Friday, July 31, 2009

Financial Teaching -- More from Jane

Jane is bringing us more insight into older child adoption this month. This was something I never had even thought about. Thanks, Jane.

When we adopted N. at the age of 14, there were times when I felt panicked. All those life lessons that we spent 18 years teaching our biological children have to be condensed into 4 or 5 years. It feels overwhelming at best.

So here's our experience with teaching the value and necessity for money in her new life.

We began by giving our daughter an allowance and, to our relief, she isn't a shopper. Not into clothes or malls, she had no interest at all in spending. However, when she DID spend, she spent freely, not thinking about the cost or value of her purchases.

For the first year or so, it was easy not to talk about saving or budgeting. However, since last summer, N. has had a part-time job at the local grocery store: her paycheck goes directly into her savings account. But then one day we realized that she had no concept at all about the value of the dollar, or the cost of living. We also were troubled by the fact that she wasn’t planning on furthering her education because, (and I quote) “Mama, you KNOW money isn’t important to me.” That phrase was an eye opener! Uh, it isn’t until you don’t HAVE it!

John and I sat down and created a quick chart: Income and Outgo. Under income we listed my salary, his retirement benefits, etc. Under outgo was everything from the mortgage to vet bills, cell phones, car insurance and braces. By some miracle, the income exceeded the outgo. We asked N. to sit down and we showed her the chart.

N. is making $8 an hour at the grocery store. We told her that she should plan on spending not more than 25% of her income on lodging. At $8 an hour, even if she worked 40 hours a week as a checker, even if nothing were taken out of her paycheck, she would be making $1280 a month, and probably no more than $10-15 for the rest of her working life. 25% of $1280 worked out to $320. This number, we explained, was what she would be able to spend per month on an apartment.

"How much is my sister's apartment?" she asked. "$700 a month", I replied. Her eyes widened. “But that’s OK!” I said, "Your sister lives alone. You could live in the same tiny apartment. . . but with three roommates!” Shock and horror crossed her face. “No, Mama! I couldn’t do that!”

Lesson learned. At least, we hope so.

Some real life numbers put the cost of living into perspective for her. Now, she tentatively talks about attending community college, or at least she has opened her mind to improving her chances at making a decent living, either through further academic education or by finding a good vocational program.

Until now, we hadn’t really understood the luxury of having 18 years to teach our children about the world, and how we would have to be ready to use every day in our new daughter’s life as a teaching opportunity. There have been some humorous moments: a lot of laughter and some tears. It’s all good.
Visit Jane's Blog at:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Que Pase El Rey --Colombian London Bridges

In this game, you need several people (6-10) about 3 years and older. Before the game begins you pick 2 children to be the "bridge". Then, these two children each secretly decide what color or fruit or animal they want to be. To make it simple let's use colors -- one child picks blue the other green -- the two children know each other's color, but the rest of the group should not know the colors.

You are ready to begin the game. The two bridge children hold hands and raise them up to form a bridge. The other children stand in a straight line ready to go under the bridge. Then you begin singing the following song and the children pass under the bridge then run around to get in line again. The kids continue to pass under the bridge until the last line of the song.

El puente está quebrado. (The bridge is broken)
Con que lo curaremos? (How will we fix it?)
Con casacara de huevo
(With egg shells)

Burritos al potrero (Donkeys to the pasture)

Que pase el rey (Let the King pass by)

Que ha de pasar (Because he should pass)

Que el hijo del conde (But the son of the Count)

Se ha de quedar (He must remain).

At the last word "quedar", the child under the bridge is trapped by the falling bridge. In a whisper, so that those remaining in the line can't hear, one of the bridge kids asks the trapped child if he prefers blue or green. The trapped child responds and then he goes to stand behind the person who had picked that color.

The game continues until all the children are on one side or the other of the bridge children. Then, with the bridge children holding hands, the children behind them each grab the waist of the person in front of them. Then, there is a tug-o-war, which ends when one side or the other falls to the ground and the Bridge is Broken (El Puente Esta Quebrado).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Los Pollos de mi Cazuela

Here is another little children's song. As usual there seems to be a lot of variety in the lyrics. I have heard at least 5 different versions of this song. All very similar, but here are the lyrics to the version I heard first in Colombia. This is also the version I found in the music of the Colombian National Library -- Luis Angel Arango.

Los pollos de mi cazuela (the chickens in my pot)
No sirven para comer, (aren't any good to eat)
Si no para a las viuditas
(if the widows do not stop)
Que los saben componer (the ones that know how to fix them)
Se le hecha ají y cebolla (Add garlic and onion)
Hojitas de laurel; (and Bay leaves)
Se sacan de la cazuela
(You take it out of the pot)
Cuando se van a comer. (When you are going to eat them)
Componte niña componte,
(Fix it, little girl, fix it)
Que ahí viene tu marinero, (Because here comes your navy man)
Con ese bonito traje (with his handsome suit)
Que parece un carnicero; (that makes him look like a butcher)
Yo soy la que parte el pan
(I am the person who breaks the bread)
Yo soy la que sirve el vino
(I am the person who serves the wine)
Yo soy la que se menea
(I am the person who shakes)
Con este cuerpo tan divino (With this beautiful body of mine)
A noche yo te vi
(Last night I saw you)
Bailando el chiqui chá (Dancing the Chiqui cha)
Las manos en la cintura
(With your hands on your waist)
Me sacaste a bailar.
(You invited me to dance)

You can hear the library's version, by clicking here:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

De Barranquilla

Here is a cute little children's song, that would be particularly great if you child is from Barranquilla.

