Here I intend to write down our story that began 2011! A beautiful and passionate love story!
This is not an ordinary story or a fairytale. It might be written from an angle or a view not so often read or written. Is it made up or did this really happen or is it just another exaggerated story told by a person that have no contact with reality? These stories just don’t happen and if they do it is only someone elses story. I write like this as an introduction because people always tell me that this will or cannot happen to them/me. My answer is “Why not?”.
This is my story about how I meet Pilar 10000km away and why I feel and think it is worth tellling. Read it, you might learn something and be inspired to do the same, it can also become your story! Don’t let life pass you by and wait for things to happen, make them happen! It might not be like in my case a woman 10000km away, but it definetly is a change in life.
It all started at midnight april 2011 when I came home from work. I work as a youthcounsellor at a home for teenagers in my hometown and it has a workschedule that requires work at odd hours. So here I come home thinking to plan my vacation in Spain the coming summer. I sit down in my comfortable chair in front of my laptop ready to make my reservation! My eyes caught an add anouncing “Cheap tickets to South-America”! That was enough for me to check it out. Why? You might think! Well I have been to Colombia several times and fallen in love with this beautiful country and its people. My desire has always been to return, but because of circumstances that concerns my family, my mother is (was) old and a journey that far made it difficult for her. Colombia is far far away and Spain is a much closer.
Anyway here I sit in front of my computer at midnight after a long days work with an add offering special prices to South-America. But first a glass of red wine to relax me and some serious thinking. Well I got to look at this offer before I book my ticket to Spain, just in case. The offer was fantastic! Lufthansa was just opening their flights to South-america and also to Colombia and they had a campaign offer! The price, returnticket from Copenhagen to Bogota, 565usdollars (4000swedish crowns)! Unbelievable! It was halfprice from ordinary price. Of course the choice was obviuos, but still….! Could I do it because of my familysituation and other questions that also came to my mind. Of course I like to make spontaneous descions, but this was quite a big one and I had to do it now, because this was the last day of the offer, Tomorrow the ticket would be back at the ordinary level of over 1100usdollars (8500sw.crowns) again! So after some thinking and a few sips of wine I found my motivation and reason to buy the ticket. The reason and motivation? This year I would turn 60, so this was the birthday gift to myself. Enough thinking, I pressed “OK” and now the ticket was bought for october 13, 2011. I would arrive in Cartagena in Colombia late at night the 13th of October and wake up 14th of october on my 60th birtday. Great!
But after a few days I started to get some other thoughts in my head and questions! Since I had been to Colombia a few times before and had experienced a lot of what Colombia has to offer, what purpose will this trip have? Well I decided that I will call it “the journey inside of me”, and I decided to set up 3 goals.
1. How my relationship with my dear friends in Colombia will develop.
2. visit my godchild that I have had for a couple of years now and
3 last but not least “Is there possibly a colombian woman for me? And this is where chapter 2 starts!
I contacted my good friend who is also a good photographer and asked him to take some pictures of me. Pictures I could use to put on the dating sight called Colombian Cupid, an ordinary dating sight where ordinary people place their profile! So this is what I did. I had already decided to be very honest about myself and not try to hide the way I looked, my age, my background, interests etc. The profile should be true and honest. I paid a subscription for 3 months and was going to give it a fair chance. If I meet someone “Great” and if I don’t at least I tried. So the search for my colombian woman was on.
Maybe you think “Why not look for a woman a little closer?” I don’t really know more than that I love latin women, the latin lifestyle and then of course Colombia. And I also have a more longterm vision and plan for my travels and trips to Colombia. And now my hope was to find my Colombian woman. Anyway I clicked on many profiles and I got a lot of responses from women all over Colombia. The age I was looking for was from 40 to 50! And yes there were plenty out there. More than I ever expected. So I narrowed it down to women who could write good english, my spanish is not yet fluent. Being able to communicate is important to me and not just sitting looking at each other. Out of respect, I think being able to talk to each other, expressing ideas, thoughts, beliefs etc is of outmost importance in a relationship. So now I sorted out over 50% of thoose who clicked on my profile. Actually english is not that common in Colombia and my experiences are that even among the educated it is not so widely spread.
So now I had a few left that still were interesting and I had a good communication with. My second step to narrow it down was to find someone in the region of Cartagena and Santa Marta, since it was in this area I planned to find a more permanent place as well. Now there was not so many women left. Again the language,English, really was what made the big difference. Out of all these only 2 women were left and were outstanding! One in Cartagena and one in Santa Marta. Both wrote english very very good and I had nearly daily communication through email with both of them. The one in Cartagena was a little problem for me because she was only 36 years old and I felt she was a little too young whereas she in Santa Marta had turned 40 and was within my search, the age between 40 to 50. But the one in Cartagena had such charm, very mature, educated, always said the right things and on top of that extremely beautiful! Mailing to these 2 continued for a month and was very good!
