Posted in Colombian life, Color and Colombia, Entreprenuer, expat life, family, farm life, hotel, hummingbirds, minimalism, nature, Perfection and Peace, Uncategorized

Things You Don’t Know About Colombia

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.

Hummingbird rescue and birds 107
The Andean Emerald Hummingbirds

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.

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The Blackburian Warbler of Colombia 

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.

Villa Migelita exclusive
Villa Migelita Ecolodge

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in entrepenuer, Flight attendant life, flight attendants, Life as a flight attendant, Stewardess, Uncategorized

Flight Attendant Living

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.

DC 8 chairs
Original DC-8 Chairs from Delta Air Lines

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.

Roxanne and I
Seriously, look at the place we graduated at. An RV in the background.  A Gas Station, times have changed since this photo was taken!

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.Retirement photo 2

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.

Retirement photo 3
My last day of flying

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.

Retirement photo
My last day of flying the friendly skies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Alternative Lifestyle, Awakening, child death, Colombia, entrepeneur, expat life, freedom, friendship, hummingbirds, life lessons, nature, Perfection and Peace, Spanish speaking, strength, Thanksgiving blessings, Uncategorized, Villa Migelita Ecolodge

Bohemian Rhapsody

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.

Bohemian Rhapsody

 

 

 

Posted in Colombia, Colombian healthcare, exercise, expat life, friendship, hip surgery, Journal of surgery for hips, life lessons, strength, Uncategorized

Fast Healing

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.

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My quiet little neighborhood 
Posted in Colombia, Colombian healthcare, Colombian life, Disappointment, exercise, expat life, hip surgery, Journal of surgery for hips, life lessons, Uncategorized

My Hospital Stay

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.

Posted in Awakening, Colombia, Colombian life, Entreprenuer, expat life, friendship, hip surgery, Spanish speaking, strength, Uncategorized

Struggling Still

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.

Barrenquero 004
The green and blue of the Barranquero bird which we saw on our walk to the top of Nirvana Reserve in La Buitrera

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.

Susan on moto
An inspiration to me and now a good friend

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.