Monday, December 3, 2012

The Beginning of the End

 My heart began to break last week.  The end always seemed so far away...and here it was, fast approaching.  And that is when for the first time in my life I have never felt so happy and so sad at the same time.  When I left Mesa I knew I would be coming back in a short time, so it wasn't so sad.  The reality that I may never come back and see the people I have come to know and love is breaking my heart.  The Martinez family has won my heart and I feel so sad to leave them.  They told me this week that "I was part of the inventory" and when I leave they will be missing a piece and will mourn my absence.  I have worked diligently the last couple of weeks to convince them to move to the U.S.  I've got the youngest convinced and we have a plan for him to come after his mission and carry on to BYU.  The older son I have mostly convinced.  And the parents I'm not so sure, it's a joke, with a desire...but I think if both their sons are in the states that is the selling point.  I have fallen in love with this family and will miss them so much.  There is so much I want to stay for and be part of, it makes me wish my flight wasn't for another week or month or two.
Now, on the other hand I know that if I were to leave any later 
then this coming Thursday I would also be so sad because I miss my family and friends like crazy!  And so I come home this Thursday, but part of my heart will remain in Colombia.  My biggest consolation is the anticipation to see my nephew, Carson.  I can't think about it or I get too excited and can't focus on anything else.  So I am trying to remain here mentally.

 This little dog deserves some attention, as I was/am SOOO close to bringing her home.  There are many reasons I am not, but I want to SO bad!  Her name is Lucifer...if you knew her you would know why.  But she is awesome, and she loves me.  She comes running every time I call (or even hears my voice).

This little one remains nameless, but he is SO cute.  And he only likes me.  He won't eat from anyone else's hand, and he shakes for everyone except me.

Gus Gus & me before he left with his new owner.  (sad day)

Hna. Martinez with the 4 puppies (we're now down to 2) and Canela (who, thanks to me, is now referred to in the house as "UN MALA MADRE!")  But my little babies are so CUTE!!!

Now, for events of the week.  Andrés Felipe got into the university that he wanted!  I went with him to register and after we went to a famous park close by.  Unfortunately I had to go to the bathroom SUPER bad and there weren't any:

Andrés Felipe was half horrified and half impressed.

For his graduation gift we went to Salitre Magico, an amusement park.  I wore my "Jog for Jamie" shirt and we ran from ride to ride as a "Jog for Jamie Day".

Unfortunately for us it started raining part way through the day and then was FREEZING!  Of course we didn't leave the lines when it rained, so we were wet and cold.  Ferris Wheel under such conditions...bad idea!

We were miserable the whole ride and wanted to get off because it was an open cage and it was windy!

I was SO excited when I saw the cotton candy.  Now I have put together almost all the events that occur at the Arizona State Fair.

On Thursday I got to go to the CCM (MTC) for a training for new missionaries.  I was the "investigator" for a couple of trainings.  It was pretty fun. I pretended to be a heavy partier and I gave the teachers some pretty funny questions.  I also had some sad moments.  Later in the day I was an investigator for new gringos.  I felt SO bad for them.  Their faces were completely terrified because they didn't know a lot of what was being said and they spoke horribly.  (Two things on this: 1-I had so much compassion for them because I have been was a while ago, but still the same, 2-I understand now why Jhonatan thinks I speak so well).  It made me think of my brother-in-laws little bro who is in the MTC right now, en route for Mexico.  It was really fun seeing all of Jhonatan's co-workers, since they are the ones I see nearly every weekend at the dances.  All of them commented multiple times on how much my spanish has improved since they met me at the JAS(YSA) conference  nearly two months ago.  I am really happy with how far my spanish has come!  

Now for Andrés Felipe's graduation.  There were some really choice moments.  One of the most random parts was they would stop the reading of names periodically and a violin/ saxophone duo would play a song.  The best song was by far this one!

I looked around in anticipation to find the sexy sax man, but he wasn't there!  :(
If you don't know who that is, follow this link:
(annoyingly it has an intro, but it's by far the best one)

Also I warned Andrés Felipe that I would cry at his graduation, exclaiming "You grew up so FAST!!!"  And I was true to my word.

Aw, so cute!

This is my favorite picture!  A spontaneous expression of fatherly love.  So sweet!

