Thursday, September 30, 2010

From hell…Colombian style

Bogota, Colombia September 30th , 2010

A different entrance, a stairway, decoration and music… a wide wooden door and you are there… You are in hell.

This week I am in Bogota, Colombia for work and this is the first day I had the chance to go out for dinner with a dear ex-colleague that happens to live here now. She took me to the trendy “T” zone in Bogota to experience the hip nightlife.

Andres Carne de Res (something like Andy beef steak) is a must-go place in the outskirts of Bogota, and famous for its festive environment, eclectic décor and typical Colombian food. Well, this new place is called Andres D.C - which in my mind can stand either for Distrito Capital ( Capital District) or Después de Cristo (after Christ) – whichever you like the most; anyway this place is the new downtown branch of the same restaurant, inside a classy shopping mall.

The 5 story building is huge yet seems to be always full! The ambience is hard to describe, but to give you an idea, the hostess greets you surrounded by religious images, a huge one of “la virgen de Guadalupe” (our lady of Guadalupe), red candles, an old barber shop sign and a quaint fountain filled with ice and fresh plums (which you can eat if you feel like it), followed by a huge bar with hanging hearts, lamps, flames and funny signs, and then the explanation: a flashing sign telling you are at El Infierno (In hell). The same floor has dinner tables, not the classic kind, but the wooden almost medieval looking ones. Keep climbing up to the second floor, where a gigantic image of the sacred heart guides you to a small, narrow area, with a fire place, more tables and another bar. It is the Purgatory; the third one? That one has more light, more tables, people having dinner, behaving (kind of), drinking wine - that is “la Tierra” – Earth… the fourth floor is called “descanso” or a place to rest – you just have bar tables and narrow alleys, a place apt for a drink or two – but don’t take me wrong: even with limited space, it was packed!

Finally, the top floor is a semi-open terrace with umbrellas, angels, tables, another bar, more decoration, screens, music – oh you have that right… we finally got to El Cielo – Heaven my friend. Did I mention that all around the place there was live music (Colombian bands with drums and the best rhythm) along with ballenato, reggeton, and latin dance; live and definitively different “angels” and “demons”, phantoms wearing feather boas and huge bright colored sunglasses dancing and hanging from the ceiling; the servers were characters as well: young guys and girls featuring punk-looking hair, piercing, hats, long skirts… it was like being inside of a play.

The best thing about this place is that, no matter how harsh it sounds, it was the friendliest place!! Couples, business groups, middle aged and youngsters where having fun in a super nice way – and you didn’t feel harassed by the intensity of the theme, on the contrary, you just felt welcomed.

The food? Let me tell you about it! We had patacones con queso and chicharron – fried green plantain with melted cheese and homemade pork rind - I had a mojito and a house stout beer and both were super cool! The mojito was served in some sort of natural material made bowl (like a dried fruit shell or something) with lots of fresh mint and they brought my beer, in a frozen metal mug! Again, very medieval!

I had a great time; it was a nice way to melt the stress of an intense work week, catch up with my girlfriend and being out from my hotel for the first time in five days. I am now really looking forward to come back, this time with my husband to have a nice rumba night!

If you are ever in Bogota, this is a place you shouldn't miss!!!

Andres D.C
calle 83 12-49
Zona T
Bogota, Colombia

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It happened one night... a Magpie Tale

It happened one night, long time ago. I was young, vibrant. Italy and its magic romanticism. It was more than 21 years ago and I can still feel the crisp breeze of Venice with the small intricate alleys and the multitude walking, dancing, singing, living a carnival night. Masks were mandatory; Bellini the drink of choice. St.Mark’s square was never more crowded yet intimate, sublime. And there I was, believing in destiny and totally willing to make it the night of my life.

Today is my daughter’s wedding, my little girl. I am in my room, in front of my dresser, looking at myself in the mirror, brushing my hair, getting ready for the big event. I open one drawer and there it is: the little mahogany box engraved to perfection… a box that has been with me for more than 21 years…all the memories flashed right back: my long deep blue satin dress, purple and golden mask decorated with peacock feathers, our walk in the middle of the night. He was the mysterious dandy in a perfect black Italian suit, sober gray mask with just an elegant discrete glitter that with the moonlight seemed sometimes silver and others light purple, but all times sexy. His voice was deep, like a caress… his seductive moves gave me no room for second thoughts. He kissed me under Casanova’s balcony… we’ve got lost in an endless embrace, our hands belonged together, we were part of the crowd yet were alone in Venice, living the greatest love affair, my dream.

