I recently went to see Bohemian Rhapsody here in Colombia, South America. I did not know a lot about Freddy Mercury’s history, or upbringing. I had to read a lot about him before going to the theater to see this marvelous movie in Spanish (I was a bit worried about my Spanish but I understood everything). He was an amazing talent, a true genius. I was young when he became famous, and to be honest his music was what I liked to dance to. I didn’t care about his personal life, and in reality I preferred music that was not Rock as I was a Disco loving girl. His music captured people like me, people outside of his genre, people who were not Rock fans, but who loved a good beat. This is where his true gift showed itself. Everyone could value and appreciate his talent, even those like me who enjoyed a different style of music. I am listening with new interest to all the songs that made him famous.
I love to watch the sunset at night here at Villa Migelita Ecolodge while listening to music. The other night I was listening to Stevie Wonder sing Ribbon in the Sky. How interesting to think this man who is also an inspiration to all, just like Freddy Mercury, sings about sunsets. He cannot see what he is singing about but I felt like he was seeing the sunset with me as I sat watching the sun go down. This is when I realized that life is a gift to all of us no matter our limitations. We all share heartbreak, it might not be the same, but we all share that shattered heart in some way. With that realization, I believe that Thanksgiving is truly a time to be grateful for what we do have in our lives that is good, that is of value, how our lives can change in a moment and we should appreciate anything that brings us blessings.
We alone have the ability to move forward in our lives, even when the situations around us are bringing us down. We are not without distractions that throw us off path, but we can always redirect ourselves forward again by staying positive and persevering with determination. I find myself thinking about these sorts of things when I watch the sun go down while listening to music. Music is a great healer, and for me has always been a way to help when I have a bad day. Music is always playing at Villa Migelita Ecolodge, often Spanish music which helps me with my Spanish-speaking. Speaking a new language is an obstacle that I have overcome, one I should give myself credit for. We should give ourselves kudos when we accomplish great things. Learning a new language and becoming very independent here in Colombia is an achievement I am quite proud of. I drive alone to do errands now, I run into friends and speak in Spanish easily if not perfectly to all. I write to my friends on Whats app chat in Spanish and have an active social life filled with new friends from this different phase in my life. This to me is a blessing, one I have worked eight years to achieve, along with running a hotel in the rain forest of Colombia.
Many thought I was crazy and perhaps I was a bit erratic when I moved to Colombia. After all, I was still recovering from my daughter’s murder and a horrible divorce. In my mind Colombia was only a 3 1/2 hour flight from South Florida. I knew I could obtain great healthcare and live well. I didn’t take into account that many people still felt Colombia was unsafe, nor that I was actually isolating myself from many people by moving. I found out that there were many who disapproved when I returned for a retirement luncheon and found myself being given the cold shoulder by people I had known and loved for many years. I was still very overwhelmed with grief, and in actuality I was a different person from the one these old friends knew in the past. I was beaten down inside. I will never forget that luncheon and how I felt like a deer in the headlights. As the years have progressed and I have made a life for myself here high in the Andes mountains of Colombia, I no longer feel that sense of insecurity I felt that day surrounded by all the people I had grown up with as a young flight attendant. I feel blessed. It turned out I made the right decision for myself, even if others didn’t understand. It was my destiny, and who would know that I would need such a rare surgery that would have cost so much money in the United States. The great healthcare I have here was such a wonderful blessing this year and I have healed quite successfully from my hip surgery.
When I was watching the movie of Freddy Mercury I was struck by the loneliness he felt, it was subtlety presented but I picked up on it. I have felt that same loneliness myself. A loneliness brought on by being different. When you don’t follow the norm, people will find a reason to be critical. I now try to accept when people are not what I expected them to be, when they hurt me, when I am let down. I am surrounded by peace, nature, beauty, and wonderful friends here in Colombia. I found a beautiful spot to heal from great tragedy. When I am out doing errands, I am always thinking just this one last thing and I can go back to my Villa and enjoy the wonderful place I alone am responsible for making a place of comfort and joy. One I share with guests who come to stay with me, and become friends with new people from all over the world. I recently had a young couple who are also doing what they want with their lives, and doing it while young and healthy. They wrote about my hotel in this blog. I was so flattered, because they captured in their writing and their fabulous photos Villa Migelita Ecolodge perfectly.