But I knew the day would come when I had to choose! My goal was ONE woman not TWO! And the one in Cartagena popped the question one day! “Do you have any other woman in Colombia you are communicating with?” Straight on! It really put me on the spot! What do I answer to question like that? Can I say “Yes I am communicating with another woman also that I am interested in”. If I did this, knowing the latin woman, she would maybe say BYE! The communication with her would be over, finished, fenito! The latin woman wants exclusive rights and not someone else in the boat or to be more straightforward in the bed also. This was fine with me, because I was also looking for only one woman. I had to make a choice and in some ways I knew in my heart which one it was.
My many options was down to one woman and guess her name? Yes you are right, the title of my book, Pilar. It is fascinating how it became her out of all these other women and did I make the right choice? Or am I completely on the wrong track? You don’t know and I will never find out if I would have stopped here! So I had better move on to the next step. It was still nearly 2 and a half months before I left for Colombia. In a way good because this would give us time to get to know each other more! This is where chapter 3 starts!
So now it was only Pilar and me. We wrote each other nearly every day and if she didn’t write I got worried and wondered what had happened. She always answered “Don’t worry! I was just busy doing many things!” Pilar is an esthecian and works giving therapehtic massage to overweight women and by this helping them to loose weight. Quite a tough job and requires a lot of strength. Anyway our email-correspondance continued and one day I asked for her phonenumber and if it was ok that I called her. Of course was her answer and she gave me the number. A little nervous and not knowing what to expect we decided that I call her on saturday, 27th of August, in the afternoon here in sweden and morning in Colombia. In the summer there is a 7 hour time difference, Colombia being 7 hour after.
So saturday came and in the afternoon I picked up the phone to call. It took me a couple of times before I got all the numbers right, countrycode, areacode and finally her number. The signal was getting through and her phone was ringing. First signal, second signal…..on the fifth signal a gentle soft voice answered “Hello!” and just hearing that voice put me at ease and we had a conversation for about 5 minutes. Her english was better than I imagined, easy to understand and easy to have a conversation. A wonderful conversation that further confirmed my choice of woman. This is what I had to go on, take one step at a time and hope it would work. Pilar have a beautiful daughter, Valentina 8 years old. They are very tight and love each other very much. What made me respect her is how she takes care of her daughter and puts her first and spend a lot of time with her. A fantastic mother, being single and all. More about this in the later chapters.
She lives with her sister and her husband. This sister is also Pilars best friend and is very important to her especially after their mother passed away. I learned a little about her family, she is the youngest of 4 sisters and 1 brother. Her mother passed away about 8 years ago. Her father is a retired teacher. We started to make plans how we would meet when I came in october, which was only about 2 months away. My first suggestion was to meet her in an exclusive bar, Santa Clara Hotel, in the old town, very romantic with soft music and dim lights. But then having second thoughts it was not such a great idea for a first meeting. Why? It would give the wrong implications, first of all it is in the evening making the wrong impression that you are only thinking about getting her into bed and only sex.
If you want to learn to know a woman and respect her, this is not the best place for a first meeting. It is like telling her that you are only in it for the physical part and that is what you are interested in. This was not my aim, thinking or intention at all. So I changed my plan and place for our first meeting. Just a thought to my reader and that is…What are your motives? Where do you want this to lead to? Is it a short term or longterm relationship you are looking for? My goal was a longterm relationship and not just a mayfly!
Anyway I changed our meeting place to a historic place, the main entrance to the old town. The gate of the clocktower. It is like a place taken out of 15th century picture book. Remember Cartagena de Indias is a World Heritage city and it is unique how the old walled in city is so perfectly preserved. This is where I decided our first meeting would be. I wrote her and suggested this place. I even suggested the day and the time, 15th of october at 1pm. All this was ok with her. Imagine making such detail plans for such a meeting over 10000km away. Making it sound like we meet downtown in 15 minutes. It was still a month left and during this time we exchanged daily emails and many phonecalls.
And the closer the day of departure the more butterflies in the stomach. I had many preparations for this trip because I had to bring things to my friends also and to my godchild at the Barefoot foundation school. I went all over town trying to find special things for Pilar and her daughter. I would be gone for only 2 weeks but it seemed much longer with all these preparations. I would not do a lot of travelling around like I did the other times but like I wrote in the first chapter, this was going to be the the journey inside of me. Sometimes I wonder about myself why I problematise things. “Normal” people make their journeys, look at som touristattractions, swim in the ocean, get some sun, eat good food, drink a lot, live in a comfortable hotel, do some excursions and so on. They are happy with this and it is simple, they come back with a nice tan, stories about how nice the food was or was not, the weather and so on. They do this time and again, from country to country. I call this surface travelling, where you don’t really want to learn more about the country you visit, the people, history, culture, language etc. They scratch the surface and that’s it!
