Saturday, February 27, 2010


Yes, we were approved and we get the keys on Monday! What a relief....The only thing that cannot be avoided is packing. Regardless of how I feel about moving, I am doing some of the packing for this move. Why? well, we are moving to the building next door...besides I thought we didn't have so much!!! Think again. It seems that we have accumulated so much in these seven years! and I thought we were being restrained, what was I thinking? Need to stick to my plan: buying only if replacing; getting rid of things that are not useful, beautiful or loved.

True, the packing has not been not so awful (right!) because we are not moving overseas or even across town. Still, not one of my favorite things and now I am beginning to hate it!!! Maybe hating is too harsh a word....or not! Everyday, I wake up, put together some boxes and start filling them up. No, not randomly, just a sort of organized chaos: whatever is close to where I am, goes in the same box! I mark what's inside, seal it as best as I can and move on. The Universe will take care of them and nothing will break.....fingers crossed.

Every couple of hours, I take a break and reward myself (a cup of tea, a visit to Facebook, a chapter on a good book, a phone call, a snack) for a job well done. This is an idea put forth by my daughter Camille's boyfriend. Don't you love it? It really works because you are never too exhausted and have time to look at what you have accomplished and pat yourself in the back. Very important when you are alone in the house and nobody is cheering you on! One more thing: at the end of the day my fingers are so dirty: black ink from newspapers I use to wrap the breakable takes several washings to get it off. On the other hand: I am doing manual labor and can't think.

This weekend I was expecting my husband and son to help. Frankie is here, amazingly enough he is packing too! Frank is absent so far, but hopefully he'll show up at one point. They both can help moving the boxes out of the way so we can move around the house. The heavy lifting will be done by the moving company sometime next week.

Then will come the next chapter in this saga: the unpacking. Mostly to be done by me, I guess. Now, both the men in my life should be aware that they are expected to help without being asked too many times. We'll see how that works!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Place...

Yes, we have found a place we mind you, not LOVE! In these hectic times, with so much going on, that will do. We have put an offer, need to apply to the condo association, have to be approved, pay a ransom in fees and, if lucky, we will be moving....sometime. Let me explain all this. Since moving to Miami, we have been in the same place. It was a rental building, very well managed and perfect for our needs. Enter condo conversion!!!!

About four years into our lease, the building was sold to developers. A group of people that were more interested in making money than in getting this place in any semblance of efficiency. That was the way, when the housing market was at its peak and everyone was out to make money. Many actually did. Prices were outrageous, but we out in an offer. After all, we did love the place and I dreaded moving! Bad idea, we realized the place was not going to be managed as we would have liked, so we decided against it. Fortunately, the person that bought the apartment wanted it for investment and we could stay!!! I was so relieved!

Changes were not exactly what we expected, but we had nothing to do with that so we ignored them. Not so good idea.....anything that happened next was a disaster. The overinflated housing market bubble burst and property values plunged. Everyone and its brother (or wife!!!) scrambled for cover. Mortgages went into default and places went into foreclosure. Still, our apartment was alright...we didn't hear anything. Life was good in this corner of Miami and we were enjoying it! We were glad we have not bought a place in the area.

Enter papers of foreclosure for this unit! Where was that coming from? and how long did we have to make up our minds about moving? Retained a lawyer who advised us to wait for more specific news and expect to be moving in a couple of months. Sigh of relief! We went to London for the Holidays, then went to visit my mother in Panamá...ignoring the inevitable!!! Of course we looked at places and started to pack some things. Still, we were hoping for a resolution without too much hassle. Something along the lines of staying in the same building, for example. Definitely on Brickell Key.

Well, we didn't know the market in Miami. Finding a new place in the area we just love proved to be very hard. Some of these owners have not been reading the papers: prices were just insane. The more we looked, the less possible it seemed that we would find what we where looking for. On the other hand, this gave me a more complete idea of life on the island. It's still the best place to reside in Miami!!!

