Saturday, 16 December 2017

Christmas cheer in Langkawi, Malaysia

Hi to everyone at this festive time of the year,
We sincerely hope that this finds everyone in the pink. We've had our health issues over the past few weeks but all seems back on track. We are looking forward to our pending passage to southern Thailand and then the shipment of our old girl to the Mediterranean in 12 weeks or so. It is tinged with sadness as we will never in this life be back in this part of the world, and so all the friends and acquaintances that we have made over the past four years or so will be over, unless we meet again in Colombia perhaps, where you will be most welcome. Otherwise, we will just have to hope that we meet again in some future life.  
So, at this point we must wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and everything that you would wish for the New Year of 2018.
We are spending Christmas here at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club with fellow yachties. No doubt will be great with lots of tall stories.
We are leaving Langkawi for the last time around Jan. 12th. weather permitting and will then be going first to Krabi to clear into Thailand, and from where we will travel to Hat Yai to see Jia and Julie, and Des Kearns at Krabi Boat Lagoon who sailed on the original "Tiare Taporo" in 1964 from Auckland to Rarotonga. Then the plan is to proceed across to Yacht Haven at the northern end of Phuket to await shipment. We have lately changed our minds as to the final destination. Originally we favoured Genoa, Italy but due to difficulties with berthing and associated costs, we will just go direct to a marina in Fethiye, Turkey (or maybe Marmaris which is not far north) and spend 2-3 months during which will haul out and ensure that the old girl is her spick and span self. Then the plan is to sail to Licata on Sicily during the northern summer of 2018 where we will leave the old girl while we return to Colombia around September. That's the plan, but as with all plans of mice and men.................
So, we will leave you with those thoughts and hope that you all enjoy the festive season with those that you care about.
With lotsaluv from us at Langkawi,
Jim and Jean
s.v. Tiare Taporo III
 

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Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Jean's health

This blog is dedicated to the above subject. Refer to our earlier blog dated a couple of weeks week ago.
For those who know her well, maybe this should come as no surprise, but her reputation for invincibility should not be taken with complacency. NO-ONE IS INVINCIBLE.
It has been a source of considerable concern to us of late, but in typical style she has kept the earlier results of her lung X-rays and CT - scan on the back burner. These showed a large mass on her left lung which could have been anything, but a subsequent CT - Scan decreased the chances of anything like a tumour - without completely debunking the possibility.
Anyway, all of the above took place in Penang at the Island Hospital 4 weeks ago. Since then she has been aggressively pursuing various treatment options on Langkawi Is.,including physiotherapy which involved aggressive "cupping" of the chest and back to dislodge anything there. Then there was Dr. Din, the acupuncturist. We have known him for at least 3 years now and always have had a very high regard for him. He has given her several treatments with encouraging results. He recommended onion juice which Jean, with her accustomed aplomb, took to with relish. Never mind that Jim hates onions - can't stand them in any form in fact - despite the fact that  he was involved in exporting the damn things from NZ to Japan and Europe in the 1970's. That is another long and painful story.
And last, but by no means least, is that she was lent a nebuliser by friends (an Aussie/Swedish couple - Drew and Kat) on "Malmuirie". She has been using this with Colloidal Silver as a mist infusion and it certainly has helped greatly. We'll be getting our own soon because the results are impressive.
4 days ago she had another X-ray here on Langkawi. The doctor on Penang had suggested that Jean fly there for another X-ray and even a period of hospitalisation for observation. However, Jean was having none of that. Happily the current X-ray shows that the mass has completely disappeared which appeared to have vindicated her natural treatments, albeit including a 7 day treatment of antibiotics. So, we, and she in particular, are of course ecstatic at the latest result.   
That she has achieved it, is in no small measure due to her single-minded determination and pursuit of all available options. The X-ray may be clear, but the symptoms are still persisting, albeit at a much lower level. So, now it's hopefully just a matter of continuing the various treatments and she'll be 100%.
Cheers and lotsaluv from us..............
Jim and Jean
   

Monday, 20 November 2017

Recent blog

Hi again,
We should have included a reference to www.khakispecs.com which is a blog written by an Englishman (Hugh Steadman) living in NZ, on political subjects. It seems well researched and educated. In particular I was interested in the reference to the NZ taxpayers' money that has been given to the Clinton Foundation via the Clinton Foundation's Health Access Initiative. This is a thinly veiled slush fund and the deal was no doubt cooked up between Key and Obama on the Honolulu golf course. In fact Key's effect on NZ has been described by an Arabic saying - "abu samm barid" - which means cold poison. This is something you imbibe over a period without noticing any ill-effects - until you wake up one day to find that you are dead!
Steadman is a Sandhurst graduate who saw the light and emigrated to NZ where he lives in Marlborough. Key orchestrated a donation to the CF of 7.7 million NZD with a further 5.5 million to be paid during this and next year. The Clinton Foundation has been so widely discredited that this is an absolute scandal. It's all ben done through the MFAT.
This has been John Key all over and when Trump came to power his dreams of world domination together with Obama and David Cameron turned to ashes and he resigned. Pure and simple. Read the blogsite - it's informative and inspirational.
Cheers again,
Jim and Jean