My greatest reason to be thankful this year is that when I think of my daughter now, I think of her watching the hummingbirds with me, or hearing the rain fall, or watching the fog move in and then move out over the mountains. I feel her presence in all the symmetry of nature that surrounds me.
There is something resilient about me, and it is a quality that I like about myself. When I decide I’m going to do accomplish something, I do it. Sometimes it might take me awhile but I do what I say I’m going to do. I also don’t dwell on negativity, bad energy, or the mistakes I’ve made in my past. I just get on with my life. We should always put ourselves first before anyone, so that we can enjoy healthy relationships with others. To love oneself, to respect oneself, and to achieve respect from others are great gifts in life. I have suffered, but through my suffering I have become very wise.
I have realized since I started writing my book that I cared too much about what others thought, and not enough about what I need. Now, when I encounter situations that are unexpected, I figure out ways to fix the problem if there is one, or to embrace good news wholeheartedly with joy in my heart. I also have found what real friendship is since moving to Colombia. My friends in my tiny little pueblo have been contacting me every single day to see how I am. Some of the people who have contacted me I didn’t even know they knew I was having surgery. I love this quote “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time” Maya Angelou. I believe that I have people who truly care for me here in Colombia and I also believe I’ve earned the respect of many with what I have accomplished and continue to accomplish.
I don’t necessarily believe that the goal in life is to have unconditional happiness. I believe that life is about learning and growing. I don’t seek out anyone with persistence, in fact I like being alone with my contemplations. I allow myself to have space and time when I’ve made mistakes to ponder what I can do differently the next time. Oftentimes, it is listening to yourself and not letting others influence you in decisions that should be yours alone.
I wrote about being afraid before my hip surgery in my last blog. There is one thing I’ve counted on all of my life and that is exercise. I envisioned not being able to hike nor do Yoga because of the rare hip condition I developed. Exercise is sanity to me. It is healing to me. Exercise is a habit I can’t imagine being without. As I write my book, l realize it is integral to everything that is part of my history, both good and bad. So I had a basis for my fear. Once again, I needlessly worried and my results have been spectacular. I have steadfastly done what the doctors have asked, including taking a lot of medication that makes me sleepy, and exercises that physical therapists showed me while I was in the hospital. I’m free of the pain in my hips and I have not even started my 20 days of special therapy ordered by my surgeon.
Yesterday l walked two blocks down the road to the hairdresser with my crutches, and of course Jazmine was with me. I was slow, it was a bit nerve wracking because I thought maybe I’m doing too much, then I walked back up the hilly road. Today, I could walk without crutches if I wanted to, but I’m not going to. I’m following instructions. I’m certainly surprised by my progress. I am hoping that perhaps I won’t have to stay as long in Cali, Colombia when my surgeon sees me next week. That perhaps he will release me after a short time of therapy here to finish physical therapy in Palmira and I can be back to my Paradise and my animals. If he won’t I am ok with that too. Oh, and this morning a hummingbird came to the feeder I put outside on the patio. If that isn’t a good sign I don’t know what is.
The cover picture is a photo of a room at the Imbanaco Medical hospital in Cali, Colombia where I will be having my hip surgery on August 22. My housekeeper will be staying with me and it is included in my health insurance. The couch you see is a pull out bed where Jazmine will sleep. We did everything together alone on Thursday. I drove to Palmira we took a bus to the Cali terminal and then a taxi to the hospital. I do not drive in Cali, it is hectic and very hard to even use a GPS in this city. Jazmine only speaks Spanish, but she can interpret for me when I do not understand something because we have our own special language of my Spanish and her Spanish that somehow works out well for us both. My appointments had been changed from Friday to Thursday and my friend who was supposed to drive and help interpret could not make it on Thursday. I have become quite adept at sudden changes because Jazmine and I work well as a team. I understand Spanish pretty well now, but medical or complex issues are definitely a challenge for me.
