Colombia to Dominican Republic

To say that we learned some valuable lessons on this trip is an understatement.

  1. Traveling to Santo Domingo requires a return ticket.

We arrived at the MDE airport in Medellin 3 hours before our boarding time.   After a long wait on the line to print our tickets, the Avianca clerk indicated that we needed proof of intent to leave the Dominican Republic; basically, a ticket out of the country within 30 days.  Based on prior research and the Facebook group, Blacks Living Abroad, I remembered that customers can purchase tickets online and cancel within 24 hours. I used priceline.com to purchase the tickets because that website is one of the few that allows customers to purchase 8 tickets at a time.  We showed the clerk the confirmation on our phone and he printed the tickets.

  1. You may be eligible for a “tax refund” when you leave Colombia based on the amount of time you stayed in the country.

It took 30 minutes, after the clerk printed our tickets, to complete the process. We almost left due to our American impatience but the clerk was persistent and assured us we would not miss our flight.  He requested our name, passport numbers, address, phone number and email address. After we provided the requested information, he sent us over to the cashier and she handed us 700 Mill Pesos; about $240.00. That was a welcome surprise.

  1. You must go through customs/immigration in Bogota if you are traveling internationally.

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I don’t know why this was a surprise for me. I assumed since we didn’t go through customs in Medellin, that we didn’t need to go through at all. That was an ignorant and seriously rookie mistake. Obviously, this point is required if you are leaving the country and since the first leg of our trip was within Colombia, well, Duh!! The line moved quickly and the process was simple. After they stamped our passport, we went through a security checkpoint very much like America except they were not alarmed by the names Mustafa or Shabazz. No cavity searches for the non-Muslims with the Muslim names in our group.  First time for everything!

  1. Bogota airport is a cluster-fuck.

There was no place to sit inside the terminal.  It was packed. Even the floors were taken. When we landed there, we had to take a bus to the terminal from the plane.  Upon leaving, we had to take a bus from the terminal to the plane. That was annoying mainly because the bus went back 4 times to pick up people that were late or stuck on the immigration line.

 

  1. Avianca airplanes are dope. Free wine, tasty food and free movies.

 

The best part is the attire of the flight attendants and of course the huge leg room in coach seating. I was very happy about that.

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  1. Apparently, you cannot exchange Colombian Pesos for Dominican Pesos.

After we landed in Santo Domingo, we immediately exchanged currency. We wanted to exchange our new-found tax dollar riches and our leftover monies for Dominican Pesos but quickly learned that COP does not exchange to DOP. I have no idea why.  In addition, the currency rate of 47.00 for every $1.00 is not the same at the hotels, in the cabs or in the stores.  That rate fluctuates between 46.23 and 49.00 DOP for every $1.00 USD. Again, not sure why. Maybe a gringo tax.  (BY THE WAY THE EXCHANGE PLACE AT THE SANTO DOMINGO AIRPORT RIPPED US OFF. DON’T DO IT)

  1. Can or must pay for a tourist card for each passenger.

This I knew before we left but what I didn’t know is that the fee must be paid in USD.  We landed in Dominican Republic so I’m not sure why they don’t accept DOP.

  1. Taxis cost more than the plane ticket.

This issue is serious. I don’t like Dominican Republic for this reason alone. To drive 15 minutes from the airport, it cost 40.00 USD per car (8 of us=2 cars).  We paid 80.00 to travel 15 minutes within Santo Domingo. The next day, we had to get to Samana/El Limon area. That is a 2 ½ hour drive. That cost us $225.00. Correction, it actually cost $170.00 USD but the “arranger” charged us an extra $55.00. We didn’t find that out until we signed the receipt for 170.00.  (that reminds me. I need to leave a negative review for Tropicana Apart-Hotel on Expedia.com)