Man Colombians know how to party!  We didn't leave the party for his graduation until 2 in the morning!!!!!  It was my last dance in Colombia...I am going to miss them!

Saturday was cool because I went to the temple to do a session, but traffic was HORRIBLE and so I missed the last one.  Initiatories was closed, so I went to sealings.  There were two older brethren (one was blind and needed assistance walking) in my session that were sealed to their parents.  It was SO tender, and it made me think of the real reason for Christmas.  If there was no Easter there would be no Christmas.  And because Christ DID do what He came to do, we can all be with our families together with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ!!!  It made me so happy.

Sunday morning in sacrament meeting I was surprised to hear my name announced as the last prayer.  Both the sons looked at me with huge grins (as my prayers have notably been a source of humor for the family because I often say something wrong that is funny).  This time it all came out perfectly.  Sunday was a hard day; I was in tears most of the day.  It really was hitting me how I won't see this family for quite some time, and possibly ever if they don't move to the states.  I really love and admirer them and I have grown a lot with them.  Last Sunday was my turn to give FHE, which I did.  But they wanted me to give it again because this was my last Sunday.  It was so hard, and I tears often streamed down my face as I spoke or listened.  We has fasted together for some special purposes the day before and that day and I feel so much love for them!

After FHE we took some photos of the fam:

This is actually before, us playing casual...Presidente didn't get the memo do be casual.

And I Andrés Felipes face in this one!

Ok, this is after FHE!

Not everyone was happy with different pictures, so here is another:

And a goofy one!

 I LOVE THIS FAMILY!!!  They are so fun and they make me laugh so much.  They are so wonderful and I am so grateful I got to live with them and get to know and love them.  I will miss them greatly.  That being sad, I recognize that the people who read this blog are the ones I have been missing for the last 2 1/2 months and am SOOOOO excited to see this coming Thursday or Friday.  
Operation Colombia: extremely successful!
But like all good things, they have to make way for the next adventure life has to offer.  So here I go, from the end of one adventure, to the start of another!  I sure love everyone who has been and is part of my many adventures in this life!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I'm so Grateful.

Well this last week was kind of lame for a while, I was sick from last weekend until this one with the flu.  I was grateful in between my moments of pain that I am normally not sick.  When I came home from church that Sunday I laid down for a nap, despite my exhaustion I could not sleep.  I felt that I needed to write down things I was grateful for.  I told myself I'd do it when I woke up, but things kept flowing into my mind, so here are my 26 things (for my age) that I am most grateful for:

1. My Savior, Jesus Christ - His atonement, love, & example
2. My Heavenly Father - His plan of happiness & infinite love for me
3. The Holy Ghost - for teaching & testifying to me all the truth I know
4. Having the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life
5. My dad - for being a wonderful man, husband, father, grandfather, & always supporting my dreams
6. My mom - for loving me, even when I wasn't so loveable
7. My sister - for being my best friend; even though we've had our rough spots, she's always shown her
    love & loyalty by working things out with me.
8. My brother - for being a good example of a loving husband & father who supports his family and
    serves faithfully in the gospel.
9. My in-laws: Esther - for being a good mother to my adorable nephews & niece, and being so fun to
    talk with.  Jason - for teaching me so many gospel principles that have changed my life.
10. My nephews & neices - for making me so happy & letting me see the simple joys of life through
      laughter & insatiable curiosity.
11. The priesthood - so I can be sealed to my family forever.
12. My church leaders who have loved, counseled, & encouraged me.
13. The opportunity I had to serve in the temple & all the wonderful women who shaped my life there.
14. My dear friends who love me, laugh with me, cry with me, almost die with me, & put up with me.
15. Being endowed & all the spiritual strength & power that gives me to carry on.
16. The opportunity to work at Anasazi & have my life changed & get to know incredible people &
      watch their lives be changed.
17. The opportunity to come to Colombia to improve my spanish & discover more about myself &
      more about the Lord.
18. The Martinez family for being so wonderful & fun & funny & patient with my spanish.
19. A healthy body so I can climb sweet mountains, & go where I want free of pain or inconvenience.
20. Living prophets & apostles who always have words that console, encourage, & inspire me to be
21. Being an American - even though our nation definitely has its problems, we are SO BLESSED!
22. Having all of my senses work well - so I get to enjoy many incredible things to their fullest.
23. Living near my sister & her in-laws, & them always making time for me & making me feel loved.
24. Laughter - that heals hearts & bonds families & friends.
25. Miracles - especially the miracle of my dear friend Jamie Tingey not only having her life preserved, but also having miracle after miracle defy medical feasibility to make a full recovery.
26. This beautiful earth that provides all our necessities, many of our wants, & is breath takingly beautiful.

