Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in Colorado

Denver got enough snow and plenty of cold
weather to hold it for a white Christmas.
If you add in the 11 hours from Florida, plus the 36 or more from Colombia, it has taken me the better part of two days to get here. But it's been well worth it!

First, there is really nothing like a White Christmas to get you into the mood of celebrating if it's what you grew up with, and I did, so snow is good for that.

Second, seeing almost all of my grandchildren is gratifying, and watching them open presents was alternately fun and horrifying.  I think there is some kind of cicada gene that comes out when children are faced with more than one present to open and they rip into the carefully wrapped paper and ribbon like grasshoppers on fresh green leaves, shredding everything within reach in seconds.

Windows dressed in holiday lights... and
lots of white stuff outside as well.
No one said, "Oh, this is what paper from Colombia is like," or. "You brought this all the way from South America for me?" It was: get this one opened, on to the next, what's in that one, and then finally, in the famous song by Peggy Lee, "Is that all there is?"

Then like an addict after the high has passed, the children all collapsed in tearful heaps, exhausted from getting up in the dark to open stockings, jumping on their father, yelling to come down and "Let's open the presents!!" and always, always, someone is disappointed there was no pony under the tree. (This year it was me... LOL!)

Santa Claus reads "T'was the Night Before Christmas" to the crowd of
children of all ages, big and small... not a creature was stirring while he did.
We had an invitation for a Christmas Eve party and enjoyed a huge selection of feast goodies - everything from ham and salmon to mini-quiches, hot spinach dip and hard candies filled with jelly, as reminders of Christmases long ago. Best of all was the arrival of Santa Claus and I got all teary-eyed listening to him read "T'was the Night Before Christmas" because my father used to read that story to us as our go-to-sleep-Santa-will-be-here-soon evening tale. I looked around at all the eager little faces who were creating their own re-membories and thought about how I had read that fable to my children, too.

Santa Claus said he no longer smokes a pipe and he's been
on a diet for the past few years, so no more "jelly belly"
either. He sang a funny song about himself in earlier years
being unable to fit down the chimney - in tune, too!
After all the children had their chance on Santa's knee, some of the adults wanted a photo taken. I was persuaded to step up and have my daughter take mine; she caught me telling him that it had been a long time since I'd been on his knee... and when I said "We are nearly the same age, Santa," he laughed and said, "Well, not really since I am three days younger than God..."

Anyone who might remember the Karcher Mall Santa Claus from Boise, Idaho, will recall a very gentle man who lived like he thought Santa lived during the non-Christmas months. This Santa Claus in Denver, with a real beard, reminded me of those long-ago days of someone who perhaps convinced my girls that Santa was 'real' when their friends were trying to prove he wasn't. I wanted to keep the magic alive for as long as possible. It was wonderful that my daughter's new family found this exceptional representation of the mystical Claus for all the children to see and talk to.

A memorable Christmas by all accounts.
Now it's all over, including the shouting and celebrating, and we move on to another celebration of the incoming year. My grandchildren are growing up and becoming interesting young people, ones I hope I will get to know better in 2012.

But for certain I want to return to Colombia and continue working on my creative projects as well as traveling back to the U.S. for family events. Praying for good health for all my readers and for world events to move toward peace and acceptance of all peoples so we can stop the violence. I know that some people think that's an unrealizable dream, but I am still going to intend that individuals around the world are all beginning to realize that we are all one, that we can change things so that everyone, everywhere has enough of all the life-sustaining elements (water, food, shelter) so that each one, and particularly the children, all have what is needed, for the highest and best good of all concerned, so be it and so it is.... WHOOOOOOO!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It was a Looooooonnnnnnnggggg Trip!

I don't have any photos to post of the trip from Barichara to Florida, but it was long and dark, and sometimes rainy. I left my old casa about 10:30 p.m. and arrived in San Gil at the terminal in time to catch the late-running 11 p.m. bus to Bogota. I determined I was charged the highest price (50,000 pesos) because the driver correctly evaluated me as a gringa, tired and distracted. Oh well, my Christmas present to his family... it should have been about $35,000 pesos.