Sunday, 19 November 2017

Langkawi musings ahead of leaving Malaysia and SE Asia for good

Hi,
We hope this finds everyone in the pink.
The above subject line fills us with a deal of sadness, but now having had 3 and a half years so far of living between Langkawi/Penang and southern Thailand, we feel it's time to call time and move on. We cannot sell a yacht built with love and integrity such as "Tiare Taporo III" in SE Asia - all buyers seem to be interested in here is the latest plastic fantastic - and at giveaway prices. Well, that's symbolic of the world these days and all we can say is  - GOOD LUCK!!! The world is going to hell in a hand basket and we are most definitely NOT interested in being part of that.
So, as we have indicated in the past, we have taken the opportunity to arrange to ship her to the Mediterranean in 4 months time where hopefully there is a more mature appreciation of the finer things in life. She is a 12 ton Gauntlet (Gauntlets were designed in Lymington, southern England) in 1934) and a number of them would have been part of the "Little Ships" rescue of the British Army at Dunkirk in 1940. "Tiare Taporo III" was built in Wellington, NZ between 1947 and 1978 - 31 years of creating. She was originally launched as "Reflections of Wellington" at Evans Bay, Wellington and then later during an extensive refit during 2008/09 in Whangarei, NZ, the decision was made by the present owner to change the name to "Tiare Taporo III" after the owner's great grandfather's island trading schooner built in Auckland, NZ in 1913. Hopefully there is much more interest in classic timber built vessels in Europe and that any increased interest translates to a sale. 
So, that's another potted history which will probably interest no-one, but anyone who wants to be part of NZ's maritime history can always be part of our recent history and adventures by accessing www.tiaretaporo3.blogspot.com
If she doesn't sell for a time, then we can always live and sail on board in the Med. and over winter in cheaper marinas than RLYC at Langkawi - and certainly cheaper than Thailand. During the northern winters we'd be in Colombia and it's far closer to the Med. than Asia.
Since we returned from Colombia on October 18th. where we intend to create our ultimate retirement home, we have received advice that all the legal initiatives that we began during our recent stay there have now been confirmed and are now a "done deal". That is hugely re-assuring for us and now makes our concentration on getting TT3 to the Mediterranean so much less mentally complicated.
Life on Langkawi remains pretty much as before - alternating between benign acceptance of the bureaucratic status quo and a quiet fury at the hypocrisy that drives the sad racist society of Malaysia. Just one example  - previously one could only buy 5 bottles of liquor per month per passport. But Jim went into a shop and bought 3 bottles and there was no mention of a passport. Then went back the same day and bought one more - same thing. They've projected over 30 million tourists over the coming year when current tourist numbers are declining around 20 million. No explanation for this "increase" - just more of the same government propaganda. Add to that the sheer theft by senior government figures of the funds "invested" in the state run sovereign investment fund - 1MDB - to the tune of at least 3.5 BILLION US DOLLARS and perhaps you get the picture. This theft was being locally investigated, but that has all been shut down, mainly by sacking the previous Attorney General and replacing him with a compliant yes-man. Meanwhile, the local population generally is left lamenting. But you cannot say anything publicly because then you would go to jail for a long time on sedition charges.
The central Bank Negara is now talking the value of the Ringgit up by hinting at interest rate increases in the near future. As a result the Kiwi dollar has gone from MYR 3.10 to MYR 2.83 at last count - a reduction of 8.7%. Although the recent rise in the price of oil and an overall decline in the Kiwi has something to do with that, the main reason would seem to be political so that they can claim how well the local economy is doing ahead of the elections next year. Whether interest rates actually do rise in the near future is highly debatable, but the general populace will be placated. Then it will be business as usual again after the election. Maybe we're very cynical!!  
We have also become aware of at least one yacht owner's difficulties with Malaysian Immigration and this echoes the comment made to Jim when asking whether he had been given the expected 90 days on arrival after coming back from Colombia. The immigration official at Kuala Lumpur International asked why 90 days was needed. The fact that we have a yacht in Malaysia and that as long as it remains here we spend money in Malaysia doesn't seem to register. DUH!!! But all of this underlies a deeper concern at the direction Malaysia seems to be taking against foreigners and just reinforces our decision to leave permanently.
As part of our preparations for sailing to Thailand and shipping to Europe, we decided to go to Penang to have medical checkups at the Island Hospital. We have to say that the medical system here is definitely one good thing about Malaysia - albeit considerably more expensive than India - but cheaper than Thailand!! We both saw a gastro-enterologist and all seemed fine but when Jean consulted Dr. Leow Chai Hooi - a respiratory medical specialist - for her persistent deep seated cough, we had quite a scare, which is not yet fully put to bed. An X-ray revealed that her left lung was approximately 30% obscured by a whitish mass. This could be an accumulation of mucous or something else we would rather not think about. It certainly explained her recent feelings of tiredness as she was simply not getting enough oxygen. Anyway, Dr. Leow suggested a CT Scan which might explain some more. It allayed our fears somewhat by showing that there was no external tumour, but there is still the possibility of a small internal one. The only way to check this was by way of a Bronchoscopy where a camera is inserted in the nose and then down into the lung, but even this is unable to absolutely say for sure that there is no tumour as it cannot penetrate the finer airways of the lung - which are like a spider's web, so because of this further inconclusiveness, Jean decided against this procedure. So the tentative conclusion at this stage is that  there is no tumour and that it is necessary to have treatment to dislodge the mucous which appears to have been there for a long time. The specialist recommended physiotherapy and we have luckily found a good physio here on Langkawi. So far she has had two treatments which she is very happy with. She has also been having acupuncture treatment with Dr. Din who we know very well and he simply said that a teaspoon of onion juice 3 times daily plus apple cider vinegar would dissolve and remove the mucous. Jean, being Jean is taking all three treatments in order to aggressively treat the situation and hopefully get back to 100% health. Fingers crossed.
