Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Celebrations....

Yes, we are at the end of 2008. It has been a stressful year in more than one way, but my family and I have been healthy and things are working well in the job no way I am going to complain....BUT I will certainly complain about the celebrations. This is not the way I would have been spending my afternoon have we'd been in Curaçao!!! Sitting in front of the computer, after a day of shopping with my daughter???....NEEEE!!

Since noon, my family and I would have been after the pagaras, Chinese firecracker rolls that are the staple of the celebrations on the island. They can be as long or short as you can afford and come in wooden crates. Once you decide what you want, you unroll it in front of your house of business. All your friends and family will be there enjoying drinks and food and lively music. At an appointed time, the pagara will be lit. Everyone gets as close to it as possible...the smoke and noise are supposed to chase the demons away and bring in the New Year. It's so noisy and reassuring at the same time.

This is repeated around the island at private homes and business until around 8:00 p.m. Everyone gets home to rest for a while and get ready for the REAL celebrations! You first go to family or friends' and have more to drink and eat. At 12 o'clock the government will fire a cannon in Fort Amsterdam, and the whole island erupts in noise and smoke! Literally, every home has its private fireworks show and everyone runs outside to receive the New Year outdoors.

The display goes on for a couple of hours. Then, there is THE party to go to. Tickets have been on sale for months and everyone attends....well, all the young and fun and able people. There is still the older generation that doesn't participate, but they stay at their parties and continue to celebrate until kidding! It's so much fun and we absolutely miss that. So, resolution for 2009, let's go back next year!!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Back on Land!!!!!

Yes, I'm back on land...still wobbling a bit, though. The cruise was wonderful, we had family time and we enjoy the food, drinks, shows, islands visited...We started on Sunday the 21st. The embarking procedure took a while, but was fairly organized. My husband and I carry Dutch passport and the agent checking us in had to show them to the captain...never had that before! He even commented on our children's US passports...Ah, you have US ones!!!

Once on board, we went for lunch, had a drink and waited for our cabins. Afterwards got our luggage and went exploring the ship. Up we went to the upper deck to see the ship leave Miami and the glorious sunset behind us. It was a bit windy, but lovely. It turned dark almost immediately and we went inside to get changed for the evening. We had dinner, went to one of the bars for a drink. There was such nice music, we wandered around and went to bed relatively early. We were expecting a good day on Monday....and we did!

It was sunny and warm and breezy, perfect weather for lounging around the pools and having a couple of drinks. So we had breakfast and sat in the sun....after looking everywhere for chairs!!
After a light lunch and a more hours in the sun, the wind picked up and it was time to get ready for dinner in the main restaurant......delicious! On to the show with a a 1970s theme and then a bit of sing-a-long with dancing to the same beat. We retired early, Frank and Camille went to do their own thing and our first full day on the cruise was over.

On the third day, we arrived in George Town, Grand Cayman. A pretty little town , but with too much traffic and souvenir shops. We decided on a day at the turned out to be only a couple of hours in a crowded beach with a small welcoming drink, and it sprinkled....never mind, the water was fabulous! Nothing like a Caribbean beach for us. On board we had Chinese food and went to the theater to see Second City. Great comedy and talented performers.

On Christmas Eve we disembarked in Cozumel and joined our Eco-tour group. We got our own Jeep and followed the guide. He turned out to be fantastic and the tour was a great idea. The water was rough because of the great wind storm we had the night before, so snorkeling was out of the question for me. My family enjoyed every much, I had a drink! We saw a Mayan hurricane warning system, amazing stuff! A small pyramid with openings on four sides and conch shells inside. The wind would go through the openings and made the shells whistled. Had excellent Mexican food and saw salt water crocodiles, did some shopping and got back exhausted but happy. We had a lovely dinner at the steak house on board and on to the show: a very funny comedian that was booked on the main theater the first night. I'm glad we could catch his routine! There was a White Hot Party for the younger crowd....

Christmas Day was just another day on deck with the sun warming us...and the wind blowing everything out to sea if permitted! Had small bites throughout the day, drinks, and family time. Got dressed and went for Mongolian food...interesting and very healthy. Everything is cooked in broth. We could do this again. That night they had a fabulously wonderful show. Sort of like Cirque de Soleil. Perfect finale. A Chocoholic Buffet had everyone drooling...I had champagne instead!!!

But nothing is perfect. Norwegian Cruise Line did not live up to our expectations, maybe because we are sort of a structured family and freestyle cruising is not for us. Or maybe it was the fact that the ship moved like a leave on a steam, or that we didn't get adjacent cabins, or that the lock on the door to our balcony was broken and the wind whistled and howled one night keeping us awake. Response to complains were not taken up immediately, so things took a while to be fixed. The luggage took forever to appeared the first night and was not ours!

Still, it was a great idea and we should do it again soon.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Anchors Away!!!

Decorations finished and house sweetly smelling of Christmas....finally a time to put up my feet and enjoy the Ponche Krema......Curaçao's answer to eggnog, but MUCH better! Holiday music in the background and plans for a wonderful Christmas finalized.

Today Camille and Frank arrive from London and there is nothing to do but enjoy their company. On Sunday we are sailing away to the blue Caribbean on a cruise ship. Nothing to look forward to, but sea, ocean breeze and relaxation. Our biggest concern will be where is our next drink coming from and at what time should we have something to eat! It'll be heavenly!

My husband wins top prize for this most brilliant idea.... He is not much for planning in advance, so it was a last minute decision. Fortunately, finding the right cruise proved to be easier than we thought. Our cruise expert friend, Johnny, knew exactly who to contact and where to go this time of the year in the Caribbean. It was a pleasant experience with this company, for sure we'll use them again.

We are sailing on NCL's JEWEL and will be gone for five days! most of them spend at sea which suits us just fine. We'll have time to spend together, hear all about Frank's five months adventures in Europe, Camille's career moves and nobody can call Frankie with business matters. We will have time enough to make memories to be cherish for years to come. This was really inspirational!!!

So off we go into the sunset on Sunday, leaving behind worries and looking forward to a well deserved family vacation!!! Merry Christmas to all and a Healthy, Joyful, Peaceful and Prosperous New Year!!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas has arrived.....

I have been delaying, playing busy with other things, telling myself that I'll do it tomorrow...but my children get home on the 19th, not too much time left to get the house ready. So today I did something I haven't done in almost five years: I took out my Christmas decorations from storage and got ready to decorate my house.... I know, every year since I moved to Miami, I have decorated in one way or another. One year all in silver, one all in red and the last two years, not much....since we have traveled at this time of the year.

Not this time, no buying new decorations that mean very little, I am a traditionalist when it comes to the Holidays. This time, I took out the decorations I have been accumulating since I got married, since the children were, well, children!! Each one has a special meaning, a special memory attached to it. Sort of a Christmas family history, and it has been so wonderful to see all those old friends again. I have no clue how I will manage to put up all those things up, this apartment is half the size of our old house, so I am sure some picking and choosing will have to take place. Still it feels great!

With Christmas music in the background, I am unpacking and remembering and enjoying. It has been a journey into our past, our times together as a family, the trips we took, the decorations we picked, the ones the children made, the ones given by friends now living far or the ones given by dear ones no longer with us. There have been laughter and tears and joy and a bit of sadness, but most of all it has been well worth the wait! This will be a Christmas to remember, one more in a long line of celebrations....can't wait to see the children's faces when they see all this again!!!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sunset over Biscayne Bay

I have started to walk again...well, sort of. My broken toe is healing, finally, and I am getting out in the late afternoon to walk around our small island. Needless to say, the exercise is absolutely necessary! Even the weather is cooperating and is much better; some days it's even cool! So, armed with my iPod, with music that can keep me moving...I walk every afternoon. There are such memories in that!

I get out of our building's pool area and into the walkway....turn right and go. Most people move the opposite way, but I want to see the open water and the sunset....alright, you'll say I'm walking Eastwards.... so what sunset? That's the beauty of it...the sun cannot be seen over the buildings that now cover the other side of the water. The Brickell area is a concrete jungle...but Mother Nature has found a way. Above and between the buildings and into the bay spill the colors of the retreating sun....and what colors!

Once I turn into the side of the island along the Miami River, I can see the port of Miami and the end tail of Miami Beach and farther on Fisher Island. The tall buildings on the far side reflect those colors in a wonderful way. Golds, reds and violets, yellows and oranges shine blindingly on the glass windows and doors. The sky turns pink or gold and color surrounds you. It is breathtaking!

As in other places I have walked, very few people lift their heads up to look....what is it with them? Am I the only one that still likes sunsets?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Back to Panama....

Yes, plans have changed yet again. A trip to Panama is necessary and soon! Don't know how this is going to happen....I just can't do this at this time. Since my mother had her stroke, it seems the only place I visit is Panama. Haven't had time for any vacation, have been only once to see my daughter in London, had to cancel my trip to Curaçao....what next?

I received a frantic call the other day: one of my mother's nurses got a job at a hospital and is leaving. As if getting professionals to move in with my mother and care for her is not hard enough. So I immediately asked my cousin to start looking...have some candidates lined up by the time I get there. Screening and interviewing and deciding....not my idea of a relaxing trip, which is what I really need at the moment.

