Friday, February 27, 2009

Latest ICBF Wait List

I have preempted the original post for today -- What to say when your child gets an OWIE will appear on Monday.

The most recent Wait List was published by ICBF on February 24, 2009. The ICBF Wait List applies to adoptions through ICBF only -- not through CASAS PRIVADAS. This list DOES NOT reflect sepcial needs children. The definition of special needs are children with disabilities, children over 8 years of age, and sibling groups of 3 or more. There also hasn't been a lot of movement since December, all dates that have advanced I am putting in BOLD and RED.

Age of Child / Date of Application Approval by ICBF

Child 0-12 months / Sep-2005
Child 13 - 23 months / Sep-2005
Child 2 years / May-2005
Child 3 years / Feb-2005
Child 2 - 3 years / Mar-2006
Child 3 - 4 years / Apr-2005
Child 4 years / Jun-2005
Child 5 years / Jan-2006
Child 4 -5 years / Jan-2006
Child 5 - 6 years / Mar-2007
Child 6 years / Sep-2008
Child 7 years / Sep-2008
2 Siblings 0 - 4 years / Mar-2007
2 Siblings 0 - 5 years / Jul-2006
2 Siblings 0 - 6 years / Aug-2007
2 Siblings 0 - 7 years / May-2008

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Al Pinochazo -- Colombian Eenie Meenie Miney Mo

AL PINOCHAZO -- In Colombia, this is how randomness is introduced into a selection process in order to make it fair. For instance, when Colombian kids want to decide who gets to go first in a game, they might use this riddle.

Here is how it works. One person would point to each participant, say a few syllables of the riddle, then move to the next participant while saying a few more syllables. When the riddle ends with word (you) that person is selected, or is IT, or wins, or loses as the case may be. When the riddle is said rapidly in Spanish, the moving from person to person ocurs quite naturally.

While there may be some minor variations, this riddle is widespread and well known in Colombia. Indeed, in some parts of the country the expression “al pinochaso” often offers an answer to the question of how someone made a certain decision, or how someone was selected for a position or how someone was chosen to receive a privilege (or a punishment!). Thus, it has come to mean that the decision was made without much thought or in a childish way.

Pinochito y su mujer (Little Pinochio and his wife)

se sentaron a comer. (Sat down to eat)

Pinochito no comió (Little Pinocchio did not eat)

de la rabia que le dió. (because he was very angry)

Sale la luna, (Out comes the moon)

sale el sol, (out comes the sun).

sale Pinocho con su tambor. (out comes Pinocchio with his drum)

Pin uno (pin 1),
pin dos (pin 2),
pin tres (pin 3),
pin cuatro (pin 4),
pin cinco (pin 5),
pin seis (pin 6),
pin siete (pin 7),
Pinochito serás TÚ (Little Pinnochio will be you – ie. you are IT!)


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

El Garabato

The GARABATO is a dance performed during the CARNAVAL BARRANQUILLA. It symbolizes the victory of life over death. In this dance, Death is represented by a tall, thin person dressed as a skeleton. He carries a long, hook like thing that is called the GARABATO. He grabs the brightly decorated dancers with the hook -- something akin to the Grim Reaper.

In this dance the men have painted faces and wear yellow shirts and black pants. They also wear a highly decorated cape. Women wear boleros in the colors of the flag of Barranquilla (red, yellow, and green).

See some actual footage of the Garabato in Barranquilla.

* Photo by jlmaral

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Carnaval de Barranquilla

While almost everyone has heard of the Carnival in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, what many do not know is that the world’s second largest carnival celebration is in Barranquilla, Colombia. This celebration has a long history and is a great example of the fusion of Spanish (Catholic festivities), African (musical traditions), and Indigenous traditions. The festival was declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

While the official Carnaval starts 4 days before Ash Wednesday, the festivities actually start a month before the Carnaval (known as Pre-Carnaval), and include – Beauty Contests, Dance Festivals, a Float Parade, Children’s Parades, and other activities. During the actual Carnaval, streets are closed and all regular daily activities come to a halt.

The Saturday start of the festival includes a tradition known as the Batalla de las Flores (Battle of the Flowers ). It is really a giant parade started by a float on which the Carnaval Queen, accompanied by her many attendants, dances and throws flowers to the crowd. After the principal float, come groups of dancers and people in costumes. The most recognizable of the costumed folks are the MARIMONDAS (hooded figures with long noses) and GIGANTONAS (dwarfs with giant heads).

