As we age we grow wiser. We become a certain age and (maybe) we think “I wish I could stay this age forever.” That is how I feel about my upcoming birthday. I want to stay 59 forever. Wisdom is my middle name. I am no longer the young, beautiful girl I was when I was hired by Delta at the age of 20 years old.. But; I am also not an old-looking person either. I have a bit of vanity left in this older body. I exercise and I take care of myself. I have always said to anyone who listens “I want to look the best I can be at whatever age I am.” I also want to be the BEST I CAN BE with humanity and what I pass on to my many social media pages. I want to share good things, but I also want to show the person I am inside, not just on the outside. We cannot change the aging process. We can try, and I certainly do! But we are going to be old sooner than we think.
All of my longtime friends will attest to my crazy disco self in the 80’s. I am sure they could tell so many stories of my life and the fun we had. Now (as an older person)I am not so much about fun, but about peace. I love peace and nature. I awake in the morning to hear the sounds of nature I brought to my life by my move to Colombia. I love the noise, the calls, and the happiness of my life. I don’t like the way I feel about my country the USA right now. It is not what I grew up to respect and want for my place of birth.
However, I can call all of you to visit Colombia and me and see what I have accomplished in my “older” age. I have shown many who doubted me what a woman can do with a mission in their head. I have often read that people who go through tragedy change. I can say without doubt this is true. I changed. I realized that the old cliche “life is short” is very true. I didn’t let myself wallow in that phrase. I proceeded to accomplish the best thing I could do in my limited existence. I have shown who I am and what I represent by moving and making a life that is true to my spirit. You can too.
I am writing a book. Please comment below if you like this title. I think I will stay 4ever59! I will keep writing and I will keep learning to be forever young. xo, Michele
Medellin, Colombia is a city with a past. A dangerous past. A city of people with great pride, they call themselves Paisas. Paisas feel they are different from the rest of the Colombians, because of their history that is intertwined with Medellin. They have seen the worst and now they have seen the best. They have lived with the horror of Pablo Escobar, the FARC, barrio warlords, gang leaders, unimaginable violence. They have a past that lies dormant in their memories of what Medellin used to be like, something we Americans can never understand. After moving here I saw a different world view, one I hold inside my heart. But now they have stability while the tourism industry has grown 260% since 2002. They are very proud to live in Medellin, but they are still getting used to having foreign people come to visit this once very uncontrollable city. They have those horrible memories that will never leave them.
Sergio Farjado mayor of Medellin from 2003 to 2007 started the talks about improving Medellin beginning with the poorest areas. A bottom up strategy that has worked. I had two wonderful tour guides while visiting Medellin and both were from the poorest areas, they had many stories to tell. Most importantly, they both were not old, Manny was in his mid-thirties and Camillo was around 23 or 24 years old. They both used what was offered by the government to improve their lives. Both are successful and proudly independent, not wanting to take anything more from the government. They are truly proud Paisas.
My first guide Manny was from a barrio that has been transformed with escalators to allow the poorest to reach public transportation easily. To be able to get to work without the steep climb up and down the mountains. He told stories of the area we visited. Manny remembered the army had to use helicopters to begin projects in these areas as they were so dangerous. He spoke of dead bodies being placed outside the homes planted with grenades so the police and military could not enter to help the populations of these poverty-stricken areas. They couldn’t even remove the bodies to bury them. It was quite sad to hear this from someone who actually witnessed such brutality. But with persistence the truly needy and their homes have been reinvented. Manny said many innocent lives were lost. However, now the violence is replaced with libraries throughout these areas, programs for the poor to send them to school, to give them loans to start businesses. Every public park in Medellin has free WiFi. Colombia and especially Medellin has shown you can take the people from the most needy areas and give them a reason to break the chain of violence and drugs. The above photos show the images posted in an office at the top of the barrio I visited, before and after transformations. Here is a video I took of the ascent to the top. You will see the street art which is used all over Colombia as a way of expression to show the past and the new future. This street art is a favorite part of my love of Colombia. I love to see color, a lot of color. I also love light, not darkness. The homes are so bright and cheery in these under privileged areas.