The bus pulled into Bogota about 6:30 a.m. under temporarily sunny skies and I caught a taxi from there to El Dorado airport which is under construction for a fabulous new system, making it the most modern international airport in Colombia, and about three or four times larger - much needed! So I was ready to get into lines by 8 a.m. Only they weren't ready for me! The international flights -  most of them - leave after lunch and do not begin service for ticketing, etc., until 10 a.m.  OK, then.

I went back to the Beauty Salon I visited last year and they were ready for a customer, so I got myself a hair treatment, nails and while my hair was being done, they stuck me in a full body massaging chair for 20 minutes. I was tired but totally relaxed. Three hours later I went and got into the LAN line and was quickly processed, they took my two bags and no extra fees and I left for a light lunch and more lines for the LAN security final check.

Most of the international flights do a final search of your things in the waiting area for the flight. That's also when the last body scan is done, but it seems 'friendlier' somehow than the TSA people in the US make it. Not 'friskier,' suggestive or whatever, even though it is a frisking of the body total, but it feels less invasive.

Anyhow, flight was delayed slightly, but we arrived in time in Miami at 7 p.m. Now I've had 20 hours of traveling and less than six hours of sleeping as the bus is not condusive to quality sleep time, even though I was lucky to have two seats for most of the journey. By 9:30 p.m. I have my rental car and am heading up I-95 to Jacksonville as I will have to turn the car in at the airport and a friend will pick me up there.

Can't make it... angels on my shoulder guide me to a rest area at 2 a.m. and I sleep there until about 5 a.m. under the watchful eyes of the security guard and then I head out for a road trip breakfast before getting into JAX. It is noon by the time my buddy arrives to pick me up, and I can tell I am getting ready to crash after 36 hours of traveling. But when I get to my FL cottage, I am too tired to go to sleep and I finally fall into bed about hour 42....

No surprise that over the next few days I am fighting a cold... but I made it safely back to the U.S. and I will soon have this cold behind me. Hope you all are having good holiday events and I wish you joy!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sacred Contracts

I am re-reading "Sacred Contracts" by Caroline Myss, who also wrote "Anatomy of the Spirit," one of my favorite books. Part of how this came about is that I am preparing to take a long trip and I needed to pack up my things so that they can be properly stored while I'm away. I was inventorying the books and determining if I really planned to keep them all and in that sorting process came across this gem.

Basically Ms. Myss' philosophy stated in the book is that we have made contracts before we came into this life and we end up playing them out. This book is intended to help clarify for the reader what his or her contract(s) may be and how to benefit from that knowledge. I bought the book awhile ago and started it, but never finished it. There is no answer for why that happened; perhaps it was at a time when too many other things were going on and it just got put aside.

Anyhow, as I am preparing for this physical journey, it seems there is still more of my spiritual journey that needs to be taken. I have realized many of my goals during this past year. I wanted to identify myself as a painter and I have finished four canvasses, three of which are hanging in a local gallery and one of those three will be in an exhibition next month. My photography skills have been appreciated as five of my photos appeared in the Mayor's exhibition during the Feria (fair) and more than a few people have acknowledged seeing them and that is gratifying. I've learned a lot about ceramics, and have tons more to learn, and in the process of all these objectives, I've been learning Spanish, too.

But I'm still a bit confused as to what my Sacred Contract might be. Thus, it must be important for me to read this book and see if there are any clues in it for me. I'll let you know.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Making the Move

Although the rain has caused lots and lots of problems in all the states, the
rich greens on a sunny day are enough to blind you! This is the last shot
taken from my rental house in La Loma on the morning of my move.
I've been out of energy and out of time and out of modem connection for the past 10 days or so... I had to move from the rental house I had outside the village to a less expensive option in the village, as the contract had ended and the past "Arrendidoria" (landlady) did not want to extend for another year. Her hope is that she will sell the property.

I endured a year of being given short notice - often less than an hour - for people to come and see it and then heard that she was upset it didn't look better. Sorry, but I cannot take down wet laundry, mow the grass, and pick up all my paints in 60 minutes. But now it shouldn't be a problem as it is empty. I hope she does sell it quickly. I am not ungrateful for the house, and I took good care of it, but clearly the owner's frustrations rubbed off on me.

