Saturday, December 23, 2006

Season's Greetings


This is our Christmas Card this year, and I'd like to share it with all of you.

This gorgeous card was created by the wonderful Julie. She has a similar card this year with pictures of her gorgeous new son, and when I admired it, she told me that she designed it herself! I think you will agree that she is immensely talented. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, Julie and I emailed each other from Colombia and she created this beautiful custom announcement for me right in time for Christmas. Per her suggestion, I sent the image file she created to mpix.com and I had beautiful cards delivered to my house before I was even back and for an extremely reasonable price! Julie, I am forever grateful, the whole family loves it. It realy was the cherry on the cake this Christmas.

Please, if you need any invitations, announcements or other such things, please contact Julie. You won't be disappointed!

WE ARE HOME!

Sorry, were you wondering what the heck happened to us?

The last few days were such a whirlwind that I didn't have a spare minute to update you all. We were in fact able to get the visas in just one day. We got the call at 3, and we had to leave for the airport at 6:30, so we had to wrap up everything and pack in that short amount of time. And of course, since we've been home, the boy has not touched the floor for a minute.

Our flight was uneventful. Avianca is an awesome airline. We were able to get the seats that have a bassinett attached to the wall in front of us, so the boy was snug as a bug in a rug, and slept the entire flight. Mommy and Daddy couldn't sleep, so we settled for staring at him the entire time and thinking about how the family was going to eat him up.

My parents met us at the airport at 5am, with a huge bunch of balloons. We drove back to our house and shortly after that Jim's parents and sister came. Everyone was overjoyed to have him home and to finally see him in person. The rest of the time has been a blur, people have come in and out of the house all day, and the boy takes it all in stride. He doesn't cry no matter how many people he gets passed around to. He is just as sweet and wonderful as he was in Colombia.

Last night my mom called and told us to come for dinner. She told me to dress him in something cute so she could take his picture in front of the Christmas tree. And since I would be holding him, she told me to at least wear a decent shirt (I usually wear sweats and slippers over there - she lives right down the block). Well good thing I listened, because when we opened the door I got a big "SURPRISE!" in my face. My mom planned a quickie surprise baby shower! I couldn't believe it, I had no clue! My entire family was there it was so awesome. Somebody took the baby out of my hands as I was standing there stunned, and I barely saw him the entire night. There were literally people lined UP to hold him next! And there were so many cameras in his face it looked like he had his own papparazzi! We got lots of good gifts, but the best part was seeing my family after so long. Speaking of gifts, I would like to thank my wonderful secret pal Debbie, who was nice enough to send me a very generous gift card to Babies R Us. Thanks girl, I can guarantee that will go to very good use. And thanks for being a great pal, I truly appreciate everything you did!

So we are really going to enjoy Christmas this year. I hope each and every one of you enjoy the blessings of the season no matter which holiday you celebrate. I wish you all peace, love and joy. For those of you in a crappy place this holiday, I wish you the hope of dreams finally fulfilled and the year 2007 to be the "year of you" (if you remember I declared 2006 the "year of me" and it actually did work!) I really enjoyed reading all of your comments, and feeling the love and support from Blogland. It was awesome to get and give comments to all of my friends who are in other countries at the same time as I was! And thanks to all you lurkers out there too...Yeah, I know you're there...I hope you enjoyed our adventures, and I know that this coming year I will read all the adoption blogs with a new perspective. I will be even more excited for all of you as you travel forward on your journey!

Below I have posted the last two posts from my family blog, in case you want the blow by blow of the last few days.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Update on Flight Home

It is now 11:00 and we just returned from the embassy. They are still not sure if they can issue the visa today. They are processing the application and await our security clearance. We will know by 4:00 today. If they can do it, they will call us and we will take a taxi back to the embassy to get it. We should be okay on time since we don´t have to leave for our 11:30pm flight until 7:oopm. But we really need to start packing just in case.

So we were picked up this morning by taxi at 8am by a different orphanage contact, Annette (our usual contact is helping the last american family get passports today). Annette has lived in Bogota for 56 years!! But the funny thing about it is that she was born in East Germany and does not look at all Colombian. She was very nice and helped us through the embassy process. The American Embassy is a huge complex and when we were dropped off we saw another huuuuugggee line to the door. We walked right past everyone and walked right through since adoption visas take priority. You have to go through a big security clearance area...Jim had to stand in this big X-Ray machine thing with his hands up. I was allowed to walk through since I was holding the baby. The area to wait for your visa is a big open air plaza with cobblestone floors, very nice. We walked up to a window and presented our paperwork, then sat down for our names to be called. Then we went to another window and presented more paperwork and answered a few questions about the boy. The woman was behind a glass window and you had to pick up a phone and talk to her which was kind of weird. After that we went to another window and paid the visa fee and sat down to wait again. After a while we were called up again and told that our visa would be ready at 4 tomorrow. So Jim pleaded our case to the woman and told her that we were having difficulty getting a flight back to the US. She took our phone number and told us she would try to have it done today, but it all depended on the system, which at that moment was very slow.

So we´ll see! Check back to see what happens! I can´t take the suspense, can you??

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Passport and Pediatrician

So we were up bright and early this morning, and ready to be picked up by 8:00. We drove to the passport place, and when we walked up we saw a verrrrryyyyy loooooonnnnnggg line. But No! We went right past it into the building and into a small area where they take passport photos. The small room consisted of a small counter and a big photo booth - kind of like the ones you see in malls and amusement parks but much much bigger. After a few minute wait we were next and our orphanage contact took the baby into the booth (we had to make sure he was awake because they won't take the picture if the baby is sleeping).We heard them trying to get him to smile, but no luck. For some reason this kid has an aversion to electronic devices. We were asked to choose among the 3 digital photos taken (all cute of course) and within in a few minutes we had his photos. We then went into a larger room that kind of looked like the DMV. Alot of chairs for waiting and many clerks behind numbered stations. When our number was called we handed the clerk the necessary paperwork (sentencia, birth certificate & photos) and she filled out the passport application. Then we were told to sit and wait. After about 10 minutes a man came out of a doorway with a big stack of new passports and started calling out names. Finally the boy's name was called! We were very excited but the boy...not so much...he was sound asleep. We had to go up with the baby to get it...they want to make sure they match the photo to the person. We were free to go, and came back to the hotel to kill time before the pediatrician appointment.

Jim and I were literally walking in circles at the hotel. We are so close to coming home and we are so excited we don't know what to do with ourselves. I ask him what time it is every 5 mintues. We watched some bad tv and even kicked a soccer ball around in the backyard. We are both convinced that since signing the sentencia time is actually going backwards.FINALLY, at 2:30 we were picked up to go to the pediatrician. We drove to a nice part of town that seemed to have many medical clinics all over the place. The doctor's office was nice, just like one you would see at home. After a few minutes of waiting we were called in to see the doctor. He was a very nice older man who spoke perfect english. The certificates on his wall indicated that he had spent alot of time in the states at various hospitals. We handed over the boy's brand spanking new passport and his photos and the doctor started filling out some paperwork. Then we put the boy on the examining table and undressed him for his physical. He checked his eyes, his ears, listened to his heart, and felt around a little. We put him on the scale and found out that he is now 13lbs 8oz, which is up from the 11lbs, 7oz when we first got him. He also grew an inch. The doctor finished up his paperwork, sealed it an an envelope for the embassy tomorrow and sent us on our way. We were home by 4:30.