  1. You get what you pay for.

We did not want to make the 2 ½ hour trek to Samana the night we arrived, so we booked a cheap hotel with excellent ratings. That was a bad idea. The hotel stated WIFI but the owner insisted that the WIFI didn’t work. The TV didn’t work. The bed in my mother’s room had blood stains on the sheets so she moved to our room.  He charged us 10.00 USD for an air conditioner but it didn’t work. All we had was a powerful ceiling fan. We asked the lady at the front desk to order pizza for us and she assumed we didn’t understand any Spanish so she proceeded to add a box of pepperoni pizza to our order.  When she gave us the total price, I knew for sure that my instincts were correct. I’m assuming her plan was to place our order, add her pizza, and then when the delivery man came, she would take her pizza box and send our pizza up to our room. Unfortunately for her, we don’t eat swine so we knew all the many ways to say pork in Spanish. We cancelled the order and her crooked ass had to order her own pizza.

  1. Finally, #10! Black people in Samana/El Limon are beautiful and seem to live an uninterrupted life. I love it here!!

 

 

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So far behind…

My last blog post was 4 months ago. So much has happened since then and I feel confused. Do I write a post summarizing all the important milestones of the last 4 months or do I write different post outlining the steps we have taken and the obstacles we have overcome to get to this point?  I wonder who my audience is and the purpose of this blog. I pondered that for awhile in deciding how I would “catch up” on this blog I have ignored. Am I writing to educate, entertain or is this an ego blog; purely for my own self gratification? For purposes of full disclosure, yes, this blog is to stroke my own ego and keep a record of this adventure for the future. I can only HOPE to educate and entertain along the way. So I concluded that I will jump into my wayback machine and make blog post as if I’m sitting in my home in the United States, 4 months ago, prepping for this big day.. And in Mexico,  2 months ago, on the beach enjoying a Margarita…And that long journey from Phoenix to LAX to Miami and then Colombia.  Stay tuned

No Travel for You if you Owe money to this agency…

On February 11, 2017, while we were sleeping, our right to travel freely was revoked by the new administration. A new law took effect that allows the Internal Revenue Service to prevent American citizens from traveling abroad if they have a tax liability of $50,000 or more.

“26 USC 7345: Revocation or denial of passport in case of certain tax delinquencies

(a) In general

If the Secretary receives certification by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue that an individual has a seriously delinquent tax debt, the Secretary shall transmit such certification to the Secretary of State for action with respect to denial, revocation, or limitation of a passport pursuant to section 32101 of the FAST Act.

(b) Seriously delinquent tax debt

(1) In general

For purposes of this section, the term “seriously delinquent tax debt” means an unpaid, legally enforceable Federal tax liability of an individual-

(A) which has been assessed,

(B) which is greater than $50,000, and

(C) with respect to which-

(i) a notice of lien has been filed pursuant to section 6323 and the administrative rights under section 6320 with respect to such filing have been exhausted or have lapsed, or

(ii) a levy is made pursuant to section 6331.”

A, B and C must occur before the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service may send a certification to the Secretary to revoke or limit your passport. Some exceptions apply, such as:

  1. You are paying pursuant to an agreement to which you are a party under section 6159 or 7122 of the code, or
  2. You requested a due process hearing or one is pending. Basically you requested a hearing arguing that you either don’t owe the debt, you don’t owe that amount, or you were never given proper notice, or
  3. You filed a joint return because you are/were married and you request that you, as a spouse/ex-spouse, be given relief for numerous reasons under section 6015 (b) and (c) of the code.

This new tax law affects U.S. citizens living within the states and abroad. Make sure your tax liability is satisfied or you have a written repayment agreement and that you file your taxes each year. Right now the amount is $50K but that is subject to change. So protect yourself and your family. Stay diligent with your taxes for you and your businesses. If you have not filed your taxes for prior years, now is the time to do so. I’m sure the next revocation law will pertain to student loan debt, so watch out for that as well.

[Click here for full text of the law]

 

Social Media: The ultimate esteem booster

Before social media, I had a problem with every part of my body. Day to day, I loved and hated different parts of my body depending on the lighting in my bathroom, mirror angle or what I was wearing. But now that I post pictures daily, now that I show my body with no filter, now I love and appreciate every part of my body. At first I didn’t understand why that was. Am I that vain or so self conscious that my love for self is gauged by how others take to me, how they view me? I didn’t think I was “that girl”.

