Friday, July 30, 2010

One Family´s Return Trip: Sogamoso -- Sun and Steel

Sogamoso is known as the City of Sun and Steel.

Why the City of Sun? It comes from the ancient Chibcha traditions. Sogamoso was originally named Suamox, and was the religous capital of the Chibcha empire. While the Zipa (in Bogota) and the Zaque (in Tunja) fought constantly, Suamox was considered a place where niether side could battle, and yet both would come there to worship. It was the site of the Temple of the Sun and the High Priest -- the last one was called the Sugamuxi. As the City of the Sun, there was a statue built in the main plaza to honor the indigenous peoples and their worship of the Sun. Originally, the statue had indian women worshipping the rising sun and the indigenous women faced East. Unfortunately, the statue faced the Main Cathedral. The father of the catherdral complained and is was decided that the indians should be turned around and face West. This was done. Then, people began to complain that the women were worshipping the rising sun not the setting sun. So, they were turned around to face East again. Currently, people are complaining that the women look too fat, and indigenous women were not fat.
Why the city of Steel? The city is home to a large steel factory. Recently, the factory was bought by a Brazilian company and many of the former employees (just your average steel workers) became instant millionaires.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

One Family´s Return Trip: Museo Arqueológico

One of the places we always visit when we come to Colombia is the Museo Arqueológico in Sogamoso, Boyacá. The Museum is about 3 hours North of Bogotá on a safe road. It was established to house the remnants of the Musica/Chibcha culture. The Chibchas were the indigenous group that lived on the Altiplano Cundiboyacense prior to the Spanish arrival.
The museum has rebuilt the original ceremonial center of the town, including the Temple of the Sun. There are numerous displays including several mummies (boys seem to really like those), pottery, weapons, shrunken heads, and even skulls. They show how the Chibcha skull is quite different from your typical skull. Most of us have 3 bones that grown together after birth. Chibcha skulls have 4, 5, or even 6 bones that grown together. Pretty cool!
The area is actually an archeological site that is still under investigation. At certain times you can see archeology students from the UPTC (Universidad Pedogogica y Tecnologica de Colombia) working on projects.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

One Family´s Return Trip: Playing with Cousins

We consider it a great blessing that our boys have cousins to play with in Colombia. Part of the joy of the trip is seeing them together. One sadness has been seeing my boys feeling afraid to speak Spanish. They understand what their cousins are saying -- for the most part -- but they just get so frustrated trying to speak back to them. It makes me sad. I had always hoped that the boys would be fluent in both languages. It makes me feel more determined to speak to them in Spanish. I hope that we will be able to find other Spanish speakers in our community so that they can have people to practice with.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

One Family´s Return Trip: Monumento a Pedro Pascasio Martínez

In researching my husband´s family history we discovered that he is a distant relative of a famous Colombian hero -- Pedro Pascasio Martínez Rojas. Please take a moment to read this post that I wrote about this child hero:

This is our family paying homage to our famous ancestor. This monument is located about 1/4 mile off the main road. If you are coming from Bogotá, you will turn onto a dirt road to your right. The road is just a bit before you get to Puente Boyacá. So, you can visit it first.

Monday, July 26, 2010

One Family´s Return Trip: Puente Boyacá

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that it is Colombia´s Bicentennial. We have been excited to teach our little guys about Colombian Independence, so right after we celebrated the Fourth of July, we began a discussion about Colombia´s Independence. Part of the learning process included plans to visit several important historical sites. One of the most important is Puente Boyacá.

Puente Boyacá is located about 1 1/2 - 2 hours North of Bogotá. The road in most places is a divided highway and travel there is easy and safe. This is the site of the final battle where Simon Bolivar won independence for what is today Colombia -- the equivalent to Yorktown in the US.

