Thurs 27 Goodbye Thornbury
- Beautiful morning in Thornbury: goodbye to sheep, to room where E was born, to T's grave
- Tearful goodbye to R on the train platform
- Goodbye to rolling hills
- Another tearful goodbye to E's godmother
- Blissful relaxation at the indoor, heated swimming pool
- Good food
- H accidentally spoke to our London hotel waiter in Spanish. He's ready.
Fri 28: Goodbye UK
- Goodbye to England/UK
- Bonjour to Paris! We have so/too many suitcases and bags!! (10)
- First overseas webinar (work-related)
Sat 29: Goodbye Europe, Hola Colombia
- First time ever having to wake E in the morning...
- Au revoir to Paris...
- Lonnnnnnnng plane ride (11 hours), great food on Air France
- Bienvenido á Bogotá! Grandmother, two uncles (S and JM) and an aunt (M) meet us
Sun 30: Una Fiesta de Bienvenidos
- Jet lag... Up at 3.30am
- A walk around the neighbourhood, looking for the ciclovia activities. Where are they? Lots of playgrounds and parks. We note the different birds that we cannot name. But pigeons, yes. Different trees, too.
- Skype with Tenzin! (And A & P and Moses)
- Earthquake in Colombia! 7.4! H felt it but rest of family didn't.
- A "Bienvenido" fiesta for us at aunt/cousin's (M and S) new restaurant. Fantastic. Embodies every reason we moved to Colombia. (More on this event later.)
Mon 1: A Bicycle for H
- E says "uno...dos...tres" in her sleep
- Jet lag receding for E and H, but not for me
- One cousin (ML) lends H her bike, while another (JP) cycles with him to help him get used to cycling in Bogotá. H very happy.
- H begins process of getting his cédula de extranjeria.
- Lunch at best restaurant in Bogotá again. E and I go by Transmilenio. (public rapid transit, bendy buses)
Tues 2: The Apartment Above
- See the apartment above my grandmother's and decide to rent it.
- Finally meet the man who has been helping us ship our stuff over. Goes well.
- Wonderful lunch cooked by grandmother's help.
- Bought black-out blinds for one of the bedrooms we're staying in.
- Bought a bicycle lock, so H can leave the bike in various places while travelling.
- Taxi to the mobile/cell phone place so H and I can have local phone numbers.
- In the past, when H is asked if he is excited, he would say, "Not really." On very rare occasions, "A bit." Tonight, in response to a question about being excited about living here, he said, "Yeah." WOW.
Weds 3: A Cédula for H
- H over jet lag. E is (based on sleep cycles, but still acts a bit tired during the day). I am NOT.
- H completes his mission for his cédula. (I drop him in the language deep end, as make him go alone.)
- We eat at best restaurant again. An uncle (S) arrives, and another cousin (P).
- We all take the Transmilenio home.
- E enjoying lots of cuddles with her great-grandmother. Even got a leg and foot massage after the day of walking.
Thurs 4: Paperwork!
- I finally conquer jet lag in terms of sleeping hours. Still v tired in afternoons/evenings.
- Health insurance man comes to sign us up and drives me around to finish the various paperwork. Everyone is so nice and helpful!
- Another great lunch cooked by grandmother's helper. This time joined by Aunt MC.
- H runs bicycle errands related to getting our new apt. Uncles (JM, J) and an aunt (MC) and grandmother going above and beyond for this apt.
- E and I go for a walk to the notary public for container paperwork. See an Israeli café across the street.
Fri 5: The University
- More bicycle errands for the apt by H.
- H, E, grandmother and I take taxi downtown. I meet with Uncle J at Universidad Nacional about work. Turns out they were expecting H, too, as they have lots of bicycle stuff going on and would love his help. Lots of possibilities around work for both of us. I eat a "frijolada" at the faculty restaurant. So much food!
- H, E and grandmother have lunch together. Then return to university for a bicycle exhibition. H speaks to the students about their projects. Fortunately, many know English.
- Bogotá very polluted on the roads, especially downtown. My throat and nose hurt. My eyes sting. We choose love over fresh air. But will use the love to help make the city better for everyone. :)
- Drivers are v skilled. In all the chaos of the traffic, expect at least ONE, if not hundreds, of dings and dents... but none.
Sat 6: More paperwork, Rest
- E and I, with Uncle JM, go to do some paperwork for new apt. Includes visiting largest mall here.
- Skype with Gpa and an uncle and cousin in California.
- H puts up the blackout blinds.
