Posts Tagged ‘Cali’

My Heart is STILL in Colombia!

November 24, 2012

It’s true.  We have been home from Cali, Colombia for 23 months with our little Colombian princess.  The adoption journey has had bumps and twists that we didn’t expect, but it has been so wonderful and rewarding.

Tomorrow is GOTCHA DAY number two!

TWO YEARS!!!  Hard to believe it has gone by so fast.  Sometimes our month in Colombia seems like forever ago… and sometimes it seems like last week.  I miss the lush greenness of Cali, the vast array of mystery fruits that were scrumptiously yummy, the glimpses of the Andes when the fog lifted, the bamboo forest we drove by to our villa, the coconut ice cream bars, the afternoon rain showers, the neighborhood boys who would come and ask,  “Is Austin Rick’s son?”, the sweet smell of the flowers, arepas filled white cheese, the stickiness of the night air and the pee-po pee-po LOUD evening serenade of the coqui frogs.

People often ask “Why Colombia?”  Quite a few factors lead us to the beautiful and tropical South American country.

1.) My husband, Rick, went to Valledupar, Colombia for a summer to build a church when he was 17-years-old.  He grew to love the warm-hearted people and the countryside teeming with unknown vegetation, never imagining that he would return to meet his daughter twenty-something years later.

2.) We have three bio kids who do not look like Rick AT ALL.  Ok, one does a little, but I was expecting little chubby, black-haired Indian babies when I married a Cree Indian.  Didn’t happen.  The Irish and Finnish genes dominated and we got two blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids and another slightly darker. So, when we had chosen an adoption agency, I looked through the pages for the countries they worked in….   I held up the two pages and announced to Rick, “El Salvador and Colombia are where the kids look like you.”  “Colombia,” he replied.  And it was a done deal.

3.) Not that I was anywhere near proficient, but I thoroughly enjoyed taking Spanish… back in the day.  Larisa also had Spanish courses and was mastering her second language quite nicely.  So a country in South America seemed familiar… somehow.  (Not distant in my mind, like, say, Kazakhstan… or China.) I related to Ellie from the movie UP…. her dream was to visit South America.  She tore pictures right out of a library book of the fascinating country.

I am as American as you could get.  I LOVE my country… the anthem brings me to tears.  Studying and teaching the history of our great land is a deep passion of mine.  But I have to say that my heart beats in thirds… a third for the USA, a third for Canada, where I spent my college years and the first 10 years of marriage, and now a third for Colombia where I fell in love with my daughter’s people and homeland.  My heart is still in Colombia. <3


November 27, 2011

November 25th was Nora’s Gotcha Day.  We have had our little Colombian princess for one year now!  Hard to believe!  We celebrated in style…. purple style…. and ate Domino’s pizza… because that is where we ate in Cali the night we received Nora. 

We spent time going through her Colombian box that contains all the items and clothing she brought with her from her homeland.  We gave her a beautiful handmade dress from Cali, as well as a few American gifts… that were purple!

For two years I have been working on my third book…. Nora’s Story… her lifebook.  I was impatiently waiting for all the info during the first year… and then trying to find time to put it in the book this last year.  It tells the story of her life from the day she was born.  I’m once again so thankful that we took a day to go up to LaCumbre, the sleepy little town where she was born.  We were able to get a copy of the hospital report from that precious day… and it had priceless details on it that we would have never been able to give to her! Also included in her lifebook are copies of her birth certificates, her citizenship certificate and pictures of her foster family. 

After reading the lifebook, we watched the videos that were taken in Colombia.  It made us miss our sweet friends that we met in Colombia.  We all cried again as we watched ourselves crying tears of joy when we got her.  Awesomeness, for sure!  It was interesting for her to watch, because she only spoke Spanish then.  She was quite shocked at her behavior, which is a good sign!!!  She said, “I wasn’t a very good example then!” and “I talked a LOT!” and “I wasn’t very nice, was I?”  What do you say to that?!?  No, Honey, you weren’t, but we loved you anyway! 

We ended the evening by lighting sparklers and running around the backyard screaming like little girls.  Great fun!  Nora made us a darling card that said, “Thank you for adopting me!” and lots of other terms of endearment.  She is such a thoughtful little girl!  I told my husband later that night that I didn’t expect to hear her say thank you for adopting her until she was 35.  :o)  It’s been a year of blessing!  Thank God for our little girl!

