Sunday, October 31, 2010

Part 3 of the Halloween that will not end

Everybody from my Spanish teacher to the embassy drivers to taxi drivers told me that the thing to do with children on Halloween in Bogota is to go trick-or-treating at the big shopping malls. I can't quite make out whether this stems from when Bogota was going through its unsafe period or whether it's because there are creepy people everywhere who stick razor blades in Halloween candy.

Regardless, we chose a humongous mall to take Mac to this afternoon and Lord, have sweet mercy on me, I can check that box off on the list of cultural things not to be missed in Bogota. Fortunately Jimmy had use of the office driver and he was able to maneuver his way up close to drop us off. He said the parking lot is meant to hold 4000 cars and it was overflowing with a line of cars around the block to get in.

Crowds outside the mall

Crowds inside the mall


Imagine shopping on Black Thursday. Now imagine shopping on Black Thursday with people - entire families - in Halloween costumes. That's Gran Estacion on Halloween. And we were told it would only get worse as the afternoon progressed because tomorrow's a holiday so no school or work for most people.

I'd like to leave you with some photos of the grand event at Gran Estacion. These will (hopefully) be the only Halloween mall photos you ever see from me as I don't ever intend to attend such an event again.

Not your average shopkeeper

Just your ordinary Colombian family out for a Sunday afternoon stroll

a very cool Mr. Potato Head

the cutest, littlest Woody and Jessie ever

This guy got his shirt from Wal-Mart - the children loved it!

mall trick-or-treating with some friends from the embassy

P.S. The only way I'll go back next year is if we - Jimmy, Mac and I - go with a theme and we all dress up in costumes for the theme, like we saw entire families dressed today. For instance, we could be like the family of butterflies that I saw today or the pirate family. You get the picture. I'm checking the online Halloween costume sales tomorrow, just so you know.

P.P.S. I am so glad Halloween is OVER. Nothing made me happier than removing that hideous orange plastic tablecloth off the dining room table that's been on there for weeks to add to the ambience of our home. I never really have ever felt this way, but I cannot wait to put up the Christmas tree. Is it too early to do that on November 1??

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween at the embassy

Yesterday we went straight from school (after 6.5 hours of partying) to trick-or-treat at the embassy. Now we've been part of a number of embassies and consulates for the Halloween season, but I've never seen anything like what I saw yesterday.

Different sections of the embassy chose their theme and then went on to produce an elaborate and extensive reenactment of the theme that was worthy of a movie set design.

Are you a Wizard of Oz fan? Well, here you go courtesy of the GSO section.

You're more of a Hansel and Gretel fan? No problem. NAS had that covered.

Harry Potter was covered in a hallway full of hogwarts and wizards. They offered Mac, aka Harry Potter, a job!

There was a lot of scary stuff, too - plenty of haunted house, creepy stuff that was spooky!

Even Mac's favorite Buddy, the Elf was present!

It was great fun. And I stand by my assessment that nobody does Halloween better than Colombians!

Halloween at CGB

Let me start by telling you that Colombians, or maybe just Bogotanos, do Halloween better than any other body of people on the planet, as far as I've seen. The costumes are elaborate (and not restricted by quaint notions of what's deemed "acceptable" or politically correct by us Americans), the decorations are unbelievable and the dedication to this holiday is enormous.

Allow me to share a story of Halloween dedication. Yesterday, Mac and I went down at 6:19am to wait on his bus for the regularly scheduled pickup time of 6:21am. At 6:35am, the bus still hadn't come so I ran back upstairs to get my cell phone to call the bus monitor. She assured me they were just 5 little minutes away. At 6:45am, I called her back and she said it would be one more minute. At 6:52am, more than 30 minutes after the regular pickup time, the bus pulled up. The bus driver was in a full cave man outfit and the monitor was his cave woman in full gear. And the van? Well, all the "nonessential" windows (meaning all windows but the front windshield and two front side windows) were covered on the inside with wadded up brown kraft paper to replicate the inside of a cave. I, being an uptight Type A American, was fit to be tied by now and became even angrier when I found out the reason the bus was so late: all the cave decorations fell down and they had to re-decorate the van before they picked up anybody. Right. So my kid was late to school, but the van looked good.

