Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Salt Cathedral & More

Yes, I'm becoming a deliquent poster...I've missed two days now! I'd like to blame it on a poor internet connection or having an illness in our family to care for or something like that...but it really just came down to being too tired once I was able to get online and do anything last night! Sorry all!
The kids are all tucked in bed...we had the EASIEST time ever getting them to bed tonight...though that may be because we let Angie stay up until 9:30 (an hour past bedtime) and Juancho & Laura til 10:30 (2 hours past bedtime!)! Laura & Juancho fell asleep within minutes! The reason they got to stay up was because tonight was the soccer match between the Colombian national team and Argentina. Juancho wanted to watch it...and we told him and his siblings they could stay up to watch it as long as they were behaving well. They did great! (Though they did multi-task by watching the game on the big TV and the Chronicles of Narnia on the mini DVD player with headphones at the same time!)

Now that the game has ended about 45 minutes ago (Colombia won 2 to 1) there are still cars driving by honking their horns and playing music and people shouting on the street...as you all know, soccer is a BIG thing down here! Juancho & Laura both have a mock soccer uniform with their names and favorite numbers on the back! They both play soccer pretty well...though Juancho is the only of the two of them that has expressed interest in being on a soccer team...we said we'd look into that this spring!
Yesterday was a good day...we walked out to a mall called the Santa Ana mall. It's a pretty fancy mall...we didn't even go into most stores because they were boutique type stores...with skyrocketed prices to match! We went for the purpose of going to Carrefour - a store very similar to Super Target with nice products but inexpensive prices. We bought some kiddy perfume and cologne for Juancho & Laura (they both wanted to wear Mami & Papi's stuff all the time...and that costs a lot!) and some deoderant for Juancho (he can get the pre-teen 'funk' after he's played a game of futbol!). We had lunch at a restaurant in the mall and then walked home. Walking places in Bogota has so far been fairly easy, but a bit adventurous - especially with a stroller! The sidewalks are often buckled in places, making them like an obstacle course to navigate. Crossing busy streets is insane - there are rarely crosswalks, and even when there are, we've determined there must be a game of 'try to hit the pedestrians' going on in Bogota - with extra points for pedestrians pushing a stroller! It seems cars speed up and honk when we try to dart across the street rather than slow down and let us pass!
While Angie took her nap, Juancho & Laura started school yesterday with Senor Mario! Senor Mario is a teacher in the area who does extra tutoring for students like ours who are not in school but need to be kept up on their education. He is focusing on learning English for them. Yesterday they started with the basics - the English alphabet. Truly not too different from the Spanish alphabet - minus a few letters and different pronunciation. He gave them homework - to write an English word that starts with each letter of the alphabet, and to sing the ABC song with Mami & Papi a few times! Last night after dinner Mami sat down to help Laura and Daddy sat down to help Juancho. About a half hour later Juancho was finished - he is very task oriented and a hard worker. Laura is a bit more like her Mami - easily distracted! She is also a bit more behind academically, so things are harder for her. She did great - but realized that clowning around during homework time only wastes play time later.

We also had a birthday party yesterday evening for Antoine DeRoot. Antoine is the father of Esteban - a 5 month old baby near the end of his adoption process here. Antoine and his wife Frederique are from France and Antoine was turning 43 yesterday! So we had party hats, a cake (with french wording), singing and the works for Antoine! Today he left to go back to France and just before he left they got the best present of all - they got Sentencia! That is the final signing which means Frederique and baby Esteban will be able to go home sometime next week!
"Tia Betty" (owner of 'Betty's Place), the girls & baby Esteban
The girls in their birthday celebration hats!
Angie enjoying the birthday cake!
Antoine, Frederique & baby Esteban DeRoot from France