Back at the hotel, more agonizing hanging around. The two french couples remaining here are leaving this week too, one tomorrow and one on Friday. We were very happy that everyone will be home in time for Christmas. One couple bought some more wine, Jim bought some fruit and cheese and we had a nice little toast to celebrate everyone's paperwork going through the process. BTW, quick funny story about one of the couples - they also went to Freddy the Emerald Pirate and they saw a ring they really liked. They thought the tag said 9.000.000, which they thought meant 9 million pesos, which would be about $4,000 US Dollars (there are about 2,254 colombian pesos to 1 dollar). They were ready to buy it (they clearly have money, they live in a very ritzy part of Paris) when Fast Freddy told them, no it's not pesos, its already in US Dollars....as in $9,000 US dollars! So needless to say, they left empty handed too.

At about 7:00 our friends E & A came to say goodbye. It was very sad to say goodbye, we had such an absolutely great time with them. They really went out of their way to make us feel welcome in Colombia. We told them they are now officially Tio and Tia (Uncle and Aunt) to the boy, and that we will be back in about 2 years or so and look forward to seeing them again. We exchanged addresses and hope to keep in touch with them.

So now, it's only NINE O'CLOCK. We are dying over here. We are so close we can smell the NY bagels and pizza from here. Tomorrow we go to the embassy to apply for the visa. I am going to try my best to negotiate getting our paperwork in first thing and see if we can't somehow get the visa issued by the afternoon. It would be SO SWEET to be on that plane tomorrow night!!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Guess What?

Guess What?

WE SIGNED THE SENTENCIA!!

We got the call at about 9:30 this morning telling us to be ready to go in an hour. Jim and I dressed up a little nicer and got picked up by our orphanage contact. We left the boy behind for this trip. We drove back into the downtown area to the family court building. It was a tiny little entrance and we had to fight the crowds to get in. Remember, the courts close at the end of day tomorrow, so everyone is trying to get their business done in time.We made our way up the stairs to the doorway indicating Court 14, the court we were assigned to by lottery. It was a tiny little alcove and we had to squeeze our way in and up to the counter. Our contact did all the talking, and eventually a big stack of papers was put on the counter, and flipped to the very back - the boy's adoption decree at last!

We all read through it very carefully to make sure all the names were spelled correctly and our passport numbers were correct. Then I signed on the dotted line over the shoulder of our contact. Just another piece of business for the courts but a pretty big deal to us. After we signed we had copies made and drove over to the Notaria. All copies of the Sentencia have to be notarized, and we had to register the boy's birth there. Jim signed in the big book. A little strange to think that our son's birth registry will be sitting on the shelves in this little place in Bogota forever.

Okay Okay, so now the big question...WHEN ARE WE COMING HOME?

Answer: WE STILL DON'T KNOW!!

Tomorrow we go and have the boy's picture taken for his passport, apply for the passport and then go see the Embassy Pediatrician. The American Consulate requires 2 days to get the boy his visa, one day to apply, and the next day to pick it up. I called the consulate today to BEG them to give us a visa in one day. The woman on the phone was very nice and said that they try their best to be as flexible as possible with adopting parents. However, your information needs to be entered into a computer to get security clearance from the US. They have no control over how long that takes. We may or may not be able to get the visa in one day.So...what we did is this:

We are keeping our Wednesday night flight that we booked with our skymiles. We also booked a refundable one way ticket for Thursday night. On Wednesday, when we know if we will get the visa or not, we will cancel whichever flight we won't make. So worst case scenario we will be home Friday morning! We can deal with that!!

We just came back from the mall where they have an Avianca office (go figure) to pick up the paper tickets for Thursday flight. We also got some wine and Aguardiente to celebrate signing the sentencia! We'll let you know how tomorrow goes!

Saturday and Sunday

Saturday was a little cooler outside, a result of all the rain we've had over the last few days. Jim and I are thankful for the nice breezes. I guess we should enjoy all of this weather because we hear our family is freezing their patooties off at home.

The boy has been quite the fusspot lately, maybe he feels our anxiousness to get home. He started wailing at 6 Saturday morning, a full hour before he usually gets up for his bottle. We were able to stall him until 7, but he continued to be fussy all day. That afternoon he had a full out meltdown. A little scary at first because the boy doesn't really cry, and well, this is our first baby! We had gone out to the jewelers this morning (more on that in a minute) and left him with the maids. When we came back we had lunch and I went to go get him. He was sitting in a stroller with one of the maids cooing at him. When he saw me he turned beet red and started screaming. You know the kind...his mouth is wide open, his face all scrunched up and red and no sound is coming out. Oh jeez! I hustled him into our room and first figured out that he was soaked through his clothes and also *ahem* dirty. So I changed him as quickly as I could, him screaming all the while. Finally I picked him up and rocked him for a while. In front of the window. That's our trick. You want to shut him up, stand him in front of the window and he gets mesmerized. After a little while he calmed down (but had that adorable sobbing hiccup), we put some clean clothes on him and laid him down. Some tummy rubbing and he was out cold. Whew!
Now the jeweler story. Colombia is known for emeralds. Did you know that? I didn't...they mine them right here in the country. So we heard there was a guy that the hotel owner knows that could show us some emeralds for good prices. We called him up and he had a driver come and get us. We drove for about 10 minutes to a very nice part of Colombia. The jeweler was a very nice man who spoke english, originally from New York. His stuff was absolutely amazing.....and absolutely outrageously priced. Who knew emeralds were so expensive?? And not for nothing? I hate emeralds. Green is my least favorite color. So here we are in this little shop, having been picked up just to come here, and we didn't want to buy anything. I mean, even the smallest tiniest little speck of green earrings were $350. Medium sized things were in the $700 range, and the decent sized stuff (still not big, maybe 1 carat?) was like $3500. Needless to say we were mortified to leave there with nothing, and they guy obviously thought we were cheapskates. Oh well, sorry dude! We couldn't wait to get back. Of course, when we got back, the boy decided to have his meltdown. We thought it was turning into just a wonderful day...


But the day was saved by our wonderful friends E & A. They picked us up at 2:oo with their two daughters C and M, and C's boyfriend..and we went to Monserrate, something we've really been wanting to do. Monserrate is a mountain that is about 3,000 meters above sea level, and at the top there is a church and beautiful grounds. The best thing is the view...you can see the entire city of Bogota from there. We drove to the bottom of the mountain, and took a cable car up to the top. We had the best time with them. They are alot of fun and made sure we experienced everything. We walked through the church, which had a haunting statue of Christ above the altar. There was even a wedding about to start, and we caught a glimpse of the new bride. The grounds have beautiful statues for each station of the cross. There is a section that has alot of booths of people selling souveniers and then a section where there are a ton of food vendors. Not sure what some of it was, but it did smell good

We had a shot of something that I don't remember the name of, but it's tradition to drink it here. It is a shot of Aguardiente (a clear anise flavored liquor derived from sugar cane - it will grow hair on your chest) that has all kinds of herbs packed into the bottle. Then we tried another treat that consisted of a hunk of bocadillo (a solid piece of guava paste) eaten with a hunk of mild cheese (resembled bland homemade mozzerella). Interesting!

After we left Monserrate we went to the Downtown part of Bogota. I am informed by E that she doesn't like this part of town - it's kind of skanky (my words, obviously). But we went to a very old place (80 years in fact) that serves all kinds of good food and sweets. We ordered tamales, since we hadn't eaten them yet...very good - Plantain leaves stuffed with a mixture of corn and rice with chunks of meat. We also had the best hot chocolate I ever tasted. The funny thing is that when you get the hot chocolate, they also give you a plate that had a mini loaf of bread, butter, and a slice of cheese. I was confused about the cheese until I saw C shredding it up with her hands and putting it IN the hot chocolate!! HUH??? But that's what you do...put it in there and let it get all melty and gooey and then fish it out and eat it. You know what? It was purty darned good! You also butter up your bread and dunk it into the cup. Crazy Colombians!


