Posts filed under Adventures in the World

Packing and Family Pics

Today I dispense my "wisdom" about what we packed for Colombia and loved and what we wished we would've brought over at Melinda's Blog.  Sadly none of the companies whose products I love gave them to me for free.  One day people! One day I'll have a job like Eileen's awesome Clinique gig.  Wilipina power! I also have one last rambly story from Lebrija...

Last week I realized that it could be many years before we return to Santander.  Our financial responsibilities now cover Elian and Carmen and buying 4 tickets back to Colombia just might not be in the cards for awhile.  Keeping all this in mind I decided that we should seize the day and take a family picture all together.  I also decided that Carmen and I should go to the salon because I needed a BREAK like yesterday!  So off we went!

If this sounds like an outing, just keep in mind that Lebrija is tiny, so the salon was like 2 blocks away and consisted of one lady and some stray kids who were hanging around.  Not exactly spa-like but you can't beat the price.  It cost me $2 to have the lady straighten my hair for 30 minutes.  The flatiron was so hot I thought she was going to burn my face off but I swear when she was done I looked into the mirror and thought "Freaking A, this is why movie stars hair always looks amazing.  Professional-grade flatirons"   Courtney Cox, I'm a coming for ya!

Anyways my own personal hair revelations aside the best part was Carmen's hair.  I should point out that my mother-in-law is no stuck in the 70s, never stopped parting her hair in the middle slouch.  LIke so many Colombian women she keeps up with fashion and isn't afraid to go bold but I'm sad to say that we had to have a little hair intervention.  First the stylist talked her into using the flatiron and holy crap her hair looked amazing!  She has beautiful thick, and I mean Shakira-thick hair.  But then we had a little back-sliding when she asked the stylist to give her 90s style chicken bangs. When I saw what was going on I had an ethical deciison to make... Should I say something?

I had to think fast, picture day was that night and these bangs were CRAZY! They were about to be immortalized.

So, I said... "You know, that looks nice but maybe some side bangs might be more modern"  I said it like I was a Project Runway judge.  "You know, it's not very modernnnnnnn"  The seven year old next to me turned around and looked at me with wide-eyes that said "Thank God you said something!"   She was all Michael Kors to my Nina Garcia.

All across the salon, the little kids and tweens hanging around nodded in acquisence while I held my breath wondering if I'd hurt her feelings.  "Why can't I just shut up?" I asked myself?  You've gotten too bold with the triumph of getting your own Mom to wear some bootcut jeans.

"Whatever my daughter-in-law says goes! Emily knows best." Carmen declared!

Wh-what?  Sometimes I just love her so much!  I couldn't believe it.

I breathed a sigh of relief and then thought to myself, "Geez, if only everybody else in my life could get on board with this way of thinking!!! "   You hear that Elian?

After the bang intervention was finished the little girl next to me nodded her approval and told Carmen "It looks much better that way."  And I thought to myself... well my work is done.

Here's our family pics.  We took them at a place called"Foto Shock!" and mercifully everybody in the family agreed that we could keep the weird tweety-bird background and excessive subtitles that are so popular here off the pictures.  I don't need a picture that says "My family is great" in cursive across the front.  One hopes that message is implicit.

I think we are pretty-damn cute together!  Don't forget to check out Carmen's new modernnnnnn hairstyle!

Posted on January 13, 2010 and filed under Adoption, Adventures in the World, Livin la Vida Loca.

Parenting for Dummies & Apt. 1907

We're not only back in beloved Bogota but I'm also back guest-posting at Raising Colombian Kids again this week.  Today I'm giving the shortlist of stuff we've learned and spouting off philosophical quotes from reggaeton artists.  Click here to check it out. Also I thought I'd mention where we are "living" here in Bogota.  We are staying with our friends Martiza and Andres who not only were gracious enough to invite us to stay with them for the whole six weeks OVER THE HOLIDAYS but are also sweet enough to say that they missed us and our noisy toddler while we were in Santander.  The whole time we were gone they asked when we would be coming back with their alarm clock (Elian).