This will be also the time, I hope, to take a hard look at the situation. Is this the best we can do for her? is it possible that my mother needs to be in place where she can socialize with others her age? maybe have a more interesting life? Right now, she lives on her own with the people that care for her. It was the easiest solution since neither my sisters nor I live in Panama. It has worked so far...but who knows? More decisions, and this time so close to the Holidays. Let's see what happens....

Monday, October 27, 2008

Weather Changes

Here we are again, the weather is changing in South Florida! I read yesterday in the new paper a comment by a popular local writer. She said small things point to this change: temperatures a couple of degrees lower, a feeling of crispiness in the air, she is wearing jeans instead of shorts.....She assured us that Fall is indeed here. Of course nothing like what is happening in the Northeast or the Midwest, but Fall none the less.

Well, I am glad someone is keeping tabs! I have noticed a bit of a cool breeze in the mornings and early evenings when I walk. I have also noticed that the water in our swimming pool is cooler and humidity is a bit lower. My husband and I went out last night and we saw people already wearing sweaters and jackets....a bit premature, if you ask me, but a sure sign that Floridians think Fall has arrived. After five years living in Miami, I think I can tell these changes. Still, is nothing to write home about...yet! Except if you are a long time Florida resident, I guess.

In a few weeks it will be delightful, though. People will congratulate themselves for living in Florida. The days will be sunny and bright and crisp...there goes that word again. Mornings will be cool enough for a sweater and jeans will be wearable again, at least for me. I don't dare to wear them in the Summer. I will take a wrap when we go out at night, just in case it gets nippy. Sandals will be replaced by more covered shoes...not necessary at all times! Yes, the best part of the year in South Florida is starting. Everything that we like to do will be more enjoyable and it's the time of the year when I am almost glad we moved here!!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hurricane OMAR

Hurricane OMAR formed in the Eastern Caribbean on Tuesday....just off Curaçao!! This most have been a first...It caused widespread damage along the beaches. High winds and torrential rains kept the island on a state of alert until today. It has been a couple of very active years for hurricanes, but what is more worrisome is that they are getting closer.... It used to be that Curaçao was way outside the hurricane belt. Even when storms came close, the damage was never as bad as in other islands. This has changed lately. As I said before, whoever is in charge...STOP IT!

I have been in touch with friends back home. The pictures are scary. My friend Vicki sent pictures of the storm today...she hosted our bridge morning today and everyone had to help keeping the water out of her house. The winds were so strong the water was seeping under the doors! They had to use towels to stop the water!!! It even came through the closed windows in the dinning room. A old satellite dish fell in the pool. It was empty, but the rains filled it overnight. What is this? It hardly seems like the Curaçao I remember.

Monique sent pictures taken along the area where I used to walk...couldn't believe the damage. Then there are the beaches, not one escaped unscathed. Something similar happened when LENNY came calling years ago, and it took years to repair them. This time it will be worse, some of them are unrecognizable. How sad!

Considering the state of the world's economy, the fact that people are guarding their pocketbooks and vacations are not going to be priority, this could not have come at a worse time. I only hope that this is the last of the big storms of this year....fifteen is quite enough!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Moving On...

What makes you an expat? the fact that you move away from your country of origin and make a life somewhere else. I am not talking about the people that move reluctantly looking for a better life. They move because things in their country of origin had deteriorated so badly that it is impossible for them to make a living. Life will be hard at times and they do work hard, they need to support their families back home and that is a priority. More times than not, they end up just assimilating into the new country. Those are not real expats, but immigrants. I am talking about the ones that voluntarily move away, willingly pick a place and do research about it and make the move. They arrive there, make a life and decide if it's worth staying or if it's not, they decide to move on again. Those are, in my view, the true expats.

There are more and more of these lately. The younger generation of expats is a motley group that know what they want and are not afraid to go get it...anywhere that is. It is a refreshing trait, I find. Completely different from the thousands that moved to remote places in the previous two centuries, looking for a life of adventure, going to represent their countries' interests, settling there and seldom coming home until they retired. The new expats have the advantage to come home as much as they wish, they spend holidays all over the globe and are not afraid of moving to another country at a drop of a hat.

What wonderful thing! In some ways, it has to do with age, but mostly it has to do with a sense that the world is an open's there to be seen and enjoyed. Take my daughter, Camille. She went to London five years ago to study Art at the Sotheby's Institute. It was to be a fifteen month course and once she got her degree, she was to return to Boston. Well, she fell in love with the city and decided to stay. Since she carries a Dutch passport, this was easily accomplished. She finished, got herself a job and a flat and stayed. She has made friends and has enjoyed evey minute.

In true expat fashion, she has adapted and calls the city home . She travels around Europe when she can and has no desire to come back to the States for now...but would not rule out moving to another European country. She is considering it! And why not? isn't this what the new expat is? someone that can adapt anywhere, at any time? I do envy her....must be so exciting to move freely and to know that you can make it and succeed, because you already did!

So back to expats, there is another kind and it also has to do with age. These are the ones, that looking to retire, have found that staying in one's country is not always the smartest thing. Your money can go a long way in other countries.....can't count on the developing countries economies anymore. Millions are moving overseas to live the life of their dreams: a nice home, household help, good health care that is cheap. I have friends that have done this and cannot be happier. So move on if you can and want, the world with all its complications is still a wonder!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hunting Iguanas...

What's that? in South Florida? I thought only in the Tropics were iguanas are a source of income or food. You catch them to sell to people who would take them to pet shops in the US or Europe, or you put them on the pot for a bit of protein in your diet......I can almost understand this from people in need. Now, for profit and blatantly catching them in the waterways and canals of South Florida.....really.

It seems that since 1966, when they were first introduced to the area, iguanas has multiplied at an incredible pace. Brought here by pet shops specializing in exotic animals...and why may I ask!...the reptiles have adapted well. Not being indigenous of these parts, their unchecked growth is worrisome to environmentalists. There is little they can do against nature. Once they are let loose by owners that cannot handle them anymore, the creatures take to the wild and breed. As anything brought on by globalization, the results are not good for either side. Unfortunately, the iguanas are the bigger losers

Enter the profiteers. These pet shop owners, wholesalers and retailers, see this as a bonanza. They prowl the canals and waterways of the area at night. It's at this time that the iguanas are in a state of suspended sun! They are easy to catch and there are so many of them. People along the banks, either don't want them caught or are happy to get rid of them, so there is a debate raging on. Not one the iguanas will win. There is no law against this practice because the iguanas are not protected, they don't belong here in the first place. Besides the government is too preoccupied with the economic situation and has no resources to tackle the problem.

The iguanas I see along the bridge on Brickell Key will sooner or later be pry of these hunters...that will be a really sad day. They remind me of home, and I have grown accustomed to them. They look so peaceful and harmless on the bougainvillea bushes, sunning themselves in plain view......having no clue what's coming!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Life Changes

I'm online a lot...mostly for work, but still it happens. I find that lately, more and more I am running into friends in cyberspace. So chatting away with people I haven't seen in ages has become a pleasant occurrence and one I truly enjoy.

This morning I ran into Cheryl (not her real name!!)......I met her through my association with FAWCO and she was always so very nice. Well, we got talking and things are not looking so great for her. First, her husband has decided he is not interested in the marriage anymore. Nothing new there, some men of a certain age, think they can do better than the wives they have and that some young thing will be interested in them and make their lives exciting again....what to do? That happens frequently lately.....

As many in her situation, Cheryl, is putting herself through a question and answer exercise: where did I go wrong?, why is this happening and what do I do about it? That is normal...but she also has started to focus on a novel idea: I did this. NO, she is not getting herself waddled in self-pity. She is recognizing that when she was young and had everything, she had little care for the future. She spent money in traveling and redecorating, she did everything that she wanted and had no concern for what would happen when she grew older. She had no interest in financial matters and thought that everything was always going to be the same.... AHH, youth!

I said the right things, told her all would be fine and we promised to keep in touch from now on. We probably will, but let's be realistic, time and distance are not on our side. Afterwards, I sat here thinking....she is right! Most of us will have no problems of this kind, our marriages are solid and we'll grow old together. For some of us, though, Cheryl's case is too close for comfort. Youth makes everything look so safe and so permanent. We do spend, travel, live our lives like there is no tomorrow....but in these times of market instability.....that is scary.

So, maybe Cheryl has a point: were the friends that worked all their lives, saved and planned for retirement, the ones we thought boring and we felt sorry for, right? are they having more fun now with their future secured? I couldn't say, since no retirement plan seems secured at the moment, but I figure they have something to count on.......In any case, the question is out there: have fun now and will see about the future or work now and have fun later? These are things that we ponder in these days of crashing markets, 401K loses and uncertainty in stock values......not your average Life in The Tropics, for sure!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Lighter Musings

All this depressing news....I have to get back to the things that motivate me and made me start this blog: my experiences abroad, my life in the Tropics. Since moving to Miami, domesticity has become more and more part of my daily routine. Yes, I write, I meet deadlines and I go about my life. Still, the daily chores are part of this...and where is a good housekeeper when you need her?

Today, I was trying to get the silver organized: take it out, clean some of it...I know this seems so trivial in the mist of the market scare...but, you know, we need to do what we can control! So, I took these things out and looked at them. Is it really necessary to have them shiny? is it really worth it? I love to see them shine , but what for. I never use my more formal things, our life here is very casual...even more than in Curaçao. Amazing!