On Monday I was washing my garments by hand and I though I should add the little things I'm grateful for:

1. a washing machine - so I can throw my clothes in and do something else for the next 45 mins
2. a dryer - so clothes shrink back to size...mostly just jeans
3. my car - so I can go where I want, when I want, and not have to make an 20 min trip turn into an
    hour of standing squished next to strangers (though this is entertaining sometimes)
4. seeing people I know when I go places
5. having a calling and feeling like I contribute to something
6. a toilet that I don't have to worry if it's going to flush or not
7. a heater and AC in my house...depending on my whim
8. english as my native tongue (general conference is way better not being translated)
9. a temple super close to my house
10. water fountains in every establishment I go in

During my week I fought boredom all the time because I was stuck in bed, but I found ways to entertain myself (and of course was ever studying spanish).  My favorite was putting on facebook that I am in a relationship & that it is complicated.  This was mostly funny because people take facebook seriously & no one can call me.  I laughed every day as there were new comments or messages inquiring about my status.  Oh silly.

Thanksgiving was a lovely day in which I did nearly nothing special.  But I did go to the temple and I happened to go at a time that when I entered the celestial room I was the only person in it.  So that was sweet.  I had planned on making Thanksgiving dinner here, but I've never seen a turkey, yam, or a cranberry I bought two of my favorite treat to make up for my lack of the meal.  Then I had half a Colombian hot dog for dinner.  I would be sad but I made my sister promise that we would have my favorite Thanksgiving items for Christmas this year.  (lets be honest, it wasn't hard to convince her because everyone loves Thanksgiving foods)  I did get to speak with my entire family on Skype that night though!  So I was happy about that. 
One of my favorite moments was when I was Skyping with my roommate, Catherine, to have her call me dad to tell him to Skype with me.  She energetically greeted him, told him it was "Catherine Bridges" (sidenote - who he doesn't know) and proceeded to talk to him for a good 10 minutes about how he was doing, how I am doing in Colombia, etc.  She put him on speaker and I was dying laughing as he cheerfully chatted away without a clue or a question of who she was.

I finally caved after several days and started taking medication, which luckily got me better in time for an institute dance on Friday night.  As always I had a blast.  There is a song here called "La Gringa" and so when it played I would dance through the middle of the circle and everyone cheered.  It was pretty funny.  Also funny was a guy who asked for a dance asked if I had a number here, I lied and said I didn't have a cell phone.  I have less then 2 weeks left, I don't need another Manuel on my hands!

Jhonatan, me, & Andrés at the dance:

The next night was graduation from seminary for Andrés, followed by a dance.  Presidente kept introducing me to guys, and then basically pushed us on the dance floor.  One of the times I got asked to dance the kid asked if I had a boyfriend....he was 13.  At one point I told Presidente & Hna. Martinez to go dance, they responded they were tired.  THE NEXT SONG Presidente asked me to dance, I looked at him incredulously and said "I thought you were tired?"  He said with a smile and laugh "He don't want to dance?"  I got up, and as soon as we hit the dance floor he grabbed a poor, unsuspecting guy (who he knows), and put my hand in this guys hand and told us to dance.  He then went and got his wife to dance.  Meanwhile I had a kid whose eyes are huge with surprise at what just happened, I should have seen it coming.  Haha, pretty funny.

(Coming soon: Photos of the graduation.)

This week I really had to talk myself into being responsible and not bring a puppy home.  BUT I WANT ONE SO BAD!!!  They are so cute and they all love me.  If I am near them when they are sleeping and I say something they always wake up to my voice.  They freak out when they see me.  And I love them!  

Here is a typical occurrence: they all run around playing and one by one they find me and crawl in my lap or on my chest to sleep.  It's so sweet.

And of course I love it!!!

