Saturday, January 31, 2009

good vibrations

Saturday is still a work day for the construction site thirty meters from our front door. I lounged in bed this morning with Claire and a pile of toys, drifted off to sleep and dreamt of excavators and dump trucks and woke up to excavators and dump trucks. Some dreams do come true.

I think they're getting ready to lay asphalt. The really heavy roller machine was here today pounding the gravel flat. Our windows rattled. I could feel the vibrations from the floor up my legs. Claire laid down for a nap. Lucky.

But I did get out of the house today. Got my hair cut and my nails and toes painted and eyebrows threaded. Quite a day, right? Sonia, Nira, and Stetson watched Claire. Sometimes, I think it does take three people. Justin is away with the other grade eight teachers, checking out a spot for their spring field trip, so last night and today: just me and the babe.

Tomorrow is mama's day. I'm going to sit in Juan Valdez, order a coffee and pastry and write for an hour or two. Then I'll return to our humble abode and pack for the job fair. Two years ago, I was the obsessive one constantly checking new postings by schools, researching every country. Justin took that job this time. Yesterday we each made a list of our own top five countries and only one matched. One! Of course, knowing how these job fairs work (openness and flexibility are of utmost importance), we'll probably end up in a place neither of us have really considered. That's what happened last time. We moved to Colombia. And look how that turned out: we like it.

I don't think I could be more open or flexible. All I want is a place without skid loaders. Is that asking too much?

Friday, January 30, 2009

pass the Elmer's

I tried to post this last night but the Internet died. Be assured: things seemed much less desperate today (Friday).

In Mrs. Knoeke's junior year physics class we built bridges out of glue and toothpicks, suspended them between lab tables and stacked weights to test their strength. How many pounds until our bridge joined the splinters on the floor?

That's what I felt like this morning. Like that bridge made from toothpicks, bowing under the weight. This week was one thing after another after another and I write this knowing that I still have tomorrow to get through before the weekend delivers some rest. What happened?

Claire's stack of paperwork. Colombians love paperwork. They like duplicate copies and rubber stamps even more. These loves come right after their love of long lines. But combining all loves makes for a decidedly unlovely day. Claire is our daughter. We have a Colombian birth certificate, a U.S. certificate of birth abroad, a U.S. passport, a signed and notarized document stating that her father and I are allowing her to travel with us to the States. But we were advised to also get a Colombian passport. I took yesterday off work and headed for downtown Cali to the Gobernacion del Valle with Claire and Patricia in tow.

(Nothing makes you feel uncomfortably elitist like asking your nanny to tag along on an errand but that's another post. I needed Patricia. I was lost).

Anyway: much crying, a few phone calls, three visits to supervisors only to walk away without a passport. New law yada yada You need to go to the Colombian embassy yada yada Apply for residency yada yada. Then Claire can get her passport. She cannot leave the country until then. You must be a resident here. I point to dates, "But we're leaving soon." I cry. The clerk, a balding man with braces on his bottom teeth, seems genuinely sympathetic. The Colombian American man helping me with the translation tells me I should pray.

"This is crazy," he says, gesturing through the doorway toward the large waiting area, a fluorescent lit claustrophobic nightmare of bodies emanating sweat and strong cologne. Personal space isn't an issue here. If my paperwork was cleared at this first desk (and that possibility was looking bleak), I'd get in a line to pay. That'd take about an hour. After that, I'd wait between three and six hours to see someone about actually getting Claire's passport. I'd do all of this with no elbow room, lucky if I got a chair.

I think of booking a flight to Bogota. I think of begging our director: give us our jobs, we'll skip the fair. I think of burning all the useless paperwork I have neatly clipped in a folder. I think of screaming. I call Olga at school, the amazing Olga who has strings to pull and does. "I'm - hiccup - I'm barely holding - hiccup - it together." People stare. They part for us when we leave.

"It is illegal," Olga declared. I sat in her office, watched her punch numbers into the phone. Her father knows the father of the new minister at DAS. (Colombia's FBI) He'll help. She calls his direct line and he wants to know how she got his number. She blows by that question.

