Sunday, August 7, 2011

Getting our wedding on in Cartagena Colombia

Yet again, a very long time since I rapped at ya’. Lyz got acclimated over the autumn season and during that time we proceeded with her green card and travel authorization process (which allows her to leave the country and come back pending her green card approval). The miscreants at Homeland Security did keep to their professed timeline and right around X-mas she got her travel authorization. What to do? Festa in Cartagena, of course! A ceremonial but super Colombia style wedding (boda) was in order. Arrangements needed to commence ASAP if we were going to pull this off as we identified late February as a great time to go as I could use Delta Skymiles for domestic travel down to Miami and Avianca’s fares were pretty low as it is just before Carnaval season in Colombia. We thought about doing during that time as Barranquilla (about 90 mins. NE of Cartagena) is known for one of the biggest Carnavals in the world. The problem would be that the wedding might conflict with many of her friends and families plans for that since we were less than two months away once we started planning the wedding details in early January.

So we had to miss Carnaval but doing it just before Carnaval was pretty much low season at a time yet the rains are rarely active at all. So the date was targeted for the end of February and we worked back from that (actually mostly Lyz and her mom and sister as local knowledge was crucial as well as not letting anyone know a gringo was involved which would translated to pretty much double the price on everything).

So planning commenced and sites were reviewed. In the end, after some difficulty and much anxiety, we were extremely lucky to secure a permit to have the wedding outside on the wall of the historic walled city at the Baluarte de San Ignacio with a view of Centro as well as the conventional center which abuts onto the bay leading into the Caribbean. This was secured through our catering and event planning owner and MC, who is a local radio personality. Usually getting a permit for a wedding reception for up to 6 months prior to the date can be hard to get yet we got it for only a few weeks away. All this time, Lyz was getting her friends and family of about 70 people aware that the specifics were coming and to start holding that weekend open. And my parents finally were able to commit to coming so I would not be the only gringo in attendance.

Lyz arrived 12 days before the wedding date of February 26th and I came 5 days later. The weather was perfect all week which was great as her papi, David, was chauffeuring us all over the city for last minute preparations.

The perfect weather lasted up to and through the wedding day. That afternoon we checked into a quaint hotel in the great San Diego neighborhood and got all dressed in white which is the Colombian Caribbean coastal tradition for both bride and groom. At around 6 we took the traditional pre-ceremony horse drawn carriage ride through the old city and were cheered on by both locals and turistas. As nightfall approached around 7 pm, we arrived at the wall for the final set up with a gentle cooling breeze kicking up and guests started arriving as we were having the ceremony and the reception on the wall together.

In short, almost everything went off without a hitch and the setting and the people in attendance to share with us were wonderful. I was meeting all sorts of new friends and family of Lyz’s and welcoming them is my sincere but broken Espanol. The food and drink were top notch and then the best festa of my life started!

It was a dance-a-thon the rest of the night capped off by a mini-Barranquilla Carnaval performance by a troupe that one of Lyz’s former classmates was a member of for what is called the Hora Loco (Crazy Hour) at around midnight. I have never boogied so much in mi vida! The crowd was out of control and the drumming and chanting were truly loco. In all, it was a perfect reception for us and a truly unique setting and culture experience-which can be seen here:

And here is where you can see some more fotos:

Saturday, January 15, 2011


I guess it has been quite a while since I have blogged at ‘cha. Obviously, lots going on with Lyz arriving in the US in early August, getting married and getting settled into married life again and now we are past the holidays and time is slowing done some. Alas, this is my homage, my reflection on my dog, who as George Harrison once said on an album title I recall from my adolescence, “All things must pass”. Even all “wonderful things”.

Windsor (aka: Wheezy, Cheesedog and the Wonder Dog) was practically a record setter as she lived exactly 15 years, 3 months and a day. Though finding a record for the oldest Old English Sheepdog is quite elusive even in this Google age, the kindly Internal Medicine Vet who treated her on her last day stated “I have never seen a dog that big (80 lbs.) live to be that old”. On average Old English Sheepdog’s mortality is around 11 or 12, so she got in a significant amount of more lovin’ and lickin’ in. In hindsight, I guess I was dreaming when she had turned 15 at the end of May when I said to myself, “Heck, it’s looking like she will make it 17 the way she is going.”

Windsor left this mortal coil at September 1st, 2010 in the most compassionate and peaceful way possible at the local VCA animal hospital with Lyz and I as well as John, my retired neighbor who was always there to take care of her and love her with his wife Sally at their house when I went dashing on trips both local and global.

Just a handful of days earlier, she started having even more difficulty getting up and walking (she had been on a prescription joint medication for her hind legs specifically since the start of 08’) as for the past year she couldn’t get up off tile most the time and sometimes even on carpet so I had to help lift her up to get around and that seemed to be fine with her. However, while she was not in pain or distress during this time and had no other health problems to speak of, quickly, over the course of the weekend, it was clear something was gravely wrong, as she also basically stopped eating and wobbled greatly when she tried to walk.

On Monday afternoon after taking her to my regular local vet and basic tests were done, it was determined I should get her over to VCA early the next morning after spending a quiet and calm night with us. I authorized an ultrasound and early on the afternoon of the 1st our worst fears were confirmed but at least we had peace of mind in knowing what it was and there was nothing left we could do. She had malignant stomach tumors which killed off her white blood cell count and left her completely anemic and weak as could be. There was no option-we knew surgery couldn’t be performed on a dog with an equivalent human age of around 95 or so, so we gathered and spent some final farewell time in one of their family rooms before she was humanely let go.

Of course, the tears flowed before, during and after she slipped away but I took great comfortable in knowing she had a wonderful life and that she gave me even much more than I gave her. Of course, it took a while to get over the loss and I did break down about a week later after returning from Arizona where Lyz and I got married (a new birth, of sorts) and spent a short first honeymoon (the second one in Cartagena is still to come, hopefully in February) in Sedona and the Grand Canyon.

Knowing how both of us have much love to give to a dog, we adopted Natasha from the Albuquerque Animal Shelter about two months later. After some scary initial health issues that have subsided, she is proving to be a fine follower of Windsor’s in our happy home.

After all, I muse over the quote by Iggy Pop from the song “A Machine for Loving“ on his most recent album, “What is a dog but a machine for loving.”

And finally, to quote Laetitia Sadier, lead singer of Stereolab, on her new solo album about her sister's suicide, this hit home and put me at peace:

“She went on a million-year trip and left everything behind-- her skin, her hair. She has a long way to travel, so I will open my heart, and let the pain run along as there is no point in holding on.”