Friday, December 9, 2011

Holidays, Friends, Memories.....

It's that time of the year again. I love it, but it brings so many memories. I do not know if to absolutely let go and enjoy every minute or just reminisce. Those can be inclusive, I do know, but somehow they are not in my mind. What to do!

My family loves Christmas and I have made it very special throughout the years. I keep traditions, I cook, I wrap presents, I decorate...I am exhausted, but everyone enjoys. I think I do too, but memories get in the way. Is this necessary? and shouldn't memories be good? No clue. For me, they can be sad, they can bring tear to my eyes, they can be beautiful. All at the same time, which I want to believe is absolutely normal. Do I want to be normal?

I tend to dwell on my past lives...oh well. Friends and the celebrations we share. The fact that some are not longer with us or are not well and will probably not make it to the next Christmas. Photos come to me of all that I am missing at this point. I get an attack of what some call: FOMO. Fear of Missing Out, missing the reunions with old friends, being there for the ones that are ill, not sharing their joys. Simple joys like a bridge morning in a lovely shady garden, lunch with others to exchange our news......just missing.

Memories...It's been 9 years since we had our big farewell celebration in Curaçao. We were in the middle of moving, but we stopped long enough to make everything just the same as always, keeping to our traditions and our celebrations. It was bitter sweet, but we had a wonderful time. Five years ago, we went back, but of course, the Holidays were not as before. Still we had such a great time! Should repeat soon....

Back to this year, Camille is coming home and bringing her boyfriend Tim. We are all so looking forward to that. It will be wonderful! Since moving to London 8 years ago, she cannot always make it at this time of the year. We travel there: London is fabulous during the Holidays. We meet someplace: a Christmas cruise is so much fun... but all this means we have not had a real celebration the way we used. Is that important? I am sure it is not, right? So this year, we are just going to enjoy every minute we spend together and continue to make new traditions! Memories will probably make us pause, friends will be missed, but we will be together and that is all that matters!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Are older women not interesting.....really?

Back to my ranting ways. Have been reading a lot lately about the lives and doings of older women. Since I totally qualify for this one, I am enjoying myself...most of the time. Unfortunately, there is a very mistaken notion out there that we are not interesting, somehow our days are over. A man's opinion, I am sure! Who else could be so wrong?

Let's put it this way....we have arrived to a stage in life when we know ourselves well enough not to be afraid of being who we are....sounds like the lyrics of a sing, right? Well, they could be. Women of a certain age are awesome. No kidding here, we have wit, insight and flair. We know what we want and how to get it and we are not interested in appearing to be what we are not. From writers to bloggers, from professional to volunteers, from artists to housewives, from outgoing to shy, this is a group that is growing and demanding respect.

That is why, I cannot stay quiet. Too much attention is lavished on the young things that make the covers of magazines, star in reality shows and have nothing to contribute....but gossip! The fact that men are mostly in charge of these endeavours tells a story. Men have no idea, really, of what is going on. We have the financial power, we have more money to spend than the popular 18 to 35 demographic group. Surprised? You shouldn't be. We can spend more freely and do. We go on vacations, we go to concerts and the theater, we entertain and spend more when we go out to dinner, lunch or drinks, than that popular group. Men have not caught up with this fact. Yet, they assume (dangerous word) we are not interesting.

So for the fabulous women in this age group: let's write more about ourselves. Let's do more for each other and let's demand the respect we have earned and deserve! Let's display attitude, the right kind, of course.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's that time again: clean out, shred, donate

It's almost the end of 2011. It's the time to get rid of stuff, donate, make room....probably for more stuff, right? Well, not so quick this time. I am seriously thinking: retirement. Moving on, starting afresh, getting to live a laid-back lifestyle. I am even surprising myself. Done this several times just to find, a few years down the road, that I have collected just as much as I gave away. Not this time, this time I have to move my stuff to another country. It feels great!!!

It started with the idea that the apartment we are living in is for sale. Yes, we are two of the very few people who didn't buy a place in Miami. So far, we have not regretted it. Still, the owners want to sell; they live in Europe, things there are not as great either, they never come this way, the investment has lost it's attraction. All valid reasons, so the place went on the market. If it is sold to another investor, a long shot, there will be no problem... we'll stay another year; if not, we have to leave by March 1st.

As soon as I heard, I started my campaign. Going through closets and drawers, boxes in our storage space and in our spare bedroom/office. Oh, my...the things I have found, the things I have discovered I can live without! Can't deny that I have found things I would have kept a few years back, but not now. Things I didn't even remember I had that brought a tear to my eye or a mile to my face or a why did I keep this? comment; but those were just a few drawbacks, mostly, I enjoyed seeing them again and felt no guilt in putting them aside to be given away.

Found letters, Christmas notes from friends that were a joy to reread. Old club newsletters that made me smile and brought happy memories. Even plane tickets (yes, those pieces of paper we needed to board a plane) that made me wonder where did all those travel agents go? are they still in business? maybe in small towns or small countries, haven't seen one in years in the States. Wedding invitations, thank you notes (do people still write them, or am I the only one?) and birth announcements. This was just the paper part, the one that could be shredded. Bags and bags of paper, the people in my building most think I work for some intelligence agency...!

I found knick-knacks (another old-fashioned term) that I had bought on a whim. Collections of everything from small English cottages, to tea strainers to silver miniatures were looked at with a clinical eye and are now much diminished. Since I only kept the very best, the ones that bring happy memories and the ones that are useful, they are more valuable.

My books took a while since I still love to hold the book and turn the pages, but I did clean up those too. Gave away some and exchanged others for books I want to keep and didn't have already. Worked beautifully. The closets were interesting. Clothes, shoes, handbags, many things that I have kept for sentimental reasons alone. There was no way I was going to wear most of those things again, never! So everything was looked over and the stuffed bags I gave away were testimony of my resolve. Besides, since these articles we would always need, replacing them with classic and stylish things is something to look forward to.

It's been a liberating, if very exhausting, work. I have my husband involved...sometimes I need a little push. All in all it's progressing nicely. I know my friend Prati will appreciate this latest round of de-cluttering. Downsize your life, Upgrade your living sounds better than ever.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Trips and plans and decisions to make

Back home! It's becoming a given, back and forth, back and forth. I get a bit tired, but there is no choice. Besides, there are things that are changing. This time Panamá was very interesting. Frankie came along and we had time to meet some friends, got to see places that we might consider, went out to dinner and for drinks. It was fun!

Retiring is not in the cards yet, cannot just pick up and leave, but planning has always been something I enjoy....So, now that I am home...planning is afoot! I plan to work on this move with diligence. Panamá might not be the place, but it is a contender. Much to consider, though: most important is the weather. It seems to disagree with me and health is so important. Then there is the traffic in the city: chaotic is an understatement. It will only get worse with the construction of the metro. When it's finished, it is still not sure that people will take to it.

We would have to consider also the fact that it is not easy to just slip back into old friendships. Making new friends is a possibility, there are enough expats living in the country. People that will have a lot in common with us....or so we hope. As I said, this is a planning stage, investigating and looking into new ideas. This is going to be fun...and we should not forget that Curaçao is not far from my mind....who knows? All can be in the realm of possibilities......

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Friends, moves and things....