One Year Ago TODAY!

November 23, 2011

One year ago today we were sitting on several airplanes on our way from Phoenix to Texas, Panama and Cali, Colombia!  What an exciting time that was!  A day to remember FOREVER!  Remarkably, I looked semi-relaxed in the pictures.  It was the peace of God which passes ALL understanding, that’s what it was!  Had to be because I was lacking too much sleep to be peaceful on my own.  (Actually in this first picture, I was looking slightly shifty… anticipating the pat down at security!)

I remember sitting on the floor in the airport in Panama late in the evening, talking to the only other blonde girl in the entire airport besides Larisa.  She asked us where we were staying, as we were arriving close to midnight…. because it’s not like you can drive around and find a Travelodge that leaves the light on for you in Cali!  Funny thing was, we didn’t know where we were staying.  She was a bit taken aback by our news…. a family of five traveling to Colombia without firm plans in place.. arriving in the dark of the night.  If she only knew how much that went against every morsel of my little controlled and planned out life!!!  But we had some good connections who were taking care of us!

We had some baggage challenges in the Panama airport due to the language barrier in South America which had already embraced us with full force.  We weren’t sure if our luggage would be in Colombia that night but we prayed hard and it showed up right on schedule.

As we finally laid our tired heads on the lumpy pillows on the REALLY low bed in the hotel, I remember thinking… will I ever be able get to sleep?  In the morning our girl would be in our arms! Thankfully, I slept like a baby…. the baby who wakes up every hour or so and sucks her thumb to go back to sleep!

Adopting a little Colombian has changed our lives forever.  Adoption revealed the true hearts of my children who have lovingly welcomed Nora as if she has been in our family all along.  It also unearthed a few rough spots in my life as I was the one who had the hardest time adjusting.  The Lord and I have been working on those sore spots together. 

My husband received a thank you card from our neighborhood pastor last week thanking him for helping with our neighborhood leadership… AND for changing Nora’s life by stepping up and being her DAD!  Brought tears to my eyes.  She didn’t have a Daddy until one year ago!  She couldn’t have asked a better Daddy for herself!  She asked me once if I knew that Daddy cried.  I said I did, but how did she know???  She told me, “He loves me so much that sometimes he gets tears in his eyes when he tells me.”  Perfect!

It’s been a year of BLESSING!

Gotcha Day is Fast Approaching!

October 26, 2011

Hard to believe!  November 25th we will have had our sweet Nora for a YEAR!  Twelve whole months!  I can’t believe how fast it has flown by…. on the other hand, it seems like she’s been here much longer than that.  She has fit into her forever family better than I could have ever hoped for.  All those scary “preparation” stories from our training never materialized at all.  God picked us to be her family from the beginning!  I have no doubts now.  She is doing so well… with everything!  I have to remind myself that she has only been speaking English for six months!  Amazing how God made youngsters’ brains to absorb languages so quickly.

Here we were sitting in ICBF only a half hour before Nora had a forever family.  So many emotions that day!

So, we know we are ordering Domino’s Pizza, because that’s where we ate in Cali, Colombia the very first night we had the Colombian princess.  Other than that….. I’m looking for ideas and suggestions.  What did you, fellow adoptive parents, do on your first Gotcha Day?  What do you keep doing every year?  Is it a BIG Colombian fiesta with salsa dancing until the wee hours? Or something a little more calm?  Please let me know…. I have a month to plan!

I’m Finally Making a Colombia Scrapbook

September 15, 2011

Yes, we’ve been home with the Colombian princess for almost nine months…. next Thursday, it’ll be nine months.  I’m finally getting around to making a scrapbook of our trip.  I’ve spent much mental anguish on the Colombia scrapbook topic over the past six months. (The first three months home I just needed a nap.  That’s all.)  I know there are LOTS of photos.  I know there are LOTS of photos that I want to include.  I also know my scrapbooking speed is not what it used to be in the days of old when I got 65 pages completed on a weekend retreat.  I’ve weighed the digital vs. traditional issues too.

