The site has been moved to www.fausseparisienne.com

I like denial. Denial is cozy and oblivious. I was never in denial that I was fat. But I was in denial that I was FAT. aka morbidly obese. Denial of this fact allowed me to do lots of things that I probably wouldn’t have done if I had recognized this apparent fact. I probably never would have dated men at least a decade younger than me (have you seen men at 34 yrs old?….no thanks!). I would have never walked across the entirety of the new city I moved to and then get all confused about how I tore the tendons in the bottom of my foot. I would have never let those pictures be taken.

But I digress, the little foot tendon incident might have saved my life. It’s funny I’ve gone to doctors pretty much since I came screaming into this world, yet not a single one ever told me I should lose weight. Maybe it’s too sensitive a topic for my doctors to bring up, but come on, once they’ve fondled my ovaries you’d think the sensitive thing would pass. Anyhow it took my Colombian doctor and my foot to conspire to help me lose weight. Now, yes, I needed to lose weight, I knew that. But it was one of those vanity things to me. This doctor on the other hand didn’t lecture me or try to scare me into dieting (like I hadn’t also been doing that since coming screaming into this world) instead, he gave me solutions. He let me in on the little secret that someone over 50 lbs overweight had a less that 5% success rate at losing and keeping off weight. He suggested I look into medical options. Of course, at the time, I shrugged it off with a rather lame joke and took my needle through the foot like the big girl that I am. No pun intended.

Fast forward a few months and 25 additional lbs. There was I hot on the trail of finding my perfect Colombian obesity doctor. I had done my research and was thinking about a lapband or a gastric balloon. I’m a commitment-phobe kinda gal. So after searching by a very helpful friend and my host family mom I found THE doctor. Dr. Angel, yes really, suggested a little surgery called Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy. Basically, removal of about 70% of my stomach, leaving me with a tube like stomach that would restrict my eating, without doing anything freaky like bypassing my colon or tying my intestines into a rare type of balloon animal. Was I hesitant…yes. Did I feel like a big fat loser….absolutely.

Estella and Dr. Angel (covert picture)

Covertly taken shortly after Dr. Angel had told me I would have to give up sugar.

So the big day comes after lots of testing. I did totally freak out there for a while leading up to it. I mean it was the removal of a large part of a major organ. Irreversible. A total lifestyle change…goodbye emotional eating. What now….emotional exercise? So we aligned it so I would miss the least amount of work as possible. This would be the most rockin’ spring break ever! So we went in on April 2nd. My wonderful friend Charity lent me her equally wonderful boyfriend Ben to escort me through the process. The best part was watching the nurses talk to Ben when I didn’t know what they were saying in Spanish. He didn’t either…..he’s gringo in disguise.

Gringo in Disguise aka Ben

Gringo in Disguise aka Ben

In case you can’t tell from above picture this was a Catholic hospital. Also this surgery was during Semana Santa (Holy Week) I got blessed by a Priest and everything.

Anyhow, the actually process was a little in the strange category. Mostly because my Spanish is so poor that I had to go on trust. And they don’t do the whole, “count backwards from ten” thing like in the movies when they start the serious stuff. A nun took off my underwear and that’s the last thing I remember.

Then I woke up and I saw this….

Hospital RoomOr more precisely this…..

Yeah well.......you too

Yeah well.......you too

Apparently my friends also known as “Team Operación Estómago” had a little free time to decorate my room with glow’n’the dark letters. This, at one time, said “fun” or at least that’s what they tell me.

In reality, I had the best team imaginable. The each were in charge of different aspects of my caretaking. The provided round the clock amusement and distraction and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of friends through this.

TEAM Operación Estómago aka Ben, Charity and Lexi

TEAM Operación Estómago aka Ben, Charity and Lexi

Yeah, ok, I’m so still on drugs at that point. This is soon after coming out from surgery and me screaming about the pain at the top of my lungs. (but really I didn’t have pain that I remember) I don’t think I’m even cognizant enough to have my hospital gown on yet. I don’t even know who took this picture. It’s actually one of the least embarrassing ones I found on my camera the following day.

