Saturday, September 25, 2010

Una Die Sin Plagues - A Day Without Plagues (bugs)

Most everyone in Corasoma has been under attack by something equivalent to the “no-see-ums” found in various parts of the U.S. in springtime here in Colombia. A small ferocious fly with a huge bite leaves large, itchy welts when it zooms in and does its work before you even realize you’ve been chewed. But on Wednesday, Sept. 22, we made a short ride (about 25-30 minutes) to San Gil, and a drop in elevation brought some of us temporary relief from scratching and being bitten.
Horses here are not always treated well, sadly.
The purpose of the trip was to buy some groceries as ‘miercoles’ (Wednesday) is market day... how I remember the word in Spanish is that it sounds like ‘mercado,’ which is the word for market.
On the way out of Barichara, however, I saw a number of fellows on horseback (It’s easier when it’s so muddy to have a four-legged drive transport if you don’t have a four-wheeler.) and one sad little creature hitched to the spot outside of town while the rider gets supplies.
In another spot, near where we had lunch, we saw a pile of what appeared to be sticks moving on its own up a hill. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a wretched little over-burdened small horse, struggling to climb the hill with stalks of cane to be harvested for panella (sugar from the cane). It is a sad fact that work animals here are not treated that well for the most part. But then neither are the lower class workers, male or female, given much respect by those who have them working. No wonder a man who is in his 40’s looks like that little horse, beaten down, struggling just to make it to the next day.
This was the fried version ... yummy!
Lunch was at this wonderful little country restaurant called “Pesque y Coma” which really means “fish and eat,” because you can actually fish for your dinner. But I like the idea of the sign which made me think of the fish being so divinely cooked that it puts you into a coma... which it almost did. Very moist Tilapia in two different versions: one was fried and the other was wrapped in foil and steamed. 
San Gil was bustling with people and traffic as usual and it always takes longer to find what one is looking for because no single shop carries all the items, so it’s necessary to walk up one street and down another, asking each proprietor if they have what you are seeking and being told, “No, but you might try....” and on to the suggested next stop.
At Corasoma we cook with a wood stove, and the oven gets its heat from that wood, which is hard to regulate. I was looking for an oven thermometer and did not find it, but I haven’t given up.
On the way back to Barichara, our ‘tour guide’ for the day, Carlos, suggested we stop and see another village called Villanueva which is supposed to have more services than Barichara. About 80 years old, this village was dirty, plain, and totally uninspiring. The residents do not seem to have any pride of their place. In fact, I found the energy quite depressing and was glad to leave it. Clearly it is not a place much visited by turistas as we were stared at as if we had just landed in a space ship. I later learned that this was once a very violent area, and perhaps I had picked up on that historical psychic energy.
By the time we returned to Corasoma, it was almost sunset and the rainclouds were moving fast over the mountaintops. Although the day was interesting and the food was good, I found out some upsetting personal news via the Internet today, so it was good to get back to friends and a hot cup of tea while I ponder the information received.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Much Has Changed in Barichara

The road to Barichara from San Jose Altos is awash
after the rainstorm the night before.

The first thing I noticed is that there has been, and continues to be, plenty of rain. This has created a lush, vibrant landscape and the pinched look in the faces of the Colombians has disappeared. The once dusty roads are now impassable at times because of the ravines created by rushing torrents. But the birds are joyous.
A kind of canary native to this part of Colombia
I have not been able to capture with the camera a beautiful, azure-colored mini parrot, but the canaria shown here is about the same size. The garden at Corasoma is growing all sorts of edible delights, and even some tobacco has bloomed and produced the leaves for smoking. Smoking pure tobacco is a very different experience than that which is commercially produced and with the upcoming full moon, I hope to join the local circle to thank the gods for the rain and the crops.
With this new year apparently the manager(s) and politicos for Barichara have realized the importance of not going through another drought like last year. Many of the streets are currently torn up with the installation of drainage pipes and a new water treatment plant is under construction below the village (pueblo). Another hotel is under construction, so that makes two in close proximity to each other.
But there is also other construction which signifies the discovery of Barichara and people from all over the world are coming here to ‘retire.’ A new development is under way nearby Corasoma and also close to the small stream near the pueblo itself. I hope this intense interest will not change the area, but inevitably those people who come here for what they love will destroy what they initially found entrancing to make it more livable for their way of life. It is the way of all things.
Now after a week in Colombia, I am finally in the right time zone for my sleeping success and my language skills improve daily. All of the Corasoma residents went to a fiesta on Saturday to raise money for the young lady who will represent this vededa (area) in the annual larger fiesta in October in Barichara. We watched the locals play a game with a ball and three large posts, but the rules for success were not entirely clear. What was clear was that the winner would get a goat as a prize for the most points. No one from the Corasoma group felt qualified to even enter the fray.
While much has changed regionally, the sun still sets at 6 p.m. and rises at 6 a.m. as we are only about 400 miles north of the equator. There have been other changes, such as my plans, but they are not firmed up yet and will have to wait for another blog.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Seattle to Bogota

