Saturday, May 19, 2012

what I've learned in the last 18 hours

Mac had a sleepover last night with four of his buddies.  We don't normally host that many at a time (CHAOS plus Type A mom don't always equal happy times), but we threw caution to the wind and had the whole crew over.  Holy Moly!  Here's what I know for sure from this sleepover:

1.  Five 8 and 9 year-old boys make a lot of noise.  A whole lot.  (Sorry downstairs neighbors.)

2.  The same boys who have to be prodded out of bed on a school morning can wake up all on their own with no problem at 5 am.

3.  Young boys at 5am make a lot of noise, despite repeated threats.

4.  Young boys at 5am can giggle like school girls.

5.  Boys eat A LOT.  A whole lot.  I don't know how that reality tv mother with those 20 children (or is it 19?) cooks for all those mouths, first of all, and second of all, I don't know how she affords the grocery bill.  They must have a big vegetable garden and raise cows and chickens in the backyard.  And these boys now are only 8 and 9.  We will have to have a vegetable garden and raise cows and chickens in the backyard before Mac brings home friends as a teenager.  Oh, and I will have to bake bread.  Lots and lots of bread.  Oh, and I will have to buy a 10-slice toaster.  Toasting 2 slices of bread at a time does not meet the urgent, hunger needs of 8 and 9 year-old boys.

6.  As long as boys have plenty of Nerf guns, flashlights, and a spray bottle of water (which is pretend Mace), they can entertain themselves for hours.

Despite repeated wishes for a houseful of boys of my own (years ago, not now that I'm old and set in my ways with my little family of 3), I realized that God gave me just about all I can handle on a day-to-day basis.  I'd love to be the house where the friends congregate, but it is awfully nice when all non-residents go home and the house gets quiet again!  Is 7pm too early to put Mac to bed tonight?

Coffee Country, Day 3

We spent the morning of day 3 lounging around Hacienda Bambusa, which is a pretty ideal place to lounge around.  After an early lunch, we took off for the San Alberto coffee plantation.  If you're a coffee drinker, you should visit a coffee plantation perched on the side of the Andes mountains once in your life to really appreciate the hard work that goes into making your morning cup of joe.  WOW.

We had a perfect cup of pre-tour coffee, followed by a walk around the plantation to see how coffee is picked, sorted and dried, before it's roasted to perfection.  After that we learned how to taste coffee (like a professional, not like a morning coffee drinker).  You can call me Juan Valdez if you want.

The tour in photos:
a bag of beans

a coffee plant with red (ripe) beans, ready for picking

our guide making a perfect cup of coffee with the coolest German coffee-making contraption ever.

THE perfect cup of coffee

beans that will one day become the nectar of the gods

the longest-term worker at San Alberto

he works hard for the money

Mac in the tasting room, taking the testing VERY, VERY seriously

After a lovely 3 days, we returned to Bogota with a return trip already planned for late June.  Paradise awaits....

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Coffee Country, day two

Today we left the beautiful Hacienda Bambusa (where I could live forever, if you remember from the last post) to go on a Willys Jeep tour.  Now in case you were born sometime after the 1940s and you don't have an unnatural love like my husband for Willys Jeeps, let me show you what this 1940s-era, restored Jeep looks like:
Mac on the back of the Willys

I was in the front between Omar and Jimmy's mom.  Here's Jimmy caught in the rearview mirror studying the dashboard with total envy.  He's ready to trade our car in for a very impractical Willys Jeep.

The trip was amazing.  We rode along a national park road (dirt) that's surrounded by beautiful farms for miles and miles.  We climbed to 13,000+ feet, enjoyed coffee and lunch in a very modest, humble farmhouse, saw an abandoned FARC camp, and saw the towering wax palms that can grow to over 200 meters tall.  It was an amazing day in what is surely the most beautiful part of Colombia.

The Andes 

The Dragon Tree

traffic jam

a homemade loading chute for cows, covered in mosses

What Omar, our guide, said was the highest soccer field in South America!

the bleachers for the soccer field (or so I thought)

the spectators at the soccer field

the famous wax palms that the region is famous for

Standing underneath the palms makes you feel very, very small

Mac walking up the pathway that was originally used when Simon Bolivar was battling the Spaniards for control of Colombia

A very makeshift retaining wall holding up the road

the trading post!  This is the only store out in the countryside, and everybody knows the truck with supplies comes on Sunday afternoon.  So they came and they waited.  It was sort of like Little House on the Prairie.

the colorful town of Salento

more of Salento

more of Salento

the trip when Mac became a coffee-drinker

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

a little trip to Coffee Country, day one

In late April, we went with Jimmy's mom and niece to Coffee Country.  In the not-so-distant past, this area used to be off-limits to embassy folks because the bad guys hung out there.  And let me just tell you:  the bad guys aren't complete dummies.  If I had to hang out somewhere, there's really not a more beautiful place in this country.

