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Archive for March, 2009

Scary Story

There is an intersection about 3 blocks from our house that we drive by every day where there are several military guards standing around with guns.  It took us several months to figure out why there were always at that intersection, 24/7.  We eventually figured out that the Defense Minister lives there.  And you can imagine that in a country that is aggresively trying to eradicate the FARC, the defense minister might be a high value target.

Last night I was checking CNN and saw this story.  It was scary because he lives so close to us.  And also his family’s finca is in the same area where we go for our weekend trips (which is also where the picture at the top of our blog was taken).

It’s yet another reminder that as much as the security situation has improved here, we live in a very dangerous country.

On a different note, it was great to get back to the States.  It was suprising how much I had missed the familiarity of the US.  And it was especially nice to not have to speak in a different language (although for the first day, I wanted to address most people in Spanish).  The trip was short, but fun.  I got to meet some new people in the Foreign Service, got to eat some great food, and got to hang out with Seckingers.  Unfortunately Kristen and Jackson didn’t come because of the cost and the timing.  But the good part is we’ll be back in Texas (as Kristen mentioned) in less than a week.  We’ll be flying into DFW, going directly to The Farm for a few days (we can’t wait to see his reaction to the farm animals and to getting to run free through the pasture), then back to DFW, then down to Houston.  All over a 9-day period.

I also had the chance to check out a house we’ll likely be renting during our 8 months in DC.  The nice part is the house is about 5 minutes from my training site and about a half block from a great park.  Hopefully in the next couple of weeks we’ll know for sure where we’ll be living.

All in all, it was a good trip, but I’m glad to be back with my family.  When I got home last night, Jackson was already asleep but I was able to peek in on him in his crib.  And it was great to see my beautiful wife.  Skype just isn’t the same as sitting next to your wife on the couch and talking.

Kristen and Jackson

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20 months old

oh my goodness….2 years old is sneaking up on us!! Jackson has had a fun month and is learning so much. He has been talking for a while now but seems to be talking so much now…and to everyone!! He is now using 2 words together like “need people” (for his little people).  A couple of days ago I had a couple of little boys  here for speech therapy. Jackson loves to see the “big kids”. He was doing “high 5” with one of the little boys and started cracking up. He said to the little boy “you funny”.  Today he came in and saw Elmo laughing on his  video and said “elmo funny”. He is also using lots of action words like “raining”, “sleeping”, “running”, and “eating”. He loves to comment on how fast he goes when he runs. He learned “fast” with daddy! A couple of nights ago I kissed Jackson and told him I loved him. He said “thank you, mommy”.

He is really playing with his toys now. He does some pretend play with his little people. He enjoys pretending to feed them and shares his sippy cup. He named one of his little people Sonia. For those of you that don’t remember that was our first maid. Yesterday he insisted that Sonia come in the car with us. Everywhere we went he told people that it was Sonia. Very funny. He has caught on to the names of some of our front door guards. His favorite is Juan Carlos. When we go down the elevator he starts asking if Carlos is there. Every morning the guards comment on how cold it is outside. Just last week Jackson popped out of the elevator and proclaimed “frio”…for cold in Spanish! They all broke into laughter that he understood their system!!

Other favorite activities are coloring and the bean bucket. The bean bucket is a big tupperware of dry beans that we hide plastic toys in and go hunting. We scoop and pour and say “ay a you?” (“where are you?”).  It’s a nice activity to do inside on rainy days if you spread out a towel under. Jackson now knows the beans stay on the towel.  Jackson has a tantrum every single time the activity ends.

Jackson’s big adventure coming up is that we are flying home to TX to take him to the farm for a few days. The whole trip will be an adventure but we think he is going to love the farm. He loves cows and horses at the moment so it will be fun when he realizes he gets to be so close to them!

img_3272img_3273img_3289img_3217wiped out after church; about to get in trouble for sitting on arm of couch and jumping off; Easter egg display at mall; kissing Ruthie’s picture because I said we needed to give her birthday kisses.

