Saturday 10 March 2018

A Sunday morning in Girona!

Wow, I cannot remember for a long time having so many things stacked up against me. I have lost my two social groups - admittedly, the Meetup group through my own choice... however, it was more or less inevitable from October, there was tension with one member, the same as below, and anyway apart from that I felt that the good times had passed - 3 years, over 200 meetups! But Girona Grapevine, which I have taken care of for about four years and also at a time previously, and which has been in existence in Girona for about 17 years, is no more. A member of the group, and also a member of the Meetup group where I was Organiser (and where she gained many friends) created a competing meetup with her own group at the same time in an alternative location. But I was for ever trying to persuade Girona Grapevine to find a better place. So why did they not say to me that they have found somewhere better? (I was online all the time I was away). And I would have been delighted. But when the members went, they effectively joined the other group. Es lo que hay.
My Meetup group.... I gave them 3 years but they would not give me one week to sort out a problem with our regular venue - I was on the point of coming back from Colombia. It is odd really, I fell out with both groups for a very similar reason. In both cases, I was the Organiser which involves a great deal of time in the background, but that seemed to have counted for very little. I feel hurt by this experience but it will soon pass. Adelante.
Change of subject! I have floaters in my left eye which blur my sight as they float across my view. Floaters happen as one gets older, solid jelly which floats around the aqueous solution inside the eyeball. Normally after a time, the brain gets used to it but, after 6 months, this still affects the focus of my eye which is very annoying. But if that is the greatest of my health problems, I am lucky.
I have fallen out with one European friend. So I am very sad. But I have re-made contact with a good friend here in Girona.
So I am rather depressed. But I go to Kiev, Ukraine in April. My head is foggy, I cannot paint and I am drinking too much in an attempt to dull the pain. Except that it does not do that. I have a pain inside which I don't understand, it has been with me for many years. Don't worry, when I say that I am drinking too much, I am talking about wine, not a bottle of whiskey in a day!
I am sure things will get better. They usually do!

Update, Sunday morning...... The sadness over my social groups is wearing off and I think I will go and see my friends at church in Barcelona today. It is 6.45am so I have time for some breakfast before catching a bus to Girona at 8am. Then I take the fast AVE train to Barcelona. Haha, I am still at home and it is 9.30am. I went back to bed and this morning I will praise God on my bike! Ahh, that option didn't work out either! As soon as I walked out of the front entrance of the flats, I nearly got knocked over by the wind. Now I am full of negative thoughts, the floaters in my left eye affect my desire to do any painting and the possible loss of my cathedral paintings also creates a negative feeling.

The following images are from a logo that Alexander, Nini's husband, drew for his cake making which he does from home. The first is a photo which they use on their Facebook page but I promised that I would design an artwork in Adobe Illustrator when I got back here. That is the second image as you can probably guess. Now I know the customer is always right but I was a bit taken aback when Nini wrote that they are the same. And they prefer the photo. It is not even complete, they have clipped the image. Or maybe it is a pride thing - Nini has lots of the not-so-good type of pride! I did offer to make any changes they want because each element of the graphic is on a separate layer which can be switched on or off... or modifed. The lines were hand-drawn on the screen and are made up of anchor points and handles so that they can be pushed around easily. Or Illustrator can import scanned artwork for when I draw it on paper, which I prefer. Doing it on-screen was quicker so it is just as well I used that method!
I am not upset, nothing like that. I had fun doing it, it only took me a couple of hours. But it is interesting to see the difference in their view compared to here. I am sure that if I had done it for a friend here they would say that the graphic is much better.... but maybe ask for changes. That is allowed! But I can see what Nini is thinking, maybe the graphic design is too strong, she wanted something "homely" and slightly amateurish. She said the colours were too strong but 2 minutes in Photoshop and they could have had pastel colours to match the title (pastel in Spanish is "cake").... But, all the same, that is another thing that is making me sad. I would have loved to have done something for them which didn't involve money.

On my Wacom Tablet, it is easy! I draw with a stylus directly on the screen.
Most of the time, I don't use a keyboard, the controller is behind the mouse pad on charge.

I now have my ears pieced with two rings as "keepers" which have to stay in for four months. At the moment, I look a little like Jack Sparrow. I have had my hair coloured back to what I had originally last year - it got bleached in the Colombian sun! And I now have red finger-nails!

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.