To learn more about this battle, read my post here:

The day we stopped, we were fortunate to see Colombian soliders practicing for the July 20th and August 7th celebrations. They were dressed in the uniforms of the time. It was cool to see some reenacting of the battle. BOYS LOVED IT!!! For those who know my boys, you know that this couldn´t have been cooler!!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

One Family's Return Trip: Dealing With Fears and Melt Downs

You would think that two kids who have been looking for to this trip for months wouldn´t have any fears. Right??? WRONG!! The list of their concerns upon arriving in Bogotá has been lengthy. Our youngest, adopted from Bogota at almost 2 years of age, reverted to some self-soothing behaviors we haven´t seen for over a year. Our older child felt panicked when people began talking to him in Spanish. He would respond with the correct answers in English and look blankly at us when people didn´t seem to understand. Clearly, this experience is stressful, and not as joyful as we expected.

Here are some ideas for those of you bringing older children with you to Colombia.

1. Recognize that they will be stressed. So things that normally wouldn´t cause a melt down, ie being asked if they want to eat another arepa, may just bring it on. I thought that this only happened in our older son when we adopted our youngest because he was struggling with the whole sibling issue. Now, I see both of them a lot more on edge and realize that there is more afoot than I thought.

2. Sleep is essential. This one is hard, especially when visiting family. Everyone works until late and so their visits are even later. The boys are going to bed between 10 and 11 pm. No matter how quiet we try to be, the endless string of car alarms, honking horns, and neighbors with radios are cutting into the `sleeping in´ time. Try to establish clear bedtime limits. We have been excusing ourselves to help the boys get ready for bed and then trying to get them in bed on time -- not working as well as I would hope, but it is helpful.

3. Bring comfort food. Okay, I know luggage space is limited, but I can´t begin to tell you how much our boy´s attitude changed when we broke out the brownies.

4. Bring comfort objects. Again, with limited space it is hard, but that stuffed dog is keeping us sane.

5. Establish a signal word or phrase your child can use when he needs a break. We chose, "I need a huggie!" When being around so many people speaking a foreign language gets a bit overwhelming, our boys give us the signal and we make an escape for some alone time. Remember that in Colombia personal space is different so American kids can get easily overwhelmed by the closeness of new friends and relatives. We just seem to need more space to feel comfortable.

6. Don´t over plan. This one is more for me than anyone else. I wanted the boys to see so much, that I needed to reevaluate. They have been happier doing fewer things, and spending less time doing things than I thought. THIS DOES NOT MEAN SIT IN YOUR HOTEL OR COUSINS HOUSE FOR 4 WEEKS! Just keep it fun for the kids.

7. HAVE FUN!! This trip has been for the boys as much as for us, so we are trying to make sure everyday has something positive to record. The boys are writing their favorite experience of the day in a journal. It has been amazing to see that the things they like best are buying chocolatinas jet and playing with their aunt's dog.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

One Family´s Return Trip: El Dorado Airport

NO matter how many times I have flown into Bogotá, I always forget what a nightmare it is to get through immigration and customs. The night that we arrived 5 planes had arrived within 20 minutes and the line to go through immigration stretched the entire length of the corridor. So, I am going to give you the low down on making it through immigration as quickly as possible.

1. There are 4 lines. If you have children under 6, you can go through immigration quicker by going to the far left and walking past everyone until you get to the end of the shorter line. Here is a picture those are my boys walking past everyone. (There are bathrooms on the left near the front of the line, if you need them. I am happy to report that this time there were toilet seats and toilet paper.)

2. You will eventually make it to the front of the line. Make sure to have your passports ready. You will give them to the person at the booth marked DAS. Here is a tip based on our experience. There has been a lot of conversation about children that were adopted in Colombia entering Colombia on a foreign passport -- ie US passport. I can report that when presented with our son´s US passport -- which states he was born in Colombia--the DAS official asked for his Colombian passport -- so I am glad we brought it. He we are talking with the DAS official. I might add that you should not take pictures there as I learned upon taking this one. If you have an older US passport, they will direct you to wait in another line because their machines cannot read the old ones --learned this the hard way.
3. Proceed to get your suitcases. The signs may or may not be right. We arrived on Continental from Houston -- not American from Miami, but our cases were spinning here.
4. While one person gets the luggage, the other should take the passports to this booth that is in the same room as the luggage. Give your passports to the officer behind the window and you will not have to pay the exit tax when you leave the country. This only applies if you stay less than 60 days in Colombia.

