Saturday, June 29, 2013

the car has been taken away...

 ... to be containerized and loaded onto a truck to be driven to Cartagena, to be loaded on a ship to be sent to the US.

It must be time to turn off the lights and leave Bogota.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

two random street shots in Bogota

It's hard to see but there are two little gray heads on the back seat of this car that I followed for awhile.  I picture adorable short little old people and  I wondered what their story was and where they were going. 

Michael Jackson lives on in the BOG.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

my huge, overgrown baby

Yesterday we took Mac for his 10 year-old well-child check-up.  Yes, we were slightly late.  Like 7 months late.  I did have several appointments scheduled with the head doctor at the health unit who's my favorite, but the appointments got cancelled because of his travel plans so I got frustrated and never rescheduled.  Until I realized that Arlington County Public Schools require a physical for admission as well as a TB test.

I have no idea why Mac is so needle-phobic but news of the pending TB test was enough to send him into a hysterical fit.

So hysterical, in fact, that he suggested I home-school him to avoid the test.

At which point I became hysterical and might have said "you will get the test if you value your life and mine."

We went yesterday afternoon and he started welling up with fearful tears before we even got called back.  Really?  I just have so little patience for this type of behavior.  I wanted to tell him that I see him rip his fingernails down to the quick and yet, he's going to cry about a little short needle that will hurt for really no more than 2 seconds?  Really?

To make matters worse, I told Jimmy he had to be at this doctor's appointment.  I'd already sat through Mac's TB test two years ago and the memory was burned on the deep, never-to-be-forgotten recesses of my mind, where it'll come forward one day when I'm old and senile and can only remember things from the distant past.  Jimmy had a final work trip but assured me he would land by 2 at the latest, giving him plenty of time to get to the embassy before the 3:30 appointment.

3:30 came and went.  About 3:40, we were called back and still no Jimmy.  Mac lounged on the examination table like he'd been shot.  They did all the vitals and his BP was high, which the nurse and I chalked up to his paralyzing fear of the stupid TB test.

Finally Jimmy arrived and boy howdy, was he sorry he did!  The doctor came in, did her examination, and then we got down to the fun stuff.

Mac went apoplectic.  He begged the nurse not to do it, he cried fitfully, he thrashed about.  He pleaded with the nurse in Spanish, he flailed his body about, he struggled against Jimmy holding him.  He asked to be put to sleep.  For a TB test.

It was honestly the most embarrassing thing in the parenting world.  Jimmy and I tried to reason with him in calm, soothing tones.  We told him to take deep yoga cleansing breaths.  We begged him to calm down.

And then we got mad.  And I mean really mad.  We threatened to take away the tv, his iPad, all video games, anything fun that he could even dream of doing away for a month. For a year. For his life.

Nothing worked.

The nurse tried pleading with him.  Jimmy and I offered to get the TB test as well.  The nurse said she'd give it to us as soon as Mac went first.  He refused.

This went on for a good 15 minutes, which can seem like 27 hours when in the moment.

It was horrible. And embarrassing.  And I'm sure everybody from the nurses and doctor to any other patients in the back area heard us all screaming at each other.

The nurse left for us to try and calm him down.

And by "calm him down", I mean we may have threatened him if he didn't cooperate.  It's simple laws of deduction.  If you want to go to school, you have to have this test.  If you want to play sports, you have to go to school and therefore you have to have this test.  If you don't want to go to jail for truancy (I told him he'd go to jail, not me), you must go to school and therefore you must take this test.  Simple, right?

Finally, we called the nurse back in, she did the test quickly and within 4 seconds of administering the test, he was laughing and joking around.  I was furious.  We made him apologize to the nurse for wasting her time and acting like a baby.  She asked him what the pain was on a scale from 1 to 10 and he answered 2.  I really could have throttled him then.