At the same time we were looking, the owner was showing our apartment. Or I was.....very annoying, but necessary. This gave me more incentives to look......but not for finding. I hate moving! We stayed seven years here and I was not going to move in a rush to a place that I might not like. I did not want a place that was a compromise and then have to move in a year. No way, I thought.....when I move, I want to be happy in my new place. And this is only renting, I hate to think what would happen if I was buying!

We looked in our building and looked everywhere, but were running out of time. Then things in our building turned a bit rocky.......I don't want to know details. A move to another building was now the only answer. I was a bit disappointed, because I do like the views here, the building is laid-back and it would be easier to move to just another floor! I know, that was compromise, but I was getting tired.....

This past week, we saw a lot of places. I took notes of everything I like and dislike on every visit. What we liked, we saw again and took more notes. Frankie went as an observer. Moves have always been something he avoids: he'll pay for them, but has no interest in how it's done. I do details......harder and more tiring. This was not going to be different, so why have arguments....go with the flow, Mercedes!!!

Anyway, we saw a place again yesterday. It is the closest we would get to what we want, without buying. We like the floor plan and the fact that is larger than our current place. The kitchen is an issue, but I'm not crazy about cooking, so I'll live with it. The views are alright, but we don't look into the bay directly, we face the city and just a sliver of the port. We face north this time. Some sun in the afternoon might be an issue in the Summer....I'll live with that too because it means I might see the sunsets!!! Absolutely trying to be positive here.....

So a compromise it is and we seem to be happy about it. Now we have to wait to be approved. Let me tell you, applying to the CIA should be a breeze after this. When I said I was not moving alone, I was asked who with: boyfriend or husband? Husband, I assured the lady at the office. Oh, she said, we need your marriage certificate! Really?, I have no clue where it is and can't make it to Boston to get a new one, would my passport do? It's in my married name, yes, but we'd need both, she said. I am still to sit down and answer the questionnaire. This is definitely NOT Life in the Tropics! Will keep you posted.......

Friday, February 19, 2010


Not long ago, my good friend Prati (in Mumbai!!) moved into a new place. She has vowed to put all her belongings in two suitcases and rebuild her life after separating from her husband. I find that resolution very brave.....She is smart, young and attractive, has a job she loves, a family and a group of friends that are 100% behind her. I have no doubts that she'll succeed. She's blogging about it and I am so proud of her! I know, you are wondering what does this has to do with blogging about the Tropics.....well, as it happens... A LOT!!!

Since moving to Miami, my husband and I have debated about buying a condo here. First, it was the ridiculous prices for what was offered, the fact that we didn't know how long we would stay in the area, our children live far from here and are not fond of living in Miami. Later it was the fact that Frankie knows he could do his job anywhere, so why tie yourself to a place. Then we realized retirement is no longer something light years away: we are not getting any younger!! So we stayed in our beautiful apartment with gorgeous views to Biscayne Bay and hope for the best; after all Miami was booming...... then the bubble just burst!!! Oops, things were no longer sunny in the Sunshine State.

The apartment went to foreclosure and we are looking into moving out of yesterday!! I am going berserk looking at places, taking notes, looking for spacious dwellings with great views in the secluded and peaceful area we know lived in: Brickell Key. I refuse to move anywhere else!!! Not easy, I tell you. Life in the Tropics was never so hectic....I miss it! Some of my friends are suggesting moving back....I'm considering it, or not.

All the places I have seen are great, ones larger than others, but nothing perfect yet. We need a place with enough room for all my things, the ones I have in use and the ones I still have in storage. When I moved to Miami, I sold, gave away and threw out so much. I thought I was done downsizing. Unfortunately, it seems I still have too much, but this time I have no clue what I would get rid of...and this is where Prati's idea comes into place!