5. Now you will go through customs -- DIAN. Here you present that paper you filled out on the plane. Then, they touch a button, if it is green, you can leave. If it is red, then you have to go through a more detailed inspection of what you are bringing into the country. In our case, we had to have our luggage x-rayed.
5. Then, you are free to leave. There are large crowds outside. If you want to take an authorized taxi, leave the airport to your right and look for the booth that says TAXIS AUTORIZADOS. There you will tell them where you are going and they will give you a paper that tells you the price. Then you get in line to take an authorized taxi. This should cost more than $8-10 US dollars.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

One Family´s Return Trip: The Plane Ride

Taking two kids -- 9 and 5 -- on an 18 hour travel experience is tough. You need to go well prepared. Here are some ideas:

For the 9 year old:

Drawing supplies
I-pod with preloaded audiobooks and music
Snacks chosen by child
Surprise gifts for end of first flight (dollar store)
Surprise gift for end of second flight (dollar store)
Hand sanitizer

For the 5 year old:

Coloring books with colored pencils
Sticker book
I-pod with preloaded stories and songs
Sticker Mosaics
Snacks chosen by child
Surprise gifts for end of first flight (dollar store)
Surprise gift for end of second flight (dollar store)
Hand sanitizer

We also made the layover a learning experience. Each child had been given $10 from grandma to spend on the trip. We took the money and had them exchange it at a booth in the Houston airport. We were able to look at Colombian money and talk about what they might spend it on.

On the plane from the US to Colombia, you will be given a form from DIAN (customs) that you will need to fill out. It is one per family. It looks like this.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One Family's Journey: Post-Adoption Reports

I wish I could tell you that after you get home that there is no more adoption paperwork!

I can't though. Bummer.

ICBF requires 4 post-adoption reports after you get home. The first one comes at 3 months. Our agency had us sign a "post-adoption" services agreement and reminded us to make an appt with our parole officer, I mean social worker.

I'm just kidding about the parole officer crack, our social worker is really nice.

Here's what we did for our first post-adoption visit. First we filled out a form that our agency wanted that detailed a whole lot of info about our son and his and our adjustment. What is he eating etc. etc. We sent that to our agency. Then our social worker came to visit us and asked us all the usual questions you would expect. I actually enjoyed this visit a lot because we had the opportunity to ask for her professional advice and opinions on different topics and tips for attachment. After observing him as he crawled all over my husband for the duration of the visit she declared him "on a good path to attachment".


Next she typed up a report that she sent to our agency. They compiled it with mine, notarized it and sent it to me. I was in charge of getting it apostilled and then sending it to our facilitator with 4-6 pictures of our son. I took the risky route and sent it US mail to Colombia with a check for the translation of the document. When it arrived a few weeks later our facilitator had it translated and dropped it off at ICBF.

Done! Annoying but relatively easy. We are now free and clear until October when we'll do our next report.

Okay, today concludes this run of guest-blogging for me! I hope that I provided info that everybody found helpful! I can't stay away for long so I might be back in the future but until then you can visit my personal blog La NotoriousMLE to get your dose of our Notorious Adventures.

Monday, July 19, 2010

One Family's Journey: The Daily Walk

Can I tell you all how much I love our Ergo carrier? It was a gift from my cousin and has been a huge blessing. Our son loves to be carried and we pack him in it to take long walks all the time. It is a wonderful way to spend timed together and sneak in lots of physical closeness: not always easy to do with a superactive, wiggly toddler! Another thing I used to do a lot was sing a "song" I invented in Bogota to teach him that my name was "Mama". He used to call his foster mom "Tia" so the whole "Mama" concept was new. The song goes like this...

