Friday, 29 July 2016

More photos

P7240138 - entrance to our apartment building
P7240139 - swimming pool
P7240142 - balcony
P7240146 - kitchen
P7240147 - living room - kitchen on the right
P7240149 - one of the 2.5 bathrooms
P7240151 - master bedroom
Difficult to visualise as the apartment is vacant but it is over 1100 sq. ft.

More photos

P7100070 - Tango dancing at the Museo de Antioquia - a wonderful afternoon
P7100072 - sculptures at the Museo de Antioquia
P7120076 - a view of Medellin from Pueblito Paisa showing the preponderance of red brick
P7120079 - interior of the church Pueblito Paisa, Medellin
P7140083 - the church at Guatape in the main square of the town
P7140085 - the square Guatape
P7140086 - our room Guatape - 1st. floor
P7140089 - Lake Guatape from the water
P7140098 - the drug lord - Pablo Escobar's bombed out house at Guatape after the Colombian Airforce had finished with it! Circa late 1990's.
P7140109 - town square Guatape from our balcony
P7150110 - Guatape street scene with brightly decorated shop fronts
P7150112 - Our bus Guatape to Medellin
P7160113 - strawberries for sale El Poblado, Medellin - beautiful and typical of the produce generally
P7160115 - street scene El Poblado
P7170120 - fresh fruit and vegetable market Sunday morning in El Poblado

More photos!

P7010027 - Gajean with the electric car - again! Couldn't keep her away from it.
P7010029 - Nana Rosa with Carter
P7020034 - wildlife in the back yard
P7050035 - Carter, Nash and one of the neighbours' children
P7050039 - Perry and Jean at Government Cut - the ship entrance to Port Miami
P7050040 - Jean and the Old Man of the Sea at Government Cut
P7050043 - Southern end of the famous Miami Beach with 20 million dollar plus penthouses in the background
P7050044 - ship entering Government Cut
P7060050 - the famous murals of Wynwood where we had a delicious Brussels sprouts meal!
P7060053 - and again
P7060055 - and again
P7060054 - sculpture at Wynwood
P7060060 - restaurant where Jim had the famous Brussels Sprouts!
P7060062 - not sure which is the more georgeous - the XK120 or Jean??!!!!
P7060061 - another shot of the 1949  RHD XK120 sans Jean

Some photos of our recent travels:
P6260006 - young Nash on a picnic at a beach on Biscayne Bay
P6260007 - ditto for Nash's older brother Carter
P6260008 - front lawn of old house with inflatable pool
P6270011 - Gajean disporting herself in the pool with Nash
P6270014 - as above!
P6280016 - Jim and Perry on our jetboat outing on Biscayne Bay
P6280018 - Jean on the jetski!
More to come!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Days 52 - 61 July 18th. - July 27th.