I had a wonderful meeting with the anesthesiologist. He only spoke Spanish but we talked well and he understood my Spanish. I actually didn’t need her for much. I was worried about this meeting because it was for my general health, looking at my blood work and explaining the procedure of the surgery. I found out that they schedule the surgery for about 5 hours and that I will be asleep even though it is arthroscopy. They do not rush, and I am having both of my hips done. We then went down to see my surgeon and he was not available Thursday so I saw the doctor who is his assistant for an explanation of the aftercare part of my recovery. I could not understand a word he said. He had a strange way of talking, slow but his words kind of dropped off. Jazmine helped a lot in this meeting and I left with the knowledge that I will have small spots on both of my hips that will be cleaned with alcohol only, no need for antibiotics and probably medicine for pain. They do not use strong medicine in Colombia. So hopefully my pain will decrease dramatically after the surgery. I will be in the hospital for two or three days. I will rest for ten days doing exercises in my bed twice a day, and will be up on crutches immediately. The bad news was that I could not return to my Villa for the 10 days of rest because the distance is too far and the bumps in the road could damage my hips. I also found out I had to have 20 consecutive days of therapy that is specialized by my surgeon at the Imbanaco Medical Center. This therapy is vital to a great outcome and complete healing. In Colombia they do not have recovery centers and I had to find my own place to stay for one month in Cali. I am upset by this because my Villa is so beautiful and I had thought maybe someone could come to my house for therapy.
The next part of the day was the hospital registration. We went to that area of the medical center and the first person I saw was a nurse who went over what I should do at home the night before and the day of the surgery. My surgery is late in the day so I am allowed a small breakfast of only certain foods and I can drink water until 11 am. Then nothing after that. I have to wash with a special soap the night before and the day of surgery. I understood her perfectly and again Jazmine did not have to help much, then the final part of the day was the actual registration of my surgery date. That part was simple and everything took 4 hours. We left and grabbed a quick-lunch and then a taxi and I was back in Palmira by 4 pm. A long day but very productive.
Yesterday, I worked all day looking on the computer trying to find a place to stay for one month. It is not easy as I cannot have stairs, I didn’t want a room in an apartment with no scenery to look at, and I wanted something in a residential area where I could see birds and nature. I found a wonderful place, and Jazmine will stay with me there too. I will need help with everything from cooking, washing my clothes and bathing at first. I might find out that I am quite capable and can stay alone after the first week.
It is going to be an adventure. An adventure I still am not happy about, but I thank God I have such wonderful insurance and the only costs I have had so far have been two small co-pays and I had to buy two special pillows, one is used in surgery and the other is for my legs after the surgery. I am going today to get my crutches, and the cost of my room in the beautiful home I will staying in is quite reasonable.
I will miss my animals, my hummingbirds, my fresh air and lovely home. I will not like the heat in Cali and most places in Colombia do not have air conditioning. The nights are always cool, but I will need a fan during the day. The water is also not heated in most places, and so I will be having cold showers. I won’t like that, but if it is hot it might not be so bad. The beautiful Air BnB home I am staying in is exquisitely decorated and has a small garden patio where I can sit outside. I will be writing my book, and I will journal for all of you about my experience in the hospital, and then going to my rental place.
I continue to become more and more independent and I hope by writing it down I can show others you can achieve anything you want with determination. I also will show how excellent the healthcare is that I receive in Colombia. My hospital stay, doctors and all the therapy is covered 100%. As are the medications that I need from the surgery. After I am able to return to my Villa I will continue therapy in Palmira. I should be allowed to drive. I will do everything exactly as instructed and hopefully will be back to my hiking and Yoga in 3 months. Wish me luck, because I won’t lie and say that I don’t feel anxiety because I do. Exercise is everything to me, I want to have a completely successful outcome. Look for a new blog after my surgery. I am sure it will be interesting and very positive because I have had nothing but professional and very modern care so far. The surgeon is only one of three doctors who perform this surgery in Colombia. I know it is an inconvenience for me to stay for 30 days in Cali, but I sure wouldn’t want to stay in Bogotá for 30 days where the other doctors are located.
