Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lentejas (Lentils) -- A New Year Tradition

Last year I made an extensive list of Colombian New Year Holiday traditions. You can read more about them here:

One thing I promised was the Lenteja recipe -- and well -- here it is:


1 lb. of lentils
1 can tomato sauce
1 medium onion minced
2 teaspoons dry chicken broth
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt as needed
Cumin (optional)


#1 Cook lentils in water as per directions on package -- do not salt or drain.
#2 In a sauce pan, put other ingredients and cook 10 minutes.
#3 Add sauce pan ingredients to cooked lentils. Let simmer together for 10-15 minutes -- don't let it burn.
#4 Let cool and serve with white rice.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One Family's Journey: La Integración

This morning we went for our “Integracion” meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to meet with the psychologist and talk about how the first week went. This is also the time when you would give your final confirmation that you are 100% sure you would like to complete the adoption. The meeting is very simple; you spend about ½ an hour talking alone with the psychologist. Bienestar claims that this is not a meeting where you are judged, but rather a sort of follow-up visit designed to help you with the transition. I don’t mean to be skeptical of their intentions, but I would assume that this is where Bienestar would intervene if they thought something was amiss with the match.

Our meeting was very simple. Since Elian was sleeping through the whole meeting we just talked about how our week went and what we had learned. We talked about what Elian eats, what his favorite things to do are and discussed the emotions we felt. She also asked us about how our week had compared to our expectations, whether or not we felt that we were bonding with him effectively and gave us some advice on the importance of reinforcing boundaries and continuing to develop our relationship as a family.

After this we had an opportunity to ask some more specific questions about Elian’s diet and daily schedule. All week we have been struggling to get him to eat and we wondered more specifically about whether he sat at a table when he ate, ate in his foster mother’s lap, etc. etc. The psychologist went into the other room and called his foster mother to get more info. I was glad to hear her share that we were very happy with Elian and that his new parents appreciated all the love and care she had given him. After she came back, we found out that he has always been a picky and difficult eater. This was a huge encouragement since we feared he was refusing food as an expression of grief. We also found out that he had eaten in a high chair and our facilitator gave us the address of a used baby good store where we picked up a high chair for $25. When we leave we’ll be able to sell it back.

After this, the psychologist repeated the advice she had originally given us. She said that we had passed with flying colors and that she would be signing the “Integracion” form. The next step would be to submit our request to the courts. Unfortunately for us, the courts are currently closed. When they re-open on January 12, 2010, our lawyer will submit the documents and we’ll wait to get called for Sentencia. Meanwhile, we will be authenticating documents and getting a pasado judicial (Colombian criminal clearance) for my husband.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

El Año Viejo

I know I said this last year, but this has to be one of my favorite Colombian traditions -- El Año Viejo. After Christmas, most Colombian families make an Año Viejo. The Año Viejo is a life size doll made of old clothes and stuffed with straw and newspaper (and fireworks). Just before midnight, people set fire to the Año Viejo. The whole thing is symbolic. It is burning the old and bad of the past year in preparation for the new.

We make an Año Viejo here is the US and stick it on the porch. I think the neighbors must wonder what the thing is doing there, but nevertheless, there he sits for a week. Then, on New Year's Eve, we all state one thing we want to leave behind while holding left over 4th of July sparklers. (Instead of burning the Año Viejo -- which would probably be against the law, we use the sparklers). Then, we ceremoniously throw him away.
Here is a link to last year's Año Viejo -- you can see pictures:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Día de Los Santos Inocentes -- Colombian April Fools

So, last year I posted about this holiday, but it bears repeating. December 28 is a holiday called the Dia de los Santos Inocentes. It is a traditional Catholic holiday designed to remember the children, that were slaughtered by the order of King Herod when the Three Wise Men did not return to tell Herod where the child king could be found.

El Dia de los Santos Inocentes is celebrated like we here in the US celebrate April Fool's Day. It is a day for playing pranks on people, fake news reports, and jokes. On this day the Colombian newspaper, El Tiempo, publishes a special insert called El Trompo which is filled with funny and fictious stories about current events.