This morning my problems were solved when I opened my email and Snapfish had sent me a free digital hard-cover scrapbook.  Well, the first 20 pages are free.  I was all over it…. but the deadline is Sept. 21.  My husband and I are leaving on a jet plane in three days… and not coming home until the 22nd.  So today, instead of teaching my pupils (well I did have Nora do math… and the others are pretty self-motivated at the moment)…. (yes, those were guilt justifying comments)… I uploaded 296 photos and put them in a digital book.  BAM!  Done!  Well, almost.  I only did half of the journaling… and it’s too late in the day to write coherent sentences, much less remember the Spanish names of places and fruits.

Into my closet I went searching for my journal from our trip to South America.  One paragraph smacked me between the eyes and I want to share it with you.  For all those who have adopted, want to adopt, are trying to adopt and are thinking they might adopt…. here’s some cold, hard facts to think on:

“As I drove home the seven hours from the Colombian consulate in Beverly Hills, I had one of those God-moments where I realized that this whole adoption is not about me… or Rick and I… or even Nora.  It’s about God taking care of His children – about His children taking one step at a time, obeying the call on their lives – about God providing everything we need – far before we figured out what we needed.”


This was taken right after we landed in Bogotá!

That was so philosophical of me…. and rare… here’s the next page in the journal for your pure enjoyment.

(This was the night before we were leaving Cali to fly to Bogotá.) “As late as it was after packing, 12:30 a.m., I simply could not fall asleep.  The thought that Nora was leaving behind her life as she knows it – kept me awake.  One reassuring thought was that we LOVED Cali SO much – we will return someday.  I also wondered at 2:30, 3:15, 4:12 and from 4:35 on…. would Nora have motion sickness? Would the airplane terrify her?  Did we check under all the beds? And finally – I was awake at 5:00… “ready” for our adventure to Bogotá.”  No wonder I needed three months of naps!

Another Badge! YES!

January 27, 2011

One balmy afternoon as we were lounging in the villa in Cali, Colombia, our guide showed up to take the “boys” out on the town for go-cart driving and other frivolity that boys would eat up.  Our little Colombian princess had been with us for about a week at that point.  She was sitting on our guide’s lap when miniscule white bugs were discovered in her luscious black hair.  My failing eyesight had not detected them.  Maybe this is why it’s good for “older” parents to adopt… they can’t see what’s REALLY happening in their care!  I ran for my reading glasses!

My only experience with lice was in 1991 when I was substitute teaching in Fort Vermilion, Alberta.  It was a kindergarten class, that I had completely under my superb control, when the school nurse made a surprise visit to check for the little white bugs on the heads of my pupils.  Eight of the kids left the room after the inspection and I continued to scratch my head the rest of the day.  Just the thought makes my head itch!

Fast-forward to 2010 in Cali when one of MY children is bug-laden.  Immediately I ran to the little grocery store in our compound and asked for lice shampoo.  A small single-use packet was produced and purchased… and I didn’t scratch my head once while in the store.  By this time, our boys were on their way into the city and realization hit that we should all be checked for BUGS in our HAIR!  Thankfully, our sweet cook was more than willing to search through our heads AND apply the insecticide shampoo to the little princess.  Lo and behold, some of the critters had made the jump to my scalp as well!  This took me several hours to come to grips with.  I could not understand how little creatures could be living on my head AND I DIDN’T NOTICE!!!  I notice everything… well, except lice living with me.  Back to the store I went, somewhat humbled at the thought of asking for MORE lice shampoo.  The teller actually laughed….. LAUGHED!  I told him in my lame Spanish (translated back to lame English for your enjoyment) “NO, the laugh!” 

As my new daughter was having the rather nice-smelling shampoo rubbed into her head, I was on google looking up lice statistics, translating them into Spanish for the aid of my self-image.  I kept reading lines to our cook like “The term ‘head lice’ is searched globally by Google users 450,000 times in a month.”  That made me feel better because I was in good company!  “Lice are attracted to CLEAN hair which is why they are more common in girls than boys.”  “Every year, between 6 and 12 million people worldwide get head lice.”  See, how can that many people be wrong!?!  Later, our guide in Bogota explained that ALL the kids have lice and need to be treated! 