Just as a final comment on the Malaysian health system - the visits to the gastro-enterologist and the respiratory specialist including the X-rays and CT Scan all happened within 2 days of our arrival in Penang. Imagine getting that as quickly in the NZ health system!! You just go to any of the big hospitals and say which specialist you want to see - and it all happens. We had an appointment of sorts but it wasn't really necessary. 
For us one bright recent happening in the world has been the election of a new NZ Government. The old government had been in power for 9 years and had simply run out of ideas. Albeit that they had been competent managers of the economy, although it has to be said that their so-called financial surpluses were achieved by seriously running down various branches of public services. NZ has a MMP electoral system - this stands for Mixed Member Proportional and is very similar to that of Germany. Unlike the system NZ used to have (similar to the US in fact where it is possible for a government can be elected with a minority of total votes), MMP is much fairer and representative of voters' wishes. So, although the old governing party actually received the most votes of any single party, it was possible under MMP for a coalition of 3 different parties to form a government. So, we have Labour, NZ First and the Green Party in power with a 2 seat majority in Parliament. Winston Peters, the NZ First leader is Foreign Minister and deputy Prime Minister with a bright 37 year old female Prime Minister - Jacinda Adern -  who has made an impressive debut on the world stage during recent meetings in Asia to resurrect the Trans Pacific Partnership without the USA. The main sticking point in the past with TPP has been the proposed ability of corporations to sue individual governments and to effectively prevent those governments from acting in a sovereign capacity. Apparently these clauses have been dealt with to an acceptable level (which wouldn't have happened with the previous government), but the detail remains to be seen. Together, Adern and Peters will make a great team with Peters' 40 years experience and Adern's youth, energy and political acumen.
Following on from the above digression (!) -
We are slowly getting the yacht into shape for the trip north to Thailand in January. New windlass deck switch and now some minor repairs to the dinghy transom. We also want to check the engine alignment. There is a local mechanic who can come on board and do this while afloat and in fact this is the only time that alignment should be checked. He has just in fact been on board and all is well. We had a bag over the propeller while we were away in Colombia in order to prevent growth and had that removed the other day as well as giving the bottom a clean. Started the 54 year old engine after about 4 months of lying idle and it started perfectly - as it always does. So, we're going to be busy over the next 6 months or so. Then there will be:
the sail north to Thailand in January - about 120 miles. We plan to clear in to Krabi and then later go across to Phuket via Phang Nga Bay which is a very scenic trip with all the karst limestone islands and their seemingly impossible silhouettes. It's very shallow going across though so one has to watch the tides and depths.
Then stripping EVERYTHING off the deck including all the sails and biminis to prepare for the shipment. We are just hoping that the passage isn't too arduous for the old girl because at times in the Red Sea you can get sand laden headwinds of up to 50 knots which combined with the ship's speed, could mean 70 knots across the deck. So, we're hoping that she won't be in too much of a mess on arrival at Genoa. At least the total passage time is only 3 weeks from Phuket to Genoa.
Then, providing all the foregoing has gone well, we think at this stage that we'd fly to Frankfurt for Jean to be reunited with Josie, who was Jean's Filipina Amah in Hong Hong in the late eighties. Jean was later instrumental in getting her out of HK to Canada and a new life. Long story. Anyway, Josie married a German, Reinhart, who was a school principal in Germany and has lived happily ever since. They have one son, Reinhart Jnr. Jean and Josie were great friends in HK in those days and it will be a great reunion after over 30 years since they last saw each other. And Jim wants to go to the Daimler Benz Museum at Sindelfingen! There he can ooh and ah over 540K's and 770K's and all sorts in between.
After that we would meet the ship in Genoa and then the long process of cleaning and re-rigging ready for a passage south to Sicily or Tunisia where we would plan to over winter while we go back to Colombia. There are direct flights from Madrid to Medellin.
So, like all plans of mice and men, these are subject to change but that's Plan A at the moment.
Finally another digression and a word about President Trump. As we've said before, regardless of whether you like him or agree with some or none of the things he is trying to do, we are convinced that he is trying to act in America's interests. He receives no salary and all he seems to get are constant brickbats from people who should know better and who should be pursuing bipartisan approaches to all the problems besetting their country. We do wish that he wouldn't Tweet so much though! However, he has inherited massive problems from previous administrations which began with Nixon when he took the US dollar off the gold standard. Then under Obama's 2 terms the national debt doubled from 10 trillion to 20 trillion dollars and we've seen the spectre of "quantitative easing" - a very clever euphemism if ever there was one! And of course the previous policy of trying to appease North Korea has led directly to the present impasse with Kim Jong-Un. Not to mention Iran and the sale of uranium to Russia. This latter is possibly linked to illegal baksheesh to the Clinton Foundation. Then there are all the sexual inuendos which kept surfacing during the campaign with no proof whatsoever. What about Bill Clinton? He used the US Secret Service as a pimp organization and that was before the Lewinsky affair.  
Trump even has his own party, the GOP, turning against him for what they perceive as short term political gain. We may well as non Americans be criticised for having opinions on American politics, but we believe that, such is the world-wide significance of US trade and foreign policy, everyone in the world is entitled to an opinion. Anyway, we reckon that if there is much more of the present shenanigans, he should turn his back on the GOP and form the America First Party (a la NZ First). He could invite those Republican (GOP) and Democratic lawmakers who were prepared to swear loyalty to join and then make up the numbers from outside the present political structure. We think they would sweep the board and the GOP would be consigned to history where they belong. And so finally would the Washington Swamp!!! That would be soooo refreshing.
Well, that's enough of a rant and diatribe from us! We hope everyone is well.
With love and all best wishes from us for Christmas and the New Year.......................
Jim and Jean
s.v. Tiare Taporo III
RLYC
Langkawi
Malaysia