Here are two photos of some of the bus drivers who paraded during the school parade. In the first, you'll see the cave man and woman, aka Mac's van driver and the monitor, in the middle of the picture.

Everybody dressed up from the bus drivers to the teachers: (a hippie rocker teacher complete with smoking guitar and Birkenstocks!)

(a couple of random teachers)

(a monk with a beer keg, Robin Hood, a Scottish dude, etc)

... to the parents

... to the cafeteria staff

... to the administrative staff

... to the school director, vice director and high school principal (who all dressed as the people from the kids' tv show Lazytown). Here's the school director, aka head honcho, in the process of executing a perfect front handspring!

Activities for Mac's class included a dance competition, a magic show, a class party, participation in the school parade:

... bobbing for apples:

... and trick-or-treating.

The highlight of the day for me? Well, naturally it was some of the zombie teachers' rendition of Thriller. Mac's beloved teacher, Mr. Ahmet, is the zombie on the far left of the screen (long, black wig on his usually nearly bald head).

Year 3A in Halloween garb!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

more from Mac

Tonight at dinner, Mac and I were discussing hygiene. I know it's probably not what you discuss over spaghetti, but it was our dinner conversation.

I have a hopefully irrational fear that Mac will become one of those prepubescent boys who doesn't know (and his parents don't either) that he needs deodorant and he'll go around smelling and people will avoid being around him. I really hate the smell of prepubescent, stinky boys.

So we were talking about bathing regularly, using deodorant when the time comes, doing underarm sniff tests, etc.

I told Mac that I wasn't really sure when it happened, but at some point, he'd start stinking so we had to be ready.

He matter-of-factly told me that "boys stink for forever".

the evolution of cell phones

Mac is pretty sure he needs a cell phone.

I'm pretty sure he's lost his mind.

Today he and I went out for lunch at his favorite El Corral Gourmet. While we were waiting for our food, he was playing one of the three games on my cell phone, which is just about the cheapest, most nondescript phone that Nokia makes.

Mac asked me how old I was when I got my first cell phone. I told him I was 23, had graduated from college and really only got one then because I was traveling for the FDIC and wanted to have it in case the car broke down or I got lost, and most importantly, I paid for the cell phone and the monthly bills with my own hard-earned money.

I told him that phones then had no games or applications on them, no camera, no music-playing or video-watching capabilities, and certainly no Internet connection. I don't think I'd even heard of the Internet then.

I then proceeded to demonstrate with my hands how big this phone actually was and how it came in its own little suitcase that you had to carry with you if you needed to take the phone outside of the car with you. The phone really was more of a car phone and less of a cell phone.

See Exhibit A for evidence (in case you've forgotten how big your first bag phone really was):

Apparently it's a remote concept to a very tech-savvy 7 year-old that something can be that big without having any purpose other than to make phone calls because he then quite seriously asked if I'd had the first iPad.

There are many things my first bag phone was, but an iPad is definitely not one of them.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

after all my smack talking...

Ruth called this morning at 8:30 to check on Mac because she was so worried about him. I told her that the fever and the headache had completely disappeared (and never came back all day), but I couldn't come up with the right word for "throat" to tell her that he still had a sore throat. I asked her to hold on for a minute while I used the ever handy Google Translate, but she thought I meant I had to get off the phone right then and she hung up. I looked up sore throat online, and tried to call her back but her cell phone went straight to voice mail. I left her a message to tell her that he had a sore throat and asked if she had any recommendations for clearing that up.

Well I never heard from her, which I thought was odd, if only because it's so unlike her. But cell phone batteries die, people leave the phones at home, etc. And it wasn't her day to work here anyway, so the fact that she even called this morning impressed me.

And then at 4:30 this afternoon, the doorman called to tell me that Ruth was here and was on her way up. She'd been babysitting three children all day somewhere close to here and she'd gotten my message so she wanted to come see for herself how Mac was.