Let me give you an example. I have a large collection of silver spoons, the small ones you use for coffee or tea. Love to look around for them in antique shops or estate sales, friends and family give them to me as presents....well, I have not used one of them since we moved. Nobody here comes to your house just for coffee or tea...everyone wants to meet you somewhere. Dinner parties are rare, better go out to a restaurant. The niceties of sitting down with friends for a coffee morning, for afternoon tea, are not part of the culture here in Miami. What a shame!

Back in Curaçao, besides my bridge mornings, there was always someone receiving friends at home for a cup of tea or coffee. It was a simple pleasure and I miss that. It made for more communication with your friends and family, it made a difference in your day. Ah, the good old days! I am beginning to realize that I am looking back, more than looking this old age or just homesickness? Powerful thoughts for another day.....

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Market Mess Legacy....

Well, yesterday was an interesting day! The market plummeted almost 800 points and there was nothing else on television but talk of this disaster....All this because the House of Representatives couldn't get a majority to pass a bailout bill. Since I am home most days, either writing or resting my broken toe, I had the full benefit of listening to every Congressman/woman, every economist and every political pundit that came on. Everyone had a theory, that didn't include him or herself.

It was doomsday from the economists, for sure. We are on the verge of total colapse, and a bailout is the only way out, apparentely. The money taxpayers are dishing out will be the only thing to prevent this massive problem, it seems. Funny, I don't remember Wall Street asking the taxpayers for their opinion about anything when money was being made. Now, that their money is urgently needed, the taxpayers are important! On the other hand, we heard political rhetoric from everyone else. Was it the democrats who couldn't get every one on their side to vote for the Bill, was it the Republicans who couldn't get enough votes to deliver a good showing? was it McCain who showed up in Washington, or Obama because he didn't? The blame game was in full swing. Was anyone else NOT surprised at this? These are politicians after all...they need to blame someone. Taking responsibility is not their strong point!

I am not a economist, hardly know how to balance my checkbook, nor am I a political pundit...but it's not rocket science either. You make the money, you get in trouble, you pay the consequences. Period. Isn't it the way life is? Don't we tell our children that all the time? It's called being a grown up.....but because this time it involves the whole American economy , we are told, and the whole world for that matter, Wall Street has to be bailed out. Wonderful!

The ones I actually feel sorry for are the young people who would inherit this mess. According to some it will take years and years to right the market, years and years to get this mess cleaned up and most of the guilty parties will be dead and gone by then!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

ME first......

This is a new feeling. Getting up in the morning and just thinking what is it that I want to do..... This is most unusual for me and I guess for most women..... but I am determined to try. Don't get me wrong, it is not something you just do. After years and years of conditioning ourselves that we need to cater to our family and fellow men, catering to US comes hard.

We volunteer for everything from PTA to charity events, from organizing the school Halloween party to our best friend's baby shower. How many time we just raise our hand at a meeting and then have no clue what we are volunteering for? Or say YES to another committee because we subscribe to the premise that: if you are busy, another task will make no difference. Remember? if you want something done...ask someone that is already busy!!!! I remember doing that when I lived in Curaçao: for the American Women's Club or Special Olympics or the International School or Prinses Wilhelmina Fonds or anything else I was involved in. It seems completely natural and expected.

Well, it might be expected, but it isn't natural. We cannot be always busy, trying to right the world or solve every problem we encounter or trying to fix things and be everything to everyone. So this is the new ME. I am going to take time to do the things I always wanted. I will wake up in the morning and just lay there thinking of what I want to do next. I will NOT jump up and make that bed in record time or rush to get breakfast ready or get ready to run errands. All will be done in due time and when I feel my body is ready to get up and go!!!

I will write when I feel inspired and only about things I enjoy. I will check emails and messages twice a day and answer only the ones I want.... the delete key will be used more often. I will travel more to places I want to go, less to places I have to go! I will apply the old rules of my new lifestyle: try and concentrate on things I can enjoy, not solve.....and if I am busy already...I cannot take anything new on! This is going to be fun!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A wake up call.....

Life has a way of getting you to pay attention. For me, it came in the form of chest pains and a visit to the ER. After months of traveling back and forth to Panama, stressing about my mother's illness and her move to a new home, my body started sending me signals. Small pains, feeling tired, sleeplessness, but of course I was not having any of that. There was so much to do and so much to fix.....who said so?

Finally, Monday night, I started having chest pains for the third time in as many weeks. I am not fond of hospitals and I hate the thought of going for tests that would involve needles. Still, I decided to go to the nearest hospital's ER. As soon as I said I was having chest pains, I was ushered in. My vitals were checked and preliminary information taken. Then, of course, insurance information was asked don't get anything for free.

The doctor was very reassuring and calmed me down, I was plugged into a host of electronic equipment and waited for six hours for an available bed. My husband was ready to take me home when I was taken upstairs. The night nurse was so helpful, and that was the last one! During the night I had people waking me up to take my blood pressure, draw blod or give me an EKG. So sleep was out of the question.

Morning came and with it more tests and more waiting. A cardiologist was called, but he didn't come until late afternoon. Mostly, I had more tests and waited which was very stressful. Food was horrific, but when you are hungry...also my husband brought me some comfort food. When the cardiologist finally came, he told me all tests were negatives. He advised a stress test to rule out all heart problems and I could go home. Well, not so fast said the nurse on duty. The floor doctor had to give his OK. We waited about two and half hours for that, and I went home. I was grateful.

Life is short and we have to take it easy, stop and smell the roses, tuberose, lilacs, marigolds or whatever flower tickles our fancy, or our noses. We cannot fix everything or solve the problems of the world, as my wise friend Ruth told me. That hasn't stop women from trying. We need to give ourselves the same level of care we give everyone else. Be assertive and take care of ourselves FIRST! I intend to do just that.....

Monday, September 15, 2008

All is well after our Weekend Getaway!

Of course taking off for the weekend was a splendid idea. We just drove up the East Coast of Florida and stayed at a seaside hotel, within walking distance from the beach. Beach, well, that is a bit of a stretch. There was sand, sea, sun and people under umbrellas or playing in the waves. The water was not too clean, lots of seaweed and debris and breaking waves. The sand was littered with dried seaweed, leftovers from past picnics and cramped with people.... Still, the water was refreshing and the sun was shining and there was a breeze. There is a walkway that was lively and had lots of cafes, bars and restaurants. We actually found a couple of places offering excellent choices in simple, good food. In between, there were souvenir shops, places selling beachwear and sandals, so quaint! At night, the moon was almost full and the breeze never stopped.

There was also a sense of old Florida, like it was before people discovered it, before South Beach and the celebrities and the overdone atmosphere. I found it so much more genuine and nice. Families were out together and everyone seemed to be so relaxed. There were no pretences and no showing off. A more than welcome change! More important for us, the air conditioning worked and we slept blissfully all three nights! I can do this again anytime!

Feeling reinvigorated and with our new tans, we drove home early today. I was not really convinced that the problem was going to be solved...but AaaaHhhh! It's just perfect! When we arrived at our building, we were told at the lobby that in some of floors the air conditioning was working. As I walked into our apartment, I turned the unit on....the soft humming of the compressor, the cool air coming through the vents, the pleasant feeling inside our apartment, all contributed to make me smile. Can't believe that the heat and humidity are gone, can't remember how it felt, what cool air can do for you. All is well that ends well, I say.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Moving away.....sooner than later!

IKE didn't come our way, but I feel as if it did! Sunday night, with strong wings coming ashore in our little island, something annoying happened. The electrical system in our building gave in.... The AC cooling towers stopped working, the power was cut in half and we lost telephone, cable and Internet access. Oh Joy!

Angry tenants and owners descended on the lobby early Monday morning. To no avail because there was nobody to give them an answer. Sometime during the day, we were advised that there was a problem with the electric system and that Florida Power and Light was working on it. Later we learned that FLP was not even here and there was nobody coming that day to fix the problem. The night was hot and humid, and sleeping was impossible, BUT we thought Tuesday all was going to be fixed. Wishful thinking!

Tuesday came and went with annoucements made throught the public speaking system: the problem was serious, but someone was working on it...please be patient!! Right, I thought, these peole have no clue. Months ago, my husband and I had learnd from someone that used to work here that one day this was going to happenned. Those cooling towers needed to be replaced......

Never mind, I braced myself for another night of tossing and turning on my very hot bed. Wednesday came and the bad news became worse. The towers have to be replaced and that will take about one week! Fortunately, cable, telephone and Internet had been restored. At least I was not cut off from everyone......

So we bought electric fans...big deal! They only move the hot air. I truly feel like I am in the middle of Equatorial Africa! The first couple of days there was a breeze, compliments of IKE, the cooled parts of the apartment. I opened windows at night to catch whatever cool breeze was passing by, and during the day I kept everything conserve whatever coolness we got at night.....a trick I learned on the Tropics. Didn't help much! Everything in Florida is built with central AC in mind, so catching the breeze is next to impossible. Brilliant! with hurricanes coming this way every other year, did anyone think about.......power outages?? NEEE!!!!!

Now, all pretences have stop, as has the slight breeze. Management has disappeared, so nobody to answer questions. The breeze has ceased completely and the humidity has gone up. Time to seriously consider moving away and SOON!!!

Friday, September 5, 2008

And now....IKE!!!

