In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Door.”

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An Intricate Door in Buga,Colombia
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A Door in Buga, Colombia

I am an expat living in Colombia, South America. I find that the doors here could tell many stories. I look at them and I wonder, where will this door lead me? I also wonder how old they are. Many of the cities here are very old. Buga is a city founded in 1555. I wrote a blog  about this wonderfully fascinating city with a history of a miracle. The doors are ensconced by mystery.

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A door that opens to the beauty that surrounds the history of Colombia
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An amazing door at the Sugarcane Museum in the Valle Del Cauca
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A door from the 19th century in the Sugarcane Museum of Valle del Cauca
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La Ruiza, the former hacienda of Pablo Escobar

There are many old Hacienda’s in Colombia. Some doors lead outside to magnificent beauty. Some doors show the life lived long ago, a life one can picture of the Colombian people who are rich with culture. Then there is the life of Colombians who contributed to history but not in a good way. La Ruiza was one of the many hacienda’s Pablo Escobar had in Colombia during the 1980’s. It is a fascinating journey into a time of decadence and drug wars. This hacienda remains untouched from so long ago, but the doors tell a story too. Sliding doors that show a style long ago abandoned. Not only the style but the way of life. Colombia is now a leading contender for expats and tourists. Please feel free to check out my website or my Facebook page to come visit and see the new Colombia. Rich in history and safe for tourists.

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Where Does That Door Lead?

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Spanish a second language

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Take That, Rosetta!.

I had a dream so vivid that I was speaking Spanish fluently, that I could finally call myself bi-lingual. Ohh I must be in heaven. Then I woke up. I woke up looking out my window at the beauty of the mountains of Colombia while thinking “if only I could rattle off Spanish like it was my first language” as I thought of the dream. Then my little puppy popped up her head and I spoke to her in Spanish as it has become my second language; although I might be on my way to fluent I am in no way bi-lingual.

11091011_830955290303872_7768723429188554386_oIf I cannot claim to be bi-lingual after living 4 years in the mountains of Colombia, then who can? I never realized a new language was so hard to learn until I tried it out. So you see I am a bit ahead of this post, as I moved to Colombia BEFORE I knew Spanish. I had always wanted to live in South America as I love the music, the food, the people and the warm ambiance I would discover every time I visited a South American country. When I moved and settled into my new life it was time to learn Spanish! I studied using Rosetta Stone, and I definitely talked a lot in Spanish….but no one understood me! What’s a girl to do? Keep trying! I try every single day even though I have many obstacles. I have an accent, those who I speak with whom are strangers look strangely at me when I speak Spanish. They have no clue what I am saying! This is a bit depressing, as I am working really hard on my language skills! I know the words and I pronounce well, ok I guess I really don’t pronounce well as my accent interferes. But I do speak it and know Spanish damn IT! Now I can relate to anyone who moves to a new country and they have a hard time because they sound strange to the natives. I get it so well that I want to shout from the mountains “hey don’t ignore someone speaking your language with an accent, just listen and you will understand!” because once I say  “please listen” or “Escucha” they do pay attention and they actually understand. You see we transplants from other countries really work hard to become fluent. We never stop, we watch movies in the language of choice, we talk daily with the locals, we read any subtitles that are supplied on any show or movie. I go to the movies here in Colombia and sometimes they have Spanish subtitles even though the actors have Spanish dubbed into their mouths. Imagine that? I get a double dose of Spanish when this happens! I don’t know where to go to first my ears or my eyes! I am reading and comprehending at the same time I am listening and comprehending. Sound confusing? Well, it is…no wonder I have Vertigo. Oh that is another story. Smile. I am happy and doing what I love. I am just doing it backwards. I am not sure I would suggest this to anyone else, but I am slowly coming into my own here in my new home. I have opened a Bed and Breakfast, I have fulfilled my dream. So take that Rosetta Stone!