8 days of doings...........
Well, again so much has happened it's again difficult to know where to start, especially trying to recall detail of the previous week! We are starting to get into apartment viewing in earnest. The concept of living in an apartment in a high rise building not so long ago was one that we would have rejected out of hand, but here in Medellin it constitutes the majority of residential dwellings, and while it might be nice to buy a hacienda on a bit of land outside the city, we have both done that in the past and we are definitely past all that at our age! In 2012 Medellin was voted the Most Innovative City in the World and it has a great public transport system. There is an above ground Metro which runs from the northern outskirts to the southern with a few branch lines east and west. There is a cable car system and a moving escalator to some of the poorer communas high on the hillsides above the city. We haven't used any of these facillities on this trip as our time seems to have been taken up with activities in the city and immediate environs. There is a relatively new southern suburb called Sabaneta which is up and coming in the apartment market so we decided that it also must be on our to do list.
We went there on the 20th. which is Colombia's Independence Day and of course a national holiday. Sabaneta was jumping with city visitors and new high rise apartment buildings are sprouting everywhere. Mostly up fairly steep hillsides which are not really our scene because walking as we get older would probably become somewhat of a challenge. However, we found one new development which was not even started, but had a sales office and a mockup apartment. Called "Bangkok" which we found somewhat ironic! An impressive design but there was open farmland next to the site and we could envisage in a fairly short time other blocks being built which would definitely spoil the rural views. We had read about a well known restaurant called El Doctora and after a bit of a walk and a search we found it up a small rise and around a few corners! It was great and we had grilled local caught trout and a bottle of Argentinian Rose. Wonderful and we had finally seen Sabaneta.
We found ourselves getting more and more serious about the idea of permanent living in Medellin as time went on. We were glad we had rented an apartment for our stay because it gave us much more insight into everything involved with living there. One thing that has made an impression and that's the absolute necessity for us to become reasonably proficient in Spanish. There are a few universities and colleges which offer Spanish courses for expats and that is probably how we'd tackle it. That combined with being immersed in the language through living there, should have us fluent in no time!
We made great use of the local taxis because as we've said before they are so cheap. One can go across the city for less than USD5. You couldn't drive a car for that and there are no parking hassles. Then you just hail another.
We have opened an account with a financial broker to facilitate bringing funds into Colombia and notifying the Colombian Central Bank of same. This has to be done correctly otherwise they start asking awkward questions about origin of the funds and endless queries about the use of the funds and all in Spanish which we are not sufficiently proficient in yet. We have made contact with a very good estate agent and a solicitor and we've even given the solicitor a Power of Attorney so she can act for us on our instructions without the necessity for us being there.
Medellin is in a valley which runs north and south. The Medellin River also runs in the same direction and bisects the city. We were staying in Belem/Fatima which is to the NW of the city but still in the valley. We wouldn't want to buy there though because, although pleasantly leafy, it's not sufficiently close to the life of the city - restaurants, cafes etc. Just to the north is Laureles which is an older suburb and does have some life. However, the apartment buidings are typically 20 or so years old and while we saw 2 apartments we could consider, they don't usually have pools or gyms or usually any parking underground or anywhere. A pool and gym we feel are essential for continuing fitness at our time of life - or indeed any time for that matter. However, Laureles is flat which is an advantage for walking. Then on the other side of the river (east side) is the Parnhell of Medellin - El Poblado. Lovely, leafy and full of fabulous eateries and again not expensive by our standards. But it's hilly which would become a problem and the real estate is also expensive by Medellin standards. Usually a starting price of USD250,000 (750,000,000 Colombian Pesos!) for a pretty good 3 bedroom apartment in a newish building with pool, gym, underground parking etc. Armed concierge onsite 24/7!
However, immediately to the south of El Poblado lies the equally leafy suburb of Envigado which is a little undulating but much less than Poblado and also within easy walking distance of a universidad (university) for Spanish lessons, supermarkets (supermercados) and restaurants/cafes. You can see how many words are similar to English which often helps to understand the gist of things, and also French (which Jim has a knowledge of) is often very similar. Not sure yet whether that's a hindrance or asset in learning Spanish! But we digress - again!
We looked at quite a few apartments in Envigado and finally found a 3 bedroom (2.5 bathrooms) in an 8 year old building - Jardines de la Maria. Substantially cheaper than El Poblado prices. The building has a good swimmable pool and a gym. The apartment has a good sized balcony. No heating or air conditioning because in Medellin at 5,000' and at only 6 degrees north of the Equator you need neither. Hence much lower utility bills. In fact windows and French doors stay open all day and night and it's beautiful ambient temperature. The typical temperature pattern is around 16-17C until about 9am when it starts going up to about 27C in the early evening - then starts reducing again throughout the night. And NO mozzies or midges. Again we digress - heavens above!!
The apartment is vacant and in impeccable condition. Just over 1,000 sq. ft. The only physical alteration we would need to make is to remove the upper half of the wall between the kitchen and living room to open the kitchen to that room and create a sit up bar and/or serving counter. The balcony is off the living room. We would stay on the boat until she sold but in the meantime we can let the apartment at (even allowing for a 70% occupancy) a better rate than generally available through conventional investments. Of course, compared with other investments, property is illiquid which is its Achilles heel. And with more risk because of exposure to the Colombian Peso which is largely driven by the oil price as petroleum accounts for 45% of Colombia's exports at present. But, from all that you read, it seems that the overall trend for oil is up.
But the bottom line is that ultimately one needs somewhere to live. And, having come from New Zealand, we should be well used to exchange rate fluctuations - the Kiwi has been as low as 32 US cents in the early 2000's to 88 US cents about 18 months ago! And no-one in NZ ever seems to think of the value of their own properties in global (USD) terms, so why should we in Colombia?
One slightly negative comment we must make about Medellin is the preponderance of red brick. 90% of buildings - public and private - are built of this material and it also often comprises paved areas as well. The effect is, in spite of any innovative architecture, a cloying effect where one can feel visually surrounded. It became a standing joke between us and our estate agent and Jim was often heard muttering about getting a paintbrush and a very long ladder to paint these 30 story buildings! At least we're well versed with paint brushes, living on a classic wooden yacht as we do. However, it was refreshing to note that "our" apartment building is relieved of too much brick with interspersed plastered panels.
While all this was going on we very regretfully had to finally pack our bags and leave Medellin to return back to Miami. We had an early flight (0730) out of Medellin on July 25th. so we arranged for a taxi to collect us from Zojo Gardens at 0400! In practical terms this meant that we hardly had any sleep the night before but we both felt quite good. The weather had suddenly turned quite cold and it was lightly raining. For the first time this trip we needed our Kathmandu jackets bought in Whangarei all those years ago before we left NZ in 2011. The airport is about 45 kms from the city and involves a steep climb for another 1,000' or so. Ears popping all the way and our driver was a bit too gung ho around the rain slicked bends for our liking! But we got there - that was the main thing. All very smooth, except that as usual we had asked for exit row seats for the extra legroom. However, when it came time to board, Avianca would not let us sit there as we didn't speak Spanish! No doubt in case we had to open the doors and deploy the chutes. Never mind, the legroom was OK as it happened. We had one stop at Baranquilla which is a city on the Colombian Caribbean coast. We saw more beautiful farmland on the way (only about 1 hour). Landed and then had to go through security again but this time had to remove shoes and belts and be cross-examined re our visa waivers (ESTA'S) for the US. Not worth Avianca's while to have to deport us back to Columbia! Had 2 hours on the ground at Baranquilla and then took off for the 2 hour flight to Miami. US EST is 1 hour ahead of Colombia. We flew over Jamaica and Cuba which we were able to see quite clearly and then out near the Bahamas before approaching Miami from seawards. Saw some familiar waters around Miami as we came in at just after 1430. Perry picked us up and soon we were in the new house. Definitely an improvement on the previous one and also on a canal. And a swimming pool. By then we were feeling somewhat jaded so after an early BBQ dinner it was bed time. Great to see everyone and the children, Carter and Nash.
Next day a quiet day but there was a trip to Wholefoods where we stocked up on some wine and food. Apart from that we sent some time emailing our Medellin agent and generally working on the detail of the property purchase - now confirmed.
The boys here have their moments as under 3's are wont to do, but generally they are delightful as always and Granny Jean is in her element. Carter can't quite get his tongue around Granny Jean so calls her "Gajean". Perry is busy organising shelves here and there and erecting the fence along the canal and around the pool - very necessary with the young gentlemen around!
And now it's today. Received the momentous news that the apartment was a done deal. BREAKING NEWS - Only a few hours ago from writing this we had confirmation that our offer for the apartment at Jardines de la Maria had been accepted. Albeit at a slightly higher price than our offer. Suffice it to say that the price is less than the equivalent of USD150,000 at current exchange rates. We felt that this was acceptable in comparing all that we had seen. So, the start of a big change for us, but nothing will of course change in a practical sense until our lovely old lady is sold. We will simply lease the apartment in the meantime.
Hope all is well with everyone - lotsaluv from us............
Con mucho amor desde nostros
Jim and Jean