So today we went to DAS, bypassed all the lines because we had a coveted cita, an appointment in a tiny back room with water damaged plaster and unframed abstract paintings. A four hour chunk of our day, Olga shuttling me from DAS to the bank, getting more photocopies (love those duplicates: they'll tell you to bring two and then ask for four). And at the end we had a half sheet of paper to tuck into Claire's passport. It says she's in Colombia legally. She'll reenter with a renewable tourist visa. Whatever it takes.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

always starting over: running (part 3)

The second time I started over was after my June 2006 MRI. And then, I started over twice. I took six weeks off that summer, tried aqua jogging, and then hurtled myself at the sport again in August. My first mile after that rest was 7:20. We'll work on that, I thought. When my leg started going numb, typically midrun and lasting through the end, I ignored it. Ate more ib profen and slapped an ice pack on after.

After the December race in my college town, I went to another sports medicine clinic. I was worried after the December race. I'd hobbled out of the finish chute, my lower leg pins and needles. This isn't normal I finally admitted. The new doctor was great, very personable and incredibly practical. He told me what I needed to hear. Not necessarily what I wanted to hear.

"So an MRI?" I said.

"I don't think so." Instead, he asked about my running habits, times, goals. My regular run pace usually wasn't far off from what I raced. I talked about qualifying for Boston but postponing it now. Finally he interrupted, "How long do you want to be able to run?" I immediately thought of a woman I met around mile twenty of my first marathon. She was sixty. I told her I wanted to be running a marathon when I was sixty. So that's what I said.

"I want to be running when I'm sixty."

"Then you need to slow down." He showed me a diagram of the lower leg. I'd seen a few of these on the Internet, my forays into self-diagnosis. I even knew the terms. Muscle fascia. Compartment syndrome. What I was hoping was not the problem but secretly suspected was. He pressed a thumb between my tibia and fibula, found the point. "When pain comes, it hurts here?" he said. I nodded. He nodded. "Why do you think the last doctor said it was a stress fracture? A fracture way up here?" He nudged a spot about three inches below my knee. I didn't have an answer but he did. He explained that he thought of stress fractures as stress reactions. It's okay for them to happen. In fact, he said, they make our bones stronger. Sometimes sports medicine doctors just want to attribute pain to an obvious fracture. But those tiny breaks weren't the root cause of my running pain. The recurring injury was related to a muscle fascia defect.

And suddenly, it made sense: the predictability of my pain - always the same place, often culminating near the end of training when I was pushing it, picking up speed for a race. I imagined my muscles choking.

There was good news though. "Surgery doesn't do much," the doctor told me, "People get mixed results. The pain usually returns." I didn't have compartment syndrome. I just had a bubble in my muscle fascia that put a limit on my speed. Well, a limit as long as I wanted to enjoy pain-free running. As long as I wanted to avoid a more serious injury. The doctor looked at me, "You aren't professional. You don't need to do this to your body. You can slow down now."

"And quit taking ib profen. It masks pain. You need to know what's going on with your body. You need to feel it."

I ran sporadically for a couple of months before starting fresh, healed, in April 2007. Muddy April. I was so happy. I didn't feel like I needed to race myself on my regular runs anymore. And I dropped my mileage a bit. I started running without a watch, just to enjoy my routes. I want to be running when I'm sixty. And for me, that meant slowing down, being kind to me.

September 2007 I ran the Medellin half marathon. I didn't train much for it but had enough of a base to know I'd finish. The altitude finally got me the last three miles. I walked and ran those miles, encouraged by an old man who would catch up to me on my walk breaks and pat my back, tell me to run, run. It was my friend Katy's first half marathon and we celebrated. I felt bummed about my time (1:4?). How would I ever get that 1:25 half and that 3:15 full? And then I realized: I ran this one without ib profen. I didn't limp out of the finish chute. I guessed I could be happy with that. So I was.

To be continued. Only once more. That'll bring us to present.

Monday, January 26, 2009

for grandmas & grandpas & aunts & uncles & cousins, oh my!

This girl loves to look around. This is in Bogota, on our way to the U.S. Embassy. You rarely see car seats and very few cabs actually have accessible seat belts. Try not to think about that too much.
Our sweetpea.
And doesn't every kid get propped up between a sofa arm and a pillow? Looking a little bewildered by this whole sitting up business.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

always starting over: running (part 2)

The first time I started over was in college, junior year. Senior year of high school, I set the goal to run a marathon without really knowing what that would entail; I spent the summer after graduation heading out for an hour and a half, two hours of running, feeling a new strength. Three years later, I'd gained thirty pounds and ran only sporadically during summer breaks and, occasionally, when I felt nostalgic for wind and sweat. And those runs were brutal: five or eight miles looping through my campus reserve after a few months of ordering Papa John's at two a.m. and eating Chinese take-out for breakfast. I'd finish, gagging, and not want to run for another three months.