Please visit my page Villa Migelita to share in my adventures. I have many and I post them for everyone to enjoy. I love living here, even though my last encounter was just last weekend at the former Hacienda of Pablo Escobar near my farm. I spoke with the young employee, I spoke the sentence right and he just stared at me. I have gotten used to that now. I accept my fate that I might always sound like a gringa, however I will continue to talk Spanish to all the animals as they do understand me, accent or not.photocat

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Things That Happen in the Night

This blog is about life, my life in Colombia. Sometimes I bring in the past, sometimes I am in the present time. I have a lovely home here in the mountains of Colombia. I had no idea when I invested here that Colombia would be moving into its own as a major economic presence in South America, nor that Colombia would be featured in Forbes as a wonderful place to retire(http://money.msn.com/retirement/best-countries-to-retire-to-in-2014-1). My friend and author John Lundin is writing a book that is in development to be a movie that will be filmed here in beautiful Colombia (http://www.prlog.org/12270412-sundance-is-colombia-the-new-hollywood.html). I do know that I have really settled into my life here in South America while enjoying myself everyday photographing nature, making video’s for all to see in real time on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/VillaMigelita) and living amongst the world’s happiest people according to recent article’s written about Colombia. These polls say the people of Colombia have a 75% happiness rating. I would rate it higher, because of my own experiences, but I will definitely agree that this is the place to live and be happy!

Alas, in my last three blogs I shared unhappy stories of recent life experiences, which can happen to anyone in any place. Life is not always beautiful photo’s and happy postings on Facebook. Real life is a mess sometimes. That is why I really give thanks for my surroundings in this beautiful land of Colombia and the blessings I do have. I take photo’s to document daily occurrences in my life that make me smile and hopefully make other’s smile too. I write to help me with a pain I have in my heart from losing my daughter, also the pain I have from difficult situations that can just pop up out of nowhere. I write for healing, I write for my peace inside of me, I write to help anyone who has been following my blog realize we all have difficulties in life. Most people keep the misery of life’s terrible times inside themselves without letting on they are sad, angry, tired, wanting a divorce, recovering from an illness, a lost pet, mean people, death, unkind gossip, disease, family problems, job problems, not having a job, abuse, addiction, I could keep going but you get the point. I have had most of these things at some point in my life affect me in some way but kept the façade of a perfect life to the outside world. Now I no longer want to do that, I want to be authentic to myself and to use that authenticity as a way of helping others to be authentic too. It seems this world is one without a lot of authenticity anymore, not just from people in our lives, but from products we eat, to the need to impress others with possessions we do not need, to worrying about what other’s think, to living a life we can not afford, to spending more time worrying about what other’s are doing than focusing on what we can do to make ourselves better. One thing I do love about life in Colombia, the people are unaffected. They do like drama and can go on and on about the latest community saga, but they forgive and love without reservation. This is what I strive to do. I strive to forgive all the past hurts in my life, and to use this pureness of a heart without hate to live in peace.

Recently I had to become more independent when my partner went through a breakdown and was arrested. I was frightened to be alone, even though my life with him during the prior months had been less than ideal. However, I picked myself up like I always do, trusting myself and my determination to succeed. I used a friend as an interpreter for a month, but realized I could do OK by myself and we parted ways. I hired an outdoor worker full-time and a new maid who has organized my house wonderfully. I started making my own phone calls, I also was receiving phone calls and I realized I could speak Spanish well enough to get on with life just fine by myself. When my battery died on my truck I called my mechanic that lives in La Buitrera and he came up to start my truck, we then drove my truck to town, his wife and 9 month old son came along. He left me at the grocery store while he searched for a good price on a new battery. I had a lovely day with him and his wife, and dropped them back off at their home in the evening after we had done a lot of errands. He not only helped me get my battery but drove me to get my food for the animals and a few other things I needed. You see, this is how Colombian’s are, they do more than is expected, and show what human kindness is about through their actions. I knew after this day I could always count on him for any help I might need. I did not realize I would need his help again so soon. What happened on my short ride back up the mountain to Villa Migelita was the basis for the title of this blog.

