Parking

Even though most of my driving career has been here in the United States, I first learn the ways of the road in Colombia. While I still get a little shocked when I first drive there, parking there is actually too different to even include on this post. Lets just say that in most places you park you have to know people or the tourist thing will happen. You have to see Slumdog Millionaire to get this reference.

I learned how to parallel park in Chicago, and even though I am out of practice I can get my car into some pretty tight spots. Parking last night at 75th Street Brewery was a pain because the lot was full, so I got lucky and found a street parking spot where I would not be towed. Wait… no… just ticketed. That is when I realized something, I am super paranoid about getting towed.

I probably have seemed rude in the past here in Kansas City when in a suburb I park on their driveway when visiting them. In the Chicago area parking is a big ordeal. You have to have a city sticker allowing you to park there over night. However, just visiting friends can result on being towed or getting a ticket. After seeing my Dad get towed and having to pay a hefty fine to get the car back I became paranoid. These is one of those ordeals you do not forget and neither does your wallet because it can be more than $200 bucks down the drain.

I have to get out of the mode of parking on people’s driveways and just park on the street since there is no danger of being towed on the suburbs over here. You rarely have to even parallel park.

Personal Space

Yesterday after lunch at Pepper Jack Grill in Oletha, the phillies made us all a little gassy. I am personally not a fan of belching in public, but never though it was solely a cultural thing. During college one of my friends took great pride on burping in public at any opportunity and embarrassed all of us while we were at dinner in some of the restaurants we frequented. A burp is at times not something that you can control, but you can certainly control some of the volume if you chose to. Back in Colombia, one of my school mates could say the whole alphabet and is still the loudest person I have ever heard. I went to the wikipedia to see if they had anything on the etiquette and this is what they said:

In many parts of the world, audible burping is not much appreciated and is therefore considered to be somewhat impolite (although generally not as much as flatulence). However, in other areas it can be considered a sign of completion of a meal or a form of applause for the cook. Sometimes, children and teenagers engage in burping contests to determine who can produce the loudest burp, the longest burp, the most guttural burp, the burping of words, songs, or even the alphabet.

After a couple of loud belches on the drive back, and walking into work, I said something. I am personally not offended by it, but one of the worse smells other than a fart is smelling someone else’s burp. That is just something I don’t enjoy. Corey then mentioned how he has noticed that most foreigners are uncomfortable with public belching and I agreed. I added that I find it somewhat rude, but I think it is mostly because of the embarrassment I felt when my friend in college will do it next to a family having dinner. However, it is no worse than when an f-bomb falls out while in a restaurant without realizing there are kinds in the table next to you. (which I have done in the past)

Personal space is one of the most complicated things I have to deal with. Even though I grew up overseas, I have also adopted some of the personal space rules from here in the US. I have a weird mixture of rules about it that can make things fun sometimes.

Last night we went out to watch Monday Night Football, and also got to catch some of the KU basketball game. The manager came over to check on our table and motion to put his hand on the back of one of my friends, but then hesitated. I could not let the opportunity pass to give him a hard time so I said, don’t touch him. We had fun harassing the manager the rest of the night and it was all fun, but it got me thinking about personal space.

When it comes to my friends, my personal space goes back the level it is acceptable in Colombia. I am actually ok with my friends hugging me and sitting next to me at a movie theater. However, the same does not apply for strangers. It irritates when someone that I does not know me comes and pats me on the back. But I do know it is a mixture of what its ok in Colombia, where we are a lot more “touchy feely” and the more conservative US way.

In conclusion, it is totally ok to hug me if you are a friend, just don’t burp or fart while doing it.

The best country in the world

All around me I have been experiencing the reactions some people have when faced with something they did not expect. They tend to pretend that everything is all right and do nothing to change the situation. Then they look at someone like me, and think that my positive thinking is the product of the same mentality. I am not a hippie that thinks everything is alright, man, just chill and wait for it to happen. (no offense to anyone that might take the word hippie as a derogatory term)

Action IS necessary, and the current government and party have failed me. I had to act by voting for someone that had a better agenda, at least in the open political arena than then status quo. Bush let the government get bigger, not the social justice way, but the earmarks kind of way. The republican party failed to distance themselves from that, and did not provide the best candidate for me, and in turn failed me as a republican that had began to lean independent.