Marimondas -- photo by URVEOC

The Battle of the Flowers is followed by the “Prolongación de la Batalla de Flores” – the prolongation of the Battle of the Flowers known as the Desfile del Rey Momo (Parade of the King Momo ). Rey Momo is the King of the Carnaval and when he makes his entrance, the Carnaval officially starts.

Sunday, is the Gran Parada de Tradición (Great Parade of Tradition ). The main dances of this parade are the torito, hilanderas and GARABATO. Monday is the Gran Parada de Fantasia(Great Parade of Fantasy ) and the Festival of Orquestas (not the classical kind). Tuesday is the CARNAVALADA, the Festival of Dances, and Joselito Se Va Con Las Cerinzas (Joselito goes with the ashes or the funeral of Joselito).

Joselito is the character that most represents the Carnaval of Barranquilla . He is the symbol of the joy and party of the Carnaval. On Tuesday, he dies. People cry over the body and he is symbolically buried by the “merry widows that shared his days of festiveness.” The Funeral of Joselito marks the official end of the festival, but it is also symbolic of the “Farewell to the Flesh” and the beginning of Lent.

This is a great video -- it is in Spanish -- but even if you can't understand the words, you can see the amazing sites of the CARNAVAL DE BARRANQUILLA.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A La Rueda Rueda -- Colombian Ring Around the Rosie

In all countries, there are traditional children's games. Here in the U.S., what child doesn't know the words to Ring Around the Rosie? Who hasn't, at some point, joined hands with family or friends and sung the words and then laughing fallen down?

Guess what? Colombia has it's own version of Ring Around the Rosie! It is called, "A la Rueda Rueda." Now, I know that this is familiar in Venezuela and Spain, but the versions that I have heard from both countries are slightly different from the Colombian version I have learned. So, I now share with you the words, and below -- a video of the song and actions.

A la rueda rueda, (All around the circle)

de pan y canela,
(of bread and cinnamon)

dame un besito (give me a little kiss)

vete pa' la escuela, (take yourself to school)

si no quieres ir, (if you don't want to go)

acuéstate a dormir. (lie down and go to sleep).


Inevitably, there is a chorus of "Otra Vez" (one more time) or "Más" (more) in our house. This is a great game for toddlers to well -- our 7 year old will still play -- sometimes. ;)

Friday, February 20, 2009


The Chigüiro [pronounced chee GWEE roh] (known as Capybara in Brazil) is the world’s largest living rodent. They can weigh up to 140 pounds. They live in herds near swampy areas throughout the Llano. Despite it’s rat-like appearance -- it is what’s for dinner in the Llano.

I had heard about this unique food from my Brother-in-law who was living and working in Yopal. Being the curious soul that I am, I wanted to try some, but there just wasn’t any available in Boyacá.

Imagine my surprise when walking down the Calle 53 (Artesanías Market) in Bogotá, I saw a sign advertising CHIGÜIRO ASADO. My husband, knowing how I love to try new things, asked the chef running the Bar-be-que if I could have a taste. He happily gave me one – for free! It tastes a bit like pork. I also tried Ternera a la Llanera or Mamona (Veal). They were both delicious. We purchased a double portion of meat and made sure the boys both tried it....and even the picky eater liked it. It is definitely an adventure that is worth a try while in the Llano or in Bogotá.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Joropo and Alpargatas

(pronounced: ho roh po) is the typical folkloric dance of the Llanos. It is a high energy, flirtatious dance. In this dance, couples strike their feet on the floor in rapid succession. Some people say it looks like the dancers are stomping ants. It is quite a production.
Even small children will learn to dance Joropo. A family that adopted a 3 year old boy from Yopal was impressed to learn that he could dance Joropo -- albeit not perfectly, but still rather impressive for a 3 year old. As the children age, they can participate in inter-school competitions. My nephew, who lives in Yopal, has travelled all around the Llano representing his school in Joropo competitions.

This is one dance you have got to see for yourself!!!

If there were a suggestion for a souvenir for a child from the Llanos, my recommendation would be purchasing the traditional Joropo costume: dress for girls, hat and outfit for boys. These clothes are accompanied by special shoes called alpargatas.

