It is going to be a great year…

Because I said so…

I am tired of the doom and gloom that has pervaded our lives over the past two years. Tired of that one topic that seems to find its way into every single conversation. Tired of keeping my distance from my family and friends. Tired of the sadness. We seem to have lost what little control we thought we had of what tomorrow could possibly bring.

Like everyone else, my 2021 plans were turned upside down. But with my positive thinking-cap on, I have convinced myself that they may not have been the right plans for me at that time anyway. Instead 2021 allowed me the opportunity to spend time delving into some of the things I’ve always wanted to do and never had the time to do (or the will, whichever is the real reason). In my first year of retirement, I was allowed to reconnect with family and friends. To truly R E L A X. To literally sit and and watch the grass grow, as they say – or the waves roll onto the shore. To take the time to rebuild my garden, my sanctuary, my pride and joy. To enjoy my hummingbirds who from time to time awake me from my reverie to remind me to refill their feeders.

I’ve reconnected with my creative side and reacquainted myself with my sewing machine. We have once again become good friends and we are happy together. I have become a student of the University of YouTube where there are no limits to what you can learn to do. And most of all I have learned that the roller coaster that is life can change its speed, and that’s OK.

With your positive thinking-cap on, the world is a much better place. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel as small as that light may be, the good things outshine the bad, and you are able to move forward one step at a time, slowly but surely.

2021 was great and 2022 will be even greater, as I will soon be on my way to meet my three grandsons, two of whom I am yet to meet personally. FaceTime has become an integral part of my relationship with them and as grateful as I am for being able to watch them grow from afar, it is time for that ever important transfer of love through the hugs and kisses I’ve been storing up over the past two years. We will all be overwhelmed when we finally meet, but it will be good.

It is going to be a great year, because I said so…..

Jardin – A small town with a big heart

We pulled up in front of our hotel perfectly located on the picturesque square, El Libertador Park,  of the small town of Jardin, located in northwest Colombia.  We gasped at the imposing presence of the neo-Gothic Basilica of the Immaculate Conception which towered over the square in all its glory.  The square was encircled by tents with vendors of local food and art, restaurants full to the brim of customers enjoying their Sunday lunch, parents sitting amongst the rose gardens, while their young children ran around chasing the birds, laughing with their friends.

We smiled, and immediately fell in love with the sheer beauty of Jardin, known for its brightly painted houses, colorful floral displays and milk candies.  We too began to laugh and chit chat as we wandered in and around the stalls and shops making our way to the nearest local restaurant for lunch.  A normal Sunday, in a small quiet town.

As the afternoon continued, we began to notice young children in their costumes, likewise teenagers and some adults.  It was Halloween we were reminded, but nothing prepared us for the unfolding events that would take place as the sun set on what we thought was the sweet quiet town of Jardin, Antiquoia.

While relaxing on our balcony overlooking the square, we noticed crowds lining the streets under our noses, music from bands began to play on the other side of the plaza, the stalls that were selling local art and candies filled the air with the inviting smells of street food.  The town had come alive in a way totally unexpected.

And then we realized that we were about to witness a parade of Halloween bands, not unlike the Carnival parade of ‘Ole Mas’ bands we are accustomed to in our small twin island of Trinidad and Tobago. This parade however not only featured the well orchestrated bands as they marched or danced pass but also included a large contingent of motorcyclists showing off their road skills.   The revving of their bikes, intermingled with the sounds of the orchestra, the costumed participants of all ages and the varying methods of expression, made for a highly energetic display much appreciated by all.

We were thoroughly entertained and left this sweet town with its unsuspecting vitality imprinted on our hearts.

La Piedra, Guatape

675 steps up to an altitude of 200m to witness what is claimed to be the best view in the world.  A panoramic vista as far as the horizon towering above the town of Guatapé Antioquia.  Fresh water lakes formed by a hydro electric dam interrupted by small islands, dotted with what you can only imagine to be vacation homes and the odd boat speeding from one island to the next.  You can almost see vacationers tanning on the decks with children splashing in the water enjoying the brilliant sun shiny day that it was.

It is known as “La Piedra” and has been the reason for many rivalries between the towns of El Peñol and Guatapé over the years.  This is highlighted by the letters “G” and an incomplete “U” (leaving the letters GI) painted on the western face of the rock.  The two towns had long disputed ownership of the rock and the residents of Guatapé decided to settle the matter by painting the town’s name on the rock in huge white letters.  It did not take long for the residents of El Peñol to notice the work and a large mob was assembled to stop it, leaving behind the unfinished graffiti.*

According to geologists the rock is approximately 65 million years old.  The indigenous Tahami, former inhabitants of this region, worshipped the rock and called it, in their language “Mojarra” or “Mubarak” (rock or stone).   The landform is a granitic rock remnant that has resisted weathering and erosion.

