Sunday, April 22, 2012


Outside my new-to-me casa camposinos (farmers) are tying
up a variety of creatures or leaving them in wheelbarrows or
boxes while they stop by the pub for a refreshment. This
mama goat and her twins were my most recent 'guests.'
What is special about these twin baby goats? They were bleating outside my Colombian door and in the hysterical way that the Universe laughs along with us, it was on the same day I learned my daughter is expecting twins! I was finishing up reading e-mails and went outside to find out what all the noise was, and these two babies were scampering around, causing the mother goat much anxiety as they tore up one street and gamboled down another one. I wish I had put my camera on video mode to show the incredible energy of these two... something my daughter will appreciate some time later on, I think.

Caught for just a moment before they began their wild antics
again, dashing about, I am struck by their exact duplicate
markings, even the way they hold their heads.
Blue heather tone for the Little Boy and lilac heather tone
for the Little Girl are the two blankets under construction.

Another ko-inky-dink was finding the January edition of National Geographic in my Nook and discovering they had done a feature on twins.
Fun Fact: There are basically five common variations of twinning. The most common type of twinning is fraternal, male-female twins. This particular combination makes up approximately 40 percent of all twins born, followed by fraternal girls, then fraternal boys. After that, there's identical girls, then identical boys. The latter being the least common type of twinning. (From

At any rate, the other part of this story is that while I was in the U.S. in January, I purchased two different colors of soft yarn with no particular project in mind, only that I liked the colors and thought it would be nice to 'do something' for someone. I didn't know anyone who was pregnant and never imagined the wonderful news that caused me to start the two blankets. And shortly after I actually began knitting, there was more news... there would be a little boy and a little girl joining the family, which will undoubtably bring a lot of entertainment for my granddaughter - eventually.

So it is with great delight that I continue my knitting effort knowing that somehow I might have been tuning into this family 'project' all along. And am also thinking about travel plans this fall so I can be some help. I will keep my readers posted.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Surviving a Car Crash in Colombia

The trip from Barichara started on Friday the 13th, and while I am not normally cognizant of these mythical ‘bad luck days’ I have to say it was interesting. First, I was supposed to have a real car taxi to take me to the bus terminal, but the number I was given turned out to be for the three-wheeled jitney, So it was kind of like riding a motorcycle but with plastic cover and room for a suitcase. It actually only took about 15 minutes longer than the car taxi and I was grateful it wasn’t a horse and buggy which would have taken all day AND all night.
This was my jitney and driver from B'chara.
Then I was rushed onto the 11 p.m. bus and as I sat down and started to gather my wits, I realized one critical wit was missing - my passport! Oh crap. I knew we were on our way to Socorro and I had to think about how to solve this problem. About five minutes out of Socorro, I moved up to talk to the driver and told him I had forgotten my passport and he would have to let me get off the bus in Socorro. He reluctantly agreed and I found a taxi to take me back to San Gil.
Well, the first part of the problem - getting the passport - was solved when I called my Angels in Barichara who agreed to hire a car to drive them to the bus station and meet me there in time to catch the 12 a.m. bus. But because I was expecting to have my passport (and the slush fund I had in the same envelope) I only had $28,000 COPs for the taxi driver who really wanted $30,000. ($15 USD +/-) I told the taxi driver I could take his name and see that the money got to him... he said “No,” and judging from my frazzled appearance I can see why he wanted to be well rid of me.
I waited and waited.... time ticking by and the woman in the terminal was calling out “Bogota! Bogota!” meaning the bus was arriving. If I missed this bus, the chances of making my flight at 9 a.m. was slim to none. Just a few minutes before 12, my friends rushed in with the passport, and the money inside (so I could buy another ticket) and then they explained to the bus people what had happened and I was allowed to use my old ticket !! Yippee!! But the car man said it was going to $50,000 for this midnight run. And the reason they nearly didn’t make it was because he was just about out of gas! I think I understood correctly that he took off the gas cap and blew into the tank to get them the rest of the way to the terminal!
Finally on the bus, I was unable to sleep thinking about how many blessings I had had and how close a call it was for me to make the flight. Eventually fatigue took over and I did catch a couple of hours of sleep and as we pulled into Bogota, I had no idea what a close call was.
The right front fender and bumper were damaged in the hit;
my arm at the elbow was bruised - not worth a photo.
I did the usual bathroom run so I could push onward to get through all the lines at the airport without interruption. But the line for the taxis was horrendous... silly me, I never realized it was, of course, Saturday - the weekend. By the time I was through the line, I was already past the three-hour international arrival-at-the-airport-time. The taxi driver was young, eager, and quick. I was just about to tell him what good driver he was as we were approaching the last set of curves at the airport, when he skidded coming into one of the curves that had filled up with water and mud from the rain the day before, and plowed right into a guardrail, causing me to jam my elbow into the door.
Another reminder to wear seatbelts, folks! He jumped out of the car and instead of coming over to see how I was, he went to look at his car - WTF? I knew as we were coming into the curve that he wasn’t going to make it. I could feel the car sliding and I think I must have braced myself before he even realized he was in trouble. The jolt to my elbow wasn’t the first bump, but the second when we bounced off the guardrail and back into traffic, neatly avoiding being crashed into by some other rushing fool.
I did a quick assessment of myself - head still attached, no blood, sore arm, any whiplash? Nope. Just at that time, he stuck his head back inside the car and asked how I was. I said, “I am furious! You were driving too fast! And you caused me to hurt my arm. I am going to be even madder if you make me miss my plane!”
I took a picture of the car and driver in case there are any consequences of his bad driving, and hurried inside before the shock of the accident set in. The line at JetBlue was short and I explained to the agent what had happened. They asked if I wanted special assistance and I simply nodded, not knowing exactly what that meant. I was moved into the Special Assistance line which was very much shorter than the other one.
JetBlue staff was very helpful and I was glad
for a seat where I wasn't crammed into it.
By the time I was through getting my bag checked and received my boarding pass, they had a wheelchair for me and rolled me past everyone else in the line for the immigration and the next one for the screening, hurried me on down to the pre-boarding waiting room and I was shortly thereafter rolled down the ramp to the aircraft.