- Uncle J arrives for more paperwork and tells us that H and I will find project work easily around the circular economy and bicycles.
Notes on Food:
Aunt M and Cousin S's restaurant is lunch only. Choice of main bits: different sorts of chicken or beef or pork or the fish. Then choose 4 sides: scrambled eggs with corn, friend plantains, fried yucca, salad, rice of the day (gorgeous), and about 15 other choices. Also a choice of salsa (sauce) with your main bit. Choice of fresh fruit drink, pure exotic fruit, with or without sugar. Everyone gets a little tiny dish of something sweet. The day of the party it was blackberries with a slice of banana. Another time it was something else am unable to name.
When my grandmother's helper cooked, it was a chicken soup, with lots of veg. And a salad and potatoes. Delicious soup, in particular.
Breakfasts consist of arepas (corn flour and water pancakes) with campesino cheese (a wet, white cheese) or eggs, and fresh fruit. (In England, we had Howard's arepas every other day, with cheese or eggs.) We've started adding raw peppers and carrots to the menu, as lunches lack non-starchy veg.
Dinner is just snack time. The main meal is lunch time. H and E have various snacky dinner-time food, such as bread, fruit, bit of leftover meat from lunch.
Notes on Money:
Cheaper than England: public transport, taxis, restaurant food (£10/$16 feeds the three of us very well with high quality food, and we don't finish it all. Future strategy to just order for 2, so feed 3 on £7/$11), mainstream groceries, fancy coffee at a café, rent
More expensive than England: wholegrain bread (not the same as England, though), nuts
Notes on Weather:
The weather is very England-like. The hottest/sunniest day (Weds) was 24C/75F. The mornings and evenings are always cool 12C/53F. I've noticed rainy mornings and evenings and sunny afternoons. But Friday was thunderstorms in the afternoon and some torrential rain.
- Last night H said he was "very excited and enthusiastic about everything".
- E needed a rest day as she had pulled something hugging G (my grandmother) on Thursday and it hurt to walk.
- To the nearest mall. Quite big: Unicentro. Pick out E's Halloween costume (will be her first): Tigger. Will make a good bouncy Tigger!
- Start translating some co-counselling from Spanish to English for a website.
- My first day not totally knackered.
- H enjoys a honey ale made by the Bogotá Beer Company.
- Explain benefits of co-sleeping to G.
- E speaks Spanish to my grandmother this morning: quite proud of it! "Buenos días. Tengo hambre." (G asks: Quieres una arepa?) "Sí!"
- H delivers yet more paperwork related to new apartment.
- Work out exchange rate and fees that bank in England is charging me when I take cash out here. Not too bad.
- Great lunch from G's helper: a "tortilla" which is crustless quiche, with a veg dish containing carrots, beets, green beans. Yum.
- Try arequipe ice cream. Yet more yum. (Arequipe is milk/sugar, like caramel.)
- Get E some paper so she can go back to art work she was starting in England.
- Explain benefits of Fast-5 to G.
- G comes out with great things about our parenting. :)
- Lunch at family restaurant again.
- Big hailstorm!
- Rush to meet Uncle JM at rental office to sign papers for the contract. And pay. Rent is £345/$556 per month. We paid £500 in Thornbury for a two-bedroom with a garden and garage. This is three bedroom, but no extras.
- G says we are model parents. :)
- We and JM, MC, JF, G have afternoon drinks/snacks and Skype with my dad.
- I Skype with Tenzin.
- Keys to the apartment!
- Pick up my dad and my brother, S, from the airport. E in heaven on my dad (GL)'s lap the whole way to the family restaurant.
- Dad and I go to Juan Valdez Cafe to prep for meeting. (Coffee is so good that sugar is not needed!)
- Dad and I meet Uncle J at faculty co-op restaurant, to meet with two women from the Ministry of Health about transforming public hospitals. Knee-deep in Spanish.
- Meanwhile, H, E, G and S go to children's museum. H gives S a massage for some reason (part of the children's museum experience??) and E looks on bewildered.
- For my birthday, my dad buys me beautiful pottery plates, bowls and mugs for our new apt.
- Meet the family at Monserrate (church and restaurants in the mountains). 21 of us.
- Dad and I go to my first film in Colombia. "Amigos (Untouchables)". Decided a French film with Spanish subtitles would be most beneficial (rather than English with Spanish subtitles or a purely Spanish film). Excellent. Cheap. Good popcorn. (They don't offer sweet popcorn, like England does, which is fine by me. They don't offer butter with popcorn like they do in the US, which isn't fine by me.)