Finally it was my turn to have a thorough scalp massage (albeit with insecticide!) and sit for ten minutes while the death cream did its duty.  My older daughter was mortified that I would make a note on facebook as to our daily adventure.  She was obviously my daughter because she had also wrongly associated head lice with dirty people.  It’s not true!  I read the clean hair preference to her again.  Didn’t help.  She was horrified that her friends might find out her family had bugs on their brains.  Flabbergastedly, she asked, “Why do you want people to know about this?” In the spirit of adventure from the movie UP! I explained that on the scout sash of my life, I just earned my Lice Badge!  Just like Russell earning his Assisting the Elderly badge.  She was still not impressed!  Hey, another day…. another bit of drama!

Ironically, our little Colombiana never wants to use my hairbrush because she thinks it’s dirty because there is hair stuck in it.  Sheesh!

The Taxi Driver Sent by God

December 17, 2010

Two days ago our interpreter/guide showed up at the house without me knowing she was coming.  Rick knew, but he neglected to mention it to me.  She needed Nora’s Colombian identification card for some such important business.  She was only stopping by quickly because she needed to deliver the card to our lawyer on the far side of Cali. 

We invited our neighbors for dinner that night, making a trip to the grocery store in town necessary that day.  I figured we would do a family trip on the bus.  We had not yet been brave enough… but adventure is out there!  Then I realized I could get dropped off at the store by our guide and take a taxi home!!  I quickly ran a brush through my bed head and asked Austin to accompany me. 

We arrived at Jardin Plaza, where we had shopped before, but didn’t realize there was a grocery store!  We only needed the ingredients for a fine Mexican meal… plus we realized we would have to carry all the bags, so we wouldn’t be long.  I was thrilled to find my first quality flour tortillas in Colombia!  Auntie Connie’s burritos are now famous in South America!  Our neighbor asked for the recipe… twice.  :o)   As we were leaving the store…. sad realization sunk in that I didn’t remember the full name of where we are staying to tell a taxi driver.   The name is Ciudad Campestre El Castillo Conjunto Herrerier #1.  I could only remember Castillo. 

Austin thought he solved the problem by suggesting we call our guide.  That’s all fine and good if I had the cell phone she gave us.  But I didn’t.  I didn’t know her number either.  The next solution I thought of was to call Santiago, a wonderful taxi driver that we have been using for three weeks.  But I didn’t have his card with me.  We knew where the hundreds of taxi drivers lined up at Jardin Plaza so we headed there…. with dread in my heart.  I knew I could explain that we needed to go toward Jamundi… but you’re supposed to agree on a price before you get into the taxi… and we didn’t need to go all the way to Jamundi.  I could say “our house is in the middle of Cali and Jamundi”… but that wasn’t true… it was ALMOST to Jamundi.  I had heard Rick negotiate with the taxi drivers in that very spot… they started at $28,000 pesos ($15 US).  I knew Santiago only charged us $13,000 pesos. I hate bartering!

Just as we emerged from the plaza, I spotted God’s little gift to me that day…. SANTIAGO was the first taxi driver in the line of 57 cars!!  “Look who it is, Austin!” I said quickly as I hurried to get his car!  “Hola, mi amigo!”  and I truly meant “my friend” at that moment.  I asked if he could take us home, he said it would be his pleasure and he removed the grocery bags from my hands.  “God is taking care of us today!” I told Austin and he agreed.  I marvelled once again at the Lord ordering our steps!  Santiago speaks very rapidly in Spanish and I can’t understand most of what he says, but after we got in his taxi he said something to the effect of “that was perfect timing!”  I replied, “Gloria a Dios!” (Glory to God!)  Then he smiled in the rear view mirror at me.

The Festival of Lights

December 8, 2010

Here in Cali, Colombia on the night of December 7th (last night!), the Festival of Lights is held to commemorate the Immaculate Conception. The candles are lit to show Mary the way on her journey to Bethlehem on the donkey.  Cheesy cardboard luminaries of multiple sizes and color go on sale on the streets and in the stores for the event. Of course we participated by buying some colorful Mother Mary flimsy stand-up holders for our six little blue candles…. one for each family member. With great care and enthusiasm, we lined them up in the sprinkling rain in front of our little home. Yes, they kept blowing over. Yes, the candles kept going out, but the spirit of the night was alive!