Once again, we went out with friends that came to visit from Curaçao. It's becoming infrequent, sort of once in a while. Still, I enjoy it so much, every time. Reminds me of old times, good times. Am I getting old?...not older...just old? I'm sure....

There is so much to miss besides great friends: easy conversation, shared memories, being oneself. We talked about children, vacations, health (ours and other friends'). It is never long enough, the night went by very quickly. There was also the inevitable talk about plans for the future. Even if we don't know exactly where are we going to end up or when are we getting there. We always touch on that, this time was no exception, but it was more serious.

There was, this time, something new: the fact that some of our friends are actually considering leaving Curacao! Never thought that would happen, but it has. Others have decided to live between two places, spending only part of the year on the island. Never thought that would happen either. It makes Frankie and I think better of our move to Miami.

Monday, August 29, 2011

High of the season...

This is the high of the hurricane season. There is no mistaking this: it is so stormy in Miami. Dark clouds, heavy with rain, downpours, thunder and lightning, winds. You can see it from my balcony, downtown is cover in mist and rain is falling. Cannot see the port of Miami, much less Miami Beach. The waters of the bay are gray and sprinkled with white caps. Nothing and nobody is out there, who would want to! It's eerie, it gives you chills. Miami Summer weather at it's best.....or should I say worst?? who knows.

Irene came and went along the East coast, with much less force than expected...more rain too! There was no mass destruction, buildings collapsing, weathermen been blown away by gusts of wind...some people actually think this was a bad thing. It should have been everything they told us it was going to be. Really? who are these people? and will they heed the message next time? Never the less, there are more than 4 million people without power, flooding is extensive from North Carolina to Vermont. Billions of dollars will be needed to put things right. Where are we getting that money? Natural disasters do not help the economy!

Miami had a mostly nice weekend, have time for a few hours of sunbathing by the pool. Today, a different story: unpredictable. Do not want to be here when moving and getting out of the way of a storm would prove impossible. Let's move somewhere safe, soon!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Irene and other nuisances

It's still August, I should have known. A few days ago, a system formed off the coast of West Africa. It started moving towards the Caribbean across the Atlantic at a regular pace. Meteorologists started following it with growing interest. Not long after that, it became Tropical Storm Irene. It entered the Caribbean with high winds and big in size, it hit Puerto Rico and moved on the the Northern coast of Hispañola. Haiti was spared and that was a great news. Torrential rains and winds left people without power and caused flooding. The warm waters gave it strength and it became a hurricane. Shades of Andrew....

In Miami, we held our collective breath and started preparing for the worst. It seemed South Florida was in Irene's path...the cone of uncertainty as it is called. Wonderful, I thought, this is just what we need. Projections said it might come on the early hours of Thursday. Someone was watching out for South Florida, or it's someone else's turn, or we are just lucky one more time. Slowly, the monster storm bared right away from the coast.

It is a Category 3 storm (Category 5 is the highest) at the moment and is over the Bahamas. First time since 1866 that all the islands on the chain will be hit. Cannot even fathom what that means, but this storm is not finished. Far from it, it's pointing to the Mid-Atlantic coast from North Carolina to New England. The Northeast has not seen something like this in decades. More than 55 million people will be affected. What? It's mind-boggling.

After the earthquake everyone was shaken. Did I mentioned that? well, there was one on Tuesday. At around 2 p.m. an earthquake measuring 5.8 and centered in Virginia hit the East Coast from Georgia to Canada. Buildings were evacuated, schools closed, national monuments were damaged. Now they have to content with Irene. My grandmother used to say that things come in threes What's next?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The end of Summer, time for another holiday

It is a couple of weeks to Labor Day, that so American Holiday that marks the end of Summer. In Miami, it has been a long season, dragging along in heat and humidity. The weatherman tells us that it has broken a record set in 1952: 38 days of 90º plus and no relief in sight. Getting out has become an ordeal of sorts. Thunderstorms every afternoon, but thankfully, we have seen no hurricanes in the Atlantic this far. We are already in the letter "H".

When one moves to Miami, this is not what one expects. Beaches, nightlife, celebrities, mild Winters and great shopping are things one expects. This is, after all, a transit place, more touristy than permanent. There are advantages to that, I am sure.

Summer is always a time when I wish I was somewhere else. In recent years, I have been traveling to Panama a lot. Some of those trips are in the Summer, not that is better there. Still, I love the fact that I can get out of any storm that might come this way! August is usually the worst month for hurricanes: Camille, David, Hugo, Andrew, name a few. They have all come in August and left deep scars everywhere. So, yes, I am more than grateful than we have had none so far.

Soon school will start in this part of the country. Children will go back to routines and parents will go back to traffic jams. Everyone will start talking about the end of Summer, as if this is a fact. No, it will still be hot and humid and hurricane season continues until December first. It will not cool off for a while. In my book, that just means the unofficial Summer will be with us.
Definitely need another holiday!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Britain on Edge....

My daughter Camille lives in London and I have always loved the city. For reasons unknown to anyone, including me, I have this affinity with anything British. Go figure! So the situation there is very important to me. How could this happened? why did this turned so violent and spread so fast? I am flabbergasted, but still cannot find any answers.

Since Saturday night, London and other cities in Britain have been racked by riots, looting and utter chaos. Regardless of the reasons that caused this, this is not the way to go. There is no excuse in my book that would justify these behaviors...NONE. There have been so many that have tried to explain: it has to be the cuts in social services, the frustration of the young people, the lack of education, high unemployment and other things. Sorry, still NO excuse. There is nothing to be said about young people that can go around doing these kinds of things: "because we want to show the police and the rich we can do what we want, when we want", as two young girls told a BBC reporter. All the valid reasons that might justify a protest, are nullified by this behavior.

Sunday night things started to get really bad. Police, in insufficient numbers patrol the streets and were no match for the mobs. It was an unpredictable and scary thing. These young people just appeared in a neighborhood, looted, set buildings on fire and chased the police away with bats, rocks and pieces of broken glass. Anyone trying to calm them got beaten up and the vocabulary.....just horrific. It was absolutely heartbreaking to see these scenes on television. Never mind all that, I was scared for Camille. The unpredictability of the situation was utmost on my mind. All I could do was to tell her to stay indoors and away from places that could be targeted...but who knew when and where?

Monday dawned in a city showing signs of devastation, but the worst was yet to come. Monday night, as soon as people were coming out of work, mobs of young people rampaged through several neighborhoods, looting and burning and yelling and drinking and totally out of control. I stayed in contact with Camille via Skype, as I watched in horror what was going on. Some places, I recognized, I had been there just last month. Other were vaguely familiar, all looked scary by the light of buildings on fire. People asking for the police, where were they? who was in charge? who was going to protect the citizens? Questions without answers....the night was long and frightening.

It was then that politicians, who had been on holiday, started to come back. Showing up in devastated neighborhoods, they were received with heckles. Now, this was to be expected. Everyone needs a vacation and everyone is entitled to have a rest, but at the first signs of unrest everyone should have been back...EVERYONE! The fact that they weren't, was not looked upon favorably. Measures were taken, meetings were conducted, everyone made a public appearance and a public statement. About 16,000 police officers were to be deployed the next day. Still, all is not well, things have just calmed down a bit...there is so much going on.

