Letter from Medellin

testPhil Herzog: Dear Amigos,

First let me apologize for the hiatus in communication. Retiring, divesting, and moving to South America has been time consuming and emotionally draining. This the first of what I hope will be a series of sporadic expat sharings. I hope you find them of interest. If you would rather not receive them, let me know.

We have now been living in Medellin, Colombia for almost three months. Moving to another country with a language foreign to one’s ear is qualitatively different than visiting as a tourist. The feeling of being dislocated and disoriented is like being at sea with no land in sight. It takes a while to get one’s bearings and I would be less than honest to say it wasn’t stressful. Some expat blogs say this period lasts 1-3 months.

That said, we have settled in. We have finally relaxed in to retirement and have gotten used to

Cam Herzog

Cam Herzog

having no (few) obligations without guilt. It is amazingly freeing as those retired can attest but impels one to make use of the recovered time. That is coming more slowly but a structure to our lives is coming in to focus. Cam has begun oil painting classes as a creative outlet (in addition to cooking) and Spanish lessons, salsa classes, bicycle Sundays, and tennis/swim club membership lie ahead.

We have obtained 5 year residency visas and national identity cards and signed up for basic government subsidized health insurance (initial impression-pretty bureaucratic but have yet to access care) and an ambulance service. We have had teeth cleanings, haircuts, and mani/pedis. We have begun to build a network of acquaintances, both Colombian and non who are bilingual and we have attended a seder. We meet regularly with our contractor and architect and have busied ourselves with the myriad decisions generated by renovating and furnishing the apartment we had purchased last year.

Currently we are staying in a small two bedroom apartment (condo) in a building with the great amenity of a rooftop pool on the 24th floor with a terrific view of Medellin and the Aburra valley. It is well located in the central Poblado district, important as we walk a great deal, but it is dangerously close to Medellin’s first Krispy Kreme. The valley topography is stunning. Verdant Andean ridges surround 3.7 million souls in Medellin and surrounding municipalities. The broad valley floor is at 5000 feet. The city has done a great job preserving its arbor and subtropical plants and flowers make for a very green urban environment (see photos). Birdsong awakens us-Colombia has more avian species than any other country.

We will be back in Seattle/Oakland in September and NYC in October for the births of two more grandchildren before returning to our (hopefully completed) apartment and my necessary knee replacement in November.

We are falling in love with this city and its friendly “tranquilo” culture as Cam’s happy photo suggests. The weather has been a huge factor (usually 60[L]-85[H] degrees every day with little oppressive humidity). It really makes a difference in one’s outlook and sense of well being.

Blessings, Philip (Don Felipe)

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