   



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Sunday, 22 October 2017

Medellin leaving, Bogota and onwards

Hi again to all,
We finally left Medellin on the 12th. and felt much regret in doing so. We said a sad farewell to our apartment, which is in the capable hands of Noelia (our new property manager) and were then very kindly driven to the airport by our neighbor, Janet. We had met her and her husband, Hugo, some time before and they are lovely people. One Sunday they asked us if we would like to go up to a country area/town called San Pedro and we had a delicious Colombian lunch with them up there. Another time we all went together to a restaurant complex in downtown Medellin and had another great time at an Italian restaurant. Hugo had lived in the US for 30 years and periodically goes back to work there to make sure he keeps his pension entitlement for when he finally retires. They are both Colombians, but in spite of applying many times Hugo's wife, Janet cannot get a visa so he has to leave for 3 months without her. It seems ludicrous and is part of the US's paranoia about allowing people in - even temporarily. Hugo left for New York just before we left Medellin and we asked him if he could post Spiderman (who had been lost under the couch) to the Peapods in Miami. This was necessary to ensure that their Lego set which we had bought for them in Medellin previously, was complete once more!! Spiderman duly arrived - thanks very much Hugo.
Another neighbor is Juan who is a young architect and who has lived in London and Switzerland. He  has been a great help to us also and we had a farewell lunch with him at the Otraparte Café which is part of a small museum about 15 minutes walk from our apartment.
We've been spending a lot of time with our lawyer tidying up the final loose ends with Wills, and the Civil Trust that we have created. This has meant much time at various Notaries to get everything correctly notarised - otherwise under Colombian Law nothing is legal. For instance you cannot just go to a lawyer and get a Will drafted, signed and witnessed. It has to go to a Notary where there is a translator (which you pay for separately) and no less than 3 witnesses who are brought off the street and also paid for! A very convoluted business but of course made more complicated by the fact that our Spanish is still miniscule and certainly not up to the task of translating legal documents. And no Will made outside of Colombia is acceptable under Colombian law, so if you die without a Will made and notarized in Colombia(!), you are considered to have died intestate. In that case any property in Colombia would be forfeit to whatever local body administered where the property was - in our case the Municipality of Envigado. We had not been told this when we originally purchased the apartment.
But everywhere we have been with our lawyer and without, we have found people only too willing to go out of their way to help. It's been instructive and a great experience - even if a little frustrating at times. For instance, before we could form the Civil trust we had to make sure all the property tax was paid on the apartment to the end of the year. This amounts to the equivalent of NZD62 per month. So we had to go to the Palacio Municipal of Envigado to do this and then, because a simple receipt is not sufficient, we had to obtain what is called a "Paz y Salvo" which also has to be notarized and is the only form of legal receipt which is acceptable. When we were at the Palacio Municipal at Envigado, we  had written out instructions in Spanish as to what we needed, but there was still some confusion until one guy seated behind a glass screen decided to help in a most practical way. He left his post and said to us "come with me" and lead us off down the road to another office where he spent easily 20 minutes haranguing someone to do the necessary. Then he took us back to his office and we completed what we had to do. Soooo helpful and by no means the only example of people really going out of their way to help us.
The matter with First American Realty (FAR) seems to have gone off the boil but appearances could be deceptive. The two principals of the firm are overseas and the staff have been instructed not to talk to us! This of course has unintended consequences for them because we have received an invoice from the internet/phone provider which was in FAR's name and which related to the earlier contract which we advised them we were no longer going to accept any responsibility for. So, we returned it to FAR and it appears that it may have been for a minimum of 12 months, so they can keep paying for nothing! They entered into it with no approval or agreement from us in any case and they employed 2 contractors to finally fix some of the defects with the apartment and then had the contractors bill us direct! We told them we were not paying but now one of the contractors has been contacting us in Bogota demanding payment! We have told them that payment is FAR's responsibility and to contact them direct. It is an extremely messy and convoluted business but no doubt in time it will all play out. At least with the Civil Trust no-one can touch the apartment and our lawyer will be alert to any attempts to sue us. We have communicated with the contractor concerned by text from Malaysia and advised him to contact FAR - all in Spanish!!