Climbing the rock is not for the faint hearted.  Yet it’s a challenge that many take on as the view literally takes your breath away.

* Wikipedia

La Comuna 13

Children should not be working in the streets, but on their dreams.

Comuna 13 was considered one of the most dangerous communities in Medellin if not the world.  Many may remember our fear of even so much as visiting Colombia due to the rampant drug trafficking and the violence that surrounded this trade.  Stories abounded with kidnappings, drug lords taking over small communities, the crime rate soaring.  After the death of Pablo Escobar in 1993 however, the government decided to intervene in the ongoing destruction of its youth in Comuna 13 one of the hardest hit communities where a life of violence and crime seemed to be the only option open to its residents to climb the social ladder, or so they were led to believe.

Investment was made in the infrastructure of the community allowing everyone access to schools and public transport instilling in them not only a new vision for their future but a sense of pride in themselves and their community that has transcended from generation to generation.  A community that truly embraces the spirit of ‘each one help one’.

Today Comuna 13 is considered one of the safest districts in the world, its walls covered in graffiti art depicting not only the struggles faced by their inhabitants and the evolution of its community, but also embodying messages of peace and unity amongst its people.  As you walk the streets, you are entertained by self made dancers, hip hop artists, singers – all intent on making an honest living while promoting a life of honesty and integrity.

We thought we were going to visit an exhibition of the finest street art Medellin has to offer.  Instead we were silenced by the beauty and humility of its people, the exuberance of a new culture of youth who look out for each other and who understand the value of community living.  We felt safe and secure exploring the ins and outs of the many shops and thoroughly enjoyed the talents of the local artists who performed on demand for our voluntary contributions.

You can visit on your own or with a tour guide (Aeroturex).  You will be welcomed with open arms at all times.

An overhead view of la Comuna 13, courtesy our Tour guide Aeroturex

Beauty just around the corner…

We’ve been hiking the Paria Trail for very many years now, enjoying our treks with the rainforest on one side and the waves crashing on the north coast on the other side.  The pelicans and parrots accompanying us on our journey.  A lovely hike with its fair share of challenging inclines.  A trail well-travelled by many an adventure seeker.

And just like that, with a glint in her eye, one of our neighbours living on the trail let out a well-kept secret of a hidden waterfall nearby.  Not far off the trail.  Around some rocks.  Crossing a beach covered in pebbles.  Look to the right and follow the river.  And right there, without any fanfare, a small but pristine waterfall, welcomed us.

Happiness for any hiker.  Clear refreshing pool of water.  A gem found.  Just around the corner.

Turn your week around…

… with a midweek escape.

There are so many simple pleasures in life that we dismiss.  Not enough time.  Too much of an effort.  The weather isn’t so good. Maybe next week. 

Take this on as a challenge.  The next time you have an opportunity to do something different in the middle of the week. Jump at it.  It may turn your week upside down.  It may delay some of your deadlines.  And then again it may not.

I promise you that the time you spend will be rewarded with a great sense of appreciation, relaxation, and accomplishment.  For you would have done something out of the ordinary.  You would have shaken up your routine.  Your busyness will be put on hold for just one day.  And the rest of your week will fly by with a smirk on your face.

Go ahead, I dare you….

I am learning something new…

I am developing a new skill – the art of quilting. Yup – a crazy lady living in the tropics learning to make quilts – primarily used in temperate climates as a warm bed covering – according to google. Crazy maybe, but boy is she having fun. Thanks to the encouragement of a long-time friend whose talent can only be described as inspirational.

It’s a mind boggling thing – a quilt. You purchase yards of fabric, cut them up into small pieces and sew them back together again. My husband shakes his head at the process, but allows me my space as he has to admit that I am happiest in front of my sewing machine. Well let’s just say that it is one of my many happy places.

I learned to sew sitting next to my mom while she was at her machine, quite some years ago. She wasn’t meticulous about her sewing but the outcome was always good. Her advice was simply to measure twice and cut once. And when that didn’t work out so well, she quietly quelled my tears by assuring me that ‘every mistake is a fashion’ which has served me extremely well with my quilting.

I’ve joined a Facebook group entitled ‘Quilting‘ – a group of extremely talented, generous, inspiring and caring women and men who share the love of, you guessed it, quilting. It is a hobby for most and an income earner for others. It’s a space where you can share your successes and be applauded and what you consider to be failures and still be applauded, because as I’ve learned, there is no ugly quilt. It’s a space where you are encouraged to continue regardless, where getting advice is quicker than google and where you feel a great sense of belonging. You seriously ‘feel the love’ in this group.

Why didn’t I do this before? Well for me quilting takes time. You pretty much need to have nowhere to be and lots of time to get there, not to mention a whole lot of love for this art. So, here I am quilting to my heart’s content.

