Posts Tagged With: Colombian Tourism

The Weather Factor & Multiple Sclerosis

Sometimes I am even able to act like a tourist! ūüėČ

I am not able to speak for everyone with Multiple Sclerosis, but in my case, weather is a major contributor to relapses with my MS.  Not that cold is better than hot or hot better than cold or even the fluctuations of the drastic changes in temperature on Spring and Autumn days in the South.  There are days we run the air-conditioner in the day and heat is on at night.  These extremes and fluctuations where brutal to my MS symptoms.  

Now I am living in Medellin, Colombia, South America. ¬†Many ask why an American would leave the U.S. to live in Colombia? ¬†The simple answer – weather! ¬†The nickname for Medellin is The City of Eternal Spring. ¬†For someone with MS like me… the climate is ideal. ¬†With fewer days of really hot or really cold and the fluctuations of a mild Spring day back home (1.5 hours North of New Orleans), I notice fewer relapses while in Medellin. ¬†By no means does it mean they go away, but the severity of relapses is reduced as well as the frequency. ¬†Regardless¬†of climate, fatigue remains my chief adversary! ¬†Even here I fool myself into believing I am able to do more than I actually am capable of.

With a new place to live comes the obvious challenges like finding a place to live, learning a new neighborhood and making new friends.  Moving to a new country adds even more challenges like language and immigration issues.  Fortunately for me, Colombia actually has a special visa to encourage people to retire in Colombia Рa pensionado visa.  This visa is granted to anyone with a pension (Social Security is considered a pension).  Any Colombian Consulate or Embassy in the U.S. can give you the step by step process for getting this visa.  The downsides are: it is a government agency so understand going into it that foreign governments are as bureaucratic as ANY government and the visa needs to be renewed annually. This process is always subject to change especially and now more so because the Colombian Free Trade Agreement is being implemented with the United States of America (which MAY even simplify thing more Рcross my fingers).  I cannot (will not) discuss the political issues associated with the Free Trade Agreement until I learn and know more about it.

Making new friends in Colombia is EASY Рthey are a welcoming people!  But for me, there is the added obstacle to educate friends about how my MS affects me.  One main reason is because Multiple Sclerosis is much less common in South America in general versus North America.  Just as the climate seems to reduce my relapses and symptoms, it also reduces seems to reduce how the local population is affected.  The photo shows, the further south one goes, the fewer MS diagnoses.  Since there are fewer people diagnosed with MS, it is even more important to try to educate my friends how this illness affects me.  My experience has been overwhelmingly supportive!   Just like in the U.S.A., there are many misconceptions, but once I explain, most are understanding AND supportive.

Medellin may not be the best solution for ALL people with MS and I cannot even advocate

Maybe a benefit of a healthier lifestyle will be weight loss! ūüėÄ

ANY one else¬†would find it as¬†beneficial¬†as I do, but it could be an option for some. ¬†Medellin is now ranked the #1 city in Colombia (link below) “According to this year’s study, Medellin made massive improvements in several areas including environmental initiatives, where it jumped three places to rank fifth. In human capital rankings, which consider health, education and employment opportunities, Medellin came in second place, moving up one spot. “We will strengthen(…) the goal of furthering the education and training of our human talent to achieve equity and remove inequalities,” assured Medellin’s Mayor¬†Anibal Gaviria.” ¬†I always mention Colombia’s tourism¬†campaign¬†slogan Colombia: the only risk is wanting to stay and my slogan for Colombia would be: Colombia: it is not what you think… it is so much MORE (maybe I should trademark that? lol)!

*I am not a medical expert of any kind and this article only reflects my personal opinions and experiences! 

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Viva Colombia

I am often asked why I like Colombia, South America so much. ¬†My response is, “Colombia and I share something – we are both misunderstood and quite often misrepresented!” ¬†I am quite happy when people realize that in spite of my progressive politics, unique views about religion, and gay activism – I am still quite a nice guy. ¬†The same is true of Colombia – in spite of the¬†exaggerations of Colombian life portrayed in Hollywood movies,¬†Colombia is quite a nice country! ¬†Seeing beyond stereotypes opens the mind to so many new possibilities! ¬†Also please notice… the country Colombia is spelled with an “o” not an “u” (Columbia).

Like me, Colombia is much more progressive than many realize – sorry, I mean Colombia is more progressive… anyone that reads my blog already knows I am Progressive! ¬† ¬†Colombia’s government is a Republic with Democratic elections and three branches of government including Executive, Legislative and Judicial (that should sound familiar to Americans). ¬†The FARC have basically been neutered¬†and the days of drug cartels¬†controlling¬†the country are now mythology. ¬†The drug lords, guerrillas, and kidnappings are great for the movies, but not a part of the typical Colombians daily life.¬†¬†

I have lived in both of Colombia’s largest cities, Bogota and Medellin. ¬†My opinion is that Bogota is more of a

Medellin, Colombia, South America

metropolitan lifestyle similar to living in New York or San Francisco and Medellin a little more like living in Los Angeles with San Diego weather. ¬†Bogota has the larger population with just over 8 million to Medellin’s 3.75 million. ¬†Medellin’s climate is more ideal with a very pleasant 65 – 80 degrees¬†Fahrenheit¬†(18 – 27¬†Celsius)¬†¬†year round, compared to the cooler climate of Bogota ranging from 50-75 Fahrenheit (10 – 24 Celsius). ¬†I have great friends in both cities but I feel the weather in Medellin is more¬†conducive¬†for Multiple Sclerosis, so now Medellin is home!