They live on the 19th Floor of a new apartment building in downtown Bogota.  The location is awesome!  We have our own bathroom!  From here we can walk to ANYWHERE you want to go, we just go downstairs and hit up La Septima and we're there.  There is a Crepes and Waffles literally across the street.  And a grocery store and El Museo Nacional and a notary and... etc etc

Thank you Andres and Maritza, I don't know what we would've done without you!

Posted on January 12, 2010 and filed under Adoption, Adventures in the World.

La buseta

Remember when I wrote my love poem to the bus?  Well like all love affairs sometimes there are a few bumps in the road.  A few days ago we decided to go to Bucaramanga for the afternoon.  I'd like to say that this turned out to be a fun day trip, but it what it really turned out to be was a "Seriously, when the adoption books say 'keep things low-key for your kid or they'll freak out and you'll regret it' they mean it" lesson.  The buseta ride from Lebrija to Bucaramanga is windy, fun, bumpy, trafficky and way too long when there is bridge construction, which of course there was.  Elian spent the whole ride alternating between excited and terrified. Needless to say this did not lead to either a fun outing or a fun night at home for us.  The pictures came out fun though. There is something about the rad 90's turquoise/geometric pattern of the bus that lends itself to silly photos.

Posted on January 7, 2010 and filed under Adoption, Adventures in the World, Livin la Vida Loca.

Lebrija

For the past few days we've been hanging out in Arnold's homestate of Santander and more specifically the tiny town of Lebijra "Pineapple capital of Colombia"  Over here it is hot and boring, but there is internet access and fresh fruit juice so I think I'll survive!  If Lebrija itself is very boring the way you arrive is not.  Santander is very mountainous and the airport landing strip is on a plateau.  This means when you hear the landing gear on the plane descend you  are still thousands of feet from the ground and then all of the sudden you land BOOM at an airport you couldn't see before you hit the ground.  Fun times!  The first time I arrived without knowing this would happen I almost fainted.  Of course I was also in a propellor plan which is another type of horror in itself. Not much to see her except family time and stray dogs.  I'll spare you the "stray dog photodocumentary" Arnold has been recording...

Posted on January 6, 2010 and filed under Adventures in the World.

Avion!!!

Elian took to his first flight like a seasoned road warrior, he perused the in-flight offerings, rejected them, looked out the window for 10 seconds and then fell asleep until we left baggage claim.  There were many other children on the flight. All were screaming except ours!  It was such a nice change.  :)

Elian sleeps on first flight

Posted on January 5, 2010 and filed under Adoption, Adventures in the World, Livin la Vida Loca.

To infinity and BEYOND!

On New Year's Eve we bought last minute tickets to Bucaramanga so we're taking Elian on his first flight today.  I am praying that it won't be horrible seeing as we have a 12 hour flight in our not-so-distant future.  The good news is that our flight is only 1/2 hour long and that waiting for us on the other side will be Abuelita Carmen y los Tios Richard and Octavio.  I can't wait to see Abuelita Carmen's superhero powers in action. I am looking forward to meeting my nephew David for the first time and a joyous reunion with my friend the Lebrija Hotdog.  I will also probably enjoy spending 1 week and a half or so lolling around watching NatGeo.  I'm not sure what the internet will be like while we're there but hopefully we'll have adventures to report soon.

Posted on January 1, 2010 and filed under Adventures in the World.

Happy New Year

Today I'm guest blogging over at Raising Colombian Kids about what it's like to spend New Year in a small town.  To check it out click here.  We'll be laying low today as I'm sure all of Colombia except us will be sleeping off their hangovers.  Well except for us and Abuela Carmen.  As she's told me many time "A little brandy does no harm."  While we enjoy the empty traffic-free streets, enjoy these pics of Arnold and I showing off our new acquired parenting skills.

Posted on December 31, 2009 and filed under Adventures in the World.

