Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Our Time in La Mesa

We arrived here in La Mesa on Tuesday. After leaving Bogota around 9am, it was about a three-hour drive into the mountains.  The drive was interesting as we saw a lot of the city and then the countryside…and then the mountains where there is very little except a few hotels and small stores.  However, the drive was also long as there was construction on the mountain road and we spent quite a bit of time sitting still.  Sitting still with an 18-month old in the back of a taxi can get very tricky. 

Our Bogota Traffic Jam  Faces
Headed into the mountains.

We were given several options for where to stay during this time as we awaited our court date.  The hope is that you will be here for three nights, but there is no guarantee; there is another adoptive family here now that has been here longer than one week and are still unsure of their departure.  So you hope that you have chosen well for your stay!  Our attorney told us she had not had any families stay here, but we liked the way it looked online and it was one of our given choices so we decided to give it a try.  If we were unhappy, we had the option of going to a different place.  And so we pulled up around noon, were asked by our driver in broken English if it seemed ok, and were deposited here at the top of the mountain. 
Finca Hotel Paraiso Terrenal

While you are in this area, they tell you that ‘the wifi may be spotty.’  What they really need to say is that ‘wifi may or may not work here at all depending on the day, the weather, and the general mood of the wifi.  Your in-country phone will only work in only one spot, and your personal cell phone will work for calling…never.  Perhaps once a day you will suddenly get all of your texts and messages, and then after that you can wait til tomorrow.’  From this hotel, the closest ‘real’ store was a 25-minute drive each way.  So picture us just being far far away from anything other than the staff and the other guests.  The only ‘other guests’ when we arrived were the other adoptive family--that was all.  And so we again hoped we had chosen well. It was beautiful, that much we knew right away.

The balcony area off of our room.
Part of our view from the balcony.
Waterfalls were very present along the paths.

Part of the view from the main balcony.

The rest of the view!

In the end, it was definitely God’s provision that had us here. Violet had a very upset stomach since the first day she was with us {update: we discovered this week it has been a parasite--hopefully she will be on the mend very soon!}.  We thought it might be the food, all of the changes, the water—we just didn’t know.  When we had the pediatrician visit, she told us to just keep an eye on it.  But shortly after we arrived here, it was clear this was not going away and was probably not related to what she was eating.  On the first day at the hotel, she went through multiple clothes changes and a whole lot of diapers.  We needed clothes changes, as well, after it was all said and done.  At this time, we were still trying to acclimate ourselves to being here and were feeling the stress.  So we called for help, and our in-country person explained what was happening to the hotel staff.  They did our messy laundry with no fuss.  The manager wanted to be sure she was ok and that she did not need anything.  He is the only one of the staff who speaks English, and even then he only speaks a little.  However, every single person we encountered here has treated all of us with such kindness.  They put up with our attempts at their language and for the most part we were able to communicate well.  There was one particular woman who cleaned the rooms and decided to take on the role of abuela and be sure ‘la nina’ was well cared for.  She apparently also decided we spoke fluent Spanish and would give me very long speeches.  I got about 75% of it, though, and for the rest I would just nod and say, ‘Si,’ and she was happy.  She even made Violet some sort of special soup or tea (we could never tell which it was) that was for her ‘estomago.’   They showed their concern and wanted to be sure she received her ‘medicina,’ a probiotic, which she did as the doctor had it delivered on Wednesday evening.  (Praise be for their pharmacies and the places here that deliver, but that’s another topic…)
Seating area outside of the rooms.

Inside one of the rooms.

They washed her sippy cups and toddler spoons for us each day, brought out a tiny plate or bowl for her with little portions on it at every meal, and they helped us feel safe and cared for in a place where for the first 24 hours we felt a little alone and very unsure.  The manager and the desk clerk helped us read the directions on the formula can as they were extremely confusing (he had to have two others help, too, so it wasn’t just our language skills) and then had the ladies in the kitchen prepare it so she would have clean, warm water for her milk.  The owner (the manger’s father) was here on the second day, figured out what was going on, and had them send a carafe to our room with hot water so that we could make her formula up here without going down to the kitchen when we needed it.  Who does these things?  It appears the Colombians do.  They told us the hotel is a family business, and it shows.