But junior year I remembered I wanted to run a marathon. No time like the present. I started out slowly but was soon racking up the miles and dropping the pounds by autumn of my (first) senior year.

Running hurt. I'd had shin splints in high school but this was excruciating. I swallowed four or five ib profen before getting out of bed, like some people smoke their first cigarette of the day with their head on the pillow, and limped downstairs for breakfast. Before heading out for a run, I'd have a couple more ib profen. The first few minutes of any run was knives stabbing up my heels, along my shins. It was difficult to breathe, it hurt so much. I kept at it.

Five years later, in June 2006, an MRI of my legs showed a dozen healed stress fractures and two new ones. I had barrelled into running that autumn of my senior year, rarely taking a rest day. My legs were shattering and I just mapped longer runs.

Eventually the pain subsided but would return every few months, always in the same spot: my lower right leg, maybe five inches above my ankle, between my tibia and fibula. I began to think of this injury as seasonal. Once a winter for a few weeks, once a spring for a few weeks. I could live it and I wasn't limping anymore. Yet.

Oh, but I loved running. I made enlarged photocopies of pages from the Wisconsin Gazetteer: all the country roads to explore! I taped the maps to my wall and marked routes with different color markers. I ordered a Camelbak and bought running gear beyond old tee-shirts and cut-off sweatpants. I picked my first marathon: 2002 Grandma's and my aunt Peg, who competed through college, decided to train too.

Training was great. I liked the neatness of it, the organization of laying out a plan to get me my 26.2. And I can still name some of my favorite routes: Casimir to Second Street, North Point Drive through Park Ridge to Church Street, County Highway P as far as I wanted. Long runs were wonderful. I didn't know my body could do that. When I lost a couple of toenails, I thought: wow, a real runner. Running felt wild.

And running got me through. Any runner knows the value of that time alone - thinking, dreaming, praying, letting your mind unwind.

To be continued.

Friday, January 23, 2009

what I meant by "not painful"

In my last post, I said that my birth experience was not painful. I thought I'd better clarify before you thought I was a flake or nuts or lying.

I spent much of my pregnancy telling myself that birth is a natural (not medical) process, talking with women who believe the same, and reading birth stories of all varieties. I visualized, in the limited way that anyone who has never actually given birth can, the birth that I wanted; and I adopted hill and wave imagery, thinking they would get me through the contractions. During my runs, I learned to check in with parts of my body: relax my shoulders, unclench my fist. So, when a month before my delivery I began waking up at night with contractions, I practiced relaxing and breathing calmly and deeply.

And I decided to think of contractions as strong sensations - which, I know, really does sound kinda loopy.

But that's why my labor wasn't "painful." I think if I expected pain, that is what I would have experienced. My contractions came strong and fast - I never even timed them because my labor didn't really build up. I was just in labor, occupied enough. Ha ha. There was one point in my labor, though, when I felt overwhelmed. My body was beginning to push and that's what it felt like: not "I was" but "my body was." Wildly powerful. I had to tell myself I was able. Go with it.

And, as I said in the last post, endorphins are amazing. I was singularly present and focused. The downside of being so turned inward was that I didn't expect to also be so, well, unaware, I guess. For example, my doctor did not ask permission to give me an episiotomy and it didn't even register that I'd had one until after, when he was stitching me and I said, "Wait a minute, did you...?" And while I know Justin was around during my labor - he held my hand, brought me water - my labor didn't feel like a shared experience until, during pushing, I realized the magnitude of the moment: we were bringing a baby into this world.

I approached my due date hoping for a drug-free, natural birth but knowing that the birth process is unpredictable. "At the end, you'll have a baby," my sister-in-law said. That was about all I really knew for sure. And she was right: at the end, I had a baby.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Claire goes to school & I talk birth

Today we visited Ms. Ashker's psychology classes. They're studying human development and asked if Claire could visit. What fun. I (of course) forgot to take my camera but one of the students videotaped and I should be getting a dvd of one class visit.