I am an idealist and I do believe that life can be “perfect,” but just like happiness, it is a very hard thing not just to achieve, but maintain.

I never pretend in my head that nothing is wrong, but I strongly believe that everything is going to be alright. Even though a huge portion of my way of thinking for me comes from faith, a lot of it also comes from logic. Mixing feelings and logic is a very hard task; I believe that it is one of those opposites like Mars and Venus in some ways. However difficult it is, enough force can hold two magnets together. The physics of it is kind of cool and measurable, but in life, how do we measure the force that makes us interact with other humans that might be rejecting us with their magnetic field?

I call that love… family… friendship… bonds.

In my life I have tried to befriend almost everyone that has crossed my path. Some people from the get go did not want to have me be a friend, some others I have lost along the way for many reasons… it always goes sour when I realize that the other side is not as willing to compromise as I am, or just simply do not understand what the word compromise really means.

I was taken by surprise when some of the people that I still call friends took very harsh stances against me as soon as our new president was elected; even though I had humored their constant ridicule of a candidate I thought will not just change America, but could change the world. Not in one or two terms in office, but planting the seeds of unity and hard work that will be required to make America the BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.

One of the most hurtful comments to me after the election is why didn’t I move back to Colombia and tried to fix my own (insert your word here) country. That hurt… I thought that someone that had seen me go to college, learn things there not just about computers, but life, the way the system works, the way relationships shape our live. It thought the way that I had affected their lives and they had mine, had given them an understanding of who I am and made me a part of their lives… not just a removable piece. Just like the remote that serves such a purpose when changing the channel but you want to chuck out the door the moment you sit on it and feels uncomfortable. I can only hope that they realize that I did serve a purpose in their lives and I am not something that should be discarded… in that case I honestly believe it would be their loss.

So let’s talk about it… is Colombia a worse country than this one is? The answer is so relative it will take not just a PhD in political science and Latin American Issues to truly understand everything about it. To me personally it is a little easier to answer. In many respects YES, Colombia TO ME, is a better country than the US. I lived a middle upper class life over there, have family and friends that even though I been here for half of my life still receive me with open arms… and now there is the new addition of my wife’s family that are nothing but some of the best people I have ever met. Is my country or origin riddled with problems? Absolutely, but I have NEVER voted for a presidential election there even though I can… why? BECAUSE I LIVE HERE! and THIS IS ALSO MY COUNTRY.

Listening to the radio yesterday people were asked if Obama being elected had already changed American society. To answer the radio show question, I believe that yes, America has shown that even by a small margin the majority of this country elected who they thought was better for the job and not the race, that is a big step in the right direction. In my little microcosms it also has changed my life, I have felt how harsh some people can be with their words… I can only wonder how harsh they are with their thoughts.

At the end of the day I still believe that my parents came to the best country in the world, and I live in a country that is now in many fronts falling behind as a super power. If someone has not checked the numbers in China’s military in recent years they are foolish. If someone has not checked the earning power of the Indian middle class they are just plain blind. To believe that we are the only ones in the world is just moronic, and to rest on our laurels still thinking that America is going the right direction and there is no other point of view than the republican point of view will get all of us nowhere. That is not why this REPUBLIC was formed, quit trying to turn this in to the REPUBLICAN DICTATORSHIP and don’t be such sore losers. Work together to make this country better and instead of trying to predict doom and how Obama will ruin everything, see what YOU can do at the local level to make sure that our country DOES become the best country in the world once again.

Tinto

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world, and even though Brazil is the largest exporter in the world, when most people hear about Colombia they think about coffee and Juan Valdez. The name of the donkey is “conchita” so that you cannot accuse me that I am not educational, you learned something new today.

While visiting Colombia I did drink a lot of coffee. Bea’s family enjoys drinking coffee throughout the day and I was very glad. I drink a big cup of coffee or two in the morning here in the US, but over there I was content with smaller doses during the day.

