by that. I have always been my own person, so I felt I could do well by standing out as a unique individual. I met with the first interviewer and she immediately brought up my outfit! I explained I was a disco dancer and this is how we dressed when dancing. That was the only style I knew. I was hired and my nickname in training was “Disco.”
After graduation from training, a group of us were put in the Atlanta base, although we did have a base in Miami. We all rented in the same place that was close to the airport and we waited to be called for work since we were on reserve.
We carried a “beeper” when we were not near a phone. We had to always have a bag packed for trips and be ready at all times for our job. It definitely took getting use to. I remember my first flights as hectic, but I have always been a quick learner. I worked very hard to do my best.
I became proficient quickly, and even was made flight leader rapidly. I received a base transfer to Miami and was again living with a group of flight attendants who rented at the same apartment complex in Kendall, Florida. One of those flight attendants was in the famous crash of the Air Florida Flight 90 that hit a bridge during a snow storm leaving Washington National Airport. Her name is Kelly Duncan and we were friends, her father was a captain at Delta. Kelly survived, and I will always remember watching her on television being lifted out of that icy water still in her flight service smock. We were all so young and didn’t look at our job as scary. This changed all of us at our apartment complex. We realized we were not just in this job for fun and travel, we were there for safety more than anything else.
I was the youngest in my class and at my base in Miami; however, I acquired seniority quickly. Many hired after me would stay on reserve for years, but I held a “line”as it was called back then in my 6th month of flying. I held really awful routes, but I knew my schedule. I always ended up with New York City layovers, and I was the A line quite often, which id what the flight leader was called in 1978. One time I was on the DC ‘stretch 8’ as the A line flying home to Miami from La Guardia airport and the engines caught fire as we started taking off. The was aborted immediately. I was only 21 years old. I did as I had been taught for emergencies and spoke with the Captain immediately. He said have everyone remain seated. I walked back through the cabin and looked out the windows and saw we were surrounded by fire trucks. Then we were towed back to the airport. The passengers were taking photos, and they didn’t panic. However, they did complain a lot about the delay. We changed airplanes and made it back to Miami that night. I think when this happened, I really grew up and into my job. To this day, I don’t panic when there is a situation that requires attention or there is an emergency.
Many people think of flight attendants as waitresses in the skies, but nothing could be further from the truth. As I continued on with my life as a flight attendant, I remained based in Miami and Delta had opened a base in Ft. Lauderdale. I moved to Ft. Lauderdale because this where I grew up and I had many friends. We often buddy bid together, and swapped trips to fly with each other, or to change our schedules. Then the unthinkable happened. Flight 191 from Ft. Lauderdale to Dallas, crashed with all of my friends working that flight. This crash resulted in the longest aviation trial in history and many movies, documentaries, news articles were written about this horrific crash. To this day, I am friends with many of the same people and we always recognize this anniversary on social media. The friends we lost impacted all of us greatly. We were all changed forever by the loss of our friends. Three of our co-workers survived. I am friends with one of them. A lovely courageous soul who wasn’t injured, but had to watch fireballs flying by and see others dying. She was one of the last to leave the tail section that had broken away from the other part of the Lockheed L-1011 aircraft. She had to get help to get another survivor from he plane. We all had done this trip before. They should have ended up in Los Angeles International Airport, a favorite layover spot for all of us at the time. I was in Dallas on a layover when this crash happened. I remember taking off and flying over the debris of the crash. It was there for a long time. When I arrived home I had a voice message on my voice recorder from Diane Johnson, a flight attendant killed in the crash. It haunts me to this day.
Many wonder what life is like for a flight attendant. What we do on layovers, how hard is the job, do we mind going away from our families, what is it like for boarding and deplaning, our work rules and more. As I continued with my career, times changed and so did my job. I was able to hold nice layovers, and as usual, I flew with my fiends. The job is not easy. We have to board and set up the plane before the passengers enter and wait until the last passenger leaves before we either go on to another flight or a layover. I flew domestic for most of my career and LAX layovers were always the best to have. We would always have celebrities on our flights back in those days. I had so many bands, singers, politicians, sports-players announcers, actors, a prince and even a President. Richard Nixon flew on my plane, and I have an autographed personal card from him. Prince Albert of Monaco was another guest in first class. He did like to flirt and he did with me when I served him. Most celebrities are really nice, but I had Coretta Scott King on my flight and she would not even speak with me or order her own food or beverages, but her bodyguard gave me an autographed pamphlet. Huey Lewis is one of my favorites and he spent most of his flight in the galley chatting with us flight attendants. I had Bill Gates and he was super humble and nice also. You just never knew who would be showing up on any flight, but as progress took over , we would get manifests that would show who the first class passengers were and we would know beforehand sometimes. Joan Rivers was a hoot, and she was so tiny. I remember her eyes watered the entire flight like she had just had surgery on them. Sometimes a famous person would give us tickets to shows or invite us out.