So all in all the actual surgery procedure was a breeze. I was out of the hospital in 2 days. Didn’t take any pain meds once released and was up and about the day after I got home. Let me tell you….surgery was the easy part. The next few months were a bit of a different story. A story which will appear soon…

Yay! Surgery!For real information on Weight Loss Surgery and Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy this is an excellent site.

http://www.obesityhelp.com/

Do you notice anything spectacular in this picture?

dsc020001

a. The cars are actually stopped at the crosswalk.

b. The man is not in danger of being ran down by the cars.

c. There is a crosswalk display guiding pedestrians.

d. Nothing

e.  a, b, and c

If you chose “d.” my guess is that you are from an industrialized country. If your answer was “e.” then my guess is that you’re from a country in which toilet paper is still not flushable. I’m not sure exactly what is the correlation. But I have an opinion. It seems, that in places in which the wealth gap is devastatingly large, the pedestrian is in danger. As far my own personal experience here in Colombia I have seen that you seem to be faulted if you must use your feet for transportation. Back in Texas, people may look down on you and be quite annoyed that you are using the taxpayer’s perfectly good sidewalk. But they don’t necessarily believe it’s okay if you die doing so. The attitude seems to be that of people here with cars. From taxi driver to the rare prick in an SUV (rare as in SUV’s in Colombia, not as in pricks rarely drive an SUV, au contraire) they feel completely confident that if you are in the middle of the street you are attempting suicide and they are obliged to help you by running you down.

Here in Colombia you can be well into the middle of a street and if someone is turning, left or right, they will come right for you, and if you take one step forward or backwards it is certain death. I haven’t been able to find any information on injury by vehicles to pedestrians here, possibly because no one quite cares, but I hear daily anecdotes. As far as general driving it’s the 5th most dangerous country in the world. I can believe this as most people I’ve talked to can’t understand why they have no passing zones on the sides of mountains in two way traffic lanes. This  from people who think it’s perfectly safe to hang onto the roll bar and stand on the bumper of a jeep going 55 mph. My former roommate said he liked the fact that people here weren’t so hung up on ridiculous safety standards and just used common sense. ……uh huh.

People here are totally stoked and proud of their country. They get quite defensive if you say, not only negative things, but anything less than this is God’s land on Earth. This is fine, if they are content and truly believe it. But my personal opinion it’s a bit of an inferiority complex. Colombia has a bad rap, rightfully so, to some accounts. But in general is a safe (as long as you’re not planning on walking anywhere) place and has tons of things to explore and do if one would choose so, mountains, beaches, glaciers and all that jazz. But it seems to me that small tweaks in what would seem like driving etiquette/law might go  a long way in repairing the damaged image. Pedestrian right of way would seem to be a step in the right direction.

Latin culture is a lot more like this than I was prepared to believe.

tango2

People here love doing everything in groups. And when they find something pleases them they get really excited. Like the kind of excitement provoked by finding George Clooney on one knee with a ring in his hand when you open the door to go get the mail. Or finding that you life story is being made into a blockbuster film and Natalie Portman is playing you, although you have done not much more than worked a mid-level job and wrote a drole blog.

But I mean this sort of excitement is delivered here when you ask them if they’d like to have a drink or maybe haven’t seen them in about 39 minutes.

I’m much more like this….

roseanne_l1

+

1749913178_45bc3c36f1

I reserve my excitement for things that are truly exciting. Like when they called the election for Obama or finally seeing Tom Waits live.

I also like to do things alone, which is more than frowned upon here. (Not a big tango in groups on the street kinda gal.)

I’m not very sexy…there I said it.

Plus I enjoy one thing more than anything…being negative.