Here are the lyrics:

De Barranquilla (from Barranquilla)

De Barranquilla (from Barranquilla)

Llegó un papel (arrived a paper)

Que me casara (that I should get married)

Que me casara (that I should get married)

No sé con quien (I don't know to whom)

Casáte conmigo (Marry me)

Casáte conmigo (Marry me)

Que yo te daré (because I will give you)

Zapatos y medias (shoes and socks)

Zapatos y medias (shoes and socks)

Color de café (the color brown)


Here is a link where you can hear the song:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer Reading for Your Teen

In 1996, Lyll Becerra de Jenkins wrote a book that won the Américas Award Honorable Mention. Becerra de Jenkins was born and raised in Colombia, by an activist father. The book, entitled "So Loud a Silence", offers a teen great insight into Colombian politics. It is a coming of age story -- perfect for an older teen reader 14+.

In the book, 17 year old Juan Guillermo is a city dweller, disconnected with his family's life and economic struggles in the big city. Then, he is sent to spend time with Doña Petrona in rural Colombia. There, he becomes caught up in the complex politics of rebel vs. army. The difficulties he faces while visiting rural Colombia force him to return to the city with a greater sense of family, purpose and the importance of social and political choices.

I think it can provide perspective for a young adult reader on the problems and issues in Colombia.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Antonio Nariño y Álvarez

Antonio Nariño y Alvarez was born in Santa Fe de Bogotá, on April 17, 1765. He was the child of a Spaniard Vicente Nariño, the official accountant of the King of Spain, and a Bogotá born mother, Catalina Alvarez del Casal. Though his earliest years were spent in school, he eventually left school and became mostly self-taught. Many of his ideas were influenced by the teachings of his uncle, Manuel de Bernardo Alvarez.

At 20, he married Magdalena Ortega y Mesa. Just after his marriage, an earthquake shook Bogotá, and Nariño got permission to print a newspaper about the event and its consequences just 3 days after it happened. The report was a huge success and lead to permission for the writing, editing, and printing of a new newspaper called the "Gaceta de la Ciudad de Santa Fe." However, after just three weeks of publication, the Superior Government of Bogotá withdrew its support for the newspaper and all publication was cancelled.

At the age of 24, he was elected as one of the mayors in the Cabildo of Bogota, and in 1791, at the age of 26 he was named the principal Mayor of Bogotá. One of his acts as Mayor was to create a public lottery that financed the building of the Hopital San Juan de Dios -- a hospital that remained in use until 1999. Perhaps some of our readers or their children were born there.

From 1789- 1794, Nariño hosted a parlor group that discussed many different ideas. During this time, Nariño was exposed to the ideas of the French Revolution and he received a copy of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, which he translated into Spanish and began to circulate. As you might expect, his dissemination of these rebellious ideas was no looked upon very favorably. An order was issued for his capture. In August of 1794, he was arrested, convicted and sentenced to 10 years of prison in Africa. However, on his way to Africa, the ship stopped in Cadiz, Spain. There he escaped and made his way to Paris.

From Paris, he went on to London, hoping to convince the British to support an Independence movement in the New Granada. Though William Pitt spoke with Nariño and promised to support him, nothing further ever came of those discussions.

In 1797, Nariño returned to the Americas, landing in Venezuela. He disguised himself as a priest. He stopped in El Socorro and began forging a plan to start a rebellion in that area, but before his well thought out plan was executed, he returned to Bogotá, confessed his plan to a priest -- who told the Viceroy-- and was again arrested. He spent 6 years in a Bogotá prison. But while there, he wrote clandestine letters to the free press where he explained many of his ideas for reform. In 1803, he was released from prison owing to his very ill health.

From 1806-1809, he worked to convince agricultural workers to rebel against the Spanish. When his plans were again made known to the Viceroy. He was captured, along with his son, and sent to the prison in Cartagena. On the way to Cartagena, there was a terrific storm. During the confusion caused by the storm, the two of them escaped. They headed for Santa Marta, where a royal spy recognized them and they were again arrested and sent to prison in Cartagena. There they remained until 1810 when the Independence movement hit Cartagena.

Once freed, Nariño became alarmed at the division that existed among the patriots of the Independence movement. Rather than union, the patriots had chosen to break into 3 separate states and Nariño was chosen as the President of Cundinamarca. This division existed even though they were still fighting for their independence from Spain. After gaining control of rebellious factions in Cundinamarca, Nariño headed South to help in the Independence fights against Spain (1814).