After the restaurant we came back to the hotel, picked up the boy (the maid almost had a heart attack that we were taking him out in the cold) and went to A & E's home. They have a lovely apartment with a nice view. E gave us a little Ajiaco (the soup, remember?) and after we had some great ice cream made by C's boyfriend's brother. YUM. After everyone cooed over the baby for a good while, they took us back home. We were exhausted from a long but very fun day.


Today is Sunday and it has been a quiet day. We went to Jeno's for Pizza for lunch today. Jim has had a hankering for pizza since we've come here. Jeno's wasn't all that bad - certainly not NY pizza, but it hit the spot. Then we walked on the closed streets to a local hotel that had an art fair, lots of nice stuff but we didn't buy anything. Then back to the mall, Jim wanted to get some magazines to read - would you believe the magazines are like $10-$12 here?? I was going to by a Martha Stewart Living but forget it!! (Expensive magazines - not a very good thing) We came home and we had a nice family nap. It's almost 6 pm now and we are anxious for the week to start so we can finish up our paperwork. We really like it here, but we are dying to come home. I want my bed, my shower, and some different clothes to wear, not to mention see all of our family and friends!


Oh great - as I am sitting here the maid came up and used the phone. Guess what we're having for dinner? PIZZA! How funny is that! We shouldn't complain though, we think the maids have really been slacking with the food lately. The other night we had some kind of gristle cutlets that were totally inedible. We think it was the snotty maid getting her revenge.

Here are some funny pictures of the boy:


That's my boy!

One of the maids had enough of him kicking off his socks, so she put them where they wouldn't fall off!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

An update

Sorry I haven’t posted in a few days, I don’t want to leave Jim for too long by himself because we are trying very hard to entertain ourselves here. The boy is doing extremely well. He’s a very happy, content little man. Here are some more pics to share:

Well, we were excited to have McDonald's for breakfast even if he wasn't.

The Angel Sleeps

Mommy's finger tastes yummy.

So let’s see – got to catch you up on what we’ve been doing. The only interesting things that happened Tuesday was that we 1) Went to lunch at El Corral which is known for their hamburgers. They have every kind you can imagine. I had a curry burger with curry peanut sauce and mango chutney (shut up it was good). Jim some kind of BBQ burger. 2) We went to a place called Maku, which is a 3 story building that sells all kinds of hand made Colombian goods. We were very disappointed, because it was basically 3 floors of knick knack stuff. None of my family is into that crap, so we were worried that the only things we were going to bring back for the family are coffee and the baby.


The maids made paella for lunch that day, and Jim and I don’t eat fish, so we weren’t able to enjoy it. It did look good though. So we went to a very well known place here called Crepes & Waffles. Guess what they serve? Yep, everything you could ever imagine, either on a crepe or a waffle. Lunch was good but the BEST part was the dessert! I had a hot waffle with nutella spread all over it, vanilla ice cream, bananas and whipped cream. Holy cow, to die for. I will be making that sucker at home for sure.


In other news, Jim was christened with spit up, so now he is officially a dad. Oh wait, the boy already christened him in another way last week – My mom was right, you need to cover boys up when you change them (perfect arc off the bed and directly onto the foot). Needless to say I laughed hysterically.


Anyway, that evening we received a phone call inviting us to the home of Mercedes & Arturo. You may remember that these two are the ones who founded FANA many years ago, and Jim and I entertained Arturo in NYC when he visited some months ago. All of the Americans who are here were invited over for the evening, about 10 of us in all (the same people we went to dinner with the other night). Their home is outrageously lovely. I had two of Arturo’s famed Vodka tonics and they were very good. They had delicious food for us, and even gave us a little gift in thanks for showing Arturo a good time in NYC. It was great to meet you Nadine. I don’t think the rest of your group liked us very much but oh well. Maybe some of them got their hands on this blog and didn’t like what they read?


We did get a small bit of good news that day as well. Our orphanage contact called and told us she had spoken to our lawyer. Our case has passed the first and very important step in the process. There are three stages in all, and the first is the most difficult, because it is the first place where your paperwork can be rejected due to errors. We had none, so we can move on to the next step.


Yesterday was our vist to FANA and it was quite an emotional day for us. We started with a tour of the entire facililty. We were surprised that they encouraged us to take alot of pictures as we went along. We saw what seemed like every part of the entire building, including classrooms, playrooms, medical facilities, laboratory, kitchen, dining area, backyard, auditorium...even the finance and human resource offices. It was really an amazing place. Very clean and beautiful. Of course our favorite part was seeing where the babies are. We are not sure what exact room he was in, but we saw a typical baby room (complete with babies!) and saw how the nurses take care of them. All babies are kept on their stomachs in their cribs so that they develop strong neck muscles. We are assured that they can do this only because there is a nurse in the room 24 hours a day, and therefore can be watched. We now have him sleep on his back. The baby room is very sterile and looks kind of like a hospital room. I tried to take one little baby girl home with me, but alas, they wouldn't let me. There was also a physical therapist who comes in and does exercises with the babies, moving their arms and legs and interacting with them. We also loved the toddler rooms and classrooms, where we got to say hello to some more adorable Colombian children. Some are waiting for adoption, and some are still stuck in the system because their parents haven't relinquished them yet, or they have just been taken away from them from the Colombian child protective services. We were very impressed with the entire facility. Not only for the obvious great care they gave the boy and all other children, but for the amount of work they do in their community. They hold all kinds of classes for their community, including job skills and parenting classes. They have a huge presence in the community and work very hard to keep or make families.

After the tour, we met with Flor, the orphanage director to hear all about the boy's social history. I was frantically scribbling down notes, because they do not allow you to take any of the file with you. The file is sealed and is kept at the orphanage until he turns 18. At that time he is welcome to go to Colombia to see his file. We were fortunate in that we got alot of good information about how he came to be available for adoption and about his birth mother and father....much more than alot of people get. I did not get emotional until Flor read a direct quote from the birth mother as to why she gave him up and her wishes for her son. I made sure that I wrote it all down word for word so that we can tell the boy those words as soon as he is able to understand them. We even were allowed to see a photocopy of his birthmother's identification card. It was pretty surreal to look into the face of the woman who's child we now have. She was young and pretty, but did not really look like the boy, or me for that matter. I have tried to figure out exactly why we were so emotional about it. Perhaps because in that moment the birth mother was a real person, not just some name on a copy of a birth certificate we were given. And maybe because her wishes for her son were the exact same ones that we have for him, and for some reason God chose us to see that it happens. It's almost a feeling of unworthiness in a way. I hope that the information we have will be a great comfort to him, and will give him some sense of where he came from before he came to us.

We left FANA with a very good feeling, and can't wait to go back again in a year or so for a sibling for the boy. The staff are truly amazing, and encourage us to stay in touch with them as part of the "FANA family".

Today we went to a huge Craft Fair that was awesome. Artisans from Colombia selling their hand made items Рeverything from pottery, knitted garments, woven linens, macramé, jewelry, woodworking, kids toys, everything you can imagine (much better than that stuff in Maku). We got some really good items to bring home for our family. I bought myself a filigree silver ring which will be a great reminder of our trip.


So now you’re caught up. Are you asleep yet?


Is it me, or can you kind of see a hint of the man he's going to be in this picture?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Introducing the little Monkey!





