Joy and Pain

I am worried. Our cat Montgomery, who is currently back in MA being cared for by our amazing house tenants, is sick. He has a history of Irritable Bowel Syndrome which seems to have flared up again. He has been throwing up quite a bit (which is a lot of work for our tenants to clean up) and the only thing that helps with this are steroid drugs which have serious side effects. I just talked to the vet and he said that since Montgomery is an old cat, he needs to be tested for cancer and liver issues.

I feel horrible leaving our tenants to deal with all of this. At the same time, there is not much that we can do from here. We have been thinking of bringing Montgomery here on Esteban’s next trip back to Boston (sometime in Jan/Feb) anyway since we are thinking of staying for two years and we miss our cat. Now, I feel even more pressure to bring him here asap so that our tenants don’t have to deal with his health issues.

On the other hand, I am concerned about getting him the help he needs here because I am not sure that there are vets here who would go to great lengths to help an old cat. I don’t have the sense that people care for their pets here in the same way we do in the States, like members of the family. Here, they are animals and don’t usually get expensive veterinary interventions. I guess we just have to take it one step at a time… get Montgomery to the vet back home; see what we are dealing with; make a treatment plan and see what we do.

On a completely different note, we had quite an interesting holiday experience yesterday. Esteban’s work had an office holiday decorating contest and I was asked to be one of the judges. I am not sure how I was chosen for this honor but it turned out to be quite a serious thing. There were six of us judges (all from companies donating the prizes and me) and we had to come up with rules and criteria for selection and then select the winners and which prizes they would get. I can honestly say that I have not seen anything taken as seriously here in Colombia, with as much professionalism and planning, as this contest. Maybe Esteban’s organization is really professional or maybe Christmas decorations are a top priority (or both).

People really got into decorating their offices: the North Pole complete with a dry ice machine blowing what looked like snow (this won first prize), Santa’s house with a chimney and Mr. and Mrs. Claus, life size nativity scenes, Santa’s workshop, you name it. The amount of work (most of the decorations were handmade) and creativity that went into these were astounding. It was hard for us judges to choose the winners. There were nine prizes awarded, ranging from dinners for two to hotel get-aways to tickets to NYC or Miami. And from what I heard and saw, there was a lot of team work involved, everybody helped each other and cheered for the winners. It was actually a huge celebration. “This is real Christmas spirit” somebody said to me.

On yet a different note, I am starting to really see the shifts that I read about in the “how to be an expat” books that I read before we came here. At first, everything was fun and new and exciting (honeymoon period), then there was the period of disillusionment when everything seemed hard and was driving me crazy (thank you for sticking with me through all of the complaining), and now I am starting to come to a happy middle, the annoying stuff (lack of punctuality, follow-through, noise levels) doesn’t bother me as much anymore and I am really appreciating the positives: the spirit of the Colombian people, the zest for life, the flexibility and ability to go with the flow, the willingness to celebrate everything. There is a real sense of optimism and growth here right now (as in things are finally calm after years of war and everybody is optimistic about the future). It’s a great energy to be in.

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