Color is important
The barrios are so clean
Looking out at the view
The Street Art is Colombia
Colombia is spending millions on infrastructure to improve all the big cities. Cali, Colombia which is closest to Villa Migelita , my Bed and Breakfast, is transforming areas also. What is really fantastic is that all the walking areas throughout the large cities in Colombia, have a strip in the middle of the sidewalk for the blind to guide them. Wonderful, thoughtful ideas are being implemented! Unlike the USA, Colombia is not using the tired line of trickle down economics of the rich vs the poor. Colombia is showing the world that improving and giving to the poor is a way to get the whole economy thriving and raising people up to achieve great things! Medellin alone went from 40,000 tourists in the year 2010 to over 4 million visitors in 2016. I arrived in Colombia to live in 2011. It is not difficult to get a Visa to live here. The only thing that needs to be emphasized is that Colombians are super polite people. They do not want to offend anyone, but they are noticing the bad behavior of some tourists. Check out this photo.. Please, thank you and a nice greeting in Spanish really impresses all Colombians.
Another amazing part of Medellin is the super fast metro system built during very turbulent times in Medellin, also the cable car system is phenomenal. While in the city I used this metro and cable car system more than taxis! Wonderfully clean, because no one will destroy what they are so proud of! If disabled, older, or pregnant, a seat is offered immediately by all who are nearby. I watched and observed the behavior of everyone. I am so proud to live in this country as an expat.
A tip to those visiting Medellin. Use the free walking tour offered by Real City Tours. My guide Camillo was fantastic. He was informed and educated. He is from the poor barrios, but has a degree in bio-medical engineering. He is bi-lingual, he is charming, and he is making money taking these tours around his city of Medellin. He is what we should strive to be in this chaotic world. I cannot say enough about his intelligence, drive and knowledge. He rose from poverty to become a part of sharing the history of Colombia’s success, and also his success. I often say to those who make fun of other’s accents, “Do you speak another language?” “Can you rise from a past that had you living in violence to having a college degree?” “Are you successful?” I think success is based on what you accomplish, not just money. I told Camillo, you must make your family so proud. He was so modest, so polite, and so intelligent.
Botero Plaza in Medellin
Camillo would make any mother proud and I told him so. He was delightful, smart and fluent in English because the Colombian government gave him a chance to become all that he could be! I was so impressed with his stories and the walking tour. It is free, and a tip is your price. Again I emphasize, be kind, be generous, and enjoy the culture of Colombia. Don’t be cheap because you can be. I had that happen with recent guests. They ignored my lovely and hard-working maid after 33 days of being cared for by her. I will never allow that to happen again. Please remember to give thanks to those that give you good service here in Colombia. We don’t tip like in the USA. However, tips are to be given to those that become part of your stay, part of your journey.
The last part of our walking tour was at a park for concerts in Medellin. This square also features the art of the artist Fernando Botero. In these last photos I will show there was a lesson present. A bomb blew up his sculpture of The Bird in the 1990’s. This bomb killed a little girl and more than thirty people. The perpetrator was never found. The Colombian government wanted the sculpture immediately removed. But the President of Colombia received an important phone call from Botero himself. He said “leave it there to remind all to fight against this terrorism” So they did. It is a reminder to all who live in Medellin of their past. One they need to remember as the future unfolds with the prosperity and growth of Medellin. Colombia is now a thriving and innovative country. A country of proud people with a past they would like to forget, but never will. We are the future. People like me, an American who lives here in Colombia and is showing the world that a terrible past can evolve to a wonderful future. Maybe that is why I feel so at home in Colombia. I know the past does not define who you are.
When I moved to Colombia I left a lot of baggage behind. By baggage I mean: “intellectualbaggagethatkeepsonefromthinkingclearly”, it seems I was always fighting conflict before I moved to Colombia. By moving, I sought a new lifestyle free of conflict, negativity and chaos. I wanted to live in nature with my animals, to wake up and hear birds sing, write, hike in the mountains, swim under waterfalls, find a style of living that brought me to a place of peace. I have found this way of living in Colombia, although I have had some bumps along the way, for the most part it is a peaceful lifestyle and certainly adventurous. I live in a home that is beautiful and simple, and I no longer have the need for a lot of ‘stuff’ including the constant connection with others by having a phone in my hand every second of the day. Nor do I have a credit card for every store, nor a mountain of debt just because I must have the latest phone, computer, clothes, electronic devices and decor of the moment. Let’s face it; I am un-prepared and sorely behind this fast growing world of technology, the way people don’t interact with each other anymore, and I can’t find my way anywhere. I still keep my passwords written in a book. I am really lacking in many areas of social media advancement. I am not sure I care. I love my simple lifestyle. I was so grateful to return to Villa Migelita and my life of peace.