Then it hit me: So what if I am “that girl”. So what if I enjoy the likes and the comments I get on my pictures, on my post and status. So what if I like attention from random people who wouldn’t recognize me on the street but took a second out of their day to like my photo. OR the family and friends that I handpicked to view all my post and pictures because I know they won’t say anything negative. What’s wrong with that? If you don’t step into the world of social media, and you have a problem with your body image, you are only going to hear the voices in your head. You will only hear the self defeating, passive-aggressive commentary you are so used to hearing throughout your life. If you don’t come from a place of constant love, attention, reassurance and comfort then yeah, its okay to make a world that you control, where “everyone knows your name”.

And it will be difficult, at first, to look pass the perfect body images that are displayed on social media but you and your friends and family don’t look like that. You are all beautiful though but I suggest you don’t add Beyonce, Jlo and Nikki Minaj to your twitter, gram and facebook feed. Just add your beautiful friends and family. That is the 1 area of your life, where you can control the images and the negativity that you are subjected to. The 1 area where you can delete and MUTE people who you just don’t want to hear from.

You got that judgey sister with the selective amnesia on her own shit: DELETE

You got that passive-aggressive parent: DELETE

You got that friend that post every single police killing and it brings you down: DELETE

You got that guy friend that post pictures of big booty girls all day: DELETE

You need to control your own narrative in this world that you make up for yourself. Keep your social media limited to people who love you and enjoy what you enjoy. If you post a pic on instagram, use hashtags to draw people in that like what you like. If you have a facebook page, keep that page limited to people that share your viewpoint, that love you and support you. If you have a twitter account, keep it light. Share positive things that can be retweeted and liked. If you have this wonderful  Wordpress blog, then write. Write your thoughts and feelings daily. Use the categories and tags to gain support for your blog. Make it public for all to see or private; private just for you.

AND if you feel that your legs are not slim enough, your ass is not big enough, your hair is not curly enough, your skin is not clear enough or your stomach is not flat enough, share those thoughts and then, Share your photos!! Someone will like it!

Share it with me! I will love it!

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The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

“No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it.” – Robert Burns

To determine what countries we will visit during the first year abroad, we researched flight amounts, visa requirements, safety and housing.

Visa Requirements – All the countries have a strict visa requirement and if they find you in the country without a visa or pass the time you can stay there without a visa, you can be deported or imprisoned.  We don’t want to stay in a country with a strict visa requirement during the first year of our time abroad. South America and the Caribbean are just as flexible as the United States and the cost of living is cheaper.

Plane ticket prices – The ticket prices, of course, was the most important factor in deciding where we would spend our first year. It made sense to remain on one continent before moving on to the next but the cost of moving within the continent was more expensive than we anticipated. Of course these prices are speculative. We plugged in some potential travel dates and countries to determine prices. We realized that a flight from Colombia to Brazil, one way, is over 800.00. We had to find out if Brazil is a country that is on the must-see list or if we can pass on it lol. Surprisingly, our list went down by half once we started looking ticket prices.

Safety – Of course safety is an important factor.It took a lot to maneuver the online propaganda and fear. Every country but America is dangerous of course. And only the cities with white skin people are the safest. So we decided to look at claims of kidnapping of Americans, how these kidnappings took place and the warnings issued by the embassies.  We looked at violent crimes against tourist and police behavior. More importantly, we spoke with people who lived in these countries to get first hand experiences.

Housing – This category was easy because of airbnb.com and homeaway.com. However, in the Caribbean countries, the cost tripled on these websites.  So we looked at deals on resorts. Surprisingly, when we weighed in the cost of food and entertainment, living on the resort was cheaper.

We narrowed our list:

COLOMBIA – First stop. We don’t need a visa if we stay for 90 days or less. Medellin is pretty safe and we found a 6 bedroom house on airbnb.com for 1k a month.

