The importnace of a local mechanic

I have had my share of woes with my vehicle. One of the added benefits of meeting Cielo is that she knew a good mechanic, and believe me dealing with car trouble becomes a total different experience. You stop feeling like you are getting ripped off every time something happens to your car and start feeling like you get a deal.

I just got my breaks done, after they had started grinding pretty bad. I took my car to the local tire place (I bought my tires there) to get them rotated, balanced and get an alignment I thought I needed. They immediately told me my breaks were bad (which I was aware off), but not before trying to tell me that unless they replaced the struts in my car they could not do an alignment. I don’t know all that much about cars but it sounded pretty bad to me. I could not afford the 400 bucks to do all that they wanted to do, and after the initial shock and talking to Cielo I went and picked up my car from those crooks.

When I picked it up, the guy said that my car did not need alignment, that the wheels just needed balancing. No mention of the breaks or the struts. My car started grinding bad after that and got worse to the point that we stopped driving it since we have the convenience of having two vehicles. I called our local mechanic but unfortunately he was booked for the week and was taking a vacation right after.

I left him a message during his vacation and he called me this week. He thought I would have already gotten the car fixed, but I said no I wanted to wait for you. He checked my car and told me the struts were fine, they were not leaking and in no need to be replaced. I get my car back today and could not be happier. I totally support finding a local guy that you can trust to work on your vehicles. Dealers and other chains are nothing but trouble.

The Anguish of Living Displaced

The following is an article originally published in Spanish, can be found here. After reading it I felt it was necessary to post it, I think it opens a little window for people that live in countries other than Colombia and even Latin America to understand some of our idiosyncrasies.

The Anguish of Living Displaced
By:Leszli Kalli
Translated without permission By: John Guzman

My name is Leszli Kalli, better known as the little girl that was held for 373 days by the ELN(Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional – National Liberation Army) after being kidnapped in the taking of the Avianca(Colombian Airline) airplane. I am the one that published the diaries of her captivity. The one that had a walking stick in which it marked every day of permanence in the jungle. Today I live displaced. I put a period after the word displaced and I remain thinking about two greater words, two words that capture pain: kidnapping and expatriation. They are negative, dark, and I, 24 years old, already know them, as one knows a mother, as one knows a son or a sister. I had to get to know them.
To live far from Colombia, and the concrete possibility to return not in sight, creates a unique kind of anguish. One that puts to us in the situation to miss things that for those that live in Colombia are daily, perhaps inconsequential and even annoying, but for us they end up acquiring an almost sacred character. I speak, for example, of the anguish of never listening to the noise of horns in the street. For the two years that I have lived outside Colombia I have yet to hear a single car honk its horn. Here nobody honks and this silence kills. It mortifies me, even, to never hear a driver swear when another one stops in the middle of street to buy cigarettes. One ends up missing “the loose” things: a cigarette paid with coins, a stick of gum, a single package of frunas(starburst like candy) or an aromatic coffee of one thousand pesos(a dollar) in seventh street. It distresses to me to discover that I cannot go to a market where they sell cheap clothes and in which is worth it to bargain with the salesman, and there are steals and sales. Here there is nowhere to find that guy that, in ten minutes, sells you a dog of 300,000 pesos ($3000) in 30.000 ($300), making us think that we made the deal of a lifetime.
There is no tranquility, as peaceful as the place we live away from Colombia might seem, if one cannot stop to look around the work of a street painter who works with charcoal. You cannot imagine the pain of produce by not getting quirky lines from guys or at least to be object of a glance; the anguish to get ready for hours so that nobody dares to say anything. You really miss: the imprudent salesperson who says “you is getting fat” or “you have been eating all your supper, no?”, the stranger who in line starts a conversation and ends up giving you his opinion on what we should or should not do. Where I live, one can go out with a shoe on the head and nobody, nobody, is going to say a thing. I tested this: the other day I went out with the pajama trousers (little bears sleeping on clouds) for college and no one noticed. Here people mind their own business and back in Colombia everyone is one everyone else’s. That is my order in the middle of the chaos that is the beauty that I miss so much. Here everything is uniform, everything is very perfect to the millimeter. In Colombia, we all stand out and are active part of a landscape that is perfect, because it’s not perfect.
It distresses to never see the unmistakable face of Colombian people, people who live happy, that laughs, that is contented in spite of so many problems. People who look at you directly in the eyes, with mixture of malice and sweetness, that wants to know everything and knows of all thus does not know anything. Here people walk like hung by invisible threads that God does not manipulate but a gray routine. I have changed the capital of the noise for the capital of the cold and silence. And it hurts. That I have a new opportunity to live, that I am safer here than in Colombia, that to be here it is a gift of God to continue living? No, this is not a gift: here the trees are skeletons, the ground is covered with snow and there is always a frozen wind of twenty degrees below cero that, like a needle, chills the bones. It is called on to me to make the futile exercise of blaming this frightful climate, and I end up feeling like a cat that it had in Colombia, a cat that bristled and scratched when it tried to bathe it. Sometimes I want to bristle, to scratch and to get out of this city.
That is my anguish, knowledge that I do not belong to this place, and which I cannot be where I belong. And to feel that the only small piece which I have of Colombia is summarizes by a little piece of tricolor string tied around my wrist, because the time and the distance get in between and without wanting to they loosen other bonds (friendships and family), they break promises (those of the boyfriend) and only leave open the door of memory, in there I lock myself in when the anguish attacks me; when I feel that emptiness that grew in the middle of my chest when I was 21 years old and I knew that it had to leave the country. The one that I try to fill as soon as possible, that “is cured” with one of those hugs that give security, a hug of “everything is going to be ok”, like the ones our parents gave us when we were very small. And, nevertheless, time passes and that hug never arrives. Two years and a half and this pain still intact. Today I know where I cure it: today I know that it will only disappear when I wake up hugged by the Colombian sky.

