Friday, December 23, 2011

Operation Rivers of Light

(This Pre-Christmas Post replaces the Monday post for December 26. Back to the normal Monday schedule on January 2, 2012)

As you may already know (oh, come on, I'm sure you know), we have very large, illegal, guerrilla leftist movements in Colombia. We have tried to combat and defeat them for over 60 years, and we are slowly winning the war against them.. but we still have a long way to go.

Before I go on, please allow me a little of your time to get on my soapbox and explain a couple of things. Listen, dude, we (Colombians) are not against leftist movements, like people (such as Chávez and his dictatorial regime, for instance) want to make you believe. We welcome the left, because we are well aware that without a left there can be no right, but rather meaningless unilateralism. Our nation was founded in 1810 based on leftist ideals. We, all of us, all of us Colombians, used to be leftist rebels who stood up against the Spanish monarchy. And we won. We understand and celebrate the importance of the left.

What we don't understand, what we don't accept and what we most certainly DO NOT celebrate is that the so-called "left" (the guerrilla movements you might be familiar with via CNN or the BBC) use illegal actions to gain money. They are no longer looking for political power, they no longer have political ideals. Those ideals died in the 1980s with the birth and growth of drug trafficking. There are no more philosophical leftist pillars on which the current guerrilla can stand. It is just greed and lust and ignorance.

A few so-called "leaders" (and I use the term VERY loosely) have forced thousands of Colombian peasants, farmers, women and children, to join their ranks with the promise of money. And in a country where so much poverty reigns, it is easy to understand why they joined - also, they were given no choice. The options were either to join or to die a painful death.

That is why we, Colombians living on the legal side of the story (both rightists and leftists, conservatives and liberals, catholics and atheists), are asking that the Guerrilleros come home, to leave the guerrilla movement and join us on the civilian side.

The 2011 Operation Rivers of Light was carried out this week. I invite you to watch the video, with Spanish audio and English subtitles:

My President, Juan Manual Santos, and his family participated in the event three days before Christmas, sending out their own personal messages, with the hope that the Guerrilleros will receive the message and be touched enough to come home. After all, there is no better place to be on Christmas than at home.

I invite you to join me, to join all Colombians, in asking that Guerrilleros demobilize. I invite you to write (tweet, blog, whatever) using the hashtag #GuerrilleroDesmovilicese (Spanish for "Guerrilla Combatant, leave the illegal guerrilla forces").

My very close and dear friend, Mafe Barbosa, sending away her message...

Monday, December 19, 2011

I don't know if it's God, but it's a lousy coincidence anyway...

I'm not the God-fearing person I'm supposed to be. And I'm alright with that. Having gone to university in the US Bible Belt, though, I had my fair share of people trying to "save" me, which I appreciated. I mean, you have to really care about a person to want to save them from going to hell, right? I was lucky (blessed?) to have all those people around me, and am still lucky (blessed?) to have them put up with me and my agnostic ways after 10 years.

The thing is, I don't believe in blaming nor accrediting God with everything. If something good happens (something over which you had some kind of control, like a good job offer or a raise or that your self-made dinner tasted delicious), then why should you claim that God did that? I mean, God surely gave you the talent to be the best you could be, and He (She?) even "blessed" you with strength and courage and whatnot. But there are certain things that YOU do for yourself. No one does them for you. At the same time, if something lousy happens (something over which you had some kind of control, like not getting a job, or getting fired, or having your self-made dinner burn in the oven), then why should you blame God for that? It's not His (Her?) fault that someone got better grades in college than you did, or that you were caught surfing porn during office hours, of that you did not pay attention to the oven because you were cyber-stalking some ex. Do you see where I'm going with this?

Some things are just coincidences (like my meeting people from Barranquilla in Kiel), and some things are just you working hard for them (like my being accepted in the Masters program). For the other things, those that neither money nor MasterCard can buy, I have no explanation. But that is not my point.

My point is, my Aunt (my Uncle's wife) died last Monday. A week ago today. She was not ill, she was not old (mid-50s), she was not a bad person. She was the opposite of bad: she was an awesome mother, an incredible artist, a leader in her church, a role-model for her family. She is (was?) the type of person who should live forever.

But God wanted her Angel back in heaven, said one of her sisters.

Well, God, I think you're a little bit selfish if that is why she died. I mean, did you really, really need her before Christmas? Seriously, dude. Not cool.

But God is lucky, because I don't believe that is why she died.

God is punishing her youngest daughter, because she is an atheist, said one of my aunts to my grandmother. That side of the family is very, very religious. God-fearing people, alright. The Bible Belt equivalent, but in my country. And my cousin, 23 years old, is a declared atheist (I tend to think she's just confusing terms and she really is agnostic, but that is not my point), and thus God decided to punish her by killing her mother. By killing her mother right before Christmas.