Photo by Ramon Maneses

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


The music of the Llano is called MUSCIA LLANERA. It is of both Spanish and Indigenous origin, and belongs equally to Colombia and Venezuela. It is considered a important feature of the cultural heritage of both nations and is a uniting factor of the people along both sides of the Colombia/Venezuela border.

The original Llanera music is the rural or campesina music. These songs narrate the stories of life and love in rural areas. They use the language of the rural areas and are played with typical musical instruments: the harp (el arpa llanera), the bandola, the cuatro (a small guitar with 4 strings), and maracas.

It is very calming music for the most part. You can explore this genre of music by doing any of the following: go to youtube and type in musica llanera and watch a few videos, or you can go to and look for the link to musica llanera to the left of the screen it has a wonderful list.

Here is an example of one of my favorite llanera songs. It is by Julio Miranda and is called Egoismo.

This song is also available for purchase at the I-tunes store.

Photo by xolkanf

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

COLEO -- Rules and Scoring

LLANEROS are Colombia’s version of American Cowboys or Argentine Gauchos. Just like the cowboys or the gauchos, their lives are intertwinned with the herding of millions of head of cattle. In fact, cattle herding is one of the top professions and employers of the Llano.

Like cattlemen in the US, Colombian cowboys have their own rodeo known as the COLEO. In the Coleo, a group of llaneros on horseback travel at high speeds in pursuit of a bull that has been set loose through a shoot. The bull travels down a track which is long, straight, and narrow (known as the Manga del Coleo – see picture). Then, the cowboys try to flip or drop a bull by grabbing its tail.

The Manga del Coleo is divided into 4 areas. The first area is 50 meters long. This is the preparation area and you cannot Coleo in this area. The second area is called the ZONA PRIMERA (first zone). It is 100 meters long. If a bull falls in this area, the Llanero gets more points. The third area is called the ZONA SEGUNDA (second zone) it is also 100 meters long. If the bull falls in this zone, the rider gets fewer points. The fourth and final area is called the ZONA MUERTA (dead zone). It is 50 meters long. Riders should not Coleo in this area. If a llanero does try to flip the bull in this area, and the bull is injured, then the bull is considered wasted and the rider must pay for it.

The sport is scored in the following way:

CAMPANA = The bull falls and rolls from one side over its back to the other side. The rider gets 20 points if he accomplishes this in the Zona Primera, 10 if he does it in the Zona Segunda.

CAMPANILLA = The bull falls and rolls from one side, over its back to the other side and then repeats this. The rider gets 25 points if he accomplishes this in the Zona Primera, 15 points if he does it in the Zona Segunda. Basically = 2 CAMPANAS

REMOLINO = Three complete CAMPANAS. The rider gets 30 points in the Zona Primera and 25 points in the Zona Segunda.

COSTADO = The bull falls on its back. The rider gets 10 points in the Zona Primera, 5 in the Zona Segunda.

CUARTOS TRASEROS = Only the hind legs fall – 5 points in the Zona Primera, 3 points in the Zona Segunda.

Here is a link to a picture of a Coleo. You can also go to youtube and type in Coleo and try to watch a few videos. They are not great fidelity, but you’ll get the idea.

Obviously, our ideas about humane animal treatment are not the same. However, this is truly a part of Colombian culture. If you get a chance, go and see a Coleo -- cringe and enjoy it!

*Photo by xolkanf

Monday, February 16, 2009

El Llano

The Llanos Orientales (Eastern Savannahs) of Colombia consist of the Departments of Meta, Arauca, and Casanare.

Villavicencio, the capital of Meta, is known as the “Gateway to the Llanos” (La Puerta al Llano) because of its location as the first city between the Andes and the Llanos. Because of its close proximity to Bogotá (about 1 ½ - 2 hours by car), Villavicencio, often called Villavo, has become a weekend getaway spot for many people from Bogotá.

Villavicencio is a relatively new city for Colombia. In the 1840’s, settlers from the near Bogotá started a small city, which in 1855 became Villavicencio – named after Antonio Villavicencio, a hero of the war of Independence. Today, Villavicencio might well be considered one of the capitals for the “Desplazados” the people displaced by the Colombian Civil War.

Yopal, to the North, a poorer cousin to Villavicencio, is the capital of Casanare. Because of distance and poor roads, Yopal is more isolated. I have heard it referred to as the “Wild West” of Colombia. It’s closest interior city is Sogamoso, Boyacá – therefore, not surprisingly, there are a lot of Boyacenses in Yopal and lots of Llaneros in Sogamoso.