Since then, disturbances have spread across the country. Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham have all suffered riots, looting and destruction. Still, I have not found what can justify this , still I have to see something that excuses this behavior. This is just absolutely and purely a chance to loot, to release steam, to show "we can" and it has to be dealt with. Later, when things cool down, solutions should be found, people need to sit down and see that behavior like this only hurts them and their own communities. I do hope this can be done because if not, this will happen again...SOON!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Learning Dutch.....finally!

Twenty years in Curacao never inspired me to learned this language. When I first arrived, the children went to the International School and the need to learn was minimal. After all, I could help with homework in English, the expat community that sent their children there was English speaking, I was too busy, I spoke Papiamentu: you pick. I had all the excuses!

As time passed, I was able to understand most everything. Try playing bridge with a group of Dutch speaking ladies for 20 years! Very little escaped me, but actually talking to them in Dutch was not attempted. Why? Fear of not getting it right? maybe embarrassment about been made fun off? who knows now. Opportunities missed, for sure. No point in trying to fix that now!

When I moved to Miami, back to English all the time and no plans to move to Curaçao or Holland...Dutch was not needed and was put out of my mind. Well, times change, we change. I carry a Dutch passport as I have said before. Every time I need to renew it, the application handed to me is in Dutch. I answer in English and I think at the Consulate they mind to a point. After all, in Holland you need to prove that you are proficient in the language before they issue you a passport. So, I decided, one day....I have to learn Dutch.

Rosetta Stone, Transparent language posts on my Facebook page, friends that offer suggestions all help me. I am grateful for everything. It is not easy: pronunciation, grammar, de and het, verbs, vocabulary. Never mind: Ik wil Nederlands leren!!!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pros and Cons of living in Europe

I know I have said time and again that living in Europe is out of the question. First of all: the climate is not to my liking, most of the time. Then there is the small problem of speaking another if we were to move to Holland! Then there is the indisputable fact that foreigners are not as welcome in Europe as they used to be: sad but undeniable. So, why am I talking about here?...Well, my recent trip opened my eyes to some very positive things.

While in London, I had a really bad allergy attack. Reminded me of the asthma attacks I have been having in Panama when I visit lately. Shortness of breath, palpitations, tiredness, circles under my eyes, the works. Had nothing strong enough, so Camille made an appointment to see a NHS doctor close to her house. Listen to this: got in quickly, no long waits. The receptionist only wanted to know where was I staying and for how long, my nationality. The doctor saw me fifteen minutes later. She was young and efficient, thorough, sympathetic and friendly. Asked questions about treatment I had received earlier for these symptoms. Prescribed some medications and told me to be careful, London has a lot of pollution, it had been hot and everything was in bloom.

Felt reassured, went out to ask how much was the consultation: nothing! Well, that lifted my spirits right there! On to the chemist (drugstore) to fill prescriptions. Got all I needed, at NO charge. This time my age (which we are not even going to mention!!!!) was enough to get everything for FREE..yes, you read right....FREE. These medications were for two months and I am still on them. How is that for health care? In the States this could have cost a good amount in deductibles and co-payments. Never mind the wait at the doctor's office and the hassle at the drugstore! On the downside, people would debate the fact that there is a long wait for surgery, to see a specialist or to get treatment for different illnesses, still I loved the service and the FREE medications. Something to keep in mind....

Then there was Holland. Thelma lives in Soest, a beautiful area in the middle of Holland with easy and reliable transportation to the rest of the country. The bus stop is about fifty meters from her building! There are lovely paths for bicycles and for walking, a supermarket across the road. There is a large international community around Hilversum, which is the center of the Dutch television and film industry. This small city has restaurants, good shops, drugstores and supermarkets, a large train station, an international school...everything! It was my first visit to this area and really liked it.

Health care there is amazing because it is good and works. Waiting for treatment or doctors visits is not an issue and I heard only satisfied comments. One complaint, though, was cost. Because the Dutch system is basically private, with government parameters to control cost and to ensure everyone is covered, private patients can pay a good amount for health insurance. On the other hand, everyone is covered and the poor get all their care for free. Something to keep in mind as well....

When are we going to retire? who knows, where are we going to retire? even more of an enigma. Only sure thing: we cannot disregard anything at this point in time. The States is not a shinning example of financial haven or health care paradise right now. Panamá is politically stable at the moment, but things are always changing in Latin America. In both cases, something to keep in mind....

P.D. With the Debt Ceiling mess here in the US, the thread of cuts to Social Security and Medicare, something has come to mind. Taxes are very high in Europe, but the benefits are better than here....something to keep in mind too!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer comes to Holland!

Yes, I think I can take credit, at least Thelma thinks so....Summer was late in arriving this year, but as soon as I got to Holland, the weather turned. We had beautifully sunny days, some cool, but mostly fairly warm. We went everywhere we wanted and had only a couple of showers wandering in. Loved it!

I have carried a Dutch passport since the 1970s when I got married. It has been a nice relationship and I want to keep it that way. The Netherlands is a country of open-minded people that, yes, can be a little too liberal sometimes, but is fair and caring in many ways. Not everyone sees it that way, but experience has taught me that you can trust the Dutch, most of the time, to do the right thing. That is not to say I don't despair sometimes because I cannot see their point. Some can be downright stubborn, tight with money, judgemental and rude. On the other hand, I have met people like that everywhere. So, despite my ethnic and cultural background, I am very proud to be Dutch. Intent to be for the rest of my life...if possible!

Back to my recent trip. I had planned this reunion with Thelma for years. She was in Curaçao when I arrived in the early 1980s, left a few months later, came back twice and finally left 15 years ago. We have kept in touch all through those years: from the Salomon Islands to Jakarta, from Malaysia to The Netherlands. She always found a way to contact me...even in the middle of the night with 14 hours difference in time! So, I just knew we had to meet again.

Tried a couple of years ago, but the winter storms that hit Europe kept me in the UK where I was spending Christmas with Camille. Trips to Panama to see my mother were priority, so it got postponed again and again. Until this year: I was going...period! What a great decision it was.

I know Holland, visited several times, so this was not a touristy trip. Most important was to see Thelma, spend time together, reminisce. The weather had been awful she kept telling me, we might have to spend all our time inside. Who cares, I said.....but I brought Summer! It's great to think that, believe me. It sort of a boost to your ego....Mercedes brought the good weather!

Lunch with friends in a sunny garden or a Chinese restaurant, tapas under the bright night sky and delicious dinners at home (Thelma is a fabulous cook) added to the pleasure of my visit. We took walks in small, quaint cities steep in history, visited Amsterdam and the Hague, with side trips to look into the Summer sales for Thelma's retail therapy.

A week past so quickly. We talked ourselves hoarse and still haven't caught up with our lives. Another visit is needed soon. Hopefully, Thelma will come to Miami or we'll meet in Curacao. That would be the best. In the meantime, emails, Skype and...finally....Facebook. I spent an afternoon getting that set-up. It was about time, you don't spill your life on your Facebook wall, but it's a great way to keep up with things. Her daughters approved.

When the day came, I got ready, had breakfast, then Thelma insisted on a light lunch. We took the bus to the train station and I boarded the train for Schiphol. Thelma stayed there at the station waving good bye. Felt sad, but concentrated on the next days with Camille. Enjoy what you have, move forward, it's best. Hard to do, but best......

