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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Congratulations Millonarios!

The girls and I headed to Parque 93 to enjoy the Bogota Philharmonic Orchestra and Coral in the park. It was a gorgeous evening and I was looking forward to a little Christmas music to warm my heart.  As we rounded the corner we noticed masses of people lingering around the restaurants dressed in blue jerseys, intent on the tv screens hanging above.
We settled onto a grassy spot to enjoy the strains of "Joy to the World".  More often than not, honking horns and cheers from the masses drowned out the music.  As was said later "the horns were the hit of the night", proved to be true!
We finally gave up and decided to wander back home.  At this point the fans had gone crazy filling the streets, singing and dancing.  I loved it and fortunately I never felt uneasy in this mass confusion.
What I learned later was that Bogota's soccer team, the Millonarios, celebrated their fist championship in 24 years.  Truly a reason to celebrate!  Simon Bolivar Plaza downtown was reported to have 60,000 fans cram in the plaza in celebration as a bus carried the team to the central square.
My favorite part of the report was the "Update:  Three fans have died in Bogota during celebrations of the Millonarios victory.  Two fans were reportedly stabbed in separate fight incidents and another fell from the third floor of a building.  1,200 people ended up in court after the day and night of celebrations."  We are in Bogota after all!

- Kris

Kids Christmas Party

I love getting involved in the embassy community and I love dragging my family along with me!  Fortunately, they usually jump in with me, enjoying the opportunity to have some fun while lending a helping hand.  This year the kids helped with the Kids Christmas party at the Ambassador's house.  They did a great job and we all had a fabulous morning.

Damon talking with the Ambassador and his wife

Maddie the elf, helping with crafts

Maddie and Elena performing Christmas carols

Damon as Santa's helper

The Gingerbread Houses

Maddie came to me in the fall asking if we could make a gingerbread house this Christmas.  We love creating in the kitchen together so the idea seemed brilliant.  She wrote Grandma and asked her to bring the candy to decorate.  I emailed a friend who sent me her recipe and all the tips she has gained over 17 years of making houses.  We scoured the internet looking for patterns and directions.  The houses we looked at were gorgeous and began to overwhelm me so I decided we must start more simply.  Rather than one large house I determined that it would be much less complicated to make several small houses.  What was I thinking?   Thus began our multi day adventure creating a village.

- Kris
Step 1:  prepare the pans with baking paper
Mix the dough
Cut out pieces
Bake the pieces
Glueing houses together.

At this point everyone became involved with trying to get the frosting to glue!
Decorating day began with a little visitor, Gabriella.
This was the perfect project to keep all girls occupied for a day!
We began to get crafty.
We found that frosting and candy covered a multitude of sins.

Putting the last few touches on.
Elena, Kris, Grandma & Maddie 

The Lights of Bogota

Christmas brings out the best in Bogota.  The city goes wild with lights.  We took a tour of the lights one night and enjoyed the festive atmosphere while walking around.

- Kris

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Family for the Holidays

My parents have arrived in Bogota and it has been a wonderful, crazy time of catching-up, seeing the city, and enjoying the festive Christmas atmosphere.
Lots of time has been spent together in the kitchen creating. New recipes tested and old ones revisited. Secretive wrapping sprees and rambunctious games played around the table. Memories of Christmases past and new moments frozen in our minds to be recalled on a future Christmas Day when we are far away from home.
The days are passing quickly and Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye. I am so thankful we can share the holidays together this year.

- Kris

Friday, December 14, 2012

So Weird

Elena was just picked up to babysit in an armored car with a driver.  The body guard got out and escorted her to the car where our friend was waiting inside.  It's just something I can't get used to.   It's like I'm observing a movie going on around me.  Well, she's off now and I know I don't have to worry about her safety!