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This article really moved me in many different ways. Everything she feels I have felt at one time in another while becoming part of a society that is foreign to me. There are so many things that are so difficult for people to understand unless they have lived them. The easiest way I can illustrate the feeling is talking about growing up around mountains; not having them there when you look around promotes a feeling of loss in your soul. I am infatuated with the sky and on occasion it humors me by displaying the most beautiful clouds that make it almost seem like once again mountains surround me.

My situation is a little bit different than Leszly’s, I have been able to return to Colombia… not to mention that I was never kidnapped… but I still can feel the pain of being away from that place I call my home land. I am an American now, used to the way of life here and missing less and less the little idiosyncrasies of my beautiful but troubled country of origin. It is hard to find words to open a window to that world, and I have many times tried to write something to about it… hopefully this article will inspire me to write more about the things that are about Colombia; talk about things besides violence and drugs which is what most people associate the country with.

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Women are Grand!

I was going to write about how much Hitchhikers Guide to the galaxy sucked, and to stay away from it, but Aprils’ comment made me remember something I saw on TV this weekend and further my need to rant.

I was flipping through channels, having already exhausted the TiVo for the weekend and I stopped at MTV for the usual voyeuristic chuckle. I dislike MTV, but I do find it to be a guilty pleasure. When I watch some shows on MTV it is like watching a car wreck, you cannot help but watch. I do have to say that some of the series that MTV has had have been well done, others just show how stupid our generation can be.

I had encountered this show before, it is called; I want a famous face. Well it is a ridiculous premise to start with, but since I had not seen this episode before I said why not. Enter a mother of two that wants to look like Jennifer Anniston. It amazed me to see a girl wanting so much done all at once. She wanted; nose, chin, breast implants and liposuction on her back, sides, tummy and legs. Once the operation was done she looked more like a mummy and so miserable, it was painful to watch. The magic of TV however, fast-forwarded 2 months, and voila she was recuperated and ready for a night out on the town. I was bothered by this girl’s actions, having a boyfriend and two kids, going on a “girls night out” and having guys touch her breasts.

I have never touched a fake breast, and I have no desire to either. I would be very offended if my woman let another man just feel her up. I guess in our society that is cool. Well, not in my book.