Elian y la Mama! Elian y la Ma-ma! Vamos juntos a caminar!
Translation: Elian and Mama. Elian and Mama. We go walking together.

I'm sure you can all see my lyrical prowess is astounding! I impressed many a stray Bogotano with my singing skills.

In all seriousness though the song was very helpful to teach him his name and my name. He loved to hear the song because it meant we were going out walking and while I sang it I would put his hand on him when I said his name and on me when I said "Ma-ma" We would sing it over and over everyday while walking around Bogota and now we sing it while walking around our neighborhood in California. I've gotten a lot of weird looks but let me tell you they were more than worth it the first time Elian called me "Mama" and reached up with expectant arms.

We use songs for all sorts of routines to make them exciting. Elian is usually not interested in sitting down to hear a speech about how we are his parents and love him so much but we can sing about it ALL DAY LONG!

Disclaimer: I am not an adoption expert, social worker, therapist, doctor or even an experienced Mom. Everything I blog about is our personal experience and should not be considered professional advice.

Friday, July 16, 2010

One Family's Journey: Teteros

Our son almost instantaneously lost a lot of the vocabulary he used with his foster family but one word that survived the encuentro was "tete", short for "tetero" or bottle. During our encuentro meeting the ICBF social worker gave me his bottle and said "Do not take this away from him. This bottle is his identity".

When your social worker tells you this. Take it seriously! Bottle-feeding is so important! The sucking motion activates the part of the brain that helps children relax. Holding your child while they take a bottle helps them associate you with the relaxed, calming sensation. Eventually you won't need the bottle, your presence alone will make your child feel safe, relaxed and secure. This is why we still give Elian a bottle with no immediate plans to stop. I have known parents who've done this with adopted children who are much older with great success. I know it sounds weird but really, if your child will take a bottle do yourself a favor and enjoy that quality time! Our son is a whirling dervish of energy and I cherish giving him a bottle first thing in the morning and at night before bed. It is one of the only times of day when he relaxes against us and cuddles. For the past six months I've given him a bottle and sung him the same lullaby every night. He used to kind of blankly stare pointedly away from me. Tonight before I began writing this post he finished his bottle, snuggled against me and for the first time joined me in singing his lullaby. His sweet, little voice made my heart swell with joy. I will always remember that moment and absolutely credit the previous six months of bottle feeding with making it possible.

Disclaimer: I am not an adoption expert, social worker, therapist, doctor or even an experienced Mom. Everything I blog about is our personal experience and should not be considered professional advice.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

One Family's Journey: The Inner Circle

Today I'm going to talk about boundaries.

Our son is adorable with a capital A so people want to pick him up all the time but we are very strict about not allowing this. Here's why: Our child was young enough to know he had lost his foster mother but not old enough to understand why it happened or who we were. We were very strict about his contact with other people so that he wouldn't wonder whether or not he was going to be passed off again to a new set of parents. In order to help him differentiate between us and other people we set something up that I called "The Inner Circle": a set of boundaries to help teach him the difference between "parents", "close friends" and "acquaintances". It looked something like this:

Parents: Change diapers, provide food, pick up and comfort, give baths and bottles at night.

Close Friends and Family: Can pick him up and hold hands if our son requests. No giving him food. Only applies to people who are both close friends and family and will be around a lot. So a close friend that would only be seen 2 or 3 times a year does not fall into this category.

Acquaintances or Friends/Family we don't see often: Can say hi and play with him on the floor but no picking up.

I have to warn you that it was sometimes very hard to enforce this. In Colombia especially people are very friendly and hands on and our son's cuteness is irresistible. We did our best to be strong but there were defenitely times when I gave in and regretted it later. When we came back it was even harder. Everybody was very excited for us and to meet Elian. Some people were hurt and offended that we wouldn't let them pick him up. The "Inner Circle" strategy led to some akward moments and hurt feelings but we needed to prioritize our son's sense of security. After all, he had lost his caregivers once already! Ocasionally when I would break our "rules" I could see the panic set in almost immediately when strangers picked him up. I regret those moments when I didn't stick to my guns.