But in spite of all the above we have been continuing to enjoy life in Medellin - from our almost daily routine of 2 delicious Colombian coffees and a Parsianita (for Jim) and an Empanada Argentina (for Jean) at our favourite café, La Lolita at the La Frontera Mall just 10 minutes walk from our apartment. Lovely girls in the café and we have got to know them very well - even to the point of exchanging very basic Spanish. Usually COP16,000 which is the equivalent of NZD7.60. Another unintended consequence of that is that Jim has put on 5 kgs. which will have to be dealt with. That's one thing about Colombian food - it's delicious but they always give you big helpings and there is a lot of deep frying generally, red meat and much pastry which comes with the empanadas! We will need to be more disciplined when we live there. 
We purchased 2 Rattan tub chairs for the apartment as there was a shortage of seating since we returned the horribly ugly lounge chair that FAR had earlier purchased on our behalf. Arranged on a Friday and they were made and delivered the following Tuesday - COP1,500,000 - NZD714 or NZD357 each. They really enhance the apartment and can be used in conjunction with the outdoor or indoor furniture. Very versatile! A pity we could not stay to enjoy them but airline tickets were beckoning.
Another thing we had to do arose from a difficulty in making our original bookings with Turkish Airlines. The website was difficult to deal with at the time and in an effort to get the best fares we inadvertently booked dates which resulted in us staying for 92 days when our visa only allowed 90 days. So, all for 2 days and after our lawyer Astrid had tried to get the visas extended on the phone, we finally had to go to Migracion Colombia ourselves to do the necessary. It isn't a problem in itself to get a 90 day visa extended to 180 days so we trotted off to MC. We were told that we needed an appointment but we hadn't been able to get one and time was running out. As is usual, by turning up in person one can normally achieve the desired result. So it was in this case. We had copious finger prints taken and there were forms to fill out and of course the payment of money which in the end is what these processes are all about. We then had our 3 month extension but there is a footnote. When we were leaving the country at Bogota, Turkish Airlines told us that, as our stay had exceeded 60 days (completely legally), we had to pay an additional COP 83,000 (NZD 41) each in order to leave the country. This came as a complete surprise and, as we had depleted our cash reserves of Pesos, we then had to go to an ATM and get some more! This situation would have applied whether we had stayed for any time over 60 days. It was starting to remind us of Thailand!! Once we are in a position to live permanently in Colombia, we will initiate the process of applying for permanent residency so will not then need to worry about these petty bureaucratic rules. 
The flight to Bogota (the capital) was uneventful on Vivacolombia, except that, being a law unto themselves, they decided for some inexplicable reason to leave 30 minutes ahead of the scheduled time! Bad luck if you were cutting it fine. At least it wasn't as bad as when we arrived when the flight was delayed 10 hours. From the air the extent of Colombia's cut flower business (2nd largest in the world) was apparent with many acres of plastic houses. Even around Bogota as well which is another 3,500' higher than Medellin. Bogota is situated on a high plain and so does not have the rugged hills around it that Medellin has. It also has a much greater population of somewhere around 12 million.  It is a very cultural city which was founded by the Spanish conquistadores in the 1530's. So, it's in the order of 480 years old. Medellin itself is also of a similar age but wasn't developed nearly as quickly - probably due to the more difficult terrain. We stayed in the Bio Hotel in the Usaquen district of Bogota - in the east of the city. Many restaurants within 10 minutes walk including one just along the road whose owner is an artist and his work which is impressive adorns the walls. Average prices around COP 1,000,000 (NZD490).  Lunch was COP 13,000 each (NZD6.30) and included delicious Colombian soup and a main of either fish, trout or chicken with plantain bananas, rice and a salad bar where you could help yourself. And coffee and a cake at the end. How good is that? We also found an excellent French restaurant - La Boucherie - where we had dinner one night. Excellent food and still not expensive for what it was. It would have rivalled the French Café in Auckland but at a fraction of the cost.
The hotel was quite new and emphasized its commitment to the environment. But its claims rang a little hollow for us as they didn't turn on any heating so it seems that they sacrificed personal comfort for some dubious environmentalism. Bogota, due to its higher altitude is much colder than Medellin and we were very glad of our jackets. Jim even reverted to long trousers (of which he had one pair) as shorts were definitely chilly.