A baby quilt entitled ‘Trini Roots’ for my grand niece living in England

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Downtime …

I was recently reading an article from a fellow blogger on the importance of ‘downtime’ (The importance of downtime – Niraj’s blogs (home.blog) And, as much as this topic is universal, I wonder whether it transcends all ages and stages of life.

Can you have ‘downtime’ from a life of ‘downtime’? That’s the big question.

There were moments over the past 35 and more years when this word would totally escape me – it wasn’t even part of my everyday or occasional vocabulary. Very rare was it that I would have a moment to spend by myself or for myself. These moments, if at all, would have to be stuck in at the very beginning or at the very end of the day, when alas my eyes would close and I would drift away into a dreamland far far away not knowing whether I actually had this downtime moment of not.

I certainly tried to find that work/life harmony – exercising 3 times weekly, eating right including fruits and vegetables in my diet, savouring the ‘antioxidants’ from my daily glass(es) of wine, sneaking away on weekends to the coast to soak in some much needed sun and sea breeze. It was hard work finding this harmony and I used to wonder whether stressing on the importance of finding time to de-stress wasn’t a big part of the reason we were all so stressed. And most times I would just let the day go by and whatever moments were left in it for me, I would be grateful, joyous and feel ever so blessed.

And so now that my days are filled with whatever I want to do, I wonder whether it is still necessary to seek ‘downtime’. For my days can be quite full (note that I’ve removed the word ‘busy’ from my vocabulary), and tiring. Am I in fact catching up on all the ‘downtime’ moments I missed over the past years. Or am I just in another stage of life where I am able to make that ever so important choice of doing what the hell I want to do.

Stay the course my dear friends. Work/life Harmony is important. We must however manage our expectations as to what this ‘harmony’ looks like. Then and only then will you be able to achieve it.

Listening to the day end…

At first it sounds quite sad. Listening to the day end evokes a picture of someone sitting alone, maybe lonely, with only the birds, trees, flowers and frogs for company. No talking. Silence.

But even though the image may be somewhat accurate, the sense is quite the opposite. Alone yes, but not lonely. With the birds, trees, flowers and other garden creatures as the only company, certainly, but happy to be among such a simple, forgiving crowd.

And then again, imagine that person basking in the stillness of thought, feet up with a glass of wine, ending an otherwise not so busy day, quietening the mind, body and soul. With the sounds of nature – the dogs across the valley barking at Lord alone knows what, the busyness of the birds getting ready to roost for the night, one or two taking their last share of the seeds left there for them, the buzz buzzing of the night creatures coming alive, the frogs leaving the comfort of the garden beds to venture out for the evening – no one really knows where they are going.

Peace reigns.

As the sun sets, the light casts a glow on the garden that makes the flowers radiant with colour, creating a mysterious sky, but in such a soothing manner that all your muscles relax, your thoughts subside and you focus only on the breeze that caresses your face ever so gently, and the faint hustle and bustle of those poor sods rushing home after a hard day’s work (no offense intended – I’ve been there).

Listening to the day end brings calm, allows you to rationalize your worries, to notice the beauty that surrounds, bringing great anticipation for the beginning of another day to come.

And we can only hope that we will be gracious and grateful for such.

Retirement fun …

My daily sunset view

I have slipped into this new way of life so easily; it scares me.  I guess I was super ready for this phase.  And, as I learned during my years in the corporate world, preparation is key to success.

”Don’t you miss being busy?”  Well, first of all, ‘being busy’ is over-rated.  There is much to be appreciated in just sitting still, enjoying the view, the sounds, the people passing by – emptying your mind and focusing on the now, the person next to you, your grandson making funny noises, having his breakfast or laughing at your silly antics and clapping hands on the other end of your iPad.

Oh, and that afternoon nap.  Who knew that a short half- hour nap on an afternoon could bring such joy – readying you for your quiet enjoyment of the end of the day, watching the sun set in all its glory.

I have time for everything and everyone, mostly.  I have become available – for what I want to do (and this is critical – what I want to do) – and it is empowering.  I am still capable of learning new skills, and this excites me.

Do I miss my former work life? No.  It played a significant role in my growth and development, and I am now onto new and exciting things.

Do I miss my work friends?  Most definitely.  But we’ll catch up some day.

And as I look at my new life unfold; I can only count my blessings…

  • Not having a schedule
  • Getting up early with nowhere to be and lots of time to get there
  • Working in my garden whenever I feel like it and for however long I need
  • Watching the sun set every single day
  • Noticing the wide variety of birds in and around my garden
  • Daytime naps
  • Freedom to chat with my children and grandchildren whenever they call
  • Having impromptu Covid-sanctioned limes
  • Learning new skills
  • Being available to my family and friends
  • That glass of wine

And the list goes on….