At the airport, I had a conversation with an attendant at the KLM counter. My Dutch passport always brings on a puzzled look, rapid Dutch questions and a surprised look when they see I can understand and answer their queries. This time, I could say, truthfully, that I am learning to speak the language and will be able to speak it next time....I hope!!! Schiphol was busy and interesting, had a couple of hours to browse about and have a drink. As soon as my plane took off, the skies opened, apparently, and it's still raining. Summer left with me!

Friday, July 22, 2011

My English share of Summer

A long time ago, I read this book about life in India under British Rule. The author had been born and raised there, this was her autobiography of sorts. At the beginning she quotes this short poem, author unknown, that talks about "my share of Summer". Loved the book, the story and kept the phrase. It comes so handy now...

My first week in London had everything: warm sunny days, a couple of rainy and cooler days and all the fun that this city can offer. Bridesmaids was a hilarious as we expected, with more than a hint of truth in the story. The theater lived up to expectations: reclining chairs, drinks and munchies, mostly ladies and a few brave guys. Loved it!

Then we went to visit Tim's mother....well, the day was cooler and we knew rain was coming, but never expected so much! No wonder the train ride to Wendover, in Buckinghamshire went through some of the greenest landscapes I have ever seen. Thatched-roofed cottages, tranquil sheep, gardens everywhere. Rained non stop and got cooler as the day progressed. Had lunch at a pub, went to an antique shop, had tea at Anne's home. She has a cozy cottage, with a beautiful garden. Going back, Camille and I had a grey ride and arrived home in the dark. I thought we have had our "share of Summer" by then. How wrong can one be?

The rest of the week was lovely and gave us time to just enjoy the city, dinner with some friends, drinks with others, some shopping for good measure. We had afternoon tea, inspired by London's fashion Week, it was so unique. Some pampering at Jo Malone and then it was the weekend again. A picnic in the park on Saturday started with sunny skies and warm temperatures, ended with a cooling breeze, dropping temperatures and great memories. A couple friends of Camille organize this picnic every year, first weekend in July in Hyde Park. There is a music festival at this time, so it is a festive atmosphere, really enjoyed it. Took for ever to get home since there were so many people coming out of the concert! Sunday was lovely again, sunny and warm and perfect for a brunch outdoors.

Soon it was Monday, fourth of July, so Camille and I had lunch at the Brown. Then dinner at the pub near the flat and it was Tuesday. Time had gone so fast! It was time to go and see Thelma. A reunion so many years in the making, we didn't dare talk about it too much, just in case it didn't happen!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Back from holiday recount: London first.....

Indeed I made it! The three weeks I spent in Europe were fabulous. First of all, the weather cooperated. It rained for weeks before I arrived in London, same in Holland. Camille and Thelma kept me informed of the nasty developments, but as soon as I arrived, the sun came out!

All was packed and I was as ready as I can be when flying. For days before that, I got things organized at home, did as much as I could before I left. Was exhausted when I boarded the plane with my usual nervousness. Fortunately, I got a great seat where I like to sit, had the seat next to me empty. Had dinner. I had ordered an Asian vegetarian meal, better than expected. Settled to watch "Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows: Part I"....didn't even finished it! Slept most of the way. Great flight across the Atlantic for a change.

Arriving in London, got through Immigration quickly: thanks to my Dutch passport; the taxi driver Camille had sent was there waiting and in no time I was at her place. So wonderful to see her! It was a bit cool and after a long shower, we just went off to explore the neighborhood. I never sleep right away when I travel to Europe. Ran errands and met Tim for dinner a famous pub off Regents Street. Just the thing! Went home and slept like a baby until late the next morning: no sign of jet lag....

London always offers something new when I visit. I just love this city. This time, it was Camille's new neighborhood South of the river. It is full of quaint shops, little restaurants and galleries, quiet streets and parks. It is not really a part of London I would consider, but have to admit it has its charms. You take the National Rail train to get to Victoria Station, and from there....anywhere! Camille was working, so I went to the supermarket and the bank before going home to cook dinner. It felt just right.

One more day of exploring and I met Camille after work. Tim joined us for excellent sushi at a restaurant just off Berkeley Square. It rained cats and dogs. I was not very happy: had the Summer gone? Oh, well, what to do. At least it was night time and we went home with great plans for the next day. Saturday dawned cool, sunny and beautiful. We left the flat to go to Kingston, small town with big shopping malls right on the Thames, close to Hampton Court.

It was a fabulous idea. After completing some errands, we settled for a lovely lunch overlooking the river, watching people go by, enjoying the sun and the water. The food was food, the company even better. Stayed out until late at night....with the sun still bright. Exhausted, but happy, we got back. Camille and I had plans for Sunday, since Tim was working.

Off to Portobello Road, we went. One of my favorite parts of the city, this is a place I go back over and over. It's better on Saturday, but this Sunday was perfect. It was hot, sunny and the place was full. After a light lunch in a secluded terrace, we walked up and down, watching, looking, shopping and enjoying the atmosphere. As I knew, there have been changes. The Council is determined to make the place over, not always with the blessings of the residents. Still, big developers are pushing their way through and the area will suffer. Looking at it, I remembered sadly what happened to Covent Garden a few years back. Before we left, we purchased tickets to watch "Bridesmaids" at the Electric was to be an experience.

Friday, June 17, 2011

All is Ready......

I am leaving in about five days...yes, my plans came to fruition and I am getting my trip ready. Now, that is a challenge indeed. When I lived in Curaçao, traveling was a given. Everyone I knew did took at least one trip a year. Those were the days.

You gave instructions to someone at a travel agency. The best way to get to where you where going was found, tickets booked. No sitting for hours trying to do this on your computer. There was no such thing as booking online......How civilized! Then you picked up your tickets, went home and started to get your things ready. Packing would be the harder thing you would do! Wonderful!

Instructions were given to the housekeeper....yes....back to that. It is a way of life in many countries to this day, you know. The house would be taken care of, if you had pets, they were taken care of...and if you were traveling alone, you didn't have to worry. Everything just went on as if you were there. Loved it! And when you got home, you slipped into your routine as if you had never left. Who wouldn't like that?

Nowadays, I have to plan everything, go to the supermarket, leave everything tidy. It's exhausting. When I finally get on the plane, I definitely need that vacation. It really makes you think: do I want to travel alone?...maybe not. We'll see how it goes this time. One thing is for sure, once I arrive in London, I am planning to enjoy every moment, same in Holland. This will be a trip to remember.

Friday, June 10, 2011

On Chasing Ghosts or Becoming one

Chasing Ghosts: It is not my phrase, read it today on a blog I have been following for years: Nomadic Matt. A young man from Boston who has traveled around the world documenting his adventures. He said he has made friends everywhere, shared experiences with so many during the years he has traveled the world...but doesn't want to go back to those places. Or relive these experiences. Going back, he says would be like chasing ghosts. I understand this; you cannot go back, no matter how hard you try.

When you moved around, leave your own country and choose to be a citizen of the world, you keep the friends that are truly friends. The ones that you can share your secrets with, the ones you have fun with, the ones you can cry with. They are always there and you miss them. When you meet them, you pick up the thread of your lives with easy. You remember the others that are glad to see you when you visit and whose company you can enjoy when you see them, but do not miss....not really.

Then it is the matter you know so well: out of sight, out of mind. You become the one friend people miss and look up, if you are lucky. Or the one people remember at times, the one they are glad to see only occasionally. You have no control on this, it is just what it is. The only thing that is certain is that you become a ghost. How much truth there is in this.....