Now that we have been home awhile we are a bit more relaxed. We let our close friends give him food and pick him up. He loves hanging out with his grandparents and lives for playdates with his godparents. The bottle however is still sacred! More on that tomorrow...

Disclaimer: I am not an adoption expert, social worker, therapist, doctor or even an experienced Mom. Everything I blog about is our personal experience and should not be considered professional advice.

PS Do I have you worried that adoption is all weird rules and attachment games? Never fear because we have millions of fun, normal moments every day. I write about those on my personal blog which you can check out here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

One Family's Journey: Eye Contact

One of the big jobs of adoption is teaching or in our case re-teaching your child family skills. Our son was about 15 months when we adopted him and he refused to look us in the eyes regularly for a long time. This was really disconcerting. All day long people would fawn over our very adorable son and tell us how much we looked like a family all while he would avoid looking at us as much as possible.

There are lots of tricks that you can use to teach eye-contact use but of the easiest for us was the "food between the eyes" trick. We would hold pieces of bread between our eyes so he would have to look at us when he asked for food. Otherwise he would studiously stare at the ceiling for the whole time we fed him. The idea is that doing this helps your child associate your eyes, your face, and you as the person who is now caring for him and providing food. Food=love to people of all ages and it is very important to establish yourself as the food people. Other ways of practicing eye contact include hide and seek and peekaboo games, singing songs together and making goofy faces. We used all these tactics but for us and our active little guy the "tortilla chip" between the eyes trick worked best! If you have more tips for parents who are teaching eye contact leave them in the comments!

Disclaimer: I am not an adoption expert, social worker, therapist, doctor or even an experienced Mom. Everything I blog about is our personal experience and should not be considered professional advice.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

One Family's Journey: The Mourning Period

Meeting your child is an amazing, wonderous and joyous experience. I have to say that the first day we met Elian exceeded my wildest expectations. It was absolutely beautiful... and then... there was a hard period.

Most children who come from Colombia have spent some time with foster families. Many have spent time with families to whom they've become very attached which is a positive and healthy thing. However, this also means that once your child realizes they are not on some kind of extended play date there is a possibility of a mourning period.

For us the mourning period meant long days of hysterical, extended tantrums. I don't mean terrible two obstinate tantrums, I mean wildly out of control, scary, heart-breaking tantrums all the time almost the entire six weeks we spent in Bogota. And then some more while we got adjusted back home. It also meant he pretty much refused to eat anything but yogurt and bread the whole time we were in Colombia and then again when we got home. It was exhausting and heartbreaking because the only thing we could do was accompany him through the process and tell ourselves "This is positive. It is healthy for him to mourn." I can't really say that it made me feel better though. My son would whimper his foster mother's name at night as we put him to bed and call out for her in the mornings. The emotional stress of not being able to help him was quite frankly overwhelming. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. And just when he was starting to get used to us we took him on a 13 hour plane ride to the U.S. which lead to round 2 of the disoriented/mourning process.

Lesson learned. The mourning period/adjustment process can be very long and painful.

I know that blogging about this is a bummer. Meeting your child is very exciting and beautiful experience and it is not my intention to discourage future adoptive parents. It's my hope that by being honest about all aspects of our journey other parents will be ready for the possibility that they could be in for a very rough ride and prepare accordingly.

Elian is a happy kid now. Our social worker says that he's on a good track in terms of attachment and that his mourning was a positive sign for his adjustment. Even in Bogota when he wasn't having a bad moment we had a lot of fun but if I were to do it all over again I would've done some really good research on stress management because I needed it badly while we were there. Excercise. Prayer. Yoga. Whatever is your thing, have it ready to go if you need it. Adoption has turned me from a sporadic excerciser to a person who excercises every, single day. And I have to tell you I NEVER thought I would be that kind of person. But it calms me and helps me manage the hard days.