We met an American couple from Las Vegas who also staying there and arranged to go with them on a tour to a famous underground cathedral at Zipaquira to the north of the city. Unfortunately Jean wasn't feeling well and so stayed behind and rested. However, Jim went with them.This is an underground cathedral hewn out of solid salt underneath a salt mountain. The local indigenous people had been known as the salt people before the Spanish arrived and the salt mines had been worked for hundreds of years. The miners evidently decided as a result of their Catholic faith devotion, to create the cathedral from mining galleries already hewn, The cathedral is 180 metres below ground and is reached by a gently sloping tunnel which passes crosses in alcoves all hewn in solid salt. The salt is very hard like granite but apparently dissolves when water is applied. This is in fact the modern method of mining the salt on other sites and then of course there is a method of precipitating the salt out of the water again. We reached the choir stalls above the main floor of the cathedral, but from there down there were myriads of steps which Jim's knees weren't up to so he stayed up above while the rest of the party descended. Apparently there is a shallow pool down there which reflects the gigantic cross above the altar which is quite spectacular. However, after waiting about half an hour yours truly ascended to the surface where he waited for the others sitting in the car. Then back to Bogota. Certainly the "salt" cathedral was interesting and unique but not quite up to the image that is being crafted for it - that of no. 1 wonder of Colombia.
We flew out of Bogota on October 15th. for Istanbul via Panama City. We were lucky to be given bulkhead seats as our previous very carefully arranged booking seemed to have gone by the way. We had a 4 seat configuration which meant 2 vacant seats between us so we were able to stretch out and sleep. Still a long time - 16 hours including 1 hour on the ground in Panama - until Istanbul. However, Turkish Airlines (who have won Best European Airline for the last 4 consecutive years) were great and we arrived in Istanbul mid morning on the 16th. Straight to the Steigenberger Hotel where unfortunately we were too late for their wonderful breakfast, but a very pleasant lunch and then a shower and to bed before getting up in time for dinner and then our flight at 0150 on the 17th. This was a Boeing 777 and not such good seats but we had 3 seats between us and reasonable legroom so was quite comfortable. Only 10 hours this leg and we flew over northern Iraq, Iran and then Pakistan and India. Very picturesque looking down on the desert areas of Iran when the rising sun lit up the ground features like a relief map. So arid though and it wasn't until we were nearing the Bay of Bengal that the country of India appeared greener. For so many people water is such an issue. We landed at Kuala Lumpur at 5pm. and were soon through Immigration and Customs. Must make mention of the Malaysian Immigration official who processed Jim. A fat lazy Malaysian who yawned through the whole process and when asked to confirm that he had granted 90 days just yawned again. A quick perusal of the passport showed that indeed he had given the correct number of days, but what a welcome to Malaysia. We are used to this lackadaisical attitude in NZ as it is reminiscent of the fact that this is where the Polynesian people originated but is in fact extremely offensive and not serving their country at all well.
We stayed that night at the Sri Langat Hotel not far from the airport and that was very average but only cost us approximately NZD60. The food was very, very ordinary - welcome back to Malaysia!!!
The next day (18th.) we flew on Air Asia back to Langkawi. Uneventful again except that the aircraft got a flat tire at KL and so there was a 1 hour delay while they changed the wheel in full view of the departure lounge. Why don't they carry out normal maintenance instead of waiting for something to go wrong? Typical Malaysian attitude to "maintenance" - almost a foreign word around these parts.
Then back on the boat at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, Kuah. All was well and in fact she was in pristine condition considering the fact that they had had almost 3 months of continuous rain before we left. Paul and Sheila had done a great job of looking after the old girl in our absence. Now cleaning the topsides, putting away everything and generally getting organized for life aboard once more.
We will be hauling out in early January and then off to Thailand for the next big adventure - shipping to Genoa, Italy in March. Although we still want to sell the old girl, we are also looking forward to sailing the Med. and would probably be quite disappointed if someone were to come along with an offer in the interim. Such are the peculiar twists that one's mind can take at times!   
Off to dinner with Graham and Lorraine from "Lorrigray II" at Cocos tonight and then a regime of Langkawi living including varnishing the starboard caprail and painting the insides of the bulwarks - which haven't been done since Cairns. All good and keeping us out of mischief!!
Lotsaluv to all and looking forward to your news,
Jim and Jean
s.v. Tiare Taporo III
Kuah
Langkawi
Malaysia.
   