Today was a big day! After breakfast we got ready to travel out to Zipaquira. Zipaquira is the town where the salt mines and Salt Cathedral are found. We had a day long tour planned with a guide Jorge Rico. It was about a hour long ride out to Zipaquira, but we stopped first in quaint town of Cajico. We walked around the town square that was beautifully landscaped with flowers and fountains, and stopped for a great mochachino at a local bakery...yum!
This is the inside of the bakery - we loved the style!
The family (minus Angie) in the Cajico town square
Jorge Rico (our regular guide) and the kids in the square in Cajico
From L to R - Jamie, Laura, Diana & Juancho at the town square in Cajico
We got to Zipaquira around noon and lined up to tour the salt mines. The mine we could tour (we traveled up to 600 feet below ground in these mines!) was no longer actively used for mining (though other mines in the area are...processing of salt is going on all the time here - the salt processed from these mines makes up 80% of all the salt used in the country of Colombia! But the salt mine we toured was home to the Salt Cathedral, an AMAZING underground tour of carvings, sculpture and symbolism that lays out the 14 stations of the cross, culminating in a huge underground cavernous cathedral with pews, a huge cross, a choir loft, and other sculptures. Services are actually held here every Sunday, and people have even rented the cathedral for their wedding! The beauty of the symbolism of Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection as depicted here was enough to bring tears to our eyes. Our mine guide (also named Jorge) was great as he told the history and symbolism of everything in English (for the benefit of the parents) and Spanish (for the benefit of the kids). A special moment was on the way out of the mine when our guide Jorge asked Juancho where he lived. He responded with emphasis and enthusiasm 'MINNESOTA!'...the kids are excited to go 'home'. Today we left Angie at home with the nanny Alicia, but Juancho & Laura were fascinated with everything they saw and learned (though they were a bit nervous walking in the dark cave at first!). It was truly amazing. If you are ever in Bogota, you must visit this site!
Salt sculpture of Angel Gabriel
A salt replica of the famed Michaelangelo painting
Papi with Juancho & Laura in front of the 'salt cascade'

Salt sculpted Nativity scene
The whole group inside the Salt Cathedral
The town of Zipaquira (note the huge church in the middle of town & the mountains in the background - Beautiful!)
On the way home we stopped at an authentic Colombian restaurant. We ordered the #3 chicken family meal - which said it consisted of 2 chickens, french fries, yucca root and drinks. We assumed it meant 2 portions of chicken. But it really meant 2 full chickens! (some organs included!). The chicken was really good - but we had TONS leftover (lunch tomorrow!)...and we were amazed that we got all this food for about $12. We can't feed our family for that little cost at McDonald's at home! It was cute because during lunch Juancho leaned over to me and said 'Don't worry Mami, I won't eat the bones.' (see an earlier post if you don't know what that means!)

We got home just in time for school...today Laura & Juancho studied the numbers from 1 to 100, along with a few words. Their homework is to write out the English words for the numbers 30 to 100 and draw a picture of what each of 5 English words Senor Mario taught them are (ie - grapes, fox, rain, etc.). We worked on it a bit tonight and will finish up tomorrow.
We can't believe Thanksgiving is two days away! We tried explaining Thanksgiving to Juancho & Laura - but they can't fully grasp what it means quite yet. We are planning for a big Thanksgiving meal here at Betty's Place - Robert is in charge of making the stuffing, and much to his JOY, the pumpkin pies have already been made (from scratch no less!).

Time to post some photos to support this long post...and then off to bed for us...just because the kiddos went to bed late doesn't guarantee they will sleep in!



Boyacheks said...

Thanks for the update! It has been so fun to hear and see what is going on with you all! What a cute family :)

Howard Meadows said...

Holly and Robert,

Thanks for the update! Don't worry about missing a day or so every now and then. Yes, we eagerly check everyday, but resting is one of the most important things parents can do, so get that rest when you can.

It was so neat to read about Juancho referring to Minnesota as "home" and him telling you to not worry, "he wouldn't eat the bones". McDonalds is probably more expensive because they remove the "organs". ;-)

We love you all,

-Dad Meadows

AJ said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!! What more to be thankful for than your beautiful family!! Jean Sizemore