“Tinto” is what Colombians call coffee, as in a “cup of joe.” It might mean little different ways of making it depending on the geographical region, but it almost always refers to coffee.

Bea’s Mom and I would sit every morning to have a cup of coffee first thing. We would sit there and talk about so many different things, from the meaning of life to the mundane. She had a very calming effect on me, her inner peace is easy to get drunk on. For someone that survived losing her husband and two of her kids, she is full of hope and will to live, but most of all inner peace.

One of the hardest things for me now is not to be able to sit down and drink a cup of coffee with her in the morning. I seldom find people that are morning people anymore. Not many people can stand the thought of having a talk about philosophy or religion first thing in the morning, but we would sit there and try to fix the world. I cannot wait to go back to Colombia and enjoy many cups of coffee with Bea and her family again.

Holding a Grudge since High School

I have several posts that I have been wanting to finish from my time in Colombia, but the various medical things put my mind in other things during the last week. Then a post from Nuke brought one of the topics back into focus.

During high school back in Colombia even though I was chubby I was still one of the smallest kids in our class and certainly the youngest. While I don’t consider every one of my classmates a bully I was a very easy target. There were a couple of people that really made my life miserable and sometimes I have wondered if I ever saw them face to face now as an adult if I would confront them, if it would be worth it.

I had the chance to see a couple of my classmates during my trip back to Colombia, and while we were exchanging e-mails some of them brought back the old names we used to call each other. Some of them were very offended by them and I certainly understood were they were coming from. Those days bring back some dark memories for me along with the good ones.

While someone could argue that everyone got picked on at one point or another, I was mercilessly picked on during 6 years with that group of people. It went from simply having my book bag hidden to the desk that my Dad had to buy for me (each person brought their own to the school) completely torn apart and even attempted to be set on fire. The physical abuse was not as often, but it did happen and it was probably the most frustrating because I just could not defend myself against some kids that were 4 years my seniors.

In Colombia you are with your classmates all the time, the teachers come to your classroom rather than you going to theirs with different groups of people. Most of my classmates were with me for the whole 6 years and we were all in the same classroom year after year.

Maybe it was the whole all boys school, or just that we were a bad group from the beginning, I remember we got in trouble more than any other group in our school. One of the meanest things that they ever did was our yearbook. While I was used to the stupid comments, to have something very vile written about you for your family to read was truly embarrassing. Even though I was not the only victim and many of my classmates had some incriminating and personal attacks written about them, it was still something that at the time hurt.

I healed from all of that. Moving here to the U.S. gave me the opportunity to start at a new school where the bullies I encountered were gang members that wanted to physically hurt me but were more at part with my size, that and my best friend in high school was pretty big and always had my back. I developed a sense of being very protective to those around me and I despise others taken advantage of someone weaker either physically or mentally. That is one of the main reasons for picking up a dragon as the tattoo I now have in my arm, because to me it represents many things and one of them is protecting others. Some of my college friends can tell you how far I will go when protecting a friend.

One of my classmates from back in high school was a very quiet boy. Extremely intelligent and someone that I learned a lot about chess from. We were never extremely close during those times, but I knew who he was and liked him a lot. I did not know that he was picked on, and did not know how much the words in that year book had hurt him. It has been over 15 years since those days and he is still very angry at the people that wrote it. I have written it off as it was immature boys doing immature things; he in the other hand still holds a grudge.

We had an awesome time when we got together and talked about a lot of things, but it was not until later when I posted some of the pictures I took that the comments back and forth between old classmates turned ugly. It was sad in many ways, but I think the pain is real, I think the need to feel respected back then and now are probably the same, I think some of the wounds never healed.

I am glad some of those wounds for me as simple scars now, but again I am not perfect and if I encountered one of the bullies that physically abused me back then I am not sure if I would be the better man or not… I hope so. So when Nuke talked about being a bully to another bully I was torn… between cheering him on for taking on a bully to others and understanding that he does not want to become what he is trying to fight against.

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