The nice young lady who was in charge of wheeling my wheelchair also got me some ice to keep the swelling down on my arm. As I write this, I am giving thanks for the accident because I never would have asked for help if my arm hadn’t been hurting so much, and  it would have been a huge rush for me to make the plane on foot. But I am also offering up some warning to riders in taxis in foreign countries... they are not very concerned with YOUR well-being, but in the investment that makes it possible for them to earn a living. If you are going to be doing a lot of taxi riding, it might be worthwhile to have accident insurance from your own country to cover mishaps.
SIDE NOTE: Once I was settled on the aircraft I began doing Reiki on myself, along with intentions for quick healing. I think the ice, the Reiki and the intention process all contributed to my being able to gather up everything and move on my own speed into US Customs and out in the humidity of Florida in April.
It’s a crap shoot when you walk out of the terminal - bus or plane - and get assigned a driver. You don’t know if he’s a drinker, a fool or worse, except that in Bogota and other cities in Colombia, the driver does have to have credentials. I guess it’s all part of the adventure.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Preserving the Heritage and Culture

Over Easter weekend, a group of us walked up the mountain-
side above Barichara to see a very very old house and enjoy
the view. A bit hazy and I slipped a bit as I was taking the shot.
Barichara is about to face some serious challenges in the weeks and months ahead. A small village that has been designated an historical monument, it is also one of the cleanest, prettiest and culturally diverse places to be found in Colombia. (There are at least nine more I'd like to see and which are being promoted by the department of cultural history.) And as is the consequence of attraction, there are people with money coming in to build. Not all of them are ex-patriots, but rich Colombians who want to 'get away' from their city lives in this remote (sort of) place.

But with these affluent people comes change, change which is not particularly desirable in all cases. It was with foresight that a law was passed in 2006 which prohibited removal of old roads, old stone fences and demolishing of heritage plants and places. Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped some folks from moving ahead and doing what they want to do to serve their own interests.
This preservation group gathered in front of the
cathedral in Barichara for a Heritage walk in March 2012.

Recently a group aiming to bring this issue of violation of preservation law met in Barichara for a walk in the countryside and to point out what damages are occurring because of this lack of the law being enforced. Over the loud noise of the cicadas in the park, a conversation with one of the group informed me that an old road, paved with the old large stones from 300 years ago, had been ripped up for a new road for cars to drive on, completely altering both the landscape and the past. People who are building here want some of these old stones in their houses and because they are willing to pay for the 'piedras,' (rocks) the demand apparently makes it possible for this theft of the past. It is very sad to think that colored paper with numbers on it can obliterate a far richer history.