So this is why I wonder about myself and how I travel. Before I fell in love with Colombia I used to go to Greece 2 times a year for 4 years. Always to the same place, Agii Theodori, learn to know the people there and they learned to know me. It was always nice to come here and it became my second home. I worked on the greek language, learned the culture, history etc. For me learning the language is essential to learn to know a country. Read more about this here(not ready yet) in my background!
So back to my preparations for the october trip that was going to change my life. Little did I know how much.
As I wrote we had daily communications with each other. Very open about how our days went and what happened in our lifes. One day she wrote that she had one of thoose days, when she brooke a tooth, her computer stopped working and a some woman cancelled an appointment. When I read this email an idea came to my mind. Maybe I could help her somehow in this situation but without her knowing it in advance. I contacted my friends that have a hotel in Cartagena if it would be possible to use the hotel to be able make this surprise happen. At the time they were still here in Sweden and it took some convincing before they agreed to my idea. Naturally they were sceptical knowing that a lot of men get ripped of by women who only are in it for the money and nothing else. So they agreed and talked to the sister in Colombia and the staff about my plan. Now it was time to tell Pilar! I had not told her anything at all more than that I felt sad about her broken tooth and computer and I hope it will get solved somehow. So after a few days, when my friends had agreed, I wrote her that I had a surprise for her and that she should go to this adress of the hotel at 2pm. There at the hotel she would present herself with an identification card, state her business that she was here to pick up an envelope from a person called Torbjörn Aste. I also told her specifically what to do and to be very formal. She would receive the envelope put it in her purse, say thank you and go home. So would my plan work all the way? I tried to see if there were and flaws but NO and Yes it did work!
She went there, they asked quite a few questions about who she was, what she did, and where she lived. Naturally they were suspicous as I wrote before, but I felt maybe I little too much. Anyway Pilar handled it very well. She got home and opened the envelope it was one of the surprises in her life, receiving something from someone 10000km away whom she never meet yet. Needless to mention it made her day. While she was at the hotel I wrote her an email that she would read when she came home. I wrote that it is not so much money but I hope it will cover the dentist expenses and maybe a little more. Dentists in Colombia are not as expensive as in the west, less than half price but still as good. The amount was not much for swedish standard but in Colombia it goes a long way. For me “It is more happiness in giving then receiving!”
This chapter I will call the trip! I always enjoy the days just before the actual departure date. Thoose days are so intense and hectic even though one thinks that all the preparations are done. Suddenly a million things come up, mostly checking and re-checking all the bookings, confirming that all the flights are ok. To reach Cartagena in Colombia take 3 flights, Copenhagen-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-Bogota and finally Bogota-Cartagena. So there are a few flights to confirm. Also transport to Copenhagen airport. I see myself as an experienced routine traveller but I am still excited every time as it was the first time! And also this was the first time that I travelled alone to Colombia.
When I travelled to Greece a couple of years ago I mostly did the trip by myself and I also made a trip to Alicante, Spain, on my own, so yes I have done quite a bit of travelling on my own, but never this far. Being alone on the journey relaxes me in many ways. When you are 2 you have to consider the other persons choices/likes/dislikes/desires as well the other person thinking about me! This means a lot of compromise and planning whereas when you go by yourself it is easier to be spontaneous and make sudden changes/decisions without having to go through a big discussion. In a way I am never alone because I meet a lot of people all the time, it is quite easy for me to strike up a conversation.
So now it is the day, I travelled with my car to Malmö where my daughter lives with her husband and my granddaughter. I usually sleep there and live my car with them when I am gone. The flights are nearly always early in the morning so it is easy for me to get up in the morning and take the train at the nearby station to the Copenhagen airport. And this is what I did this time also. I arrived at the airport quite early to have time for any obstacles that might happen. Do this all the time, to avoid the stress and make the journey a pleasure as well. Go through all the routines at the airport, check to see that may flight is on time, do the check-in of my suitcase, passport control, security check. When entering the taxfree zone, after a final check to see what gate my flight is departing from, now I can sit down, relax and take a good beer at my regular pub at the Copenhagen airport. Now I really relax and feel/enjoy the journey!
But this time I realised that I had forgotten one important item. My camera, terrible. I had to document this trip with photos. It was not only meeting Pilar, it was my 50th birthday and also going to see my godchild in Barranquilla. So I finished my beer and went of to a duty-free electronic shop to look for a camera. You think they would be cheaper here but no! Anyway I got one that could do the job and give me the pictures that I needed. I cant believe that I forgot my camera!