This hotel was not perfect.  The power went out every night while we were here, each night at a different time.  In fact, it just went out right now as I am typing (the beauty of using a Word document as there is no internet anyways…).  As previously mentioned, you might have trouble with outside communication.   If you are looking for frilly accommodations and a completely bug-free bathroom, it might not be your kind of place.  You will be warned about the bugs in La Mesa, and that part is very accurate.  There are bugs.  Lots of bugs.  Strange creepy crawlies and then just regular old pests like gnats and flies.  But that is not the fault of the hotel; that is the way it is here because of the more tropical climate.  It rains a lot.  Every morning and every night it has rained while we have been here.  I don’t mind it because it is peaceful and it makes things cooler for sleeping, but I’m sure if you were looking for a great vacation spot it would put a damper on things.  There are many birds here which is lovely until you meet the roosters.  These roosters became my enemies after the first afternoon when we realized they crow at all hours of the day.  All. Day. Long.  I do think the rain is the only thing that shuts their beaks, but don’t be fooled—they’ll be back.  These poor fellows have no idea that their job is to crow in the mornings.   They are an all day show. 

He shall be called 'El Diablo.' 
That being said, I doubt you could find a more beautiful place to stay.  The name of the hotel means ‘Paradise on Earth,’ and they named it correctly.  We took lots of pictures, but it’s simply so lovely and hard to describe.  There are so many different types of plants, flowers, birds, waterfalls, and then there is the simple beauty of the hotel itself.  And the food alone would be enough without all of the rest.   Our meals were included in the hotel stay, and they served typical Colombian food.  However, there was nothing typical about it.  I am seriously going to need to up my cooking game when we get back home as everyone so enjoyed the way we have eaten for the past few days.  Tonight we asked the kitchen staff the name of one of the soups so that I can try to find a recipe, and we also asked for the key to preparing the ‘chocolate’ in the mornings.  Each morning after breakfast, they ask if you would like ‘cafĂ© or chocolate.’ Natalie and Grant are now ruined and are expecting this magic to appear in the mornings at home.  Since this does not compare with our sad version of hot chocolate at home, we found out the secret and hope to find the right ingredients in the states.  I think they were happy that we wanted to know how to make those things—they were so willing to share.  We want Violet to know the traditions of her culture, and while these things seems small and  may take some trial and error we are going to give them a try.
Enjoying her morning chocolate.
Bemoaning the lack of the chocolate.
A  traditional salad before the meal.

Their larger meal is at lunchtime, so there was always a soup (sopa) before the meal. as well.

Someone was a big fan of the sopa.
Tomorrow morning we leave to go into the town of La Mesa for court.  They are preparing our breakfast early so they we have something to eat before we go.  That is just how it is here.  Then we will return to Bogota to finish our stay.  While we are all anticipating going home, part of me dreads the return back to the busy-ness of the city for our last week.  This is a place where you have to ignore all of the distractions because there are very few!  We have had a peaceful time here once we got the sickness somewhat under control.  We have played games on the game tables set up all around the hotel—pool (billiards), chess, ping pong, giant Chinese checkers.  We have strolled Violet all around the grounds which she loved, and then we have walked for ages while she pushed her stroller all around the grounds again.  (We also really like nap time!)  