It had just turned into night when I left his family to drive home, my mountain road was really dark. I turned on my bright lights and went very slow. We are fortunate enough in my community of El Meson to be getting a paved road right now. The construction of this road is to say the least ‘a bit hazardous’ and I am always nervous when I drive, but nighttime is very scary. I was taking deep breaths and telling myself “just go slow, you will be fine” when I went through the first area of road construction. They are building one side at a time, and the other side is left open for traffic. The road itself is really just the size of one way, and all driver’s have an unwritten rule those going up the mountain have the right of way which means those coming down have to pull over to the extreme side or even back up if they encounter another car on the way up. I got through the first area of construction ok, when I encountered neighbor’s needing a ride up near my house. They had one motorcycle with a young man driving and two women with large full sacks which they tossed in the back of my truck. I became distracted as the ladies started talking to me, and was not concentrating like I had been before. We came to another area of construction, I was on the paved side now, the other side was the rocky original road and there were large metal wires sticking out from the newly cemented road I was driving on. My truck tires are large, the paved road is very small when cut in half. Imagine half of one lane to drive on. It is dark, there are no lights except mine from the truck. I am trying to not hit the wall on one side, shadows making it appear closer than it was, so I over compensate and go a little to far towards the center and next thing I know my tire just barely goes off and then the back tire goes off and I am on those metal wires! I was smart enough to stop immediately and call my mechanic friend who said he would be right there. I get out of the car with my passengers to see where I am, and make sure my tires are alright. I look around and am happy to see I am right in front of a home with a long driveway, but as I am looking another truck comes down the opposite way and stops less than a few feet in front of my truck! I then look behind me and there are at least 6 cars waiting with headlights on to go up the mountain, along with a bunch of motorcycles! The moto’s all had stopped and they stayed to help even though they could have passed by me and been on their way. I have never seen this much traffic ever on my little mountain road, and realize it is because it is the day before New Year’s Eve and all the people who own farms come from the city to spend the holiday in the tranquility of the beautiful mountains. I become very overwhelmed, and just a bit dramatic myself! I guess being in a Spanish country has affected me a bit, as I was speaking Spanish and talking with my hands “Lo siento, esto fue un accidente!” Everyone is out milling around and talking about what they can do to get my truck into the driveway without hurting the tires. No one is mean, no one honks their horn, no one thinks it is my fault. The guy who is driving the other truck speaks some English and talks to me to calm me down. He gets behind the wheel of my car, as my outdoor worker arrives on his bicycle to help too. There are at least 20 men helping at this point. The women are holding my hand, and telling me all is “tranquila”. I watch as these men get hammers and hit the wires down and into the ground, then place a board under my tires and start backing up and going forward little by little. I wonder where the hammers, the board the tools they use come from? This is the way of Colombian men, they have everything and can do anything. It was harrowing, it was unbelievable, it is my life in the mountains of Colombia. Slowly they get my truck backed into the driveway of the house, but then we have his truck that is right there blocking all of the traffic that needs to go up the mountain. Again, very slowly he got his truck into that driveway too, by backing up with the other men helping. Whew. Done. Now I stand there as all those cars drive by, feeling foolish. Do you know every single one said “Happy New Year” and greeted me nicely? Not one person was annoyed or angry.

After the traffic left, my mechanic gets in my truck and drives me home. His brother and the wives are on the motorcycles or in the truck with me and everyone follows me home. I have a car full of groceries and big bags of food. My worker is in the back of the truck with his bicycle along with the original passengers who I had given a ride to. Everyone is smiling, talking and laughing. We all are happy to have gotten me out of that situation without damage to my tires. When we arrive at Villa Migelita, it reminds me of a procession or a parade. Moto’s and my truck all laughing and festive. we enter and everyone pitches in to unload my truck. Then before they leave my mechanic told me he would pick me up for New Year’s Eve if I wanted to stay with his family for the celebration. I say I will call, but know that I want to spend New Year’s alone because of the loss of my dog Taz. I could never celebrate not knowing what had happened to him. So although this is not a Disney movie, I want to say I had a very happy ending that night. I also learned to appreciate that things that happen in the night can also bring new friends into my life and perhaps I should not drive again when it is dark. That my new life in my small pueblo of El Meson has heartache just like my life did in the USA, but I acknowledge all I am learning about myself and the people who live here. Mostly, I enjoy that I am able to use my writing to tell the world of just how sweet it is to live and discover a new culture, a new language and new simpler lifestyle. May God Bless all of you with a very blessed 2014 and may we all have a joyous year with new beginnings and happy endings.