Well, God, I think you're a little bit selfish, because she (my Aunt) had 3 other children, a husband, 7 younger siblings, a mother, and a huge group of friends who loved her, and all of whom believe in You. So why kill her to teach one puny little human a lesson, while at the same time punishing so many? Seriously, dude. Not cool.

But God is lucky, because I don't believe that is why she died.

My Aunt died due to medical negligence. She went in for a routine cholecystectomy, just like I did last year, and the doctor accidentally ruptured her intestine. Notice that I said accidentally. The guy made a mistake. He may have saved many lives before and after on that very day, but he made a terrible, fatal mistake on my Aunt. And she died because of it. The guy is more than likely a good doctor, a good doctor who, like many working for the State in my country, earn too little and work too much. He just made a mistake and my Aunt died.

God is more than likely sad. God is probably saying to the Doctor, Dude, I gave you all the skills and talent and wisdom to know when to say no and when to open your eyes and double-check, but you, exercising your FREE WILL, chose to close her up and send her to the recovery room... 

One might even go as far as to question why she needed that cholecystectomy. Why did God "give" that to her? Why did she seem to recover for a couple of days and then die? Well, $#!+ happens, that's why. I have no other explanation for that. But I need no further explanation as to why she died. It just happened. It's too pragmatic, I know, but what can I do about it?

It was sad. It was terrible. It was sudden. It was shocking. It was many things, but it was not punishment. I don't believe in that God. I don't think that omnipotent, all-punishing God exists. I believe in something superior, in something grand and marvelous, something capable of giving life. I believe in something who placed a whole lot of wonderful characteristics in one woman and made her my Aunt. I believe that I am a better person for having known her. And I thank life and the universe for the coincidence or conspiracy of having placed her in my life.

I do appreciate that my family back at home feels "in peace" because it was God's decision to take her away. I think everyone is entitled to deal with pain any way they want (that is why I write this Blog in English and not in Spanish). Good for them. I'm glad that they can thank and blame one poor Guy or Gal for everything that happens: weather, traffic, problems and blessings.

I don't think it was God, but I don't know. I'm a simple agnostic mortal who knows nothing. But it was a lousy coincidence that my Aunt had to die right before Christmas. To whom do I write my letter of complaint?

Monday, December 12, 2011


Honey hates birthdays. At least so he claims. Last year, I "forced" him to have an awesome birthday party - and he had a blast! We all did. We all had loads of fun. We began at 8 p.m., and 6 a.m. we were still singing. Actually the singing began only at 4 a.m., but that is beyond the point. The point is we had fun. And the best part was (for Honey, at least, who was paying the bill) we payed a little over 100 Euros for more than 30 guests in a private room at an awesome bar. So, seriously - wow.

But this year Honey really didn't want to to do anything. He said that he did not feel like inviting both friends and acquaintances to drink at his expense, but that he did not know how to not invite the acquaintances; he said it was too complicated, and too expensive, and that he didn't have any ideas for a venue, and and and, but but but. After trying to convince him for a couple of days (that was waaaay back in early November), I came to a realization: You know, I told myself, the fact that you like birthdays does not mean that everybody else has to love birthdays as well. Why don't you let Honey celebrate his birthday however the heck he wishes to celebrate it?! And so I told Honey that we would do whatever he wanted to do.

And since he wanted to do nothing, we agreed that nothing would be done.

Except that sometime in late November he said that we had actually thought about it and that he agreed with me: he wanted a party. But he didn't know where, and he didn't know who to invite, and he didn't want to spend too much money (or any at all), and he didn't and didn't and didn't - only negatives. He even mentioned that it would have been awesome if I had planned a surprise party for him, so that he would not worry about anything or anyone and just enjoy his birthday.

I got upset and told him to stop sending me mixed signals: either you hate your birthday and you don't want anything, or you simply don't enjoy planning events but do enjoy your birthday. It's one or the other. But you can't claim to hate your birthday and expect people to still celebrate it for you! Also, I said, I have no time to plan anything. It's two weeks to your birthday, I'm sure everyone is already scheduled for something else, I said.

But I told him not to worry, that his birthday present would make up for his momentary sadness. I had purchased it already, and I knew he would love it. I had found the perfect present: something that he really wanted, but something that didn't cost too much - because, like every other man, he enjoys spending his money on me, but hates it when I spend my money on him. I like this mentality... And my gift met all the criteria.

Finally, the birthdate arrived. We had gone to bed early on Friday so at 8 a.m. on Saturday we were wide awake. When he got up to go to the bathroom, I ran to the closet, where I had hidden his present, and ran back to the bedroom to wait for him. He came out and I sang, Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Honey, happy birthday to you! and proceeded to present him with his present.