- Drive around downtown Bogotá and walk around a bit. H recognises the bike he had borrowed for a week and meets its Chilean owner, Victor.
- E's birthday party at the family restaurant! Fab. 22 of us. Pics and videos to come soon. H on the dance floor (first time ever, anywhere) and so was G (who, apparently, hasn't danced in at least 22 years!).
- My dad needs to leave for the airport during the party. :(
- Say goodbye to my brother that evening as he needs to leave in the middle of the night for his flight back.
Notes on Traffic:
A lot of traffic. People sell books, newspapers, fresh fruit to waiting cars. Jugglers, dancers, unicyclists entertain and ask for money afterwards. Quite talented.
- Am asked to do some (paid) online teaching of co-counselling and the circular economy.
- Chill out day (mostly) tidying new apt. Altho trip to Home Sentry for bins, towels, etc.
- Wait for washing machine that never arrives.
- Go to newest, largest mall in Bogotá, which also just has the first Gap. Which is where the jeans fit me. Early birthday present(s).
- My birthday! Mostly on Skype all day. Work and personal.
- E and H back to family restaurant. Me: leftovers from yesterday's too salty takeaway.
- Fridge arrives. Washing machine arrives. Apartment covered in packing materials.
- PS: We've had thunderstorm and lightning every day! Today: torrential rain as well.
- Took E to that big mall so she can go on rides as part of her birthday week. She loved it. Stuff that would've made me queasy!
- Do a bit of paid research around the Bristol Pound. Hello, England!
- Finally work out how to top up our Pay-as-You-Go mobiles/cell phones. Basically, everyone get do it for you. All shops.
- Favourite restaurant for lunch, followed by trip to our nearest public library, Julio Mario Santo Domingo. Gorgeous. A special room with toys and activities for children E's age. E makes a frog mask and H makes tadpole finger puppets.
- Buy mattresses. Gorgeous. Start sleeping in our own apartment again!
- Back to the library for more mask making. This time crinkled up paper. E sat a table with lots of children and just interacted independently with them and the teachers. Bet that helps her learn Spanish!
- Saw the most amazing lightning in the mountains...
- E's birthday! We get picked up by Uncle S and Aunt M very early so they can show us the best farmers' market in Bogotá. Huge. Open every day. Pics to come. Also eat a fab breakfast there: arepas with cheese inside them, scrambled eggs made in a little omelette pan, hot chocolate.
- Upon arriving back to the apartment complex, we go into my grandmother's apartment and are greeted by Uncle J and Cousin ML. They have a big bear for E, a tree of congratulations for me, and some campesino dolls for E. Birthday presents. Lovely.
- H up early (5.30!) to get to his 7am appoint at Universidad Nacional. Direct buseta doesn't stop for him. Takes a taxi (£5/$8 for 20 minutes). Comes back via Transmilenio (less than £1/$1.50). Loves the meeting about public bikes. Has some reading homework to do before November's meeting.
- We go to restaurant with my grandmother this time. And set up Facebook page for their restaurant.
- My turn for early morning to the university. Leave at 7.46, arrive at Transmilenio station (walking) at 8.05. Get my tickets and get on the bus at 8.16. Get a seat 10 minutes later. Blissfully read until 8.56 when I arrive. Five-minute walk to the university. While waiting for my uncle, my cousin spots me and we hug and say we'll have lunch later. Our meeting with the director gets cancelled at the last minute, but my uncle says he can get me some courses to teach within his own area.
- I see his office and we pick up H and E from the Lovers' Park (Parque de Novios), where H says he saw lots of couples kissing.
- E has her first Tae Kwon Do class! Normally they just take 5-year-olds and up, but they worked with her (1-1) and said she defininitely likes it and can do it but we agreed it might be too advanced for her. Not a lot of fun; just a lot of detailled concentration. E says she would prefer fun classes. We spot some wonderful theatre and folkloric dance classes on the web.
- Aunt MC kindly comes round to wait for our Internet and phone to be installed. Problems. H cooks lunch for her.
- My grandmother's helper comes upstairs and does some cleaning for us.
- We are sent photos of the inside of our container as it looked in Cartagena, Colombia today. Gulp! So far, so good... Now for the bumpy roads from Cartagena to Bogotá!
- This time MC is over by 8am to help us with three apartment-related appointments. She's a star.
- We go to a great seafood restaurant (there's a queue/line, which is a good sign), supposedly as a birthday gift to me. Uncle JM, Aunt MC, grandmother, H, E and me.