So if you are chasing ghosts or just remembering good times, it is all part of this life you have chosen. Enjoy everything when it happens, then keep the memories, share them, treasure them. They enrich your life like nothing else.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Plans, Plans....never easy

All is finally decided, I think. Will be spending about 14 days in London and then on to Holland to spend another week with Thelma. It was not easy deciding on dates, times and schedules. Everyone has plans and plans are not always easy to alter. Why? I have no clue, but it's that way. I had wanted to travel in was not possible since I went to Panama in April. Camille has plans for the rest of the Summer, Thelma as well. A trip to Panama is an absolute possibility later on in the year. Anything can happen with my mother, who knows what else. There is just a window...Book that flight and think later...I have told myself. Europe, here I come! Will change plans later.....

Traveling alone is never easy for me...I am afraid of flying. No amount of traveling, reasoning, talking or advise have made any difference. As soon as I buy that ticket, I am in a panic....really! Never mind deciding what to pack, actual packing process, things I would take for Camille, medications, who knows. I am not even going there, but I m going.

Plans have been made, plans can be altered later. Now on to plan what I would do there. That should be inspiration enough: places to visit, friends to see. London is taken care of. So much I enjoy in this city, but there is the English countryside. Train rides and peaceful weekends of walks and pubs in quaint villages. I am looking forward to a different trip this time.

It's been years since I was in Holland last. Going on Euro Star, the ride from London, the Chunnel, through France and Belgium into Holland, it's so beautiful. I do love Amsterdam: cosmopolitan and busy, canals and good food. Shopping! Gezellig....Friends I haven't seen in ages, more walks and long conversations, catching up. Plans, yes, plans are the thing and making them is half the fun!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Summer is here!!!!

Yes, it's not officially Summer yet, but we know it has arrived. Children are getting off school soon, friends that are teachers have begun counting days on their Facebook pages and everyone is talking about vacations. I remember those days in Curaçao! Children couldn't wait, expat friends started getting tickets for their trips home, the ones that were not traveling were planning vacation activities for the children....memories, but do not get me wrong. I have no desire to have school age children. Do not have the energy. Besides, I don't have the savvy either...children these days know too much and are allowed too much saying in plans and things.....NEEEE!

I do, though, miss the planning of vacations, the looking forward to being away from home for a while and visiting other parts, going to see friends and family in distant lands. I miss the staying behind on the island and going to the beach every day with friends and their children. I miss the closeness that came from that. I miss the fact that all activities ceased: from school activities to club meetings to bridge playing. The whole place went into suspended animation.

I remember the Summer parties, more like get togethers. I remember the simple pleasures of finding fresh fruits and veggies not found during the rest of the year, the fact that it stayed bright and sunny well into the night, just like back home, but better! It was indeed a magical time. I don't think everyone saw it that way...but I did and I miss it.

Summer is here in Miami. The days are so bright your eyes hurt and so humid you can hardly go out without looking for an air conditioned place to duck into. Even my usually straight hair get frizzy...yuck! I go out into my balcony and see the swimming pools around our building: full of people enjoying the warm weather, splashing around until it gets dark in the evening. Looks like fun...or not! They must be tourists.....people from Miami cannot live without their the term airco better though!

Having no children in school, planning a vacation this time of the year lost its charm a long time ago. I do not enjoy going anymore to places full of screaming children and the beaches in the area have not really made me want to sit by the water and enjoy the sun with a Tropical drink in my hand.....the swimming pool in our building is enough, but I do miss those days!!! So what to do? Plan a trip!!!

This weekend, that is exactly what I'll do. Plan a trip, not back to Panama. It's been too many times in the last few years and for the wrong reason. No, this time I want to see Camille in London, to visit Thelma in see Europe in the Summer after years of traveling only during the cooler months. It's going to be an adventure, one I am looking forward too!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Move On....Dare!

Once you have decided that reinventing is the way to go....move on with the idea. There is no point on coming to a conclusion and then...just letting the ball drop. Absolutely not the thing to do. You need to step up and make your plan come to fruition. To do that, you need to dare, not easy I do know. Most of us were not brought up by parents that actually preached this. Think back....were you ever told that you needed to take risks? needed to just go ahead and act upon your ideas? I, for one, do not remember hearing this.

Yes, my mother was very positive and always said that we could do anything, we should dream and make those dreams come true, but there was not real encouragement on acting on them! A contradiction, indeed. My maternal grandmother used to say that if one doesn't jump in the river, how does one know one can't swim!!!! A statement way ahead of her times, but was not a daring soul herself. So much for reinventing; not quite sure my mother listened to these wise words either, even though she was forced into decisions that changed her life.

Now, here is another crossroad and most of us are really trying to do what we feel is right for ourselves....well, some of us at least are trying to. Hand twisting, coming up with excuses, going back and forth over how we should do this. Nothing coming out of this heart wrenching frustrating! Dare, that is the only way. It is not a matter of trust vs control, it's not a matter of trusting others: it is daring to trust yourself. You know yourself, you know what you want and you should trust yourself to achieve it. Julia Cameron, teacher, filmmaker, poet, artist, journalist, playwright and composer has said: "Leap and the net will appear". Can't think of a more appropriate quote.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Reinventing....not Changing!

Technically it is still least somewhere it is! Time for renewal and rebirth. In Miami, Summer has hit with a vengeance: hot and humid already...but never mind that. Back to the real purpose of Spring: reinventing. This seems to be a theme for a lot of people these days. Everyone has a different reason, but the result is the same: when in doubt: reinvent!

Research conducted in the USA has discovered that we are limited by our imagination. We have the idea of what happened at anytime in our lives and we rarely look to see if it really happened that way. What to do? It's human nature, it seems. We are set in our ways and hate taking risks. Our decisions were taken because they were safe, whatever that means. We craved acceptance, so being different and taking risks, were not really the thing to do. Did you really chose your career or your lifestyle based on your passion? Did you really saw the purpose of your life when you started? Some of us did, of course, but they were the minority, trust me. Most of us just chose what was acceptable and practical because we didn't know ourselves well when we decided.

Then we hit 50, the big 5-0, and suddenly we realized we are going to live another 25-30 years, maybe more! We have another life ahead of us, we think of our choices and pause. Maybe they were not exactly what we should have done, maybe we played it safe, maybe there is a new opportunity to do it right: reinvent. Perfect, go for it, we say......not so fast, we suddenly realize. What do I really want at this time and is this reinventing worth it?

Doubts creep into our minds: I can't do that, I'm too old to try this, what would people think, how will my family react, it's too risky...have I covered every excuse? maybe you have some others just as important sounding or as logical, you think. Well, we are all wrong! To reinvent ourselves, all we need is the desire to do so. We know each other well now, we have confidence and passion, we know our purpose, we can do this. We are not going to change ourselves, reinventing is not changing, we are going to live as we truly are. Not as the world sees us, as our friends and family see us, but as we really are inside. Go for it: reinvent yourself!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Reflexions on Mother's Day......