Abuela Carmen's Anesthesia

I think I’ve mentioned before that my mother-in-law Carmen will be coming back with us from Colombia to care for Elian when I have to return to work full time.  I think I might have also talked about how we let her pick Elian’s middle name because we greatly appreciate this act of love because she is extremely afraid to come to the US.  Abuela Carmen is terrified of planes.  She is to planes as Indiana Jones is to snakes.  It has always been my hope though that my children would be able to have a close relationship with their grandparents the way I was able to spend everyday with my grandmother.  But I have a feeling that Abuela Carmen and Elian might end up having more than just a close relationship because I am now convinced that Abuela Carmen has superpowers. A bit of background:  Elian is a hyper-active kid, I mean even for a toddler he seems a little bit on the Richard Simmons side.  He is a ton of fun every day, but he is not the type to quietly play with his blocks in the corner.  He is the type to open and close the door while shrieking at full strength for 2 hours or so.  He can also spend hours throwing cell phones or screaming because we won’t give one to him.

Abuela Carmen has not yet met Elian yet because she lives in another state.  She’ll probably be coming in a few weeks to Bogota to get her visa etc. but she is VERY anxious to meet Elian so she calls everyday.  Tonight we decided to make the extremely dubious choice of letting her talk to him on the phone.  I was pretty sure that he would try to throw the phone across the room and then scream when we wouldn’t give it to him.  If we were extra lucky we’d get a full blown-parents start-counting-to-100-must-stay-calm style temper tantrum.

Instead something unimaginable happened.  The second he heard her voice he was lulled into a state that was equal parts comatose and tender.  He smiled sweetly, placed his hand gently on the phone and snuggled into Arnold’s chest for a long chat with abuelita.  For the next 10 minutes or so he laid on Arnold’s chest babbling softly to her and when they were done chatting he turned to Arnold’s face and I held my breath as I saw my son kiss his Dad's cheek for the first time.

Posted on December 30, 2009 and filed under Adventures in the World, Livin la Vida Loca.

Ingles sin Barreras

If you have ever watched Univision or Telemundo for more than 5 minutes you know about “Ingles sin Barreras” which is a “Learn English” tape series that is constantly advertised.  It is the Sham-Wow of Spanish TV.  The infomercials usually have a variety of testimonies of people talking about why they needed to learn English and how Ingles sin Barreras worked for them.  Exclamation Point!

I might have mentioned that it took Arnold and I awhile to figure out the bottle we gave Elian on the first day had a cap on the inside.  Or maybe I didn’t because it’s embaressing.  Oh well, too late now!

He tried to drink it for half an hour before we figured it out.  What a great introduction to us as new parents! The “people who give me food that doesn’t work”.  Anyways we figured it out eventually but the other day we made the same mistake because Arnold didn’t realize I had packed the bottle with the inside cap.  Yes, our child tried to drink a trick bottle... again.

Nice!

We were having lunch with Andres and Maritza at a carnival when we discovered this.  Andres shook his head and said “Elian is thinking ‘I need to learn English!  Maybe you should get him Ingles sin Barreras."

Posted on December 28, 2009 and filed under Adoption, Adventures in the World, Livin la Vida Loca.

El "Bus"

One of my favorite things about Latin America has always been the bus.  I grew up in public transportation deprived California and as a result have an unrequited love affair with public transportation. Weirdly after I studied abroad in Chile I fell even deeper into the love affair with everything that other people hate about busses in South America.