I am sitting here at the hotel and all is quiet. Jim is taking a nap and most of the other guests are out or in their rooms. The boy is sitting in a little seat on the desk next to my computer as I type. Every time I look over at him he smiles at me.

I had wanted to write a post to those still on the journey to adoption. To somehow convey to them how all of the years of trying and waiting, the heartache, the sadness, the nervousness, all of it, goes away the instant, and I mean the INSTANT you meet your child. But then I realized you really cannot understand this until it happens to you. I would devour adoption blogs and try to imagine what it was like when people met their child. I thought I could understand their excitement and joy. But what I felt was only one TENTH of what it actually feels like. I look at this precious baby and I cry every time. How on earth were we so blessed to be matched with this boy. The connection was instantaneous. It truly feels as though I have given birth to this child. A very long and painful labor for sure, but as with “real” births, completely and utterly worth it in the end.

So if you are still on the journey, please hang in there. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is bigger than you can ever imagine.

A few quiet days

Okay so first of all, I got my first troll comment! Thanks, I feel so accomplished now. Don't you just love when people post anonymously? Such cowards. So to the ignorant coward who called me pretentious because I am hoping to sign the sentencia this coming week, do me a favor and click that little red X on the top right of your screen. If you don't like what I write here, don't read it. In case you didn't know, the courts close here on December 18th, (8 DAYS AWAY) so they are pushing all of the cases through quickly. While we may not sign Monday or Tuesday, we will sign shortly after that, and what is wrong with hoping we will do it sooner than later? It's Christmas time and I miss my family. I am not asking to jump ahead of anyone, so what's the problem? I am sure if you were in the situation and had the opportunity to leave early you would take it. I am sorry if you are in a worse situation, but I didn't cause it, and I can't fix it, so don't be angry at ME. Okay enough about that!

I haven't posted in a day or so because there wasn't that much to tell. Friday was very quiet, we pretty much stayed at the hotel the entire day. Well, we did take a walk in the morning...to guess where? That's right, a mall! We only went into one store, and we did find a Colombian cookbook in english, but it was $75, so we think we'll just order something on Amazon! I got a stomach ache that day, so we didn't go eat Christmas cake with Alfonso and Estella. In fact, when I called them, they told me that Alfonso wasn't feeling well either, which leads us to believe that we ate something funky at the restaurant!

Yesterday Jim was picked up early to play golf with a woman from the orphanage, her sister in law and an American who is staying at a different hotel. He said it was awesome. The Vice-President of Colombia was playing behind them with his entire entourage, including men with machine guns and an SUV driving on the course. Jim said he played pretty well, the course was beautiful and he had a really good time. He made friends with the other American, who invited us out to dinner with their group.While Jim was away, the boy and I hung out at the hotel. TV, naps. computer time, more TV, more naps..you get the idea. I was happy when Jim came back and told me we were invited to dinner. We went to a barbecue place called Carbon de Pollo, and there were 9 of us. There was one other couple with their Dad (the guy Jim played with) and the rest were folks whose husband/wife had already left for home, including the woman who received her baby the same day we did. Most have been there 5 weeks or more already. Yikes. Next time I know we won't get this lucky and we will have to endure at least that much time. But we already think we will request the other hotel which typically has more Americans there. So the restaurant was good, basically meat and potatoes, charred on the grill. At this place the wait staff gets up with the band and sings a few songs and they were really....well, bad actually. They were all tone deaf and their faces indicated that they were forced into this little bit of humiliation. But all in all it was fun, it was good to be with other Americans. They have invited us to do other things, so we'll see. We think we will meet up with them at another small flea market near here. There is a kind of horse show tonight, not sure if we're going to go.

So the boy is doing well. We have noticed some changes in him, like he is much better at grabbing and holding onto things with his hands and he can now pull himself into a sitting position when he holds onto your hands. He has also become VERY talkative. We woke up this morning to the sound of him carrying on an entire conversation with himself. It is very funny. Especially since when he talks he moves his arms and legs alot and gets all excited.

Okay off to the flea market, talk to you later!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Thursday

Sorry for the lack of posts - the connection here can be sketchy some nights. I've finally gotten around to posting the update from the last few days. I hope you enjoy them.

We didn't see our little guy for most of the day today. Our new friends A and E picked us up this morning to take us to the Catedral de Sal. It is about an hour's drive out of the city, and enjoying the scenery was almost as good as our destination! Colombia has an absolutely beautiful countryside, the mountains are amazing.

The Catedral de Sal (Cathedral of Salt) is a church inside a salt mine. There are 14 stations of the cross, as well as the usual parts of a church carved into the salt (It really is salt by the way, I tasted the wall). When you first walk in, you enter a very dark tunnel. The stations of the cross are big crosses carved in the salt and illuminated in the darkness. Our tour guide only spoke spanish so I wasn't able to understand everything they said, but you could feel the tranquility and spirit in the place. After the 14 stations we visited the parts of the church. The room with the baptismal font had a huge "waterfall" of salt. There was an opening high on the wall, and the water dripping from the opening deposited salt down the wall, which crystalized into a formation that looked like a real waterfall. It was a very quiet, dark place, with illumination only on the crosses or other statues. It was very peaceful. It was quite an amazing place and we were very glad we got to see it.

After touring the cathedral, we walked through another exhibit that explained how the salt is mined there. Then we stopped at an Archeological Museum which had very old artifacts found in various parts of Colombia. All of these things are located in the town of Zipaquira (see-pa-kee-RA) which was an extremely cool place. Lots of colorful things - stores, people...we really felt like we were experiencing the culture here. Upon recommendation from a police officer, we went to a local restaurant called La Cascada (the waterfall). I had Pollo a la Plancha (kind of a seasoned flattened chicken breast) and Jim had some Churasco (flattened roasted meat). For dessert we had Cuajada con Melado (click on the name for a picture) which is a typical Colombian dessert. It was like almost like a flan, but more sour than sweet. It's like a little mound of milk pudding sitting in a pool of thin caramel. It was pretty good - although I'd much prefer something with chocolate!

After lunch we tried to race back to Bogota. To alleviate traffic, there are certain hours you are not allowed to drive in the city, depending on the numbers on your license plate. For example, if your license plate ends in a 7, 8, 9 or 0, you are not allowed to drive in the city on Mondays and Thursdays between the hours of 4pm and 7pm. If you are caught driving during these hours, you get a very expensive ticket, like $300-$400. Unfortunately, we didn't make it in time. We got to the very outskirts of Bogota by 3:50 and A would not be able to drop us off and get home in time. So we had to stop somewhere until 7:00. Guess where? Yes, a mall! I have to find out how many malls there are here, it is so many I can't believe it. This one was new and HUGE. We walked and walked and walked. We looked at all the Christmas displays for the children - we were amazed at how many things they had for them to do. One area had a place where kids could write letters to Santa, another for Karaoke, another for building small wooden toys, another for decorating wrapping paper...I wanted to join in the fun! Of course Santa & Mrs. Claus were there walking around and saying hello to all the children. Although here they are called Mama y Papa Noel. We went into a shoe store and bought the boy these shoes that are popular here called Bubblegummers. Most of them have rubber soles that smell sweet. We bought a cute blue pair for him (although they didn't smell), we are told they are very high quality and are popular with the kids. Also a weird thing about the public restrooms here - and something you do wrong only once - the toilet paper is OUTSIDE the stalls...you need to remember to bring some with you into the stall. Weird. What is it with Colombians and bathrooms?