For the record, he measured in at 5'1" and 78 pounds.  He's nothing but a huge, overgrown baby who has lost use of his iPad for awhile.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

day two of the Amazon trip

On day two of our Amazonian adventure, we went on a boat trip from our Colombian side of the river to the Peruvian side which included visits to several locations.  The first was a village where the residents all own exotic pets that they bring out for the tourists to hold and pet.  To my dismay, Mac held a baby caiman, a sloth, a monkey, and a mata-mata turtle. There is no telling how many germs and fleas he picked up in that short window of time.

From that village, we walked to a location where they keep a baby manatee whose mother was caught and killed in fishing nets. Then we saw two little wildcats that are being kept captive followed by a horrible anaconda which Mac put around his neck.

Although we were staying at a brand new hotel that was probably the nicest in the area, it was really like we were on a low-class cruise ship and required to participate in included activities that were low-budget.  This morning's activity was a lesson in what we do wrong in the world - teaching these young kids that the "rich" tourists will pay to hold your pet animals that should be living free in the natural wild habitat just rubs me the wrong way.

So then we came back to the hotel, had lunch, swam a bit and then took off on another of the included activities.  We went to "ride" water buffaloes which was the equivalent of a five year-old's birthday party where the ponies are brought in and you ride the pony in a circle.  Weak.

 After that we took the boat up into a really cool area of the river where everything is flooded.  Unless you knew these waterways, there is just no way known you'd find your way around.  We went to a "shaman's" house where we saw his plants, watched how he raised fish, and - Christmas miracle of all miracles - saw Mac eat fish for the first time in his life.  Why he chose to eat this particular fish, that had been roasted over a fire and served on a freshly picked banana leaf under conditions that were questionably hygienic is absolutely beyond all comprehension. But he ate several bites and declared it delicious.  Who knew we only had to find a medicine man in the Amazonian jungle to get Mac to eat fish?  We might have come years earlier.
where the fish are cooked

the roasted fish

preparing the feast - shaman is the heavily tattooed guy with  about 0.5% body fat on the right

not sure about this....

Mac's love of this fish did not extend to this fruit that he tried.  But at least he tried it!

not sure about this.

sniffing it.

cautiously tasting it.

No, I don't like it.

Not crazy about that fruit, but check out my new seed pod earring...
We went back to the hotel, hot and sweaty, but Mac was happy and had had a great day.

Monday, June 24, 2013

a heavy heart

On Thursday night, less than 15 blocks from our apartment, a DEA agent was murdered in what looks like a taxi robbery gone bad.  The agent was assigned to Cartagena but was in Bogota and had gone to watch the NBA finals with other embassy folks at a local restaurant in a very popular, trendy area.  After the game ended, he hopped in a taxi off the street and apparently was promptly made part of a "paseo millionario" scheme.  What happens in these paseos is that a taxi driver picks you up - usually late at night between 11pm and midnight - and other people jump in the car with you several blocks down the street.  They force you to use your ATM card to get out the max before midnight and then again after midnight and then they let you go.  According to early news reports last week, the taxi the agent was riding in was intercepted by another taxi about three blocks from the restaurant.  Two men got out and tried to pull the agent out of the car, stabbing him three times in the chest and once in the leg.  They left him on the sidewalk where passersby found him and took him to the nearest hospital, where he was pronounced dead.   

Terry Watson was 42 years old and married just a few short months to a Colombian woman he met in Cartagena, and very early this morning with an entourage of his embassy and law enforcement counterparts, his body was loaded on an airplane in a very moving ramp ceremony to go back to his family in Louisiana.

The area where this happened, Parque 93, is a super-trendy area of Bogota and thankfully for this reason, there are security cameras everywhere.  The Colombian police and the embassy security folks are working through the videos and witnesses to find these thugs.  And when they do, I hope they'll be punished appropriately.

With now less than a week to go before we leave Bogota, this was a real wake-up call for me.  I don't ever take taxis late at night, but I have hailed taxis off the street during the day.  The method we're supposed to use is to call a reputable taxi company who will send out a taxi to you with a specific plate number.  This method is great when it works, but there are many occasions during rush-hour traffic, rainstorms, etc when it is impossible to even get past the busy signal when you call.  Thus, the hailing of taxis on the street.  I have been scared straight out of my complacency on hailing on the street.