Anyhow, my new living quarters are interesting. I don't have the expansive views of local hills and valleys, but I am living in a typical Colombian casa and, it turns out, it is also the OLDEST house in the village. The layout is awkward, which is why I think it has been difficult to rent. The owner wants to lease the front part to shop owners and I live in the back part.
This is the first patio, and you can see the dining area just
ahead. Keep walking toward the back and you reach yet
another patio before the 'quarters' that mark my sleeping
area, a guest room and the kitchen.
In its old configuration, there would have been three very large sleeping quarters for the family in the front, a courtyard, then the dining area, another courtyard and then the servant quarters and the kitchen and washing area. (That's my new domain.) The former servant section has been divided into two sleeping rooms, the kitchen has been remodeled, but the back 'yard' still has the old beehive bread oven and a roasting pit. It appears that this 'house' might have actually been more of a hotel, though probably not called that - more likely a 'guest house' where people could come and stay as they worked their way from Bogota to Bucaramanga on horseback... must have been a hellishly long ride!
This is the last patio, and that domed thing in the far back
is the beehive bread oven. The wood is put below and the
bread cooks above. I don't more than that about it.
Once it became clear that I was going to be moving, I had to do the packing up of things... and even though I only had a bed, a bureau, two side tables, three chairs and a washing machine in the way of actual 'furnishings,' I had plenty of books, kitchen supplies, and assorted other 'items' that it took a small truck three trips... it was rather embarrassing, actually, because most of the campesinos can load their belongings in this same small truck and undoubtably have space left over in one trip.

I hate moving, and I hated this one, too. I don't like the disorganization of it all, and even with all the labeling of boxes, things are missing and it will take some time to get resettled. I especially hate moving alone, and here there was no family or close-enough friends who might help. I was on my own. I managed to find the truck driver, speaking my rough Spanish, and he agreed to meet me in the park on the Friday at 2 p.m. so I could show him how to get to the house outside of town.

Only he never showed up. I called and he said 'perhaps he could come tomorrow.' Nearly in tears, the lady who was helping to clean up the new location for her cousin who is the owner showed up and took over. In an hour, the driver was there with helpers and three hours later everything was moved. As the sun set on my wierd and also wonderful day, I ached from lifting and moving things, but it was done!

My new home is very close to the cathedral; I am literally at the bottom
of the steps, across from the main park. I can hear the bells but they aren't
too loud because the old walls are almost 28" thick!!!
So that's the reason I haven't been blogging... but now that I'm finding my way around in this curious old house, I am motivated to find out more about it and see what interesting tales might be told of the people who once stayed or lived here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Faces of Colombia

ABOVE: Los Hermanas (The Sisters) take care of the elderly
and is also where I was painting a mural with Shayo, left.
BELOW: My friend, El Doctora Isabel, looking quite
glamorous  even in the rain with her colorful 'sombrilla',
walks up the main street toward Santa Barbara church.
It's hard to believe so much time has raced on by and we are in the middle of November. It's the rainy season here and today is a wonderful example of that. The expression, "Make hay while the sun shines," truly applies here. Most people do not have dryers so when we have several days of rain, the laundry either has to wait to be done, or one hangs it out under the rafters. I have developed a system where I do the wash and then hang it on the line and cover the line with some clear plastic so whatever sun might peek through can help to dry things.

But today is a true full-on rainy day, as you see it in the photo. No point in draping the plastic and hoping for sun. Maybe later in the day the clouds will lift, but for now we are wet, wet, wet.

But of a more serious concerns is the sliding of the land down onto the roads (and from under the roads) making trips from place to place even more uncertain than it was last month. Today we were told on the radio that no one should take any unnecessary trips as the route between Bogota and Bucaramanga is littered with 'derumbas'. A friend said it took twice as long to get back from Buca as it normally does.

These fellows are a member of the elite Colombian 'cavalry'
and as big as their horses are, they are well trained for crowd
events like our Feria earlier this month.
It's also incredible for me to realize that I've essentially been in Colombia for a year now. While I speak the language better than I did a year ago, I have to admit it has been a slow process of learning. In recognition of this milestone, I wanted to share some faces of people, some known and some not, that I have discovered here.