If you'd like to prepare your family a special Santos Inocentes dinner in honor of this holiday, Check out the recipes and crafts that Family Fun magazine has for April Fool's Day. It is a fun way to introduce kids to this Colombian holiday.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Feliz Navidad

Wishing everyone a Feliz Navidad!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Feria de Cali -- Cali Fair

Every year since 1957, Cali has celebrated the Feria de Cana (the Sugar Cane festival) from December 25-30th. The celebrations kick off on Christmas Day with an official parade that starts at 2 pm and runs down the Autopista Sur. Part of the parade includes the Salsodromo, like the Sambadromo of Rio de Janeiro, the Salsodromo is an opportunity for the different Salsa schools to show off their fancy moves.

Following the parade, there is a kick off concert (free to the public) where you will hear - what else?? -- SALSA!!! Cali considers itself the World Capital of Salsa!!! This year the concert features Hermes Manyoma. If you won't be able to make the concert, enjoy some of the sounds by clicking here:

The following day, there is a horse parade (cabalgata) and yet another free concert. The next day a parade and concerts. In essence the week is full of dancing and music, parades, bullfights, and competitions.

Definitely something to experience at least once in your life.

You can see the RCN report of the event last year here:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

One Family's Journey: El Encuentro

Hi everybody, Well I can't believe that not only has our day come but it's almost over! I'm writing this at 9:00 pm Bogota time Tuesday night. This morning we met our son and he is more amazing than we could ever have imagined. For any of you that are waiting for Encuentros I hope this will give you an idea of what to expect.

Our day started this morning when we arrived at Bogota ICBF at 8:30 am. It's kind of a weird 70s style building, the kind that quite obviously has been added on to over time. After we checked in we were taken to the Encuentro rooms which are in the back. They are designed for children and painted all sorts of insane colors with Disney murals and what not. I am a bright color person but even for me it was a little much. Here's how it all goes down:

1) The Social Worker and Psychologist come in to talk to you. They review with you the information provided by the foster parent. Our foster mother sent a beautiful photo album with pictures of the time he spent with her and a lovely letter telling him how much she and all her family loved him. She not only described his daily schedule and habits but also wrote to him about his first steps and other firsts. She also included a very sweet note telling us that she prayed that God would send him a good family and was so grateful that we were assigned to him. It is an amazing little book and I am really grateful for all the love she gave him. Every time I read her letter I cry.

2) This is when you get to ask questions about the process, your child's schedule etc. Our child's foster mother was very thorough so we didn't have many questions but the Bienestar employees did have some good advice for the week such as not hanging out with too many other people and trying to maintain the child's schedule/habits as much as possible.

3) This is when you wait in the room in abject terror and anxiety while they bet your child. For me it was really hard to keep it together but I did my best because I didn't want to scare him by being a hysterical mess. This was advice Melinda gave me and I think it was really helpful. Hard to do but helpful. I made up for it later by crying when Elian took his first nap.

4) They bring your child in and you instantly forget how horrible the adoption process was because all you see if your wonderful, perfect, unbelievably real child. Mine ran around the room like a whirling dervish throwing the toy we brought him and shrieking with joy. And then he kind of freaked out and we gave him a bottle. The Bienestar people left immediately after they brought him in to give us time alone. They say we'll leave for "un ratico", in this case ratico means like 10 minutes.

5) Still lost in the moment 10 minutes later the Bienestar people come back and have you sign the paperwork that entitles you to have temporary custody while you are waiting for Sentencia. They take one copy and there is one given to you in case you want to travel somewhere with the child. At this point you will also be given the day to return for your "Integracion" appt. Ours is next Monday and we'll be back then to talk about that process!

In order to keep this practical I just wrote about what happens but to hear about how it felt to see your child for the first time you can check out our personal blog at

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

La Cuñada Pilar's Christmas Buñelos

Buñuelos are a Christmas time must. These round cheese fritter balls are well worth a try. Here is the recipe.


1 1/4 cup cheese (queso fresco or requesón) -- you can find it in the Mexican cheese section at Wal-Mart
1 1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 cup sugar
8 teaspoons baking powder
8 teaspoons tapioca starch (almidon de yucca)
3 eggs
Add no more than a 1/4 cup of water only if necessary


#1 Mix dry ingredients.
#2 Add wet ingredients.
#3 Mix.
#4 Make balls (about golf ball size) and drop into hot oil.
#5 Take out when golden brown and place on a paper towel.
#6 EAT!!!!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

My Natilla

Another Christmas food tradition is NATILLA. This is something that is either great or horrible. I have tasted several different flavors of natilla (coconut, cinnamon, vanilla, spice), and truthfully, I have not liked them all.