During a battle near Popayán, Nariño surrendered and was captured. He was sent to Quito. From Quito, he was again sent to Cadiz where he spent 4 years in solitary confinement. This may have actually been a blessing because in 1816, Spain regained control of Bogotá and all rebel leaders were executed.

In 1820, he was freed, and in 1821, following Bolivar's victory at the Battle of Boyacá. Nariño returned home. Bolivar named Nariño as his Vice-President. After being attacked for desertion when he surrendered at the Battle of Pasto, he renounced the Vice-Presidency. He then was elected to the Senate in 1823, where he gave a remarkable speech defending all that he had done for the Republic. Unfortunately, time and prison and negative speculation took their toll on the man and on December 13, 1823, at the age of 58, he died in Villa de Leyva.

Today, he is remembered as a patriot and a champion of human rights. It is for him that the Department of Nariño is named.

* Photo by Wikicommons

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Francisco José de Caldas -- Martyr of the Independence

Francisco José de Caldas was a Colombian naturalist and geographer. Born in Popayán in 1771, he showed impressive intellectual skill from his early childhood. He eventually graduated with a degree in law from the Colegio del Rosario. However, despite his legal studies, his real love was math, science and nature. He made so many discoveries that he earned the nickname "El Sabio" (the Wise man).

He participated in many scientific nature expeditions and was part Celestino Mutis and Alexander Von Humbodlt's expeditions. He classified plants and created a large herbarium. He measured mountains and waterfalls, and created several maps. He made observations of the weather.

In 1805, Mutis assigned Caldas to be the first director of the Astronomical Observatory in Bogotá. From 1805 -1810, Caldas spent his time equipping the Observatory, performing scientific experiments and writing papers and reports including: "El estado de la geografía del virreinato con relación a la economía y al comercio" (1807) and "El influjo del clima sobre los seres organizados" (1808) .

In 1808 and 1809, he founded the Seminario del Nuevo Reino de Granada whose mission was to make scientific discoveries.

In late 1809 and 1810, Caldas used the Observatory as a base for the Independence movement. It was there that the "Flower Vase" plan was hatched. Once the Independence movement began, he published the newspaper "Diario Político de Santa Fe" (Politcal Newspaper of Santa Fe). However, soon the leaders of the revolutionary movement were hunted down and Caldas fled to Medellín.

There he was given refuge by the dictatorial government who was running Medellín. The government named him the Coronel of Engineers and wanted Caldas to continue his scientific studies and inquiries. However, his rebellious spirit did not allow him to simply sit quietly and continue his experiments. Upon hearing that Spanish troops were headed to Medellín by way of the Río Cauca, he "acquired" the church bell of the Iglesia de la Veracruz, which he melted down to make a cannon that was then to be used against the Spanish. Unfortunately, he placed the cannon to the South of the city and the Spanish entered the city from the North. So, Medellín did not achieve the goal of Independence at that time. See the 6 minute video here:

He was captured and eventually placed before a firing squad, in what is today the Parque de Santander. At the time, he was in the middle of some scientific experiments. He, and a multitude of people, asked if it would be possible for him to postpone his execution until after he had finished them. Pablo Morillo y Morillo (the Spanish General Captain and Commander over Venezuela) responded with a now infamous line, "España no necesita sabios!" or "Spain does not need wise men!" The execution was carried out October 28, 1816.

Francisco José de Caldas was the Benjamin Franklin of Colombia. The scientist, author and editor turned revolutionary. His unfortunate end has made him a martyr in Colombia and it was for him that the Department of Caldas named.

* Photo by Wikicommons

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Another Timely Children's Audiobook Suggestion

A few weeks ago, in honor of Mother's Day, I told the story of La Pola -- Policarpa Salavarietta -- one of the Heroines of Colombian Independence. If you didn't read it, or you would like to brush up, click here:

I wanted to make you aware of a children's book -- in Spanish -- that tells the story of Policarpa. It is available in both audio CD and as an audiobook. If you adopted preschoolers, or are working to keep your child bilingual, or if you are one of our readers from Colombia, Argentina or Spain -- you will probably want to add this to your collection.

Audio CD in Spanish:

Book in Spanish:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Grito de Independencia -- Child's Audiobook Suggestion

Are you working on keeping your child bilingual? Do you also want you child to learn about Colombia and its history? A great option would be the Spanish language children's audiobook: EL GRITO DE INDEPENDENCIA. The book tells the story of the Florero (Flower Vase) that started an uprising that eventually brought Independence to Colombia.

The Audio CD is available here:

The downloadable audio is available here:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Colombian Independence

The 20th of July is a Colombian national holiday in celebration of the first movement for Independence from Spain which began on the 20th of July 1810.

On this day, a group of citizens known as Criollos (those of Spanish descent born in the Americas rather than in Spain), went to Don José González Llorente´s home (a Spaniard) on the pretext of borrowing a flower vase for a dinner that was to honor the Royal Commissioner Antonio Villavicencio. This event, without any apparent significance, unleashed a confrontation between the Criollos and the Spanish that ended in the eventual independence of Colombia.