Whew! This was a heavy subject but I felt it would be dishonest for me to not talk about the hard times we had. Tomorrow we'll lighten things up. I promise!

Disclaimer: I am not an adoption expert, social worker, therapist, doctor or even an experienced Mom. Everything I blog about is our personal experience and should not be considered professional advice.

Monday, July 12, 2010

One Family's Journey: We're baaaack!

Hi everybody, This is Emily from La NotoriousMLE. If you've been reading awhile you might remember me, my husband and our beautiful little boy Elian from the "One Family's Journey" series. We came back from Bogota on January 30, 2010 and just celebrated our little one's second birthday a few days ago. Over the next week or so I'll be talking about our experiences since returning including challenges we've faced, mistakes we've made (eek) and what we would've done differently. I'll also talk about tips and tricks we've learned from our social worker, books and friends as well as the process for the post-adoption visitations and reports.

If you would like me to speak to any specific issues about the "after the adoption" process please leave your request in the comment section and I'll do my best to add a post for your topic.

Friday, July 09, 2010

One Family's Return Trip: Altitude Sickness

I have never had altitude sickness before when visiting Colombia. But, always before we have lived at 4,500 ft, and the ascent to 8,661 (the altitude of Bogotá) wasn't too much of a stretch. This time, however, we are coming from Sea Level and I have to admit I am a bit concerned -- especially for my little Colombianito. Last year, we took him from our 4,500 feet to the top of Pikes Peak (14, 110) -- a nearly 10,000 foot climb in 2 hours. He turned blue in the lips and started vomiting. We had to pack up the car and head down the mountain -- much to the chagrin of older brother. This time, we plan to stay at that high altitude for 3 weeks, and unfortunately for us, Acute Mountain Sickness (Altitude Sickness) is most common in children. Ouch!!

For adults, there seem to be medical and herbal solutions, but nothing for kids. Double Ouch!

The good news is that symptoms usually disappear withing a few days. However, if they get worse, it could lead to high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or high-altitude cerebral edema
(HACE) -- both of which are very serious. In reality, I am not too worried. But, it is something to be aware of.

For your information, the following score card is used by Mountain Climbers to assess their sickness.

Acute Mountain Sickness Scorecard


Nausea or loss of appetite ................................1
Sleeping problems (insomnia) .........................1
Giddiness/Dizziness..................................... ...1
Headache that remains after aspirin................2
Difficult breathing at rest...............................3
Abnormal or intense fatigue............................3
Decreased urination........................................3

Total Score AMS Degree Treatment

1-3 Light Aspirin or Acetaminophen
4-6 Moderate Aspirin or Acetaminophen; rest, prevent ascent
> 6 Acute Descend, Descend, Descend!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Bicentennial of Colombian Indepenence: Timeline & Pictures

I know that many of my readers are homeschooling and have children adopted from Colombia. I have gotten e-mail from you requesting information about Colombian Independence and History, so that you can prepare lessons for your kiddos. Here are 9 resources for you. The sites are in Spanish.

Here are a few great resources:

#1 -- Colombian Independence in Pictures:

#2 -- Colombian Independence Timeline:

#3 -- Musical Memories of the Independence

#4 -- Anecdotes from Colombian History:

#5 -- FACEBOOK & Twitter friends: The Colombian government has set up 3 facebook accounts for people to learn more about Simon Bolivar, Manuela Saenz, and Santander. One twitter account for Antonio Nariño. These historical figures "post about their activities" and famous quotes. Santander has gotten a little off track talking about the World Cup, but who can blame him.

#6 -- Ministry of Culture Short:

Cultura es independencia from Ministerio de Cultura on Vimeo.