Yesterday was Mother's day. Celebrated in most countries in the world, this is a day to spend with mothers making sure they feel appreciated and we are grateful for all they have done and do for us. Stores and business go out of their way to promote this day, adverts everywhere point out to the best presents we should buy and the best places we can take Mom for brunch or dinner or something. It sounds beautiful and make a lot of us feel guilty and we go out of our ways to get presents, eat too much and spend time around our mothers fuzzing...really. It becomes overwhelming....I have a bit of a problem with all this celebration.

I subscribe to the premise that every day is Mother's Day. It is everyday that we should show our love and appreciation, it is everyday that we should be there when they need us and it is everyday we should behave in the matter they have taught us. That is the way to honor them properly....but what do I know. After all, am I not a mother? In the opinion of many children these days, we do not know much. Period.

Anyway, I did go out for a lovely brunch with my husband and son. Nothing too much and very appropriate. There was an older lady in the company of her daughter and granddaughter, now that is a thing I would have loved! My mother and I and my daughter. I missed them, especially Camille so far away in London. She did call, but that hardly takes the place of a hug, a touch, her presence. Everyday is Mother's Day, so everyday, I wish she was nearer.......

We got back home and I had a lazy Sunday which suited me just fine. On Mother's Day, the last thing I want is work on anything! I did check my Facebook messages and sent some to friends. Went for a long walk in the late afternoon, time to reflect and to enjoy what is out there. Would have loved some company, but as soon as I left our building realized this walk was my present to myself......loved it!

Friday, April 29, 2011

School Reunions, Timeless Rituals, Acceptance....

Just got back from another visit to my mother. Since she had her stroke, I have been to Panama more times that I care to remember. It is not use trying to get out of these visits, they need to happen...period. This last one, thought was different. Something really touched me, made me realized, really, that things are coming to an end.

I have told myself for months now that my mother cannot last forever and that she must be tired. Her quality of life has diminished, but her mind is still clear and times. It must not be easy to accept, yet she has kept going. Why? I often wondered. This last trip, planned to coincide with Holy Week, was going to be relaxed. There is always people in town for this celebration. They come from the city to spent these Holy Days traditionally. Participating in church rituals, visiting family. Something about spending Easter Week in a small's so comforting.

Plans are made, but we cannot guarantee that they will work out the way we want. I planned to see my high school friends. Some I have not seen since our graduation and I don't want to tell you how long ago that was! Let me tell you, I went to an all girls school since kindergarten and my graduating class was friendships were very easily made. Mostly the ones that stayed in Panama have kept in touch, get together when they can. So that was the first thing and it was fabulous! Took pictures and talked all night, getting to know each other again...lovely.

Plans for a repeat performance were not to be. The very next day, my sister Laura and I had to rush to our mother. Like the saying goes: if it not one thing, it's your mother! We arrived and things got scary in no time...thankfully, she pulled through again. The rest of the time there was just that: time. Getting her comfortable and getting medication, going to the supermarket and sitting with her, surviving the heat and the humidity, having a drink at sundown on the back porch, going for a car ride when we needed some space.

Then came the part that attracts me: the religious rituals from my childhood, the processions walking along the narrow streets, the people that always come home for these events, the prayers, the family, the images of saints I remember so clearly in their floats surrounded by flowers and the pageantry of these timeless rituals . It has a sense of community that one cannot find just anywhere, a bond that ties us all in a sort of spiritual peace. Love it!

Laura and I went visiting while we waited for the events to start, afterwards, we sat in a small restaurant overlooking the park, taking in the beauty of this small colonial town, in the middle of nowhere! An amazing experience, every time, but this time even more. When the day was over, back home to our reality. It was in this last week, that I just came to accept that things are ending. Life will continue and I will be the eldest in our family....talking about realizing your own mortality. It came absolutely clear and without drama and it came with an absolute peace: this is acceptance.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Time to Reinvent Oneself!

It is April, the month of rebirth, of changes. Spring is here and Nature is renewing itself. It is time to look at ourselves. This is an absolute truth: there comes a time in anyone's life when one has to change, adapt, reinvent oneself. I have been toying with this idea lately and I have done this before....time to do it again! I have to say it is never easy or happens smoothly. It is not something one decides one day and happens the next. If it was like that, it would not be worth trying!

So we have to take time and choose carefully where we want to start. Start with simple things., I say. Change the way we eat. This is something we can do without too much fuss. Go for fresher stuff, cook lighter meals, better yet, make more salads, eat more fruits. That doesn't require too much thinking to begin with. We tend to make a big deal of preparing food, wouldn't we enjoy spending less time in the kitchen? I know I would!!!! At this stage in my life, it seems so much easier...of course, I have no small children!!! Still, isn't it just the thing?....less cooking time! Sounds heavenly.

Another simple thing: a bit of exercise. Notice I said a bit only. Lets not go crazy and join a gym...after all I would be the last to recommend this: I do not sweat on purpose! Just a walk a couple of days a week, play music and dance to it with abandon. Move to something more elaborate later. Nothing that will make you cringe, but will make you fitter....sounds perfect!

Finally, for now: clean your closets, your drawers, your kitchen cabinets. There must be things you don't wear, are hopelessly out of fashion or too big or small, shoes you cannot walk in anymore......and there must be people that would look wonderful in any of them. Donate! Books you don't read, magazines that you wonder why you kept. Do you still have toys that your children discarted years ago? Either call them and ask if they want these things or simply give them away. Hold on only to things that are beautiful, useful or valuable......everything else can go. It feels great to do me!

In time, we will move on to bigger things to change; we will achieve this change and we will be a different person....or the person we were meant to be!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Of Friendships and Memories....

Back to my trip...I know, you think I dwell on this too much! Maybe that's true,'s my blog!
A couple of days before our trip, I received very upsetting news. One of our dear friends, a long time member of our bridge group has been diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. After Nicoline made a complete recovery, is in remission and looks better than ever, we have all taken a deep breath and dare to hope. After Hilde's passing and then Marja Brandt' s, we were shaken, but now all was well again, surely. Isn't it a rule that you shouldn't talk too soon?

In this case, I believe it is true. Marja T is really the heart of our group. She is always there, smiling, positive and brave when nobody else is. Life is something to be enjoyed, she believes, and she does. This came as a real blow. How can this be happening again? We are such a small group, only about a dozen of us still play...after more than twenty years. We are very close and keep in touch frequently. We have been there for each other through divorces, death, name it. We have celebrated weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, birth of grandchildren. This is hard.

So when I visited, I made sure I stayed for Wednesday morning bridge. It was at Vicki's this time and we were getting together for lunch. Did I tell you that it always feel as if I never left? I just walk into the place, everyone's happy to see me. Same this time, only Marja was not was all we can talk about: why? Vicki and had seen each other before Wednesday and talked about the wedding! Declared that, really, why? and couldn't this have happened to someone we DON'T like? I know, that is not nice and for sure not charitable...but that is how we felt. The girls did too when we talked! Unfair, like life.

We didn't spend the whole time dwelling on this, our morning was full of laughter as well...remembering good times. We play for fun, most of the time, but also want to keep learning. Bridge, I have maintained for years, is a mental sport. One needs to exercise one's brain: this is the most enjoyable way I know! There is always something new to learn and someone to point it out. We also paused a couple of times to comment on the fact that when we started....all those years ago....there was an older ladies group. They looked upon us with indulgence, pointed out our mistakes and smiled, even celebrated their birthdays with us... Patricia's mother was amongst them. It was such a lovely interaction. Not this time, there are no younger ladies playing bridge...they have other interests. Is bridge not a social grace anymore? How we are now the older ladies and there is nobody to share this with.............