My most recent trip to the United States started off with the car rental place telling me I could no longer leave the airport without a sun-pass so I needed to buy the 13.99 a day option they were offering at a discount of 8.99 a day. I laughed so hard when he said that. I hardly use 25.00$ in tolls when visiting Florida. I told him that was ridiculous, and asked would it be possible to pay 8.99 for one day (even though that in of itself was stupid as the toll is 50 cents to leave the airport) until I could get my sun-pass from my Florida residence. “No, if you do that you will be charged 13.99 for the entire length of your car rental agreement” and he offered me the advice to go down the road a bit into Miami and buy a sun-pass at CVS drug store. He gave me directions. So after getting up at an early hour and taking a flight from Colombia, going through customs and then arriving at the rental place with my ears hurting because of my vertigo, I got in my rental car to buy a sun-pass at a CVS. I found the CVS without problem (a miracle actually if you don’t have GPS which I do not as I have a pre-paid phone in the USA) and entered and asked for the sun-pass from the cashier as it is sold behind the counter. She just looked at me as if I was speaking a strange language. I guess I was to her as she called over a co-worker who spoke to me in English, because she could only speak Spanish. Wow. So I then speak to her in Spanish and she made a face, and she acted like I was annoying her more. Great start to my vacation in Florida. So now I have the sun-pass and no way to activate it because my phone does not have media. I called a friend and thank God she answered and did this for me. I finally made it to my residence 4 hours after landing in Miami!
I am a person who treats others with respect, but I found the rudeness during my stay by many people I encountered unsettling. I go out of my way to be polite when I buy anything, anywhere! Where does this disrespect come from? Especially from employees? I seriously find that the most disturbing! When talking with the doctor’s office that had me in collections I spoke with a woman whom I knew. She said the employees who charged me the wrong price were not at fault. I asked “then who was at fault?” The answer was nonsensical as it could only be them and lack of training, so was it the superiors? I heard her say under her breath as she hung up the phone “jesus” like I was the problem! Was I the problem for trying to correct a situation that I didn’t cause? As a retired flight attendant from Delta Air Lines, I couldn’t get away with speaking to a customer that way! I would be fired. I am serious. So is this the new normal? Is it typical and I am just living in my jungle in Colombia with the birds and butterflies, no idea of the reality of the world anymore? I also found my lack of a ‘proper’ phone which everyone seems to have in their hands all the time an impediment. I have phone and text. I can also hook up to internet when available but I don’t. I really don’t care about it. I have no need to look at the darn phone all day! Am I a weird because I have no wish to be connected all the time to others on the internet? I really have no desire to see my email nor others photos and thoughts around the clock! UGH but I will say a GPS would be nice to have, but I probably couldn’t figure it out if I had one! I need to buy an old style GPS for my next trip to the USA. I got lost so much while driving I know that it is my only choice. I write directions but this seems to be a lost habit and it no longer works with all the huge expressways and different names of all of them! I don’t want to say I am horribly incompetent with social media; I actually have a knack for networking. I have a successful blog, a successful Facebook page, a successful website, and now an Instagram account. However, I am not up on the latest new thing with technology. I do have an iPad. I love it. I don’t know all I should about my device. I do have Yoga classes downloaded, and my Kindle app for reading. I have the Facebook, Instagram, and my email on it. I am sure that I am lacking so much in what I actually could have, but I don’t have anyone to teach me. I am now on Trip Advisor, and I am on AirBnB but it takes me a while to get these things started. So, like I said I am behind, like the last person running a marathon and coming up to the finish line last.
As I finish this blog I have one thing to say; ‘This is a distant world now.” No one really connects with each other in a personal way.They post photos and their life online and we all read it. I do the same. So I am not criticizing, I am just making obvious points. I miss seeing the people I love, but I understand it is not personal, it is just the way it is. I come home to my mountain home and I love my life of solitude. I am very happy to be writing my thoughts in my blog. I don’t miss real social interaction. I guess this is the new world we live in.