Complaining soothes my soul in it’s deep recesses. But people here think negativity is… well… negative. I see more as in taking out the trash so you can enjoy the few really good things around you. I mean how well can you appreciate the good if you can’t deliver on just how truly awful the bad is? And why not take a little fun out of what you hate by making a joke in it…what’s wrong with that?

Well so it seems it’s just “wrong” for no reason fully understood by myself. People here want you to be happy.    All    The      Time.

It’s exhausting.

Plus you always have to say you really love their city. As they all think it is the best, most fascinating and exciting place on Earth. You can’t like the city. You must love it. If not they take it very personally and are dead set on proving you wrong. Either by forcing aguardente upon you or extolling it’s unique profile.

I’m much more like yeah well….does it have ukulele’s, public parks, and independent movies? The answer to all three is “no”.

My friend wanted me to see this restaurant. She said the moment she saw it that it reminded her of the pictures of my apartment. I was doubtful as nothing I had seen in Colombian had been similar to my aesthetic preferences. But I should never doubt my friend as she was spot on and the restaurant was instantly one of my favorite places I had ever seen.

 Medellin Restaurant

Medelling Restaurant 1Medellin Restaurant Decor

Last weekend a friend and I travelled to Medellin for a couple of days. I was ready to be in a city. I crave the diversity of the city, not so much the excitement. It seems like all other places I’ve been and heard about so far in interior Colombia a large amount of time is spent drinking and recovering. We stayed at a hostel were everyone talked so much about how they loved Colombia, but from what I could tell they had hardly seen anything outside a bar or not directly in route to a bar. As we came back at about 4pm from a tiny hangover day of sightseeing….really just seeing… and the other hostel mates were just waking. Mostly they woke and went to shower, eat and back to the bar. Not really my thing.

But there is something to be said for daytime Medellin. It’s gorgeous. I must admit I did like La Zona Rosa most, which is urban and clean and has little to do with the reality of Medellin. I went to centro to find the Botero statues but as my luck had it rain immediately started. So I saw them through slightly wet and rushed eyes. I’m sure I’ll go back as it’s one of the closest places by bus. It’s a massive city and I’m sure there is a lot to discover  and a Modern Art Museum which I’m itching to see.

Now I must admit I have been a Democrat as long as I have been voting. I have always been extremely vocal in the matter (as in most things). This, my 4th voting election, has been no different. But, alas, as being from Texas I do come from a Republican family. Republican, even when Texas was a Bluebonnet of a state. So for the sake of family togetherness I have learned to keep my mouth shut. It seems to be the standard of all my family members. They don’t try to convert me to Republicanism and the joys of baking and I don’t try to convert them to Democratism and listening to the songs of Beirut. My one Democratic sister and I glowingly talk politics on the side, but try never to connect it to our siblings. We’ve had our Mom along for the ride the past couple of election cycles as well. That’s some kind of victory.

But then I moved to a land far far away and these red-blooded members of my family discovered Facebook. I refused to censor myself in how many Pro-Dem and Anti-GOP posts I made. But I did cut down on the questioning the IQ of anyone who doesn’t wince every time Palin changes a digraph “ng” to a plain old “n”.

So while my sister and I revealed in our big Victory the updates starting flowing from the members of the family. Mostly status updates as to how much money they would be losing. Which in general to me seems to be the difference between leather seats in the crossover vs. heated leather seats in the crossover. But I do understand the concept of it’s my money, I earned it and no lazy son-of-a-bitch is gonna take it from me. So the concept is greed, I get it. I’ve had it several times an hour probably. But this lazy son-of-a-bitch works 50 – 60 hour weeks and makes 24,000$ a year teaching people stuff whether they like it or not. So I generally don’t consider me a leech on American society. (Yes, so I’m not living there now, but still I didn’t think I was one 4 months ago either.) I hear yeah. I could have chosen a different profession. I could have forgone traveling, going to movies, and eating things that aren’t from a tin can in order to have health care. I could have spent less than a minimum of 30$ on each of my 14 members of my immediate family. Which of course being the only single one means I get about 6 gifts in return.But I digress.