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Two Trips, a Medical Emergency and a Wedding!!!..Part II

A week after I returned, Camille came home!! She arrived with Tim on the 8th, late afternoon. We had a fabulous dinner right on Brickell Key: Cafe Sambal at the Madarin Oriental Hotel.....superb. Early night and early morning to fly to Curaçao. Camille's best friend was getting married that weekend. So-so flight, but I sat next to Frank and he held my hand when the plane times change: I used to hold his when he was little.

Arriving in Curaçao, always a welcome experience, we were met by Alex and Lily! Alex looks great, motherhood agrees with her; Lily is perfectly adorable and so cute. We socialized there at a small bar, while our car was delivered to the airport...talking about service. Then to our favorite Chinese restaurant on the island for delicious and familiar food. Tim was loving this already.

That night we met with old friends, had drinks, sat in the cool terrace of the absolutely fabulous Hyatt Hotel.....Camille went to the Bachelorette party for Vanessa, came back late. Early Thursday we went to the synagogue for a lovely service to bless the groom...never seen that before, but liked it. Afterwards, pictures, breakfast, more friends to meet and laughter. This was going to be a happy weekend. Back to the hotel, to the beach...well, the youngsters did. Frankie and I had to go shopping...I know, why? Well, sort of a last-minute wardrobe change......mine. Once back at the hotel we went swimming and then got ready for the coolest civil wedding ever.

We departed at 5 o'clock sharp from the hotel pier in the Insulinde, a Dutch schooner. The afternoon was lovely, clear skies, calm seas, gorgeous views. Sailed to Fuik Baai where the ceremony was performed. The lady judge spoke so eloquently and with such passion, Vanessa did a small dance when she said I do and they were both glowing with happiness. Food and drinks and great company, perfect Curaçao sunset and on our way back: fireworks!!!!

Friday was a strange day. Frankie worked and I went shopping. The young people went to the rehearsal and then to lunch, walked through Punda and we all got back in time for a swim. Dinner was schedule at an old plantation house that is a restaurant. Delicious Curaçao food, music and more friends! We danced the conga and got teary eyed listening to the father of the bride give a toast to the bride and groom. Vanessa's grandmother was our host and she was her age she still dressed beautiful, is perfectly groomed and coiffed and witty.

Saturday dawned clear and breeze and sunny. After a hearty breakfast, we went to the beach. Nothing like salt water to make me feel good. We stayed there until it was time to celebrate Lily's First Birthday! Alex had planned it at the Hyatt because we were all there and it's a lovely venue. She arrived promptly at 11 o'clock with Lily, toys, play mat, a small cake for Lily to smash, bottles of soap bubbles, hats...the works. We had a wonderful time, the cakes were delicious, Lily smashed hers and the grown ups' too, Camille took pictures, Tim entertained the little ones and the babies were just adorable. Camille and I left early since she had to get ready for the big event.

A stylist had been engaged to get the wedding party ready. Camille and Gulshan got together ready first and look beautiful. Everyone went to their rooms and got ready to be taken to Snoa for the ceremony. We met at the veranda and pictures were taken and the bride look beautiful and everyone admired each other's outfit........OOOHHs and AAHHHs all round. Once finished, everyone on the buses and off we went.

Snoa was beautiful as always and there were a lot of people.....the soft candlelight made everything look great. So many friends to greet! The ceremony started late, but was very nice and David broke his cup smashing it against the silver tray, as it is the Sephardic custom. Camille look absolutely gorgeous too! Once finished, we got out into the yard to greet more friends and get ready to go back to the hotel. Met Monique and her family...Mateo, the new family member, is so cute. It was very nice part of this weekend.

At the hotel, everything was ready, the ballroom looked wonderful and all was ready for the wedding party to arrive. We took our seats and waited. Then there they were as husband and wife: Vanessa and David. A first dance, much kissing, more dancing with parents and family....and the party started. The music was fabulous, everyone danced, never mind if you had a partner or not. Curaçao music, excellent food and a brass band. Drinks and champagne all night and so many friends to see and enjoy. It was absolutely wonderful! Went to bed at almost 4 o'clock in the morning!!! The youngsters...even later!

Sunday was another day of celebration.....a big Brunch before most of us traveled back to our lives. Since the time had changed in the States and the clocks just changed time....we woke up so early!!!! Had something to eat and drink before the brunch...then it rained! Still, all went without a hitch and everyone enjoyed it. Goodbyes and farewells and back to the beach. A bit cloudy, but so nice to just sit and relax, take a dip in the sea, talk and relax, have a drink and relax....perfect!

We ended the weekend of celebrations with an Indonesian dinner at a restaurant with a fabulous view. Kathy joined us and it was like old times. The food was good, the company even better. It was truly a weekend to remember. Monday dawned rainy and windy. Frank left in the afternoon and Camille and Tim moved the another hotel to have a real vacation.....we drove to Banda Abao and had a late lunch with them at Jaanchi's...excellent seafood prepared Curaçao style. Perfect ending to this family weekend.......

Two Trips, a Medical Emergency and a Wedding!!!..Part I

It's been a while and this has become a habit...need to change that...SOON!!! Anyways, it has been interesting, so there is lots to tell. Since January, I have not stop, one thing after another and an asthma attack too!......but let's not rush into this.

On February 8th, my mother was rushed to the hospital with severe oxygen deprivation and very congested lungs. She is 87 and had a stroke a few years back, so needless to say it was very scary. I kept in touch with my cousin, who was there with her. It is difficult to care for parents when one lives so far mother lives in Panama, remember? Finally at around 4 o'clock in the morning, she was stable enough....I went to bed.

The next day we talked to her doctor and he advised us to travel there, just in case....another scary thought. Rush to get tickets, organized everything at home, pack...I was exhausted by the time my sisters and I got to MIA to fly to Panama. Hate to fly, even if I do it often. My seat was at the back of the plane...not good...but my sister Laura kept me company.

Arrived in Panama to iffy weather and decided to wait until the next day to drive the three hours to where my mother lives.....the joys of getting old!!!! Never mind, had a lovely time with our cousin Damaso, who makes us laugh and feeds us well. His apartment is an oasis in our travels back and forth from caring for our grateful!

Drove out of a peaceful and traffic-free Panama was Saturday!....and made the best of the drive, stopping for a light lunch and laughing about good old times. Arrived at the clinic in the early afternoon. My mother was much better, but breathing with difficulty and getting oxygen. Her private nurse was with her, so was our cousin Alina. What would we do without her!

We drove back and forth between the clinic and my mother's home...about a 30 minute ride each way....everyday until she went home. Got her room ready, oxygen tanks and all and took her home on Thursday. Visitors, whom she had had plenty in the clinic, were not so welcome. She just didn't want to see anyone, and truthfully...why should she? Things got into a routine and my sisters and I just settled for a long run......almost three weeks.

She got better everyday, but on our second Sunday there...I woke up in the early morning and could hardly breath....oh, great, I thought, here we go again. I went to the doctor and my suspicious were confirmed: I was having an asthma attack. Back to cortisone medication for a week, coughing everyday, out of breath...just great. Only good thing: I saw the doctor early Monday morning, it only cost me $7!!!! Got my prescription right away and by 10 a.m. I was taking my medication......this place is really amazing. I wasn't even in the city, just a small town three hours away. Need to consider this when we retire...I tell you! There are housekeepers too, and people who come to your house to iron your clothes! Love it!!!!!

