Just over a week ago, our little family of four arrived in the charming small town of Chía, just 30 minutes (or 2 hours, depending on traffic) north of Bogota. Our dear friend Monica’s mother “Maiz” and sister Catalina live here in a lovely house with a separate apartment in the back, and they have incredibly generously allowed us to stay in this sweet little place for as long as we need to.
Our days have been filled by exploring the town, playing with the resident animals (4 dogs and 2 cats), and enjoying the company of Maiz, Catalina, and Giacobbe, Catalina’s son.
Little Miguelito has had some nasty chest congestion (officially diagnosed as “slime”) for as long as we’ve had him, so the doctor finally prescribed respiratory therapy for him. Amazingly, the therapist makes house calls! She arrived bright and early, just before 7 on Friday morning, to give Miguel his first treatment. I have to say, it was fairly traumatic for everyone – first she gave him a mask steam treatment, which he was decidedly NOT a fan of, then she used a little massaging device to loosen the mucus, and finally she basically gagged him repeatedly with a long q-tip until he spit up the gunk. Poor baby. He did a little better the second time, and we’re hoping that Tuesday will be his fourth and final treatment. We were also scolded for not dressing Miguel warmly enough (he was wearing a fleece sleeper on the 65-degree day), which made us Minnesotans chuckle just a bit.
We’ve had the good fortune to be able to visit the school that Maiz’s family has run for several generations, Colegio José Max Leon. It’s a beautiful preK-grade 12 school on gorgeous grounds, and is recognized as one of the best schools in the area. We were treated to a full tour, and Eliana got to spend some time in a classroom.
Sunday was a relaxed day filled with some uniquely Colombian moments. It started out with Catalina and I walking to the gym, gingerly stepping around an unidentifiable piece of cow anatomy that had been casually tossed onto the sidewalk. When we got to the shopping complex the gym is located in, we saw an outdoor pre-Christmas prayer session (a novena) in full swing, right there among the pet stores and fast-food restaurants. Later in the day, we all walked to the nearby mall to play mini-golf (golfito!) and afterward went inside to the food court to get a snack. There was a small children’s choir performing Christmas songs, which were interrupted every so often by wild cheers and applause from the section of the food court that was watching the big soccer game. (The Bogota team won, and the honking, cheering, and fireworks lasted for hours!)
Our previous visit to the mall turned out to be highly entertaining. Again, we had gone to the food court for lunch. Eliana and I both opted for Cuban sandwiches, but Michael struck out on his own to find something less laden with gluten. He returned to the table shaking his head ruefully. Apparently, while attempting to order his food “para llevar” (to go), he instead ordered it “para llamar” (to call). To combat the puzzled looks behind the counter, he tried to further clarify “no aquí” (not here), but instead said “no hoy” (not today). Back at the table, Michael and I both laughed until we cried, and of course Eliana demanded to know what was so funny. We told her, and she gleefully repeated, “I want to call my food, but not today!” for hours afterward.
In other misadventures, we decided to make a menorah (our heavy menorah from home didn’t make the luggage cut). I cleverly designed one out of an egg carton, and Eliana painted it red, green, and blue. We carefully transported it to Maiz’s house, where we lit the candles, said the blessing, and set the menorah in the place of honor, in the middle of Maiz’s dining room table. Then Eliana said she was hungry, so I went back to our casita to make her some macaroni and cheese. When I returned to Maiz’s house 20 minutes later, Michael and Maiz were engrossed in a conversation in the living room, and just 10 feet behind them, the cleverly-designed cardboard menorah was in flames on the table! I shrieked and ran toward the table, Maiz and Michael jumped up, and together we made quick work of the fire. Hanukkah disaster averted! (After the flames were completely doused, Maiz laughed so hard she had to sit down.)
Michael and I estimate that we’ve spent more time at malls since we’ve been in Colombia than we have for our entire married life. But they’re so much more FUN here! They have incredibly friendly Santas.
They have golfito.
They have whole corrals of plush animals you can ride all around the mall.
What’s not to love?!
We’ve had fun making some American treats for our hosts (pancakes, vodka tonics, and chocolate chip cookies so far!), and have had some intense conversations. Everyone we’ve talked to is just heartbroken about the tragedy in Connecticut, as, of course, are we. It’s good that important conversations about gun control and access to mental health care have been sparked, but at what an unimaginable cost. Our thoughts are with all the families whose holiday tables this year will have an empty chair.
In the midst of this holiday season, we find ourselves missing our own families and friends immensely…but we feel so fortunate to be here, with our baby boy at last, making memories that will last a lifetime.