Typically, most Colombians will buy a box of Natilla mix, however, for those of us who find it a bit hard to head to the store for a mix, you can attempt to make it yourself. Here is the recipe.


4 cups milk -- use whole or 2%
1 cup brown sugar (in Colombia you would use 8 ounces of grated Panela)
4 - 5 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla


1. Mix milk and cornstarch in a pan.

2. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt to the pan and mix well.

3. Heat the mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, until it starts to thicken.

4. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring constantly -- in order to avoid clumps, until mixture has thickened. It will get very thick and hard to stir and turn to a caramel color. DON'T LET IT BURN!

5. Once it is cooked and caramel in color, remove from the heat. Take out the cinnamon sticks and stir in the butter and vanilla.

6. Pour mixture into a buttered 8 inch square pan (glass works better) and let cool.

7. Cut into 2 inch square pieces and serve.

Friday, December 18, 2009

One Family's Journey: Anticipation

This is my last post before we get to Colombia. As you know my husband Arnold is Colombian and his whole family lives in Colombia. Since we've been together I've been to Colombia many, many times and over the years it has become my adopted second homeland. Like my sweet husband, I carry Colombia close to my heart. This is my list of Top 10 things I love about Colombia. Except for Number One they are not in any particular order.

10. La Candelaria: I love Colonial architecture and I could walk around this Bogota neighborhood taking pictures and admiring the view for days.

9) Ciclovias on Sundays: Every Sunday the main arteries of Bogota are closed so that families can ride bikes, run and walk through the city. I can't wait too spend time walking around with my little boy

8) Beautiful Churches: Churches in Colombia are open to the public anytime. When I lived in Chile I used to wander around Santiago and visit churches to pray at totally random times. Last year I visited many churches and prayed that we would be given a child. This year I will be praying for Elian!

7) Hot Dogs: There is lots of great food in Colombia but I love the hot dogs. They are topped with crushed potato chips and a whole lot of other stuff that I'm sure is not part of the 5 a Day diet. I'm already stocking up on salad to prepare myself for the "No hotdog left behind tour"

6) Empanadas: No explanation needed. Order many, many empanadas. Apply directly to face. Repeat as many times as necessary.

5) Cumbiaaaaaaaa!: I used to teach latin dance. My specialty was salsa. Colombia has the hottest dance and music scene in Latin America. Shakira, Juanes, Cabas, Grupo Gale, La Sonora Carruseles. The list goes on and on and on. Arnold and hope to use any downtime to perfect our footwork. The second CD I ever bought was Pies Descalzos by Shakira. That was A LONG time ago. I never imagined I'd ever go to Colombia, let alone have family there.

4) Christmas Lights: You know the crazy person who puts lights all over their house? All of Bogota is like that house. It is the place where Christmas exploded. I love to walk around listening to villancicos and crashing novenas being held at the malls.

3) Chocolate and Cheese: Take delicious hot chocolate, add one rainy day and some delicious fresh cheese as an oozy treat at the bottom. Savory and sweet, it's a classic combo, like salted caramels. I like La Puerta Falsa, it's more than 100 years old and super-close to Plaza Bolivar .

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

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

Thursday, December 17, 2009

One Family's Journey: Packing and Checklist

We are the kind of people who usually pack the night before a trip, whether it's a 6 week trip to Colombia or a weekend in Seattle. And to be honest I'm sure we'll be throwing stuff in the suitcase the night before we leave but in a nod towards preparation I've been soliciting advice from experienced adoptive parents on what to bring. Here's what we've got so far:

1) Copy of apostilled and updated FBI clearances (if you are currently waiting for referral and your fingerprints are about to expire I suggest requesting new ones. The FBI is currently backlogged and taking 8-10 weeks to turn them around. We've been waiting more than four weeks for ours already and will need a friend to apostille and overnight them once they arrive. This quite frankly sucks, and is only possible because we will be in Colombia longer than usual. )

2) Copy of post-placement letter from agency updated with child's birth name.