Thursday 1 March 2018

Going Home to Spain! - updated from Pereira Airport

I'm writing this at 11am on 1st March. I am all packed and ready to go. My bike is in its transport bag and my suitcase just about closes. I bought so many clothes here that I have stuffed one or two items in my back-pack and I will check that in with my suitcase and bike.
I have a short flight from Pereira to Bogotá at 5.15pm, then a leisurely wait in the exec lounge at Bogotá Airport for my flight in a B787 Dreamliner to Barcelona, both with Avianca business class. The flight time is about 11 hours depending on how strong is the jet stream, it can make quite a difference. From West to East, it is a tail-wind!

I made up with Nini and I have gained a new friend in Mayerlin who I will miss. The trek on Sunday is embedded in my memory - a wonderful experience but very tough at the time! I have so many other happy memories, most of which I have written about here. 
My Meetup group here was a total failure! I gained over 40 members but did I see any of them? Nooo (with one or two exceptions who I met separately). No one came to the meetups. No matter, it was an experiment, so I stepped down as Organiser. And I have just quit as Organiser of my Meetup group in Girona which is a big step for me, but maybe not such a big deal for the members.
Last autumn, I saw the writing on the wall, it wasn't fun for me any more. But I stayed on. A week ago, the group had to leave Lapsus, our regular bar because the tables had been reserved for football from 8pm. If I had been there, I would simply have moved to another bar and returned to the regular location the following week. It is not a big deal. Football tends to rule in bars these days, the same happens in my local bar in Celrà. But the group then decided that they liked the bar they moved to and nominated it as the regular venue..... without even a whisper to me. The first I heard was when one of the members asked me to modify the website because they had decided that the regular venue would now be the new bar. I refused to do it, I said that I decide the location after consulting with all the members. I asked the member who wrote to me to give me a week to sort it out because I was coming back very soon. But, no, they met again in the new bar on Tuesday but some people naturally went to the venue which is announced on the website (I don't think they were thrown out). Chaos. Could they not just have given me one week to sort it out? I am a long way from Girona but almost always online and I have a very good relationship with Lapsus.

I decided with sadness that I was effectively redundant, so I wrote a polite message to all members last night and clicked on "Stand down as Organiser".  At first, I was a little upset that I hadn't been consulted (I would have said, "Stay with Lapsus for 1 week till I get back") but now I am glad to be out of it. I am not even sure I want to go along as a regular member because I will probably get involved with arguments. Meetup simply doesn't operate like this, members owe a debt of loyalty to their Organiser. It is only an opinion, I don't wish to criticise the members who returned to the other bar, I am sure they felt that it was a great idea and that I would like it too. Anyway I can't even find the location which was sent to me! 
Change of subject back to Colombia! I promised Mayerlin that I would come back in October so I will look forward to that, I will miss her. But we can stay in touch with Skype meantime - not quite the same thing, I know. I wanted to buy or rent a house here long-term but I decided that I would wait until the autumn and to see how I felt then. I have a long-term commitment with Nomel and his family in Manila but, unlike Colombia, I don't think I could ever make the Philippines my home. But with much pleasure, I pay the rent for their home and their internet - a family of mum and 5 children, of which the oldest is Nomel. He is a "she", a ladyboy. Or what would be described in the UK as transgender. I chatted with him on Skype this morning for a long time, we love chatting about trans things because I am also having fun being trans these days!

Alex had  asked if he could take some of the items that I had bought while I was here but he was on his motor bike in the centre of Pereira and I realised that what I had for them was too much for his bike. So I took a whole load of things to their house around mid-day. It was a very happy scene and they really appreciated a selection of food, two small swing-bins, a baking dish, my blanket, more I think! Nini made me a sandwich with some ham which I had brought and I stayed till about 1.30 when I thought it was time for me to go back to my apartment. But all my bags were packed. We made very warm farewells and, really chevere, I took the Mega-bus as opposed to a taxi back home, first to the centre of Cuba and then back out to Idalia where I have been living.
At 2.30, I settled a small bill for food-used and the transport to the airport with Adrian the owner of my apartment and we packed all my luggage into his car with the bike in its bag on the roof rack. I arrived at the airport at around 3pm, checked in my bags and the bike and here I am in a small lounge next to the departure gate. Unfortunately I didn't get away with free transport for my bike this time and I had to pay the €100 fee. That was expected, it is the normal fee regardless of the class of travel. I think that was a very good deal, €50 each way effectively! They have to take the bike separately from the normal baggage, it goes in a separate hold and next time I see it, it will be in the special baggage delivery at Barcelona Airport.