#7 -- Radio series about the Independence of Colombia -- some are reports others are dramatizations

#8 -- Video series about the Independence of Colombia -- a little dry, just conversations between university professors. However, I learned stuff! Might be better for the adult to watch and summarize for the kids.

#9 -- Read books online

Good luck preparing your lessons. If you would like to share them with other homeschooling parents, please e-mail me and we could post the lesson plan here.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Bicentennial of Colombian Indepenence: Plan & El Gran Concierto

If you will be in Colombia on July 20th, there will be a special Mass held at the Cathedral in the Plaza de Bolivar from 7:30 am to 8:30 am. This will be followed by a military parade from 9:00 am until noon. It will run down the Avenida 68 starting at Calle 53.

At Noon all around the country, the National Anthem and the Bicentennial Theme Song will be played. Then, from 12:05 until 3pm there will be a nationwide concert. Over 1, 100 cities and towns in Colombia and Colombians in 45 different countries will participate. Unfortunately, many of the International Concerts will not be held on the 20th, so check dates for your area (link below). Also, check with the Colombian Consulate or Embassy in your area for more information.

In areas outside of Bogotá, there will be parades from 8 am until 10 am. The Gran Concert from 12:05 until 3 and community festivals, dances, and parties from 3 pm until 6pm.

Around the nation, there will be fireworks at 7 pm.

If you want to attend the concert nearest you, check here for locations in your country -- Europe, Asia, Latin America:

In the US, there will be performances in Boston, Washington D.C., and Miami.

15 July -- Boston – Roger Williams Auditorium / Time: TBA
17 July -- Washington D.C. – Room of the Americas – OAS -/ Time: TBA
18 July -- Miami / Time: TBA

In Australia, there will be performances in Sydney and Canberra.

20 July / Sydney Conservatory / Time: TBA
21 July/ Canberra Theater / Time TBA

In Canada, there will be a performance in Ottawa

17 July -- Ottawa – First Unitarian Ottawa Theater/ Time: 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Bicentennial of Colombian Indepenence: Theme Song

What Celebration doesn't need a theme song? We saw Shakira's Waka Waka during the Munidal (World Cup). But, the Alta Consejería Presidencial para el Bicentenario de la Independencia de Colombia (The Presidential High Council on the Bicentennial of Colombian Independence) and The History Channel sponsored the creation of the Bicentennial theme song.
The music was written by Miguel de Narváez and the lyrics by Andrés Camacho. The video features several famous Colombian artists: Carlos Vives, Maía, María Cecilia Botero, Andrés Cepeda, Cecilia “ChechiBaena, Humberto Dorado, Silvia Tcherassi and Jorge Celedón.
If you can read music, you can get it here:
Here are the lyrics:
El sol hoy brilla mas.
Mas de lo que somos
hoy vamos a dar.
Para construir un país mas unido
una Colombia que brille mas.

Mas de mi tierra,mas identidad.
Mas grande se hace el orgullo
en cada palpitar.

Mas Colombia,mas de mi Pais.
Mas quiero vivirte
y ser parte de Ti

Monday, July 05, 2010

Bicentennial of Colombian Independence

One of the pluses of heading to Colombia this summer is that the country is in high gear in celebration of its 200th anniversary of Independence. I want my boys to remember Colombia's Bicentennial the way I remember America's Bicentennial in 1976. I was the same age as my Little Colombianito the year my country celebrated its Bicentennial. For years, I had a Bicentennial quarter and 7-up bottle in my room.

Not sure what trinkets we will pick up for the boys, but I want it to be memorable for them. For those of you who are not familiar with the story of Colombian Independence, here is a recap:

The first movement for Independence from Spain which began in what is now Colombia on the 20th of July 1810. On that 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 (Llorante was 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 were established in the years leading up to the 1810 Flower Vase Incident. In Nueva Granada (Colombia), 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 interests were not well represented and many had secretly begun to discuss creating an independent nation state.