3) Passports, Colombian visa if you are not Colombian, Cedula or contrasena if you are colombian.

4) Whenever we travel we scan our passports and other relevant ID, credit cards numbers etc and send them to ourselves. It's a good way to have access to your info if you lose it.

5) ATM Card. -Remember to call your bank/credit cards to let them know you are traveling before you go so they don't freeze your card. US ATM cards work in Colombia but there will be a small charge for each withdrawal. Our bank charges 1% of the amount withdrawn.

6) Credit cards-You can use them almost anywhere and it's much more secure and easy than carrying cash around. When you use them people will ask you how many payments you want because they many stores will do charges in multiple installments, this system isn't common in the U.S. and confused us the first time we encountered it at Crepes and Waffles. Also it's smart to check with you card before you go about the amount of the foreign transaction fee.We got a Capital 1 credit card 5 years ago precisely because they have no foreign transaction fee.

Stuff for Baby
Just a disclaimer. We don't have kids, we are NOT kid experts.

1) Clothes: Word on the street is that baby clothes are more expensive in Colombia for unknown reasons. We are bringing about a weeks worth of clothes for him.

2) Toys: It was suggested that we bring some noisy, distracting stuff to help him have fun during the Encuentro. I have a strong aversion to toys with batteries and plastic stuff. I know, what a snob! We got him a Xylophone, maracas, board books, an inflatable ball (per Melinda's suggestion) and some foam blocks. I figure the blocks will be nice for the plane trip home. No sounds, light for the suitcase and will not cause law suits if he starts chucking them at other passengers.

3) Stroller - We weren't going to bring ours but it stated in his report that he really enjoyed daily stroller rides and it might also be nice for our 5 hour layover in Houston on the return trip. Stroller=Hopefully a place to take a nap.

4) Ergo Carrier - Not everywhere in Bogota has sidewalks that would work for strollers, although as a whole it is a very walkable city. My cousin says it is a huge advantage to be hands free.

5) Digital Camera -Even if we weren't going to pick up our most precious cargo ever I would NEVER go to Colombia without a camera. It is an extraordinarily beautiful country. Tomorrow I'm posting all sorts of pictures to prove my point!

1) One complete children's outfit to leave with Bienestar. This is sort of a swap for the clothes that your child comes dressed in.

2) Cookies for the people working at Bienestar. Our facilitator suggested that we bring treats since we're coming right before Christmas.

3) Diapers, extra clothes and kid food for encuentro. I've heard that for a child welfare agency Bienestar is surprisingly un-prepared for situations like hungry children and wet diapers.

4) A small present for the Foster Mother. (Although it's still not clear to me if we are allowed to give her one)

1) Clothes for 70 degree weather. -When I'm in Bogota I always wear long pants(usually jeans), lightish shirts and a light jacket. A day in Bogota can be sunny and warmish or rainy and a little cold it's really hard to know which when you wake up. It's a bit like San Francisco that way. In my opinion Bogota is also more formal then where I live (California) so no flip-flops on the street or that kind of stuff. I also bring all my more uh "fitted" clothes for two reasons, both of which are vanity-based. 1) Most of the women in Bogota will be wearing insanely tight pants and I feel sloppy wearing big clothes there. 2) If I don't it's waaaaaay to easy to eat too much of the delicious food there!

2) Light water-resistant jacket-Bogota rains whenever it darn-well-pleases so I never go anywhere without a light jacket even during dry season.

3) Bag with a strap -Bogota is like New York, there are pick pockets etc. My husband lived there for 10 years and said everyone he knew got mugged at some time or another. I don't think Bogota is unsafe or unfriendly, but like any big city I like to keep an eye on my stuff and make it a little harder for would-be purse snatchers. And with a baby I have enough to worry about without holding onto a purse too.

And a couple random travel tips.

1) If you arrive on a really big plane sometimes immigration gets backed up. You'll notice that sometimes people go crazy running off the plane to the immigration line. If I've learned anything about avoiding a 1.5 long wait at immigration it's this: Go to the LEFT. The room opens up three other lines there and all the frequent travelers go left. :) You're welcome!

2) Many public restrooms in Colombia do not have toilet paper so don't leave home without it okay?