So now I am going to get my personal affairs in as much order as I can, I have wonderful friends who are going to help me with many things while I am staying in Cali. I am so blessed to have these people in my life. I have learned that it is not always about the amount of friends we have, but the quality of the friendships. Stay tuned for my next blog, my surgery is on Wednesday. I should be writing about it on Thursday of next week.
Many people have no idea how I have struggled to live in my Paradise here in Colombia. I believe that I am meant to be here, but it has not been easy. I came with someone I totally trusted and had known for quite a long time before I made my decision to move to another country. He turned out to be an awful person. I wrote an essay about my conflicts and was given great feedback on it by a prestigious magazine. They encouraged me to submit the essay elsewhere as it was not right for their magazine, but I am using it as an outline for my book. I have started writing chapters and I am also continuing on with my blog, and how my past has intertwined with my present life. My last guest brought front and center what happened to me and why I am behind in actually speaking Spanish.
This latest guest here at Villa Migelita Ecolodge is a really wonderful person, so wise and a really commendable Spanish speaker. She wanted to get better at conversational Spanish and to talk with locals while enjoying the nature and beauty of Colombia. A world traveler, she has been all over the world to places I have never heard of. What a pleasure to have her at my Villa for two weeks. She made me realize my Spanish needs drastic improvement. One of the reasons my Spanish is not so great is because my immersion was not what it should have been for many years due to the person I moved here with. He became different when he returned to Colombia, and I found myself quite isolated much of the time. It was interesting because my guest noticed I understood quite well and had a good vocabulary, but I have trouble with tenses and putting sentences together correctly. I have never had real formal study and she has done formal study and has many Spanish-speaking friends in the United States. Fortunately for her I am never the teacher in my Spanish lesson classes. We do speak Spanish all day because my contratista only speaks Spanish, and so do all of the people who are my friends. I have just learned through computer programs and speaking with those I am surrounded by now. I have improved drastically since that person who I came here with is gone. I am independent and do everything with Jazmine, who works with me now. We only speak Spanish. However, after Susan came I knew I need more, and I set out to accomplish just that when she left. She also inspired me in another way. She had a knee replacement 6 months ago and is still in a lot of pain. Even with the pain she exercised and did so much even though it was hard for her. She walked to the top of Nirvana the natural reserve with me and it is not an easy climb.
Many of you know I am getting hip surgery soon. I have not wanted to think about the surgery or the therapy needed because I am an avid exerciser. She is too. I have many guests come to visit, and I make friends with all but I feel she was a miracle sent to me to help me deal with this surgery that is upcoming, and to inspire me to get better at my actual Spanish-speaking. As many of you know, when I make up my mind to do something I get right to work at doing what I feel is necessary. I mean if Susan can ride on a motorcycle when she just had knee replacement then I can get my mind made up to conquer the dread I have been feeling about the hip surgery.
The day after she left the perfect opportunity presented itself to me. My dear friend and partner of my hair stylist was at the salon I go to here in Colombia. He can speak some English and wants to learn to speak correctly, I can speak some Spanish and want to learn correctly. We made a deal. He will be coming twice a week and we will be working together to help each other. He will speak conversational English to me and I will correct him, and I will speak conversational Spanish to him and he will also do the same. It is a win/win situation. I am starting this afternoon. I can’t wait. As for Jazmine, she is also no longer going to let me say things wrong, she is also correcting me and she will be joining us for our two times a week to learn English.
