Peace in Colombia

Last night before the circus of the Clinton Trump debate happened, something incredible occurred. An event I’m sure wasn’t mentioned in many parts of the world. The Colombian government and the FARC signed a peace agreement after more than 70 years of violence and war. 

People think Colombia is a dangerous country for the mafia. This isn’t true. They more or less keep to themselves. The guerillas were the problem. About 70 years ago, the government took away land from farmers and poor people. There was a lot of violence and hurt involved in this process. The victims eventually created their own army and started fighting with the government. 

I don’t know the details, but I know there were many horrific acts of kidnapping, torture and murder. People lost their entire families, homes and some lost limbs. Many have been left with deep psychological scars. 

Captain Cool is proud to be Colombian and is proud that after two failed attempts, the chief of the FARC and the president of Colombia have managed to reach an agreement of peace. The signing of the treaty happened here in Cartagena, a 15 minute walk from the marina. We decided to take a walk to see how close we could get. 

The security was very tight. They closed off traffic for miles. I can understand why. There were politicians from all over the world who came to observe the signing. Even walking was difficult. We were stopped within half mile in each direction as we didn’t have an invitation. 

The centre of Cartagena which is normally full of cars, taxis, motorcycles, people, music and horns honking was absolutely dead. It was so eerie. The only cars were police or official cars. There were police on all corners. CC commented that they weren’t carrying their long rifles as they normally do in these instances. He took it as a sign his country is achieving peace. A huge act of peace was about to happen, yet there was no one on the streets preparing for it. 

As we got closer to the convention centre where it was all happening, we started seeing small groups of people, people walking in pairs or on their own. Many were tourists wondering what was happening. We were again stopped from entering a street and as we were talking about what to do, a group of maybe 40 people started shouting, “Queremos entrar!” which means, we want to enter. The police officer guarding where we wanted to go, moved closer to the group. A street cleaner signalled a break in the security gate and with a cheeky smile motioned for us to come through. The police officer holding his gun gave us a huge friendly smiled and waved us through. We joined the group, but there was no luck. Security was tight. 

We went to a hostel we work with to ask if we could watch the signing on their TV. It was quite a moving ceremony and I was grateful that my level of Spanish was such that I could understand the gist of the stories and the gaps were filled by CC. Both the president of Colombia and the chief of the FARC were so proud and so happy that finally after all this time, they could be at peace. The last country in the Americas to achieve peace. What a proud moment!

As is customary in the countries where I’ve attended historic or patriotic events, military planes flew over trailing smoke of the colours of the Colombian flag. We could see it on tv and then heard it as they flew over the hostel. CC and I smiled at each other at the significance of the event. 

The president of the United Nations gave the first speech, followed by the chief of the FARC. He had almost finished his speech when we heard live a loud “phhhsswwww!!!!!!!” All of us in the hostel panicked, people came out of their rooms with their hands covering their heads with looks of sheer terror. CC and I grabbed onto each other waiting for the bomb to explode. 

I glanced at the TV and the Chief was looking at the sky in fear and then a smile. CC said, “Super sonic planes.” I said, “Bad timing!!!” I still question the appropriateness of the planes as the sound is so much like a bomb! The Chief started laughing and carried on with his speech. The president started his speech and said the planes were supposed to be a symbol of peace. 

We left the hostel and walked to the convention centre where everyone was leaving. Classical music was playing and I was still shocked at the silence of the streets. CC said the final part of the process is next Sunday, the 2nd of October, when the people of Colombia will vote. I know there were big celebrations in Bogota and other parts of the country. Perhaps Cartagena hasn’t been affected so gravely by the guerillas or maybe many are against the signing of the peace treaty and so there isn’t reason to celebrate. 

As I watched a group of indigenous women sing about how their village was affected by this war, I was deeply moved. Their eyes showed sorrow, pain and hurt. As they sang the song and the crowd gave them applause, there was courage, pride and a sense that although they lost so much, they weren’t going to lose more or let it stop their lives. They are true warriors. 