My rant is not about the disrespect to this girl’s boyfriend by the whole, “touch my fake breast incident.” I want to talk about the lack of self-respect this girl had. I totally understand someone wanting to look good, but to do it because of how others are going to see you and not for yourself I think is wrong. Our society has become so infatuated with the way we look that it becomes almost impossible not to be self-conscious in some level.

Women are grand. Women are beautiful and intelligent beings that grace us with their presence on this earth. No matter what size or how they look on the interior there is always some level of beauty to everyone. I am not a feminist, and I do not agree with a lot of that way of thinking… but what I do believe is that women need to be respected and adored like the goddesses they are. I am a man’s man, but I do not buy into the whole objectifying women. It is sad that our society has made the definition of beautiful an unrealistic portrait of an airbrushed woman that in my opinion is not real.

I am glad I have a strong, intelligent woman by my side. I only have eyes for her; she is my goddess and whom I like to give all my love and respect. I just hope that our society stops focusing so much on the outside and start healing on the inside, because we are in big trouble the way I see things.

Expectation

The final StarWars movie is about to be unleashed on both the StarWars nuts and the general public. I rank somewhere in the middle of that whole mess, mostly because I just cannot bring myself to wear a costume so I am not that hard core. I have really been trying to approach movies with zero expectation, and for the most part it has worked. There is no disappointment when I do watch the movie.

I have been thinking a lot about the word expectation lately. Not just in the sense of watching a movie but in a more interpersonal relationship level. I like to be a person that is full of hope, unfortunately, very closely to hope is the word that I believe can be dangerous which is expectation. So in my introspection I became curious as to how accurate my definition of the word really is. According to Webster, expectation is the act or state of expecting. Then they list anticipation in bold letters. My curiosity not being satisfied by this definition wants to go a little further. After another click of the mouse, expect is defined as to look forward to, and my curiosity was finally content with the etymology of the world. Expect comes from Latin, exspectare. To look forward to, from ex- + spectare to look at, from spectus, past participle of specere to look — more at SPY.

Even though my curiosity got its fill of information, I was really not satisfied. I wanted to know a little more about why this word was on my mind, furthermore, why did it almost seem to bother me. So I went on a quest to find some related quotes. The following expressed a little better what I was thinking.

“Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”
-Alexander Pope

“Never idealize others. They will never live up to your expectations.”
-Leo Buscaglia

“Unhappiness is best defined as the difference between our talents and our expectations.”
-Edward de Bono

Pope kind of sums it up as far as what my mental definition of the word is. Leo however put it at the personal level where I really want to go. De Bono got mentioned for the simple fact that it really rang true when I read the quote. But back on topic, I am really bothered by the word expectation when it comes to personal relationships. It is partly because I do not follow what Leo is saying and in a lot of occasions I have ended up idealizing a person when I really should not have. Almost looking at the version of what the person could be and not what they truly are. I think we all fall into this pitfall at one point or another when dealing with others. For a hopeful dreamer like me this can be a problem.

Over the years I have lost touch with my closest friends. Some were due to fallouts after difference of opinions. Others are kind of an unexplained distancing between us. Looking back it could have a lot to do with my expectations out of the relationship. The expectations I had of the person could really have hindered the relationship. I always try to see the positive side of things, and I am even worse with possibilities. I like to be a problem solver and for years I was somewhat of a preacher to my friends. One of the things that I failed to communicate was that a lot of my advice was never a take it or don’t be my friend anymore; but more of a “my advice is an idea or a point of view not gospel.” I come off as strong and opinionated, and even though my moral standards are very high, they apply only to me and not to others or the way they live their lives.

I do recognize that in my failed relationships I did expect more out of the relationship. I used to feel like if I give a lot, I expect a lot in return. This is not the way things should be. You should give as much as you want to give. What you get in return is whatever the other person feels they should give, and it should not be expected. I am human though, and I did expect a little more out of those people and the relationships I had with them. I now look back and see that I did idealize those around me, and did not see the reality right in front of me. All I saw was a version of what I thought the people were capable of being, not who they really were.