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The photo above is me burning the 2013 calendar. This is a tradition here to let go of all the bad things of the past year. In an update to my past blogs, my ex-partner is recovering and I have forgiven him. He has been diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder and is taking medicine that has changed his life. He has been ill for several years, and started using drugs to self-medicate. He is grateful to have his life back, to feel good, and to rehabilitate. We are friends again, and will see what the future holds by taking things one day at a time. My sweet dog Taz was run over by a car. I am still grieving him but at least I know what happened. I am working on trying to forgive the woman who let him go out into the streets of Cali, Colombia on Christmas Eve.

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My Move to Colombia

Have you ever thought to yourself “I wonder what it is like to live in another country?” I did as soon as the travel bug hit me. I went on a school sponsored trip when I was ten to Europe. I read that silly book from so long ago “Coffee, Tea, or Me” when I was about twelve and then I re-read it! I was hooked. I wanted to be a stewardess. I relished the thought of traveling all over the world. However, I did all the things my parents wanted; made good grades, graduated early from high school, going right to college when I was only seventeen with a major in journalism. The thought of travel and working as a flight attendant was always in the back of my mind. Then one day I got really sick at college, sick enough that my parents came and packed me up and I left for the Spring quarter to go home and recuperate. I was back home and almost twenty so my mother suggested (because mom’s always know right?) I get some professional photos done and submit some applications to airlines. As it turned out only two airlines hired anyone at the age of twenty, National Airlines and Delta Air Lines. I submitted to both, threw in the photo’s and had an interview with Delta immediately.

At that interview I was a stand out, and not in a good way. I remember walking in with a dress that had a full skirt and Chinese style jacket. It was a very disco style dress with a skirt that would twirl when I danced. I had embraced the disco phase in college, was also a hair model, and I thought everyone dressed like me! As I looked around at every one of my fellow interviewees’ and they
looked back at me, I felt a little bit anxious. They all had on blue suits and white shirts, hair pulled back and black pumps. There I was in platform heels, a hairstyle that was short, wild,stylish and a disco dress! Needless to say I amused the interviewer’s immensely with my go for it “I dance disco in contests” attitude and got through the interview at the young age of nineteen and went on to be in the next class of flight attendants. My mother had always told me to “be an original not a carbon copy” and it worked. To this day I wonder why my mother let me wear what I wanted to that interview, as she never said a word to me about my choice of attire. Maybe she was letting me be an ‘original’ which worked out for me. I started training class and they called me ‘disco’ as I and one other girl were the youngest in the class, and we were kind of the ‘mascots’. I still remember my first years of flying as some of the best of my life as I grew to love travel and grew into a responsible young woman. The years flew by and I had a family but still worked part-time as a flight attendant. Towards the end of my career I flew international, finding these flights and layovers the most rewarding in my career. I had many layovers in South America and found all the countries I visited to be warm and welcoming. I could see myself living there, as the culture was inviting and the people friendly. After thirty years as a flight attendant I was able to retire. I missed the travel and my fellow co-workers but not the job itself. A job that is very hard on the body, not from just the time changes, but long hours and hard work.

Hair model days
Hair model days

Retired life was different, as I had been employed since I was fifteen. Then the worst happened. My marriage fell apart and my daughter was killed in a horrible hit and run. I was no longer that young confident flight attendant that grew up along with her career into a mother and working woman. I became a grieving wreck who did not know what the next day would bring. I was in shock for several months after my daughter was killed. I really do not remember a lot of those months, or how I got through them. My divorce was still going on, and it was nasty! I could never really grieve as something unfathomable was being thrown at me every day by my ex-husband and his lawyer. It was like he wanted to punish me for her death. I would never have thought the father of my children could be so cruel. This was a time I would never want to go back to. I woke up every morning wondering what would be next. During the week of the funeral preparations I saw my ex and his sister drive up to my house and put a note in my mailbox. It said “you did not deserve to be her mother”. I still think about why they did that, what if felt like to them to actually write such a despicable statement down and give it to me 3 days after I learned of her death? The hateful things going on kept me from allowing myself to grieve properly and I did not get real help until I moved and found a wonderful counselor here in Colombia. I became a person who was afraid. Apprehension became part of my existence. I always had been self-assured, very social and always ready to meet new people. Now I worried about everything, my mind would race with so much anxiety and heartache. A change was needed so I started taking little steps to do just that! I knew I had to get away from such a toxic environment, I prayed and meditated for answers. Then one came to me.