Basically the upper-class paying a little more in taxes, giving up a luxury or two, provides them with some serious benefits. People like me can continue to give their children every drop we have in order to educate them (and not have to move to a different country to be able to pay off their student loans). It provides job training and resources to those who wouldn’t have to resort to the only ways they’ve seen to get out of their rapidly decaying neighborhoods. They would contribute to a society who prides itself in how it takes care of those who have least. Those who have debilitating mental illnesses, work injuries endured while creating the luxuries and coonviences we all benefit from, the parent struggling to make a way for their child to be one who pays the higher taxes instead of creating the higher profits for those who cry “get your hands off my money”!

Here in Colombia it is decidedly McCain turf. Until the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Colombia procured the highest amount of American aid. Most of this involved in the so-called “War on Drugs”. Colombia would also like to benefit from a nifty free-trade agreement. One which McCain supported and Obama voted against. Obama cited lack of human rights and labor protections. On the ground here it’s difficult to ignore that this exists everyday. But it’s not that different from back home. The wealthy take advantage of the poor, the end. Here I have the radical change of being considered wealthy, which in one way feels quite nice and in another quite terrible. i have a maid. This is weird. But I’m a terribly messy person and now I have a roommate who could suffer. Plus it gives added income to her. Her name is Betty and I dig her tremendously. She also happens to work in our cafeteria doling out food to the over-privileged. She is always worried I’m sick and makes a mean napoliatana sauce. She’s probably only a couple of years older than me and already has a child at university. She wants the best for her children, which is why after a long week of work on Saturday she comes to my house to pick up after my slovenly ass. She takes home, including tip, what boils down to about 50$ a month. So my roommate and I are paying 25$ a month so that I don’t bury him under all my useless crap. Apparently this is generous. And we’ll leave for break and give her a winter bonus and I’ll bring back some American gifts. This is how Americans treat their maids here. Colombians not quite so. A co-worker of mine offered her maid some food while she was there working. So she waited for her maid to join her, after quite some time she went into the kitchen to find her maid sitting on the floor eating. Apparently having anything to do with your maid as a person is “not done” in Colombian society. It is a definite class system. I’m starting to wonder why I miss the USA after all it’s starting to not seem so different.

now the school I work at is the elite school. These people run the town, quite literally. So to put it mildly let’s say that my student’s were not the most pleased people in the world. As each and every one told me they said that if they were American they would definitely vote for Obama, but as Colombians it benefits them to vote for McCain. This is always hard for me to wrap my head around. In my mind when the mass benefits, everyone benefits. When we secure the safety of civilians by not randomly going at war with their country that benefits everyone. When there are no desperate people to take desperate actions we all benefit. We’ve been shown this lesson over and over again. That when we see ourselves as one united, not only as American citizens, but as Global citizens. This is why I spent a day’s pay flying paperwork back and forth to Texas to get an absentee ballot, even though it is unlikely to be counted. This is why that ballot was marked for Obama…and this is why my face goes red and is streaked with tears each time I watch this…..

Now I have always thought the entire Tuesday voting system in the USA rather archaic. It’s seems counterproductive to have election on a day in which the vast majority of the voting population works a full day. It’s understandable that when it was created in 1845 it made sense. People couldn’t/wouldn’t travel on Sunday and sometimes it’s took more than a day to get to the place where you could cast your vote. November was good because if you were agriculturally inclined (as most people were) it didn’t mess with your time in the fields as far as summer growing and fall harvesting time.

Voter turnout in the USA is pathetic. Considering it’s safe to vote and there’s tons of help with language, illiteracy and other access issues. Usually you can even find an organization that will give you a ride. Yes, sometimes the lines are long, but it’s hardly as if you’re voting in the Sahara desert or in a mine field. Anyhow voting in the USA is sometimes a little schedule perplexing, but hardly difficult. Yet it seems as if the country itself does very little to encourage it.