The hurricane season continues...It will peaked on September 10th, but HANNA is still churning over the Bahamas and now we have IKE to worry about. This is a major hurricane threatening Hispaniola, Cuba and possibly South Florida. That is something I didn't want to hear. It means evacuation! We live in a risk area, facing Biscayne Bay. Our small island is not high enough above water and the surge will pass over it immediately. The winds will be too strong for any building to take.

We weathered KATRINA and WILMA three years ago at home, but they were not major storms when they hit the area. A couple of years before that, we did evacuate when CHARLIE hit Florida. It was not fun and the preparations before we left took hours, taking everything down, securing valuables in closets and bathrooms and when we returned we needed to put everything back in it place....exhausting! Thankfully, nothing much came of that and we were relieved.

In this part of the world, it is better to prepare and know what to do and when to start, I don't argue with that. Better safe than sorry anytime, I say. So we will follow the cone of uncertainty, all the explanations of the meteorologists, the endless press conferences of county and state officials until we finally have to get in our car and leave. If IKE hits South Florida as a Cat 3 or 4, we will not be able to come back for days....and when we do who knows what will find.

So on that happy thought, I will go to the supermarket tomorrow. Try to avoid the crowds and buy what will need. I will then settle down to prepare for IKE. The couple of months when the weather is nice, the sun shines on a beautiful blue sky and there is the crisp feeling in the air, are not enough for me. The six months of watching the Atlantic, hoping that the next wave from Africa doesn't turn into a deadly storm, outweigh all that. Maybe it's time to move on.....

Saturday, August 30, 2008


The Caribbean is alive with deadly rain and killer winds. Two enormous storms are churning, slowly moving towards the US mainland: GUSTAV and HANNA. One a CAT 4 hurricane aiming at the Gulf of Mexico and the other a strengthening tropical storm closing in on the Bahamas. I hate hurricane season! This time of the year the Tropics become so active and we are all nervous. This week was sixteen years since ANDREW, three since KATRINA...always around Labor Day.

It's been rainy and windy, on and off all day here in Miami...and we are not even close to any of these monsters. We took in my plants and secured the Adirondack chairs in our balcony. It depresses me to no end. While in Curaçao, I never felt any need to be prepared... If and when a storm came close to the island, things were decided at the last minute. Such is Life in the least outside the hurricane belt! I miss that!

We have been told that HANNA might present a problem for South Florida. GUSTAV will hit somewhere on the Gulf Coast (from Texas to Alabama) on Monday afternoon. With the so called cone of uncertainty, we now can look forward to see how the storm could or would affect our area. This can be perceived as progress, to me it's just another scary thought. Do I really want to know minute by minute what could happen? Didn't do anyone any good during that awful season three years ago. So I hope all goes well this Labor Day. May the storms dissolve and the winds die down. May the damage be small if they continue on their path and may all be spared!

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Something amazing has happened....well, amazing for me. Tropic lover that I am, laid-back lifestyle that I crave and all the writing about and talking about and missing the Tropics, I have NEVER been one for a SIESTA. Don't get me wrong, I could lay down after lunch every day while living in Curaçao. Catch up with reading, the news or just rest, yes, sleeping was something else. I never could, and if by chance fatigue overtook me....I woke up in such a mood, you wouldn't want to talk to me....

All that has changed, I am happy to report. Since my mother's stroke and my endless trips to Panama, a siesta has become part of my daily routine! My sister Laura, who always lived in Latin America and is a firm believer in the power nap, has been traveling with me more than a couple of times. After a morning full of activity, having waken up at the crack of dawn...another first for me!...we would have lunch, and go to bed. Yes, to bed, turn on the air conditioning and she would sleep for fifteen minutes to half an hour. That was all. Laura kept telling me to try to just close my eyes and let go of the tension. Easier said than done.

After a few tries and having no other mother and her nurse where taking a siesta too..I gave in. Besides, the heat would make it impossible to be abroad at that time of the day. You need to be inside, in the shade. I am happy to report, taking a siesta really works and it is not so difficult. Now I am into my relaxing little time everyday. I guess it involves more than just giving in and let go. It involves the fact that I have nothing to prove to anyone, I have no sense of urgency about the chores to be performed and I know I can achieve what I have to and complete what needs to be done.

Age, more than anything, I gather has come to my rescue. When we aged...did I say that?... we just know who we are, what we want and where we want to be. It is liberating and in my case it is wonderful. When I wake up from my half hour rest, all seems right and I feel so much better. Who would have know? When I was in the Tropics, SIESTA was not part of my hectic life, now that I am not......I cannot do without it!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

End of the Summer, Conventions and Moves

It's all over the papers, television and magazines, Summer 08 has come to an end. Well, living in Florida that can hardly be major news. Here it's mild and humid and hot and sticky all year long. Still for the rest of the USA, things will slow down, children will start school after Labor Day and the days will grow shorter in September. County and State Fairs are a thing of the past, the ice cream man will stop coming around and long days outside by the pool, the beach or the barbecue will end.....many get sentimental about this.

This year, tough, there is excitement in the air that can replace that deflated feeling: it's Election Year! Both parties will have their conventions back to back in Denver and St. Paul and the political ads are heating up on television. The candidates are picking their running mates and you cannot watch anything but....politics! Being an independent, and not an American citizen, I look at all this with a critical eye. It is maybe not my place, but I do have an opinion of this show.

Americans are tired of the war, the economic picture, lack of affordable health care, jobs lost overseas, immigration laws that are not enforced, people that think they have the right to come and stay because they need a better name it. I think each one of these reasons is enough to promote change......I just don't see what is the change proposed. Call me skeptic, but I need specifics. Change needs to be spelled for me. Huge crowds yelling and carrying on are not my thing, I need substance. On the other hand, trying to get anywhere by promoting things that have not worked so far, can leave me uninterested. So, Obama or far neither. One thing, though, Americans have to elect whom they want, not what they think the world wants.

For a while, I thought this country needed a woman. Hillary was the presumed candidate and she just couldn't hold on to it. Of course the fact that she couldn't treat her candidacy with a feminine touch was a big disappointment. Here you need to proof you are harder than a man, more ruthless and less sensitive......what a joke! Women get elected all over the world and in the land of opportunity you need to be more like a man to be awarded the highest prize. Even small Curaçao has had several Prime Ministers and Governors. So much for equality here. I came to the conclusion that a hard Hillary would not have been what was needed and that is very sad. Regardless who gets elected, this is still a great country and will survive!

Now that that is out, I want to discuss moves. Yes, that is also in the air these days. I was talking to a friend that just moved back to the States from Curaçao. After years there, Vickie and Mitch are relocating to Las Vegas! They find this an adventure. So at the end of the Summer they will go there, buy a place and move. She is excited, but she is a realist. If this doesn't work, she said, they can always move somewhere else. I totally understand her. It seems that once you have lived broad, move several times around the country or the world, another move is not hard to contemplate. I love it!

My news is that I am also in the moving mode. I feel like I can accomplish another and still have the energy to make it work. That is just good news for me. I am not adventurous, but I do like change that I can understand...for the better, for the more exciting. Miami has been hard to adjust to and hard to love. I have made in rows, and think I have done quite well. This blog has made my days so much interesting...but I don't picture myself doing this the rest of my life. Besides, things are really getting out of hand in this economy. There are alternatives, and I am out to explore them. Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Yes, this is the tropics, in a matter of speaking. FAY, which, I thought was just fading, has made a comeback. The rain leaden storm is making a third landfall in Florida. East Central areas of the state are being soaked...some places have seen as much as 30 inches of rain in the last 24 hours!!! If it continues its deadly path, it will bear West again and make another in the Panhandle. By the weekend it could be in Mississippi and Alabama raising havoc.

I tell you, things can change in a minute in this part of the world. Not a reassuring thought for anyone. Ginnie was right, rains have to be a priority forecast. High winds are blamed for a lot in a Caribbean storm, and they do cause the most damage in a big storm...but rain can be just as deadly and more destructive because rain lingers and then takes so long to retreat. Flash flooding gives no advance warning and most insurance doesn't cover flooding automatically, as people in the aftermath of KATRINA found out three yeas ago. All we can hope for is that we are seeing the worst of the season here in Florida.

Moving is suddenly again on my mind. The fact that we are getting older, Florida weather can be so unpredictable and everything is going up fast from gas to food to everyday things you count on to live pleasantly, gives me a sense of urgency. The expat in me can take another move, I am sure, and sooner than I thought. Planning will be fun! who cares about FAY!!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Nothing much to report on Tropical Storm FAY. It came and went with lots of rain and some high winds, but nothing to get too excited about, at least not in Miami. That is a good thing! Miami has had its share of storms since I moved here. We all get prepared and we all get excited in advance of the storm. I think the weather people have a lot to do with that. They need to make sure everyone is aware that things can get bad in a matter of minutes....but, please....the overload of information....can get you down.

FAY started with a destructive path through Haiti and the Dominican Republic that left several dead, but mostly flooded. My friend Ginnie in Puerto Plata, says there was not enough information about the amount of rain and the strong possibility of flash flooding. That is always the case, I feel. Forecasters concentrate a lot in the strength of the winds and the course it takes. Most of the time, though, the rains and flooding cause the most damage and deaths......what to do!