My daughter comes in to my room looking for her grandma’s broach; she is stunning, a mix of childish innocence and yet such a confident woman. I see her getting in and saw the same 4 year old that used to rush in to play dress up with my shoes, necklaces, makeup; I guess that’s how mothers see their daughters no matter how old they get. The moment she gets in I instinctively hide the box from her; is not the time, nor the place. Today is her day. She takes the broach, gives me a quick butterfly kiss and storms out when her friends, the bride’s maids, are calling her back to her room to continue with the ritual. Then I went back to my box, my memory box...the next morning we were still together, went to a cozy café and ordered two ristrettos with pastries; we talked, we laughed, we looked at the people walking by. He excused himself for a minute, and the nice waitress approached me and asked - “how do you do it?” I didn’t understand her question, so I replied with an apologetic - “excuse me?” and she confirmed back - “yes, I want to know how do you do it, what is the magic, for him to look at you like that, is like nobody exists by you…” I was floating, my heart was pounding, my brain was totally lost in the moment and then he came back, with a box wrapped in quaint paper, almost like the kind used in hardware stores, brown with gondola motif. “This box is for you, for you to remember me by and it is for me, to always remember where I met my angel…and it is for us, and only for us, to never forget that we belong together, just you and me, even if we have other people in our lives, people that may be more important or that may take more time from both, this is a homage to the greatest love affair of all times” - I was speechless …we kissed, he touched my nose, we giggled and hugged once again.

I put on my mother of the bride dress, wear the special pearls and color my lips with a pinkish gloss. I take a last look at myself in the mirror, to see me again, more than 21 one years after …my hair is now shorter, grayer, my face showing some lines… I close my eyes to take a deep breath, my hand softly touching the box, my box… our box… and then I feel his arms around my waist, the same voice that melted my heart  years ago - ” Are you ready, my angel? Our girl is waiting for us… I think you are, you look beautiful” - I open my eyes and look at him in my mirror, his eyes still giving me the same look that took my breath away in Venice - ”Almost my dear, just the final touch”- I opened the box and took the bottle of perfume, Italian cologne to be precise, the same one that sealed our pact after that magic night and that I only wear when I am with him, with the love of my life, my one and only, the only one.

For my husband, my best everything.

This is a Magpie tale - Mag 33 - for other Magpie tales click Magpie Tales

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Confident she was...a writing exercise

Last week Becky from Becky Povich * Writer - Humorist - Bliss Follower *  gave us a writing challenge accompanied with a nice incentive: to write a short story of 100 words or less, based on a picture she took during a trip to Iowa.

I've always liked the idea of writing literary pictures (check out Matryoshkas or The legend of the girl and the whale ), besides it was interesting to see if I was able to create a story from an image that was not familiar or was not taken by me. So I took the challenge and this is what my twisted-fantasty oriented mind came up with:

"Confident She was..."

Confident she was, looking at the flowers. Enchanted she was, by the colors and shapes, the sunshine and blue sky. She couldn’t tell if it was the beginning of the autumn flare or the last shades of summer, the fresh scents of honey and coffee or the magic sounds of wind chimes, but she was drawn by it. She had to get in. Little she knew what lied beneath. She didn’t notice that the big copper creature by the entrance was alive… and that it was the only thing around that casts no shadow.

Thanks a lot to Becky and her generous soul to open this space for us to play and dream - to open up our minds!!
Click here to read the winner story :  ** And the winner is....**

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Independent Mexico...independent mind

Tonight is the 200th anniversary of Mexico's independency. 200 years ago, a priest gathered the people of Mexico with an unusual cry of freedom, ringing the bell of a local church and shouting: "viva Mexico!". 200 years ago that act symbolized the beginning of a free country, then a constitution followed stating, among other things:

"...en libertad de constituirse del modo que más convenga a su felicidad, y con representantes que pueden manifestar su voluntad y sus designios, comienza a hacer uso de tan preciosos dones y declara solemnemente por medio de la Junta Suprema del Imperio, que es una nación soberana e independiente de la antigua España..."28 de septiembre de 1821

"...freedom to form in the way that suits their happiness, and with representatives who can express its will and its designs, begins to make use of such precious gifts and solemnly declare by the Supreme Board of the Empire, that is a sovereign and independent nation from Spain" September 28, 1821.