The major cities of the llano have an economy based on agriculture, cattle ranching, and petroleum.

The llanos are definitely Tierra Caliente. The climate is hot and very humid, with an average temperature of 81 degrees farenheit (27 degrees celsius) – of course it can get considerably hotter and with that humidity it feels even more sweltering (80% humidity). The rainy season begins in April and ends in August, and December to March is the driest part of the year.

Like in Cali, the up side of the climate is that no one will expect you to wear a suit and tie or pantyhose. However, nice summer dresses and pants with a collared shirt would be appropriate for your appointments with ICBF and the court.

Ruth, the woman that helped me prepare information about this part of Colombia, said to make sure and suggest that families that are in Bogotá for several weeks plan a week long getaway to Villavicencio.

Here is her suggestion: “When you go to Villavicencio, you will have two options of places where you can stay: Hotels in Villavicencio, or stay on a "Finca" or a farm -- summer home. I would recommend staying on a Finca. Last summer, I stayed at a finca called: "Hacienda El Paraiso", it is just past the Army/Airforce Base on the outskirts of Villavicencio. The Hotel accommodations on the Farm are excellent; the rooms all have Flat Screen TV's with Air conditioning too. They charged just US$50 a night per room. The Service from the Staff was excellent and your night stay also included breakfast! The Kids loved the Pool "Piscina" and the staff also took us on a Farm Tour to see the Horses, Cows, Sugar Cane, and all the Crops, Plants, Birds and Chickens. The Kids loved the Horseback rides $5 US per person.”

It is important to remember, like all of the regions in Colombia, Llaneros too have their own culture including unique food, music, sports, and dance. This week you can look forward to listening to Música Llanera, Seeing Coleo and Joropo, and learning about Chigüiro.

Also, for those of you in the US, Telemundo is currently showing a Colombian Telenovela filmed in the Colombian Llano. It is based on the book, Doña Barbara, though it is set in modern times. Whether or not you live in the US, you can see episodes at the following link:

· Photo by pattoncito

Friday, February 13, 2009

Been There Done That -- Preparing Kids for their First Airplane Ride

To round out this week's posts on Post-Adoption issues, I wanted to start a new feature -- the Been There, Done That segment. In this segment, parents who have completed their adoptions share their great ideas. This week, I want to thank a friend that I have known for close to three years for his suggestion. His great idea can particularly help families that are picking up their children in the Bogotá and the surrounding area. It is also most helpful for people adopting toddlers to teenagers.

Here is Herman's great idea for helping your child/ren get ready for the long flight home:

"There is a children's museum in Bogotá. It has an Avianca jet on the property. We took our daughter (3 years old) there a couple of times. They explain everything about the airplane to the children in terms that they can understand. They also let them sit in the passenger section and go on a simulated flight. When it was time for the real flight, our daughter was like a seasoned traveler. "

Even if your child is already a seasoned traveller by the time you get to Bogotá, the Museo de los Niños is also a great place to take your child/ren to enjoy a rainy day in Bogotá.

See some pictures and learn more here:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Giardia -- an often hidden illness

Giardia is a not so friendly amigo that might accompany you and/or your children home from Colombia.

What is Giardia?

Giardia, also known as Giardia lamblia, is a single celled, flagalated protozoa, which lives in the small intestine. In other words, a parasite and not a bacterial or viral infection.

The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene had a report in 2005 from Sweden which showed an incidence of 8,110 cases per 100,000 adopted children. International Adoption Clinics in the U.S. have found between 10-20% of all internationally adopted children suffer from Giardia.

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, weight loss, belly bloating, fatigue, very stinky loose stools, and flatulence. However, these symptoms typically only last 2-6 weeks. If an infection has been around for a while, it may be asymptomatic. This is why Giardia is often the silent problem in internationally adopted children.

This was what happened in our case. While our son's medical history showed a low growth rate, he did not have vomiting or diarrhea. He did have a pot belly, but then again so do a lot of toddlers, so we did not suspect giardia or any other parasites. However, our pediatrician, born and raised in India, was suspicious and ordered a test. Oops! Positive for giardia! After our experience, I mentioned it to a friend who also told me that her asymptomatic Colombian daughter had tested positive for Giardia.