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Panama – travel from Colombia to Panama on a plane is 100.00 each or we can take a bus. It is riddled with petty crimes but very little kidnapping claims. Some violence but no more than America. We found a 5 bedroom home on airbnb.com for 950.00 a month.  No Visa is required and we can stay for 6 months, but we are only staying for 2.

panama

Costa Rica- beautiful and very safe country. Here we plan to settle into a rural area where we can pluck fruit off the trees. It will be a relaxing 30 days, staying in a 5 bedroom house, with no A/C lol for 750.00 a month. The bus runs only on the weekday and it stops at 4PM. No Visa is required but we will need a Yellow Fever vaccine since we are coming from Panama and Colombia.

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Jamaica – no Visa requirement for 6 months. In Jamaica we are staying at a resort for 45 days, may extend to 2 months. The owners of rental homes in Jamaica charge an arm and a leg to rent their homes to travelers. We saw a few plantation style homes for rent lol. Kinda pricey and creepy, not really something I can stay in for that long. Safety in Jamaica is similar to the other countries. Beware of pickpockets,  be safe at night, don’t travel alone, etc etc. We are looking forward to exploring the island.

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Dominican Republic- a tourist card and a valid passport is required for the Dominican Republic. We are hoping to stay for about 3 months but we are slated for 2 right now. During our last visit to DR we made contact with a developer who purchased and renovated apartments there. We will need two separate units but the price for a 3 bedroom is 650 a month and a 2 bedroom, 550 a month. It is a gated community in Puerto Plata. Puerto Plata is relatively safe. My biggest concern is being mistaken for a Haitian and the prostitution that is legal there (I have sons) but we love DR and want the kids to experience this lovely country.

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After the first year, we head to Canada and then Africa!!

Flight Mode

We purchased our tickets to Colombia! Yeah!!! We spent weeks going through all the articles and newsletters discussing tips and tricks to finding the cheapest ticket. We browsed through all of the major flight websites, priceline, cheaptickets, expedia, etc and finally found a path that eased all of our concerns.  I noticed something interesting about these websites that I never noticed before.  For example: cheaptickets and expedia have a limitation on the amount of tickets you can purchase at one time. That limit is 6 and there are no guarantees that you can get your family on the same flight if you need more. Priceline allows for the maximum of 8 tickets.   If you buy directly from the airline websites, you have the same issue. You can’t buy more than 6 tickets online, you must call it in.

Then of course the issue of appeasing to all concerned in the group. Some were concerned about the amount of time we spend on one plane. So the more layovers, the better. I was concerned about flying within Colombia. I wanted a flight from Miami directly to Medellin. That was difficult. All the cheap tickets flew into Bogota and then to Medellin.  I was concerned about taking a small plane with all of us and our bags. My concern is not based on any hard facts, just an overactive imagination.

In my mind the plane looked like this:

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The rest of the crew expressed concerns about the layover so we picked a ticket with a 10 hour layover in Miami. Figured we could check out a new city. So finally we found the perfect cheap tickets lol. We drive from Phx to California. Then from California, we fly back to Phoenix. From Phoenix we fly to Miami, where we wait for 10 hours before heading to Colombia.

2 days later…

An email from Priceline changing our tickets. NOW we are flying from California to Phoenix where we wait here for 10 hours to board a plane for Miami. From Miami, we will have 45 minute delay before we board to Colombia. All of this saves us $2400.00 in ticket prices BUT that trip is going to be a beast.

Pretty sure we will arrive in Colombia like this:

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Clean Eating

No matter where you go in this big world, food and vegetables are readily available and they provide a daily source of the vitamins your body needs. My favorite morning shake recipe to start my busy day:

1/2 banana – rich in Vitamin B-6, Vitamin C and Folate

1 turmeric root – contains curcumin that helps prevent leukemia and alzheimer.

Kale  – Kale is high in Iron and Vitamin K

1/2 Apple – Vitamin A and Vitamin C

1 Orange – Vitamin B1 and Calcium

2 handfuls of blueberries – Manganese and Vitamin E

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Top 5 Bad Acts of Past Presidents

 

With the inauguration of what some are calling the most hated President in history, we thought the American people should relive 5 bad acts committed by past Presidents.

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5. President Henry Ashton sent a man to his death in Vantage Point.  This terrible President used a body double that ended up dead and he showed very little remorse.