You would tell me that it's not the same. Prati has not yet accumulated anything close to what I have...and you might be right. In 36 years of really can accumulate, trust me. Still, that is not the point. I once read the you should have in your home only: what's useful, beautiful or loved. I am able to decide on the first two: useful and beautiful.....but have a hard time trying to get rid of things I love. There are so many! Especially things belonging to my children, maybe because they have been living away from home for so long and have yet to settle in their own homes......if that makes any sense.

So back to Prati's idea. I have decided for now that I can start with baby steps: no more buying unless I am replacing, going through boxes and selecting certain things instead of keeping everything I brought from Curaçao, giving things away to people that will appreciate them and selecting some of them to give to charity. Easier said than done, I'm sure, but I will look to Prati for inspiration and will keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday....

This morning, as I switching through channels, President Obama appeared talking about another stimulus package (he called last year's: Stimulus # 1) I was ready to switch channels......when the camera focused on VP Bidden. There he was, proudly wearing a small cross of ashes in his forehead. Yes, the VP is Catholic. Reminded me, right away, of all those years when we finished partying at dawn and went directly to church to get our ashes before crashing in bed! I am sure thousands did that this morning too.

Carnaval in Las Tablas is serious business. We all take part and we all have danced the nights away, sang a bit too loud, seen too many fireworks.....and YES, drunk a bit too much. You are only young once, they say, but when it comes to this celebration, age is not important. Since it is not a national holiday, people are back to work, barely (except in small towns where things don't get back to normal until next weekend!). There is a sense of emptiness and the place is strung with red paper from the firecrackers, remnants of material used in the floats, customs, empty bottles. The picking up job is monumental! All will be done in time and in preparation for the second round of festivities: first weekend in Lent!

In Curaçao people are getting back to normal too. Since the festivities did not last until dawn, Momo only takes a couple of hours to burn, many went to work today. Most stores and business are open and life has resumed its rhythm. There is an emptiness there too, but it will soon be filled with preparations for next year's Carnival or another event. The island is never idle when it comes to celebrations.

Here in Miami, we Catholics went to church for mass and to get our ashes. We then went about our business and then home. No sense of emptiness from something we have not had...what a waste! What is the purpose of asking forgiveness, for being told we are ash and to ash we shall return IF we didn't get to celebrate BIG, just one more time before Lent? For everyone else, this was just another Wednesday. There is no real fun here, I tell you.....

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mardi Gras!!!!

Today is Mardi Gras, literally Fat Tuesday, the last day of revelry before Lent. Exhausted celebrants around the globe, from New Orleans to Venice, from Curaçao to Rio, from Panama to Nice are going to take to the streets one more time. Not here, Miami is not included in these places.......sorry!

Curaçao is preparing for the Night Marcha, that will culminate in the burning of Rei Momo, who has reigned over the festivities since the start of the Tumba Festival a few weeks back! The parade will wind through the streets of the city in the coolness of the night, with thousand of fairy lights attached to floats and customs. A sight to behold! The music will play and the people will dance until Momo is burned.....He will be back again next year to start the celebrations all over again. In the Tropics life is a party, at least some of the time.

Las Tablas, the small city in Panamá where celebrations are famous all over the country, is in one more frenzy of activities. The women will wear the national custom: Pollera. Their heads covered with flowers made of shiny beads and silver thread, gold jewelery adorning their necks and the flowing customs swirling to the rhythm of the music. The dancing will go on and on until everyone is and fireworks in the background. Just before dawn, in the town plaza, one more barrage of fireworks will light the sky and the thunderous noise will wake up anyone who has retired to sleep......and then it's over. Ash Wednesday is here!

How much fun I have had in both places throughout the years. How much I miss this crazy celebration that ushers the more subdued and religious activities of Lent. That is the whole purpose: have fun till you drop before you give God some of your attention. What a wonderful tradition!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Carnaval Sunday/Grand Marcha

While we were celebrating Valentine's Day, people in Panama and Curacao where celebrating another day of Canival/Carnaval. In Curaçao, everyone was up early, never mind the late night celebrations. Those who were to participate in the Grand Marcha started getting ready with their customs, make up... The rest got ready to take their places along the parade route.