200 years had past and Mexico, the free country, is not in its best shape. Economically, politically and socially, the nation has challenges that are only aggravated by the lukewarm actions of the politicians. Frustrating it is to see how the crime gets more organized while the law enforcers get, well, not so much.

But not everything is as scary as it seems; all countries have their bad angle, and usually is the one that gets more exposed.  Mexico is also a country full of tradition, culture, gastronomy (is not just tacos, you know?), music, bright minds (does color TV and contraceptive pills ring a bell?), architecture (from prehispanic ruins and pyramids to colonial cities, to art deco buildings and eco-friendly construction), hard work-high spirited people. Mexico is a rich magnificent land offering a wide variety of landscapes, climates, spectacular mountain ranges, water falls, pristine beaches, deserts and jungle... the majority of it, still unexplored, virgin...tourist attractions, such as spring breakers in Cancun, tequila drinking Cinco de Mayo parties and a stiff - off tune mariachi band is just the cheesy-cliché part of a country that is still a mistery, even for the very own mexicans.

I was born in Sonora, a northwest state bordering Arizona. A state that has been taking a big hit by the drug cartels, corruption, injustice and individual interests...but my state nonetheless. And today, I want to open my heart and think of Mexico as the great nation that I want it to be, I invite you to free up your mind and think outside the believe that an independent mind is capable of anything.

Sonora: the real one.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In a New York state of mind

Remember, remember.. the eleventh of September...a day that touched every one of us, one way or another; a day to remember... to remember our vulnerability, the feeling of loss and insecurity, but also the moments of hope, human bonds, team work and prayers.

I am not a Newyorker, never lived there but have had the opportunity to visit, both for pleasure and work, many times - it is a city that captivates me. In true appreciation of the wonderful city of New York and its people, today I would like to share some images from the city that never sleeps, as well as two posts that were written while in New York and with a New York state of mind.

I hope you enjoy two of my New York moments:

To be or not to not the question 

“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years” Thomas Wolfe

"Ideas matter in New York. I am certain that more conversations in New York are about ideas than anywhere else. Not just vague theories, but ideas that New Yorkers have the will, and the clout, to do something about. " David Frost

"New York is a diamond iceberg floating in river water." Truman Capote 

What is your New York moment?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Life according to me, lesson 27

Feelings are a wonderful and powerful thing: they drive our acts, change our mood, attract our luck, can change our lives... always take time to identify, select and nurture only the ones you want along your path.

Life according to me, lesson 26

Saturday, September 4, 2010

My mother the brave

Today is September 4th. It is my mother’s birthday. She turns 69. Let me tell you a little something about this woman.

She desired me for 5 years, yet she couldn’t get pregnant; back in the 70’s fertility treatments were more like trial an error experiments. She suffered and yet kept trying every single option – from fallopian tubes blockage treatment (yes, the painful gas-injection-old fashion one), surgery to remove ovarian cysts, to herbal teas and prayers. Finally, she was with child – with me to be precise.

She worked in her trendy boutique (the first one of its kind back then in her Mexican home town) and expected me with hope and joy…and 6 weeks before my arrival, she find out the hard way my father was cheating on her…she cried out of deception, broken trust; and I felt it, of that I am sure…it left me an ultra sensitive and apprehensive heart.

A fling it was, he said… and she wanted to believe. I was born in a December night, as small and pink as I could be. Marriage continued, difficulties increased, she kept working non-stop... and yet, after five years from her first baby girl, my sister was born: baby of the year – it was barely past midnight on a January 1st. . I remember her arrival, I remember my jealousy. But mostly, I remember her big green eyes.

Two little girls completed her world. Two little girls were all she kept after the husband (my father) vanished. No, he didn’t die. He just decided to leave. She started a new life in a different town, she gave us all she could for us to be safe and raised us as good as she humanly could. She was alone. She was a 34 year old young woman (now I see it), with a huge responsibility and nothing else. I remember her working, almost never around. I can see her arriving after a long day at work and sitting at the kitchen table to eat her favorite dinner: a bowl of frosted flakes… spoon after spoon…so quiet.