The day started REALLY early... like 3 a.m.! A friend, an amazing friend, picked me and my travel buddy, Jeyhu, up at my apartment and drove us to the airport. Then it was kind of a blur until we got on the plane and the engines revved up. I want to tell you a story about this, but perhaps it can wait because I just want you to see some amazing pictures and then I can go off to bed. Because it is now another day here in Colombia and sleeping on the airplane just didn't cut it.
Mt. Rainier at sunrise. This is not very sharp due to the
pitted windows. And it appeared larger to my eyes.
Atlanta was its usual hub of frenetic and orderly chaos and there were no delays until we got on the plane and were told we had to wait since the customer who had bags in the hold didn't show up for the flight. "It's a safety issue," said the captain, and it caused us a 25 minute delay, but he put the pedal to the metal and we got to Colombia right on time!
This is one of my favorite things to do when flying -
to track our progress over the ground. This route took us
over Cuba, but it was too dark by that time to see out.
Our route took us from Atlanta down I-75 essentially to Miami and the sky was so clear you could make out the highways from 39,000 feet! It was well after 6 p.m. when we got over the tip of Florida, so this was the last good shot of the day. I don't know what my internet access will be in Barichara this time, so don't give up if a few days go by. G'nite all.
We are over Miami, Florida, flying at over 500 mph at 39,000 feet. I was impressed that my little Sony
digital travel camera could get this one. The sun was already setting at 7 p.m.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Swim is Over

Some of the MM bloggers and caregivers
will remember "Andre" and I didn't
want him forgotten, either.
It's hard to believe the Swim Across America event here in Seattle is over and I only have a few hours before grabbing onto the wings of an east-bound plane for Atlanta, GA, and then head south to Colombia.

I was there again at Luther Burbank Park at 6 a.m. ready to volunteer. It was dark and cool and I had to drive through several patches of rain so it was just plain good fortune that it didn't rain during the event.

The turnout of swimmers was bigger than last year with 200 jumping into water temperatures that would send more than a shiver up your back. According to the announcer at the end, the fund-raising for Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) was better than the year before, too. That is good news because they are working very hard on research related to the immune system and these funds will help to support that effort.

I found this sign somewhat amusing given the numbers
of people (200) who were swimming for this event.
Actually there were over 50 people on the water watching
out for the swimmers - police, rescue personnel and volunteer
kayakers and boaters to ensure a safe outcome.
Some of the volunteers were on the water, some were dishing out food (me), some were handing out packets and tee shirts and afterwards there were a lot who were doing clean-up. As my daughter remarked, "We couldn't swim without all the help that's provided." It was fun, and I wouldn't have missed seeing my oldest beat her own time by a couple of minutes over last year. Good going!!

This year the cooler temperatures made the hot sausages, hot quiche, hot pancakes and the rich whipped cream and strawberries, cookies, cup cakes and cream cheese a veritable feast for all who attended. If food is a motivator, this year it sure surpassed all expectations! Families and friends picnicked together after the racing was done and listened to announcements and successes in the fundraising efforts. The numbers aren't all in yet, but they definitely already showed an increase over 2009. One team of four women raised $7,000, winning the "Best Effort Award."

One of the on-water volunteers was taking his dog with him. "She loves to go with me," he said. But in this first photo, he is trying to tell her she has to move to the front and she has already loaded on, being very careful to keep her feet dry, having determined that the cold water wasn't something she wanted too much of.

In the second photo he had gently taken her by the collar and pretty much forced her to move to the front spot. I loved the expression on her face which seemed to say, "I don't agree with you, but if you say so."