The roots of this conflict are found in the years leading up to the 1810 Flower Vase Incident. The Spanish ruled through local governments called Juntas and Cabildos. In the Juntas that were held in the years prior to 1810, the Criollos were very poorly represented -- 36 Spanish representatives to 9 Criollos. The Criollos were very dissatisfied. They felt that their needs were not well represented and many had secretly begun to discuss creating an independent nation state.

In an act of protest, they had soon formed a secret group or Junta that included several prominent Criollo civil authorities and intellectuals. They began meeting in the homes of the members and then moved their meetings to the Astronomical Observatory, whose director was Francisco José de Caldas.

In the meetings, they devised a plan to provoke a limited and temporary public disturbance or conflict which could then give rise to the overall public feel of discontent with the Royalists of Spain. Their hope was to then take control away from the Spanish.

They chose to stage the event on the 20th of July because it was Market Day (Día del Mercado) and the main Plaza (La Plaza Principal) would be full of common citizens. On that day, a little before noon, Luis de Rubio went to Llorente's store to ask to borrow a flower vase as a decoration for the dinner in honor of Villavicencio. Llorente denied his request explaining that he had let others borrow the vase and they had done damage to the vase and it was losing its value as a result.

At that very moment, Francisco José de Caldas "happened" by in the company of Antonio Morales. They greeted Llorente and then de Rubio began explaining that Llorente wouldn't let him borrow the vase and Morales began yelling toward the people at the square that Llorente was using bad language in referring to Villavicencio and other Criollos. Something that Llorente categorically denied. Meanwhile, the other members of the group began to disperse through the crowded Marketplace yelling things like: "They are insulting the Americans!" "We want our own Junta!" "Down with the government!" "Let the Bonapartes die!" etc. The people in the market began to become enraged. Indians, Mestizos, Criollos, rich and poor began to throw rocks and break windows. The Viceroy, the military, and the Spanish began to worry. The Criollos declared a new government "la Junta de Gobierno" which was to replace the Viceroy.

This was just the beginning -- Colombia's first step toward independence. There were many additional protests, considerable violence, and a war before Colombia would become independent.

While in Bogotá, I recommend that you visit the Museum of the Flower Vase or the House of the 20th of July. Take pictures with your kids and teach them the history of Colombian Independence. It is located on the North/East corner of the Plaza de Bolívar.

Below you will find the information about the museum.

20th of July Museum or the Home of the Flower Vase (Museo el 20 de Julio o Casa del Florero)

Open: Tuesday – Friday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Address: Calle 11 No.6-94, Bogotá
Telephone: 3344150, 3360349

Tours are always available in Spanish. However, I believe you can schedule a tour in English or perhaps other languages prior to your visit.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Medical DNA Testing -- Part 3

All this talk of DNA testing brings up one last and important issue. In a super informal survey of other adoptive parents, I found that almost everyone had concerns about not knowing their child's family medical history.

We all discussed the frustration of being asked by the pediatrician all those questions, and having no answers. NONE!

This frustration is shared by adult adoptees. One of whom shared her feelings anonymously with me, "I have had some health issues. The doctors are concerned that they could be precursors to other issues -- ' Does anyone in your family have X?' they ask. I stare at them blankly -- 'I don't know!' How could I know so little about something so important?"

The good news is that advances in Genetic Testing now offer a potential solution. You can discover your own -- or your child's Medical DNA. I should point out here that the American Association of Genetic Research discourages this -- however, they have no stated opinion in cases of adoptees that have no other information).

If discovering your Medical DNA is important, your best bet may well be 23andme. When you get your results, you need to remember that even though a genetic predisposition exists, you may never develop a certain disease.

23andme also claims to give you the genetic info about your ancestry. HOWEVER, I have no idea the size of their Colombian population database.

If anyone plans to do these tests, I would love to hear about your experience.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

DNA Testing Part 2 -- Adult Adoptee Perspective

What does DNA testing of this nature offer you or your child?

I guess it depends on who you talk to. I have contacted several adult Colombian adoptees about this issue. At least three of whom had pursued this type of testing and were willing to share their responses.

Here are their opinions -- luckily they kind of ran the gamut:

Adoptee #1 stated, "I have done the third kind of testing and it broke down exactly as you said - 4 groups and tells you the percentage of how much you are of a particular group. I was actually a little surprised at my results. I thought though, it might bring me some insight into myself, some peace perhaps, but it really didn't. I almost don't believe it. If it came out of a relative's mouth, then I might."

Adoptee #2 found it helpful, especially when searching for relatives and siblings, "My DNA is now in FamilyTreeDNA's database. I am a member of the "Adopted" project...I haven't found any relatives yet. Hope is alive, though. :)...I know there's been at least 1 set of siblings who were adopted separately from Colombia and found each other through DNA testing."