3) Look both ways before crossing the street... and then look both ways again. Have fun!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

One Family's Journey: The Visa

Well, if you read my previous post you know that you have to get a "Special Temporary Visa for Adoption Proceedings" if you are not a Colombian citizen. You can't get this visa until you have bought round-trip tickets to Colombia but the good news is that they actually do turn them around quickly. For us the better news was that my husband's new cedula was finally available ( he applied for it more than a year ago). Double score!

How to get your visa
The first step is to gather up a ton of dumb stuff that they want. This is both inconvenient and costs money, just like everything else in the adoption process. The good news is that you are used to this kind of stuff by now. Plus you don't have to get fingerprinted. Bonus! The requirements can change frequently so don't forget to ask your consulate for the most up-to-date info.

Requirements as of November 2009:

A) Valid Passport
B) 2 copies of the passport photo page
C) 2 original visa app forms (visa is free if you are a US citizen)
D) 3 1.5 in by 1.5 in passport style photos (note that passport photos in the US are actually 2 x 2, this means I got to pay Walgreens $18 for pics I had to cut out myself. Awesome.)
E) 2 notarized photocopies of your referral letter from ICBF (You notarize these by attaching an attestation and signing it. Just like you did with your FBI fingerprints and your explanation of names. I think this process is unnecessary and doesn't make things anymore legal but nobody asked me.)
F) A formal letter requesting your visa from the consul. The letter must include the reason you are requesting the visa, where the child is located, the name of both parents and ID numbers. I made mine fancy and overly formal because Colombians seem to like formality in their documents. Stuff like "Thank you so kindly for your time attention" etc etc.
G) 2 copies of your round-trip plane tickets

Once you gather your stuff you go to your nearest consulate (San Francisco -1.5 hours drive for us-sans traffic). It will be inconvenient because they are only open at certain hours during the day only of course. Why waste your really nice downtown SF office by having it open all day to the public? On the day we went they were open from 9 am -2 pm. Every consulate is different though so be sure to try to contact yours. I say "try" because answering the phone is not something they are big on.

Once you get there you will present your giant stack of unnecessary paperwork to whoever you can find. I say this because in my experience the consulate is not organized. At the SF consulate there is not even a sign marking the entrance. I just wandered around until I heard some Colombians and then opened the door. Inside wasn't much better. There is no line, just poor helpless Colombians wandering around trying to figure how to get their new cedulas. The good news is this means you can just stand there insisting someone take your paperwork instead of standing in line. While I stood there the woman at the front desk told a lady on the phone "I don't have all day to help you, there are like 30 people in front of me waiting". I think by 30 people she meant 3 but you get the point. At a consulate you must be assertive to get what you need. Customer service is not their thing.

To be fair getting the visa was far less painful than I expected. A word of advice: If you live far from the consulate you should bring a pre-paid UPS or Fed Ex envelope so that they can mail the visa back to you, if not you will have to go back to get the visa in person. I tell you this because they will not offer to do this for you or mention it on the website. I submitted my visa app on 11/25/2009 and received it back within 3 business days so I have to say I can't complain to much about the lack of organization. I have my visa and we're one step closer to meeting our baby boy. :)

On the way back home I suggest that you stop and eat something delicious to reward yourself for a job well done. I ate tacos in Berkeley and chased them with churros and chocolate. Trust me, after dealing with a consulate you'll need it!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One Family's Journey: The Referral

The moment you receive your referral is a special time in your life. For my husband and I, it was a very joyful and encouraging experience. And I urge all of the waiting families to enjoy that moment because the waiting that follows is far more difficult than the work leading up to that moment. One of my greatest fears was that when we received our referral I wouldn't feel any connection to our child, but I have to say that seeing his picture for the first time was one of the most intense and wonderful experiences of my life. I was blessed with an amazing certainty that he was meant to be our son. Everyday since we "met" him back in September has been an excruciating wait. For those of you who are still waiting, here is how the referral process works from the day you receive that file to the day you leave for Colombia.

1) Receive referral file. Because we are a Colombian family we received our referral very quickly -- 2.5 weeks quickly. I received the news at 8:30 in the morning at my desk at work. I promptly hung up with my agency and started hyperventilating. I opened the files and started crying. Then I suffered through eight hours of the work day because Arnold is a teacher and there was no way to call him at school.