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Sunday, 17 July 2016

Days 46 - 51 July 12th. - 17th. Guatape and El Poblado (Medellin)

Hi again to everyone and as always hoping you are all in the pink!
First we must refer to two recent posts from the NZ Herald we have put on our website. One is an article by Dame Ann Salmond lamenting the growth of neoliberalism in the western world including NZ since the mid 1980's. We agree with her analysis, but of course one should read and form one's own conclusions. Similarly the one about Chinese expansion into the South China Sea.
We have also just read that the NZ Government (and also possibly the Aussie) are considering an anti dumping complaint against China for selling cheap (and in some cases substandard) steel into our markets. Some of this steel is being used for a major motorway project in Auckland involving a major intersection with flyovers etc.! The Chinese have subtly told some major NZ exporters (Fonterra and Zespri apparently) to lobby to can the enquiry or else they will introduce restrictions on NZ's exports to China. This is in spite of the PM denying any knowledge! China is getting heavy all round and NZ and Australia would do well to realise that China is no friend, and potentially a serious enemy if things get totally out of control in the S. China Sea. Then what would Russia do. Putin is an enigma and may well see an opportunity to attack America thus creating a 2nd. front. That is a scenario that doesn't bear thinking about.
China also rightly sees the US sponsored Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement as a threat to their own commercial interests so will regard any signatory to that agreement as working against those interests. Where does that leave NZ as an ethusiastic signatory to the TPPA and with all its China trade at risk? Still, with any luck and regardless of who becomes President of the US, the TPPA will be canned - certainly by Trump and almost certainly by Clinton who has expressed distaste for it, and of course she is also beholden to powerful industry lobby groups.
There, that's enough tub thumping for now!