We stayed at a lovely hacienda called Hacienda Bambusa.  It's owned by a Colombian artist who renovated his family's farm house (think large) into a very beautiful, relaxing boutique hotel.  The place is just gorgeous and I do believe I could live there (especially if the housekeeping and restaurant people came as part of the package).  

Over our two nights and three days, we took a long hike around the property, went on a daylong jeep trip to see the region's famous wax palms, and toured a coffee plantation.

Day one of our trip to Coffee Country in photos:

The flowers around the hacienda:


Photos from our hike around the farm:

 Some photos from the hotel itself:

Days two and three coming soon!!

Mother's Day

I have so much that I need/want to share with you (whether you feel it needs it to be shared!), so I'm going to start with Mother's Day and work backwards.  I had a great Mother's Day.  My boys cooked me a delicious breakfast and gave me a new Pandora charm and a fabulous locally handcrafted basket.  Then I got an afternoon at a fancy spa with a girlfriend where we were programmed for a facial and massage.

And this is where my Mother's Day took a turn for the worse.

We entered the bathroom/changing room of the spa and it was super swanky.  Lots of little baskets with disposable toothbrushes and Q-tips and bottles of lotion.  And I can't even tell you how beautiful the showers were.  They had a rain head plus a regular shower head plus 4 jets coming out of the wall. W.O.W.

And then I noticed the scale.  We haven't had a scale (that worked) in our house for a couple years so I never get the opportunity to weigh myself.  Naturally, like women all over the world, I was drawn to the scale like a moth to a flame.  I could not help myself.  It had a lot of buttons on it so you could set it for your age, height, etc if you wanted to, but I stepped on as a guest.

And I was obviously a fat guest.

I COULD NOT believe the number that I was seeing.  

Now I know I've gained weight since I started work.  You can't go from playing tennis a few days a week and walking to run errands to sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day without gaining some poundage.  But Holy Mary, Mother of God.  The number was so big that I couldn't even calculate how many pounds I'd gained.

Naturally I stewed during the two hours of my massage and facial.  The poor therapist kept trying to rub out the lines on my forehead and as much as I tried to tell myself to relax my fat self, the more the lines got furrowed into a perfect V.  I actually wondered if she was disgusted while doing my back massage because I was sure there were back fat rolls that she was having to deal with.

While I was "enjoying" my facial and massage, I was hatching my "skinny me v.2012" plan.  The plan that I concocted involved early morning exercise and starvation, neither of which sounded very appealing to me, but they seemed like the only option.

So I set my alarm clock for Monday morning at 4:55am so I could go out for what passes for a middle-aged shuffle/walk/jog.  I was a little concerned about whether weirdos would be out at that hour, so I told Jimmy that I would only "run" (term used very, very loosely) around our block over and over and to come look for me on that block if I wasn't back home by 5:30. 

Now let me tell you about this hour in Bogota.  It's dark and deserted (and potentially a little creepy for that reason), but it's also quiet and peaceful and you can actually hear chirping birds and not honking horns.  It's so lovely and tranquil.  However, between the hours of 2am and 4:55am, I chose to focus on the dark and deserted (and potentially creepy) aspect of being outside alone and therefore, I did not sleep.  So when I had to get my lardy self out of the bed at 4:55, I was really, really tired and really, really grumpy.

But I dragged myself out anyway and didn't see anybody creepy.  Just a few other hardcore, die-hard exercisers like myself that just realize it's a no-pain, no-gain world out there.  Well and there was that one person who was dragging a suitcase down the street.  But other than that, total peace and tranquility which was great because there was nobody around to witness the humiliation of my middle-aged shuffle/walk/jog routine.

Of course, my real priority as soon as possible after I got to work was to visit the embassy's health unit to weigh myself on their scales.  Everybody knows that doctor's office scales are never wrong and I knew this would be the true measurement.  

At least that's my story and I am sticking to it.  That scale (which is the old-timey kind where you have to move over the weight blocks until it balances and not that ridiculous newfangled digital number at that hoity-toity spa) produced much better results.  According to that scale, I am one pound over the weight that I have hovered around for the last 20 years (excluding pregnancy of course) and not the 17 pounds over that the newfangled digital spa scale showed.  

Now of course, in hindsight, it seems a bit absurd to think that I could have gained 17 pounds while still wearing my same clothes.  Wouldn't I have noticed that I was carrying around the equivalent of an average one year-old baby?  It also seems absurd that I wasted the luxury of those spa treatments, fretting over this. And actually the most absurd thing of all is that I got up at that ridiculous hour to exercise.  HELLO?  I HATE exercising and I particularly hate exercising at 5:00 in the morning.

The moral of the story:  always, always, always get a second opinion before making a rash decision.

Happy Mother's Day to all the great moms and mom-figures in my life!