My sister and I learned to do everything by ourselves: from cooking to homework, from shopping to cleaning. I was a 12 year old adult taking care of a 7 year old kid. Mom was always busy, but expecting the best from us. I was always afraid to disappoint her. .. She was terrifying. Good grades and perfect behavior was not an option, it was the only way. No prizes, no encouragement, but the mere idea of letting her down was enough.

Year after year, work after work… town after town… school after school; we moved a lot, she was always looking for the best opportunity for her girls. No matter what it took, she never cared: housekeeper in a popular hotel (frequently visited by her former high-society Mexican friends), a cook at a student’s cafeteria and an overnight shift as a caregiver … everything so the girls could afford a better life…but she was never there… the girls were always alone taking care of themselves.

We grew up to become two independent-strong and determined women. My sister married his best friend and has two beautiful perfect girls. I married the love of my life and have been just the two of us (plus our dogs) for the last 21 years (11 married). My mother lives near my sister, still works and takes care of her two granddaughters. It took me a long time to see the things I see today. It wasn’t easy to accept that no one’s life is painless (one way or another). It took me a lot of years to understand that, my mother, as a young and beautiful woman, back then had a choice: and she decided to stay with us. She did what she thought was best. Out of love, out of courage, she made us become what we are.

Even though we sometimes -more often than desired- fight, or despite the fact that she doesn’t react the way I think she should, or the three thousand door mats she places all over the house carpet (oh, because god forbid the carpet might get dirty) I love her with all my heart, respect and honor her for her accomplishments and even more for her sacrifices… and how blessed and lucky I am to realize it in time.

To Olga: the Mother, the Tita, the fighter… but foremost, the woman.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sliding doors

Have you ever wonder what would’ve happened if a different decision was taken at a certain moment of your life? I am not necessarily talking about huge stuff like launching the atomic bomb or passing a controversial bill; but small, daily and apparently immaterial choices that could be the difference between our current life and a totally different one.

A few days ago on Facebook I read a status pondering “how seemingly-small decisions and moments can change entire lives…” and the flow of comments that followed with specific situations, or “what if” scenarios, from the fact that someone’s parents met on a blind date to the split second decisions that cause car accidents and the serendipity behind finding the right person at the least expected place where you were not supposed to be. Breaking up with your high-school sweetheart to follow your career and, years later, wondering if that person with the multiple children and a sad look could have been your husband (making you the abnegated wife and mother of too many).

Destiny, faith, the book of life… is our future really marked and determined by our past? If so, is it changeable or controllable? Freewill is a powerful term that in theory gives us control of our acts, up to a point of voluntarily making mistakes; freewill should come with a warning: use only if you can take full responsibility of the consequences (good or bad). But it gets even more complicated than that, because our acts and so called responsible decisions are not just going to affect us individually – most of the times (if not always), they have a chain reaction among others: our family, neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances, even the friendly strangers…we touch and change lives by the minute, without even noticing.

There is no way to anticipate the unknown, no matter how hard we try, it is just humanly impossible. We should of course plan ahead and have goals, knowing that, as exhausting an exercise as it can be trying to prevent and taking care of everything, we are still in charge of our actions therefore liable for their immediate, short or long-term consequences…an endless loop of cause and effect…the undeniable gift of freewill.

On daily basis we face situations requiring choices; and every choice, has a handful of consequences, benefits, complications, reactions. Decisions....decisions… decisions. Let’s assume for a minute here that our future is not controllable and that, no matter what we decide or what we do, the final result won’t change , that we only get to pick the “how” but not the “where”…the destiny and the duration of the journey is not known and won’t be revealed….and remember: we are not alone! So for sure we will be affected by others and others will be affected by us.

Do we want to live our “how” on daily basis and make it an intense, generous, worth remembering-attitude changing-contagious positive reaction one? Or do we rather stop living and wait patiently, effortlessly, insipidly and selfishly for something that may happen someday, in a futile attempt of not altering the fragile result of a mysterious “where”.

I want to believe that by living a life with awareness and without remorse of the choices made while following your gut, instincts, senses and heart, we can make our “how” become our “where”… by the end of each day.

"You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
I will choose a path that's clear

I will choose freewill." Rush