Tuesday July 12th. A relatively quiet day before our foray into the Colombian countryside to Guatape. For the first time we visited a major shopping mall which is only about 15 minutes walk from our apartment. It was very instructive as we looked at everything from computers to fridges, to clothing and childrens' toys. The overall impression was that prices aren't especially cheap for appliances but not excessively expensive either. Clothing and local non imported food items are all cheaper. All part of our education process for possible living in Medellin.
Had a mall-type lunch which was only average as mall lunches usually are and returned to the apartment to get organised for the morrow.

Wednesday July 13th. We wanted to leave early to Guatape to give us the maximum time there so we managed to get ourselves to the Terminal del Norte by taxi in order to catch an early bus. Taxis here are SO CHEAP!! We were taken from the taxi through the terminal to the ticket office (24,000 Pesos for 2 - NZD12) and then to the bus itself. Such efficiency which we could never have emulated on our own. The bus was a far from new 20 or so seater Chevrolet and was noisy but as we had front seats the legroom was OK - and it was only 2 hours. The first part of the trip was a long grinding climb out of Medellin in a NE direction. Guatape is at least 1,000' higher than Medellin so the trip was mostly a climb all the way but that initial climb was by far the steepest. The road was good however, being 2 lanes in each direction but closer to Guatape we turned off the main drag onto a winding single lane road such as masquerades as State Highway 1 in NZ - especially in Northland! We are used to these things. Overall the trip was very pleasant and we were interested to observe some of the Colombian countryside. Quite steep and difficult country to farm or cultivate but we saw many vegetable growing operations - all immaculate and on what seemed like impossible hillsides. We stopped briefly at El Penol to let off some enthusiastic backpackers who were going to climb the famous rock which rises to just over 7,000' above sea level and there are 740 zigzag steps to get to the top. We didn't attempt it - what with Jim's knees and Jean's occasional breathing difficulty which is of course exacerbated by altitude.
Very soon we arrived in Guatape which is a very picturesque little town on the edge of the manmade lake - formed by the construction of a hydro dam in the 1970's. There is a town square around which are hostels and restaurants and shops all decorated in many pastel colours. Very lovely. After a much needed breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausages we duly walked around until we made contact with the owner of the Tomate Cafe Hostel where we were staying. We had our own room and bathroom for 70,000 Pesos (NZD34). It was in a stand alone small building on the 2nd. floor with a balcony overlooking the town square. We then asked about a boat trip on the lake and that was organised for 90,000 Pesos! The trip was fascinating although the lake itself was disappointing as the hydro dam had been allowing more water to exit the lake due to a lack of rainfall and the water level was about 20' below normal. The area immediately above the lake level was quite ugly with just exposed red clay. However, we obtained a good impression of the many arms of the lake which obviously had been small valleys prior to the lake's creation. We passed a largely destroyed and burnt out concrete structure which had been one of the notorious drug lord, Pablo Escobar's houses. Apparently as the Colombian Government was closing in on Escobar, the Colombian Air Force bombed the house (they don't mess about!), as it was believed that he was in residence but the intelligence was faulty! However, they did get him eventually at the age of 44 in a gun battle in Medellin. He had acquired something of a "Robin Hood" reputation, especially among the poor who were beneficiaries of his largesse. He also built hospitals and schools. However, he and his organisation also murdered 600 Police officers and over 2,000 judges and politicians. At one time he was one of the most wealthy individuals in the world and shipped many tons of Cocaine into the USA. It was a ruthless rotten business characterised by bribery and murder. And of course it was the main cause of Colombia's reputation for being probably the most dangerous country in the world. Not now though, although it's only around 20 years since there was any headway being made against the drug trade. However, Colombia has been transformed and its economy is booming. Hence our interest in living here in the future.
We also visited the site of the drowned village of Penol where the church spire has been extended to show above water. On shore there is a surviving building which houses a museum of sorts with photos and other artifacts of the village before it was inundated for the hydro dam in 1978. We returned to Guatape and had a bit of a rest before sallying forth once more for dinner. After a bit of walking around we eventually found a restaurant open for business. The others seemed to be engrossed in a TV play of a soccer match with not much thought being given to food. We had BBQ'd meat which they cook in the open on the verandah where all the punters sit. Quite good but nothing to really rave about. Lots of beef (Carne) being cooked. It rained during the night and it was also quite cold for our tropical bodies! We needed the thick blanket on the bed which was supplied. Guatape is 6,000' above sea level and so is noticeably colder than Medellin at 5,000'.