Adoptee #3 found that it gave her a sense of identity, "I knew so little about my birth and my birth family. It was like a big question mark. I was from Bogotá, Colombia. That is all I knew. Now, I can at least think I am part this and part that. It connected me to my roots and filled part of a void that I feel."

So, what is the catch? How accurate are the tests?

Well, the test's validity is only as good as the group they have to compare you to. So, for example, if I am a direct descendant of the Chibcha Indians, and the agency running my test has NO Chibcha descendants in their database, I may get really weird and not completely accurate results. (This is how I understand it at this point).

Therefore, the more people who add themselves to the database, the more accurate the model will become.

So, where do you go if you want to be tested (adult adoptee) or have your child tested. There are a number of agencies that will provide the service, however, based on the aforementioned problem, you would want to look for one that has a database (the larger the better) of Colombian samples.

In researching for this blog, I found that perhaps the best choice might be Family Tree DNA. Here's why: They have a Native American Ancestry group and have Colombian indigenous groups in their pool. Having indigenous Colombian groups would likely be important in determining your genetic heritage. They also have the Adoptee Project mentioned by Adoptee #2. Additionally, they have large European databases -- think Spanish Conquistadors.

However, before you haul off and send your sample to Family Tree DNA, you should also consider the National Geographic Genographic Project. Their results will only show your REALLY DEEP GENETIC Ancestry. You'll get a map of your genetic family's earliest migrations. If you have NO DESIRE to link yourself with others who share your common nearer genetic relatives, this would be the way to go. Currently, they are trying to promote their program to Latinos. can provide a more accurate description, if you want to read more.

Adoptee #2 also mentioned the following about this test option: "Their Genographic project is designed specifically to help map the migration paths of humanity. The cost is about $107 including the shipping and the initial processing of the DNA. They have their DNA testing done through an agreement with Family Tree DNA, who also offer additional tests beyond what the National Geographic tests are looking for. I've had the initial test done, and am pondering having all the tests run. If we had enough people interested, with results in the Family Tree DNA database, we could probably have them create a group, for Colombian Adoptees, which could increase the chances of adopted relatives finding each other. " Definitely gives us something to think about.

The last option, and really, I am not sure how much to recommend them -- is DNAtribes. They have several hundred Colombian samples -- from Boyacá, Bogotá, and Caldas. I would say if you were not born in one of these areas you should not choose them.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Searching for Your Roots -- DNA TESTING Part 1

Adopted children (and their parents too) often feel compelled to learn more about their biological family. Often, this can be a long and complicated process and may have varying results. In some cases, DNA testing is done in order to prove paternity or maternity when a person is found that may be the biological father or mother.

However, DNA tests can be used to help adoptees in their search for self-identity in other ways. In fact, DNA tests can serve 3 purposes. The first, is, of course, the most obvious, however, the others may be of equal value in discovering more about your past.
  • 1 - Link specific individuals -- For example, testing to see whether you are the child of a certain man or woman.

  • 2- Prove or disprove the ancestry of people sharing the same last name -- For example, testing to see if males carrying the GARCÍA surname are related to one another.

  • 3- Map the Genetic Origins of large population groups --- In this case, you test to see whether your deep genetic roots show whether you have European or African American ancestry. This is often called your personal map of Human Migration.

The kind of DNA test I would like to talk about today is the THIRD KIND.

This kind of test does not link you to a specific person, but rather, it links you to a geographic region. It tells you, you are 30 % European, 5% African, 60% Native American, and 5% Asian etc.

Some DNA testing agencies can give you even more specific information.

There are two methods for mapping human migration. They're not 100% accurate as they only track, at most, 2 ancestral lines.

For females, they test the mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA. The mitochondrial DNA is the DNA that makes up the actual material that make up your cells. Rather than your own DNA, which is generally inside your cells -- that's how I understand it, at least. Your mtDNA is a direct hand-me-down from your biological mother, who received it directly from her biological mother, and on down the line of your maternal ancestors.

For males, you can sequence the mtDNA in the same way. However, you can also sequence the Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is a direct hand-me-down from the biological father, who got it from his father, who got it from his father, etc.

Once sequenced, either of these DNA models can then be analyzed for "markers" in the DNA. Markers are evolutionary traits. Maybe an ancestor was the first person to have blue eyes in the family tree. Well, they would throw a marker into the mix. Now,anyone with that particular marker would be a descendant of that 1 person. Once they have your markers, they can compare them with other known samples containing the same and different markers, and generalize where your ancestors migrated from. For example, Marker A occurred in South America 5,000 years ago. Maybe Marker B occurred in Asia 20,000 years ago. And maybe Marker C occurred in what is now Persia 65,000 years ago.

Stay tuned: The Adult Adoptee perspective on DNA testing tomorrow

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Searching for Birth Families and Birth Information

Depending on the age of your child at adoption, the circumstances of their adoption, and where they were adopted from (Casa Privada or ICBF), you may have a wealth of information about your child's heritage, or virtually nothing. There may be huge gaps.