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Friday, 13 October 2017

end of stay in Medellin and now in Bogota

Hi again to all,
We finally left Medellin yesterday on the 12th. and felt much regret at doing so. We said a sad farewell to our apartment, which is in the capable hands of Noelia (our new property manager) and were then driven to the airport by our neighbour Janet. We had met her and her husband, Hugo, some time before and they are lovely people. He (Hugo) has lived in the US for 30 years and periodically goes back to work there to make sure he keeps his pension entitlement for when he finally retires. They are both Colombians, but in spite of applying many times as Hugo's wife, Janet cannot get a visa so he has to leave for 3 months without her. It seems ludicrous and is part of the US's paranoia about allowing people in - even temporarily.  
Another neighbour is Juan who is a young architect and who has lived in London and Switzerland. He has been a great help to us also and we had a farewell lunch with him at the Otraparte café which is part of a small museum about 15 minutes walk from our apartment.
We've been spending a lot of time with our lawyer tidying up the final loose ends with Wills, and the Civil Trust that we have created. This has meant much time at various Notaries to get everything correctly notarised - otherwise under Colombian law nothing is legal. For instance you cannot just go to a lawyer and get a Will drafted, signed and witnessed. It has to go to a Notary where there is a translator (which you pay for) and no less than 3 witnesses who are brought off the street - and also paid! A very convoluted business but of course made more complicated by the fact that our Spanish is still miniscule and certainly not up to the task of translating legal documents.
But everywhere we've been with our lawyer and without, we have found people only too willing to go out of their way to help. It's been instructive and a great experience - even if a little frustrating at times. For instance, before we could form the Civil Trust we had to make sure all the property tax on the apartment was paid to the end of the year. So we had to go to the Palacio Municipal of Envigado to do this and then, because a simple receipt is not sufficient, we had to obtain what is called a "Paz y Salvo" which also has to be notarised and is a legal receipt which is the only receipt which is legally acceptable. When we were at the Palacio Municipal at Envigado, we had written out instructions in Spanish as to what we needed, but there was still some confusion until one guy seated behind a glass screen decided to help in a most practical way. He left his post and said to us "come with me" and lead us off down the road to another office where he spent easily 20 minutes haranguing someone to do the necessary. Then he took us back to his office and we completed what we had to do. Soooo helpful and this was by no means the only example of people really going out of their way to help us. 
The matter with First American realty seems to have gone off the boil but appearances could be deceptive. The 2 principals of the firm are overseas and the staff have been instructed not to communicate with us! This has unintended consequences (for them) because we received an invoice from the internet/phone provider which was in FAR's name and which related to the earlier contract which we advised them we were no longer going to accept any responsibility for. So, we returned it to FAR and it appears that it may have been for a minimum of 12 months, so they can keep paying for nothing! They entered into it with no approval or agreement from us in any case. And they employed 2 contractors to finally fix some of the defects with the apartment and then had the contractors bill us direct!! We told them we were not paying but now one of the contractors has been contacting us in Bogota demanding payment! We have told them that payment is FAR's responsibility and to contact them direct. It is an extremely messy and convoluted business but no doubt in time it will all play out. At least with the Civil Trust no-one can touch the apartment and our lawyer will be alert to any attempts to sue us.
But in spite of all the above we have been continuing to enjoy life in Medellin - from our almost daily routine of 2 delicious Colombian coffees and Parsianita (for Jim)and Empanada Argentina (for Jean) at La Lolita Café at the La Frontera Mall just a 10 minute walk from our apartment. Lovely girls in the café and we have got to know them very well - even to the point of exchanging very basic Spanish. Usually COP16,000 which is NZD7.60.