The sisters came over today, and I we were figuring out what days I could go on splits with them.  I wanted to go tomorrow but it is their "P day".  I explained to them how when I was little I used to think that "P day" meant "play day" and they got to be a tourist once each week.  I can no idea they used it to wash their clothes and other things.  Jhonatan then chimed in "that's you're every day life right now!"

Well I have a week and a half left & I am definitely making the most of my time.  I am so excited to see everyone back home, but I will really miss it here.  The family has for some time now been telling me they are going to be sad when I leave, but today Hna Martinez said (this is translated of course) "You know what Samanta?  We love you!"  It was so cute.  (And no I didn't unknowingly spell my name wrong, it's how they say it.)
I have a good plan though.  I have been planting ideas in the sons heads about moving to the U.S., and just recently started using my persuasion that since they want to go to BYU they should just stay after school.  And if the sons are in the states, then the parents will follow.  It's a joke right now...but who knows, maybe it will be reality some day.  (cuz heaven knows I'm not moving here, I love my peeps in AZ and other states too much!)

Monday, November 19, 2012

My first touristic week.

There is a little town 8 hours bus ride away from Bogotá, it's name is San Gil.  Temperatures comparable to Mesa in the spring all year round.  San Gil is nestled in between rivers with rapids, lush mountains, caves where bats will crap all over you, beautiful waterfalls to rappel down, and many other tourist attractions.  It is the home town of Hna Martinez's mother, and she and her sister had business to do there, so they invited me along.  Thus was born my real-deal, honest to goodness tourist week in Colombia.
We left Bogota on Monday night at 9 PM and arrived in San Gil a little after 5 AM.  Being a small town, everything was closed when we arrived.  I couldn't sleep the first couple hours on the bus because my mind just wouldn't go to sleep, that was followed by hours of not being able to sleep because I felt so sick from all the turns and ruts of the mountainous road.  We walked to the middle of town, where there was a beautiful little park...with benches.
Now, a journal entry from Tuesday:
"Today one of my dreams came true...kind of.  I have always wanted to sleep in Central Park in New York like a bum.  This has never happened because all those who love me said "NO!"  We arrived in San Gil this morning at 5 AM, so everything was closed.  I found myself in the park in the middle of town, I laid on a bench--thanks to my hoody morning became night--and I slept a little more."

I heard something beautiful I have only heard in movies, the town has several churchs that ring their bells.  This was really cool, and also not cool because it was 6 AM when they sounded.
When the town woke up we moved to a hotel.

I was happy to be in a warmer climate, but as the day wore on it got so hot!  I went into survival mode and quit speaking and showed little emotion on my face.
That afternoon Hna. Martinez took a nap and I read.  OOSH!  SO hot.  As I laid on my bed and melted I thought of the poor missionaries who serve in areas like this.  It is hot in AZ, but you have the respite of AC.  How do they sleep and work!?
It made me think of  a comment Manuel had said to me the other day, he said I only like Colombia because I am visiting, and if I had to live here I would feel differently.  I think that is the truth because there are many things here that aren't good, but they don't bother me because it's not my home.  So am I excited to come home? 


Here is my new favorite treat, it's called leche asada and it is a million times more delicious then flan (and that is really saying something because I LOVE flan).  Also check out how cool this is!  They have bags of water.  We need to pick this up in the states for sports teams.

I went into this week totally unaware of my options.  Luckily I brought my swimming suit which served two purposes: one, I wore my board shorts every day cuz it was so freaking hot! and two: I had something appropriate to wear when I discovered that water water rafting is a big thing in this town and it is super cheap. 

Here I am with all the other tourists.  The couple next to me are from Canada, everyone else is from Europe.  None of them spoke more then a few broken phrases in spanish, so I served as the translator because our guides only spoke broken english.  The black guy in front only speaks french, that is an important detail for later.