Colombia’s tourism campaign is: “Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay”. ¬†This proved to be very true for me! ¬†With an American Passport, 60 day tourist visits and there are other options for longer stays. ¬†I wanted to stay longer and found the way for me to get a resident visa called a pensionado visa ( basically a¬†retiree’s visa to encourage people to retire in Colombia)¬†. ¬†I do have to renew my visa annually, but that is ok with me. ¬†Colombia could be an¬†option¬†for many more, especially for the benefits of the climate for people with illnesses like Multiple Sclerosis. ¬†I invite people outside Colombia to come experience the reality of this beautiful country with beautiful, warm, welcoming people and forget what television and movies portray about Colombia! ¬†This is a country you should experience for yourself!

*** I will be posting weekly (maybe more) about life in Colombia – follow this blog and let’s share the experiences of this wonderful culture!

Categories: Bogota, Colombia, Life, Medellin, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Life and the Knife

Day time photo of the location of my robbery attempt.

Talking tough has become second nature to me.¬† Moving to Bogot√°, Colombia, was evidence¬†I was tough enough to challenge the¬†preconceived ideas most people have about Colombia. ¬†I have become accustomed¬†to defending my life¬†decisions and opinions regarding politics, religion, lifestyle and philosophy.¬† But 8:05pm, Wednesday night, June 9,2010, I had to defend my life as someone attempted to rob me using a buck knife with a 6 inch blade.¬† I have had self-defense training, but had never needed to use it.¬† The training was also like 20 years ago.¬† In the crisis…it came back to me.¬† I learned I am not all talk –¬†I AM tough!

Buck Knife with 6 inch blade.

I was¬†walking on Caracas Avenida¬†(a main street in Bogot√°)¬†between Calle¬†47 and Calle 45a¬†(avenida¬†is avenue and calle¬†is street¬† in Spanish).¬† I was returning a phone call to a friend.¬† I had been warned talking on my cellphone in English while walking alone¬†could be risky, but I was by the Catholic University of Colombia that had security and I was close to my apartment, so I felt no risk.¬† Afterall Colombia’s tourism motto is, “Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay.”

Generally when I walk in Bogot√°¬†I am walking with a purpose.¬† I walk fast, I try to¬†avoid eye contact and I do not talk with strangers.¬† So, as a guy walking next to me said something to me, I ignored him without even looking¬†thinking he was a bum asking for money.¬† I continued my conversation and I heard¬†blah,¬†blah¬†– Gringo.¬† I kept walking and turned¬†to him and said, “I am on the phone!”¬† He was about 5′ 9″ and looked like a typical college student.¬† Again I heard blah, blah, blah – Gringo and then he grabbed my phone.

FLASHBACK –¬†A little more than a¬†week earlier, while trying to renew my visa, a guy grabbed my phone.¬† I was holding the phone in¬†my left hand.¬† instinctively I used my right hand to latch on to his arm and I stuck out my¬†leg and threw him to the ground.¬† I am not sure if this was instinct or not, but I gave him a strong kick and shouted, “¬°V√°yase!” (Spanish for “GO AWAY!”).¬† He did.¬† Actually he was running full speed before he was even¬†fully upright! haha

The Krzr phone that seems to be in BIG demand in Bogota!

Now as the guy on Caracas was holding my hand as well as my phone, I think he began to realize I was not just going to let him have the phone.¬† It is and old Motorola¬†Krzr¬†phone with¬†no real value and now for the second time within 2 weeks someone was trying to steal it.¬† My God – what would happen if I had an i-phone?¬† Anyone reading my blog regularly knows I do not have the money to buy¬†another cellphone … I do not have the money to even buy my plane ticket home.¬† So my rage of I am not letting a thief take something I do not have the money to replace.¬† This rage helped tighten my grip. This let him know for sure, if he wanted this phone –¬†he was going to have to do more to take it.

This is when he took his stand and in his left hand he raised the buck knife.  My grip on th phone grew tighter because it also my grip on his right hand.  Knowing he could not use his right hand now and my right hand free I drew back and swung my fist.  I made direct contact with the center of his chest.  I heard a solid thud.  He fell back a let go of the phone. Then  he elevated his left hand with the knife.  I had a quick flash visualizing the knife enter my chest and I was NOT going to let that happen!  I no longer was defending my property, I was defending my life!

At this point I threw my backpack to the ground freeing my arms completely.¬† I drew my right arm¬†back with a white knuckled¬†fist ready to fly.¬† Pointing¬†with my left hand with the phone still in my grip, I the announced loudly,¬†“You better be willing to kill me!”¬† If I had been Superman, red lasers would have been shooting from my eyes.¬† The look on my face, the tone of my voice, I knew he understood me even if he did not¬†understand English.¬† Our eyes locked. I must have looked cross-eyed because I was staring at the knife and looking in his eyes at the same time.¬† Again¬†I visualized him charging me and sticking the knife in my chest.¬† Then I saw he make his next move – RETREAT!¬† He ran away.

This is the moment I realized my friend had been on the phone for the entire altercation.¬† The sad thing is his English is not good and had no idea what had happened.¬† I told him, “A guy just tried to rob me with a knife!” His response was simply, “Que?”¬† (que is Spanish for what?)¬† I said I would call him back later and pick up my backpack.¬† I walked to my friend’s caf√© on the next block and began reporting my story.¬† One guy there called me a hero, but I already knew I fell short of being a hero.¬†¬†Once again in my life – ¬†I found myself a survivor!¬† Okay…. A TOUGH SURVIVOR!! lol

Categories: Bogota, Colombia, Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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