Is she the sweetest lady ever or what?

She was concerned that he needed antibiotics (apparently it's okay to take prescription meds but not over-the-counter meds), but I told her that I thought it was this virus that was going around his school and everybody says it ends in 3 days so we should be near the end. I had to tell her what he'd eaten and drunk today so she was satisfied that it wasn't too sore.

She went upstairs to visit with him and see for herself that I hadn't killed him with neglect. I could hear them chatting away, him in English and her in Spanish. I have no idea if they understood each other but they were getting along as usual like old friends.

I love this lady.

oh ye of little faith

Maybe it was the potato wrap or maybe it was just time, but Mac woke up this morning feeling much better. The headache is completely gone, the fever is completely gone and only the sore throat remains.

I have to admit that I'm tempted to call Ruth to ask for the shaman treatment for sore throats....

Friday, October 22, 2010

today's medical lesson, part 2

So the Tylenol wore off, as Tylenol tends to do, and the fever came back and so we hurriedly took more Tylenol while Ruth was downstairs doing something. Well then she came back upstairs and said that Mac looked very red and asked had I checked for fever. I didn't tell her that I'd given him more Tylenol; I didn't want her to pull the green onions out of the veggie bin in the fridge, so I started talking about the headache he had.

During this conversation, Mac decided he wanted to eat some soup but by the time he got downstairs, he decided he wanted to take a nap, so we headed back upstairs and I told Ruth just to leave the heated-up soup in the pan on the stove.

As I was getting Mac settled back into my bed, Ruth came in with thinly sliced potatoes and a white pillowcase. Mac thought he was going to have to eat the raw potato and was ready to have a fit, when she started putting the potatoes slices around his forehead and then wrapped his head up with the pillowcase. Apparently the potatoes draw the headache out and the pillowcase has to be white because white clothes reduce fever.

Who knew?

She left shortly after this tribal ritual and Mac informed me that he hated the smell of raw potatoes and that it was torture to lay there with these potatoes on his head. He said the potatoes were drying up on his head and I said that was a good thing because they must be pulling out the headache. I'm not schooled in such remedies but surely that's what was happening right? He then asked if headaches were "dry" (I guess because the potatoes were drying out from pulling out the "dry" headache.) I assured him that yes, headaches were dry.

With the shaman gone from our home. we ceremoniously removed the pillowcase and the potatoes. But I leave you with photos of my very own Mr. Potato Head!

looking for fever remedies?

Yesterday Mac got off the school van and said his stomach hurt. I chalked it up to riding backwards on the van (since Tuesday he's been sitting on the front seat which faces backwards). But he was very lethargic for the rest of the afternoon and just laid on the den carpet with the space heater blowing right on him for hours. About 6pm, he said he had a terrible headache which he's never ever said he had.

I immediately jumped from carsickness to meningitis because that's how I operate.

A nurse friend in SC fortuitously called as I was mentally preparing for Mac to have the spinal fluid drawn for the meningitis test and she talked me off the ledge.

I dosed up him with some Tylenol and then Advil before bed and let him sleep with me (Jimmy's in the US right now which is another reason I was sure we'd have a major catastrophe) so I could wake up every hour to lay my hand on his forehead to check for fever and to see if it looked like he was sleeping with a stiff neck.

Needless to say, neither of us slept well.

When the alarm clock went off at 5:30am, he said his stomach only felt a little funny and his head didn't hurt, so I thought we were all set to get ready for school. Then I felt his head and checked his temperature with the thermometer and he had a 102 fever.

He's been dosed with more Tylenol which, of course, means that right now, he's acting perfectly fine and healthy.

So Ruth arrived a little while ago to work and she was all very Latin American motherly about having a sick child. Pobrecito this and bebe that. You get the picture. That level of sentimentality isn't in my nature, especially for a little viral illness.

I told her I was giving him medicine to keep the fever down and she told me she really didn't like to take medicines and preferred to use things she had around the house to reduce fevers.