So after a dark and rainy day, lots of wind pounding my high rise apartment windows, FAY has faded. All I feel now is a mild wind, the skies are gray, but there is no rain. The storm is moving up the state and is pounding Central Florida. It will be a messy and wet week for the Sunshine State, but not too much destruction. That is a blessing. Children will start school a few days late, routine will set in and hurricane season will continue. So far, it's been good. Let's hope this is the worst we are going to see this year!!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Joys of moving a parent....

Yes, I'm back from my latest caretaker adventure. This time, as much as I tried, things did not run smoothly. To be expected, most of you will say. Living so far from an ailing parent is one of the hardest things. You try to get life organized, bills paid, domestic service lined up....the logistics involved can be overwhelming......and this time they were!

We have been lucky so far, but the fact that we have taken professionals out of the main working force and given them a new invaluable experience presents problems. Everyone in need of the same kind of service, is looking to see if they can snatch them away! From higher salaries to better benefits all has been tried. Fortunately, so far, they seem to prefer to stay with my mother.....who knows? We are just grateful!!!!

Now the move went relatively well. Packing was done quickly and efficiently; maybe because we didn't ask too many questions and packed what we thought was necessary, had some sentimental value or we just loved. Utilities took a while since we needed the deed to the property and it was delayed for about a week. After that, the installation went well. Blinds and curtains were installed, bars put on windows and moving day approached.

My time to get back arrived sooner than I wanted, and I had t leave without actually completing the move. My sister Laura is still there holding the fort...she has been a real trooper. Today they are moving all the small boxes and potted plants. Hopefully, the gardener will be there to put on the grass and plant anything too big for permitting. It rained cats and dogs most of the time, but in between we had some sunny moments, maybe they'll have some today. By the weekend, everything should be there and my mother will have time to adjust to her new house.

It has not been easy to please her. She would have rather stayed in her home of 40 years, big and old fashioned as it is. What to do. She has refused to even take a look at the property since we bought it! Can't blame her, but cannot understand her attitude either. I am counting on her good sense and the fact that she'll be so much more comfortable in the new house. If not, that is her choice, I think. I am keeping a diary of this, hoping to show it to her when she is in a better frame of mind...or to remind myself when the time comes that I cannot be so hard on my kids!!!!

On a personal level, things were difficult too. It was hot and so humid, I developed and asthma attack! can you believe my age? It was just so annoying, still on medication and hoping for the best. I also broke a toe.....tripped on a box and fell. Very painful and still black and blue....oh, Joy!!! The fact that I was away from a computer, no time even for a short visit to an Internet cafe...made my life very limited. So, yes, I am glad I did my duty for now, but I am so happy to be back!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Time to travel!

I know, Summer in the Northern Hemisphere is not the time to go anywhere. Weather is not the best: storms, humidity and heat can make your trip miserable. Some places are flooded with visitors and everywhere you go there are queues and long waits. These bring out the worst in people....everyone can be so rude. Usually, I would stay home and huddle in my air conditioned home and ignore the world. Wishful thinking! I need to go see about moving my mother to her new home in Panama.

Panama has become so popular, there are articles about the country everywhere. People ask me why I haven't made a move to buy property or to relocate there. After all, I was born there and still have family and friends I like! Well, Curaçao is my first choice, why deny that. At the moment many things stand between the island and our moving back there; but I am holding on to the desire that things will sort themselves out and we can go back. More wishful thinking my husband would say....but he hasn't discarded the idea yet and that can only be good.

For all practical purposes, this will not be a holiday. My mother lives in a small city a few hours from Panama City. Not much to do and certainly not a tourist destination....YET! Besides, moving my mother out of her parents' home into a new and modern dwelling, is going to be an uphill battle. My sisters and I are bracing for arguments, tears and pleading. We have to stand strong, she really needs to be in a house that is built to accommodate her needs: wheelchair, nurses, exercise room and easy accessibility to her car. This house is perfect!

On the other hand, if you take a plane and go to another country, that is traveling, right? I will hold on to that view. Trips to the beach house, long walks in the morning by the seashore, these are some of my favorite things when I visit my mother. It is so peaceful and relaxing, nobody to interrupt your communion with nature. Because it is the rainy season, the sea will be calm and clear and on sunny days a good swim will be welcome. Back in town, there are other things to look forward to: having someone to do all the housework and the cooking, healthy food simply prepared and friends and family to partake with. Despite the fact that the trip will involved manual labor of sorts: packing and unpacking everything my mother owns, the other things will all contribute to the sense of holiday I want to achieve. Trust me, I am working myself up to this.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Do It Yourself.....not for me!

Did I ever mentioned that I read the newspaper very day? I love the feel of it and even the ink smudges in my fingers are a welcome sight. So today, as usual, I sat with my Miami Herald and went to the commentary page. I found it very interesting.

I am a fan of Ellen Goodman who writes for the Boston Globe. Her columns are always informative, funny and well written, with a message that make sense. Today it was about the do-it-yourself craze that has hit the States in the last few years. We put together our furniture, check our bank balance and pay bills on line, we buy movie tickets and book airline tickets on line too. When we need a prescription filled, we call the pharmacy and talk to a machine. We pump our gas at these high prices and without the benefit of full-service! All this means is that paying jobs have been taken out of the market and replaced with machines, making them unpaid labor. Finally men and women have equal opportunity in this do-it-all-yourself world. She calls it self-service economy. How true!

After reading the column and pondering these truths, I came to the conclusion that this is definitely NOT for me!! Take me back to the Third World, where there is someone at the end of the phone line, people still repair their appliances, bank tellers smile at you, doctors make house calls and you can talk to the guy who's pumping your gas. What is wrong with that?

Time and again I have express the believe that everyone has a part to play in the world. We cannot all be in charge as we cannot all be followers. We need someone to do every task and every job to have an economy that works effortlessly....right? Well then, I will strive to convince my husband that we need to move to the Third World. Retire in a place with all the benefits of modern conveniences and the old-fashioned conveniences too. Get out before we have do-it-yourself medical care and cook-your-own-dinner restaurants. Sounds wonderful!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Buttons, Widgets, Logos and Sunsets

Another strange post, I am sure I can hear the comment..... It is, actually. I have been trying for weeks to get either a widget, a logo or a button on this blog. No such luck! I am so technologically challenged that no amount of instruction did the trick. At times I thought it was not important. I already have listed all my favorite sites, had joined every group that might help me get the word about my blog out there.....Still, it kept nagging me. Why can't I do this?

I am determined, if nothing else. Trying was frustrating and exasperating, following instructions and not getting results was the worst. SO...I finally gave in and asked my son. Bliss! all was well and I can look at my blog and see results!!! My friends would be so impressed....I know I am.

Now, what does all this has to do with sunsets? Everything! If I would still be living in Curaçao, every time I got in a tizzy about the buttons, widgets or logos, I would have gone for a walk at sunset. This soothing ritual always worked for me. I would have called my friend Kathy, picked her up and go walking. We would have gone up the small hill at Jan Thiel and reaching the top I would have looked upon the blue Caribbean. My worries would have melted away, right there.

Let me tell you about sunsets in Curaçao. I now that this Nature's show happens every where and every where people brag about them; but when the sun goes down in the Tropics something magical happens. It is like sensual dance across the sky. Then, you need to see these ones: there most be a thousand different kinds of sunsets that happen on this island and all are glorious! The amount of colors that appear, the play they make with the clouds, the dry heat, the sea and even the wind, make these displays truly unique! My love for sunsets is well known amongst my friends and I have made them admirers too!

So when I have one of these days, in this case weeks...., I miss sunsets more than ever. I know, you would say that I have just to step outside on my little island here in Miami and see the sunset....NEEE!!! We don't face I can see some colors behind the concrete jungle that is Brickell Avenue, but not a complete picture. Sunsets in Curaçao are the thing and I am planning to go enjoy them again.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

On a lighter note.....

My friend Prati is such a great help!! She advices, comments and tags my blog in hers!! I appreciate it so much...Now I am working on my first tag! and you guessed will be Prati's blog!!!

I met Prati through Monica Pradhan's forum. Like Ruth, she has become a friend and a supporter and I enjoy her writing enormously. She and her husband are so talented; free spirits, artistic, warm and helpful. Prati works with a company that is developing new shows for Indian TV, she is also a fashion blogger...with a most fantastic format: street fashion, the people that attract her attention when she walks along the crowded streets of Mumbai. Her husband Tarun just got an Award from the UN for a game he developed about female infanticide..... a man after my own heart!!!

So when you are out there in the blogosphere, do take the time to check her blog:

Shotcouture - Street Fashion

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tourism Development......

How much of a good thing is this? Our lovely island has become a strong competitor in the tourism market...and that is great as long as the natural beauty of the place is preserved. That is exactly what the tourists will come out to see.....the responsible tourists that also want to preserve the Earth for future generations....NOT the ones that want a Disney-World view of a beach vacation, artificial in every way and not at all what the island is all about.

Unfortunately, the lure of money has made politicians and developers around the world new strange bed-fellows. Right now, there is a proposal in Curaçao to turn over the Jan Thiel Wildlife Conservation Area into a tourism development area!!! WHAT!!! whose brilliant idea was that? and why is there not a bigger outcry on the island? I heard about it through my son, who got a message from a friend through Facebook.......These young people are the future and they take this responsibility seriously, so there is a petition going around. I plan to sign it!!!