The Center for Adoption Medicine makes the following recommendations, "To diagnose giardia and other intestinal parasites, we recommend submitting 3 stool samples collected 2-3 days apart (preserved promptly after passage in a polyvinyl alcohol kit) for ova and parasite (O&P) examination, and one fresh (<1hr> old) sample for Giardia antigen."

Additionally, because the parasite is easily spread, the Center recommends that you be very vigilant. It suggests, "...wash hands scrupulously after diaper changes, toilette, and before meals/food prep until giardia is ruled out, and don't have new arrivals share baths with other children at first."

Unfortunately, because we did not know about our son's issue with giardia, we had both our boys sharing a bath in Colombia. We went swimming together. And well, to make a long story short, everyone in our family came home sick with giardia. Try being sick as a dog -- nausea, vomiting with uncontrollable diarrhea -- on a 8 hour flight with a 2 year old and a 5 year old. NOT RECOMMENDED! So, be careful!

For more information:

* Photo by AJC1

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Your Family's New Culture

So, after preparing yesterday's post, I thought it might be nice to see what other adult adpotees think. I started doing some research and found that adult Colombian adoptees are not alone. It would seem that the issue of teaching culture and learning about and feeling a part of one's roots is important to many adult adoptees, no matter their country or race of origin.

There is a wonderful site called Informed Adoption Advocates. It offers many many ideas and resources for adoptive parents. There is one particular article I found very helpful in this discussion: DRIVE BY CULTURE by Jae Ran Kim.

Here are the highlights I wanted to focus on:

The author, adopted from Korea, participated in an adult adoptee panel. Each of the adoptees had had varying experiences with leaning about their "culture". While, in the author's case, her culture had been ignored, other adoptees had had their culture "pushed" on them. [I think of a family I met when I lived in San Francisco that would take their adopted Chinese daughter and drop her off at Chinese school every Saturday. However, unlike her classmates that were forced to practice their budding Chinese skills at home, she had no one to practice with. She kept falling behind. She hated it, but her parents were convinced they were doing her a favor by making her learn about her culture.]
The conclusion, however, by all of the adult adoptees was that , and I quote, "It was not enough. We all struggled with our racial identity. We all felt like outsiders within our family and outsiders within our racial communities. It's not that we didn't feel loved, because I know that each of us on the panel never felt excluded or differentiated in that sense. "

Just as the parents listening to the panel had felt confused, so did I. What is a conscientious parent to do? It seems that there needs to be something that we, as adoptive parents, can do to help our child/ren feel a part of their culture, learn about it, but without shoving it down their throats.
The advice that the author gave was the following, "...each child will be different and their needs will be different over time. But, the choice to be involved in the child's community should never be dependent on the child."
Ms. Kim goes on to say the following:

"What do I mean by that? Well, I mean that there will be times that the child won't want to attend culture camp, language lessons, or have tacos on Tuesday and egg rolls on Wednesday. But being part of the child's community is more than those things, which amount only to cultural tourism. Being part of the community is dependent on the adults. The parents. It's that the parents attend a Korean church or a Black church for themselves. Because they value it. It's not about "dropping the kids off at the curb" and coming back to pick them up later. That suggests that culture and diversity is the kid's job."

Ms. Kim also suggests that parents should spend time in their child's culture prior to adoption. Perhaps, if visiting Colombia is not possible, then get to know Colombians in your area. Try attending church is Spanish (our family does). If there are simply NO COLOMBIANS in your area, at least try to meet other Hispanics. If you can't love your child's culture, your child WILL pick up on it. It will be clear in the things that you say and what you do.

"It’s a responsibility that for our childrens’ sake, we transracially adoptive parents should not evade. If we want our children to know that we accept them for exactly who they are, a genuine desire to be with and respect people who share their ethnic background is an important aspect of showing–rather than saying–how we feel."

I think that this question sums up best the point to this discussion: "Do you see it (Colombia) as "their" community, or is it truly the whole family's community?"

You can read the entire article at this site:

* photo by zugg55

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Adult Colombian Adoptees -- What they wish their parents knew!

Over the past three years I have participated, mostly as a lurker, on several Colombian Adult Adoptee forums. I was interested to learn from them about their experience in preparation for raising my own little Colombianito. As I read posts, I realized quickly that not every adoptee has the same perspective about their adoption. Feelings ran the gamut from thrilled to horrified. This reflects the feelings also found in domestic adoption. I have read the books, attended the classes, and hope to raise 2 happily adopted kids. But, was I missing something? Something obvious?

