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.