What do we do on layovers? If it is short, we sleep. If it is long, we go out and have fun. I flew International during my final years and we had to set an alarm when we would arrive because we flew all night. Two hours was the limit we would sleep and then we would meet and do fun things, I have seen a lot of the world. Rome is a favorite, any layover in South America is always fun. I have ended up living in Colombia as an expat because I enjoyed my time spent in Guatemala, Buenos Aires, Chile, and Peru. Because of my training customer service, I have opened an Ecolodge in Colombia for those who enjoy nature and adventure. Paris is a lovely city that I never tire of, so is Dublin, Ireland. Ireland just opened an embassy in Colombia! Who could get tired of traveling to other countries? I enjoyed many fun layovers in Germany also. My favorite domestic layovers were California, Arizona, NYC, Boston, Seattle,and Savannah, GA. However, there were always fun things to do everywhere, if we had enough time. I loved my San Diego layovers, many times I would go with fellow flight attendants to visit Tijuana, Mexico. One time we rented horses and rode on the beach in California. The only problem was our horses were untrained and went crazy on us. They took off riding in the direction of Mexico. Picture this, people sunbathing and seeing 4 horses out of control running on the beach, all the people were running away, or entering the water! I was holding on with my hands, thinking I am going to fall off! I had ridden horses since I was really young, this was something I have never experienced since. I will never forget the loudspeaker “GO BACK YOU ARE ENTERING MEXICO!” and all of the people running into the ocean just like a real movie scene. I still can’t believe we weren’t arrested. I finally got control of my horse and we all turned back and entered United States soil again. But the horses were sweating and horribly upset. One horse escaped. So we had three horses and 4 of us. We tried to get two of us on the same horse but that didn’t work. Slowly we started back, and all of a sudden an all terrain vehicle came up and took our friend with them. We returned all the horses, the one that escaped was already back and we drove our rental car to the hotel. Just one adventure of many in my 30 years of flying. A memorable one for sure.
As I grew older, I found my patience was thin for the demanding passengers that seemed to feel that with their tickets they bought the airplane and the crew. Cellphones and computers were always on even when people were told to turn them off. People wouldn’t follow instructions when there was turbulence, and the days became longer. Delta could keep us on duty for over 16 hours if they called irregular operations. This is a part of the job passengers have no idea. There were many times all I had to eat were the snacks offered to the passengers. I did take a bag of food with me all the time, and it isn’t easy to pack an entire food bag for a 3 day trip. When the terror attack of 9/11 happened, everything changed. The fun camaraderie enjoyed by flight crews of all bases ended. We became like soldiers in the sky. We were often told in our yearly training classes for updated security and safety, to look for the danger that now is a part of our job experience. It was still fun to get together with others on layovers, but the job was one of intense briefings before flights, and many flight attendants took it too far. I can say I have lost friends over their actions on the plane towards their co-workers. People who fly often don’t realize we are not paid during boarding. We are paid when the door closes, and the pay stops when the boarding door opens. The boarding process is the most stressful part of our job. They became mini dictators, and I didn’t like it. As flight attendants, we are the boss of ourselves in the air. The flight leader gave the briefings, but many became different. Mini drill sergeants with ridiculous expectations. The fun for me left. I was offered a buyout at the age of 50. I had always been young for my seniority and I retired with 30 years and 4 months. I can never describe what my job as a flight attendant gave me, except to say, I am doing well operating a hotel in another country. I have even learned to speak Spanish. I thin a person who takes on the job as a flight attendant has a special part of their soul seeking adventure. I am certain that describes my outlook on life completely. Adventure is the world for all flight attendants.
Look for more little tidbits of my book written for my blog. Sign up and follow me if you have not already.
I have been telling everyone for the last year I need to find a new Dogo Argentino puppy. Orion is getting old, and unfortunately for all of us dog lovers we know life expectancy for large dogs is not a long time. Orion is our big boy here at Villa Migelita Ecolodge.