We finally got home about quarter after 7, and the baby was fast asleep so I guess he didn't miss us too much. I was so tired I barely ate dinner. We didn't go out to see the lights for the Festival of the Virgin Mary because it started to rain tonight. We did run out of the house to see a few fireworks though. No plans for the day tomorrow, but A & E invited us over to their house tomorrow night after dinner. From what I understand, her sister in law gave her a cake as a present of the Christmas season and she would like us to come over to help eat it. The baby gets to come too! They are just the nicest people. I asked them if they were tired of us yet, but they said no. Go figure. I do like to talk to them, we teach each other words in english/spanish and it is fun to try to communicate.

Wednesday

We woke up early this morning to say goodbye to our Minnesota friends. I cried like a baby when they left. We just met them a week ago, but I got really attached to their girls. I got a big hug from V. They were excited to get on the airplane, and to get home to their dad who had left a few days earlier. They promised to keep in touch, and I really hope they do.

After that, we fed the boy and started to get ready for our Bienestar interview. I completely lost track of time, and realized too late that I had no time to give him a bath or to iron my pants. So the boy got a quick once over with some wipes, dressed him up cute and off we went with our orphanage contact, me with wrinkled pants. It was a long ride to the Bienestar office because of all the rush hour traffic. But it was very interesting to see the city from the car. The boy loves the car, and is completely mesmerized by the world whizzing by outside. Finally we arrived and had to wait a few minutes before we could go upstairs. I had my first stupid comment, and who'da thunk it would be here. A woman sitting next to me looks at the boy all dressed up in head to toe blue, and asks Nino or Nina? Nino dummy! Then we went up the stairs to a little waiting room. We saw the couple who we met on the day we got the boy, they were there for interview too. The building we were in was a very typical, old grungy government building, just like home. We briefly met our lawyer, who doesn't speak english. Eventually, when the woman we were supposed to meet actually got to work, we were called in to speak to her. She was a very teeny woman, no more than 4 foot 10 inches. Through our orphanage contact she asked us a few questions: How is the baby doing? Is this your first adoption? How did you come to adopt in Colombia? Do you think you have bonded with the baby? She seemed satisfied with our answers, and at the end she gave us Congratulations, and said that she hoped we show him lots of love and meet all of his needs. "Si, Claro!" Of course! After that, she reviewed our paperwork, and had to re-do one paper because it didn't have my middle name on it. They are very particular that all of your paperwork is consistent with all the names. After that was redone, we were free to go. We took a cab back to the hotel (our contact had to finish up with the other couple). We took a walk around our area to get out into the sunshine for a bit. We forgot the camera again, I need to take more pictures of the city.

We came back and sat outside until lunch. It was a beautiful day today, a nice breeze was blowing. A new couple arrived, they are from Spain and adopted a little boy in addition to the girl they already have. They are pretty shy and don't talk much. Their new boy is a screamer. After lunch we watched tv (Seinfeld, Frasier and (yes!) Will & Grace). I took a nap. We were pretty bored this afternoon. We were going to go to the mall with the American couple, but they snagged the only stroller so we couldn't go. We are getting punchy with the boredom. Every time the phone rings here (which is like every 5 minutes) Jim says out loud "I'm not here!". I crack up because no one even knows what he is saying. Oh, and you'll be happy to know that I got back at the maid today. After she starting rattling on again, making fun of me that I couldn't speak good spanish, I said to her (in perfect spanish!) "I understand everything but I don't speak well. What about you? Let me hear you practice your english!" Well she turned red and said "YES!" and ran away. HA! Not so easy is it?!

Oh I forgot to tell you a funny story yesterday. When we were in the mall, a couple walks up to us with their little boy in a stroller. They were saying how cute the baby was, and they asked me (in spanish of course) what his name was, and how old he was. After I answered, she looks at me and asks me where I'm from. Oh great I think, how am I going to explain? So I started to say the United States and then she said "Me too!" in perfect english! Guess where they were from? The Bronx. How funny is that? Her and her husband were on vacation visiting family. When we told them we had just adopted him they went nuts over him. And guess what, she said my spanish was very good (stupid maid is giving me a complex!)

Two of the french families signed their Sentencia today - that is the final adoption decree and it means that they can now get their visas and get ready to go home. They bought wine and snacks and we had a toast congratulating them on this big step. That is what we are waiting for now...to be called and told we can go and sign the Sentencia. Please keep your fingers crossed that we get the call Monday or Tuesday. This Friday is a holy day here, so it will not happen this week. So we just finished dinner, and the dining room was so loud Jim and I have a head ache. Kids crying and banging dishes, adults screaming in french. We just looked at each other and started cracking up. I am going to finish this post and we are going to retire to the quiet of our room. Good thing the boy is not bothered by all of the commotion. It's good preparation for our crazy family. The poor kid has no idea what's in store for him!

Tuesday

Today was a good day! I hope I didn't sound too down on my last post. It's really not so bad here, but during the dull moments we really miss home. We wish that we could share our first experiences in person with those we love and not strangers. We are grateful that we are here in the first place, and all indications are that we will be here much less than most people. We will stay as long as it takes to bring the boy home!

Today you'll be happy to know (you and our arteries) that we did not have eggs for breakfast! We had tostadas frances, better known as french toast. It was very good! After breakfast we got dressed and ready to go to the Hacienda Santa Barbara mall. It is called Hacienda because it was built on the site of an old farm. There is a very old part of the mall, with cobblestone streets, and it is very quaint. We decided to take the boy with us this time - why not, moms take their babies to the mall all the time, right? The cab ride was a little crazy, I had to hold him while the driver bobbed and weaved through rush hour traffic. The ride only cost 5,000 pesos which is less than $3.00. We went with our Minnesota friends Pam, who is a spanish teacher, her mom, and her two girls. The girls tortured the poor boy the whole day but he took it all in stride. They insisted on pushing his stroller (borrowed from the hotel) all day, and helped me give him his bottle. They held his hands, and stroked his head, wiped his chin...they were so cute. I am really going to miss them when they leave tomorrow. Their mom commented how laid back we were about the girls playing with the baby and with them jumping all over me. I assured them that I am very used to kids and babies with my family! It felt just like home having them jump all over me!

At the mall we went into a music store to see if we could get some Colombian music CDs. The store clerk was very nice and opened up a bunch of CDs and let us listen to them all. We bought two, one that is very funky, and one by a popular artist here with alot of guitar type music. We also bought a little chiva (click on the word to see a picture) for the baby's bookcase. A chiva is an open air bus that is used to carry all kinds of goods and people through the countryside. It is usally packed to the gills with stuff, from chickens, to vegetables to people. There are some pictures of real ones here. I also got a little costume jewelry for me. Oh and the boy and I had our first experience with a baby changing station at the mall. I wish I took a picture. I would put it in a frame and label it "Baby's first public restroom". We did pretty good. With that under my belt, and the spit up on my sweater, I think I am officially a mom.

After the mall we went to a restaurant near our hotel that is known for authentic Colombian food. (I know, all I do is talk about the food - but it is the highlight of this trip besides my son!) I had a dish that was basically a big mound of rice with pieces of pork, chicken and sausage mixed in, as well as peas and other vegetables. There was a fried egg on top and plantains around it. Delicious! Jim had some kind of peasant dish that had big red beans, a big hunk of bacon, some ground meat (pork I think), and a fried egg. Very good. After lunch we came back to the hotel and just hung around for a bit. We sat in the living room with everyone and chatted. It's like the United Nations in that living room most days. Our orphanage contact stopped by to pick up some candy we brought to her from the US. She wanted those little mini snickers and milkyways with the Christmas wrapping. We chatted with her for a while, and she invited Jim to play golf later in the week, we think with some other American people and some orphanage people. That should be fun for him though I'm sure he's nervous he won't be as good as the rest. I'm sure he will! How cool to tell people that he golfed in Colombia though, huh? She also told us that our case should move along okay, so were hopeful about that.