Claire was content, fell asleep, didn't mind getting passed around. The students asked some good questions and I learned a few things too. For example, now I'll be watching for Claire's reactions to smells. The students wanted to see a few reflex reactions but much of the visit was talking about my relationship with her, her growth, and my pregnancy. Both classes asked about postpartum depression and we talked about wild hormones. I know most of the students, seniors, because I teach them in my American literature class but I didn't feel awkward about addressing personal issues. One class asked about the birth.

You know, I've talked with some people about my birth experience and feel strongly that women need to hear stories of strength, not fear. And women need to hear a range of stories of strength too, so that they aren't limited in their hopes or their expectations of birth. Some labors are long and arduous, others short and surprising. Some end with an emergency cesarean and others end with a baby delivered in the backseat. I think there's great value to telling these stories.

My birth experience was very good, despite an impatient doctor and an episiotomy. My doctor, used to planned cesareans (the cesarean rate is insanely high here) or epidurals, admitted that I was only the second woman he had seen give birth without any pain medication. So I talked with the class about my mindset heading into labor, viewing the birth process as natural and simply allowing my body to do what it needed to do, not fighting my body, trying to keep my body relaxed. I didn't think of contractions as pain, but as strong sensations. (I know that sounds loopy). We talked about the power of our minds and I mentioned the natural pain relief of endorphins. And even though some people balk at this, my birth experience was not painful. It wasn't easy either and I was deep inside myself to keep focus. I rarely opened my eyes. I was in labor for about eight hours and did lose a great deal of blood which made recovery seem more difficult than actually giving birth.

Claire meanwhile laid on a blanket on my yoga mat, snoozing and sucking her thumb. And the questions kept coming: Does she sleep through the night? Did Justin gain "sympathy weight"? Could you be a single mom? Do you have a mobile over her crib? And what's your best parenting advice? Oh, boy. I've been a mama for almost four months. Can I give advice yet? Be calm, I said.

always starting over: running (part 1)

I started running when I was fourteen. I ran the halls of my high school through winter my freshman year - pretty much a straight shot down hard tile except for a quick zigzag through the central foyer. Up and down the halls. Up and down. From the industrial arts classroom at one end, smelling of metal and burnt wood, to the choir and band room at the other, sounding of piano and vocal duets and gossip. The wrestlers ran the halls too, a whole herd of them sweating to make weight.

One afternoon while I waited for my dad to pick me up a the side entrance, Coach P approached me.

"How much are you running?"

"Maybe an hour. Down and back."

P squinted at me and tilted his head to the side. "Come out for track and run the two mile. You'll get a letter."

It was winter but spring season practices would start soon. I wanted a varsity letter and could get one doing something I actually liked. Cool.

I dropped out of my first race, an indoor invitational. It was hot and I was dizzy, lost count of the laps and forgot all the split times P told me to memorize. My shins were splintering and I thought I might throw up. So I quit.

Things got better. And I did get a letter.

I joined cross country my sophomore year and loved it: the pain, the misery, the camaraderie, the joy. Legs burning on the final turn, finish chute in sight. Just feeling alive, wet shoes and mud splatter, your pulse pounding in your ears the second you stopped.

So I ran through high school and wasn't the best or the worst. I was usually second or third distance runner on our team, a comfortable spot. I had some great races and some okay races. My running ambitions were low but my senior year I did push it to place tenth in my cross country conference meet. Tenth of maybe eighty. I can't remember. I think my time was 17:24. That time sticks in my head.

About nine years later, in 2006, I placed tenth in the Green Bay half marathon. I was the only runner in the women's top ten whose mile splits were over seven minutes (7:07) and know that pace wouldn't land me in the top twenty of some other races. But I was happy. And I wanted to be faster. That December, I placed third or fifth (woman) at my college town YMCA's annual ten mile road race. It's the kind of race that makes you feel tough because it's below zero and you get windburnt. And I felt tougher because I brought my mile splits down to 7:02.

So that was the year I wanted to learn how to race smart. I wanted to start racing more frequently, at different distances. And unlike my que sera sera approach to times in high school (to my credit, I occasionally lit a fire and worked toward a time goal, but was happier not thinking death waited at the finish line), I suddenly really really wanted to be good. And that was also the year that my lower right leg turned to pins and needles. And my right hip radiated pain. And I quit chomping ib profen. Quite a running year.