One thing I've noticed over the past few seasonal events is that the 'tourists' (all those people who come in from the outside, whether from Colombia or some other country) seem to be afraid to smile. The ones who drive here in huge vehicles look grim as they try to maneuver the narrow and sometimes bumpy streets. The others walking around look as if this was a duty posting, not something they are enjoying. People! Why are you bothering to come here if you can't be happy? Baricharians used to smile all the time, but I notice it takes a few days after everyone leaves before the smiles come back. I cannot save the smiles all by myself, folks. If you are coming here, please help me out by smiling - at least once in awhile.

This is one of the very old houses scattered around Barichara that are of
great historical value and should be protected from vandals and other
elements of change. It is on private land, but not all the others are.
Also, it appears that some people are attempting to stir up a pot with claims that new people are wanting to change the culture, the traditions of Barichara, lodging complaints about various things. I won't go into them here because they don't deserve acknowledgement except to say that no one in their right mind would try to arrest the crowing cock for making too much noise, or issue an eviction notice to frogs for croaking past midnight, or to even attempt stopping the ringing of church bells which serve many functions in this pueblo. The real issue is that of fear: fear that with changes what is now known and regular will be something very different in the future. It is also fear that those changes will leave long-time residents of Barichara disenfranchised in some way.

I fully support, and always have, the tide floating all boats; bringing everyone along in a good way. It is up to all of us, new residents and those long established here, to work together so that no one feels left out and everyone commits to a partnership of both keeping Barichara the clean and charming village it is now and also making sure regulations and laws are enforced to prevent the very wealthy from destroying the very element that brought them here in the first place.
This is the Datura, also sometimes known as Angel Trumpet.
My research shows that it might better be categorized as
Brugmansia as South American plants are more woody, tree-
like, and having pendulous flowers. Delicate scent. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Domingo de Ramos / Palm Sunday

Preparing the young man representing Jesus
for the procession of the palms up to the
cathedral, making the start of Semana Santo.
Many of the vendors in the mercado today were selling
ornately woven palm fronds for this event. This lady was
studying the design while waiting for the procession to go.
I was up early, went to market, had breakfast and put on freshly washed and ironed clothes to watch and record the procession of palms from the old entrance into Barichara (near the old bridge) up to the cathedral. My new casa is located not far from the old bridge, so I was able to get there on time this year. (Last year I was living about 20 minutes away in La Loma and missed the whole thing.)

It was already pretty warm by Santander standards and people were using their palm fronds for head shade while waiting for the procession to begin. Parents, grandparents, darling little boys and girls all scrubbed and polished, done up for the event which marks the beginning of Holy Week also known as Semana Santo. While I was in San Gil on Friday, it was clear that for most of the school children the end of classes for a week mark their beginning to the holiday and they were celebrating with the joy that only those who are sitting in classrooms in uniform and then are liberated can feel.

The procession is approaching the cathedral and I was crouched down in
order to be below the heads of people behind me who were watching on
the street. I am considered very tall by Colombian standards.
For those who live or work along the route
of the procession, it is a common sight to
see floral tributes in windows, beside doors
and even attached to utility poles.
For those families who live here, this marks a time of gathering in, with relatives coming from far away to join in the festivities and celebration as well as the sacred remembering of the events with much Catholic pomp and presentation. It is also a time when there is much drinking, setting off of firecrackers, dancing, and general revelry, often until the very wee hours of the mornings, except Maundy Thursday and Holy Friday when there is no drinking allowed.

This afternoon I will be joining with my local 'family group' to have a luncheon up in the hills outside the village. There is a dance presentation later on and other musical and artistic events all week long so it should be interesting.

My new living arrangements are pure delight for me and for the cats as well. We are close enough to the action to know about it, but not necessarily exposed to the high noise levels of being in proximity to the park and the cathedral. And there are no issues of leaks and such which necessitated the move in the first place.

It is a much smaller house, and although an older one by local standards, it was renovated with new baths, updated electrical system and is generally more agreeable. Back with more photos later today, I expect.