Saturday, 3 March 2018

Back home! (updated with a photo)

A B787 Dreamliner ready for its long journey to Barcelona
with a passenger waiting in the departure lounge!
This is the beautiful plane that brought me back across the Atlantic to Spain. The wings of the Boeing 787 are very elegant, swept back with a slight upturn at the end. The flight was very fast on account of an exceptional tail wind, the jet-stream, of 300km/h. That makes quite a difference as you can imagine. The regular airspeed of the aircraft is about 900 km/h so we were actually travelling at close to 1200 km/h ground speed. The outbound flight east to west in December was about 11 hours but this return flight was only 8h45! Barely time to get some sleep! This aircraft will have had a tough time when it returned to Colombia a few hours later.
Now that I am back home, I can reflect on my amazing two months in Colombia! As always, I had a volcanic relationship with Nini but somehow I continue having great affection for her, I am not so fickle as to end a relationship because the other person gets angry or upset sometimes. She has her reasons.. and maybe even she doesn't even understand what they are. And I have a new friend in Mayerlin.
There were one or two disasters but I am back here, in good health. That is the main thing. I spent a lot of money but I had lots of fun. My main disaster was the loss of my Spanish phone in a taxi which I wrote about earlier. It was 1st January, after a party, suffering from jet-lag, being dragged around two supermarkets. It is amazing I was still standing. I had an argument with the driver because he couldn't understand Google Maps on my phone. And as he drove away... agggh. No phone. Later I realised I could have dropped it in the street. That was definitely a low point.
I had to spend €430 to bring my little family back from Buenaventura by air because they couldn't face the bus journey but I wasn't looking forward to it very much either.
I think I lost €145 in an ATM (Cajero). I packed my Barclays Bank electronic pass (Pin Sentry) rather badly and when I arrived in Colombia, the display was damaged and I couldn't log into the account, which is what I was using most of the time. On one occasion, I went to withdraw money from a cajero of Bancolombia in the Éxito supermarket. Everything went fine until the moment when the money exits, except that it didn't. And there was no printed receipt. The terminal software crashed and I got an error message on the screen. I was very concerned and rang the phone number on the terminal, no reply, then I was cut off. I rang another number, no reply. I took photos. I had no way to check if the money had been taken from the account due to the loss of my Pin-sentry but now I can see that it has. People worried about my being robbed at gun-point but it was more prosaic than that - I was robbed by an ATM. I can't reclaim the money because I can't find the photos.
 So the bill for unexpected costs is about €800. But, if one goes to a far-flung foreign country, it is reasonable to expect that the risks are greater than visiting a great-aunt in Gloucester who will make you tea and ask if you want to use the toilet when you arrive. It is ironic really, I took out insurance but they are no fools. The least risk but the greatest cost is an accident or illness. What happens more frequently and which is not covered is leaving a phone in a taxi!
These were the (soon forgotten) low points. I argued with Nini at times. At this moment her fridge is empty on account of lack of money and she got annoyed with me because the spaghetti took too long to cook when I made them supper. I continue to love her for some strange reason! Or maybe because of that!

The high points? Well, as it happens, they were the times when I was solo but not for that reason. I enjoy company but the high point for me was going to Bogotá twice and visiting the Museo del Banco de la Republica de Colombia. And also Sta Marta. The beach was great but I learnt a lot about the indigenous people who live in the Sierra Nevada.
Regrets? Now, this I hesitate to write because it is rather personal but I really wanted to help the daughter of Nini's sister. Both sisters live in the same house together with their three children. They and their friends never read this blog and you don't know them. So I feel that I can safely write about them. The young girl is about four years old and suffers from HPV (HPV = human papillomavirus). And as far as I know it is not curable.... by conventional medicine. The young girl not only shares my name but also my nickname when I was very young. She is Stephanie but she is often called Titi. I believe with God's help I can make her better. But I provide only the conduit. So, when I describe God, what am I saying?
I believe in God "all around", not "up there". I spoke to Nini's sister a lot on the day I left and she accepted gladly much of what I was saying despite my talking too much! And I so much wanted to put my hand on Titi's shoulder for healing but either she didn't understand or she was afraid. My fingers were tingling and my hands felt a strange kind of power, focused. This is what Jesus taught to his disciples; to heal. We all have this ability to a lesser or greater extent but it comes from God. I cannot accept the human, personal image of God, sending his only son to earth. It is too literal. I believe that Jesus taught that we are all divine, God in us. Much of the creed of the Christian church comes from St Paul's interpretation of the teaching of Jesus anyway because there is no direct written record of what Jesus said. Not even in the well-documented history of Rome. I was brought up in a Christian family and I accepted the conventional teaching for many years, but with many doubts. I well remember coming back from an evangelical summer camp in my teens and telling my father about my conversion. "I am a Christian," I announced on the way back from the station. He replied that he always assumed I was! As though it was something inherited.
People often ask the question, "How can God allow suffering, illness in the world.. ". The answer in my view is that God does not control what happens here on earth as though it is some giant video game. Nini believes that God has plans for her in the future. My view is that her future is in her hands (taking into account that she has no money, neither has her husband!)
I often ask myself the question, am I seeking to cure Titi for my own glory or simply because I am so sad and I want to help her? (She has to go back regularly for surgery on her throat and she has no voice on account of her vocal chords being damaged). Maybe you think I am crazy to imagine that it is possible... but I believe it is possible. Jesus taught that it is possible.

I do not imagine God as some kind of telephone exchange where people make supplications to him to make someone better ("...if it is your will"). And then God gives a thumbs-up or thumbs-down like an emperor at the Games. I believe prayer is peer-to-peer. Person to person. You send your healing thoughts, your prayers, directly to that person. Now, I regret that I cannot put my hand on Stephanie but for sure I imagine doing it from 8000km away (with prayer, it is no distance) in the hope that it will help make her better. That is praying for her. But I do it directly to her. In the secular world it is called, "Absent Healing" and of course, in the religious world, it is called "Prayer". I believe they are one and the same thing. 
I have a mantra which is partly borrowed from a book I read a little while ago.
Before you die, make sure you do something amazing. That is my intention. But it is as though I am hearing someone shouting at me from the other side of a brick wall, I can't hear the words clearly. What are you saying to me? Go and play golf, sit on a sofa, relax, watch TV. No, I don't think so.


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