One of the beauties of this island is the unspoiled landscape and the wildlife, the way you can walk around and admire a land that hasn't changed much in years. Do they want to convert this into an artificial environment, where everything is made today and there is no historical monuments or natural sites anymore? I feel so sad! It will be like any other Caribbean island....competing for tourism money without regard for what that can do to our island.

All of you that have followed my blog know of my love for the island and its beauty. If you want, you can help. Sign the petition and safe a piece of Paradise!!!

read and sign

Sunday, June 22, 2008


It's been a while since my ramblings have taken me back to the's time, I think. Camille, my daughter was here for a few days. She lives in London, so we were so excited about this visit! She was to attend a wedding in the Bahamas with her boyfriend and then come over to be with us for a few days. We were counting on the weather.....Miami had other plans.

It rained and there was thunder and lightning and there was not enough time to see everyone or visit with friends.....which takes me to Curaçao. When either of my children visited the island, it seemed that we had time for so much. Get togethers, visits with friends, out to lunch and out to dinner, drinks on Thursdays, beach on weekends, how did we do all that?

Simple. The lifestyle is so laid-back and relaxed. There is no place too far, no hours on highways crawling with cars, no downpours at all hours, no waiting for everything you need to do. There is no rush or missed opportunities. You can be spontaneous, plan a picnic, a beach day, a dinner party or to have friends over for drinks from one day to the next! Planning doesn't take so much effort and everyone is always game for anything that includes a celebration of any sort.

Here, just the logistics of getting your friends to agree to anything, is daunting. There are the jobs, the chores, the grandchildren to babysit. Then there is the fact that not all of them can come on a given day. Then the execution of your plans: go to the market (here you can find anything, it's true!) where you can waste a fair amount of time, go back home and prepare all the fare to be offered and get yourself ready to entertain. Your friends will arrive at your home...and you'll be exhausted! I am surprised anyone gets anything done here! I am also surprised people are not in a constant bad mood.

Miami has a lot to offer and it's a place where many people are very happy, I'm sure. For others, and I know some of them, things are too hectic, to impersonal, too stressful, So, YES, take me back to the island. I need to relax, enjoy the beach and the sunsets, see my friends, play bridge, have a drink on a Thursday, make a surprised visit to anyone.....recharge my batteries. I am again counting on a visit...soon!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Afternoon Thunderstorms!

Alright, it's Summer! never mind that is only June 18th......Summer has come with a vengeance to South Florida. I know this is far from the worst we could tropical storms yet! Still, the rains come down without fail every afternoon. It is so upsetting. I sit at my desk and look out at the bay. The sky is gray, the sea is gray, the clouds hang low.

All contributes to a sense of desolation that should not be part of Summer. This season means outdoor living, barbecues and late evenings sitting on your porch or balcony.... neighbors walking past your house, children playing outside and sunsets that come so late. Even the presence of bugs is a welcome sight, remember the fireflies? and the fact that school is out and families have more time together?

These are the images I have of Summer in this part of the world. My American friends always longed to come home for the Summer. They missed so much about this season, even if they lived in the Tropics. It is not the same, ever, they used to tell me. The slow movement from the dark Winter days, to the rebirth of Spring, to the glorious days of Summer has no parallel. Now, I am living in the States, but somehow the rhythm of the seasons doesn't applied to South Florida..... does anything? Never mind! So I'm back to the reality of the Summer season here: more or less sunny mornings and afternoon thunderstorms.

Consequently, I run my errands in the mornings, take a break for lunch and sit to write in the afternoons. Instead of walking outside, I go to the gym and use the treadmill. This has become my rhythm....adjusting is still taking time, but I am getting there!!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Old Fashioned Conveniences....

Housekeepers. My friend Prati in Mumbai just hired a new housekeeper, a gem for all I hear. She works, her husband works and they have a huge dog! The monsoon season just started and things were getting scary.... now she need worry any more! This just reminds me of one thing I truly think makes life so much easier...I maintain that Lucy, my housekeeper, is what I miss most about Curaçao!

Many of my friends, especially the ones that have never lived abroad, cannot understand why I miss this aspect of life in the Tropics! Really? A good housekeeper is a treasure, I have always said. Back home, my mother always had live-in help, in Curaçao I always did. It is part of life in many places around the world and not the evil that people tend to think it is......Never mind how many modern appliances I have at home, I have to do the work: load the washing machine, the dryer, the dishwasher. I cook and wash afterwards, I fold the clothing and make the beds, I dust and vacuum...

I'm sorry, but I would prefer someone else to do that. Do I sound callous? what to do. Are you sure you wouldn't want that too? Most people here work full time, husband and wife. Weekends are a never ending marathon of chores they didn't have time to do or finish during the week. If they entertain at home, they will be preparing for days or so busy on the day that they can hardly enjoy the whole event...of course there are exceptions. I know of incredible organized women that can do anything effortlessly....not many though. A good housekeeper would take care of all that..that's just part of the job.

Talking of which, many of the people that cannot understand, tend to think that housekeepers are just helpers, someone that is there to do what you cannot do or finish anything you couldn't. Well, NEEE, they are there to do the things you prefer not to do, to get all housework finished and all cooking done and all laundry organized. It is a job like any other.

My paternal grandmother, who lived to be 98, taught me that the world has to have everything to be able to work. She compared it to a hand: not all the fingers are the same, she pointed out. We need thumbs, and index fingers and even our pinky has a task. If all fingers were the same, the hand would not work!! I thought that was brilliant.

So I am really sorry I cannot get a live-in housekeeper here. Especially now, that age is catching up with me: I have bursitis on my right shoulder and my whole arm hurts at times...... My doctor wold like me to rest the arm for a few days and then start therapy. Good luck! Once more I am reminded that not every aspect of Life in the Tropics applies to Miami, no matter what the tourist trade wants us to believe....

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Modern Conveniences...

Cellphones. Yesterday Steve Jobs, the genius behind Apple (iPods, iPhone) introduced his latest gadget: a slicker, thinner iPhone... and as much as I admire this man, I asked myself...WHY?? Don't we have enough things to distract people already? You'll point out that these gadgets are a necessity in this modern world where we need to know everything in an instant, can't be be out of touch with the whole world at all times and one phone call can make or break our day.

On the other hand, I see another side of this. Since I work from home, and writing is a very emotional and fickle task, I do have time to get around the city at odd hours. Like today, I decided to go to the drugstore after lunch. Driving out of our small island, I hit Brickell Avenue... this is Miami's financial center, full of highrise office buildings and men and women walking from place to place...where are they going and why so fast? Never mind. They all have a phone stuck to their ears, or one of those devices attached to the ear itself. Yappying away, like the world depended on whatever they're saying. Really?

Are they talking to anyone or pretending? I'm sure a lot of them pretend! It makes them look important, they think...can't be without direct communication with the office or the client. Or, how about this: it makes them look like idiots! I'm sorry, nothing is that important and some of them will get run over by a car one of these days. I know I always have to wait from someone to cross the street when the light has turned green in my favor. These people don't look right or left and behave as if they own the street. Since most people driving the cars are also on the are there not several dead every day, it's a mystery to me.

So back to Steve Jobs. I am sure he is having the time of his life coming up with all those gadgets and making all that money. Don't get me wrong, I love his computers, have had several since I first started using them. They are fabulous and I should have bought shares in this company from the beginning: put your money where your mouth is (I have always loved Apple) sort of philosophy...too late now, of course! Having a phone for an important call, for an emergency, to have access to important information in a instant...all that is great. My family lives all over the place and a cellphone is a lifeline and a blessing. Still, I cannot understand at all the necessity of having a constant communication with someone else. When do they have time to think, to be with their own thoughts? I must really be getting old, or I must really be missing the slow pace and relaxed lifestyle of the Tropics!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Think Pink!!!

When I moved to Miami, I told myself that making new friends was out of the question. Many times here, I have said that I love old friends, people that know me well and need no explanations about my life or my actions. That is true, in many ways I still hold that to be one of my great truths. Of course, life has a way of making us rethink our words....

Last year I bought, on an impulse, a book called The Hindi-Bindi Club, by Monica Pradhan. It was a wonderful read and I contacted the author and told her so. She turned out to be a warm and friendly young woman.....and she has started a forum with other readers on the premise that "if they can connect with my book they can connect with each other". I was not too sure about this, anything done through the internet seems to me very impersonal..... I know some of you might agree, not for everyone..... but she was right and new friendships have developed. The forum is very supportive too.

Now one of us is in a position many women find themselves...she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. I really like her and, without meeting personally, we have developed a friendship I didn't think could be achieved. Her surgery is this Friday, June 6th. Our small group has decided to wear pink that day, all of us from all over the world: in the UK, in India, in Canada, in the US.....will be wearing pink! How is that for moral support? I love it! Our friend in India has a new entry in her couture shopping pink is also going to happened!

So, yes, new friendships are not really my thing...having to explain myself again or having to start anew makes me weary. Who knows if and when I meet some of these women how are we going to take each other. I have no clue, but so far it seems like a good idea. It feels comfortable, amazingly, it feels right and I can't be against that. As soon as she gets better, I am planning to go visit my new friend. In the meantime, I will keep her in my prayers and my thoughts in a positive mode!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


This past week brought some of my friends to South Florida, and that was wonderful!!! Marja was here with her daughter Carina attending a Spa Show at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Carina is opening her own spa in Curaçao....