For several days, people built places from where to watch: some shade, high off the ground so you could see everything, enough room to rest, put drinks and food out.... Some space in front to go down and dance to the music, mingle with the participants and socialize with friends. So much fun! Whole families spend the day doing this. Hats were worn to keep the sun off faces, but still there would be many sunburned faces at the end of the day. I can hear the shouts, the laughter...can close my eyes and be there.

In Las Tablas, third day of celebrations and people are living on adrenaline.....can't stop now! Most everyone got up early: throwing water at each other, dancing in the streets, having a drink, (maybe...even if it's early!) and reveling. The streets are littered with red paper from the fireworks, and there are fireworks as well during the day forming a background of music and crackling that is the sound of Carnaval. In early evening the Queens would be out in their floats, dressed beautifully elaborate customs. Townspeople are hiding in their homes!

I feel elated and exhausted at the same time when I think of this, but truly miss it and wouldn't have minded being there either place, today!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Celebrations continue....

Not in Miami...with the end of the Super Bowl weekend, things are back to normal. People that celebrated are back to their routines, the ones that didn't...are doing the same! Nothing too much to talk about when it comes to Miami, at least for me. One bright spot, though, the weather has been great. My morning walks are just perfect and relaxing...which I need!

Now, back in the land of fun: last night was the Teener ( a sort of Dutch term for teenagers) Parade in Curaçao. Most of our friends were out celebrating along the route. In Las Tablas, the Queens were crowned, the music played all day and fireworks lighted the sky.

Today, people are out in the streets throwing water at each other and with faces covered with blueing (the one people used to put in clothes to whiting them, remember?). Añil is called back home....I am dating myself! In the late afternoon, everyone will get dressed, go out to the tuna, Panamanian for "dancing parade". After that, more dancing until the wee hours....In Curaçao, people are going about their business, getting ready for tonight big bash in Otrobanda. People will flock to Plaza Brion and party to the sounds of tumba until late. My friends will be there! Drinking, from moderate to heavy, is going on as well. Only New Orleans has anything similar to these celebrations.....should try that once too.

During all this fun, I will be sitting here blogging, then running errands......what a difference!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Carnival....or Carnaval!!!

It's that time of the year Curaçao and in Panamá. The island is just full of parties, jump-ups, song and dancing. Carnival is here! The small country with the canal will features parties and street parades in every town and city. In the days before the start of Lent, all anyone can think about is : FUN!!!

In Curaçao, the official song has been picked and is heard all over the island. The Queen has been crowned and the Prince and Pancho are ready....all the groups have their customs, have organized their drinks and food for the duration of the Grand Marcha and people have prepared their trailers from where they will watch and enjoy the festivities. These lined all the proposed route of the parade. Tomorrow the parade for the children or Carnaval di Mucha will take place.....the beginning of ten days of fun!!!

I do miss these things here in Miami, where the big celebration is this weekend's Super Bowl! Don't get me wrong, love American football and would be rooting for the New Orleans Saints! Still, a bit of a let down when my friends back home (both the island and the country!) are gearing up for a week long celebration to culminate with the burning of King Momo on Fat Tuesday or Ash Wednesday, ending the Carnival season that started as soon as the year began.

In Panamá, celebrations will kick into gear this coming Friday with Queens being crowned in every town and city in the country. In Las Tablas, where my mother lives, hoards of people will descent on the town and take over the place for about a week. Local residents either take to the streets and embrace the revelry or just hide in their homes, beach houses or country homes. The roar of the music and the display of amazing fireworks will be a constant background to anything that happens there these days. It is an experience to remember.....

So here it's to Carnival (as in Curaçao) or Carnaval (as in Panamá) may I have the pleasure to experience these celebrations soon!!!