Please keep Terry Watson's family and wife in your thoughts and prayers as they struggle with their loss.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

my car

As some of you know, I drive a very old (10 years now!) Toyota Corolla that Jimmy inherited when his uncle passed away.  I love this little car to death.

The first year I drove it was Mac's and my year in SC.  My little Corolla definitely didn't fit in among the fancy SUVs at Mac's school, but I'm not a car person so that didn't bother me.  Then we brought the car to Bogota because we figured from experience that it would be a perfect zip-around car for this city where you get dings and nicks and parking spaces are tiny.  And it has been perfect.  Jimmy's had a driver for 2 of the 3 years we've been here and generally I rode into work with him and took the embassy shuttle home, so my time in the car has been very limited.

So limited, in fact, that I just took it in for servicing before it gets shipped out this week to DC and realized that in the 3 years since it was shipped from SC to Bogota, I have driven less than 5000 miles.  Crazy, right?

We also wanted to get the car deep cleaned before it was shipped, so Jimmy's driver dropped it off this morning at a place near the embassy for a day at the car spa.  They cleaned the engine which now looks brand new.  They also removed all the seats, cleaned the upholstery and cleaned all the gunk out that was under the seats.  The driver took me to get the car on his way back to the embassy this afternoon.  We got there before they'd vacuumed out and scrubbed down underneath the back seat.  All I can tell you is that it was gross.  Beyond gross.  I recognized some Goldfish crackers but there were other unidentifiable food pieces that just made me want to vomit.  It's a wonder we didn't have an ant or cockroach problem.

Just cleaning out all that mess was worth the $100 we paid for the full cleaning.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Proud Mom Posting!

If you do not like or appreciate posts by bragging mothers, stop reading now.  

Are you still reading?  

Great.  Because I want to tell you about my boy Mac.  

Mac's a really good kid, even though I think we're entering a hormonal period where he's surly sometimes and doesn't want to be around Jimmy or me.  In general, he's smart, witty, athletic, sensitive, compassionate, and sympathetic.  People tell us he's a leader and a good influence among his peers.  I pray every single day that we can say all these same things in another ten years.

This week was a good week to be Mac's mom.  On Monday he had his taekwondo belt changing ceremony where he went from a yellow belt to a yellow/green belt. Jimmy attended and got to see him break a board in two with his bare foot.  For that video, click here.  
warming up before the ceremony

getting the yellow/green belt tied by the Gyosa
Yesterday I went to the end-of-the-year flag raising at school to see Mac get the International Baccalaureate Learner Profile award for his class.  He also got this award last year (see the two round pins on his sweater??), and this, to me, is the best award he could ever get.  For what this means, click here.

IB Learner's Profile Award

Today, Jimmy and I went to the school's awards ceremony where he was presented with an academic award for being in the top 10% of all students in his year.  I don't know if they call the names out in any order, but he was called second (after the girl who definitely got the head of class award) so in my mind he's the 4th grade salutatorian.
Academic Achievement Awards
And then to top off this already amazing week, I just dropped him off at a friend's for a play date and the parents, whom we don't know well, said that Mac was a really good boy.  Their child had been bullied a couple months ago by some bigger kids at school and Mac stood up for him and called the bullies off.  WHAT?


If God chose to make me a mother of just one child, it was because he knew I was getting the most perfect one in the world.


I have just posted my very first YouTube video ever.  I feel so hip!

Grandmothers, if you have a hankering to watch Mac's final Stomp performance, please click here or visit

(I hope this works now. I posted earlier and the link didn't work.  Maybe I'm not as hip as I thought I was!)

Have you heard of GeoGuessr?

I've seen several recent Facebook and blog posts about this web-based geography game.  Jimmy and I played it this weekend and it's a lot of fun and slightly addictive.  Try it out sometime by visiting here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

the life cycle of a pack-out in photos.

piles everywhere... driving me crazy

Mac's and my suitcases containing what we'll use between pack-out and mid-August

We're allowed 600 pounds of air freight.  This was our initial pass at lumping together 600 pounds, but we were way short, so we randomly threw in stuff at the last minute.

