We are in our new home in Colombia! It doesn’t feel that far away, despite the long haul to get here. Exiting the airport into the crowd felt so familiar. The ambiance of Bogota reminds me a lot of Lima, except that Lima is sea level and Bogota is what, 8,000 feet? Enough that we’re feeling it, anyway. Huge, bustling, noisy, smoggy city with riches, poverty, and “getting by well enough” rubbing shoulders on each corner.
Our neighborhood is near the University and a lot of Mennonites live here, apparently. It’s a quiet nook of a neighborhood with small groceries dotted throughout and a little park with a playground just half a block from our building that the kids LOVE.
Our building is a four-story brick apartment building with purple bougainvillea foaming over the gate. We have six keys, two gates, and three deadbolts to get through every time we want to go in and out. Oh, and a flight of steps since we are on the 2nd floor. We’ve met our neighbors briefly – a family with tween/teen kids – and they seem very nice. There’s a small patio for parking cars and bikes, but the kids like to pretend it’s the ocean and they are fish swimming away from the ‘octopus’ (me) to hide under the huge spreading potted plants in the corner. Our bedroom overlooks this patio and yesterday I saw an emerald-green hummingbird darting around the plants briefly.
Our apartment is spacious and well-lit, although the lay-out is very odd. A number of the inside walls are set in at non-right angles, and there are some slightly awkward nooks the intended functions of which are unclear. But the kids seem to like it; a lot of furniture left over from previous MCCers is stacked in one corner and we unearthed a box of children’s books that also contained four My Little Ponies. Valerie keeps asking where they came from, I think their appearance was like magic to her.
We’ve been incredibly warmly welcomed by the MCC team here. We arrived late Thursday night and were met by two volunteers – I was so bummed the battery on my camera ran out, because we’d stacked the four suitcases on a cart and then Terry perched the kids on top of the stack of suitcases and they were just too cute sitting there riding backwards.
Friday we all went to the office together for a celebratory lunch – cookout on the roof (including an AMAZING quinoa salad and fresh-squeezed guava juice). The office occupies most of a four-story building, an old home not too far from where we live. We got to meet the MCCers who are based in Bogotá although I’m still putting together names, faces, and service assignments. After lunch we had a short meeting during which both kids fell asleep on my lap… fortunately we were able to transfer them to a bed upstairs (there are two guest rooms here for out-of-town service workers who are passing through the capital). We also met the very sweet woman who will be providing us childcare.
Saturday we puttered around the house sorting ourselves out, went to the playground, and had lunch at the home of the MCCer who has been our primary guide, and her hostess/housemate, an older Colombian woman affiliated with the Mennonite church. More amazing food (potato soup with capers, cream, and shredded chicken; fresh-squeezed passion fruit juice) and great conversation.
Today (Sunday) we went to the Mennonite church that Terry and I had visited in 2007; it was nice to be in a familiar-ish place even though I didn't really know anybody. People kept coming up to Terry and commenting on how much he looks like Vern :-).
I have to say that it’s SOOOOOO NICE to be fluent in the language. There are a few differences in accent and vocabulary but wow. I can just, like talk to people. Terry still tends to default to Albanian so I have to translate for him sometimes. The kids are very receptive to learning new words in Spanish, so I hope that comes along quickly for them.
Valerie has been talking a lot about Tirana but overall the kids both are doing really well. Of course when they get tired or hungry they get a little fragile, but for the most part they seem to be having a lot of fun. I think they’re really enjoying getting so much time and attention with Daddy.
We have internet at our apartment but it’s super-slow and not very reliable… so that’s mostly why it took me so long to post anything here. We’re going to get a different kind of connection… eventually… so hopefully I’ll be able to blog more often before too long.
I have tons of great photos to post from our time in the US, too! Little by little...