Thursday July 14th. We slept well all snug under our large blanket and were awakened around 0530 by the church bells calling the faithful to morning Mass. Closely followed by Ave Maria broadcast over the church loudspeakers! Very reminiscent of the Moslem Immam calling the faithful which we have experienced in Indonesia and Malaysia. In fact it brought back unpleasant memories of the enforced time we spent at Kupang in Indonesian Timor, but the strains of Ave Maria did sound much better! Jim sat out on our balcony clad only in his thin dressing gown to experience the town awakening and the odd straggler entering the church, but soon had to vacate back inside as the temperature was still somewhat chilly.
Found somewhere for breakfast and met a Colombian family who lived in Kansas City, USA! Redneck country but they are not Trump fans! Then a long walk around the back streets all decorated in the same way. A lovely charming little town. Also met the manager of the local information centre who spoke excellent English and had lived in Brisbane with a NZ family there while he had been studying at university. Such a small world.
Said goodbye reluctantly to Guatape in time to catch the 1530 bus back to Medellin. The trip was good as the bus was much more modern and it was all downhill! Then a 15 minute taxi ride back to our apartment (Zojo Island in Belen).

Friday July 15th. We had arranged to meet a real estate agent (Henry Emans of First American Realty) in El Poblado at 1030 which was a bit of a stretch as we slept in after the Guatape adventure! However, we were on time at a pre-arranged restaurant. Aforesaid restaurant was full with people waiting so we went around the corner and found another excellent establishment where we had beautiful scrambled eggs and bacon and Avocado. We spent 2 hours with Henry and had an extremely wide ranging discussion. They are offering a complete in-house service with immigration advice (types of visas), and tax and legal advice. We have arranged to meet him again early this coming week. We then walked around the restaurant precinct of El Poblado and have never seen so many delectable looking restaurants in one small area. El Poblado is a little hilly and well shaded with many trees. Quite beautiful. We said it reminded us of Parnhell in Auckland! We eventually found somewhere another 2 hours later and, although weren't particularly hungry, we were seduced by their menu. We decided to have entrees only as they have a heading "starters" on the menu. So Jim opted for potato noisettes with sour cream and cheese sauce and Jean had a vegetable soup. And 2 beers (Club Columbia Dorada) each! However, "starters" here do not mean entrees. The noisettes were full size and so we shared them. Then we really rolled out of El Poblado! Finally hailed a taxi and would have fallen into it but they are tiny Hyundai or Chev or Kia pedal cars so entering and exiting is always somewhat fraught, especially if you have long legs. The Chevs are the worst so we try to avoid them.

Saturday July 16th. Stayed in our apartment for the morning and then later walked to the local Exito Supermarket. Not a very exciting day but we needed a quiet one. Stocked up on a bit of food, had a coffee and a cake (!) at a coffee bar in the mall and walked home again. Had marinated steak with rice and brocolli for dinner but the steak was a disappointment, even though it had marinated for 6 hours. We still haven't found a good source of fresh meat or fish, but no doubt such places exist.

Sunday July 17th. (Day 51 - 73% of our total time away from Langkawi has already passed - amazing). It seems only like yesterday that we were leaving our lovely old girl in the RLYC marina. We had an early start to visit the weekly Farmers' Market at Parque la Presidenta in Avenida Poblado. They have these markets every day in Medellin but always in different areas of the city. Got a pedalcar taxi again and 8000 Pesos (NZD4)later we were there. Not as big as the Whangarei market but just as much variety and the food so fresh and it doesn't appear to be "commercial" in appearance - it's supposed to be all organic. Certainly we found a slug on the lettuce when we got home again! The whole market was a picture and everyone so friendly as always. We met a delightful young Colombian couple who sold a vege spread for crackers etc. Not Jim's thing but Jean enjoyed it and they spoke very good English so we had a good conversation. She helped us with buying some corn enchiladas with beef and chicken and we sat on a bench and filled our faces! Then 2 large paper cups of Passionfruit juice and pulp which were absolutely delicious. Everything tastes so good and so reasonably priced. We sampled some Blueberry wine which was very palatable but a bit sweet with a strong purple/red colour. Bought some Blueberry "marmalada" - also sweet but will be good on toast. Then home again in a pedalcar to get ready for the coming week which will be busy as always happens when departure looms. More meetings with a lawyer and the estate agent to view some properties and we also want to visit some outlying suburbs - Envigado, Itagui and Santa Elena.
More to come in due course!
Cheers and love from us..............
Jim and Jean

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Thursday, 14 July 2016 - Dame Anne Salmond: Balance needed after ravages of neo-liberalism