To be continued.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

poetry exercise: 10 minute spill

This is one of my favorite poetry exercises because even though it rarely yields a brilliant poem, it often gives you some good images to explore. This exercise, by Rita Dove, is taken from The Practice of Poetry by Robin Behn & Chase Twichell. Enjoy.

10 Minute Spill

Write a ten-line poem. The poem must include a proverb, adage, or familiar phrase (examples: she's a brick house, between the devil and the deep blue sea, one foot in the grave, a stitch in time saves nine, don't count your chickens before they hatch, someday my prince will come, the whole nine yards, a needle in a haystack) that you have changed in some way, as well as five of the following words: cliff, needle, voice, whir, blackberry, cloud, mother, lick.

You have ten minutes.

When I teach this in class, I offer a list of idioms. We talk about simple ways to change the phrases - sometimes by just switching two of the words with each other, such as "only as weak as the strongest link." The point is to have fun with words on paper. Play around. Here's what I came up with yesterday:

I wake at the edge of a cliff,
my pajamas flapping in the wind.
The moon winks behind a cloud
and I sigh: this, again -
before turning toward my house,
my waiting unmade bed.
A thought needles me.
My mother's voice asking what if
this woman's work is done -
one step too many when steps are few.

And the image I like? "The moon winks behind a cloud." Maybe that'll show up in a better piece someday.

Feel free to post your own 10 Minute Spill in the comments.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

friday five: cement mixer edition

1. I googled "cement mixer" and can buy a concrete mixer or make a cement mixer shot or watch a video of cement mixers (one can only imagine how exciting that is). Right now I'm listening to a cement mixer churn the foundations for all the straight-edged condos going up next door. I try to pretend it's soothing white noise but am only really soothed once it stops. I think I better understand Earth First activists dumping sugar in gas tanks.

2. Citizen Diplomacy. WPR's Joy Cardin interviewed Sherry Mueller, president of the National Council for International Visitors, this morning about recruiting Americans to be diplomats around the world. Mueller suggests that our interactions abroad are so vital to improving America's image around the world. "The stereotypes are pretty grim," Mueller said, but we can change that. Sister cities and exchanges are one way for us to get to know people around the world. And for people around the world to get to know us.

I know that my students feel strongly that Colombia is largely misunderstood. And I agree with them. Some of our coworkers had family visit over the holidays and one told me that her mom just felt so much better seeing Colombia and knowing that the idea in her head wasn't reality. Parts of Colombia, like parts of any country, are sad, imperfect, corrupt, tragic. But, wow, am I glad I live here. Because Colombia is also amazingly beautiful, calm, inviting, promising.

3. This week import teachers had to let administration know: do I stay or do I go. Stress. Ugh. Those of us not ready to return to the States are turning in our resignations without knowing where we go next. Yikes. But landing our next jobs aside, many of us are beginning our List of Lasts. This is the last time visiting Salento. This is my last run over rio Pance. I don't think I've hit any last lasts yet. I'll probably be a basketcase in June.

4. Claire is growing. I skipped my run this afternoon to come home and cuddle. She's too sweet. She outgrew her cradle and the school is working on getting us a bed for her - we don't want to buy a crib we'd just have to sell in a few months that Justin will outfit with boards to keep her from rolling onto tile. That'll work until she starts pulling herself up (sooner than we think, I'm sure) and standing. Then she'll get a mattress on the floor. Like a college student. Right now she sleeps between us on our full size bed (FULL SIZE, not queen). Claire's a bed hog. She migrates at night. I sleep like a statue for the first time in my life.

5. This whole story gave Justin chill bumps. We wondered what something like this does to a person's sense of spirituality. Did people pray? Did anyone decide they do believe in God? It was just so nice to get a story that ended well.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

new routine

It's too early to say I've found a routine but yesterday and today went smoothly. Of course, yesterday was a curriculum day - department meetings and work time in the classroom - and today I taught two classes. I'm on campus three of five blocks most days, along with whatever break or lunch period is sandwiched. Have I already told you that?