Trading stamps is still popular for these children
It has been a year since I made the decision to rent a house here and soon I will have to renew that contract. Faces that were just part of the crowd a year ago are now people that I recognize and greet when I am in town. And likewise, the Gringa/Americana is less of a stranger to all of them, although my Spanish-speaking skills are still less than I expected them to be by this time.

What is still a delight for this grandmother is seeing young children playing with non-techie toys, still interacting with each other, laughing and running around.

It is worrisome that young boys and girls in other countries are bypassing all that physical activity and exchanges with their peers in order to play with X-Box, and other technical tools of the 'modern' world.

"The guys" (muchachos) break for lunch at noon everyday
and stores are closed until 2 p.m. almost everywhere.
When I first arrived in Colombia, there was an innocence that was pretty appealing to me. During the past two years I have seen more and more advertisements, more and more of a push to make Colombia 'just like the rest of the world,' with the consequence that the crime rate has gone up because there is growing dissatisfaction among the 15-25 age group with the way things are for them. A small village is fine for the very young and the very old, but pretty much stinks as far as entertainment and job opportunity goes for those with ambition.

I guess with the plans to improve the roads it would serve the government well to transcript some of these 'bored young men AND women' and put them to work in various jobs appropriate to their age and skills and give them a chance to take some pride in their country instead of looking of ways to rip off tourists or people who are here trying to help create a better future for everyone. I think I'll suggest that to someone who might be able to take that idea and run with it.

Friday, November 11, 2011 AM and PM

Double rainbows are a sign of good luck in some cultures.
It's been an interesting day, but basically I don't think any of the Colombians I am in connection with were particularly interested in the numbers of today. And both this morning and this evening I paid attention to the time, aware of the uniqueness of the day. My hope is that the energy of the numbers will bring new light to the world, new awarenesses... we will wait and see.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Visit to Guapotá

The view from Marylandia, a Catholic retreat in Guapota.
I first heard about Guapota (pronounced whoa-poh-tah) only a few days before the trip was taking place. A busload of people from Barichara were going to visit the priest who was formerly in Barichara, Fr. Leonardo.
Eglise of Guapota with park below.

According to Fr. Leonardo, Guapota was established about 200 years ago and the church was built about the same time. The front portion of the church needed replacement, so it is not the same age as the rest of it. Built with local stone and brick, what I noticed first is the arches throughout the church and the priest's residence. The church is high on the hill overlooking the village, with a park in front, and some lovely old trees preserved to give dense shade from the hot sun.

The beautiful arches inside the church
 are created with local
stone and brick. Simple but really lovely.
We were blessed with a lovely sunny day, at least until after 5, when the clouds began to look threatening, but it never rained. That was a good thing because the road to Guapota is under construction after serious water damage earlier and more rain would have meant some serious travel challenges for our bus. The workers are installing drainage ditches and eventually the road will be re-paved, but right now it is a mix of paved and unpaved roadway.
Coffee beans are spread out on the sidewalk
to dry and once dried are bagged up (see the
bags behind the metal fence) and sent off
to be roasted. Then shipped worldwide.

This is not just a 'one-horse' town, but this was one of
the several I saw; few mules even though this is Juan
Valdez coffee-raising country.
You can learn more about this village from their website if you want to visit Guapota.  (It is written in Spanish, but if you go on Google you can get it translated.) Located southwest of Socorro just off the road to Oiba (and Bogota) and about half an hour's drive in from that highway, the major industries here are the production of sugar cane, cacao (cocoa for chocolate), and coffee. We saw a lot of coffee beans drying in the sunshine.

As it was also the week before voting for various state and local candidates (voting takes place on Sunday, Oct. 30 in Colombia to avoid losing workers from their tasks, it seems) there was a lot of loud music from each of the candidate's offices or vehicles reverberating off the stone streets and walls.

Some of the research I did about the village shows a population of less than 1,000 people, but I am not sure of that information. There is a new hospital, a home for the grandmothers and grandfathers to be cared for, and there is transportation service between Socorro and Guapota several times during the morning and afternoon. Clearly with only one road in and out of Guapota and a strong police presence, outsiders are noticed immediately. But typical Colombian hospitality is still in evidence and it makes a nice day trip.
Another view toward the Andes in Guapota.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Feria XXXIV Barichara!