Jim and Jean thought you would be interested in the following item from
Dame Anne Salmond: Balance needed after ravages of neo-liberalism
Dame Anne Salmond is Distinguished Professor of Maori Studies and Anthropology at the University of Auckland. No one should be surprised if there is a crisis of mistrust in politicians in New Zealand ... More
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An excellent thought provoking article on the ravages neo-liberalism has wrought on society since the 1980's.
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______________________________________________________________________ - Editorial: China cannot take law only when it suits

Jim and Jean thought you would be interested in the following item from
Editorial: China cannot take law only when it suits
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea has made a definitive ruling on one of the world's most dangerous disputes: China's claim to the South China Sea. It is ocean far to the south of China ... More
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A disquieting article to be sure. What other reason could there be for China to be constructing military bases in the South China Sea on territories they have misappropriated? And the other angle is what would Russia's intention be if the disputes escalated into full scale military conflict? Then the US would be fighting major (nuclear?) conflicts on 2 fronts and the outcome doesn't bear thinking about.
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Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Days 42 - 45 July 8th. - July 11th.

Hi to all,
Once again here we are with more riveting news of our doings in Medellin (pronounced Medejeen). And we hope this finds you all in the pink as always.
On Friday we contacted a real estate agent and met for a brief discussion as to our future requirements. Then Jim acquired a Panama Hat which he'd been trying to find for years to no avail. It was the equivalent of NZD70 whereas in a shopping mall in Miami there had been some and they wanted in excess of USD300!!! Then more shopping for Chorizo and the FRESHEST fruit and veg. Feijoas not as big as the NZ varieties, wonderful Tamarillos, tropical guavas, local oranges and the ubiquitous Cape Gooseberries - Jim's favourite by far!! And lots of great veges - Jean's specialty.
Saturday we weren't sure of our plans but we eventually decided to visit the Museo de Antioquia. It proved to be a very happy choice. The museum houses various collections of local artists, some of which one could take or leave. However, just as we were preparing to leave, we heard the most beautiful haunting Spanish/Colombian music.
We were irresistibly drawn and lo and behold we were offered 2 seats by a young couple who were concerned to see an elderly couple standing! In those circumstances all one can do is accept gracefully! But it illustrates just how the young generations here have respect for the wrinklies - totally unlike what we've been hearing coming out of NZ of late. Even suggestions in the NZ Herald that over 50's should have the vote taken from them. If the young layabouts and whippersnappers actually bestired themselves to get out and vote they might find that they achieve a result that they want. Like Bexit where actually only a very small percentage of young people voted - but unless they actually vote they should keep quiet!!! By comparison so often in Medellin we have seen elderly family members being squired around by their children or grandchildren having meals out, etc. It's so refreshing.
Anyway, having got that off our chests, we were treated to an absolutely wonderful afternoon of recitals of classical Spanish/Colombian music played with such passion. First there was a group consisting of drums, secondary percussion of drums and wooden spoons, xylophone, and castanets, etc. And the leader who sang and played the flute. Mesmerising and during all this a genial chap came out of the audience and expertly squired various young ladies around the floor in what we thought might be the Rhumba. But then the piece de resistance...........
The orchestral group took a break and the aforesaid dancer took the stage. He played the guitar and sang and his partner played the piano accordian. His voice was wonderful and extremely powerful and without a word of a lie was in our opinion equal at least to Pavorotti. The whole experience was unforgettable. As part of it they also had more than one couple demonstrating the Tango - the men in suits and the women in the most revealing and spellbinding costumes. Lots of leg kicking to rival kick boxing - words cannot do it justice. Jean was in tears.
We were so lucky to have experienced it as we happened onto it quite by accident as apparently this is only done once a year! We ate the most delicious Enchiladas and had a Club Columbia beer each. The whole thing including taxis, entry to the museum, and food and watering came to less than NZD25. We'll never forget it.
On Sunday we decided to go to the Botanical Gardens but they were a disappointment. We had expected better with being in Medellin - the City of Eternal Spring. And also the fact that there is the annual flower show at the end of this month which unfortunately we will miss. Never mind, we had a very enjoyable lunch in the Garden cafeteria. Colombia is the 2nd largest cut flower exporter in the world after the Netherlands.
Later that afternoon we decided to walk to the local Supermercado (Supermarket) for a few provisions. We were a little unsure of the way but reasonably confident at the same time. However, there was a young lad about 10 on a pushbike just there so we asked him in Spanish where the supermarket was. He gave us a few directions which we managed to understand but then as we walked along he shadowed us on his bike to make sure the old codgers actually made it! Such consideration from one so young - it's typical of the caring in general that we see all the time.
Monday (11/07) we were picked up by the real estate agent we had met on Friday and he gave us a great tour of the city and we feel much more oriented as a result. We were driven through several suburban areas which gave us a good appreciation of their various characteristics. Then we were taken to an apartment in a brand new building where he and his partner run the business and we had great conversations with David and Luiz. Luiz is actually from Ecuador but he has adopted Colombia and Medellin in particular. We participated in a promotional video of their business and we were glad to do so as some means of acknowledging their kindness and help to us.
On Wednesday we are taking a bus to Guatape which is 2 hours east of the city. It is a tourist village on a huge lake which was created when a hydro dam was built back in the 1970's. If you Google it you will see that the lake has multiple arms and is very pictureaque. Might be just the place to live as it's a short distance from Medellin.
We'll let you know how it goes - you may be sure!
Lotsaluv from us.........
Jim and Jean