I feel very fortunate to be here at this time. It is a time of change and restoration. The damage can never be repaired or the losses repaid. I know the Colombians will rise to show the world their wonderful, positive, upbeat and genuinely kind hearts. Colombians are truly beautiful people and now they can show their potential. Congratulations Colombia!


More storms ahead…

Isn’t that ironic, I write a blog about weathering the storms and that same day, I had to weather both emotional and real storms!! Life has it’s funny way of testing our strength…

The tarp above our hatch started blowing rapidly. Captain Cool pops his head up and says “culo de pollo” and jumps out of bed to start the motor. It’s around 4 a.m. I was having a delicious night’s sleep after 33.5 hours of sailing and was slow to get up. My bladder helped my decision. As I was walking to the head, I heard a crash and in my sleepy state, thought it was something blowing on deck. 

Halfway through my pee, I woke up and realised that it was a noise which meant we crashed into something. I willed my pee to hurry or stop and eventually was free. I ran up on deck to see we had become rather intimate with another boat. The captain of that boat was trying to push us off as CC was running between the helm and helping to push. 

In English, a culo de pollo is a squall. Culo de pollo means ‘ass of a chicken’ because during these storms, the chickens run away and the wind blows their feathers away revealing their bum. Love it! Squalls have strong winds blowing from 40-60 knots. 

That night the 45 knot wind blew us right into our neighbour. Although we had the engine running and were accelerating, sailboats don’t have very strong engines (we prefer the wind!!) so really it only acted as a means to lessen the blow. One of the lifelines broke from the impact/resistance of the other boat. The dinghy which we had lifted to prevent theft was trying to flatten itself against the side of our boat. 

Eventually we won the fight with the wind, got away from our neighbours and had a window to lower the dinghy. CC and I did it together as the wind was blowing it strong. When it touched the water, I closed the stoppers and ran on deck to secure the dinghy line to our boat. The wind was blowing strong, but I won and tied it on. One less thing at risk of damage…

We played a dance with our neighbour (who was without engine), pulling forward when we got close. Finally the wind died down enough to pull up the anchor. As we did so, CC noticed that a buoy was underneath us and we had to be careful not to wrap the line from it in our propeller. My adrenaline was pumping! He then told me to keep my eyes at all times on the boat behind us. Directly after this he told me to open the window on the dodger so we could communicate as he tried to pull up the anchor. I ran and quickly did it, keeping an eye on the boat. Then shouts came from the bow as he was giving me orders and told me to watch him. I prayed hard for two extra eyes, but it didn’t work. Instead I held my panic under control as I did my best to watch CC, the boat behind us and the buoy to make sure we didn’t lose the engine. 

CC quickly realised that the anchor chain was wrapped around the buoy. We couldn’t catch the buoy to tie our boat on because the chain was pulling it down, plus the other boat was too close to it. He made the decision to let out all the anchor tying the end to empty diesel containers. As he did this, the wind pushed us back again and not having much experience with this kind of manoeuvring, sent our boat into the bow of the other. Gratefully the only damage done was a scraped and bruised knee as I tried to soften the blow of the boats colliding. 

With the boat free of the anchor, I was in charge to steer us to his nephew’s abandoned boat where we were going to tie on to. CC was giving me orders in Spanish, but the stress and adrenaline of the last hour was blocking my understanding and I didn’t understand the manoeuvre. He shouted louder, I kept it together and used my brain to figure out what he wanted. Before I changed it into gear, he told me to stop and asked if I could see the anchor buoy. I couldn’t. He grabbed a diving flashlight and jumped into the water as I was given strict instructions to keep it in neutral. After he jumped, I watched the wind push us closer to neighbouring boats. At the crucial moment, I saw our buoy surface and CC popped up. I shouted at him to hurry back on the boat. 