Let's see...I don't remember much of the afternoon - I played with the girls some more - I even read a Curious George book completely in spanish. I hope I didn't tell a totally different story than what was written! Jim took a nice nap. Before you knew it, it was dinner time, porkchops with some kind of sweet sauce, rice and broccoli, oranges for dessert (not to worry, I've got oreos stashed in my room for a proper dessert). After dinner the sweater lady came back. We bought a beautiful hand made wall hanging that I hope our little guy will always keep as a memory of Colombia. But the best part of her visit was that I got a lesson on how to make little crocheted butterflies! It was very interesting to be taught completely in spanish! The woman was very nice and told me that she will come back tomorrow with some thread and a crochet hook for me to keep so I can practice making them. I even translated her verbal instructions to someone who wrote it down in english! I can't wait to make them, they are so cute! I have found that I am SO MUCH better at understanding spanish than speaking it! So I'll let you know how I make out with the butterflies.

After she left, at about 9:00 we came back into our room for the night. I have been on the computer for a while now, and at 11 I will give the baby his last bottle and then go to sleep myself. Interestingly, the orphanage woman told us not to wake him up for his 3am feeding and to ignore him unless he is really awake and crying. She said he needs to get used to sleeping through the night. Okay by me!

Tomorrow morning at 8:30 we have our Bienestar interview. We have made plans for Thursday with Alfonso and Estella to go see the Salt Cathedral. Apparently there is some kind of church carved into a salt mine. We also have tentative plans to meet up with more friends of friends who live in Bogota. Maybe lunch on Saturday.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Nuevos Amigos

This morning we woke up early and said goodbye to our friends from North Carolina. I felt bad for them, their flight to Colombia had been their first time on an airplane, and they were not looking forward to flying back home, especially with a new baby. We took some great pictures with them, including an adorable one of the two babies together. We showered, ate breakfast and hung around in the living room, played on the computer and basked in the baby’s adorableness. Oh, and we gave him a real bath today – thank goodness he liked it.

After lunch (an awesome frittata with artichokes and spicy sausage like a chorizo, we called cousins of our friend (the one who originally told us about FANA), to say hello. We made arrangements for them to come and pick us up at the hotel at 2:00. It was a little strange for us to be meeting people we never met, not to mention people that don’t really speak too much English. I was a little nervous about what would happen. E & A arrived with their 20 something (and gorgeous) daughter C who did most of the translating. We hit it off with them immediately. They came and sat for a few minutes and held the baby while we broke the ice. They even were nice enough to bring a gift for the baby. Then they offered to take us around the city to see a few things. We went to a HUGE shopping mall and walked around. Like home, the mall is filled with huge Christmas displays. The theme was all kinds of deer – antelope, gazelles, you name it. Huge stuffed ones were everywhere. The funny part was that all the children were playing in the fake snow – most of them have never seen snow in their lives. We bought some Colombian coffee from a place called (what else) Juan Valdez Caf√© and sat out on an open air veranda that overlooked some of the city and the mountains. We sat and talked to each other about the differences between Bogota and New York City. There are many things that are exactly the same. After we became more comfortable with each other I tried to talk a little more Spanish to make it easier to communicate rather than have Carolina translate everything. I told E (in Spanish) that if she spoke slower I could probably understand her. So she started talking REALLY slow like I had brain damage “Teeeeeneeeemoooossss fruuuuuttaaa blaaaaannnnccaaaa” I started laughing hysterically and told her “not that slow”. She was trying to ask me if we have this very sweet white fruit in America that is very good here. No, no white fruit that I know of. So after that it got a little easier, they spoke bad English, we spoke bad Spanish and all was well. After the mall we walked around this small area outside that had a few craft booths. Nothing that caught my eye. There is one area that has a ton of bars, including the “Bogota Beer Company” gotta love it. Then we drove to the most beautiful park. It was just getting dark outside and C was telling us that at night it lights up with Christmas lights. No sooner had she said it then all the lights went on at once. It was totally amazing. Every tree was filled with these big ornaments glowing with light. There was a HUGE Christmas tree all lit up. It really was a beautiful sight. It made me a little homesick, because we know that we are missing the Christmas season at home. With the warm weather here it doesn’t really feel like Christmas. But it really did tonight.

After the park we drove around a while. You know I had to ask the question “Where can I buy yarn around here?” Yarn was a word they did not know. I tried to explain knitting with no luck. Finally C lit up and said “Yes! From the Sheep!” Yes woo hoo! In Spanish it is called las lanas, and she asked how to say it in English. It was hysterical listening to her practice the word wool, which came out more like wooooool. Anyway, you’d be happy to know that there is a store one block from our hotel. I looked in as we drove by and it seems to have all kinds of trimmings and things, not just a yarn store. I’ll have to check it out soon. We came back to the hotel just in time for the baby’s next feeding. A and E insist on spending more time with us to show us the city. They said that they feel bad that we “have no one” here. They are very proud of their city (rightfully so) and want to show us around. We are planning to go to a flea market tomorrow afternoon, we are told there are some good Colombian goods there to buy. Oh, and we told them that we wanted to buy a cross from Colombia for the baby’s room. A said that if we would like, he would paint us a wooden cross himself. How special is that? We feel bad taking up all of their time, but we do appreciate being able to get out and see things.

Apparently on Sunday’s here, they close down some of the main streets and open them up to pedestrians. We are told it is a good day to take a walk with the baby. Maybe we will do that in the morning. There is a big mall nearby (Colombians love their malls, they are huge and they are everywhere) and it is lit up for Christmas, so we will walk there one night. We were told that it is perfectly safe to walk in our area. We were surprised at how modern this city is. We were told it was very poor here, but it is not at all like that where we are. Like any city, there are poor sections, but there are very chic stores here, big designer names everywhere. We did see a lot of the same stores we have too, like Dunkin’ Donuts, Tony Roma’s ribs, L’Occitane, Nike, Tower Records (we bought a Colombian Christmas CD), and many others.

It’s about 8:30 pm and we are now in our room chilling out. Dinner was pork loin, rice and roasted eggplant, onions and tomatoes, with the sweetest watermelon you ever tasted for dessert. We went right to our room after dinner…this house can get pretty noisy from all the people coming in and out, and we need some quiet time. The boy is doing well …we left him with the maids while we were out and he did just fine. I remember thinking when we were out that it was weird that we had a child waiting for us back home. Weird. My throat continues to be a problem, I sound like a frog now. I eat cough drops like candy. I can’t get enough water in me (which means I always have to pee ) and my lips are always chapped. I seem to be the only person having a problem though. Probably my resistance was down from the crazy 5 days before we got here.

So, another day down. Time goes slowly here but we are trying to enjoy this place as much as we can. I want to be able to tell the boy about everything we saw. It´s difficult to post pics here,and I´m not even sure if I´m allowed yet. Coming soon, I promise.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Day three!

Hello All! We are still doing fine over here. It's hard to get time to be alone on my computer, it's very social here so I've been out making friends. Many people have left or are leaving soon, so I will have more free time soon. The below is a portion of an email I sent to my family on what we've been up to. I thought I would post it here, so that you at least had an update. Sorry no pics yet, it's intolerably slow to upload them right now. And skip over the parts you know about already!