One thing that I noticed right away about nearly all the adult adoptees -- whether they were happy or unhappy with their own adoption -- was that all seemed to have one issue that they wish their parents would have known about and addressed. In preparation for writing this blog, I asked several adult adoptees to share their feelings -- the results are found below. Most of the adoptees have asked that their names not be used out of respect for their parents, so out of respect for that request, these comments remain anonymous.

#1 -- From a happily adopted adult:
"I was adopted in 1974...I think my parents were more concerned with my fitting into American culture to avoid my feeling "different," than they were concerned about teaching me Colombian culture. And so basically, my Colombian heritage was erased; except for when my adoption was mentioned in conversation. I was raised to be a proud American...While I know my parents were never ashamed of who I was or where I came from, EVER, I do wish they had made a little more of an effort to make me feel equally as proud to be Colombian. Key word: equally - not more than American, just equally. Perhaps in today's day and age, modern technology has made that idea so much easier to accomplish for adopting parents than it was for my parents. But I still think there were things they could have done. They could have taken pictures of the country while they were there, perhaps brought back souvenirs, exposed me to the food, shown me magazine pictures, ANYTHING.

I grew up not too far from an area in NY where everything Hispanic, (from many different countries,) exists at your fingertips, including Colombia...Yet we never spent any time in this area...not even for an occasional, special Colombian meal. There were Colombian American parades...that we never attended. As I grew up and went out into the real world on my own, I met a good number of Hispanic people who seemed to take offense when I told them I couldn't speak if it was my fault. I even had one woman raise her eyebrows when I told her I was adopted and my parents spoke only English. She was horrified, 'They should have taught you!!!' was her harsh response...even after I just finished telling her they DID NOT speak Spanish. I'm not comfortable venturing into areas such as these even now, because I never know how fellow Hispanics are going to react. I think some people think I'm ashamed of who I am and that I would rather be American, while others seem to feel bad for me...poor little adopted girl. MOST OF THE TIME, however, I am received very lovingly."

#2 -- From another happily adopted adult
"I am so happy to be in my family. I cannot imagine having grown up anywhere else. But, I secretly resent the fact that my parents never talked about Colombia -- except for in reference to picking me up and leaving. It really didn't bother me while growing up, but when I got to college, I realized how much I had missed. I was actually assigned a roommate whose family was from Colombia, though she had been born and raised in the Miami. She was so excited to hear that I was from Colombia too. She was all ready to go dancing with me, but I didn't know anything about Colombia. I barely recognized the flag and often got it confused with Venezuela. I enjoyed learning about my birth country soooo much. It made me feel that there really was a void in my life that needed to be filled."

#3 -- From an unhappily adopted adult
"I am not sure if you really want to hear my opinion because in so many ways I feel that my adoption ruined my life. I don't want to get into particulars, but my life was not the Brady Bunch or Cosby Show. Much of this has to do with my adoptive family's issues, but some of it was also caused by where I grew up. It was a small town in the heartland. I was the ONLY brown person in a VERY white town. It was hard, and whenever I was teased, my parents would just say -- you are just like everybody else. But the fact was, I WASN'T just like everyone else. I often felt that my COLOMBIANESS (if that is really a word) was ignored, overlooked, or simply rejected. I wasn't supposed to think of myself as anything but a white American. When I went away to school, I joined a Latin American Student Organization hoping to find some common ground. I was saddened when I didn't fit in there either. I didn't speak Spanish, I didn't know or understand anything about my birth culture. I was a brown person rejected by a white culture and a white person rejected by a brown culture. I am not sure what might have helped, but I wish my parents had encouraged me to learn Spanish. I wish they would have helped me love and appreciate my brown skin and my wonderful Colombian heritage."

Now, I know that this is not a scientific poll by any means, just an observation. But, after talking with dozens of adult adoptees, I believe that there is a common theme:

What do adult adoptees wish?

That their parents had made an effort to teach them about Colombia, its culture, and perhaps even its language.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Over 61,000 Children

Today in Colombia, there are 61,121 children that have been removed from their biological families because ICBF considers that they are in danger. Children that have been removed from their families have experienced one or more of the following situations: sexual abuse, physical abuse, child labor, abandonment, neglect, or life on the streets.

