Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It's Not Easy Being Green

Amy must be a saint to put up with all that.

How could you let them do that [go sailing with small children]?

Dear friends, today we will take a trip through the rocky country of second-hand comments.  It is difficult terrain, and I fear I am strapping on my driving goggles for my benefit alone.  But I am going to give it a try.

Sailormoon-Indy and I have a few things to say.

The two comments at the top of this page are the most-often-reported comments I get via family members who have been discussing our trip with the outside world.  (And isn’t that sad?  Not, “Wow!  They must be having so much fun!”, or, “Gosh, am I jealous.  I’d love to visit so many interesting places.”

Let’s deal with Amy’s sainthood first.  I realize that I invite some of that.  I like telling funny stories about life aboard.  And as everyone knows, bad things are funnier than good things, or even regular things.  I’ve posted a lot of pictures lately about our zone of destruction.  And I’m sure, if read a certain way, it sounds like I’m moaning.  The trouble with humour is that you have to recognize it.  (Or write it well, so maybe I've just failed in my attempts.)

But you know what?  If I really minded, it wouldn’t be happening.  Not any of it.  Not the painting, not the fridge, not the boat, if it comes to that.  I suppose what really gets my goat about this comment is that it implies that I am only a helpless bystander in this operation.  It presents Erik as an overbearing ogre forcing the unwilling crew to do his will.  It presents me as a powerless generic female with no will of my own or ability to change events.  I’ll tell you, it boils my potatoes just to write those words.  They are categorically untrue.

I don’t want to have to post a disclaimer on the blog that states: “These posts are intended to be a humorous retelling of real events.”  And, really, you don’t need that, do you?  You are smart and interesting and have a sense of humor, right?  Right.  So let’s all just keep that in mind.  And if people give you the head shake and start feeling sorry for poor Amy, you don’t have to set them straight.  Just don’t tell me about it.

As for comment two, this one cracks me up.  Friends of the Heckle & Jeckle set often trot this one out.  To which I say: really?  As though I were a 14-year old girl with minimal judgement running off to join the circus with my wall-eyed 21-year old boyfriend with a dubious employment history and a prison record.  People.  In case it escaped your notice, Erik and I are quickly closing in on middle age.  We are intelligent, educated people capable of gathering facts, calculating risk and following best practices.  I maintain we are safer on Papillon than we would be commuting to work each day.  So don’t fret, grandparent-ly types.  And don’t judge our parents harshly for (sigh) “letting us go.”

Now.  All that was very stressful.  So, to finish on a high note: fiesta!  We had the painters and their families aboard on Saturday, and a wonderful time was had by all.  I now have an iTunes playlist filled with Colombian ballads (there is a big obsession with mi corazon around here), and a freezer full of deditos, little finger-like bread products filled with cheese.  Yum!  The girls and I love them.

Fiesta, fiesta, fiesta with our wonderful Colombian friends.
We depart shortly for the San Blas islands in Panama, where, I'm told, the water is clear and the internet non-existent.  I'll try to post via SSB, but the photos, alas, will have to wait.  Until then...

Monday, January 16, 2012


For Sale: Spouse
As-is condition

Wife seeks new situation for relentless serial home-improver husband.  Ability to deal with dust, destruction and major inconvenience a must.  Beautiful results guaranteed for the patient new owner.

No refunds or returns.  Absolutely no trade-ins.

It's just some primer.  Pretty benign so far.

Wait... a tent?

Yes, it's a tent.  Goodbye, stove and pantry.

Boba Fett prepares to enter the fridge area.

Ready to paint!

And that is why the tent is up.

Ta da!  A beautifully painted fridge box.  Now, if we could only make some lids...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Back in the police van again

Monday was a holiday in Cartagena, so the kids and I packed a bag and headed to the beach.  It was the last day of Christmas holidays, so the place was wall-to-wall people.  Our friends who have an apartment on the beach had staked out a cabana, made lunch and drinks; as you can see, it was a good deal.  We took turns with the girls by the water, with the other two adults enjoying themselves in the shade of the plastic tent.

Well fed and well watered, my friend Third Grade Teacher and I were happily discussing what Stylish will be doing next year when a mob of people approached our cabana from both sides.  My Spanish is pretty terrible, but Teacher speaks it pretty well.  We deciphered something about a red bag.  Thinking someone had lost a bag, we shook our heads and said we hadn’t seen it.  The crowd frowned and slowly dispersed.  We returned to our chat.


Sixty seconds later, a doubled mob and two policemen showed up... holding my red bag.  Yes, my bag had been stolen and I hadn’t even missed it.

Joe Pike would not be impressed with my situational awareness.

I checked the bag, and nothing was missing.  The mob, comprised of vendors and locals, must have nabbed the thief almost immediately.  How they knew it was my bag is anyone’s guess.  Maybe my Ortho Biotech bag from a conference a decade ago looked sufficiently gringa-esque that it was a small logical leap to determine it belonged to me.  In any case, the bag was back, intact, and I was happy.

The locals, especially locals who sell things on the beach, do not want you to get ripped off here.  (I’d like to see a similar crowd notice the theft and retrieve my property anywhere else I’ve lived.  Good luck.) Tourism in Colombia already has to fight a bad reputation.  But the flipside of the coin is, if they catch someone, they want your help to do something about it.  Which meant many insistent hands pushed me along with the police officers, and ol’ Amy was back in a Colombian police van.