As busy as they were, they made time to have dinner with Frankie and I on the Sunday evening. We met at Espanola Way, on the Beach. A quaint place, made for tourists of course, but still very nice. The food was alright, the wine great and the company.....fantastic! We talked of everything, which was fantastic. Have I told you that I really love it when I see old friends? people that know me so well, I have nothing to explain or clarify.... They got me up to date with other friends' lives in a familiar and comfortable sort of way.

Then on Monday I drove all the way to Aventura Mall to meet them again. Shopping is still one thing everyone from the island does when traveling abroad. There is always something you can't find on the island, or is cheaper here, or it's new. I remember those times so well. It took me forever to get there by way of Biscayne Boulevard...I hate the expressway, as you know, but so worth it! Marja and I sat and had a drink, yes on a week day, while Carina shopped.

We drove back to their hotel, had another drink and talked some more and had fun. Except for the bartender who got mad at us because we asked him to turn down the music! He was so rude saying he couldn't work without music, so he was closing the bar and leaving early! He presented us with the bill and stormed out. Great service..... We stayed there and finished our drinks and then I said good bye, it was hard..... I drove home reminiscing of other times and other places. Still, I was so happy to have seen them.

On the next Saturday, Carolyn came calling. She lived in Curaçao years ago and we have kept in touch through the years. We hadn't seen each other in fifteen years. Since she was visiting family with her mother, we could only get together for lunch. We made the best of it, meeting half way between Lauderhill and Aventura! Picked a Chinese restaurant that was conveniently located and enjoyed every minute. As with Marja, there was so much to talked about, so little explaining to do, so comfortable. We want to meet in Curacao in the Fall!!

Finally last night, we met Tony. He was here on his way to Mexico, and had with Frankie in the afternoon. We went to our favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant. It is small and cozy and the food is so good. Tony was full of news about the island, the changes since we last were there, the new places that have opened, the get together with mutual friends. He could give us a better idea of the situation on the island: political, financial and social. For the first time since we moved to Miami, he didn't discouraged me when I said...we should move back! Well, he did say Panama would be cheaper, but I was surprised.

Even though it was a bit sad to see my friends, even though it was hard to say goodbye, I am grateful for those friendships started so long ago that still are so much a part of my life. In times like these, I it not written in the stars that I should go back to Curaçao???

Friday, May 23, 2008

Fuel Prices and Frienships....

This makes sense to me, but I am sure everyone else will go........huh? It is quite simple, really... It's no secret that oil price is at an all time high, over $130 a barrel! There is a worldwide outcry, people cannot afford gasoline prices, heating oil prices...or food. Yes, that too has gone up the roof. After all, food has to be transported from farms to markets, from country to country, sometimes across the ocean. Every mean of transportation needs....fuel! and let's face it, there is not enough cheap ethanol to go oil is the thing.

What does this have to do with friendships, you'd ask. A lot. For expats like myself, who have not lived in their home countries in decades, this complicates things. We have made friends all over the place, we have kept in touch for years and ties have become stronger with time. Technology, that dubious blessing, have kept us in touch with emails, Skype, Facebook or MySpace. Even I, mostly computer challenged, have learned to keep up with the latest developments.

Unfortunately, nothing can take the place of a hug, a touch or a shoulder to cry on. That is only possible if we can see each other. This involves traveling! Every few years, if we can afford it, we will travel, sharing so much during those visits. So, now you can see...traveling to visit friends, meeting them somewhere interesting and new, getting together for special events in our lives are all cherished moments in an expat's life. If airline ticket prices and gasolines prices keep going are we to continue enjoying all this?

When it comes to family, there will always be a way. Children will find they need to go to their parents' home, grandparents will make the trip to see new grandchildren; somehow, we'll manage. I am afraid that we will find doing the same for our expat friends would be more difficult and that is going to be a shame. Sitting here, looking out my window....I wonder how are we going to accept these changes. I'm sure we will ignore them as long as we can. We will keep in touch with the usual technology, plan visits and hope all will be fine...but would it?Can't even think about it without feeling sad. It would not only be age and distance that separate us, it would also be the cost of fuel!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Smoke and Rain, only in Miami!

Amazing! yes, it is true. I have been suffering with allergies for weeks now; cement dust being the major culprit. Headaches and watery eyes and a dry cough. I have been miserable!!! Don't recall anything this bad in years....

As with anything here, I spoke too soon. This past week, some deranged man started a fire in Central Florida. With the dry season still lingering in many parts of the state, the consequences have been devastating. Thousands of acres of land have been burned out, hundred of homes either destroyed or damaged, so many people affected. Today, even the Everglades are in danger of going up in would just take a thunderstorm. Did you know that Florida is one of the most prolific lighting producing areas of the world?

So, this morning, going out grocery shopping....not one of my favorite chores and getting worse with food prices out of hand....I encountered a hazy world. It looked as if there were low clouds....but hot and oppressive. It certainly didn't look like rain, I deduced it was....smoke! Of course it was, those fires were out of control and spreading. I later heard that there are a couple of them raging in South Miami-Dade county.

I quickly bought what was needed at the nearest supermarket, never mind prices! Got home just in time to get everything up before the elevators were closed down for repairs........yes, that too happened today. When it rains, it pours...figuratively I thought! Too soon, AGAIN.... I looked out the window and everything looked dreary and a light drizzle was falling. And soon after...oh my...rain!!! Real and coming down in buckets. Couldn't see Fisher Island or Key Biscayne or the bridge over to Brickell Avenue. It looked awful because the smoke was still was that possible? Only in Miami. Since I cannot contemplate what this will do to my allergies, I am staying put.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Rainy Season is here.......

Yes, indeed the rainy season has arrived. We know this not because it has been raining...even though we have had thunderstorms and showers in the last few days.... we know because the humidity levels have reached unimaginable highs!!! Today it must be 90 degress with humidity much higher than that. At least it feels that way.....

In our small island, this is an important day: 11th Annual Brickell Key Day. It's a lovely idea and a good excuse, for most, to walk around the island. From the balcony of my 15th floor apartment, I can see the tents, the traffic and the preparations. It looks so festive and inviting; but that is because the breeze can still be felt up here. Can't imagine what it would be like down there. Of course, I will find out soon..... it's time to join the fun!

Well, we went and came back. It was a fine experience. I am sure the organizers thought that it was a great way to encourage community life on our small island. In many ways, that was needed because this place is a melting pot of sorts. People from so many countries from Argentina to Cuba, from Colombia to Jamaica, from Russia to Romania. You hear so many languages being spoken in elevators, parks and the small market.

There were vendors selling everything from paintings to sculptures, from jewellery to ceramics. There were second-hand books, plants and food. In the village green, there were clowns and jugglers keeping the children and their parents amused. There was live music and other entertainers, and of course there were the groups of friends just socializing in the shade. All in all, not a bad day in our small community!

Next year, maybe some reference to the advent of the rainy season should be made. After all, not long after it starts raining another important date arrives: hurricane season!! The beginning of six months of playing hide-and-seek with Mother Nature. She of the willful mind, who keeps us in suspense most of the years, and punishes us in others. Yes, Brickell Key Day will serve to get us in a hopeful frame of mind.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day....or Labor Day in the rest of the world!

Yes, it is...Today is Labor Day all over the globe, except in the USA. Never mind that, the bottom line is that while everyone is working here, laboring at their jobs with the usual American tenacity........the rest of the world is having a holiday.

Talked to my sister Laura, who lives in Venezuela, this morning. She was getting ready to leave Caracas and spend the next four days at a friend's beach house. Friday just becomes a bridge between today and the weekend. Isn't that convenient? Anyway, I would love to do the same! True, you could take a short holiday now...but going to a hotel these days can set you back a few hundred dollars, and gasoline is so expensive, a long drive makes you feel so guilty! Besides, good beaches.... with white sands, clear waters and few people are a rarity on this side of Florida. So, forget that idea!

In Panama, everything is closed today; and, as in Venezuela, Friday will become just part of the weekend! Traveling abroad for such a short period is expensive; so friends and family, I have been in touch with, are planning to take it easy this weekend. Many will go to their weekend houses! Gasoline is expensive there too, but drives are shorter and getting away is important.

In Curaçao, they have five days off this year! Queen's Day was yesterday, celebrating the Netherlands' head of state: Queen Beatrix; today is Labor Day, tomorrow is a bridge that was given a purpose...Ascension Day! and of course, there is Saturday and Sunday. People will travel, if they can afford it, or they will go to their beach houses!!!

Noticed anything in common? besides the fact that the USA doesn't celebrate Labor Day with the rest of the world? Beach or weekend houses!! not timeshare units, not rented hotel rooms....houses, homes, property! Here in the States, having a second home or a vacation place is not as common. Really, how many people here do you know with a weekend house? Isn't that amazing? I am telling you, the more I think about it, the more I conclude: there is a better way of life that is more gentile, slower, healthier and definitely more fun!!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

South Florida Drivers and Health Insurance....

There are two articles today in the Miami Herald that caught my attention: SoFla drivers and the cost of health insurance in the state. Amazingly, these topics have been on my mind for the last few did they know? No mind readers, I'm sure, just people like me that feel things are really getting out of hand.....