And then in this final photo she seems to have resigned herself to the new position and is watching some of the activities on shore as her owner paddles out to the race area.
The Half-milers begin their swim at 8:30 a.m. and a few managed to finish
just as the Two-milers were coming into the gates as well.

The leading swimmers in the Two-Mile race began hitting the gate at 39 and 40 minutes (having started at slightly after 8 a.m.) which means that they were swimming a mile in 20 minutes!!! That is churning up some water!!! The Half-Milers were swimming pretty well by putting themselves through the gate after about 25-30 minutes. Nothing to be ashamed of!

About 9:30 the sun began to break through the heavy clouds and as the remainder of the swimmers came onto the beach from both races, the early arrivers were getting toweled off and warmed back up.
There are too many who are in this MM fight... I was sad
that they limited the numbers of flags we could post.
I posted some prayer flags for a few of the MM folks I know who are having a particularly tough time, but I was limited in the number of flags so I just want to say that although your name might not have appeared to be waving in the breeze, I was still thinking of you and your caregivers and hope you know this was not meant as any kind of slight. And while I wasn't 'swimming,' for the cure, I did what I could to support those who were.
These are the leader swimmers rounding the last mark on their two-mile
Swim Across America in less than 40 minutes!
'Godwillin' and the crick don't rise,' I will be back next year to do my small part in helping to raise awareness, funds and energy to this event.
The red, white and blue balloons of Swim Across America
blow in the gentle breeze off Lake Washington in Seattle.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Market Place

Pike's Place Market is a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike, especially on a sunny Sunday.

The Pike Market is well known for their Market Spice Tea which is available here, and online, too, if you care to order it. It was a big hit with our Colombian friends, so we made a special effort on Sunday to get down here and get some to take back with us. It has a strong orange and spice flavor; a black tea drenched in rich flavor. I have had it also under the title of "Russian Spice Tea," so that may be how it is found in other parts of the world.
A lot of flowers are available for sale here and since better than 80 percent of the flowers sold in the U.S. come from Bogota, perhaps we are seeing some Colombian flowers in this colorful mix!

During the winter a lot of local people come here to get their flowers and they are really priced quite reasonably. Seeing the sunflowers in the back row made me think about all the sunflowers we planted and watered while at the finca and I will be interested to see whether some more have been put in while we were away and how they have progressed.

To the left is a vendor selling every possible kind of rice, 
pasta, spaghetti, vermicelli, etc. on the face of this earth.
Today was the last Summer Sunday in Seattle. This is when you can park for free in a lot of places - no dropping coins into slots - and there are plenty of street vendors, musicians, and lots of wonderful smells and foods... look at the crowd inside the market hall! Doesn't look like the economy is suffering here, does it?

The other great delight is finding all sorts of different kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables. Remarkably, Lorna and Mike, although they have a wide range of shapes and sizes, there was nothing to compare with your zucchini, though I looked long and hard.
Take a long hard look at the vegetable up near the center.
I think this vendor has a sense of humor.

You can find champagne grapes (miniature and sweet), Chinese fruits, Mexican vegetables, and other worldly treats to address any recipe needs you might have. One of the vendors was slicing off bits of a ripe and juicy yellow peach for everyone to sample that was very tempting, but we were on a mission and could not be diverted by our taste buds.

Playing a lively composition, possibly his own creation?
What else might you be searching for? Italian sweets? Washington honey? French pastries? German sausage? Russian caviar? There are incredible restaurants - small and large - along the street. Books? Candles? Potions? Someplace in the market you can find it. Jewelry, clothing, hats, tattoos, spices for food, spices for life.

Seattle has such a variety of cultures. You can walk down this market street and hear voices from many lands, people dressed in a variety of national garb, music from every possible range: classical to jazz, banjo to harmonica, even a piano on wheels was being enthusiastically played by its owner, with CDs to purchase if you like what he's offering.

There are blown glass ornaments, wall hangings made from every possible kind of material, photographs, line art, incredibly lovely creative works by artists who silently watch you walk by and art by those who try to entice you with demonstrations, questions or simply shoving their works at you, hoping their technique will be the one to sway you to part with your cash or debit card.

A balloon creature creator sells his twisted art to all who will buy in the park that overlooks Elliott Bay in Puget Sound.
It is like a smorgasboard of light, sound and color which I am ill-equipped to handle for very long. Like an over-stimulated child with too many sweets from pampering aunts and uncles, I finally have to leave it all behind and head back to the relative quiet of Mukilteo - grateful that I have that choice.