2) Tell your spouse. This is an amazing moment. Take your time. Do it right.

3) Decide whether or not to tell other people. This is a highly personal decision like announcing a pregnancy. The news is very exciting, but I would urge you to consider waiting a bit because you have a lot of decisions to make before you are on your way.

4) At this point you have some time, maybe about a month to decide whether you want to accept. You can also choose to request an independent medical examination on your child. I highly suggest this for your child's sake. I was ready to take him home the second we received his file, but we did this because it would be a huge disservice to him if it turned out he had a medical situation that we could not care for. There are also clinics in the US that will examine adoption referrals for red flags. We chose to do an independent medical exam and gave the results to my cousin who is a medical professional. Another bonus of the medical exam is that you are allowed to send a friend or your facilitator who can take additional pictures and videos for you. Because of the med exam, I have video of Elian walking just days after he took his first steps. If you choose to get a med exam you must send a formal request to IBCF. Just write a letter to Bienestar, sign it, scan it and send it to your facilitator and they will take care of the rest. It will take about 3-4 weeks from sending the letter to getting your med exam results.

5) We felt fairly confident that we would accept so we started the next step. Having the referral file translated -- some agencies will do this for you. It must be translated by a certified translator. If you need one, I would suggest Melinda (the author of this blog), she did ours and is top-notch. I have an M.A. in Spanish, but translation is a specialized skill that not everyone can do.

6) Once you get your med results you make a final decision and send in your formal acceptance. Same process as the medical letter. Write a letter to Bienestar, sign it, send it to your facilitator. Once you do this you can request the Article 16 report letters from your agency.

7) When your agency sends you the letters you will pair them with your translation and your I-800 form and send them to USCIS. Send them via FedEx so you can track them. USCIS will send the letter to the lockbox and then forward it to the Hague Unit in Missouri. It takes one week to go from the lockbox to the Hague unit. Your adjudicator at the Hague unit will turn it around in 1-2 business days once they receive it and send it to the National Benefits Center. They in turn will issue approval and cable something called the Article 5 letter to Bogota. This entire process took about 3-4 weeks for us. I called the Hague unit every day of the waiting period. I would not be surprised at all if my adjudicator hates me. He was very nice though.

8) Meanwhile you send your facilitator the DS-230 with your child's birth name. You will e-mail this to them. Then your facilitator will take it with them to the embassy in Bogota to get your article 5 letter.

9) Once your facilitator has the article 5 letter in hand he/she will take it to Bienestar and work out a date for your Encuentro. Your facilitator should also let you know if you need any updated documents like new FBI clearances.

10) Next you will buy round trip plane tickets and if you are not Colombian you will have to get a visa at the Colombian consulate. More on that process tomorrow!

Note of Advice: Pushing along this process is most important to you. Make sure you stay on top of EVERYBODY involved in order to move things through quickly.

Monday, December 14, 2009

One Family's Journey

This week, the blog will be featuring one family's journey from referral to return. A friend that I met online has agreed to post here for a week -- plus a few more days in the future -- to help us better understand the process. I will let her introduce herself:

My name is Emily and my husband Arnold (a native of Colombia) and I will be leaving in about a week to adopt our first child from Colombia. Last year at this time, we were preparing to spend Christmas vacation with our family in Colombia and Panama knowing that we would start the adoption process upon our return. It seems like just yesterday we were walking the streets of Bogotá imagining what it would be like to come back in the future to pick up our first child. It is unbelievable that those dreams are now coming true.

As we run down the home stretch we’ll be sharing the last steps of our adoption trip with you here by cross-posting on Raising Colombian Kids. Right now we are making travel preparations and waiting impatiently to meet our son. If you have any questions regarding details of the process feel free to post them in the comments section and I will try to answer them when the time comes. And if you are curious about how long different parts of the process took us you can check out all our adoption related history at my personal blog:

Thanks for having us Melinda!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A la Nanita Nana -- Christmas Carol

Another very popular Christmas Carol (villancico) is called A la Nanita Nana. Here are the lyrics:

A la nanita nana, nanita ea, nanita ea,
Mi Jesus tiene sueno, bendito sea, bendito sea.
Fuentecita que corre clara y sonora,
Ruisenor q'en la selva cantando llora,
Callad mientras la cuna se balancea.
A la nanita nana, nanita ea.