I made a wide circle to avoid the two lines of the buoys. I still wasn’t sure what the manoeuvre was and CC explained it one more time. I slowly approached the bow of his nephew’s boat and gave a big sigh of relief as CC jumped onto his boat with a line. That storm was over. 

This was after finding out that we have to return the boat to her owner in two – three weeks. We knew this day would come, we just didn’t know when and were both in denial. We’re now on a search for a new home and new job. 

We both love this boat. We have made it our home and have spent many challenges and beautiful moments on it. It sails beautifully, was a dream to maintain and was so comfortable. Change is good, something equally as great or better is out there, but sometimes transitions are tough. I suppose things would feel easier if we had a new place to go. That opportunity will come. It always does. 

For now, we are trying to deal with this blow in our own ways while supporting the other. I want hugs, CC wants space. I’m grateful the universe sent my good friend to come see me. She’s coming in five days and I can’t wait for her to fill the loneliness. Just as she’s come at the right time, I know the next home/job opportunity will come too. 

Where are your life storms?

It was a gorgeous clear evening with a gentle breeze. The stars lit up the night sky sparkling like a massive diamond necklace covering the dark ceiling above me. As we went further and further away from Kuna Yala, some of the brightest diamonds created a path of lightover the calm sparkling sea. 

In the distance there were storms in all directions except for the direction we were headed. The energy and light from the rays of lightening fascinated me and drew me into a contemplative mood. Nature is so powerful and gives us everything we need, yet with the new age of technology we are often more wrapped up in the small hand held devices then the beauty of nature that was created for us to thrive and survive. 

As I watched the rays shooting vertically and horizontally in all directions, I couldn’t help but bring a parallel to the life I’ve left behind. A life many people still live in. Those storms were far in the distance, something I could marvel at and turn away from when the flashes were too bright. I was relieved to be observing these storms from a distance. 

There were many times in my life when I was in the midst of those storms and consciously or subconsciously created them. At the time they served a purpose. It helped to expel deep seated anger, wash away unhelpful relationships and cause a dissonance inside of myself that veered me to search for a path of peace, a different path to what I was taught to live. The storms helped me heal and taught me lessons to help others on their journey of healing. 

However as thunderstorms eventually take their course in nature and end, I too had my course of storms. I was tired of the drama, tired of the anger, tired of the high energy. I knew there was another way to live, I just wasn’t sure what it was. I don’t think I’m alone in this search. The rat race causes these storms and stresses whether we welcome them or not. 

As I admired this beautiful national geographic live show, I couldn’t help but feel relieved at my distance to these storms. I saw the sailboat as a beautiful tool. It’s allowed me to literally sit on a calm peaceful place in the world. It allows me time to reflect on life, what’s important and what I need. I can also choose what direction I go in. If a big storm is coming, I can change course to avoid it. Maybe with time restraints or commitment that isn’t possible so I prepare the sails to get through the storm as calmly as possible. When the storm reaches over the boat, I don’t panic, stress or fight over it. I put my foul weather gear on and smile. Knowing I am prepared and knowing that it won’t last so long because I’m not fighting it. I no longer walk into a storm with full sails. It’s incredibly liberating. 

The distant storms seemed to symbolise the current storms of my friends and family. I handle those differently too, I don’t encourage them to go in with full sails. In fact, I offer very little other than an ear and words of encouragement, when I think they are necessary. Sometimes people are open to hearing other perspectives on how to weather the storms, but more often than not, people need to become tired before they can see for themselves. I often play the wise advice of others that was offered to me during the course of my own storms and laugh thinking how they were right, but I just wasn’t ready to set my compass on another course. 

I’m sure I will come across more storms, some bigger and longer than others. I’m sure I will make mistakes and sometimes not reduce the sails when I should, but that’s the beauty of this journey called life. It will no doubt teach me an important life lesson.

Maybe this post will hit home to some readers and I encourage you to think if you’ve set your compass towards these storms as I’ve done in the past. If so, it’s ok, the course can always be altered. You have all the control. Get behind the helm and become the captain of your own life.