The number of children under the care of ICBF has increased in the last three years. In 2007, the number was over 48,000. In 2008, it was over 54,000.

Even with this staggering increase, the national director of ICBF, Elvira Forero, believes that there are many more children who are in a vulnerable situation. She hopes that people who recognize abuse and neglect will contact ICBF officials in their area.

Despite the plea for people to be on the look out for abuse and neglect, the director explains that ICBF's goal is not to find new homes for the children, but to educate the parents and hope that the children can safely be returned to either their biological parents or their extended families. In reality, 70 % of the children in ICBF care eventually return home to parents or extended family, while over 8,500, wait to be adopted.

Bogotá is the place that has the most children living under ICBF protection -- 13,939. Next is Antioquia with 7, 847. Then follows Valle with 6, 710, Santander with 2,624, and Nariño with 2,282. The areas with the least number of children in custody are San Andrés with 426, Arauca 358, Vaupés with 83, and Vichada with 41.

The article also points out that if the reason children have been removed is purely economic, ICBF tries to help the parents provide for their children.

This information was extracted from a newspaper article published in El Tiempo on February 5, 2009. To read it in Spanish, use the following link:

Friday, February 06, 2009

Language of Pasto -- ACHICHUCA / ACHICHAI

In Pasto, people address each other more formally than in other places of Colombia. Here you should address any man – young or old with the Spanish equivalent of Mr. – Don (pronounced: Dohn). You should address women 50 or older with Doña (pronounced: Dohnya). You should also use Señora (pronounced: Sehnyora) for married women under 50 and Señorita (pronounced: Sehnyoreeta) for unmarried women under 50. While these phrases are commonly used in Colombia in places outside of Pasto, they are REQUIRED to be socially appropriate in Pasto. So make sure you address people using these important words and their last name when talking to them.

Two other words that you should become familiar with are unique to this area – ACHICHUCA and ACHICHAI. These are interjections that, like School House Rock taught us, show more excitement and more emotion.

ACHICHUCA is used when you burn yourself or when it is really hot. For example, “ACHICHUCA, I burned my finger.” (ACHICHUCA, me quemé el dedo.)

ACHICHAI is used when it is really cold. For example, it is a freezing morning in Pasto, you would hear some one say, “ACHICHAI.”

Finally, what discussion about Pasto would be complete without a mention of the word CUI. Cui is the food most associated with Pasto. It is BBQ --Guinea Pig. It is served by families in Pasto on special occasions, however, you should probably give it a whirl. If you order it in a restaurant, you will usually get CRISPETAS (popcorn) and fried HIGADO (liver) while you wait for it to cook. You may even be asked if you would like REFAJO to drink. Refajo is a drink mixture -- the soda pop COLOMBIANA with CERVEZA (beer).* Foto by Dan..'s photostream

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Souvenir Suggestion -- Bárniz de Pasto

One of the few handicrafts of Indigenous origin that still exists in Colombia can only be found in Pasto and the department of Nariño. It consists of wooden objects covered with a special varnish that comes from the Mopa Mopa tree which is grown in the Amazon rainforest in Putumayo. The tree produces a jelly-like substance twice a year that is converted into a thin sheet – kind of like a sheet of fabric. The sheets of resin are then colored and decorated with vegetable based dyes. Finally, the decorated sheets are cut and placed on carved wood pieces.

See some beautiful examples of objects covered with the Bárniz de Pasto at the following link.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

La Vecina Gilma's -- LAPINGACHOS

Here is a classic Pastuso recipe that will give you a new way to prepare potatoes. As an added bonus – it is easy to make and easy to find all the ingredients.

1 pound of red potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
1 pound of Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
3 Tablespoons of Lard
12 green onions, cut very finely
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 Tablespoon saffron
Salt and Pepper to taste

Step #1
Boil the potatoes and when done drain and mash.

Step #2
In a frying pan, place lard, green onions, saffron, and salt. Cook until onions are soft.

Step #3
Mix potatoes and onion mixture together and knead them together until they are well mixed. Then add eggs and mix together well.

Step #4
Make little, round, thin circles – they should look about the size and shape of a rice cake.

Step #5
Cook them in oil until they turn light brown. Drain and serve.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Pasto -- Nariño

Perhaps one of the world’s most impressive airport landing strips is in Pasto, Colombia. There simply is not room for mistakes – one wrong move and you fall off a cliff. Check it out!