So I leave you with a short video of one of the musicians we heard... enjoy!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Summer is over.

This photo of the pier near the ferry landing in Edmonds, Washington, does not give a hint that summer is over. I took this last week. Yesterday the air was clean, crisp, clear. And cool. Summer is over - at least in this neck of the woods.

I was left to my own devices all day long - not necessarily a good thing. After walking about the Alderwood Mall for several hours and buying only a monopod for my camera, I figgered it was time to head back to the home base. The restless feeling was still there, and the sun was making a beeline for the horizon, so I thought it might be time for another Mukilteo sunset.

(Do you know what a "beeline" really is? It's a straight line, taken from the observers of bees, flying from the flowers back to the hive.)

This shot (left) of the Olympic range has all those perfectly delicate pastel colors I try to recreate in my drawings but never quite master. (This was what I saw at the ferry landing when I began thinking it was time to consider something rash, like running and jumping on a departing ferry boat.)

On board the ferry heading for Whidbey Island.
OK, so grab the camera, something warm and the car keys. Amazingly enough for a Friday night, the line to the ferry was practically gone! I found a place to park and went to Ivar's and ordered a small shrimp and french fries. As I was sitting by myself, I thought, "Why don't you just get a walk-on ticket and take a ferry ride? It's a nice night, not too windy, no one has to be asked 'Can I?' and maybe you'll get some interesting shots." I went quickly to the ticket window and the fellow said "If you hurry you can get on this one, $4.10 please, and be back here by 8:30." Deal.

Arriving at Whidbey Island.
I was feeling a bit lonely and whenever I get to that place, I find if I do something for someone else, I always can bring myself back to center. Healing me, I heal others - like Reiki which works in reverse. I decided I would take some pictures to share with a particular blog friend who suffers with MM, and who has other challenges which make mine seem infinitesimal by comparison. So this story is for B, not the B belonging to Feresknit, but a B nonetheless - perhaps more of the B-line, since this individual is such a straight-shooter.

The ride over was brisk - brisk by speed standards and easily by temperature standards. The air has a bite from the north which makes the  photography especially crisp, but also nips at one's fingers like an ice puppy making a down vest very desirable.

Waiting to take the same ferry back to Mukilteo.
I loved watching the sky change color and tried to get a clear shot here, but the ferry passenger waiting spot doesn't have great views. The land mass on the horizon is Everett with the Cascade mountain range faintly seen.

Then as the ferry boat whistle blew, I went to the other side to catch this shot (below) of the pink clouds and their light on the water. Really, who could take a bad shot of sunset anyhow? As I listened to the churning of the motors below, I got that same kind of excitement I used to get when we got underway from the harbors in the South and I knew we had an adventure in store. There is a new one ahead for me.
As the ferry heads back across the Puget Sound to
Mulkilteo, the last light of the sun catches the clouds.

But traveling just 20 minutes by boat doesn't constitute the bigger one of which I speak. This was just a side trip, a break in the routine, a short diversion from the longer journey. This was just helping me get myself back on center by sharing something lovely with someone I wished could be sharing it with me... not any friend, but a special pal who listens and gives me feedback. Now that is a Friend indeed!

Arriving after sunset at Mukilteo.
As I walked off the ferry, the fellow who had to help me figure out how to scan my ticket and kept  his calm while the line handlers were impatient to let go and let the ferry get under way greeted me as if I was returning from an around-the-world adventure. "How was your trip?" he asked.

"Quite lovely," I replied. "I had a great time." His smile equalled mine. "That's great! Have a nice evening."

I held up traffic for just a second while I snapped this last shot coming off the ferry and walking toward the parking lot. It sums up my day. We cannot make shore without the beacons of our friends, guiding us toward their light, their unspoken caring pulling us into a safe harbor and calmer waters. And like lighthouses, we don't need many. 

Mukilteo Lighthouse still shines for sailors.
In a few days, I will pack my suitcases and head south - far south... back to South America for a couple of months. I will miss the turning of the leaves, the impending cool of winter. Instead I will be in 75 degrees every day for several weeks and then will come back to the absolute chill of November. Another adventure in the making. More stories to tell.

I will be sharing those travels as I have access to the Internet, so I hope you will check in now and then.