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This past week was a bit nuts!!!

On Monday, I touched some chemical- soap or something that began burning my face just under my eye. I figured it was a minor irritation.

Tuesday, woke up with eye super swollen and burning spreading down my cheek. Rushed to dermotologist at the hospital. She confirmed a contact burn. Prescribed a cream.

Wed morning, burn had spread over to other side of my face and was covering my whole face. Back to dermotologist for stronger cream.

We came home from hospital to have to fire our maid that helps with Jackson. Last week I walked in after seeing one of my patients and Jackson was eating a cough drop and playing with coins. Jackson’s face began getting a rash and we had to call poison control. On top of a zillion other things we confirmed that although Isnely loved Jackson she was unaware of basic safety and cleanliness. So, sadly we had to fire her. She is responsible for feeding her 4 kids so it was heartbreaking to have to do it. She cried as we talked to her. Ugh.

Thursday morning- face looking very sunburned but feeling SO MUCH better!!!

Friday morning- looking like I paid for a high class chemical peel! New skin! Training new person to care for Jackson so that I can get back to work. Talking all day about washing hands and child safety! Looking forward to the US!

Seth flies to DC on Tuesday. He will be there through Friday for a conference on Fraud. He will be visiting with Ryan and Stephanie and the girls. He will also have the opportunity to check out our possible home while we are in DC. We hope it’s a go so we can have a set address for a bit!

Jackson and I will hold down the fort here. We are praying for safety while our body guard is away!

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BusinessWeek recently published a list of the worst places in the world for expats to work.

The fact that I’m blogging about this should tip you off that Bogota is on the list.  #8.

Bogota Pollution

Which means that the recent post about frustrations with Colombia could easily have been amended to include this post.

Actually, I really like my job.  I have great co-workers and great bosses.  The work is very challenging, even when I’m doing 100+ visa interviews a day.  When you consider that each decision you make has a very real and direct impact on the security and economic well-being of the US, it helps you focus and find ways to do your job better.  Embassy Bogota is the 2nd largest in the world, behind Baghdad.  Which means that there are always interesting things going on.  Whether attending an art show featuring West Texas paitings and photos the Ambassador hosted at his residence, working on visits by American delegations, helping arrest narcotraffickers, or working on the 4th of July.

And, speaking of work, Bogota has been the perfect place for Kristen to do part-time speech therapy.  When we arrived, I never would have guessed that her services would have been in such high demand.  I mean, an English-speaking speech therapist in Bogota?  Again, due to the embassy communtiy being so large, she has had more patients than she can handle.  Since we only want her to work a few hours a week, she has had to turn away many referrals, and even found another therapist in the embassy that can take some of her patients.  While she is looking forward to being done working, none of it would have been possible if we had been in Bern (due to the high cost of child care and the smaller embassy).

While the reasons listed in the article are reasons we’re looking forward to leaving Bogota and arriving in Bern, we are still enjoying our jobs.  I think Bern will be a totally different work experience for all of us.  Kristen likely won’t work.  I’ll be 1 of 3 Americans in the Consular section in Bern instead of 1 of 40 here.  The embassy will be so much smaller, which will mean I’ll likely get to do many things that aren’t possible here.

I won’t argue about Bogota being #8, but I also think it’s been a great place for us, workwise.

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Nope, not manic, just promised to write a post about things we do like around here!!

Here are a few things we like about Bogota….

1. friends

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we have started a tradition with our friends Nick and Kima of them coming over most Friday nights and ordering in dinner. Jackson usually gets a little visit before bed!

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2. it’s beautiful..year round..except for when it rains off and on every day! No really, it is the same temperature all year and because it rains frequently we  have beautiful flowers and plants all year!

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3. we can afford to have our house full of flowers because they are so darn cheap!!

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these are the weekly picks!

4. fruits and veggies- cheap and abundant.  We particularly love the fresh juices!