In an act of protest, Criollos soon formed a secret group, also called a Junta, that included several prominent Criollo civil authorities and intellectuals. They began meeting in member's homes 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 which could then give rise to an overall feeling of public 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 would be full of common citizens.(La Plaza Principal is known today as the Plaza de Bolívar in Bogotá)

On the appointed day, a little before noon, Luis de Rubio went to Llorente's store to ask to borrow the 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.

The base of the famed Flower Vase of Llorente

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 in 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, we plan to visit the Museum of the Flower Vase or the House of the 20th of July. I recommend that you go too! Take pictures with your kids and teach them the history of Colombian Independence.

The Museum 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.


Saturday, July 03, 2010

Help Friends of Colombian Orphans

I do not normally post on the Weekend, but I know that some people only get around to reading blogs then. I wanted to remind everyone of the CHASE Charity giveaway on Facebook. Friends of Colombian Orphans is competing for $20,000. This money would go a long way to help older orphans, who will probably never find homes, become self-sufficient. Let's help this cause !!!!

How to vote in the Chase Giving contest:

1. Have a facebook account.
2. Go to Chase Giving on Facebook and “like” the application. You can “unlike” it later if you want.
3. Follow the directions for voting. When asked to type in a charity, type COLOMBIAN ORPHANAGES.
4. You get to vote only ONE time for FOCO, but you also have 19 other votes to use. After voting 20 times, you get a gift vote. Use the gift vote to send to another friend who hasn’t voted for FOCO twice.
5. Please: go back to the voting page and hit the “share with friends” button. You will be able to send your friends personal messages and have the voting page appear on their home pages. This is a CRITICAL part of being successful, because personal messages get friends’ attention.
6. Tell friends that, if it’s getting too complicated, please just do steps 1-3 and vote for COLOMBIAN ORPHANGES.

You can read an interview with FOCO's founder, Jane King, here:

Friday, July 02, 2010

One Family's Return Trip: Bogota's Informal Economy

One of the hardest things for me to see in Colombia is the poverty. I find the plight of many Colombianos very moving. It is hard for me to pass street vendors, beggars, and street performers without wanting to help everyone. I recently read a report which stated that in Bogotá alone, more that half of the population survive daily from what they earn in the "informal economy".

By definition the informal economy is "economic activity that is neither taxed nor monitored by the government." Participants in the informal economy include the VENDEDORES (both on the street and in the buses) and CANTANTES mentioned this week. It is hard for me to believe that over half of the city, 4.3 million people, live outside of the formal economy.

Here is a youtube video of what my boys can expect to see of the informal economy in Bogotá.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

One Family's Return Trip: Taxi Etiquette #1

Let's face it, some cars seem more sturdily built than others. Recently, I was at the Honda Dealer getting a recall on my Odyssey fixed. While I was there, I tried out the new FIT. BACKGROUND: When you climb into the Odyssey, it takes some muscles to close the door. You give the door a big yank. Well, I gave the FIT's door a big yank -- out of habit -- and the whole car shook. Instantly, I was teleported mentally to Colombia. I remembered an experience from my first trip.

Hubby and I were in a rainstorm in Bogotá waiting for a cab with friends. I had been in Colombia just a few hours. When the Cab pulled up, my husband and our friends climbed in the back, so that I could sit shotgun and see better. I was eager to get out of the rain, and as I yanked the taxi door shut, the whole car shuddered. GASPS!! came from the Taxi driver, our friends and my husband. "What? Sorry!" I truly didn't believe that shutting the door a little forcefully deserved the third degree stares I was getting.

Once out of the car, hubby pulled me aside to explain that in Colombia you have to be very careful when closing car doors. People believe that if you close the door too forcefully, you will damage the car -- this may be true, I'll have to call Tom and Ray on that one.

LEARN THIS LESSON! GENTLY CLOSE CAR DOORS ALWAYS!! It is better to have to attempt to close the door several times softly, than to slam it in one big swing.