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Thursday, 7 July 2016

Days 40 & 41 06/07 - 07/07 Medellin - City of Eternal Spring

Spent the morning doing last minute packing and cleaning our room and bathroom prior to leaving around 12 for the airport. The flight on Avianca fl. no. 31 wasn't taking off until just after 4 but we always like to be on time. Perry drove us to the airport and we checked in getting exit row seats for extra leg room. Then we said goodbye and thanks for everything before going through immigration and security. You have to remove shoes, belts and everything out of pockets - all seems overkill as they completely missed a bottle of liquid over 100 mls that Jean had!!
By the way, the classic car showroom that we went to also has classic guitars that Perry was interested in being a sometime guitarist himself! Forgot about that in all the excitement with the 1949 XH120!!! And we meant also to mention that Perry and Tracie's next door neighbours were taking off for a 10 day holiday in Nicaragua - a country that is also on our retirement radar after Colombia. Anyway, the flight was less than memorable and we landed in Medellin 15 minutes ahead of schedule. It was getting dark by then so we didn't see much as we came in. Just hoped that the pilot hadn't forgotten that we were landing at 5,000' up in the Andes instead of sea level! Immigration wasn't much of a hassle except that he hadn't heard of our apartment building but fortunately we had the name (Zojo Island) and the address in Jim's diary so had to extricate that from the luggage and thrust it under his nose. Then a visit to duty free for a bottle of Isle of Jura and Highland Park which proved to be a suitable method of celebration for finally arriving in Colombia.
We were met as arranged by a guy who spoke NO English with a diminutive Chevrolet. Quite how we all fitted in with our baggage we're not quite sure. Just as well we always travel light with only carry on baggage. It was about an hour and USD25 later up and down hill when we arrived at Zojo Island apartments at Carrera 65cc, Numero 31-88 barrio, Belen Fatima, Antioquia, Medellin. We were met by the delightful Natalia who manages the building and lives with her husband and a Cocker Spaniel called Matteo on the top floor. She assisted us with going next door to a small shop and buying some immediate basic supplies for eating and breakfast the next morning. Natalia speaks reasonable English and it's obvious that were we to live here, we would need to attend formal Spanish classes. It's frustrating for Jim as he has a reasonable ability in French and many of the words are similar if not the same. But knowledge of another Romance language is an impediment rather than an asset because it's so easy to confuse the two. The apartment with 2 bedrooms is very comfortable but lacking necessities such as an electric jug and microwaveable dishes. There is no grill or oven so how do they expect you to cook? A little like Thai logic! Hopefully we'll sort it in the morning.
Slept like logs but Jim woke with his throat worse than ever it had been in Miami. Lost his voice almost completely. At least we don't need a/c here as the night temperatures are well below 25C.
Next morning woke hardly able to talk. Don't know where this came from but we blame the constant a/c in Miami. Had a very slow morning but the weather was clear and from what we could see of Medellin from our bedroom window it all looked just as we had expected. Natalia had offered to take us to the nearest supermarket (Exito) and after lunch we set off on foot. Jim was feeling somewhat better at that stage and perked up mightily once we entered the food emporium! Fruit and veges to die for and all SO fresh. Even Feijoas with a yellow skin and orange interior. But disappointing as they didn't have anywhere near the taste of the green NZ variety - which also originated somewhere in S. America. But the Tamarillos were large and wonderful and CHEAP. Passion fruit, Papaya, Mangoes, and even Cape Gooseberries. Jim was in his element! Finished up spending 298,000 Colombian Pesos which equated to NZD141. Half or less the food cost in Miami. Natalia was wonderful and guided us expertly to and from the supermarket and also within. We had far too much to carry back so there was a guy in the carpark in a very beatup old car (not sure what it had been as all the name badges had long since fallen off) who gave us a lift back for 3500 pesos - about NZD1.70. Apparently they hang around such places and get odd jobs like ours! The car wouldn't have passed a pedalcar test so imagine if he was hanging around in Countdown! Natalia was wonderful and feeling as we did, we'd have had a much harder job without her.
We'd also bought a frozen Lasagna and some Pecan nuts as well as 2 bottles of organic Argentinian wine so had something of a feast on our return. Now feeling much better with a bottle and a half of wine plus the food plus much of the fruit we bought under the belt.
It's now almost 8 and after a cup of tea (brought from Miami) it'll be bed. Hopefully we'll be better in the morning. By the way, we're 7 hours ahead and 24 hours behind NZST. 17 hours behind but we find the former calculation to be less confusing to old codgers like us!
Lotsaluv from us,
Jim and Jean