He looked at the box - smaller than he was expecting, but still seemed heavy. He opened it and -

- was vastly disappointed. It was a "beauty kit for men" from Nivea, including shaving creme, aftershave and bath and shower gel. But dark blue, so very manly.

I told him his reaction was unfair, for he had told me that if my gift to him was too expensive, he would force me to send it back. And I stayed within a very reasonable budget, so I didn't understand his reaction. He said I was right, apologized, and very politely pretended to enjoy his gift.

A couple of hours later I made him breakfast, a very special birthday breakfast. While I cooked he showered. I laid out brand new clothes for him, which we had bought earlier last week. New shirt, new pants, new boxer shorts, new belt. We sat down to eat -

- and the doorbell rang.

We weren't expecting anyone, but it is not terribly unusual for the doorbell to ring on someone's birthday. So he went to open the door, only no one was there...

... no one, but something.

He could not believe his eyes. Was this a joke? It clearly is a box which claims to contain a TV, but, but, really?!

Yes, really.

I had spoken (early November) with very close friends of ours, and had arranged for this 51" plasma Samsung 3D TV to arrive at their house so that Honey would not notice. They brought it over, helped us set it up, and had some cake and juice.

Honey asked if they wanted to come by in the evening for a beer or something, and they said that only for a few minutes, because they had another appointment previously scheduled. But that was ok, Honey figured. They could come by for a beer or two, and then we could both watch 3D movies all evening together and so spend his birthday.

It was all agreed. We went out to a romantic lunch and came back in time to meet with our friends. We were watching TV while waiting for them and the doorbell rang.

As scheduled for over two weeks, all his friends walked into the apartment! SURPRISE!

Aw, Honey! Of course I had something planned for you! Of course I was not going to let your birthday go unnoticed! Of course I was not going to honor your I-hate-my-birthday wishes! Of course I was going to surprise you!

And I did. And we had a blast.

Honey, it's not that I ignore your wishes... it's that I know you well enough to know which ones are the ones you really wish for, and which ones are those you want me to ignore.

Happy birthday, Honey!

BTW, you can take a guess as to whether or not 
the TV was returned due to exceeding the expected budget... 

To view more pictures, go to this youtube link

Monday, December 5, 2011

If it's not rain, it must be snow!

I am somewhat of a world citizen. I have lived in four continents, I have learned new languages and new cultures; I have seen and done things that most people would only dream of doing. I have ridden exotic animals, I have prayed in thousand-year-old churches and temples, I have had water (or, let's be honest, Coca-Cola) in 80 cities, I have gotten wet with rain in 15 countries, I have gone swimming in three different seas... You might say that I have seen and done so much, that I am difficult to amaze.

But you'd be wrong.

I am amazed by snow.

You need to understand why, though: as much as I have traveled, and as old as I am (I have been informed that my new hair cut makes me look my real age...), I still grew up and spent more than half of my life in Barranquilla, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, where the average temperature is 35ºC and the daily weather report shows a bright, shiny, beautiful sun. We have rain, of course; but somehow the sun manages to shine through the dark, grey clouds. I remember, one time, ages ago -my gosh, I could not have been older than 10- it started raining really, really hard. And the raindrops, well, they looked funny. And they fell funny, and made a real loud noise. I went towards the window and saw "ice cubes" falling from the sky. It was an amazing phenomenon - so amazing, that I sometimes wonder if that is a real or made-up memory that I have.

I don't know.

But it is precisely because of that warmth in my life that snow baffles me. It is the only reason why I stand the cold. And it is very, VERY cold. But it's white. And oh-so-lovely! I know the shoes get all messed up, the bottom part of jeans and pants is always wet, it's difficult to walk and dangerous to drive. And the crazy Germans keep living like nothing is happening - school goes on, university goes on, work goes on. It should be a National Holiday every day snow falls! But I realize that, in Germany, that would be highly deterrent to the schedules, since snowfalls here are not only hard (and serious) but also last for months.

I promised my friends and family (those living in The New World, you know, the real Western World) that I would not write about the snow every winter. I promised I would not be another cute little latina fascinated by the white cotton-candy balls falling from the sky. I promised I would not have the same sort of blog every December.

I lied.

We had some sort of hail yesterday, but it was enough to make the grass in the gardens and the rooftops white. So I named it snow. For me, winter AND CHRISTMAS have now officially begun, because it is now white. And yes, I will go out and make snow angels as soon as there is enough snow to sink into. And yes, I will take plenty of pictures and send them to The Snow Flake Queen, and yes I will more than likely begin complaining in February, and yes, and I will be just another cute little latina fascinated by the white cotton-candy balls falling from the sky.

First "snow" for 2011