We have struggled, but we have also laughed a lot together.  We have taken our time because there is nowhere to go and no schedule to keep.  Well, other than when the next meal happens because you definitely don’t want to miss that.  We have been able to show Violet her first glimpses of what family should be because there are not any appointments and no...anything else!   And it has been surprisingly good.  While I will be thankful for the conveniences of the apartment and the steps that take us closer to going home, I am grateful for the days we have spent here.  There is a small area for prayer near our hotel room.  The Bible there stands open to Psalm 27, so I decided to read it tonight.  
 It begins: “The Lord is my light and my salvation.  Whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life.  Of whom shall I be afraid?”  It ends with this: “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” Just another reminder that He had us right where we needed to be.  Tomorrow is a big day.  Tomorrow we ‘officially’ and legally become a family forever.  But God has already done this in all of our hearts.  So I go to bed very tired but with a full heart that is thankful for the quiet and the peacefulness here.  And for the gift of tomorrow. Buenas Noches, La Mesa.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Today we had what is called our 'Integration' meeting.  At this time, you complete the process at the orphanage and the papers are signed to move your file to court.  We met our attorney bright and early at a local cafe right next door to La Casa, Violet's orphanage.  We had a lovely breakfast and time to collect our thoughts before walking over to begin the meetings.  Our first meeting was with one of the psychologists there. She is wonderful, and our time with her went well.  She mostly asked us questions about any behaviors we were seeing or any concerns we might have.  She also gave us some very helpful Spanish terms to use when we need them that we did not already know.  We got to take a picture of her with our family and also withe one of Violet's caregivers that spent the most time with her.  Her little face lit up when she saw her--it was very sweet.

The next meeting was with the 'Defensora.'  In technical terms, this means a child's legal guardian. She had a few specific questions for us, but our time with her was not very long.  At the end of our meeting, she told us that "Violet will be an angel to your family, and you are already angels to her."  It was an important moment for us to receive that approval from her and also to know the papers were all signed!!

Our next step is to go to a little town called La Mesa where our court proceedings will be held.  Due to the length of time it was taking for cases to process in Bogota, they began sending families to La Mesa as your time there is only 4-7 days.  We are praying for 4!  It is more tropical in this area which sounds very nice, but that also means lots of bugs and the need for sunscreen.  We hope it is a restful time for us as most of our days have been busy so far.  They have been really good days--just busy.

We did go to a very fun restaurant for a late lunch/early dinner tonight.  Andres Carne de Res was recommended to us by more than one person, and it did not disappoint.  The food was delicious, the atmosphere was fun, and all of us had a good time.  It was definitely worth the drive!

Bedtime is getting easier.  We have found a routine that works and helps her to feel safe.  This means a more peaceful end to the day, and that is a very good feeling.  We are so thankful for her precious little life and that God decided we were fit to receive such a beautiful gift.  She is truly a miracle to us.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Day 5: Adventures in the Neighborhood

Our day started off with a pediatrician visit.  What a wonderful and amazing doctor she was!  When our in-country representative told us the doctor would see us on Saturday morning, I assumed it would be regular office hours like home.  She came to the office just to see us! And was so helpful and kind not just to Violet but to all of us.  She hugged all 5 of us as we left.  What a better world it would be if more doctors were like her.  (Actually, more people in general!)

We were then able to come back to the apartment for a little bit of down time and some lunch, and Violet had her nap.  In the middle of the afternoon, we decided to take her for her first family stroll and walk a few blocks through our the neighborhood.  We stopped at a market and then at a shop to get arepas-- a Colombian staple-- and some sort of delicious looking jam-filled pastry with cinnamon on top.  I couldn't try that one, but it looked so good! Then we headed back here for the rest of the day.

It was interesting to watch our sweet girl interact as we walked around today.  She got very quiet after awhile--I'm not sure what she thought about all of the activity.  She perked right back up when we came back here, though, so she is definitely getting comfortable with us and with the routines we are trying to keep for her.

Food has been the most active issue for me.  I have simply forgotten how much preparation there is to feed a toddler and also just how often you need to be ready to feed them!  All of those are good things--they just take some retraining for us.  Right now we can't just feed her pizza!  It requires some thought and planning which we will readjust to soon enough.  That being said, she'd eat pizza if we let her!  She loves her food, so that makes it fun.