I'm not putting many rafting pictures up because there are already a million pictures on this post, but there are a lot more pictures of this on my facebook.  I'm middle right. (Left in the boat, but right in the picture)

In the middle of class 3 or 4 rapids two of our big dudes go overboard.  Rules of rafting are that everyone keeps paddling and the closest person does the rescue.  Black dude that only speaks french (and the only other guy now in our raft besides the guide) is closest and does nothing!  I jump in the front, extend my paddle to the guy who didn't grab the side rope, then pull in the guy who did grab the side rope (note...this was my fear that I would have to rescue one of the guys, don't know if you are aware but I am small, and particularly weak in the arms).  I was surprised how easily I pulled him in and then the next one.  I jumped back to my seat, and grabbed my paddle ready for the next rapid.  Everyone looked at me in surprise and said "HOLY CRAP (in more crude language) how did you do that!?!  You are so strong!"  Then the french guy that fell in turned to his buddy (black dude) and yelled at him saying "WHAT THE HECK MAN!  You let a girl rescue me and just sit there and do nothing!?" 

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole ride!  I've only done up to 3 plus rapids, and this had quite a few 3, 4, & 5 plus'.

As we drove back it was pretty funny because I was the 'local' that everyone was asking what foods were good and explaining culture stuff that they didn't get.
That night was horrible!  Worst idea ever: go rafting, then sleep on a super hard bed.  The next day it hurt to cough or more too fast.  What a pain.  I hardly got any sleep that night because it was so hot in our room.  I felt SO bad for missionaries who sleep like this every night.  Hna Martinez and her sister slept terrible too, so we switched hotels.

The next day I found out that there were hormigas for sale!  (Large fried ants)  I was so excited!

I found a perfect ant...

I stared him in the eyes...

Gently placed him on my tongue...and ATE HIM!  Followed by more of his little friends who were as unlucky as he was.  They actually are kinda good.  Salty and crunchy.

Here is some typical food from San Gil, goat and rice with goats blood (not a huge fan of the taste of the fried goats blood).

We went to Barichara Santander and this is their sweet church.  (photo taken by someone just learning to use a camera apparently).  

Funny story about this little town.  It is about an hour outside of San Gil.  We went with the aunt of Hna. Martinez.  Her aunt and her aunts mother waited in the car while we looked at a few things in a store.  When we emerged 15 minutes later the car was gone.  We walked around the town square and couldn't find them.  This is when Hna. Martinez & her sister started to freak out that they left and were ready to jump on a bus to go back to San Gil.  I tried to calm them down and suggest it would be a really bad idea to just assume they left and that we should call their aunt.  Beyond my understanding, they didn't have her number!  I suggest that we call another family member to obtain it.  After much coaxing they did so.  Right as they called the other family member the aunt and her mom roll up, they were just touring the town.
When we got back to the hotel that night I was super tired and got ready for bed.  Just as I was about to climb in bed I noticed Lindi at the door with her purse and room key.  I asked where she was going & she said she was going to Parque el Gallineral (a national park that was around the corner from our hotel).  I donned my glasses and flip-flops and off we went.  I wasn't totally sold on the idea cuz I was super tired, then it turned out it was raining...I almost turned back.  We got to the park & the line was crazy long!  (again I almost turned around).  Obviously we weren't going in, but they said there was a firework show.  I didn't want to wait (I figured it'd be a lame show) but then I got distracted by the town drunk who had a sweet painting he was trying to sell.  I bought it for $25.  As we stood talking about the painting an explosion went off 15 feet from me!  Turned out the better view was from the outside of the park!  I was half impressed with the firework display and half concerned that something else would blow up.  The fireworks didn't go that high and I got hit several times.  The shooting point was only 35 feet or less from some major power lines & directly across the street from 2 gas stations.  The explosions were so big that car alarms for several blocks around were going off.  But it was beautiful!  I had a big grin across my face as the childhood joy of watching things explode in the night sky in brilliant colors & spectacular shapes made me forget everything else.  In the end I wished I had a picture cuz I'm sure my face was priceless, I'm also glad there wasn't a pictures cuz I'm sure I looked like an idiot!  It was an impressive display, but the streets were littered with debris.
When we got back to our hotel room I had a hilarious reminder that I'm in Colombia.  Once we returned to the room the door lock stopped catching to shut.  When the attendant came up to check it out she said it was broken (thanks Sherlock) and told us to push one of the beds against the door to keep it shut and that she'd watch that floors security camera really well.  BAHAHAHAHA!  Classic.

The next day I took a  bus for an hour (wanting to vomit the whole time) to see Cañon Chicamocha.  There is a national park at one spot where you can take a cable car to the other side of the canon.  
I went to the bathroom to find this disturbing... 