We've had a lot of days that start like this with low clouds,
and misty or rainy until almost mid-day. But this is the
beginning of the rainy season, so no surprise!
It's time for the fair/feria! It started officially Friday night with the presentation of the candidates for the position of Queen of Barichara, a decision that will be rendered after the parade today (Sunday). Each of the communities (vedettas) will have a representative - 13! - so there will be 13 floats to judge - a tough job for the Mayor's committee.

The band from Villanueva put on a terrific and well
coordinated drill//dance performance.
And also on Friday was the presentation of the bands competing for the top slot. My vote was for either Villaneuva or Socorro and the judges seemed to like Socorro's big brass sound and slightly more professional presenting. I have to admit their on-time, precision drill team show was exceptional!

Our choral three-song show went off without a hitch at the Opening Ceremonies Friday evening and we got a few big praises which was definitely an improvement over our last showing... progress. There will be a YouTube video to see one of these days, and I will give you the link when I get it.
Last year they had a very good Simon Bolivar float; but
one thing they should do earlier is close the streets to cars.

The weather has played its own role in the festivities as the tourism impact has been quite a bit smaller than last year with flooding and mudslides and other rain effects - especially between here and Bucaramanga - causing people to make other choices. Also there is a feria in San Gil and in Pinchote this weekend, so that is causing a reduction, too.
The cathedral float is usually near the end of the parade.

But we look forward to the parade of the communities and pray for sunshine later on as it has been drizzly, misty and damp so far today!

UPDATE: We had a break in the clouds and while it was about the same as last year, at least it did not rain heavily during the afternoon at all. There were, according to several reports, over 35 floats and this year the neighboring city of Villanueva joined in along with the other one, Guane. This made for a lively afternoon with lots of people cheering for their friends and family in and about their particular entry.

I love seeing the creativity offered up and
this float was called "Myths and Legends."
Aren't these little children precious in their costumes?

This truck was completely covered with
greenery so I couldn't get a good shot of
the vedetta candidate.

This vedatta grows a lot of corn and had the winner for the
'Queen of Barichara' last year, I think.
The children on the 'kid floats' were so cute in their birds and bees and flower costumes, and so many of the floats were incredibly creative and colorful; it would have been hard for me to choose the best one. Aside from the 13 candidate floats, there were others from local businesses, community services, the Colombian equivalent of 4-H and the church. I have to say that overall I think the effort was much better than last year's and it definitely was bigger!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Healing How To.. from The Intenders

The Mot-Mot eats bugs; lots of them!
Many of you have experienced a message from me, some even in person, which goes something like this: "I (or we) are intending _(fill in the the blank with a positive present voice statement)_ for the Highest and Best Good of All Concerned, so be it and SO IT IS!" And I usually add a "Whoooooooooo!" or an "Amen!" at the end in order to make sure the Universe knows I want to be heard.

This was partially learned from a group called The Intenders of the Highest Good, and some of it came from other sources, including my grandmother, Elsa, who believed strongly in the power of the mind. Long ago I used to annoy my children when I would wave my arms in a circle and call out "White Lights!" as they were leaving the house or the car or getting on an airplane. It was my early effort at communicating a blessing, a thought of protection for them, seeing them in their Highest Light of Protection and Good.

Orange blossoms have the most wonderful scent!
When I started this blog, one of my personal objectives was to be a cheerleader for those with MM and to use intentions in that sideline position. It has been gratifying to hear back from some people that they have appreciated my expression of commitment to their well-being. But I am the one who has realized great benefits from my almost daily 'meditations' of healing messages.

I joined an Intenders group in St. Augustine, FL, almost a decade ago, after being trained as a Reiki Master, and have learned a lot during that time about the effects of energy and especially as it relates to healing. And I am still a student. I am learning how water and food can affect that energy, but the mind is a powerful tool as well.

This is not to say that just because you are 'thinking positive thoughts' that you will overcome a health issue, nor is one to blame for an illness or condition because of not having uplifting thoughts. But I do personally believe that focus of thought is part of the equation of healing. So to help explain what I mean, I want to offer a message recently delivered from Tony Burroughs, a co-founder of The Intenders, which says it so much better than I can.