Now here in Colombia (a really, really, Catholic country) voting takes place on Sunday. Actually, today to be more specific. Now Colombia takes voting seriously. It’s not that I’ve seen people on the corners championing the ideals of their candidate. I see very little activity except the occasional graffiti. I’m not sure why that is. But the town itself is in full election mode. Drinking is a hobby on par with soccer, salsa and coffee. Yet as of 6pm the day previous to the election no alcohol is to be served. So last night on a Saturday there was no selling and all through the day today. I was shocked.

If Colombia can come together and abstain from purchasing alcohol for an extended period of time ont heir weekend I  really don’t see why our government and give a little signal or two that they would actually encourage voting.

So my destination was this

and my actuality is

Ok so here I find myself in Manizales, Colombia for the next two years. I accepted a teaching position at a private bilingual school. I’ve been in Colombia for 8 weeks now and here are a few of the things I’ve been, directly and indirectly, involved in….salsa dancing, horseback riding, aguardente, “hiking”, full-throttle pork avoidance (“no cerda” is my first fruitful phrase), finca lounging, more aguardente, hot springs, chivas, lockjaw kamikaze taxis, soccer fan mayhem,  reggaetone, and a long needle through the foot.

So Colombia really is more beautiful than I could ever come close to imagining. The vast majority of the people are incredibly friendly. I have been at the mercy of others translation and assistance here more than any other adult time in my life. I had a run of bad luck which required a couple of doctor and dentist visits. Luckily, my doctor speaks English so it fairly simple to understand that he was going to stick a giant needle through the arch of my foot all the way to the back heel. But the dentist doesn’t speak English which made it hard for me to explain that he hit a nerve than successfully retracted my tendon causing me extreme pain and the inability to open my mouth. But I have a feeling the gritted-teeth screaming and crying did the trick.

Okay so aside from that, I’m discovering all sorts of things about myself. Let me confess that I have never been a big fan of latin culture. Sure Dias De Los Muertos  has great imagery and Love in the Time of Cholera is one of my favorite books, but a sense of belonging this does not create. I find myself a bit lost in the outgoing, loud nature of things. The amount of rules and social etiquette is severely lacking in my book. I like rules for day to day living. Like lines…….lines are good. Lines are especially good when someone isn’t waiting behind you, really aside you, as shoulder rubbing does not seem to bother the normal Colombian. The only way they can get closer to me without actually being in front of me would be to crawl up my ass and pay for my groceries for me. Which I have suggested which is replied to by a confused smile and a slight push.

Pedestrians have no right of way. If someone wants to make a left turn and you just happen to be crossing then they give you a polite honk as they rush past centimeters in front of your nose. Honking is mostly polite. Like a little “Hi, Good Morning My car is about to crash into yours. I do hope you don’t mind slightly deviating your car’s path a bit so I might brush past you at an alarming speed.” And the politeness in consistent at any time of day or night.

I live at the bottom of a hill on one of the two main streets. Manizales is not a large town so two main streets seems to be stretching a bit. So to get anywhere you must climb a very steep incline. I’ve almost gotten used to it. All of me, but my lungs. It might be my extra 80 pounds of flesh that disturbing them more than the hill itself I suppose. Because all the food they serve is meant for peasants ready to go about their laborious day and not eat again until sundown; I have lost little weight and gained considerable cholesterol I’m sure. Anyhow I digress. Once up the hill walking is simply a game dodging dogshit, cars, and the homeless man that blows me kisses and calls me “Gordita”.

The city is in the Andes mountains. I mean “in”. Which gives me a feeling of being quite trapped as buses are not my thing and combined with curving roads and mountain ledges makes for less than a pleasing trip. A trip to Medellin can take anywhere from 3 hours to 9 hours by bus. There are no trains. I love trains and miss them dearly. So, yes, I’m trapped and I can feel it.

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