I know everyone who follows my blog understands that I do believe the Universe provides us with what we need. This is another example of this. I was worried about my surgery and now I have a date, I have all the information I need and I am also telling my bi-lingual friends to speak Spanish with me and to correct me. It is not an easy process. However, I will be bedridden after my surgery and will have much time on my hands. I will use it to continue writing my book and elaborate on the struggles I have had here, learning Spanish, having to learn to navigate my life in a new country while not speaking Spanish correctly, but overcoming everything to live the best life I can live.
I have to mention that the surgery would have been incredibly expensive in the United States and I still believe the Universe directed me to live in Colombia, although it has not been an easy process. This doctor being only one of three in Colombia who actually performs the surgery I am having. That in and of itself makes me realize I am exactly where I should be living. Now to get on with my life, a life that is incredibly peaceful, even with the difficulties I have had. Opportunities present themselves to us and we need to use these opportunities to make our lives better if we can.
Susan came and visited and her influence on much in my mind was wonderful. I didn’t realize it, but I needed someone to just talk with. I will probably never see her again but I know we will remain in touch. I feel really blessed to have the good fortune to have people like her visit, and to have done what I have here in Colombia. It is not always perfect, but I doubt it would be perfect if I had stayed in the USA. Life is interesting here, I am determined to conquer my last phase of Spanish speaking, as I can read it pretty well, understand others, and have a good vocabulary. Now I just need to put it all together. I will, just like I will write the book I hope will explain much about why I live in Colombia.
When I start my journey with my hip surgery I will keep everyone updated with regular blogs on my recovery. I am sure it will be interesting because I have never had a surgery that has required me to stay in the hospital overnight. So look for my next blogs to be kind of a journal of my time in the hospital and the road to recovery.
That time I went to jail I have never written about. People who are close to me know. I am writing a chapter for my book now about my 36 hours in Broward County jail. It is still so fresh in my memory. It was horrible, I was shown a side of society I didn’t know existed. Jail was something I read about in books, or watched in movies. The reality is very different. No matter your place in society, the treatment is disturbing from the moment you are arrested to the time inside the jail, the lack of compassion, the complete cruelty I experienced by the police and the people who worked in the prison. However, the other inmates were pretty darn cool with me. It was obvious to them I didn’t belong there. They comforted me, they gave me a lot of reasons to write it down, but I never did. I have never written about it before because it shows my daughter in a way that is not flattering, something that I have not wanted to do. I need to heal myself, recent events have made me realize I have not done that. Even with therapy, my move to Colombia, these moments in time exist and they bring me to places I only think about when I awake at night and cannot sleep.
I was arrested on false charges. I was an innocent to what the rules are when the police show up at your door. I had no clue about anything about police visits to your home. If I had known, this experience would never have happened. It was a nightmare that you dream and then wake up with your heart beating fast inside your chest. Surreal, incomprehensible, I am sure my mug shot exists somewhere even though all charges were expunged. I didn’t even understand that they were taking my mug shot. I was sobbing uncontrollably. I didn’t understand all that was happening and it was very harsh, with a lot of merciless treatment by all involved who work in the system of Broward County, Florida.
Now I am writing it down in a chapter for my book. I am leaving nothing out. The dreadful side of my daughter, the crappy friends she had, one who has my sweet grandchild in her care right now without any legal papers of custody. I am telling the story. All of it, the lessons I learned from experiences I had no control over. Including my daughter meeting the father of my beloved grandchild. I am going to tell you the entire experience from the time of my arrest until I was let out to the street outside the jail of Broward County without a charged cell phone, no shoes, and no money.
A wonderful cab driver gave me a ride with my promise of payment if he could just take me to my house. I didn’t even have a key to get inside my own home! I will always remember the kind treatment I received from the other inmates, from that cab driver, the father of my grandchild: who when he heard what Misha had done made her immediately go to drop the charges. This is hard just to say in a blog. I went to jail. I was 50 years old, I could have lost my job, that is what Misha did. Wait for it. Coming soon to all who want to buy my book. I am writing the chapter now. It is funny at times, but it is also very terrifying to anyone who might think it could never happen to you. It can and I experienced it.