One of the toughest things for me is not having any birth information and no pictures of our son younger than about 15 months. A child with NO baby pictures. How do you complete those school projects -- you know the one in Kindergarten where kids bring baby pictures and others try to guess who is who?

Often, the adoptive parents struggle with wanting to know more than what was provided them. So, the question of searching for the birth family arises. There are some pretty nice stories. Leceta Chisholm Guibault, an adoptive mother of a Colombian child born at a Casa Privada, lives in Canada and made efforts to find her son's birth family. She has published several articles about her experience. I would suggest that you take the time to read the following:

In Leceta's experience, her son was placed for adoption by a conscientious birth mother who truly desired the best for her son. But, what if your child's history is not so pleasant? Would you want to search if the birth mother was a drug addict, sleeping on the streets and had abandoned the baby in the hospital. Would you want to search if the birth family was abusive and the child was taken from the family as a result of that abuse? Would you want to search if the child was found abandoned in the garbage?

Please post your opinions in the comment section.
I am preparing some posts on the search for birth families or simply the search for birth and early childhood information. If you have searched, are searching or want to search -- I would love to hear your story. Please e-mail me at colombiansadoptcolombians @ (Please remove the spaces before and after the @ symbol).

Monday, July 13, 2009

Army of Children -- A Tear Jerker

The Colombian Magazine -- Cambio -- published a report of the FARC's child army. Here are some excerpts I have translated from the article (sometimes I have summarized, too).

Three months ago, a mother watched as the FARC took her 12 year old son away. Apparently, a woman militia member had come to the rural area where the family lives. The anguished mother reported, "The woman would give candy, lunches, and manuals to the children of the area. She wanted to recruit them, she taught them that joining the FARC was their best option and many of the children thought that they (the FARC) were promising them the stars and went off with the guerrilla. Others were taken by force." The mother decided that the best option was to leave the area with her 4 children, but before she could leave, the guerrillas came for her oldest son. As they dragged the boy off, his pleading eyes said, "Mami, help me!" But, she could do nothing, now her only option is to pray that they won't him.

According to a report by the Catholic Church, more than 500 children from rural areas in the departments of Meta, Guaviare, Putumayo, Caquetá, Arauca and Vaupés were recruited by the FARC in the last year. The same is happening in Nariño and Cauca, where the authorities report that "They are making a Army of Children." The children are obliged to perform as regular troops. They take apart and reassemble pistols and other weaponry, they stand watch, and they even fight against Colombian Army troops. The recruitment of children is not new, but it is becoming systematic and widespread, even though it is considered a War Crime and practitioners could be brought before the International Court.

The average age of a child recruited by the FARC is 12.9, but in the departments of Guaviare and Caquetá the average age is going down and now is 11.8 years. Christian Salazar, director of the Colombian Office of the Untied Nations High Commission on Human Rights states, "The Guerillas arrive in communities and ask for one child per family, this is one of the major causes of the internal displacement in Colombia. Parents simply do not want the FARC to take their children."

Three years ago, authorities estimated that there were between 6,000 and 11,000 children in the guerrilla. Today, just three years later, the numbers have more than doubled from 14,000-17,000. This figure would place Colombia fifth in the world for countries where children are used by armed groups. This also means that 1 in every 4 armed combatants is a child 17 or younger. In fact, in some areas, children as young as 6 are being used to transport explosives or bury land mines.

Last March, the United Nations reported that in "Many cases, the armed groups have tortured or killed children just for having resisted their recruitment efforts o for having attempted to escape."

Read More here:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Anniversary of Operacion Jaque

This weekend, I read a very interesting article in the Colombian newspaper, El Tiempo. I thought perhaps you might enjoy it.

A group of students a the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá has created a video game based on the now legendary rescue of Ingrid Betancourt and the other 14 hostages (including 3 Americans) a year ago.

The goal of the game is to rescue the ex presidential candidate without firing a single shot AND without using the controversial Red Cross jackets that were used by the Colombian soldiers involved in the original rescue.

In other words, the goal is to rescue the 15 hostages without breaking a single international law regarding Human Rights and without deceiving the captors by using the symbol of the Red Cross.

According to the director of the project,the game starts with a helicopter flight from Bogotá to Tolemaida, the second step is to do training without firing a shot --as the whole point of the game is for it to be non-violent.

Next, there is an other flight from Tolemaida to the rescue area. There the you sepnd the night finding the ingredients for and preparing SANCOCHO (see recipe section of the blog). The next morning, you actually rescue the hostages.

The game is available on FACEBOOK, where you can also comment and discuss issues like hostage taking in Colombia.

Check it out here:

Read the article in Spanish:

Thursday, July 09, 2009


What is that brown tea-like drink that Colombians drink? Agua de Panela!

What exactly is Panela?

Panela is a solid piece of raw sugar from sugar cane. It is made by first mashing the sugar cane in a machine called a trapiche. Then, the exacted juice is boiled until it reaches the Hard Ball stage. At this stage, it is poured into molds and allowed to cool. The cooled blocks (either round, square, or rectangular depending on the mold) are very hard. These blocks are then sold.