I love it when they are so crowded that you get to shove people out of your way to get off.  I love the small adrenaline rush of knowing you’ve got to get OFF THE BUS before the driver take off without you and I especially love it when people get on the bus and sell stuff like ice cream or miniature paper models of Chilean navy ships (true story).  I love that there’s no schedule, you just hang around till one comes and I love, love, love watching the city whizz by out the bus windows.  And if I loved busses before today I entered into a domestic partnerhsip with them because the bus blessed me with a memory that will endear me to them forever.Today we walked all over downtown Bogota much to mine and Elian’s delight.  Bogota is especially beautiful at Christmas time and Elian was beaming with joy watching the bubble vendors in Plaza Bolivar and laughing as the other children jumped up to pop them.  We were having so much fun in fact that our party of 5 walked about 2 miles and then realized we would have to walk 2 miles back.  We couldn’t get a taxi so we decided to take the bus which I thought was a great idea except… the four of us were also carying 5 bags of  heavy groceries, a crib mattress, a stroller, a toddler bathtub and a very active toddler.  And uh, bus drivers don’t like just sit at the curb cause you’re slowed down by your million pounds of food or small toddler.

But this is Colombia, the land of possibility and qustionable safety rules so Arnold took a firm grip on Elian and the rest of jumped on the bus whilst hystericlaly throwing on packages, mattresses etc.  I would’ve been embaressed but it’s too much fun being the crazy people who are basically moving into the bus.  Besids I’m a parent now, I don’t have time to be embaressed.  And where’s the fun in that anyways?

So we’re all sitting seperately in the back of the bus packed with people and 4 weeks worth of groceries laughing or asses off at the ridiculousness of it all when I spied Arnold and Elian sitting four rows in front of me.  They were sitting in front of a man who was playing an Andean pan flute (again totally normal). Elian was dancing and babbling and generally crowing with joy.  Apparently he loves buses, music and dancing, just like his parents.  His pleasure was so infectious he seemed brighter and more alive then the thousands of Christmas lights floating over La Septima.   And as I watched Arnold through the crowd of people I saw him holding Elian up and at that moment I thanked God for busses and the joy they give little boys, new parents and their family friends, all sitting like sardines in a bus, weighed down by 5 grocery bags, one baby bath, a stroller, a mattress and the insanity of being totally infatued with a small boy.

Posted on December 27, 2009 and filed under Adoption, Adventures in the World.

The sweetest thing

Disclaimer:  The internet is on the fritz so I've been writing down our memories offline.  Hopefully today I'll be able to schedule all the pics and stories to go up finally!  Also, he moves around a lot and our camera is uh "budget style" so sorry everything is blurry.

I thought yesterday was the best day ever but I guess I was wrong because this morning my heart broke it was so full of joy. Elian is kind of a violent sleeper in that he thrashes… a lot.  Some might consider this a sort of karmic payback for my own bad sleep habits but luckily I don’t really believe in karma.  Convenient, huh?

Anyways, the first night we didn’t yet have a crib so I slept with him on a mattress on the floor.  This wasn’t the original plan but when he woke up in the middle of the night wimpering there was aboslutely no way I was going to leave him alone and scared in the dark after his first day with scary new people.

So I laid down next to him and had a freezing and uncomfortable night.  At some point I remembered how Marjie told me “You won’t believe what you’ll be able to do for your child.” I think this came to mind when he somehow shoved my head off the bed.

Before Elian I had glimpses of what it might mean to be a Mom.  Like when Dora grabs my ear to sooth herself or Bison announced that he was going home with “Tia Emily” but now I know that the people closest to your heart will never compare to the love you feel for your children.  And I know this because after my night of frigid beating by my unconscious child I awoke to a little guy snuggling his head into my neck and cooing the sweetest sounds I’ve ever heard.  And as he sighed, opened his eyes and smiled at me shyly before burying his face in my arm I felt that in my life there could never be anything that could compare to this morning, to this little boy or the feeling that we belong together.

Posted on December 23, 2009 and filed under Adoption, Adventures in the World, Livin la Vida Loca.

This post brought to you by free airport Wi-Fi and a 4 hr layover

Well, I can't believe we finally made it to... Houston.

See this weirdo sleeping on the floor?  Yeah, that's Arnold and I think this picture says everything about the crazy week we've had... I always thought as the day got closer that we would be a Hallmark card of excitement and joy but it was more like a Lifetime "Special Event".  There was anxiety, fitful nightmares, bureaucratic debacles, heavy workloads and lots and lots of hysterical crying.  I won't speak for Arnold but I quite frankly spent most of the week alternating between three states of being: 1) Hysterical Mess 2) Freakishly Efficient 3) Overwhelmed with Gratitude.  I think that psychology textbooks refer to this kind of week as a "Stressful Life Event".