The great thing about this song is that by changing the word Jesus to niño or niña, you have a great all purpose lullaby. Even Disney noticed this -- check out the Ceetah girls video:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Congratulations! and Thank You!

Friends of Colombian Orphans has won the $2500 E-BAY GIFT CARD. Thanks to all of our readers that voted. Read more here:

Vamos Pastores Vamos -- Christmas Carol

One of the most widely recognized and sung Christmas Carols of Colombia -- and Latin America in general -- is the Vamos Pastores Vamos song. The lyrics can be found below. You can see a cute little video and hear the song here:

Vamos pastores vamos,
vamos a Belén;
a ver en ese niño,
la gloria del Edén.
a ver en ese niño
la gloria del Edén.

Ese precioso niño,
yo me muero por él,
sus ojitos me encantan,
su boquita también.
La Padre le acaricia
el Madre mira en el,
y los dos extasiados,
contemplan aquel ser,
contemplan aquel ser.

Vamos pastores vamos,
vamos a Belén;
a ver en ese niño,
la gloria del Edén.
a ver en ese niño
la gloria del Edén.

Es tan lindo el chiquito
que nunca podrá ser,
que su belleza copien el lapiz,
ni el pincel.
Pues el eterno Padre
con inmenso poder,
hizo que el hijo fuera
inmenso como el,
inmenso como el.

Vamos pastores vamos,
vamos a Belén;
a ver en ese niño,
la gloria del Edén.
a ver en ese niño
la gloria del Edén.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Villancicos -- Colombian Christmas Carols

In Colombia, the word for Christmas Carols is VILLANCICOS (pronounced: vee yan see cohs). Most of these songs come from Spain have their roots in the Catholic church.

There have been, however, just like here in the US, more modern songs written. Last year, I featured one of those songs which is kind of like the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer of Colombia and Venezuela. You can see the post here:

You can hear the Juanes version of the song here:

This one is well worth purchasing from Itunes. My boys love it!!


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Friends of Colombian Orphans

Friends of Colombian Orphans is once again trying to raise money -- without asking you to spend a dime. Please vote so that they can receive a gift card to purchase yard for the knitting project in Bogota.

To learn more about FOCO, click here.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Noche de Velas -- Christmas Begins Tonight

Tonight marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Colombia.

Tomorrow is the Día de la Inmaculada Concepcion -- a Catholic holiday. But both Catholics and non-Catholics alike celebrate this day in Colombia -- placing candles, lanterns and lights all over the front of the house and along the sidewalks. It is known as the Día de Velitas or El Alumbrado.

You could easily celebrate this Colombian holiday no matter where you are in the world.

In our family, we place paper sacks filled with sand and a lighted candle around our front yard. My husband also tells about Angel Gabriel's announcement that María was with child. In Colombia, the entire neighborhood is outside and you can hear music, laughter, and singing. There is also plenty of dancing -- so we also include some of that as well. Here in the States, we are the only ones on the street, but it makes for a fun and meaningful evening with our kids.

Tonight we have invited a Colombian family that just moved to our town over for dinner and velita lighting. We will also use some left over 4th of July pyrotechnics :)

You can see our pictures from last year here:

Friday, December 04, 2009

UFO's Over Bogotá

The word in Spanish for UFO is OVNI (ojeto volador no identificado). It might have been useful to know this word if you had been in Bogotá on November 20th.
On that day, Bogotanos were out on the streets to observe what has yet to be explained. Apparently, 3 bright circles were flying over the city. The objects did not appear to move or fly. They did not look like airplanes. No government official has yet explained what the objects might have been, but they captured the interest of the city for several hours. People on the street guessed that the object could have been just about anything, from alien spacecraft to Chavez's secret weapons, from weather ballons to US spy craft.

Check out the You tube videos at this site. What do you think?

There are also pictures here:

It might interest you to know that OVNIs have been seen flying over Bogotá at least 4 other times in the last three years.
There are other recordings of this sighting where the objects appear to be like those of November 20 - seen from farther away - while this video is more of a close up.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Fernando Botero

Fernando Botero, originally from Medellin, is perhaps the most famous Colombian artist. In fact, he calls himself the " most Colombian of Colombian artists."