Here is a great video that shows the process of making PANELA.

Though other countries make similar products, Colombia is the world's leading producer and consumer of Panela -- producing approximately 1.4 million tons a year. Panela farms also provide employment for about 350,000 people.

How do you use Panela to make the drink Agua de Panela?

The recipe for Agua de Panela is simple. You take water and put it in a pan and add to it chunks of Panela -- usually broken off with a rock from a river bed. You bring the mixture to a boil and allow the panela chunks to completely dissolve.

If you like your Agua de Panela very sweet, you add more chunks. Less sweet? Add more water.

You can drink it hot, or let it cool down. In my husband's family, they are more likely to drink it hot.

What are the beliefs surrounding Agua de Panela?

Agua de Panela is believed to have healing powers. When you have a cold, Agua de Panela with a squirt of lime juice in it is your first line of defense.

It is also believed, by many Colombians, to be similar to Gatorade in its composition. This lead Colombian cyclists in the 1980's to "cook rocks" during the Tour de France.

What role does Agua de Panela play in the Colombian diet?

Agua de Panela is very cheap and therefore is consumed by the majority of Colombians, no matter what their socioeconomic status. Unfortunately, in the lower socioeconomic families, it is a major source of calories for children. While it is filling, it lacks important nutrients and often children develop symptoms of malnutrition because of a lack of protein in their diet. ICBF tries to alleviate this problem by providing (with the help of the World Food Program) a protein based powder -- BIENESTARINA -- to be mixed with the panela water.

Most of the children that are adopted through ICBF will be very familiar with Bienestarina. When we adopted our son, it was clear that he missed his TETERO made with Bienestarina. At one point, my husband's sister-in-law made our son a TETE with some of what she had. Our son gobbled it up like he was starving. However, because Bienestarina is not available for purchase, you will not be able to get it while in Colombia.
In some families, a good substitute for Bienestarina is mixing Agua de Panela with milk. This might be an option if you are struggling with what to feed your child. Give it a try!

Would you like to buy some panela?

Try Amigo Foods:

*Photo by Wikicommons:

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Colombiana -- Drinks of Colombia

What could be more Colombian than a COLOMBIANA? Colombiana is the name of a carbonated beverage, known to all Colombians. It is a champagne soda that is brownish orange in color. It has a unique taste that cannot be found anywhere else as it is derived from plants on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia.

Here are some television commercials for COLOMBIANA you might be interested in.

Make sure to give it a try! It is delicious with just about any Colombian food. You can purchase it in just about any Latino market here in the US. It is also available in Europe at Carrefour. If you can't find it in your area, you can purchase it on-line.

In the U.S.

In Europe

Oh, and one more thing. Refajo is another Colombian drink. It is made with Colombiana. Refajo is a mixture of Colombiana soda and beer -- usually in equal parts.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Greatest Number of Internal Refugees

Unfortunately, one of the reasons that many of us have the opportunity to adopt Colombian children is because of the great internal strife that exists in Colombia. As a translator, I have had the opportunity to translate (from Spanish into English) many adoption referral documents, including abandonment decrees and child data sheets. It saddens me to hear the many stories of how the children came to be in the care of ICBF. Often, the stories are related to poverty and problems associated with the War. Some of the children were born into displaced families that, because of their circumstances, are unable to care for their child(ren).

Colombia has the largest number of internally displaced persons (IDP) in the world -- approximately 3,000,000. This is greater than the 2.8 million in Iraq (the country with the second highest number of displaced persons). A Colombian photographer has some great pictures of displaced refugees in Bogota. Beautiful!!

I also recently read a Untied Nations committee report that discusses the problem.

You can read the UNHCR report in English:

Or the article in El Tiempo in Spanish:

Monday, July 06, 2009

Shakira Launches New Song -- LOBA

I thought you might be interested to know that last week Shakira pre-released her latest single -- in Spanish. It is called LOBA (She-Wolf). It will be available worldwide on July 23rd. But, you can hear it now by clicking below.

The full album will be available this October.
Here are the full lyrics which can be found on her official website:

Sigilosa al pasar
Sigilosa al pasar
Esa loba es especial
Mirala, caminar caminar

Quién no ha querido a una diosa licántropa
En el ardor de una noche romantica
Mis aullidos son el llamado
Yo quiero un lobo domesticado

Por fin he encontrado un remedio infalible que borre del todo la culpa
No pienso quedarme a tu lado mirando la tele y oyendo disculpas la vida me ha dado un hambre voráz y tu apenas me das caramelos
Me voy con mis piernas y mi juventúd por ahí aunque te maten los celos

CH Una loba en el armario
Tiene ganas de salir
Deja que se coma el barrio
Antes de irte a dormir

Tengo tacones de aguja magnetica
Para dejar a la manada frenetica
La luna llena como una fruta
No da consejos ni los escucha