Bedtime for the past two nights has been the hardest part of our day.  When she takes a nap, she goes down just fine.  The first night she was with us, she also went right to sleep immediately.  Now there is something about bedtime that is hard.  We asked at our encuentro meeting if there was a specific routine or something they say or do at the orphanage at bedtime for the children, but were told not really.  They just know it's bedtime!  We may ask one of her specific caregivers at our meeting on Monday if she can think of anything that would help.  There is obviously something for her that is missing, other than all of the obvious things with such a big change in her little life.  If we can do something to make that easier, we want to know what it is.  Does she need a light on?  Is it too loud? Is there something we need to say or sing or know to do?  She was used to very specific routines, and a family routine is a bit different even though we are trying to keep her schedule the same for now as that is better for her.  That's the hard part--we don't know what her little mind and heart is needing, but we can give her all of the love that we can.  So tonight we sang, we rocked, we had some milk, we rocked some more.  I have done all sorts of reading and training and know all of the 'appropriate' things to do for this situation, but nothing prepares you for what it does in your heart when you are actually right there in the middle of it. To know your baby is hurting and you cannot fill that place yet.  So we also prayed.  Sometimes the very best lullabies are worship songs that lead you in prayer. There is joy is the journey of adoption--so much joy!  But their is also loss and pain and a little heart that is probably very confused.  And so we walk through it together, as a family.  She is sleeping now, and tomorrow is a new day.  We are thankful for this one and for all the ones ahead of us.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Rest Day

Today we had a much needed rest day.  Victor & Violet had an appointment this morning, but they were back before 10am.  Then he ran a few errands on his own like drying the laundry at the corner laundromat (because in case you are wondering, towels take a long time to hang dry) and getting a few groceries, but the big kids and I stayed in our pajamas almost the entire day.  It was so nice to have that time here with one another--no taxis, no traffic, no crowds. Just a day of being 'normal,' which was so good!  All five of us played and laughed and ate and then did it all again.

I will say that today is either a secret holiday here or someone nearby is having one excellent fiesta. There has been music, singing (by singing, think very loud singing/shouting) and all kinds of things going on all day long.  I can't tell if they are across the street or a couple of blocks away, but they are having a good time for sure!  While I appreciate their celebration,  I hope they have tired themselves out and will decide it is time for quiet soon. Or at least before morning!

The sounds of the city are so different and constant.  On the first night, Lucy asked if we slept well. Victor did because he can sleep through anything.  I said it took me a long time to fall asleep because of the noise.  She said she had never heard anyone say it was noisy.  We laughed because I told her these are different kinds of noises than what we are used to.  She said, "Oh, yes--you are right!" There is the bustle of traffic, cars honking, dogs barking, people passing by, and maybe even some singing!  It continues all night.  This morning there was a band and then a saxophone player.  You just never know!  It's louder than home, but it is so interesting and fun to watch.  This is my first time outside of the USA, so I am taking it all in.  It is such a great experience for Natalie and Grant to be here and see the people and their culture because we are right in the middle of it!  I am also glad they are old enough to remember this.

Today was a wonderful first 'full' day as a family.   I'm hoping tomorrow will be just as good.  But first, I am hoping for sleep!!! Very quiet sleep...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Encuentro Day

Today was our 'Encuentro day.'  Our driver picked us up at 9:00am, and our appointment was at 10:30. Morning Bogota traffic, or 'hora pico,' definitely meant it took that long to get there!  I think we made it at 10:20.  Once we arrived, they took our bag to go get our girl ready to meet her family.  While we waited, we talked with her team of caregivers who told us all about her.  We could not have asked for kinder, more wonderful people to be caring for our daughter while she was with them.    We are quickly learning that Colombians are warm, lovely people, and we are thankful for this heritage for our sweet girl. 

We were able to spend a little while there and then return to the apartment for lunch and to be alone together as a family for the first time. Later in the afternoon, we had an appointment with the embassy doctor who was also extremely kind and wonderful.  That visit did not take a great deal of time, and we were able to be back at the apartment by early evening. Natalie and Grant are so proud and already love their sister so much.  It is amazing to watch them all interact with each other and already know that there is something special taking place between them. We can see so many reasons now just why we had to wait so long for this day.