Thank you so much for all of your wonderful comments. Reading them is like a little slice of home. I never understood how much my comments meant to others who have traveled to get their babies until now. It really is wonderful.


Dear Family

Okay, now that we have a little more free time, I can tell you more about what happened the last few days.

The flight
First, can we all start a letter writing campaign to get JetBlue to fly to Colombia? Delta stinks. The flight was delayed in taking off. We had the worst possible seats, the last row with no window and our backs against the bathroom wall. Squooshy seats with hardly any room. We asked the flight attendants twice (TWICE) about making our connection in Ft Lauderdale and we were assured that we would have plenty of time to make it. Imagine our surprise when we got to the Avianca desk, the agent looked at us in panic and said she thought it was too late for us to make it. She made some calls, clicked away frantically on her computer, and before you know it we were RUNNING through the airport trying to get through security and to the gate. Thank God we made it. Avianca is a great airline. They pass out magazines and newspapers, we got hot towels, a great meal and even watched a movie. It was a little challenging because the fight attendants really didn’t speak English, but we got by. I was able to understand that the movie would be playing in English on channel 1, and was able to place our order for lunch (Carnes o pollo? Pollo por favor).

The airport
This was a little tricky, made more difficult by the fact that we tired, excited to be there and the fact that I really really really had to pee (sorry mom, but I did). We got off the plane and made our way down this looooong corridor to a really looooong line for immigration. There are little booths set up and when you are called you go up to them and show your passport. The woman didn’t really speak English but we did a good job answering her questions. It was funny when she asked us why we were there and we said “adopcion” and she said back to us “vacacion?” But it came out bah-cay-shun? We went back and forth a few times until Jim showed her the word “adopcion” on our visas. Ahhhh, she said and she smiled. Babies make people smile everywhere! After we were cleared we found the bathroom (you’ll be happy to know that airport restrooms are the same everywhere – gross) and made our way to the baggage claim. This was a complete nightmare. Now I know how new immigrants must feel when they come to JFK. It was complete chaos there and I wasn’t able to find anyone who spoke English or were interested in trying to listen to my limited Spanish. Eventually we figured out that we needed to get a form (necessito en ingles por favor!) to get us out with our bags. I only filled out one form for me and not for Jim, and the woman at the door first stopped us and then waved us through with a look of disgust as I started jabbering at her in English that how the hell am I supposed to know what to do, its not like there are signs or anything! After that we made our way out of the terminal. I will always remember the wall of people standing right outside the door pressed up against the barricades. There really isn’t a place for people to come inside to meet family so they are all waiting outside. Through the crowd, Jim spotted someone holding a sign with our name. We eventually meet Manuel, our driver.

The First Night
Manuel speaks very good English, and he tells us that the place we are supposed to stay is not ready for us. There are other couples still there who have been delayed. Another room has been secured for us in another hotel. When we arrive, we lug all the bags into the lobby, only to find that we did not have a room. They were overbooked, and they tried to contact our agency but were not able because it was so late. This hotel booked us another room in yet another place farther away. We lug the bags back into the car – By the way, all the cars here are tiny. The car we were in had no front passenger seat to accommodate more luggage because the trunk was so small. We arrive at the address, but it doesn’t look like a hotel. There is a doorway wedged between some stores and our driver goes up and is able to talk to someone through an intercom. After some minutes a security guard opens up a big gate and we drive in. We snake down this narrow driveway to a dark parking garage. We lug our bags into a teeeeny elevator and finally arrive in the “lobby”. We sign in, order breakfast for the next morning and go to our room. Our driver calls our contact and we are told that we will be called in the morning to tell us what time we need to be ready to go to the orphanage. The room is kind of skanky but we are so tired we don’t mind too much. We finally lay down at about 10:30 and try to unwind from the day, and enjoy the silence together. After all, this is our last night as a childless couple! We sleep only a few hours at a time, but surprisingly well. We are awake at 6am and try to amuse ourselves until the phone rings. We were surprised that there was good tv – Fox News, CNN and I was even watching Spiderman in English with Spanish subtitles. Finally the phone rings 4 hours later, and we are told that the driver will be there at 11:15. Another agonizing hour to go. Now my stomach is really in knots with the anticipation. Finally, finally, the driver arrives, we load up our luggage and leave. First stop is the hotel we were originally supposed to stay in to drop off our bags, then off to FANA, the orphanage.

FANA
The ride from the hotel to FANA is about 15-20 minutes. People have said that Bogota traffic is crazy, but it was no worse than New York – much better I thought. FANA is located in a more industrial section of the city. There is a gate to be buzzed into the campus. We are dropped off and told to go in. I thought this was weird, I guess I was expecting a personal reception or something? We go in and are told to go to the second floor where Flor, the Orphanage Director is waiting for us. She kisses us hello and congratulates us. I start tearing up already (Elvis is in the building!). We are brought into a small waiting room that has two couches and is covered in pictures from all the other families who have adopted from there. There is another couple there from upstate NY who was there to adopt their second child. Today they would get a girl, their first was a cute (although obnoxiously rambunctious) 3 year old boy. The nurse comes in and goes over all of the baby's medical information (all is well) and goes over his feeding schedule with us. She does the same for the other couple. We then realize that they will be presenting the other couple with their child in just a few minutes. I made sure they didn’t mind that we were in the room. A group of 4 or 5 women come in (most whom we have met or spoken to already in this process) and take the presentation outfit, your camera and your video camera. Then they leave to get the baby. The couple is asked to stand up and wait. The group of women all escort the baby down the hall to meet their new family. A beautiful little girl with a whole mess of fluffy hair on her head. Crying, pictures, congratulations. Okay, our turn!

We stand up in the appointed spot and wait. We hear them coming down the hall. “Here he comes!” someone says. I start bawling, I can’t believe this day is finally here (Good Luck watching the video, it’s a tear jerker). Jim was very calm. Finally the group of women turn the corner, and all I see is this gorgeous baby boy being held out to me. All I remember is that I just kept saying “Oh my God he is so beautiful” over and over. (Okay, are you crying now? I am!) He is even more beautiful than his picture. He has very big eyes and very long eyelashes. He is giving me this very serious look as if to say “What's wrong with you lady?” He would not take his eyes off of me, even when I handed him to Jim. Jim held him for a while and we just stared and cooed at him for a while. He didn’t cry, he just kind of took it all in. He wasn't scared by Jim's goatee like most babies are. He looked adorable in the outfit we got him too (it was the right size!). After some pictures, hugs and kisses, we were asked for some documentation, and we ordered a case of formula. We were told we could leave, and that we would be called at the hotel when it was time to do the next step. We waited in the lobby for our formula and then went out to the car. I think we were only in there an hour, including the time for the other couple’s presentation. It was so amazing how they just kind of handed him over…I guess it really is just like giving birth! Here you go! Goodbye and Good Luck! We took the cab back to the hotel. Colombia does not use carseats, so I held him. He was very smiley during the trip and eventually fell asleep.

The Hotel
We are staying at a place called El Refugio (aka Carmen’s Place). It is a kind of bed and breakfast especially for adopting couples. When we arrived it was a little chaotic because a bunch of people were checking out and leaving for home. Carmen gave us an infant seat to put him in and told us to relax a moment while they finished up our room and made us lunch. The maids here cook breakfast, lunch and dinner, clean your rooms, babysit, and anything else you need. The lunch we had on that first day was so delicious. We were starving, and finally relieved to have him, so we really enjoyed it. It was some kind of little meat ravioli with this creamy tomato sauce chock full of shredded chicken. After lunch we changed clothes and gave the baby his first bottle. He sucked it down like a champ.