We had a good time, while there: ate well and enjoyed a glass of wine here and there, solved crossword puzzles in Spanish....need the practice....went to the beach for long walks, kept our mother company and the house running smoothly. A successful trip, but worrisome too. Our mother is old, we have to accept that things are just not going to end well one of these days. In the meantime, let's enjoy what we can.

Returned to the city on a Monday afternoon and went out with our cousin for drinks and excellent food. A good night sleep and Ana and I were on our way home. Laura stayed to hold the fort for a few more weeks....and Carnaval was coming! She is always there for the good times...I am always there for the worse rainy days.....why is that? Never mind.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Condo Living II

Since I posted about much has happened. For starters, I was sure things could be worked out, after all, we are civil people...we can compromise. Yes, well, condo living is like politics...and we know how that is working out these days!

Days came and went and nothing could be done to solve the problem of the noise upstairs. The family came for a month.....and they stayed about that time. All the while, dragging, dropping, slamming and making a racket at all hours. Visits from security, management and even a letter to the manager (with the hope it would be delivered to the Board) made no difference. Finally, when we were just about had it.....silence! They were gone! just as mysteriously as they came...thank you!

Now, this experience has taught me something: condo living is not for me, at least not here in Miami. People from all over the world live here, more from Latin America than other places, but still. There are young professionals, singles and couples; there are retirees, older professionals, couples with children. The whole gamut of humanity. On the surface...all seems so great.

I am not so sure these days. Once you own an apartment here, you are supposed to adhere to rules. You agree to get along and not to cause trouble. There are also the unwritten rules of civilized behavior and the rules of polite society.: like greeting each other in elevators and common areas. Unfortunately, people have to believe in these rules to follow them. I have found that most people, really do not care. We have found out, as well and the hard way, that when you own or lease an apartment, you can lend it to friends and family for as long as you like. Since the visitors do not live here , they can ignore the rules! And believe me, they do! This is upsetting.

My husband and I like to travel, we have no small children and condo living provides a wonderful way of spending our time in Miami....close your door, you're gone. No hurricane preparations, no yard to keep, no pool service to deal with, valet parking, someone to help with your packages and groceries when you need it......all absolute pluses. Also important: no commute for my husband! Oh, for those so inclined: a fabulous gym...and the fact that Brickell Key is a real oasis in the middle of the city. Close to everything and at the same time, secluded. We really love these things.

In many occassions we have been told to buy....and we have considered it. On the other hand, when you rent you can chose where you want to live and move on when you are tired of a place. When you own, you are stuck. So I don't think buying is in our cards, we want to retire here? NEEEEE!!! Can't see myself fighting traffic when I become older; as it is, driving is already nerve-wrecking. Can't see myself putting up with absolutely ghastly children whose parents cannot control them or with adults that are only interested in their own comfort.

Besides there is also the fact that construction and remodeling goes on at all times during the year...and because no matter what is done, you cannot completely soundproof a building....the noise level can be unbearable sometimes. Like this week, when as soon as the people upstairs left: somewhere in the building, someone started making improvements in their unit. All perfectly reasonable and within their right...but so absolutely annoying!!

So, NO, condo living has amazing advantages and for the time being it is a great alternative to us, but in the long run....can't imagine doing this for the rest of my life!!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Miami Street Food Court

Our first time and I think, we got the hang of it. Got to see how it works, sampled some things, skipped others, had a good time. My sisters and son came along. The night was more than cool, but not unreasonably cold. There were lots of people and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Everyone very casually dressed, jeans, sweatshirts, comfortable shoes. Young couples with children having a night out, a real treat I'm sure. Young people in groups joking and sampling everything. Older folks enjoying the opportunity of a something different to do on a weekday. This is s splendid idea!

The routine appeared to be well established: you walk around, see what is offered at that particular spot, that particular night. Then you just order what appeals to you and move on. If something is very good, you repeat! Last night we tried the Cuban frita, tacos, a grilled cheese sandwich and a crackling duck sandwich. There was espresso and soft drinks and, of course, dessert.

The tacos were sampled first at Latin Burger and Taco...excellent and tasted so authentic. The best of the night. My son and husband tried the frita at El Mago de Las Fritas/Burger Beast...tasty, but greasy and too big to just sample. The crackling duck sandwich from Dim Ssäm à gogo was different, spicy and sweet at the same time. I enjoyed it even though one of my sisters complained of the bread. Then we had the grilled cheese at Ms. Cheezious.....made the old-fashioned way, toasted and buttery, it was very good. Espressos were on target and the small cupcakes from Sugar Rush just right to end the evening.

Despite the unusual coolness, we had a very pleasant experience. I would like to go again because I found there were too many burger and grill places. More variety would be great and I hear there are many of these food trucks out there. Overall, what was offered was delicious as a whole and the atmosphere added to the enjoyment. I would recommend these events; they give the city a new face.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

2011: New Year, New Attitude.....

2011 is here. It arrived in a very slow way while Frankie and I were celebrating with his family. It was a nice evening, subdued and cool, and not at all as what we had been used to. I know, it's been ages and our latest New Year's Eves have been a bit like this one. Nothing full of excitement or fun as we had back on the island. At the same time, this time it was a welcome change.....Camille didn't come home for the Holidays and Frank has gone to London to visit. So it was only the two of us. Subdued was just what we needed.

We picked up Frankie's aunt (she was my father-in-law's cousin....) and drove in the very light traffic to his uncle's home......long drive, as much as I'll say. The house was decorated and lit with Christmas decorations, everything was ready, drinks were offered as soon as we greeted everyone. It was a nice group of older and younger people, excellent food and the necessary drinks. Good conversation and genuine good will. Of course we could have used some lively music, some dance and definitely some incense! Overall, it was a pleasant evening.....

Once that was taken care of, we drove back. The next morning, it was a new year, but things looked the same, what to do? No beach day, the pool is not substitute and the day was not warm enough anyway! Ah, when will I get used to this? and do I have the time? or would we move before this happens? who knows? This getting used to Miami has not been an easy or fast process. Not what I expected, but also I have not helped it along. Time for a new attitude?....maybe. There is not point agreeing, better take things one at a time!

Letting go of the past is very difficult. It involves letting go of things that meant so much for so long. What we accepted as a given, suddenly is no more...not easy. Or maybe it's my age, not as young as I want to be. Should remember that I am still full of energy to start again, and probably will soon! Haven't I always wanted to be considered an expat? Well, this is what expats do: they adjust!!! Bloom where you're planted, sort of thing.

Seems 2011 would be the year I finally get down to it: let's see Miami as another stop in my life of moving from here to there. Enjoy what this city has to offer and do not think of it as a permanent stop, just another step. That is the way, the only way, to make the best of a life that will continue to be lived here and there!!!!

Tonight Frankie and I will explore something new: the Miami Street Food Court. The Miami Street Food Court is the spot where all the Street Food Trucks gather . This is the new rave in the area. Absolutely amazing food, sold out of especially customized trucks. They gather around the city, at different days every week. Reviews are glowing...will let you know all about it!!!!