He started out as a painter and has become famous not only for his paintings, but also his sculptures.

His art was originally recognized in 1952, when he won the Ninth "Salon de Artistas Colombianos".

Then, he left for Europe. Studying art for a time in Spain and then in Italy. He struggled to find his voice, so to speak, for several years and eventually ended up in New York in 1960. There his art was recognized and awarded the Guggenheim National Prize for Colombia. He then began to develop his technique of exaggerating proportions -- making things fat. The first recognized painting in this style is entitled "La Familia Pinzon".

In the early 1970's he began to develop as a sculptor. Today, he is a very prolific painter and sculptor. He has donated many of his works to Colombian parks and museums. You can see some in the Parque de Berrio in Medellin and in the Museo Casa de la Moneda in Bogota.

We were fortunate enough to see a traveling exposition -- The Baroque World of Fernando Botero -- just a couple of months ago in Colorado Springs. The exhibit is now at the Bowers Museum of Art in Santa Ana, CA until December 6. It will then go to St. Petersberg, FL., Reno, NV., Winnepeg, CANADA, and Toledo, OH.

You can also catch his Abu Ghraib exposition at the Berkley Art Museum from now until February 7, 2010.

You can purchase posters of some of Botero's paintings here, a great souvenir for any Colombian child. Beware, he has many nudes so you may want to check out the site without young children:


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Latest Adoption Statistics

ICBF recently updated their adoption statistics. Below is a summary of those statistics which were current as of October 30, 2009.
But first, for comparison, here are the stats for 2008:

2,542 children of all ages placed for adoption
1,019 were placed with Colombian families
1,523 were placed with Foreign families

Stats from January 1, 2009 and Ocotber 30, 2009:
2,174 children placed for adoption in Colombia
909 to Colombian families
1,265 to Foreign families.

Of these, 311 were placed by Casas Privadas and 1,863 were placed by ICBF.

ICBF would like to point out that as of October 30, 2009, there were 8,211 children and adolescents that have official declarations of adoptability and belong to the category SPECIAL NEEDS. Special Needs in Colombia is defined as children with disabilities, children over 8 years of age, and sibling groups of 3 or more. These children are available immediately and families requesting children in this category will receive PRIORITY and PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT.

Here is the breakdown of the 8,211 adoptable children in the Special Needs Category:
1,319 ---- children in good health younger than 7 that belong to large sibling groups
504 ---- children younger than 7 with a physical or mental disability
2,843 -- children between 8-17, some belong to sibling groups
1,774 -- children between 8-17 with a physical or mental disability
554 ---- children over 18 in a good physical state
1,217 -- children over 18 with a physical or mental disability

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Latest Wait List Statistics

As of October 30, 2009, there were 3,749 potential adoptive families that have been approved by ICBF to adopt. This number is down by 19 families from July. These are the families -- in Colombia and abroad -- that are currently on the WAIT LIST. The actual break down is Colombian families 205, foreign families 3,544.

Remember, Colombian families (whether living in Colombia or ex-pat Colombians abroad) receive PRIORITY and PREFERENTIAL treatment. That means that the Colombian family will be considered for any available child BEFORE any foreign family. If the Adoptions Committee considers that the Colombian family makes the best match, then the available child is assigned to the Colombian family. If the Adoptions Committee does not think that the available child makes a good match with the Colombian family, other families are then considered. Some Colombian families (those living in Colombia) will remain in the Region where they processed they paperwork -- no matter how many children are available. This means that some Colombian families wait many months, others get referrals in a few weeks. Usually the expat Colombians will be assigned to a region based on the immediate availability of children, unless they have otherwise requested a region. Often ex-pat Colombian families get referrals before families in Colombia because they are typically willing to be sent to any region where a child is available.

Again, as of October, 2009, the following families remain on the Wait List:

92 families who were approved for adoption in 2005 -- down from 144 in July
504 families who were approved for adoption in 2006 -- down from 666 in July
869 families who were approved for adoption in 2007 -- down from 948 in July
1,110 families who were approved for adoption in 2008 -- down from 1,196 in July
969 families who were approved for adoption in 2009 -- up from 572 in July