Watching a horse show at a restaurant
Watching a horse show at a restaurant

Enter my companion and partner. He was friends with a nanny I used for my children while flying. He heard about the terrible tragedy of my daughter’s death. He looked me up on Facebook, asked to be my friend. He is a Colombian American, who spent his first fifteen years growing up in Palmira the area I now live at in Colombia. We got to know one another and found we had much in common. We spent hours talking about life and dreams. Dreams that were similar; wanting a farm, the love of mountains and animals, the beauty of nature and solitude. He told me let’s take a trip to see Colombia. I had never been to this country and thought “why not?”. We arrived on Christmas day of 2010 in Bogotá, a city alight with Christmas decorations in vivid colors and music vibrating around the streets that was festive and enticing. I was impressed with the beauty of the season, a day I had dreaded for my own heavyhearted reasons, became a wonderful memory for me. We spent a couple of weeks traveling and ended up at his aunt’s for New Years Eve and Day. A delightful array of Colombian traditions awaited me. A meal is served at midnight and there is always lots of salsa dancing at any fiesta! New Years Day continued with more family and meals. I found myself embraced by his family that just met me. I wanted to feel alive and happy like this for the rest of my life! It had been too long since I had really smiled. Then off we went to Palmira the city in the Department of Palmira Valle Del Cauca, the agricultural center of Colombia and where my partner grew up. We took a carriage ride through the city, we rode a motorcycle around in the mountains, we visited the tourist areas nearby. I had the most wonderful time and my sadness was replaced for a few weeks with the joy of new beginnings. I realized I could live without fear if I let myself, and that I could live my life while honoring my daughter’s memory in the process. My children spent most of their summers in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, making beautiful memories of our time there with hummingbirds, hiking, tubing and nature. When I returned to the United States, we started to plan on going back to look at real estate. In late February we returned and I actually found a farm I wanted to buy. I started negotiations with the owner and putting into place all that I needed to do to move to another country.
102 year old great-grandfather
102 year old great-grandfather

How does one move to another country? Well, I just started researching the internet and found most answers there. I realized it is best to sell all of the possession’s you have and bring minimal items with you. I started selling everything; the house, my car, furniture, everything in my house, jewelry, clothes, basically all my material things that were not of special value to me. I looked into how to get my beloved pets into another country and I just did what I had to do! I look back at that time and wonder how did I do it? I think I was so traumatized that anything that kept me occupied was good. I could think about something other than my daughter being gone. Things began to fall into place as I slowly packed up my possession’s and made the final arrangements for my move to Colombia. I look back at what I accomplished in three months and just shake my head. I had strength I did not know I had.
Cali, Colombia
Cali, Colombia

I moved to Colombia in April of 2011, pets and partner with me and not knowing any Spanish! My belongings were to follow in a few weeks by cargo ship. I did have some problems when I arrived. My two large dogs were sent on a different airplane because of their weight and I could not get them for 24 hours. My dog Colleen was twelve years old and she was hoarse from crying when I finally was able to get them through all the inspections and paperwork. I was able to see them and comfort them, the airport workers gave them food and water, but it was very unfortunate for them and me. We also found out that the farm I was going to purchase had a mudslide near it right before I came and that deal fell through, which turned out to be a real blessing! However, we needed to find a place to live with our animals because my partner’s family home was not comfortable for us or the animals. We rented a little place in Santa Elena, a small Colombian town and the adventure truly began.
Having fun driving in the mountains!
Having fun driving in the mountains!
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My next blog will continue my story. I hope all who read will join my blog and share it. I can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/VillaMigelita. I will also write about my daughter’s accident which I am still waiting for the trial of her killer. It will be four years in January and there has still been no justice. It is a source of anguish to me, I pray for closure soon. The killer was found within a week when he took his car for repairs and is awaiting trial.