Sad. The word used to describe me recently was correct. To be honest that’s how I live inside my mind often, but I usually never give in to it. Even when I awake in the morning feeling deep heaviness of heart. I get up and get going, my mornings include watching my birds and hummingbirds: photographing and viewing them here at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. It is not always about Misha, although she is certainly part of this sadness. This feeling is something different. It has been pushed back, hidden deep inside my being. Like a child who has been abused and has no recall until years later. As I’ve written before I get through this life after her death because I try not to think about what has happened in my life since she changed at the age of fifteen. I’ve questioned whether it is healthy to just not think about it. I certainly have found out others pick up on this side of me of which I am not aware is being projected. I let myself feel grief when I didn’t see Amaya recently and I found out the true character of someone. I was hit twice in the gut. After a few weeks of searching for why, I realized what really hit me so hard. First of all it has been almost nine years since my daughter was murdered. Why is there this constant need by those who are part of Amaya’s life to continue to persecute me about what Misha decided to do with her life? She had free will. I was her parent who did not believe the choices she was making were correct. That is being a parent! Now these same people are hurting a child. I’m used to feelings of despair, I can handle it because despite all the negativity towards me I’ve gone on to create a lovely hotel and lifestyle. Amaya is a child, she should have nothing but love around her. All love is good love, from anyone who is part of her life. Amaya is not a reason to hurt others through revenge. Again, because all of the decisions Misha made in her short life were hers, albeit she was surrounded by really bad influences in high school. I just tried to parent her as best as I could parent a rebellious child who was doing really bad things. Look for it all in my book, and believe me I will be sharing every single detail. It is a movie in the making.
So back to this new self discovery. I discovered I am mourning happiness. Moving to Colombia was a good move for me to get away from those who continued to harass me despite what they knew about Misha. I was their person to bully. I am no longer going to allow it. I am going to tell the truth to the world, and I know there are many families who have a Misha in their lives. Hopefully, you can let yourself let go of what you had no control over. When I let myself feel sadness after I was not allowed to see Amaya recently I let myself cry. I don’t cry much since Misha passed. Not because I’m embarrassed or trying not to. I just don’t cry. I can watch a really sad show and not cry, I can see awful news about children being taken from their parents over immigration, I even lost my dog Bruno Mars while I was on my homeless tour of the United States and I didn’t cry. I realize this is not normal, but this is how I cope. I have become immune to a lot of bad things. I do react when confronted with wrong, but I never confront anyone, it is really hard for me to do.
So when I cried recently about being kept from Amaya it wasn’t this hysterical crying, it was a day of sad tears and a day of talking out loud. Just needing to speak about the positive and negative things. I talked to those closest to me during that time, and I was also very silent and reflective. I then get myself back to the place I keep my sadness inside my mind. That place of not thinking about how horrible the human race is. This is why I love my place in Colombia, I am surrounded by animals and nature. They don’t do bad things on purpose. To hurt someone without reason.
Since I’ve returned to Colombia I’m back to moving forward. I’m doing my normal routine and feeling content. The thing that is missing is that happiness I felt after so many years. My book editor wrote me I’m mourning the loss of affection, because I’ve become my own best friend after so many years. Such wise words. I haven’t felt much happiness for a long time. I have felt contentment, I have felt love from my extended family here in Colombia, I am loved by my animals. But happiness is elusive. My other mother called me last night and she said “Michele, you have never allowed yourself to grieve properly, you keep looking for that happiness, it might never be there for you again.” She is right. I might never have it again, but I will have peace and beauty. I will have the love of the people I know are by my side. That is a wonderful thing. I can live with that. So my homeless tour was filled with lessons, and my other mother Laverne said to me what I needed to hear. “Michele let yourself grieve, you never have. You have always been defending yourself against things you had no control over. You left and that was good, but now you need to let yourself feel that grief.”
She is right. I am writing it down in my book. It is hard. I have been remembering and discovering memories that cause me a lot of pain. I will get through this phase in my life, just like I get through everything, with grace and with patience.