This is a Utah sunset shot I captured last year.
The following doc comes from a recent Intenders Newsletter. It says a great deal about what we stand for and where we’re see ourselves headed in the way we act toward each other.  We've received so many favorable comments on it that we thought we would share it with those of you in The Intenders Facebook Founders Circle.  It’s called Healing: A How To . . .

"Teach no one that he is what you would not want to be." This line comes from A Course in Miracles and it is worth rereading a time or two until you understand it because it says so much to those who are intending to make a happier, healthier life for themselves. Indeed, these few words hold a key to discerning and dispelling all that we have been taught about sicknesses, defense, money and almost everything we believe in.

For when we look closely we realize that we have been taught how to get sick, how to defend ourselves against enemies unseen, how to manifest lack and limitation, how to act in conformance with all that our society deems proper and just. Fortunately, people are waking up now and we're beginning to ask ourselves: "Are these things we have been taught continuing to serve us? Would the people who taught us (and continue to teach us) to believe in disease, defense, and destitution want to be experiencing these things for themselves?" It's very doubtful.

At this point we can stop and play the Blame Game (as so many of us have done in the past), or we can take a new tack. We can begin to reexamine all the old beliefs we were taught, discard those that are making us sick or unhappy, and we can make use of another line from The Course which says, "When a brother behaves insanely, you can heal him only by perceiving the sanity in him."

We in the Intenders would say that we see him in his Highest Light. We see his Perfection, his Divine Essence, his Spirit Self - and in doing so something quite magical - a transformation - begins to happen. He picks up on what we're doing and he contemplates a change in his behavior. No longer will he teach that which he would not want for himself. Now he's taken the first step in healing wounds he's carried with him from way back.

This is what is happening all around us these days. In the midst of seemingly relentless chaos, more and more people are holding the template of the Highest Light. We're seeing everyone and everything in its Highest, Sanest, Most Joyful State of Being, and, as a result, we're having a profound effect on the world we live in. We're healing it. We're healing it all - and here's the best part: That's exactly what we need to be doing in order to heal our own wounds from way back.
Tony Burroughs

Bougainvilla grows everywhere here.
Early on in my Reiki training, we learned that when we are healing others, we are healing ourselves as well. That isn't why I started doing Reiki, but it has been a wonderful adjunct to my practice. Reading "A Course in Miracles" daily for one year was another way to come to a greater understanding of how my early 'training' has affected all my life. 

Clearly I am no saint, nor am I about to claim to be The Healer. I am merely the conduit, the plastic pipe through which the energy and the message flows. I wanted to share this message so that others might join in this flow, this wonderful possible effect of healing it all... and for all of us to be in our Highest Light for the highest and best good of all concerned.... so be it and so it is.... whooooooooooo!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cats in the Rafters

Ultimo got down off the beam too quickly.
Having an 'open' house leaves lots of options for cats...
Sombra or Shadow - she lives up to her name, darting
about, especially if there are strangers around. She is a
one-woman cat, and lives in the shadows herself.
Here's a change of pace from the sadness of remembering a disaster and the seriousness of saving the planet. I have been enjoying the funny things that cats do; whether to amuse us (a presumptive assumption on my part) or to satisfy something within themselves (more likely), and I have been taking pictures of the 'Loaner Cat,' who eventually became a permanent installation and acquired the name Ultimo and the 'Rescue Cat,' known alternately by her Spanish name Sombra, or her English name, Shadow. What is interesting is that she comes to either name; she doesn't seem to have a preference.

Ultimo is a talker. It must be the Siamese or Himalayan
genes and he's not shy about voicing his opinions on any
subject, including politics. If the TV is on, he will complain
about the news rigorously. 
Ultimo has had his little surgery. The vet said she only cut one because there is a new theory that giving male cats some hormones keeps them healthier overall.  So while he doesn't seem to have the drive to wander, he does call out a lot at night, especially when the moon is full. It is apparent that he has some Siamese or Himalayan background with his markings and his desire to have conversation with me, especially in the morning when he comes to wake me up. He is stubborn about where he likes to sleep - and annoyed when he gets disturbed.