Dave Barry, who is always funny but on the money, rambles along about driving in South Florida. He portraits perfectly, with real examples and deprecating humor the perils of going out in your car....he advices us that the best thing is to close your eyes and pray. He wants to be positive, though, and says that if we just take responsibility for our driving and show each other a little courtesy, all will be fine....but he is a realist and concludes that we are doomed!!!

Many times I have felt the same way. I go out of my way to avoid the expressways, especially I95; I take all the scenic routes and the out of the way roads. I don't mind getting late to where I'm going, or starting early to be on time. The less I see of SoFla drivers, the better. Courtesy is unheard of, everyone for himself is more like it. There is no respect for pedestrians, much less for other drivers. Some expressways become racing tracts at nights and accidents are the order of the day. I pity the people that have to commute here! No wonder AAA has named Miami Number One when it comes to road rage.... I know sometimes I am ready to kill someone.......

I have no idea why this happens, but I have my theory. I also know that many reading this will call me all sorts of names...but I think I am right. SoFla is a place of different cultures, people from all over Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and other parts of the world live here with others from all over the US. Everyone has his/her own way of driving, different traffic rules, different traditions when it comes to road etiquette. We all bring these things to SoFla and we fail to learn the local rules. Yes, I include myself! Until we do......we are doomed.

The other article is about the cost of health insurance premiums in Florida. John Dorschner, who writes business related articles, points out several things I have been telling my husband for months!!! Premiums go up and up...and nobody seems worried that we are not going to be able to afford health insurance. Getting sick will soon be a luxury. Coming from Curaçao where we had National Health Care, and even private insurance coverage was reasonable, this is difficult to understand....that is a Third World country!!!

The article points out that premiums have gone up 29% in the last year alone. Salaries have not gone up as much...of course. This is not a Florida only problem, it is a national trend: up 10 times as fast as family income. Wonderful! All this would be nothing if the services provided were all covered; but NEE.... you still have a deductible and co-pays and who knows what else.

In a country with the most advanced medical developments, the latest in technology and research....millions cannot afford medical insurance or go bankrupt paying medical bills!!! I can only say that I have been charged for things I didn't need, procedures that were not done and given medications I didn't require. I have never got any satisfaction from my calls to our health insurance company. I was once told: "I don't make the rules, ma'm..." Still, every year on my husband's birthday our premium goes up. Insurance companies, in my opinion, have not a care in the world; and profit for their shareholders come first. Doctors think that if they studied medicine....their first duty is to get rich. WOW, that felt good!!!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Back to Miami.....

Frankie gave me a trip to Boston for my birthday....I know this had ulterior motives........he got tickets to go see his beloved Red Sox!! Still, he's been abandoned often enough of late, with all my trips to see my mother, and needed a break. Besides, Boston is a city I love. It has so much connection to our lives: we met there, married there, our son was born there. It feels like a second home. So off we went to Beantown!!

The city has changed so much since our college days, and for the better! The weather cooperated and the days were mild and cool and sunny and just plain gorgeous!!! We had time to walk about in the city, getting to know it again, we had lunch at outdoor cafes, dinner in small, cozy restaurants, walked by the Charles and visited friends. Of course we watched every Red Sox game, cheered, despaired...and everything else that goes with being a true member of Red Sox Nation. Frankie attended two games. One with our son, Frank, and his friends; the other was on my birthday...we went with Susan and Mauricio. That was a treat...

Before the game we went to their lovely home and had time to enjoy their daughters. They are so cute!!! The afternoon was glorious and Vicki called to wished me Happy Birthday. We sat outdoors and had a glass of wine; later had dinner at a Japanese restaurant and went to the ball park. Nobody seemed to have gotten the memo about my special day....we lost!! Still, it was a great day. One of the best birthdays I have had...

Then it was time to get back to Miami. Don't get me wrong, I wanted to come back to my house, my bed and my routine. One week away can be too much sometimes, especially if you are not as young as you feel!!!! Anyway, we woke up early, had a nice brunch and went to the airport. Watched the Sox get clobbered again and took the plane home. Nice enough flight, I would say; even had a chance to sleep for a bit.

Now, who designed MIA? He must be a marathon runner! from our gate to the baggage claim area, took forever and a while!!! I do hope that if and when they finish the new additions....things are going to be more organized. If not, they are going to be in need of a lot more wheelchairs or small trolleys to transport the weary passengers..... But that was just the first part of my Welcome Home bit......

We got downstairs, got into a taxi. The driver thought we needed some music, so he raised the volume of the radio. We had to asked him to turned it down....the whole world was going to hear the music...the windows were open to the night air....charming! Of course, he was racing to our destination; we needed to tell him to slow down. Needless to say that he took the long way around to our house; maybe he thought we were tourists. Good impression! Never mind, I think taxi drivers are bad anywhere in the world; just seems that they are worse in Miami.

Can't complain, though...I'm home and back to my routine. This doesn't sound too enthusiastic, but it actually is. Amazingly I miss Miami, not only my home, when I travel! Could it be that now I see the city as others from my part of the world do?'s in the States, sort of, AND is close to home!!! Such is life in the Tropics!!!

Monday, April 14, 2008

An Expat at Heart....

Seems like a natural progression now. From living in Curaçao, then coming to Miami and missing my expat lifestyle, to realizing that I rather live in a place that affords me exactly that! I must have been blind, I think, for not seeing this before.

Let's start from the beginning. I am sitting here, as everyday, working on my deadlines, answering emails, checking my blog. At the same time, I check different forums I belong to, try to keep in touch. Suddenly, a light goes on in my head: all this seems too advanced, works too well and makes me feel there are glitches in the rhythm of my life. There is nothing to wish for; everything can be found at your fingertips, anything you need can be bought at the supermarket, drugstore or department store. There is no need to make a list and try to fill it in various places, or buying something and freeze it until you need it....or going on a trip and bringing back things you can't find where you live.

There is no need to make friends with your neighbors, real friendships that would take the place of family. No need to learn to play bridge to make friends, get involved with women's groups, community service or in your children's school. No reason to use anything as an excuse for a social event, no using any occasion in your life as a reason to celebrate.

I am not a pioneer....far from it! You couldn't have dragged me across the country to establish myself in some remote outpost in the American West, or run to the Far East to find a husband like the women in the infamous Fishing Fleet that descended on India in the times of the Raj, looking for husbands....let's not go to extremes. On the other hand, I would have moved with my husband to faraway lands and a raised a family in exotic places...provided certain modern conveniences were to be had, of course!

I am sure I am not making any sense to most people reading this.....but there is a small group of my friends, a small group of women out there that completely understand what I am getting at: expat life is so much exciting back in the States, for example!! Moving back, readjusting to life in one's home country is just not what some of us want. Some of us are just perfectly happy living abroad! What a revelation...or just a realization!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More changes...

A while ago, I wrote about the changes happening in my Curaçao bridge group. Some of us were moving abroad, other were working, traveling more. One was still fighting to stay healthy and active. Hilde had passed away, and things were a bit sad.

I am glad to report that Nicoline is doing great, finishing her treatment and full of plans. She looked wonderful last time I saw her. Kitty and Marja B are becoming grandmothers and Eva is adjusting wonderfully to her new home...even I have started to see some good things in Miami!!! Well, don't get too excited.....I still not at home here...but things are definitely looking up...

Regardless, change is something we cannot stop and our small group keeps changing. Vicki just told me the group is getting smaller, that it's harder every week to get even two tables together. The news filled me with sadness. We have been together for so long, we have been so close. Just take the recent emails from Eva about her grandson's health; and how we all kept in touch, sent our positive thoughts and were so glad when things worked out well. He is home with his parents and sister and we're all glad.

How can it be, then, that organizing two tables is a problem? We were always a busy group of mothers and wives that kept our Wednesdays bridge date, no matter what. When some of us were traveling, there was always someone to hold the fort and bridge continued. If one was sick or under the weather, we had time to visit and play! When our children had school holidays, we all took a holiday from bridge and couldn't wait to start again. Bridge was the rhythm of our least I thought so because it kept us in touch, gave us an excuse to get together and talk about ourselves, our lives....We even took a cruise together a few years back, only the girls, to play and enjoy each other company and we had a ball!

When I moved to Miami, this was the group I missed most, in many ways still do. I enjoy the forwarded emails I receive from them, love to hear from their families and their lives, keep them posted on my developments too. What is happening in Curaçao? Is everyone too busy to put a day aside to see friends? have other things taken up their time? are they traveling more? have the grandchildren taken priority where children were worked into our bridge schedule? is retirement taken too seriously?

All this rambling most seem positively an exaggeration to anyone that doesn't understand this bridge culture I came to know on the island. When I moved there, playing bridge was part of your social life. There were groups of all ages involved and on special occasions, like someone's big birthday or farewell, they all got together.... older ladies and younger ones. It was a sort of tradition and we all enjoyed these playing dates.

Mothers and daughters played in different groups, expats had theirs, very good players would gravitate to one another..... Wednesday mornings, Tuesdays at the club or Monday nights, everyone had her favorite. To think that this is no longer the case, makes me sad. That was one thing I held on to all these years I have been away: Wednesday mornings my friends would all be together at someone's home playing bridge...that was a constant. When I traveled to Curaçao, for whatever reason, I could let them know in advance and got to see everyone on a given Wednesday. Next, they will tell me that the tradition will die out because the younger group of women is not learning to play!!! We must trump that.....