- E is babysat via Skype by A & P (and Tenzin and Moses) while H and I discuss how Monday will go. Monday at 8am the container will arrive! Finally! Mobility and tables and chairs!
- We meet D, who will be E's new caregiver, most days during the week. She is a cousin of ML's and lovely. Very exciting and a real relief. She starts Monday.
- We go to MC's for a Halloween party for the children in the complex. Circus performers and dancing. E loved the latter especially. Then lunch at MC's, where E makes friend with V, who is 3. They hold hands and cuddle a lot. E dressed as Tigger. Photos to follow.
- Telephone and Internet finally installed!
Sun 28 Oct – Sat 3 Nov
Notes on Sundays: We live near a beautiful park (two minutes' walk away, if that). On Sunday mornings, the park is full of people exercising. (Mornings are always guaranteed to be nice and warm.) Mothers and daughters doing stretches. People jogging. A group of men and a young boy doing Tae Kwon Do with an instructor. A man doing stretches and then meditating. People walking around doing arm exercises. E and I took her new little house to the park to build. I felt out of place not exercising, so turned on my Nia video on my iPhone and stuck it in my back pocket on a low volume. I have the exercises/dance memorised, so I started doing it and E copied me (which she often had done in Thornbury to this same video). I felt much less out of place.
- We drop by my grandmother's apartment and my cousin, S, and Uncle S and Aunt M are there. E asks them to sing songs, so M obliges.
- Lovely Skype with Auntie T back in Thornbury.
- Our container arrives! What a relief. Hadn't realised how much emotional tension I carried about it. Only "item" missing was our cat, Tenzin, who is now fully integrating himself into Moses' home in Thornbury.
- I begin co-teaching a peer counselling course via videoconference... in Spanish!
- Child minder, D, begins. Brilliant. She is excellent at teaching us all Spanish. She was with us each day M-F except for W. She is great at handicrafts and is in a dance group, so E has lots to look forward to with her. And it's great sharing meals with another person...
- H fixes Cousin A's bike. His first Bogotá bike fix. He is very much more at home with all his tools and bikes back in his possession.
- I learn to pay bills in Bogotá. Not having a bank account (and not being eligible to have one, as I have no income) is a bit of a downer. Means going to different banks and paying bills in person. Paid rent, administration fee (for apartment complex), gas, and health care.
- Have an excellent local pizzeria. Yippee!!
Notes on the Busetas: There is the Transmilenio, which is a bendy bus system with its own section of the roads (not just its own lanes), which is really lovely. But it's a 20-minute walk from our apartment. So when I went to the university this week, I hailed a buseta. These are smaller buses that go everywhere. And there are buses every few minutes. I never have had to wait more than 2 minutes for one (and I've taken buses going to three different destinations). When it's not rush hour, vendors/artists indicate to the driver that they'd like to get on and he (it's always been a he so far) lets them. First up, a quite good rap artist doing a Colombian social justice song. Second, a woman selling candy bars (with context). Third, what would appear to be a homeless man asking for money. On the way back, an amazing actor telling indigenous folk stories. Then, someone selling candy bars. Lastly, a couple of guys with guitars playing excellent folk music. Wow. Time went by quickly. During rush hour, no. Not comfortable and no entertainment. Will take Transmilenio when it's rush hour. (Similar price: go as far as you want for £0.55/$0.75.)
- Continuing my peer counselling in Bogotá, not just via Skype. The local contact person has been to our apartment once and I went to her apartment downtown.
- My uncle at the uni set up a meeting which culminated in my agreeing to write a draft for a Diploma in the Circular Economy. Exciting!
- Received a wooden wind turbine kit for E's birthday from Granny K in Thornbury.
Notes on the Postal System: Thank you to everyone that has sent cards and presents. We've received packages! It's taken between 8 days and two weeks to receive them. And we only know of one card that has gone missing (Uncle A's)... Getting things OUT of the country, on the other hand, is a pain. Still haven't figured it out but know that I need to go to an international mail shop and do it there. But the local one is always shut when I go by. Need to make an effort and do a test post.
- E had her second Halloween party, this time at our apartment complex. Again, dance instructors. Again, E loved it. This time, however, she won a prize for being Champion of the Dancing! Way to go, Tigger!!
- Her second cousin, A, same age, attended, too. We went out for pizza with my grandmother and him and his parents. Then back to the playground for bubbles and hide and seek. Good fun.
- H definitely ready to start designing a better bike for Bogotá (his goal).