It's very strange indeed to oscillate between having a hysterical breakdown on the phone with an FBI agent to cooing over baby clothes and installing childproof latches but it's all over now and I feel like I'm starting to come together and let myself start to get excited. And now, lulled by the comparative blissful calm of the Houston airport it's all starting to sink in... tomorrow, barring any further disasters we are going to meet the little boy who will be our son.  The little boy who will change our lives forever.  The little boy we've been imagining and praying for and loving from afar for three long months.

Posted on December 20, 2009 and filed under Adoption, Adventures in the World.

Anticipation

This is a cross post from my guest-stint over at "Raising Colombian Kids".  A Top Ten List of Things I love about Colombia and look forward to doing, eating and experiencing on our trip.  Thanks for the great suggestion Melinda.  I loved putting this list together.  Note:  Except for Number 1 this list is in no particular order.

10. La Candelaria: I love Colonial architecture and I could walk around this Bogota neighborhood taking pictures and admiring the view for days.
9. Ciclovias on Sundays: Every Sunday the main arteries of Bogota are closed so that families can ride bikes, run and walk through the city. I can't wait to spend time walking down the Avenidas with my little boy.
8. Beautiful Churches: Churches in Colombia are open to the public anytime. When I lived in Chile I used to wander around Santiago and visit churches to pray at totally random times. Last year I visited many churches and prayed that we would be given a child.  This year we have so much to thank God for!
7. Hot Dogs: There is lots of great food in Colombia but I love the hot dogs. They are topped with crushed potato chips and a whole lot of other stuff that I'm sure is not part of the 5 a Day diet. I'm already stocking up on salad to prepare myself for the "No hotdog left behind tour"
6. Empanadas: No explanation needed. Order many, many empanadas. Apply directly to face. Repeat as many times as necessary.
5.  Cumbiaaaaaaaa!: I used to teach latin dance. My specialty was salsa. Colombia has the best dance and music scene in Latin America. Shakira, Juanes, Cabas, Grupo Gale, La Sonora Carruseles. The list goes on and on and on. The second CD I ever bought was Pies Descalzos by Shakira. That was A LONG time ago. When I bought that first CD I didn't speak spanish and I never imagined I'd ever go to Colombia, let alone have family there.  Life is sometimes a wonderful surprise, que no?
4.  Christmas Lights: You know the crazy person who puts lights all over their house? All of Bogota is like that house. It is the place where Christmas exploded. I love to walk around listening to villancicos and crashing novenas being held at the malls.
3. Chocolate and Cheese: Take delicious hot chocolate, add one rainy day and some delicious fresh cheese as an oozy treat at the bottom. Savory and sweet, it's a classic combo, like salted caramels. I like La Puerta Falsa, it's more than 100 years old and super-close to Plaza Bolivar .

2. Street Vendors! I love buying stuff on the street. Obleas and aromaticas are especially welcome in drizzly Bogota. In Bogota bargaining to get a good price is half the fun. Not for obleas of course, but always for your "Se habla espanol" t-shirt.

1. My family. Colombia has already given me my husband, my wonderful extended family and many good friends. In a few days Colombia is giving me the greatest gift of all, my first child. Te amo Colombia querida, de todo corazon!

Posted on December 17, 2009 and filed under Adoption, Adventures in the World.

Travel Tips, Packing List and Advent Conspirancy

Today over at Raising Colombian Kids I'm meting out advice regarding packing and traveling in Bogota.  Click here to absorb my wisdom! Perhaps my guest-blog gig is going to my head?  I'm starting to believe that I am some sort of Colombian travel Martha Stewart.