I can say that until my current relationship I have always idealized my partner on many levels. My love now, however, has found a way to keep me grounded and looking at reality. Keeping me from flying too high is a task on its own when dealing with a dreamer. I would like to think that in the past I did not live in an alternate reality created by my psyche, but I am afraid that in some ways I did. I also did not know myself as well as I know myself now. Cielo has brought me clarity in many levels, and I have grown more self-aware during the period of time that we have been together. It is amazing to learn to look at other’s views, even while opposite, as a means to broaden your own point of view.

The question still stands; does expectation ruin a relationship? Can what we think of others be an over inflated version of who the person really is? Do we walk a line that mixes hope and expectation a little bit too much? Or even worse do we know how to differentiate between the two?

The Dangers of Plastic Surgery

Medicine is a field that is still growing rapidly. Technology has augmented this field as much as many others. Today we have advances in medicine that would have been considered science fiction 50 years ago. Even though we still do not have a cure for cancer we can now change our appearance drastically thanks to medicine.

Do not get me wrong, I am not here to demonize plastic surgery or medicine, I am just going to rant about how I think our society is really taking a step in the wrong direction.

I don’t watch much TV anymore. Since I started using TiVo, I select the shows that I want to watch and when I get a chance I catch up on TV. It is somewhat alarming the amount of TV now dedicated to Plastic Surgery. Just from what I have heard in the commercials I watch we have Doctor 90210, Nip and Tuck, Extreme Makeover… and I am sure that the list goes on.

I am all for people wanting to look their best, but there has to be a line that is drawn. Where does self-improvement end and self-mutilation begin? We have plenty of extreme cases to illustrate, like Michael Jackson and The Tigress. People that have gone so far with their plastic surgery that they do not even look human anymore. Now, I do respect the people that do it because it is their goal to not look human anymore, like lizard man and some other extreme body modification enthusiasts.

I am talking about the people that want to look younger, or thinner or sexier. I am talking about your regular people out there, that I feel, are being pressured by society to feel uncomfortable in their own skin. It saddens me to see that people go to such lengths just to have others see them as “beautiful”.

I know some people would think I am full of it when I say that beauty comes from within, but I truly believe it does. I think that people that are beautiful on the inside will radiate a lot more beauty than people that just have it in the outside.

I remember an episode of a reality-based show on MTV where an amateur body builder wanted to get calf implants. This is a case where I believe even one surgery is too much. Are we that shallow that we have to look perfect in this world down to every single muscle to really be appreciated or made to feel complete and beautiful?

If that is true, then it is a shame that we live in a society so focused on physical appearance. I am not against looking good; I am even trying to lose weight myself. If I had the means I would even consider liposuction to see that six pack that I know is hiding under that belly of mine. So maybe even I have fallen prey to society’s way of thinking.

Now that I have rambled on quite a bit I come to my point and it is the danger involved with plastic surgery. I am not sure if most people that are using this method to better their appearance are misinformed or just choose to ignore the risks associated with it. It is not a safe practice to go under the knife, and some of these procedures are a lot riskier than they may seem at first. Someone related to a coworker passed away in the middle of gastric bypass surgery. The person needed the procedure for several medical reasons, but nonetheless they did not survive the operation. Watching the doctor Phil show I saw a woman that wanted to get butt implants. This procedure put her at risk because of a pre-existing medical condition. Even worse than that, the operation was risky because of how close to the sciatic nerve they would have to get. If damaged you can become paralyzed.

I just want to say to people, please be careful. If you are set on getting plastic surgery or any kind of intrusive procedure, please research. The Internet has a wealth of information that can be easily tapped. Also make sure that you are going to a Board Certified Physician or someone that can be trusted. I am not saying that a certification buys peace of mind, but at least it is a start. Look at the risks involved, and think of the health factor first. What is the point of looking good if you cannot walk anymore?

I wanted to close the post with links to websites that explained the risks, but all I could find was extremes. The surgeons say its no big deal, the people that have had bad experiences say is the worse thing is life. I guess I leave the surfing as your homework.

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