El Refugio is a very unique place. It’s basically a big house, with a big gate around it, and a nice size yard with a swing set and a patio set. It is clean (Cathe, you’ll be happy to know the whole place is sanitized with bleach every day, what a stink!) and friendly although well worn from the hundreds of families who have made their way through here over the years. Our room has a tv, a small refrigerator, a crib, a bottle sterilizer, and a baby tub. The only really weird thing is that they don’t want you to flush toilet paper, but rather throw it in the garbage. Pretty gross, and half the time I forget, because who does that?? There are probably about 7 or 8 room here in all. There is no heat or air conditioning and the windows can be opened but have no screens. There is a front office that has a free internet phone and a computer to use. There is also a laundry room for you to use. The funniest thing about this place is the maids. They don’t give a hoot that you don’t speak Spanish, they happily chatter away to you anyway. They are very friendly and go nuts over our little guy who is the youngest one here. They will get you whatever you need and help you with the baby. It is fun talking to them because I get to practice my Spanish. Sometimes the conversations get really funny trying to figure out what each other is saying. When talking to the woman, they refer to the husbands as “your meester”. They are also the most amazing cooks. The food is so delicious here we look forward to each meal. Lunch always starts with soup. Today we had some kind of fried dumpling made with ground sausage, warm potato salad with peas and green salad. They also give you something sweet at the end, usually fruit. Today was a fresh glass of blackberry juice.

We have met a really nice couple from North Carolina. Unfortunately for us (but great for them!), they leave in the morning. They adopted an 8 month old boy. They helped us immensely about how the place works, and the best places in the neighborhood to go. He speaks Spanish about as well as I do, and he loves to torture the maids. The doorbell is always ringing here, because you have to be buzzed into the gate. Late last night it rang and he got up to get it. Outside the gate was a guy on a bicycle. He goes over to Rosalita and says in a big southern drawl “Hey rosalita, es su novio en un bicicleta” (it’s your boyfriend on a bicycle). She got all flustered, it was so funny. Other than this couple, there is only one other couple that speaks English. They leave on Wednesday. They adopted a 5 year old girl named Valentina. They already have a 6 year old, Cecilia who was adopted from the same orphanage as us (I have an awesome picture of Cecilia feeding the baby). They are beautiful girls and they love to play in the yard. When all the Americans leave, we will be left here with two couples from France. It’s a good trick to try to understand Spanish with a French accent. One man is very friendly and he tries very hard to talk with us. He has a beautiful 6 year old girl Laura (pronounced with a French Low-da – rhymes with chow-da) who goes around hugging and kissing everyone. She loves to talk to me even though I don’t understand much of what she says. I played the movie trailer for the movie Happy Feet for her on my computer and she screamed ‘Papa, miren! Los penguinos son bailando!” Papa, look the penguins are dancing! So anyway, it ought to get interesting later this week.

The City
Where we are in Bogota reminds us a lot of a busy part of Queens or Brooklyn. Lots of stores, apartment building and office buildings. It is more green here though, and of course, there are mountains. It is very dry here, and I am struggling with a very dry throat and stuffed up sinuses. I have to drink a lot of water and use saline spray. The altitude doesn’t bother us much otherwise, although sometimes when I am really stuffed up it’s a little hard to breathe. There are horse drawn carts here that have garbage in them. We learned that they take the recyclables away, much like those big trucks we have at home. The weather is very nice, a little cool in the mornings and evenings, but during the day, in the sunshine, it gets downright hot. The maids here insist that you keep the babies bundled up, and we are always getting scolded for not having enough blankets on them. Poor little guy is sweating his little butt off, so much his hair gets wet! So when we are alone in our room I leave him practically naked so he can cool off a bit.

Today
Today we got up and had breakfast..there is a small dining room like in a B&B and you eat with everyone. Scrambled eggs, toast and FRESH OJ. Oh, and hello, Colombian coffee – con leche caldo es muy delicioso! We hung around in the living room with our friends for a while, then we got a call from our orphanage contact to say that we will be going to have some papers notarized today. She arrived a little later, we signed them and then walked over to the “Notaria” where we had them authenticated, and signed again. We had to take our index finger, press it on an ink stamp and then press it on a certain spot on the paper. Weird. We paid and walked back to the hotel. We had our delicious lunch, fed the baby and decided to go out.

Today it rained really hard, but Jim and I went out anyway. We left the baby with a maid and ventured out with umbrellas to go to the baby store and the grocery store. It seems that at every store here there is an abundance of staff ready to help you. I have gotten more confident and I try to ask for things when I need them. At the baby store it was obvious we were Americans, and when we finally went to the register to check out, there were three young people there giggling. Finally one of them gets brave and says proudly “Good Afternoon!” in perfect English. “Yes!” I said, “Very good! Buenos Tardes!” It was very funny. Then we went into a big supermarket. It was BEAUTIFUL inside, nicer than what we have home and HUGE. Again, there were tons of help everywhere, and lots of people offering free samples. We tried Avocado, cheese and some kind of corn fritter thingies. It was so fascinating to walk through the aisles and see what all the products looked like in Spanish. When we got back, we retrieved our baby, smiling and with two extra blankets piled on him. We just finished dinner (porkchops, rice and broccoli, fresh mango) and I am now in the room typing. My two princes have gone down for the count.

The Baby
Yes, I know that’s what you’ve been waiting to hear about, but if I started out with that, you would have never read this far. First, as you may already know, we've decided to keep his name. Sorry Laurie, but he just doesn't look like a Joseph, even though we do love that name. Also, when they hand him over to you, you really realize that this kid has absolutely nothing of his own, not even the shirt on his back. So while we understand the complications about such a unique name, we really felt compelled to let him keep the one thing he was given at birth. For those of you who don't know, Jim had a brother who died many years ago from polio, back before the vaccine. The baby's middle name is after him (Not my boss :) ) He is 3 months old today, and is a pure joy. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m thinking maybe I’m in for some terrible two’s or something, because I can’t believe I was blessed with such a good baby. Kara, he is a lot like Nina, very curious and alert, and doesn’t like to be laid down where he can’t see what’s going on (I’m convinced it’s a sign of genius, they’ll go to Harvard together someday). He has cried exactly once since we’ve been here. He sucks his thumb when he gets tired or hungry (we haven’t resorted to a binky yet), and he may turn out to be an eyelash toucher like Marco! He loves to be spoken to and smiles easily. He eats pretty good (every 4 hours pretty faithfully), but the last two ounces go veerrrrryyy slow. Last night, he thankfully slept through the 3am feeding. Oh, and my colleague Andrea wanted a full report on the first diaper change. I’ll spare you the details, but the first one that “counted” was all you can imagine. I’ll say this: that nasty stuff gets everywhere, and it seems that the more places it goes, the more the baby will laugh about it. Ick. Daddy has been named the official baby changer. He had the honors for the first one, and although he used about 52 wipes, he did a good job. So Andrea, fear not, it’s not hard – all you do is take off the old, clean him up good and slap on the new. Cream only if he has a rash (Thanks Kara!). Parenthood is not nearly as hard or as weird as I thought it would be. We can not wait to bring him home to meet all of you. You will die of the cuteness, trust me.

We are now just waiting to be called for our Bienestar interview. It’s the welfare agency, and the interview is required before your case goes to court. Nothing happens over the weekend though, so we have a lot of free time. I will try to write more often, now that there are less people here, it will be easier. The best internet connection is in the living room, and when I am there I always get sucked into conversation.

Buenos Noches! Or as Carmen says: "Ciao Ciao" (I know, italian, I don't get it either)