Good news is I remember more of my students' names than I expected to. I felt like I was finally getting all the Juans and Danielas and Isabellas and Camilos straight when I went on maternity leave. So I asked my students for patience. Again. Virtue of the year: patience. And I told them that when I'm on campus, in class, I'll be present. I'll keep my mind to task. Other teachers ask me about Claire - do you miss her? did you cry? are you okay? - and the only way I can really enjoy this semester is to be present. At school and also at home. Keep fretting to minimum. Anyway, I'm hoping my students do the same - seniors especially. It's too easy to check out during last semester and I have grand plans for us.

Well, I'm going to go lay next to my sleeping baby and marvel at her long lashes and dainty fingers. She's wonderful.

Monday, January 12, 2009

hours away

From returning to work. Tomorrow I'll be on my bike, heading for school a little after six-thirty. I am not freaking out. I am not freaking out. I am not freaking out.

The thing is, I have it pretty good. Last spring, I negotiated a different contract with administration so that I am able to spend more time with Claire this semester - on campus during my classes, allowed off campus when I'm not teaching. Most days I'll be able to come home to nurse or head to school later in the day. Since Bolivar is on a rotating block schedule, it'll be its own brand of chaos. I've mapped out as much as I could - through March - and it doesn't look too bad on paper. I'm getting up at five or five-thirty each morning (augh) regardless of whether I have to teach at seven-forty or ten o'clock. I think that'll help. Routine.

But I'm not sure what to really expect. My friend Georgia advised: plan ahead. This last week I made meals to freeze. And my unit plans for senior American literature and sophomore English are set for two months. I'll even try to get into the habit of laying out clothes the night before, making a lunch or snack the night before. I never do that.

In fact, I can't think of much that I actually did ahead of time before Claire arrived. Except pack a bag for the hospital. And then it sat forlornly under our key hooks for a month. It mocked me.

Friday, January 9, 2009

back at the track

Shortly before Thanksgiving, my treadmill sounded like it was about to give up the ghost. I called the Gym Shop and managed to convey the problem in incomplete Spanish and bits of English that Maria Leonor understood before resorting to my best imitation of a clunking rattling screeching deck. So David paid a visit on his moto and took apart my treadmill and promised to make it all better. He retooled a part of the back roller and for two weeks after, running no longer sounded like a car wreck.

I called David back again this week after suggesting to Maria Leonor that the Gym Shop just go ahead and order a new roller. "He tried fixing it last time," I explained, "And it didn't work."

"I am not understanding, Miss Sarah."

And that was the umpteenth (hundredth?) time since moving to Colombia that I wished I had paid better attention in Spanish class. Maybe one of the many conversational movies we watched was about a runner trying to get her treadmill fixed. Oh, and I should have taken notes too.

So David returned today with my old roller again retooled. It (surprise) didn't work. Poor treadmill sounded like it should be put out of its misery. So (surprise) the Gym Shop is finally ordering a new part. I don't know how to say "I told you so" in Spanish but I'll be sure to look it up.

Meantime, I get a chance to return to the Bolivar track. This week I've been practicing my early mornings. Shiver. Early. Mornings. I set the alarm for five and feed Claire while she's still asleep and then have breakfast, read the news online. Some mornings I'll be able to run before school (yea!) but others I'll be out the door at six-thirty for a first period class. This morning Justin and I biked to school and I ran at the track. Around and around we go. It poured. It felt good. I'll do the same tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

something is weird

With my blog. Not sure what so I'm posting to try to figure out where my posts are actually going.