Would you like to know what I've learned as possible methods of fever reduction?

1. Dab some white vinegar under each armpit.
2. Dab some alcohol under each armpit.

and my personal favorite:

3. Slit a long green onion down the middle to open it up and press it against the bottom of each foot. You can also slide a sock on to keep the green onion in place.

I listened and was quite interested, but I think I'm just going to stick with the plain old Junior Chewables Tylenol for now as they seem to be working.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Look at these sweet faces:

These boys are my adorable, precious nephews, and today they were in a serious car accident with their babysitter on the way to their preschool. The boys, thank God, are fine thanks to God's grace and good carseats. Those poor babies had to be transported in an ambulance by themselves because the police wouldn't let my brother and sister-in-law through the roadblock to get to the accident site before the ambulance left. My mom was the first one to get to the hospital and as soon as they saw her, those brave little boys became hysterical, I'm sure with just the relief of seeing somebody they recognized and loved.

The babysitter did not fare as well. The airbag in her car didn't deploy and she has suffered some rather serious facial breaks and lacerations. She's scheduled for surgery at 7am in the morning. She's a young woman who's just graduated from college, her closest family is in the Northeast, and she is understandably nervous about having her face operated on with no real support network here other than my brother's family and her close college friends.

Would you remember her in a prayer as she comes to mind? I'd love for her to feel the comfort of those prayers and to feel peace and calm before she enters surgery tomorrow. She's in very capable hands at the Medical University of South Carolina, but we're also praying for steady hands and good decision-making on the part of her surgeon.

Thank you from my family to yours.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

for your amusement

Here's a short video of the end of Mac's age group (2nd grade to 5th grade) dancing the Cha Cha Slide at the school's Dia de la Raza festival. When looking at the video, Mac's the kid on the far left closest to the camera (blue jeans, red shirt, and proudly wearing his Charleston Riverdogs baseball cap). Check out those moves...

P.S. To get the full effect, you should turn your computer speakers up really loud and watch it in full screen!

update on my fancy pants report

We've now read that the FARC allegedly threatened seven diplomatic missions here in Bogota and that's why the event was (rightfully in my opinion) cancelled. There are reports that it's just been "suspended" so maybe I'll get to wear my fancy pants after all??

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

no fancy pants for me again...

Next Friday night, Jimmy and I were supposed to attend this gala dinner dance event hosted by the Diplomatic Wives Club (or some such title). I ordered my long dress from Nordstrom after the last dress fiasco and I was all set to go.

Until yesterday's newspaper came out.

The event has apparently been cancelled due to some alleged but not-specified threats made by the FARC.


I'm reading the book right now written by those three American contractors who were taken hostage by the FARC for some 6 years and I can tell you without reservation or hesitation or doubt that I don't want to go anywhere that could result in my being taken hostage by the FARC.

Jimmy thinks maybe they just didn't sell enough tickets or something like that so they're blaming the FARC because it's an easy cancel.

Regardless, the black dress will be staying in the plastic bag in the closet a little while longer.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

a little jaunt to Cartagena

Mac has had this last week off of school for some Colombian-mandated holiday week. We decided to head up to Cartagena for a few days to enjoy what I have missed the most while living in Bogota: sun and warmth and humidity. Cartagena did not disappoint.

Some photos of our mini-vacation:

street scenes at dusk and at night

Outside of our hotel, Bovedas de Santa Clara

The view from our hotel room window

Our hotel was a small boutique hotel so part of their deal is that you can use the pool and eat breakfast at the very swank Sofitel across the street.
The courtyard at the Sofitel has a couple resident toucans who visited us at breakfast. (The breakfast there, by the way, is the best hotel breakfast I've ever eaten.)

And the pool was pretty spectacular as well!

a beautiful view from inside the really intimidating Inquisition Museum

some lovely ladies from Cartagena

folkloric dancing in a square

My just-out-of-the-ocean-fresh grilled fish lunch on our day trip to the Rosario Islands

I'm already trying to figure out when we can go back!