Sombra will be having an operation in a couple of weeks as I think there are too many unaltered cats here and too many kittens that get dumped and I know it is healthier for her to not get caught up in that cycle.

The first Colombian cat was sweet Pasqual, and he was a good introduction to Scott, the dog, who up until that moment hated cats. Pasqual taught Scott that cats can be friends so when Ultimo showed up, Scott was less resistant. Ultimo must have learned from Pasqual even in the short time he was around how to get along with a dog. Just yesterday I watched Ultimo play with Scott's tail and he simply laid there and let it happen.

This cat, really more kittenish it seemed, was hungry. It just
appeared one day, yowling and insistent. Ultimo was willing
to give up and let it eat, but Sombra had another position.
Sombra was not welcoming, and would not bend on this. So
I found a finca that needed a cat and this little female was
transported to her new home. I hope she's happy there. She
was very pretty indeed, and had lovely fur.
But Sombra doesn't like dogs and swears all the time when Scott is around... "Hsssssst! Shhhhhhhhhhh!" Not at all the way to endear herself, so there is no tolerance on either side, sadly. She has more 'wild' in her than domesticated, I think, as she is an avid hunter and that means bugs, moths, lizards and birds. So far she hasn't caught any of the wild birds that come to the birdbath, but she scares them away. At night she is on the prowl, and the giant moths are her greatest delight for chasing.

She also doesn't like strangers, and that means anyone but me - not the owner of Scott, not the gardener, not visitors whether day or night. She particularly dislikes interlopers of the cat persuasion. She ups and disappears or if food is involved, she stands her ground about her 'welcome'. But she is devoted to me and comes and lies on top of me whenever I am stopped and sitting down or on the bed. She is incredibly affectionate and will gently tap my nose in the morning when I'm asleep to wake me up after Ultimo has announced it is time to get up.

Sombra also loves, loves, loves potato chips. If I am eating some, she comes and tries to grab a chip from me. Then she sits and waits for me to get the hint and give her a piece.

Ultimo is the pacifist. He will back off from the food if Sombra pushes in, he lets her have first position on the bed, and he also welcomes her cleaning of him and is a fair-exchanger. He also loves watching the wild birds come to the birdbath and will simply continue his lie-down, enjoying the diversion and color.

A potted cat....
What is this? It's a cat-a-one-tail?
One thing that amazes me about Ultimo is the places that he chooses for sleeping/napping. He doesn't seem to mind lying on the coffee table, even when there are books and ceramic pieces strategically placed to discourage him. He simply winds himself around the hard objects until he finds a comfortable spot and dozes happily. Look at this recent shot of him in another s-pot.

Another view of Barichara and the cathedral from a higher elevation, not
far from my casa. Taken this morning on a walk... lovely day!
Anyone who has animals knows how quickly they integrate into the family, and how one day you look around and wonder what you did before they were there.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Festival de Cine Verde de Barichara - Festiver!

A popular place on weekends and when the river is rushing,
but is is also important to remember that locals have built
up immunities to the things that are in this water.
The film festival for ecological filmmakers, Festival de Cine Verde de Barichara, began on the 20th of September running until the 24th and this is a first here in Barichara. The mission is a grand one, hopeful of reaching young and old on the issues of habitat preservation, promotion of initiatives, projects, etc. No one wants to see a successful event more than I do.

Dinner's waiting... uncovered chicken parts in 70+ degree
temperatures (Oh well, it is shady...) along with the laundry.
Underneath this platform were piles of chicken feathers,
bits of trash, and decaying other chicken bits - gasp!
However, click on this YouTube promotion which I find rather curious. I don't discount the heartfelt welcome the video offers, but the ecological aspects are confused by a large plastic rolling thing which doesn't make sense to me at all. Also, the place where the young boy is swimming appears, at first glance, to be 'scenic,' but it is hardly the place of ecological splendor when the consequence of trash, decaying chicken parts and excrement can be washed into the pool by our torrential rains; a pool which is actually swimming with bacteria. This didn't show up on the film, but here is what I saw a few days ago at this location.

It is not my intent to tear down the objective of the festival, but the disconnect between the ideal and the reality is huge here. There is a terrific need for leadership for the community to bring it forward into the 21st Century without losing the charm and beauty of the 17th Century and we are about to have an election which I fear is based on 19th Century objectives.