Ok now for the beautiful pictures!  My heart sunk as we drove through the mountains cuz the were in the middle of a cloud.  Naturally the clouds would lift, but we were leaving for Bogotá that day, so I couldn't wait very long.  As I looked over the edge this is what I saw.

I didn't have a choice but to go then, and hope that the clouds lifted on the way back.  (30 mins from one side to the other)  But to my joy the cable car sunk beneath the clouds and I had a great view of the canyon. 

I was surprised by how many little farms there were on the sides of the mountains, and a little annoyed for them that cable cars were built over land I am sure there families have owned for centuries.

Look how cute these cows are!

Looky looky!  There are century plants here!!!

These views made me nostalgic for Anasazi!

So I know I am in Colombia, and that is super sweet...but I was a little sad to miss the AZ state fair cuz I love going with Heidi each year and seeing the prizes she wins for her sweet stuff, and to see the joy and wonder on my nephews face as we go through the park and ride rides, and to spoil him with sweet and return him to his parents...hehe.  But one of my favorite rides since I was a little girl is the long slides!  I was so excited when I saw they had one here!  So of course I had to ride them!

Ok, back in San Gil it appears that their town mascot is a giant ant.  My favorite thing about this particular statue is that it is affixed to a trailer that has then been sunk in mud...I don't think I have words for this.  All I know is that if I lived here I would definitely pull a town prank and move it one day

The painting I bought is of a bridge in the National Park Gallineral.  I visited it and took a few pictures that resemble the painting I bought.  When I bought it I just thought it was a sweet painting, but I didn't know what I'd received.  Apparently, Juan--the town drunk, is famous...they say in the whole world, but I don't believe them, maybe in Colombia, and certainly in San Gil.  As I carried my painting to catch a bus leaving town, everyone in the street stared and many stopped me and exclaimed "You know Juan!"  Turns out all the restaurants in the area have paintings from Juan.  Even in the bus station workers stopped me to hold up my painting so they could admirer it.  Pretty funny.

I love this flower!

Nothing spells fun like taking pictures of yourself...right?

Totally lucked out on there being a back seat in the bus so I had somewhere to put my painting!  I thought it was ready to roll, but he had finished it the night I bought it and I was leaving the next day!

Saturday morning I went to the temple and I had the following cool awakening:
"This morning I  was waiting for the bus and I was watching for it down the street.  I wanted to read or study but I felt this compulsion to watch & wait for the bus.  I thought it was strange, but when I looked around everyone was doing the same.  All eyes were fixed in the same direction, all hoping that any second it would appear.  No one was distracted with anything else.  Of course we knew it was coming, we just didn't know when, and all watched for the first sight of it so they would be ready when it came. Then the awakening:  Why don't I watch like this for the Saviors second coming?  Am I drawn with such force to Him that it overrides all my worldly desires and distractions & I wait & watch to ensure I am prepared?  I'm not proposing to be a zealot & go buy a bomb shelter & move away from everyone.  I'm just posing the question, 'are our actions focused on becoming more like Him & bringing overs to Him so we'll all be ready in that great day?'

Well friends, it's been 8 1/2 weeks, and I have 2 1/2 weeks left.  I have loved my time here, but I am for sure ready to come home.  I am trying to stay present and I am working hard at my spanish.  Unfortunately I got sick this weekend, but I am so grateful that this has been the first time and normally in life I don't get sick.  

Best conversation with Carson today on skype!  He always asks me where my gun and sword are, then if I've killed all the monsters yet.  Today part of our conversation went like this:
Me: "Carson, I think I'll be done in about 2 1/2 weeks and then I'll come home and see you!"
Carson: "Great!  As soon as you are done killing the monsters get on a plane and fly to your house."
Me: "Ok baby, I will!"
Carson: "And then I'll come to your house in 5 weeks!"
Me: "Great idea!  I'll be home for Christmas."
Carson: (eyes widened, and mouth opened in excitement): "I'M SO HAPPY!!!  MOM, MOM!  SAM IS GOING TO BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS I AM SO HAPPY!!!"

It pretty well melted my little heart!  I am SOOOOO excited to see that little boy!