Villa de Leyva

This was a real treat after Bogota. Villa de Leyva is a four or five hour bus ride from Bogota, heading northeast. The town boasts a population of 13,000 but seems smaller - even though you can see the many new condos and vacation homes being built on land surrounding the town. We divided our time in Villa de Leyva between Bonnie and William's finca about three miles outside of town, and Hostel Renacer which was about a mile from the main plaza.
This is William. Bonnie is in South Korea visiting her daughter and granddaughter but will return in February. William was a wonderful host, cooking fabulous breakfasts and dinners, pointing us in good directions to hike, and doting on Claire. We enjoyed his company very much.
This is the little cabin where we stayed. William and Bonnie designed and built their house and this guest house. They did an amazing job incorporating the natural landscape into their building. For example, we showered outside. Which was great when the water was warm and chilly chilly when the wind blew. On puentas, or holidays, they book guests to enjoy the countryside. Oh, we were so happy to get a chance to relax here.
At night, the sky was freckled with stars. This is first light in the morning, a view from my pillow. That tall skinny tree at the left is actually an old yucca plant.
The littlest bed buddy. Claire wakes up cheerful. Smiles and coos. (That's a piece of hat yarn on her forehead).
Here is a church we hiked to one afternoon, part of las ruinas Gachantiva, a pueblito of ruins that were fun to explore. Old buildings, forgotten places capture the imagination.
My man and my babe. Good company.
And here they are again, in a shop. Totally captivate by a springy bouncy bright toy. Claire is wearing what I call her Sugar Cereal Pants. They are covered with tiny green, blue, and pink creatures that look like they should be made out of marshmallow and turning your cereal milk blue.
Hostel Renacer. Gave us a good walk to and from each day.
One of the streets leading to the square. Justin was the one who manuevered the stroller through the cobbled streets. We met a local couple with two small kids, one only a couple months older than Claire. Their stroller was outfitted with super thick wheels that didn't get caught between stones. Jealous?
Claire attracts attention here. People love babies. Here's a little guy who spoke so sweetly to Claire and leaned in for a smooch.
Iglesia Parroquial on the Plaza Mayor.
I'd heard about this French bakery from friends. Oh. My. Wow. Yum. We indulged in an almond crossaint, pan de chocolate (think crossaint with bits of semisweet chocolate inside), a chocolate torte, and cappacino with towering foam. We bought a box of treats home with us and I've got some tasty coconut cookies in the freezer for a rainy day. Or a sunny day. Or a cloudy day.
A waterfall we hiked to on New Year's morning. A good start to the year.

bogota (put an accent mark over that a)

We enjoyed Colombia's capitol city. Spent two mornings at the U.S. Embassy and afternoons in the north, walking around Zona Rosa and La Candelaria, enjoying good restaurants (met up with Cali friends Ben and Laura Elena on Christmas Eve for Mexican) and some shopping. Christmas and the day after, we stayed close to the apartment. Good walks. Then it was on to Villa de Leyva.
One of us isn't happy. All of us were a little chilly.
Found our thumbs. Everyone's happy. Claire doesn't curl her fingers into a fist when she sucks her thumb so we didn't either.

Passport day! A couple of hours on U.S. soil. I was expecting a welcome brunch of champagne and fruits and little chocolates shaped like shells. I happily settled for a stack of Better Homes & Gardens and Martha Stewart Living. Magazines in English are such a treat - especially when you don't have to pay fifteen bucks for one. All went well. A passport with Claire's name on it is in the mail.

La Plaza de Bolivar. Justin pointed out that a Colombian town isn't a Colombian town unless you've got a few tributes to good ol' Simon Bolivar.
La Catedral Primada y Capilla del Sagrario en la Plaza de Bolivar.
One place worth going in Bogota is the Museo de Oro. The Gold Museum features artifacts from all over Colombia including these nose rings. I think I'd heard it before, but a repeat of the legend of El Dorado was interesting.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

cali sweet cali

Back at last. Sometimes vacations get a little long. A lot long. We had a wonderful time but when you rummage through your suitcase looking for, praying for one last clean pair of underwear and socks - well, you may as well just get on a plane and go home. So we did.

Bogota and Villa de Leyva were great. Especially loved staying at Bonnie and William's finca outside of Villa de Leyva. So restful.

We spent Christmas in Bogota eating carrot sticks and frozen pizza. We could have gone out to eat but did enough of that on other days. We did get out for a nice walk around the neighborhood and stopped at a panderia (bakery) for treats including the best arequipe (sort of like soft caramel) cookie ever. New Year's was celebrated in Villa de Leyva, eating take out sandwiches and playing gin rummy. Then I laid awake while everyone in the village set a match to anything likely to go boom. Justin slept. Claire slept. I stared at the ceiling beams before deciding my wakefulness might be better spent writing. So I welcomed 2009 sitting on the closed toilet seat with my notebook. Woo hoo.

I'll post pictures. Sometime. Claire was a great travel buddy, so happy. Justin wasn't too cranky either. Me? I had my fussy moments. But I love this country and enjoyed seeing more of it. Beautiful place.