Carpets have all been vacuumed and rolled up for packing

a hiding spot for stuff that can't be shipped.  NO! works in any language.

so much clutter and chaos can make a girl crazy.

piles, glorious piles.
 At the end of the morning of day one:
Air freight has been packed out.  We were ultimately 2 kg over the 600-pound limit after the random throwing in of stuff, so we just as randomly removed enough to bring us back down to 600 pounds.
At the end of day one:

We seem to have made very little progress.  

More evidence of very little progress. (Note that fabulous old scale this company uses.  I just hope it's accurate.)
 On the morning of day three:

The movers fired up all cylinders on day two and really got busy.  They worked from 8am to 7pm and the volume of boxes reflected this long, hard work.
There are boxes EVERYWHERE.  Mac said our apartment would make the best fort ever.

After packing the remaining 10 boxes or so, we were ready for show time. 

Mid-morning on day three:
The loading starts.  Jimmy's down there supervising, along with his driver and bodyguard.  (As a side note, doesn't our front garden look amazing from this vantage point????).  This truck held four large wooden crates, but we ended up needing a small fifth crate, which came in the afternoon.

Breaking all sorts of OSHA laws.  The yellow thing is a hand truck that they've weighted down with their feet while the guy stands on the highest part for more height.  Maybe it's better to just buy a ladder?

the sign on the inside door of the moving van - "Too much hard work is prohibited!"

An even worse OSHA violation

the afternoon truck which brought another wooden crate for filling -all loaded and ready to go with 154 boxes of our household effects totaling about 5900 pounds plus 5 air freight boxes totaling 600 pounds.
I figured out during this move that we've made 10 moves in 15 years - the shortest time we've lived in one place that required a move was 6 months and the longest was here in Bogota for 3 years.  Normally the physical act of the pack-out energizes me.  I usually thrive on cleaning out and sorting and organizing.  But this one just wore me out.  I am glad it's now behind us all and we can enjoy our last 10 days in Bogota.

And the pack-out beat goes on

The movers brought their A Game for day two of the pack-out.  They worked HARD from 8am to 7pm (two hours past their knock-off time).  We are down to maybe five boxes that still need to be packed, and they've requested the truck arrive at 10am with the crates. My apartment could be empty by tonight!!  Feeling much, much better about the whole thing.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

And the pack-out begins

We have finished day one of four of our pack-out.  Pray for me.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

day one of the Amazon trip

We were scheduled to leave on Saturday at the perfectly reasonable hour of 12pm for our 2-hour flight to Leticia.

But "the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry", so after loading and unloading the passengers, they managed to get the mechanical issue fixed (after telling us they were changing the plane but didn't), and we took off an hour+ late and finally arrived in Leticia.

We were met by the hotel (along with 18 other people) and were shuttled off in a quick taxi ride to the "port" (using the term loosely here) to catch our boat to the hotel.  The ride was about 20 minutes long, and thankfully the luggage was tied down tight.

walking the gangplank on to the dock

Mac next to our boat.  Fingers crossed the luggage is tied down tight!

One of the houses along the river.

Walking the gangplank from the hotel dock to reception.

Our room

View from the room to the river
Sitting by the pool which overlooks the river.
Sunset by the pool.

We finally made it to the hotel around 4pm, so after listening to our tour options and Mac enjoying a quick swim, it was time for dinner and bed.

The hotel is very new - opened in the last 6 months - and while I'm sure it's among the best of the Colombian Amazon options, it was still very rustic.  The beds were super-comfortable and the linens were nice, but the AC was pre-set on a temperature that didn't seem quite cold enough and there was no hot water.  Hot water might seem like a non-issue in the very hot, very humid Amazon, but a girl just wants a hot shower once in awhile (or every day).  Also, I was wrong about the number of rooms.  There were some 80 rooms (with more to come) so numbers of other visitors was much higher (and louder) than I expected.

Day two tomorrow!