And in not-really related news I saw this a few days ago on Tyler Watson's Blog and I love it.  My cousin Sage makes a strong effort not to do presents with her kids and I think it's wonderful.  In fact I think it is a small step than can be world-changing. Don't get me wrong I love both buying and receiving presents but I also love justice, mercy and quality time with my loved ones.  Advent Conspiracy supports my Charlie Brown-esque love for Christmas as it should be.

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Posted on December 16, 2009 and filed under Adoption, Adventures in the World.

No Carb Left Behind Tour

We ate a lot in NY and by a lot I mean ENORMOUS ridiculous definitely unhealthy amounts of food.  We were on the kind of schedule where you are taking cake breaks regularly and having your 2nd dinner around 2:30 am. Seriously, after West Side Story I dragged Arnold all the way back down to Houston to eat at Katz's deli at 2 in the morning.  Which by the way was so totally worth it.  There's a reason that this is the place they chose for Meg Ryan to fake her orgasm in When Harry Met Sally.

The great thing about NY is that you also are forced to walk at least 5 miles a day so it helps to balance out the gluttony, or so you tell yourself.  I would gladly bore you with tales of everything we ate but I'll hold back just this once in favor of telling you about Pearl Oyster Bar in the Village.

We went there in search of what Kat deemed "The best lobster roll outside of Maine".  I have actually never had a Lobster Roll anywhere let alone Maine so I was excited.  I'm a fancy girl, I like lobster.  The restaurant was so cute and warm and it was so windy and cold outside. Everywhere I looked people were eating Lobster Rolls.  I was pretty excited.

I think Arnold and I both ate the whole meal with our eyes closed to better savor the experience.

Even better there were two adorable old men sitting next to us.  They were the kind of old-time New Yorkers with those incredible accents that Californians only see in the movies so I was extra enamored.  And when the one sitting next to me put down his spoon as he finished his appetizer he said slowly "Well, I am sad that part is oveh.  That was really good."  And his friend said "I think this is the best lunch in the city".  To which adorable old man Number 1 said "What are you talkin about? They serve dinner too!"

And that pretty much sums up how I felt about everything we ate in NY.  At the end of each meal I felt like "Well, I'm sad that part is oveh.  But now it's time for dinner."

Posted on December 3, 2009 and filed under Adventures in the World.

What's with these homies dissin my bill?

In High school I was a nerd, a VERY HAPPY nerd.  Not an angsty nerd with low self-esteem.  A HAPPY nerd who could've cared less about my innate geekiness.  I embrace it.  Still do, always will but I digress.  Nerds and Model U.N go together like peanutbutter and chocolate so obviously I was in Model U.N.  But no, I couldn't just be in Model UN I had to be extra geeky and think that Model UN was the BESTHINGEVER!  And honestly, it was, it was so much fun! You know what else I loved in high school?  Weezer.  (Trust me I'm going somewhere).  And guess who was the UN Secretary General when I was in Model U.N.  Boutrus-Boutrus Ghali!  The man so nice they named him twice!  (Don't worry I'm still on track)  And guess what Weezer song perfectly lent itself to a Model UN paroady song?

Ding ding Ding!  Buddy Holly..... oooh eeeee oooh I like Boutrus-Boutrus Ghali.  Oh oh and your Adlai Stevenson.  I don't care what they say about our policy.  I don't care about that!  Bang bang gavel on the floor.  Fight broke out 20 delegates dead!  Oh no!  What do I do... Yeah, there are numerous verse and a bridge but I'll spare you the details.  Just suffice it to say that I am totally willing to sing it at social functions.

Actually just a few weeks ago I sang it for Dahlia's astonished husband Mark who apparently did not previously realize that Model UN is SERIOUS BUSINESS!  I think he thought Dahl named their cat Boutrus for her Egyptian roots.  The look of disbelief on his face as we belted out the third stanza was priceless.  Fresh off this triumph I could not resist taking this picture at the UN in NY last month.  Here you go my high school friends and fellow nerds.  This one is for you!

Posted on December 2, 2009 and filed under Adventures in the World.