Llevo conmigo un radar especial para localizar solteros
Si acaso me meto en aprietos tambien llevo el número de los bomberos ni tipos muy lindos ni divos ni niños ricos yo se lo que quiero pasarla muy bien y portarme muy mal en los brazos de algún caballero

Una loba en el armario
Tiene ganas de salir
Deja que se coma el barrio
Antes de irte a dormir
Cuando son casi la una la loba en celo saluda a la luna
Duda si andar por la calle o entrar en un bar a probar fortuna
Ya está sentada en su mesa y pone la mira en su proxima presa
Pobre del desprevenido que no se esperaba una de esas

Sigilosa al pasar
Sigilosa al pasar
Esa loba es especial
Mirala caminar, caminar

Deja que se coma el barrio
Antes de irte a dormir

Friday, July 03, 2009

Car Seat Preparation -- Been There, Done That

Most people will tell you that bringing a car seat to Colombia is a waste of time -- most taxis do not even have seat belts in the back seat.

This means that your child will never have been belted in to anything. Therefore, the car seat can cause a great deal of distress upon the return home.

In our own case, my son freaked out! Even though I was sitting right next to him and our 5 1/2 year old was also in a car seat, he screamed for the entire 40 minute ride home from the airport. It took him months before there was not a melt down every time we went to the car.

Here is the advice that I have given other adoptive parents since my own fiasco.

I recommend that you take a video of a child getting into a car and then getting into the car seat, booster seat, or seat belt. It would be best if you used your own car and your child's new seat as props for the video. I would also recommend that you get a Spanish speaking friend, neighbor, or relative to narrate the action and explain, using your child's name, that he/she will be expected to do the same when you get home.

Show your child the video, everyday if they are toddler age, and carefully explain to them that this will be their seat and you expect them to ride there at all times once you are back home.

The families that have followed this advice have reported having little or no problems with car seat adjustments. So, just another thing to think about as you prepare to pick up your newest addition.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Preparation for Coming HOME -- Been There, Done That

I was thrilled when our son (adopted at 22 months old) seemed to bond to us so quickly and adapt so easily. Things were going great in Colombia. So, I logically assumed that coming back to the US would be easy.

WRONG! Alex went through a rough few weeks once we got home. Everything was new -- AGAIN! There were new sights and sounds and smells.
So many firsts! We came back on December 26th, so IT WAS FREEZING! He had to wear a parka and boots -- lots of snow had fallen that Christmas. He had to ride in a car seat. He wasn't eating all his favorite Colombian food. Everyone was speaking English. There were also new friends and family members to meet.

All of the changes, seemed to put him back quite a bit. That first week home, he had that "Deer in the Headlights" look -- a lot! He was more whiny and seemed to reject a lot of things we wanted to do for and with him. He suffered several melt downs. He constantly wandered the house -- apparently looking for someone or something familiar. It broke my heart!

So, here is what I wish I would have done to better prepare him for his homecoming. I wish I would have taken a video camera tour of our house and everything in and around it! I would have started by driving up to the house from outside and then gone to the front door. I would have walked through every room, showing him things he could touch -- and not touch. I would have spent time in the kitchen, opening cupboards and the refrigerator -- showing him food that he would be eating and dishes he would be eating on. I would have drawn a bath and explained about the fun times that can be had in a bubble bath with toys (the whole concept of a bath caused major melt down). I would have ended the tour in his bedroom -- showing him his bed, his toys, his clothes, etc. I would have narrated the movie in Spanish myself -- or for those of you who don't speak Spanish -- I would have gotten a friend to do it for me.

I would have watched it with him everyday so that his new life and home would have seemed less new and less frightening. I have made this suggestion to others families and each has experienced success. One father told me that his daughter (age 4) ran straight into her room, "She knew exactly where to go the minute we opened the door. She couldn't wait to get at those Barbies."

Now, some people have suggested that pictures are enough. So, I want to add here that we did have some pictures. In our case, they simply were not enough. I think for a young child, a movie would have been a greater help.
If you decide to do this for your kiddos, please post a comment and let me know how it went.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Been There, Done That -- The Beach Ball

You have your referral! Now what? What are you going to pack to keep your little one, or not so little one, engaged for hours in your hotel room? Especially when luggage space is at a premium! Might I recommend a beach ball.

When we went to Colombia to pick up our almost 2 year old, we brought a SMALL beach ball. I picked it up at the 99cent store. It provided many hours of entertainment -- starting with the simple blowing up of the ball. Our son had never seen something like that before and he was mesmerized by it.

There are all sorts of games that you can play with a Beach Ball, and depending on the age of your child they can be simple or complex. With our 2 year old we played simple games of toss and catch or roll. With our 5 1/2 year old, we played " keep the ball from hitting the floor", dodge ball, and soccer. Even a 9 month old friend loved pushing that ball around as she crawled. This is not to mention the benefit of being able to take it to the pool.

So, from the BEEN THERE, DONE THAT files -- take a small BEACH BALL -- no matter the age of your child.