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Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Days 32 - 39 28/06 - 05/07

Well, time is marching on. We have been having a good look around Miami courtesy of Perry and Tracie. Yesterday Perry took us down to the southern tip of the famous South Miami Beach and we walked out onto a wonderful pedestrian facility which takes you out to the entrance of Government Cut where ships enter the port of Miami. While we were there a ship entered and it was fascinating to see it come through a relatively narrow passage attended by a tug. Lots of pleasure boats also entering and leaving. Great views of oceanside highrises housing very expensive apartments. The top floors where penthouses occupy whole floors of 10,000' or more, apparently go for 20 million dollars or more. Bentleys, Mercedes, etc are two a penny around here!
After that we drove to Wynwood a bit inland. This was a gritty down at heel light industrial area until quite recently but now many of the old warehouses have been restored and turned into cafes and funky shops. A feature is what they call graffiti, but which is in reality high quality art work which adorns most of the walls. Amazing to see. We decided to have lunch at a restaurant called American Diner, but it was a far cry from the stereotypical diner of old. Another old restored warehouse funkily decorated in a bare bones style. Great menu and Jim opted for Brussels Sprouts and a stuffed spud. And a locally brewed craft beer. Well, what a meal. The Brussels were the best he'd ever had. Grilled in an orange sauce with bits of orange and other veges, they were absolutely wonderful. And the spud - huge and full of sour cream, bacon bits and spring onions. Quite stonkered Jim at the end. Very unusual for him to have a vegetarian meal - could become an unlikely convert! Jean had an Avocado salad which she pronounced wonderful also. She also had fries with a delicious cheese sauce dribbled all over. This has quite altered our perception of American food and particularly eating out. If you can get food like this (and cheaper than the indifferent fish meal we had during our jetski outing), then perhaps America is not so bad in the food department.
Another highlight was a visit to a classic car showroom where they mostly had vintage Ferraris and the best of all - a vintage 1949 XK120 Jaguar complete with a leather strap over the bonnet! And right hand drive - maybe Jaguar only produced RH drive in those days. She was absolutely gorgeous with a British Racing Green exterior and tan leather interior. USD550,000 - a steal!! At times like this one really wishes one had won Lotto!
Speaking of which, we've just organised an account with Lotto and we see that the NZ version is now up to NZD40 million! Could buy the whole shop with that!
On last Monday night (the 4th. of July) Perry and Tracie invited Dana and Dana and their 4 children over for a BBQ and some fireworks. They are lovely neighbours - she is a midwife and he has a chain of optometry shops. They also have a Poodle cross called Rosie. Great BBQ and then letting off skyrockets from the edge of the deck over the canal. The kids were entranced and now appear to believe that this treat should exist every night! All around there were fireworks as Americans celebrated their Independence Day. Jim irreverently suggested that perhaps President Obama could give David Cameron a ring and offer him the US back as a consolation prize after Brexit! Then they wouldn't have to worry about Trump! Don't think the suggestion was very well received however, but think of the Common Market thus created and NZ would have access to the North American Market as well! TPPA wouldn't be relevant then at all.
We should have been politicians; we'd create more mayhem than 10 Trumps combined.
Well, gotta go as we leave here for Medellin in approx. 1 hour. All packed, hence writing this blog. And when we come back Perry and family will have moved into their new house. That'll be exciting. Jean has had a bit of a recurrence of the tummy bug but seems better now. Fingers crossed that this continues.
Next blog from Medellin!!
Cheers and lotsaluv from us............
Jim and Jean

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Friday, 1 July 2016

Jean and Perry at lunch at a swanky Miami hotel!