We trundled down the street to the cop shop.  The thief was standing on the top step of the police station, handcuffed, firmly gripped by two officers, mumbling at me and giving me pleading looks.  Great.  They whisked him away, and a discussion ensued about who spoke enough English to talk to me.  A crowd of maybe twenty cops was peering at me by now.  Ah, being the center of attention.  Young Cop was elected to the task.  We had the following conversation.

Young Cop:  What happened?
Amy:  I was sitting with my friend in the cabana.  I didn’t know the bag was gone until the crowd returned it to me.
YC:  The man steal your bag?
A:  Someone took my bag, but I didn’t see anything.  I didn’t know until the police brought the bag back to me.
YC:  The man, he tall and black? [sidenote: the man in handcuffs looked skinny, pale and 86% meth.]
A:  I did not see who took my bag.
YC: [frowning]  You not see?
A:  I did not see.
[Much grumbling between the policemen.] 
YC:  What he take?
A:  Nothing.
YC: [bigger frown]  Nothing?
A:  No.  Nothing was missing.  [I looked through the bag again.  Money, towel – all there.  I was smart enough not to pack a wallet, credit cards or a camera.]
YC:  This important, señora.  He no take anything?
A:  There is nothing missing.  He didn’t take anything out.
[Exasperated grumbling.]
YC:  You sit there.

Young cop stalked out of the room, leaving me in an annex with five junior officers.  They looked bored on a holiday afternoon, and the prospect of an unaccompanied gringa to babysit lifted them from their lethargy.  They muttered together for a minute, then elected a spokesman.  After a few attempts I deciphered a request for my name.  They all rolled that around for a while, with increasing delight.  “Eh-mee.”  “Eeeehhhh-meeee.”  Some teenage boy snickers that reminded me uncomfortably of Beavis and Butthead ensued.  I looked hopefully at the closed door for Young Cop.

They were experimenting with the delights of saying “Canada” when my savior, Young Cop, returned.  We went back to the main building, where YC had prepared a written statement for me to sign.  He explained it to me as I read it very, very slowly.  YC got a little impatient with me, but there was no way I was signing anything unless I knew what it said and it was entirely true, both for my sake and for the bag-snatcher’s.  Statement complete, I listened to a stern lecture about keeping my eyes on my things at the beach.  Truly, the bag was eight inches from my foot; what else could I have done?  I thought I was watching.

My request for a ride back was politely declined, so, excitement at an end, I had to hoof it back down the beach to my friends and the girls, buoyed by the knowledge that I was a cog in the wheels of justice.  And thus concluded my second encounter with Colombian police.  Please, let’s not make it a third.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Huevos especiales

Hola, amigos!  I am Señor Huevo.  Let me introduce you to the muy interesante world of Colombian eggs.

Most of the time, I am casual.

I am a relatable character.  Just look at my hat!
But sometimes, I put on my sombrero, and then, look out!

I enjoy my close, personal relationship with the Disney corporation.

That will be an extra $10, please.
 Some days, my heart is so filled with love, I must give things away!  Like rice!

Mi Amiga Señora Chicken invites you to come hither and take something from her basket.
But best of all, I love my friends.  Ha ha!

Those egg friends know fear.
And now, amigos, I must say adiós.  The good people at Carulla insist that Señora Amy stop taking pictures in their store.  I will miss you.  But remember, Colombian eggs are the fun eggs!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

At the corner grocery store

I spend a lot of time grocery shopping.  Mostly because we live out of a cooler and I have to buy ice every day, but even so, I'd be at the store once a week anyway.  This means I have gotten to experience the entertaining world of foreign shopping in a more local environment.

Shopping in the U.S. was pretty easy.  While the stores were too big and it could take a while to find everything, at least you knew it was there.  (Except melba toast and green olives, items conspicuously absent between Virginia and Georgia.  Don't ask me why.)

Once we reached Mexico, it was time for a vocabulary lesson.  Now I looked for azucar and harina instead of sugar and flour.  And the stores were smaller, and the cheese was bland, but altogether, it was regular ol' grocery shopping.

Not so in Colombia.

Never have I been so annoyed with myself for not keeping my camera handy at all times.  While the yuckiest thing I've seen - a slowly liquefying ham that I watched sag for a full six weeks past its expiry date - was in Roatan, Cartagena is simply fun.

Take for example the meat aisle.  One of the more popular brands of lunchmeats is called Cunit.  Except that "I" is kind of tucked under the "T".  And I can tell you, I did a double-take the first time I saw a wall-sized display of cunit meat products.  That sort of thing can take a girl by surprise.

You might want to make that "I" a little bit bigger.
Sometimes surprising things show up.  On Christmas eve, I found a proper German Stollen crammed onto a shelf in the sugar aisle in our local store.  Only one.  There was no price marker on the shelf, and I couldn't find another one anywhere in the store.  Erik and his parents were delighted, and pronounced it excellent.  Our little Christmas miracle.

But the thing I truly wish I had a photo of are the eggs.  Yes, the eggs.  because here, my friends, companies do not put "the prize in the box" in cereal.  They put it with the eggs.  So far, I've seen Cars 2 eggs, with an actual car included, and, my personal favourite, Pirates of the Caribbean eggs, featuring decorative eyepatches and bandanas.  The boxes were so enticing!  Ridiculously expensive, but I was barely able to say no to those prize-eggs.

Next time, dear readers.  Next time, I'll get you a photo of fancy eggs, even if I have to go back to the boat to get my camera.