Our measly display was nothing compared to the streets, sidewalks, balconies and terraces of our little gated community. The band of 12-14 year old soccer players even came by our place and lit a small fireworks display in our driveway for us! We were told that the celebration of the Night of Candles is one of the most beautiful ones of Colombia and it’s true.

There was also an all-night fiesta of the Colombian nature held in the cabana next to the pool outside our back door. A live band, salsa dancing and mucho food kept the party-goers laughing and dancing until 6:00 am. Yes, you read that right… SIX in the morning. Thank the good Lord someone invented orange foamy earplugs. Our neighbors invited us to go with them, since we weren’t aware that we were supposed to bring food. That’s what good neighbors are for! The festivities didn’t get started until 9:30 last night, and with Nora needing to go to bed, I stayed home and contentedly watched through the sliding glass door.

Rick took our three eldest kids and they all laughed and ate with our Colombian neighbors in the balmy 80 degree night. Austin, our 14-year-old, came home first. He reported that he only went to see his father make a fool of himself and that happened in the first five minutes on the dance floor… so he was done. About an hour later, Keeve, our 12-year-old son, wandered in with a wide smile on his face reporting that Dad can “almost salsa dance” and that Larisa “is totally getting it!” At that point, I was thankful for our little muchacha needed a guardian to stay home with her. Another hour later, Larisa, our dance-loving 17-year-old came through the patio door and told me that Dad is actually learning fast and is pretty good “but don’t tell him I said so.” I questioned if she knew when Dad was planning on returning. She replied, “Well, he’s dancing with all the ladies who don’t have partners and he’s about done.” Of course he was!!!

A new Crosby tradition was born last night. Forevermore, we will light candles on Dec. 7th to remember our night in Cali once upon a time and to keep the Colombian traditions alive. After all, Mary played a significant part in the Baby Jesus story.

Hindsight is 20/20

December 4, 2010

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.

C R I S I S!

December 3, 2010

The computer is such a marvelous device when combined with the internet (thank you, Al Gore) and Skype.  We have been able to see our family back in the USofA and in Canada.  We’ve introduced them to their new Colombian family member and Nora has seen her Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and cousins.  It makes South America not seem so far from home.  It has made this stressful-happy time not so stressful and more happy.

Then two nights ago our computer charging cord gave up the ghost.  Died.  Kaput.  Do not resuscitate.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.  I had a bit of fear and misgivings about three more weeks without contact with home.  How would we know how much weight our dog has gained at our friend’s house? And how would our family know if we were alive or dead?  Yesterday our guide took my teenage daughter and myself way across town to the north side of Cali.  There is a mall there that is solely filled with electronics stores.  EVERY single store had computers for sale…. and cords.  Thank God!  We were able to find the one we needed… and it wasn’t even a fake brand made in Taiwan!  It was an original Compaq brand made in China!  We were only without contact for 24 hours, and our family didn’t even know there was a crisis.  They thought we were ignoring them.  :o)

We also took the Colombian princess to buy some tennis shoes.  The shoes we brought are all too small, with the exception of the sandals that I bought for her four years ago when we started the adoption process.  We were at Payless Shoesource in 2006 and it was B1G1 50% off.  Larisa picked out a pair of shoes and I couldn’t find any for myself…. so I wandered over to the little girls section and found these gems:

They have been sitting on the computer desk all this time…. collecting dust… waiting for the princess.  Her little brown toes look adorable in them!

Back to the story, we were buying shoes and explained that she needed warm shoes for when we go to Bogota in a couple of weeks.  It is cold and rainy there and the elevation is 8,355 ft.  COLD especially after being in balmy Cauca Valley her whole life.  After we picked out the shoes, she asked, “What clothes are we going to buy for me to wear in Bogota?”  HAHAHA!  A true shopper!  But, sorry, sweetheart, mommy brought warm clothes for you!

We are enjoying the swimming pool every day for the few hours the sun is shining.  We are relishing the Colombian food!  We are taking naps almost every day!  We could get used to this!  Nora is doing so well with us and the kids.  She SOOOOO was ready for a family!