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Saturday, 23 September 2017

Disputes and other happenings

Well, much has transpired since our last blog 2 weeks ago.
Firstly the aftermath of Irma. Perry and Tracie have been incredibly lucky. Apparently one end of their street which is 18-24" lower than where they are was inundated fairly badly and there are piles of house contents on the roadside which have been ruined. But their house was not touched. No water inside although they think that it was lapping against the glass French doors! Anyway, they were probably built with all this in mind and they held without leaking. The section was a bit of a mess with one large tree down and lots of debris. The paperweight (a.k.a. the Merc!) had tree branches all over it but was unscratched. One jetski was up on the lawn and the other wedged on the pontoon. That one may need checking for water intrusion into the engine but apart from that they are undamaged as well. So lucky. If the eye had passed over Miami the story would have been very different. Power and internet are both back on so apart from fixing things around the property all is almost back to normal.
One story made us laugh. One individual complained on social media that there was a pile of garden debris which remained uncollected in front of his house. He said it was disgraceful and would turn the grass brown! Someone else replied and said "don't worry. Maria will be along shortly and blow it all away!" However, it seems that Maria is taking a right turn well away from Florida and will likely eventually blow itself out in the Atlantic. Of course it was devastating again in the Caribbean but hopefully it won't impact the US East Coast anywhere.
In the meantime Jean had something which we think was a viral flu - zero energy and generally feeling terrible but no fever. This hasn't helped with dealing with the incompetent real estate company we've had to deal with but we're through that now. We're back in fighting trim. 
We've already mentioned the deficiencies in the apartment which were caused by First American Realty (FAR). Finally, around the end of August the last of these was satisfactorily fixed but it has taken 6 weeks of our time to organize. Just gross incompetence on the part of FAR. We also spent hours going through accounts and identified many areas where we were overcharged and in some instances items charged twice. We had had an initial quote late in 2016 and quite clearly told them that we had a price limit which they agreed in writing would be sufficient to finish the apartment to the required standard. However, 4 months later, after they had alleged that the apartment was ready for letting (and it wasn't), they then attempted to hit us for nearly 30% more with no supporting documentation! That was just before we left Malaysia. We've been in an escalating dispute situation ever since and have changed our lawyer and our property manager. It seems that we are in a strong position legally so we think it will eventually die down but it's been quite an unpleasant situation and definitely one which we had certainly not anticipated. FAR had done a reasonable job of the refurbishment except for the deficiencies which when added up, meant that the apartment was not rentable. It's just as well we arrived when we did.
But it seems to us that it's the way of the world these days. We've been harassed and bullied and threatened and these days it seems that this is always the first line of attack. No attempt to come to any sort of compromise or listen to an opposing argument - just "you pay or else". Well, in this case they picked on the wrong people; we don't respond well in this type of situation. Anyway, all is under control. Their employees have been instructed to have no further contact with us and are in fact withholding information from us - hence all the running around getting copies of documents etc.  We've changed the locks and finally had some good legal advice. It's also involved much administrative stuff with changing accounts with suppliers of Internet, cable TV, telephone, all utilities, and also changing the contact for the Body Corporate - and all in Spanish!! But we have had some wonderful help from some wonderful people so now hopefully we can get on with life. We think that it's simply a case of bad mismanagement on FAR's part and they are just trying to minimize their losses or maximize their profit!!
There's really not much else to report. The foregoing has been occupying our time and thinking just about 100% of the time. But we are getting some good insights into the Colombian legal system - yesterday we had to get the Deeds to the property printed off again - and notarized. So there we are in a taxi trying to give the driver instructions but we were well prepared. We usually write down the address to give to the driver and he actually helped in finding the Notary's office as it wasn't well signed. All good fun when your knowledge of  the language is sketchy to say the least, but again there are so many people who will help and there's always someone who speaks reasonable English. At least our lawyer and the new property manager are both fluent in English.
Got up at 4 this morning to watch the results of the NZ elections coming in. MMP certainly allows everyone's vote to count. And NZ falls over backwards to enable NZer's to vote overseas - provided yu are a NZ citizen and have been in the country sometime in the last 3 years. So, we downloaded our voting papers and because we don't have a printer, we emailed them to our finance broker (Alianza Valores) who by chance are occupying temporary premises only a 2 minute walk from the apartment. So, we toddled off up there and signed the papers and had them witnessed - then AV scanned and emailed them back to us. Then it was a matter of uploading them to the NZ Govt. website and sending an email to confirm that they had been received. In due course an email came back confirming that indeed everything was ticketyboo.  
It's certainly been a cliffhanger. Provisional results are (in percentages):
National 48.0
Labour 35.8
NZ First 7.5
Greens 5.9
TOP 2.2
Others 2.6
Under the MMP electoral system there is no representation until a party gets over 5% of the total vote, so now there are 4 parties in contention. NZ First holds the balance of power. There are 2 arguments. First, that National obtained the most votes of any single party and that therefore NZ First should coalesce with National giving a total of 55.5%. The other argument is that 52% of voters did not vote for National and that therefore there is justification for a Labour/NZ First/Greens coalition. Together they would hold 49.2% against National's 48% - a very slender and possibly unworkable arrangement. The main thing is that NZ First can keep the rest of them honest - which is a long overdue situation. The other argument of course is that NZF policies are possibly more in line with Labour/Greens and therefore that's a more obvious fit than NZF/National. Politics are fascinating!! It's Jim's interest really, although we are continually interested in events in the rest of the world as well. Particularly with Donald Trump who has inherited major problems from successive administrations - particularly the last one, and particularly Kim Jong-Un. And then there are all the vested interests, even from his own party, who are deliberately trying to sabotage his administration. Traitors, no less.
Cheers to all in Godzone and elsewhere
Jim and Jean
Medellin
Colombia