I never thought it would be possible to find another dog of my dreams here in Colombia. I wanted another Orion. I thought this would be impossible, how can one find perfection again? I was given him by a neighbor before I moved to Villa Migelita Ecolodge because he grew huge and ate so much. He was in a tiny house and needed space! Orion came with health problems, he has broken two bones since I have had him, is allergic to any collar he has ever worn. My veterinarian put this blue rope on him which they use for cattle, but he still gets small outbreaks of irritation. I give Orion Kumis a pure yogurt without sugar every morning for help with his skin. He never waivers in his loyalty, nor his job of protection and love. My guests who visit adore him. He is a dog who is gentle but has a tail that can cause bruises from wagging. He is that strong, and I always have bananas around for everyone to give to him, they are his favorite treat. He is the main man in my life. Orion is intelligent, he listens, he is kind, and he is gentle with my new baby Kira (Key Ra) whom we just adopted. He has the intelligence that some humans do not have. He is why I was determined to have a Dogo Argentino puppy when I was ready to adopt again. He is probably not pure (his color) but in every other way he is a Dogo Argentino. Maybe this is why he had so many homes, he wasn’t perfect, possibly the runt of the litter. I have always wondered about him as a puppy. I am finding out with Kira. She is strong of personality and determination.
Orion would be perfect a Dogo Argentino if he was white as snow. He was given to me after 4 different people gave him away. He was so scared that first day he came to me, right before I moved to my farm. He was so happy to be fed a good meal, he accepted all my animals, and he became my most loyal companion and protector. For me to make a decision to look for a puppy was difficult. I didn’t want him nor Marley to feel sad, insecure, or upset. Well, guess who accepted Kira (Noel) unconditionally? Orion. Marley can no longer hear and when Kira surprises him he acts out a little bit, Nayela is jealous, while Orion is being patient and kind. He even allows her to sleep with him in his bed. She follows him and copies him, which I want. He is her teacher for the future and as of now he is doing a perfect job.
I first started talking to my friends here in Colombia about getting a puppy early this year. I wanted a little girl because Orion would accept her much easier than another male. I also wanted to find a rescue. I thought this would be impossible, but decided to start looking after the beginning of the New Year. Little did I know my sweet Jazmin, who is always doing kind acts and is a daughter to me, was secretly looking for months on rescue groups in Cali, Colombia for a baby Dogo Argentino for Christmas. She found Kira. Exactly what I wanted! She contacted the person who had Kira listed and was told come quickly, we have many who want her. But this lovely woman became friends with Jazmin when she told her about how beautiful Villa Migelita Ecolodge is and what a beautiful place for Kira to live. We arrived in Cali after two days and were handed this sweet little baby who is forever part of our lives now. She is not easy, but learns quickly. We refuse to crate her, our dogs are integrated and she is learning the schedule and adapting quite well. Nothing is perfect with a new baby, and Kira is a baby! She is a smart and cunning baby though, and we can’t take our eyes off of her, even though she already knows during the day to walk down the stairs to go out to the bathroom.
Now for the part I have been holding back about. It involves Misha my deceased daughter. I know I bring her into a lot of my blogs, but she is really part of my life still. This will give you the chills about the name for Kira. Kira pronounced Key Ra is Kara in English. I didn’t pick her name the twins who are Jazmin’s girls did. Cara (spelled with a C) has the same pronunciation as Kara was my deceased daughter’s middle name. They told me the name they wanted and I was floored. I had no words except to say, I love it.
Kira is special, and like Orion I believe she was given to me with a lot of love from above. Whatever you believe in spiritually, you cannot deny when you see a real life miracle happen. Kira is that. She is difficult, she is headstrong, she is beautiful and she is my Misha in a way. I will never look at her without thinking of my daughter Mikel Cara Carson. Because no matter the difficulties of culture, language and more I experience here in Colombia, love always finds a way into my life.
After many years of avoiding Christmas and all the festivities, I am embracing and holding them close. I have the perfect gift. Her name is Kira and she was sent from above.
I was really apprehensive before my two month check up after my arthroscopy surgery on both of my hips. I am going to tell everyone something I have not admitted to myself. I hated the therapy in Cali. It seemed too easy to me. I felt very upset to be stuck in Cali away from my Villa and my pets. I would get up and go as instructed, but I hated that I was staying in Cali, while I could be in Paradise in my own home! I had a lesson in humility yesterday by my famous surgeon Doctor Bernardo Aguilera of Cali, Colombia. He said patients like me make him afraid. He said to me “Michele, you are in amazing shape, but you have to listen to me. I need you to take it easy and do what is instructed by therapy. You cannot do any hiking for at least another month, you need to start a new therapy in Aquaclara near you! I will send the therapy to them as instructed and you can memorize it. I understand you are an athlete, an inspiration to others, but you can ruin what I did after 4 hours of surgery.” I was not happy because I feel great, I have no pain. I wanted to hear my acclaimed surgeon tell me I am a miracle (which he did say..sort of) but he shut me down! He said “You need to just stop this, I have patients once in a while like you. You scare me.”He put me in my place rapidly. I was like look at me, and he was like NO you are doing things way to soon. Dios Mio! So I was totally shut down.