The flight to Frankfurt took less than 2 hours dep.9.25 and arrive 11.00. The Frankfurt airport is one of the biggest in Europe, but I had time. My next flight was 14.30. It took me some time to travel from one terminal to the other and here you also have to go through another security check. I don’t really relax before I know that it is the right terminal and I have confirmed and located what gate the flight departs from. The I relax. There was some time over so I got to buy some gifts to bring to Pilar. She had told me her favourite perfume, Angel- Thierre Mugler, so I bought this for her and some other small things. Time to board the bird, flight 542 to Bogota, that was going to take me across the Atlantic ocean to Colombia once again. This aircraft was the latest and newest of Airbus 300. Very comfortable, this was the economy section, with great chairs, modern touchscreen with lots of selections, movies/series/games/music etc, and the most comfortable was the toiletts. They were one stair down instead of where they normally are on the same floor. Also there were 5 of them downstairs so you never had to wait for a long time. This proved to be of the utmost importance on my return to Europe when my stomach was in uproar. Anyway this was a very comfortable airplane to say the least. The other times I flew to Colombia was with Airfrance and Iberia. This was the best by far.
Beside me I had this Colombian woman, Anna, that was travelling to visit her sick father in Bogota. She was married to a german and had lived in Germany for many years. We talked a lot about Colombia and I told her how much I liked her country. She was at a point in her life that she felt that she needed a change because she felt that in Germany she would never really be at home. She is a graduate architect from a prestigious university in Bogota but in Germany she is just working in a store as a clerk. And she always feel a little out of place, even though she has a comfortable and an easy life, but still there is something missing. I really encouraged her to take the step and return to Colombia, We only have one life, one chance. Once a Colombian always a Colombian. So we had a good chat and time flew! Ha!
The journey across is about 9-10 hours effective flying time. We landed in Bogota 17.00 hours local time. There was a 7 hour time difference(still summertime in Europe). Going through customs in Bogota is quite a trip. First of all you have to fill in a form on the airplane to tell why you are there, how much money you have, where you are going to stay etc. So you land and before you even go to collect your luggage you have to face immigration. Very serious and sober and they ask some questions. Always say you love their country and you are just a tourist visiting. After immigration it is time to find the luggage and after luggage yet another checkpoint where I leave the paper that I filled in on the airplane. After that it is customs where they check your bags. They checked my luggage and I explained that I had some gifts for a woman that I will meet and also gifts for my godchild. They looked at it and after a few minutes they let me through. Next step was changing money to have some pesos. I always become a millionaire when I come to Colombia. 400 euro is a little over 1 million peso. I try to get it in 20000 peso bills because the 50000 can be difficult to change. The taxidrivers seldom have change for larger bills and the same in the shops sometimes. Just a tip if you ever come to Colombia. Changing money also involves filling out papers where you going where you stay and finally you have to sign and also give a fingerprint on the paper.
I arrived at the Eldorado international airport and had to transfer to a domestic terminal, Avianca, to catch the flight to Cartagena. I got a taxi which is the fastest that took me there and there I had to do a new checkin. This terminal is very small and easy to navigate in. I had a few hours to wait and enjoyed the feeling of being in Colombia once again. Love the colours, the smell, the noise, the dynamic latin world! Bogota is not so hot even though it is nearly right on the equator. The reason is that is on 2600m above sea level. The climate in Bogota is like having spring in Sweden all year around. In other words around 20 degrees C all year around. A Tropical Spring! And in the evening it can get quite cold even below 10 sometimes. On the other hand when I landed in Cartagena it is like going into a wall of heat. The flight from Bogota to Cartagena takes about 1,5hour.
When I landed in Cartagena it was close to midnight and my friends were there to meet me and took me to their house a little outside of Cartagena. A beautiful apartment in a gated community. A very airy spacious light apartment. We did not talk so much because I was tired and needed my sleep.
14th of October! 60 years old/young! I got several cups of coffee for breakfast, they know I am a big coffee drinker when I come to Colombia, a cake with a candle. This is important because Colombia has the best coffee in the world (according to me) so every morning I drink about 4-5 to cups and it is so so good. Funny enough it is so smooth that it does not kill my stomach like sometimes one cup of Swedish coffee does. A beautiful exciting birthday to say the least. I had a beautiful day with my friends, celebrating my birthday the whole day! Fantastic! Such fantastic friends that mean a lot to me. But that is another story because this is the story of Pilar.
Saturday came and I got a ride into Cartagena. They left me in the center about 1 hour before our actual meeting. As always in Cartagena it is hot and humid, so I looked around where we could meet and be comfortable. I found an air-condition restaurant/coffee bar situated just on the square. This would be the perfect place for our first meeting!
Chapter 5 – the meeting!