There are the outsiders, referred to as 'afuedas', some of whom see this village as a potential money pit and are doing all they can to place themselves for what they see as the coming windfall, and some others of whom are attempting to turn the tide to protect what is viewed as precious and antiquated and attractive while educating on the merits of preservation, ecological awareness and good, planned growth. The battle lines are being drawn and it may not be pretty.

But there is also a group of natives, whether native to Barichara or to someplace else in Colombia, who see the growth in Barichara as dangerous, life-changing, and a threat to the old way of living and controlling the camposinos (workers). These people have little to lose in their efforts to stop what is, although they don't see it, inevitable. I recently warned some individuals who want to establish a new business outside of town that they must be mindful to find a way to include those locals who will be eventually displaced by the new activity; whether by finding them a job in the new business or doing something else to moderate the pain of change. Resentment is a powerful emotion, easily fueled by a minor slight.

It is wonderful to have a cinematic festival here in the pueblo. Free movies every night with a double feature for four days is one of the benefits. Last night we saw a US film, "A Sea Change," (  which was an excellent explanation of the damage that CO2 is doing right now and which will affect all of us. This is a great film for children to understand the importance of our oceans as a grandfather writes and shares with his grandson his perspectives.

The night before we saw a Canadian film, "How to Boil a Frog," which was a delightful - and sometimes humorous - call to activism using YouTube and other social media to effect change. The language in the film, however, is not for young kids.

But the irony is not lost on me that for all its focus on the ecological aspects of filmmaking, there is a huge gap in understanding that education about preserving the land begins with the very young and must be guided ever afterwards by an astute leadership.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What is passion fruit?

Maracuya is a fruit with a variety of external color of skins
and internal varieties of seeds and flavors.
If you have ever watched Jeopardy on TV, you know that every answer has to be given as if it is a question. So if Alex Trebek was asking you, under the Letter M, for $200, "Tell me the other name for maracuyá?" I hope you all are smart enough to say, "What is passion fruit?" But I certainly would not qualify, because I did not know much about this fruit until I came to Colombia. Averaging in size from a typical orange to a slightly larger than normal avocado, the fruit is truly ripe when the skin becomes slightly wrinkled.

Once you cut open the fruit, you can see the seed pods,
filled with juice. It's kinda slimy, but they slide right off
and out of the inside and into a bowl,
The fruit holds quite a bit of water and almost 1/3 of its weight is water weight. It is a good fruit juice to drink for healthy hair, skin, eyesight and for the immune system since it is rich in vitamins and minerals: potassium, phosphorus and magnesium, Vit C, pro-vitamin A and beta carotenes. It is also low in calories and great for constipation because it has a high-fiber content as well. It's a good juice to drink if you've had a bout of diarrhea or stomach upset to replace electrolytes.
The inside of the fruit after the seeds have been removed
looks like something used for packing... it did. It kept
the seeds from bouncing around and damaging the juice.
In order to make the juice (jugo in espanol), you have to break the juice out from the seeds without breaking up the seeds because breaking them makes the juice bitter. Some of the juice will be yellowish and some of the juice is more orange in color, depending on the type of fruit used. Most of the fruits I find here tend to have yellowish to green skins with orange colored juice.

Once the seeds have been separated from the juice, it is
advisable to put them into a colander and get all the juice.
Other claimed or reported benefits of this strange, but aptly named, fruit are: to reduce depression and anxiety, a pain reliever, reduces inflammation, enhances the libido, and is good for urinary tract infections. The indigenous peoples use the leaves as a tranquilizer and the juice for a heart tonic and to calm coughs. It is on a level of sub-acid to acid (about the same as cranberry juice) and apparently there are over 200 varieties, but mostly the yellow version is grown in Colombia. I have friends who have small trees growing in their yards here in Barichara.

After collecting the juice - about three of the fruits will generate about three small glasses of juice - and in most cases you will want to add water plus a sweetener. I like to use Stevia powder or liquid. The flavor is nice, hard to describe, but it is refreshing. I make ice cubes of the juice and then add them to iced tea.  Hope you will be able to find passion fruit where you are and can try this different kind of 'orange juice.'