I will start a new therapy next week. I am being humble. I have so many who follow me and think Michele is amazing and strong. I am, and I am also obstenate, stubborn and think that I know what is right. Hah, I have met my match. This doctor is very good at what he does. In fact, he told me during my first visit. He gave me his percentage of success for results. I believe it is 96% success for surgery, but I am the person that gives this wonderful doctor the 4% of bad results. I think I know better. I do not. He was brought into my consultation yesterday because his young doctors learning from him are following me closely. I am NOT young, I am very athletic, and I am stubborn and I hate that someone tells me to do therapy that is too easy. I even asked my surgeon “how are the others at this two month mark?”He said not like you at all. AHHAH I felt vindicated, but alas, I was again put in my place. I am doing much better, but again in his words Ï am scared by patients like you”
So yesterday was a lesson in humility. He made the intern doctors do an exam of moving my legs and I was great, but he made them stop. He said “No more”and talked to me again. He speaks English, like I speak Spanish. We communicate fine. He was very explicit in his instructions of my next month before I see him again. I will do what he says, and I will be very careful. So that is where I am. I am starting a new physical therapy and I will do exactly as instructed. I know I am not the normal patient now, which I knew before. However, I think my world renowned surgeon prefers the people who listen and do exactly as he says. Stay tuned for a follow-up. I am admitting I was wrong, and perhaps I am overreaching. Michele
I’m 15 days post hip surgery and 3 days into my physical therapy. The cover photo is after my third therapy and as you can see I can stand and also walk without crutches but only for short periods of time. I’m so impressed with my care and the organization at the center for physical therapy at Imbanaco Medical Center in Cali, Colombia. I had my first check up Tuesday by one of the interns who works with my surgeon. He was very pleased with my progress, took out my stitches, and said I could stop taking my medication except Tylenol. He even did a Yoga pose and told me that I would be back to it soon. He made me laugh with his antics. He wrote out my order for physical therapy and said they would send them through email every month, and that I would be able to go back to my Villa soon.
Jazmin and I went over to the physical therapy office to make an appointment. In Colombia all medical centers have every need right in the same area. It is the same in Palmira the main city closest to Villa Migelita Ecolodge. We just had to walk a 1/2 block. We entered and I was registered and scheduled for an appointment that same afternoon. My doctors know I’m renting in Cali and want to get back to my animals and home. To say they are accommodating is an understatement!
When I arrived that afternoon I had been told by my doctor the first week would be very gentle therapy. I was asked questions about my pain level, they used a ruler type device to measure my range of motion in different positions and had me on ice and then heat. Then I did a few similar exercises to what I had been doing during my rest period after my surgery. I had an appointment Wednesday morning at 9:30 am and everything changed. This was funny to me because there was nothing about my second therapy that was easy. I had balls to hold between my legs while lifting one at a time for many repetitions, they even had me sit with 5 lb weights on my ankles and straighten my leg out and down , then the other leg! Believe it or not I had no pain!
Today was my third therapy and it was different again. I used the ball between my knees while I lifted my hips up and straightened my leg out and held for 10 seconds. I also had a band that I had to use while on my stomach and lift up one leg at a time for a series of repetitions, then sitting doing the same thing. My final exercise was balancing on a tube which was very hard for me because of my vertigo but I did it!
After my therapy Jazmin and I make fun plans as I am in much better spirits now that I am out and about. Cali is like New York City and we are discovering new things every single day. Today we took a ride on a cable car to a barrio where the citizens of Barrio Seloe used to have to walk up stairs to incredible heights to reach their homes! It was fun and we were so entertained! Perfect for me because I could sit and enjoy the views after doing my physical therapy.
I’m also impressed with how kind every person I encounter are to me. Opening doors , making sure I have a seat, telling me where elevators are, such care from complete strangers. Then there is Jazmin, my person. We are having fun while she takes such great care of me. I don’t know how I could have done this without her. I feel I might be leaving earlier than 30 days because my physical therapist told me today I was doing so great. I have to laugh because this week is supposed to be my easy week. What comes next week, weight lifting with squats? Don’t worry my blogs will keep everyone updated. Stay tuned, and remember no matter the challenge we all have it within ourselves to overcome any obstacle!