Not only is the airport unique, but the entire area has its own unique culture. It is highly influenced by the Andean Indigenous Culture. However, never make the mistake of comparing the people of Pasto to people from other Andean Culture hotspots like Ecuador or Peru. While there are similarities, Pastusos are proud Colombians – “Orgullosamente Colombianos”, and resent that others discount them as Colombians because of their close association with other Andean areas.

Pasto is Tierra Fría. In fact, it is COLDER than Bogotá. Like in Bogotá, people conducting business in this area (like your appointments at ICBF and the courts) wear business suits -- ties for men and panty hose for women. You’ll want to bring your sweaters and jackets, and warm pajamas as there is no indoor heat.

The people of Pasto are friendly, but shy. Many will bend over backward to be helpful and treat tourists well. They are helpful, but a bit formal. You’ll want to greet people with a handshake and a formal “Buenos Días, Buenas Tardes, or Buenas Noches.”

Just to show you an example of their friendliness, in preparation for writing this week’s blog I asked for help from a complete stranger – a person that my niece knows from Pasto. He proudly talked to me for over an hour about his city and department. Then, he offered, “Hey, I talked to my Mom in Pasto about your project. She told me to tell anyone who is going to Pasto that she would love to help them in anyway and can help them learn about Pasto’s culture and she will invite them to dinner.”

Monday, February 02, 2009

Dancing the Salsa -- Must Have Music

Colombian Nobel laureate, Gabriel García-Márquez, once said, “Any gathering of more than 2 Colombians is destined to turn into a party.” Party, in this case, means a BAILE (Dance).

In Colombia, grandparents, parents, and children all DANCE TOGETHER, to the same music ,at the same party. Dancing, in general, is so prevalent, that kids milestones in Colombia include:
1- Crawling
2- Walking
3- Playing Soccer
4- Dancing -- 3 and 4 are interchangeable

As a teenager, how well you dance will largely determine how much or how little you socialize. The best dancers have their pick of boyfriends or girlfriends – the worst dancers get the leftovers. So, in Colombia, dancing is a social skill.

I was stunned when we picked up our son – then 22 months – and every time he heard music (which was just about everywhere), he would stop and start to dance. (My husband insists that he was NOT surprised.)

Colombians dance to many forms of music, however, Salsa is one of the most common.
Salsa had its origins in Cuba and was quickly spread by well-known Cuban musicians. Soon, it took root on the neighboring island of Puerto Rico. However, in the 1970’s, it was adopted and perfected by Colombian musicians on the Atlantic Coast and then Cali. There is a recognizable beat that distinguishes Colombian Salsa from all other Salsa music.

Colombia boasts some of the best performers, dancers, and composers of this genre. Even famous Salsa composers and performers from other Caribbean countries often ended up living in Colombia. Furthermore, Cali is recognized as the WORLD CAPITAL OF SALSA, even though it wasn’t invented there. Not surprisingly, the Colombian Ministry of Culture is seeking to name Salsa as an official part of the Colombian Cultural Heritage (Patrimonio Cultural de Colombia).

Though the capital of Salsa is Cali, it is ubiquitous in Colombia. If you ever get on a bus or ride in a taxi in Colombia, you will most likely hear Salsa blasting from the sound system at some point. Salsa and dancing in general are a unifying factor in the culture.

So, what exactly is Salsa. It is derived from Afro-Cuban rhythms – such as Son, Guaguancó, Mambo, etc. It includes horns, drums, and keyboards. The music is contagious and it is nearly impossible to stand still when listening – really give it a try, I dare you! Since it is hard to describe, a song is worth a thousand words. Here are some of my recommendations for ultimate Colombian Salsa – of course the music continues to evolve and there may be other groups that you would like, but here is my beginners guide.

Anything by Grupo Niche, start with CALI PACHANGUERO and CALI AJÍ.
(Note the people sitting are obviously NOT Colombian – the ones dancing are!)

Anything by Fruko y Sus Tesos is great, but my favorites are EL PRESO and CHARANGA CAMPESINA.

Anything by Latin Brothers, try LAS CABAÑUELAS and BUSCANDOTE.
Check out the dance moves on this guy!! Amazing!!

Salsa by Joe Arroyo. This guy invented his own sound called Joe Son. He also sings vallenato and cumbia -- so make sure you get a listen to his Salsa, try POR TI NO MORIRE and REBELIÓN.