I can tell a funny story.  We had the same driver all day today, Edgar.  He was extremely nice and pleasant.  While he spoke very little English, he humored our attempts to communicate with him using our non-expert Spanish.  As we were riding along, he asked Victor about Prince.  Victor thought he was asking if we knew his music since it happened to be playing on the radio right then.  We did not realize until later when we were out of the car that he was trying to ask if we knew Prince had died.   Ohhhh, nice.  So--we laughed at ourselves. A lot.  The next time he drove us, we were able to tell him.  He laughed, too--though probably more because we were so pitiful with our language skills. We'll keep working, Edgar...

Today was so many things.  It was a beautiful day for our family.  It was long and tiring and filled with all kind of emotions, but it was all so good.  When we are able, we will tell the whole story.  For now, you can see some pictures of our 'pre-appointment' preparations.  We are tired tonight, but we are so happy and thankful.

Our last photo as a family of 4!

All of the things to entertain her!   She liked the Puffs snacks the best, but she also loved her toys. 

We brought 2 outfits so they could choose the best fitting one and/or preferred style for her.  Natalie was able to go help them dress her and get her ready.  She wore the one on the right.  It was such a sweet morning. 

Our special day cake!  I sadly did not get to sample it because of the gluten-allergy plague,
but according to  everyone else it was very good! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Bogota, Days 1 & 2

I'm going to call this 'Days 1 & 2' even though yesterday didn't really count as we arrived very late and only saw the airport and our beds.  I hope to document our journey in some way each day while we are here on this adventure.  And an adventure it has been so far already!

Last night our plane landed at 9pm.  We headed to customs which took a fairly long time, then we went down to retrieve our luggage.  There we learned that Grant's suitcase had mistakenly been taken by another passenger with a similar suitcase.  After going through the process of giving our contact information, bag description, etc., it was nearly 10:30pm and we went to look for our driver.   There was a little confusion as to just how many of us would be arriving, so they had to arrange for a taxi instead.  Either way, we were so happy to just be out of the airport and headed to a place we could rest!  We were met at our apartment by Lucy,a friend and the person from whom we are renting, to get our keys and a very warm welcome.

After a night of everyone else sleeping while I attempted sleep, instead discovering that the city is very loud at night, we had breakfast with Lucy at a place one block away called Archie's.   I have a photo of the kids' pancakes which I will post at some point, but they were ridiculously good as was all of our food.  And the coffee was heavenly!  Lucy was kind enough to be our guide this morning and show us around the entire area where we are staying.  She told us which stores were good for certain things, which shops have the best breakfast pastries and coffee, and gave us many more bits of information that we would never have had otherwise.   We are so thankful for her.  We said goodbye to her and then did our grocery shopping.  I feel we did fairly well considering this was our first-ever foreign country grocery experience.  The kids helped with everything, and we walked back to our apartment feeling fairly accomplished.  Grant's suitcase was also found and delivered to us this morning, so everyone was very happy and relieved.

Later in the afternoon, we went to the corner bakery to buy a cake for our encuentro tomorrow. 'Encuentro' means the meeting with your child, and they encourage you to make it a celebration. So off we went to buy cake!  Somehow this past 24 hours has caused Victor to lose his Spanish-speaking abilities and mine to improve a bit.   I ordered a cake from a lovely lady who spoke no English....and I knew almost all of what to say.  This, people, is a triumph!  I'm not saying this will ever happen again, but it was a nice moment.  This evening we were able to have dinner with some friends who are just about finished with their own adoption process here.  That is a story in itself, but God has incredible timing and brings all sorts of things together.  Overall, this was a great first 'real' day here in the city.

Tonight was spent preparing for tomorrow.  Tomorrow, we bring our daughter into our family. Tomorrow, there will be five of us here instead of four.  Bags are ready, tiny little clothes are waiting, and our hearts are hopeful.  So much will be different, and so much will be answered prayers. There are a lot of 'what ifs' and 'I don't knows,' but I do know that we are ready.  Ready for what tomorrow holds.  Ready for God to complete our family.  Ready for Him to continue leading us on this adventure...together.  So for now, buenas noches.  While the city doesn't sleep, we are going to try!