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4. President Fitzgerald Grant killed hundreds of soldiers to get his side pussy back in Scandal.  Olivia was kidnapped to blackmail the President to send troops to war. President caved and hundreds died. No apologies to the families of those dead but he did go see his side chick the second she was rescued.

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3. President Allison Taylor covered up the murder of IRK President Omar Hassan in order to continue with the signing of a peace treaty with the country that orchestrated the murder of the IRK President on 24. She then goes on to cover up the murder of Jack’s girlfriend and attempts to kill Jack. She only cared about her personal image and her legacy.. ummm… sounds familiar. President Taylor is the reason Hillary was not elected.

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2. President Beck. This was difficult. I tried not to include a black president after Obama did such a great job but President Beck was indeed a bad dude. In fact, he did some terrible things for what he believed was the greater good, kind of like my Obama. President Beck hid the end of the world from everyone and then when his plan to save the world didn’t work, he revealed the secret underground caves that can only house about 1 million people. This great reveal occurred like a few days before the end hit. Millions died but he lived lol.

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1. President Charles Evil Logan – The worst President that ever existed. This man killed the greatest President in history, President David Palmer. President Palmer was indeed the first Black President.  President Logan was so incompetent that he asked President Palmer to come in and run the country on the low, then as a thank you he tried to kill Jack Bauer and orchestrated the death of President Palmer. I could totally see President Trump doing the same thing. Don’t fall for it President Obama!!! When that phone rings, let Michelle answer it!

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What to take and what to leave behind?

Preparing for the big move is tasking. Everyone wants to keep some things that we just can’t lug with us to Colombia, let alone around the world. So I came up with a plan to reduce our belongings down to the bare minimum.

1.Clothing: The family must record the items of clothing they wear in a 14 day period. All items of clothing not worn during that period will be packed up and given to charity. The only exception is socks and undergarments. You can never have too much of those.

2. Entertainment: Without listing all of the things we own, we decided to limit the electronics. to anything that can fit in their carry-on bag and the laptops for school. They need one, maybe two video game consoles (as a family unit) but no physical games. If the game can’t download onto the console, then it must go to family or charity.

3. Books. I have a garage full of books. Books I’ve collected over the last 8 years. It is very difficult to get rid of books, especially now that we are moving to a country where English is not the first language. I tried to sell my books but I teared up with every sell.  In order for me to get rid of my books, I had to find a charity that I felt was more important than me and my own selfish need to hoard my books. Most of my books are going to domestic violence shelters in the area and the rest to our local schools. Education and domestic violence are two causes I feel very strongly about.

4.  Last but most important, are all of our physical pictures, birthday cards, father and mother day cards, and artwork that we have collected over the years. This was a hard one and it brought back a memory from my childhood. I don’t have many pictures of myself and my brother when we were kids. I’m sure I can count on two hands the amount of childhood photos we possess. My dad moved us around a lot and he carried all of our stuff in a duffel bag. I’m not sure what happened to that duffel bag, whether he sold it for drugs or lost it before he went to prison, but the bag and all of our pictures are gone. Fortunately, we live in a different technological age. So for the next 3 months, we will scan and upload every picture, card, artwork, etc to our cloud and pray that we never lose access to it. It is hard throwing away all of the physical copies but the risk of losing it all is way too great and I’m not willing to take that risk.

All other items are headed to the dumpster or goodwill. 

It is painful to leave things behind that took a lifetime to accumulate. Not furnishing or electronics, but little things like the painting our daughter made in high school or the bag of certificates the children got for their grades and attendance over the last 18 years. Or even the coffee maker that finally brews our coffee just right and my first semester law books that I still own.

What we discovered in this process is that the tie to these items are all emotional. And emotions is something you can take with you. I don’t need the books to remember what I felt on the first day of class and my daughter doesn’t need to see her painting to know how far she has come in her talent. We use these items to remind of us of a feeling we had at a certain point in our lives. That feeling is something we can carry with us in our memory.   We only hope that this new journey is worth the sacrifices we are making and the people and things we are leaving behind.