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I worry that Jackson might think every child gets to eat strawberries, avocados and kiwis everyday. Life after Colombia is going to be apples and bananas for him! I am going to let him enjoy while he can!

5. restaurants here are plentiful and generally reasonable.  when we say reasonable we mean that for the price of dinner at a Chili’s-type restaurant you can get a steak dinner. So when we do go out we can get more for our money.

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you might remember these pictures…the first is of the cookie and hot chocolate from our favorite bakery. The European influence here means wonderful baguette’s, croissants with chocolate, etc.  The second is of Graham’s steak when he came to visit. For about $14 this was the amount of meat he got at dinner! He had meat sweats halfway through!

6. domicilios- delivery. for everything.  medicine, food, framed pictures, paper, you name it and it will likely be able to be delivered.

7. the dollar is getting stronger and the peso is weakening..not sure if that is a good thing about Bogota or the US, but it benefits us here!

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I am having one of those “longing for the USA” days. ( I wrote this on Friday but just now got around to posting it, I got stalled on adding pictures. )

This morning I went to the dentist. For the first time since DC. ouch. It was a long time coming for a cleaning but it took us a while to find a dentist. Seth went a couple of weeks ago which was a bad idea on my part. He came home complaining about how their cleaning method was painful. Hmmmm. I should have backed out then. When I arrived, the dentist took a look and immediately wanted to replace my one grey filling with a white filling so it would look nicer. Not really important since it will never be seen by anyone but a dentist. Once I said that I didn’t really think it was necessary if it was for looks he proceeded to poke it and yanked it so hard that I asked him to stop because I had a sneaky suspicion that he was going to make it fall out. He was trying to make it loose so that it had to be replaced.  I stopped him and called Seth so that Seth could hear about the necessary work and talk to the dentist with his fluent Spanish.  In the end I kept my non- aesthetically pleasing silver American filling and got another small filling. The next step was cleaning. Seth had warned me it might be bad. He used a water pick. A high intensity water pick with baking soda. He didn’t block my face so I got sprayed with baking soda for 30 mins. After I had survived it I explained that in the US my dentist did it by hand and that the water pick was not very gentle!!!! I asked if I could eat or drink. He said anything but chocolate, wine or coffee. And he didn’t even have toothbrushes with his name on them! Grr.

We blogged a few weeks ago about our bedroom set that we got made. I will post a picture below. We really like how it turned out overall! We asked the carpenter if he would trade our night tables for a smaller version because they are gigantic! He happily agreed.  That was weeks ago. We actually had one of Seth’s fraud investigators call for us because one day I called to ask him where they were andhe hung up on me. FYI- in Colombian culture it is perfectly acceptable to hang up on someone if you hear their voice and don’t want to talk. After weeks of the run around with him we finally got him to answer the phone and give us an answer. The answer is that he isn’t making them, never was, never is. Just flat out decided not to do them, but was saying all along that he was, they were in process, they would be at the store the next day, that they were getting finished…. We think that he made enough money off our bedroom set to feel financially secure for a while and decided the work of the tables was inconvenient. Smart guy!  Not a friend of mine for sure! Grrr.

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Our Colombian “Pottery Barn” bedroom set..minus a few pillows and a bed skirt. We got the bed made taller so we could have more storage in Europe. Our dresser in our room..the second one didn’t fit since they were much larger than we expected so the second is in our entry way…as seen in the 3rd picture.

I have been trying to plan my “escape” for a few days now. Not from Seth and Jackson but with Seth and Jackson. Seth is going for a conference in DC and we were trying to figure out a way for Jackson and I to join him. The prices of tickets spiked significantly since last week so we decided to pass. I was very excited to be with Ryan and Stephanie and the girls for a few days as well as spend some time with our small group back home!!! We miss everyone! We are still investigating and hoping something amazing will pop up. If not Seth will have to eat double at On the Border, check out our next home for me, and go to Target to do the “must have’s” list.

Enough grrrs for today.  I will do a “things we appreciate about Colombia” post soon, I promise!

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