I’ve learned several valuable lessons while staying in our daughter’s homeland, Colombia. I thought I’d share them with you, just in case there are readers who are anxiously awaiting their little Colombian bambinos and their adventure to Colombia!
1. Bring bug spray and USE IT even if you don’t think you need it. I’d post a picture of my mosquito bitten legs, but it would be detrimental to those traveling to this beautiful land. The swelling and hotness only lasts for two to three days…. then you simply look like you have some horrible jungle disease. Keep the doors closed as much as possible. Go mosquito hunting IN the house before you go to bed each night. In our experience, the liquid squirt type works better than aerosols. We are going through one can a week with five of us using it. The little Colombian Princess doesn’t need any!
2. Don’t spray bug repellent on yourself while standing on tile floors. The floor becomes more slick than and ice rink and it’s difficult to wash off.
3. Bring ziplock bags. OK, I did do this, but not to the extent that I should have! Bring 20-25 of each size: sandwich and gallon. You never know what you will need them for! Also, wash them out and stick them to the tile backsplash to dry. (We learned that here!)
4. Bring peanut butter. Well, only if you like peanut butter. Bananas are plentiful and cheap and what better to smear on them than peanut butter? I did find some Peter Pan creamy PB in the foreign food section of 14LA (Colombian Walmart), but it goes for about $.50 per ounce!
5. Stay in a vacation villa! Not a hotel! The one we found is less than a third of the price and twice the size as the hotel we started in. My husband found this 3 bedroom, 2 bath little house online for $1200 per month!!! It is gated, has a pool, playground and ball court, nice friendly neighbors, garbage service, security cameras, shuttle service for $.75 into town, and a little shopping area with the equivalents of: 7-11, Asian Nails, Garcia’s Dry Cleaners, Rolberto’s (with delivery!), Kinkos, and a small Albertsons… REALLY small, but satisfactorily equipped.
6. Hire a housekeeper! Our adoption guide recommended one for us and she is FABULOSO. She only comes three times a week but it is a blessing to me not to have to cook on those days, clean (hardly at all!) and do laundry. We discovered that it is a blessing to her to have work and it is a mere $15 per day. I’ve already told my dear husband, Mr. Wallet, that he needs to give her a BIG tip at the end! She’s my new best friend! Oh, can she cook!
7. Pack light! I followed the “4 underwear” rule from the book The Complete Book of International Adoption by Dawn Davenport and carried it out for each family member. (4 bottoms, 4-5 tops, 2 shoes + flip-flops, pjs, swimsuit, 4 undies, and a jacket.) Six of us are traveling for a month with 5 carry-ons, 2 large (but not huge) suitcases and 6 backpacks. We can move by ourselves in the airport without assistance and we fit into a minivan with luggage! Best advice I ever took! We also tied thick turquoise ribbon on each one for easy identification at the airport.
8. Laundry advice: We are washing clothes every other day…. there is a nice washing machine at our villa…..which is all fine and good… but it is the rainy season and jeans and thick cotton clothing do not dry fast at all. It rains every afternoon and most of the night…. so we have laundry hanging on closet doors and patio furniture in the house. I’m not quite sure how I would solve this and stick to the 4 outfit rule. Thin cotton and polyester dries well and non-wrinkled, but who wants to look like an old lady while traveling?? We are definitely wearing our jeans SEVERAL times before washing them.
9. Things I’m glad we brought: scissors, needle and thread, games, camera with two storage cards, laptop to load photos (and upload to Costco for storage), magicJack to phone home for free, DVDs, LOTS of crafts for our new little girl, little blanket for our new little girl, two sizes of blow-up beach balls, draw-string light-weight backpacks for day trips, reading material, lots of snacks (granola bars, protein bars, nuts, trail mix, dried fruit, ginger snap cookies – they don’t break!, small packages of crackers with peanut butter), the book The Usborne First Thousand Words in Spanish, and flip-flops.
10. Things I wish we’d brought: duct tape, scotch tape, peanut butter, more chocolate (or better rationing skills), cinnamon (for PB and banana toast), another tube of toothpaste (we brought one big one to share… but it’s a hassle with two bathrooms), and a hand-held electronic translator.
Tags: adoption advice, bug spray, Cali, Colombia, Complete Book of International Adoption, Dawn Davenport, duct tape, Gladney, hindsight 20/20, housekeeper, international adoption, mom, traveling advice, vacation villa