- Kris

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

End of Another Soccer Season

Once again Elena's team has had an outstanding season.  Fortunately most of the games have been played at our school field making it easier (not easy, but easier!) for me to go to her games.  Her team went into the finals 7-1-2.
The final game was played during school hours making the audience only the few parents that could attend.  The girls played hard, but unfair calls were made right from the beginning.  This is something I have noticed in every game.  The refs. tend to be biased towards white girls.  Oh well.  After a well fought game they lost by 1.
It's  been a great year to see the team grow together and have a great season.
Well done Elena!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

You don't see that every day!

Saturday traffic in Bogota is unbearable. Driving home from soccer practice this morning I breathed a sigh of relief that I was headed south into town rather than north to Chia with the 8,000,000 other Bogotanos.
Traffic was creeping along slower than molasses. In a glance across the median I saw people walking amongst the cars selling cotton candy. Long poles strung with bags of the pink fluff bounced up and down as the hawkers wove in and out of the slow moving traffic.
My thoughts immediately turned to I-75 on Labor Day weekend as the masses from Detroit head north for one final fling in the woods before the trees become bare and snow falls from the sky. Why not sell cotton candy along the side of the highway?

You don't see that every day!

Chad felt we should start posting some of the unusual things we see as we travel around, living in different countries. Sadly, the moment passes so quickly that we don't have time to pull out the phone camera so we usually don't get a visual to go with the explanation. So here goes!

Last night we were walking along in the park on our way home from dinner out. We saw two teenage boys walking towards us looking as though they were holding hands. As we got closer we saw that their hands were actually hand-cuffed together. Following dangerously close behind were two police men huddled close together on their motorcycle. Lights flashing they paraded slowly through the park herding their prisoners away.

- Kris

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Machu Picchu - Day 4

Day 4
Our crew that got us over the mountain
On day 4 we woke up at 3:30 am. We ate pancakes and then started the final part of the hike. Damon and I were quite excited to get it over with and get there first. While it was still dark we got into a long line with a lot of tired people. We waited until 5:30 am when they let us onto the trail, and the race to Machu Picchu began. 

Our first view of Machu Picchu 
Beautiful views after the clouds cleared

Damon and I immediately went ahead and hiked as fast as we could but we were pretty tired from the days before. We passed a lot of people that had been ahead of us in line and after about an hour we arrived at the sun gate. You were supposed to be able to see an above view of Machu Picchu from there but it was really cloudy. Mom, Dad and Maddie arrived 15 minutes later with the guide. Then we started the 30 minute walk down into Machu Picchu.

Tight construction of the sacred buildings

When we got to Machu Picchu it was cloudy and not a very good view, but soon it cleared up. The guide spent a lot of time talking about the Incas and their civilization but soon we got to walk around the city. Some of it was being preserved by archeologists but the guide said that 60% was original from Incan time. The construction was amazing but I think the best kind was the stones that were perfectly built to fit each other. They didn't use any kine of clay to hold it together but they all fit so perfectly. The walls after ... Of years were still standing, and in good shape too.
Machu Picchu was amazing and beautiful. The mountains surrounding it were huge and I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere.

- Elena

Pachamama Explorers - the tour company we used.  I highly recommend them.

Amaru Hostel 1- Hostel we stayed at in Cusco.  Loved it!

1.  Dress in layers.  The weather is all over the place.  Short sleeves to raining, to chilly with a jacket and scarf, hat and gloves.
2.  I would consider taking the last train of the day into Aguas Calientes the day before Machu Picchu then getting into the ruins first thing in the morning.  With 2,000 people coming in each day it's nice to see the ruins with fewer people there.  You can get about 2 hrs. in before the trains start rolling in with hoards of people.
3.  Good walking shoes with a bit of traction so you aren't slipping on the stone stairs and cobblestone streets.
4.  Don't plan your days too full or rushed.  Because of the elevation you want to take it easy and enjoy each thing.
5.  Even if they claim it is Alpaca in the markets - it's polyester.  Nice and soft and cheap.  The way to tell a real alpaca item is it smells like an animal, has a slightly "wet" feel to it, and it is not cheap!  There are lots of nice shops all over Cuzco with beautiful alpaca items. 

Machu Picchu - Day 3

Porters on the trail
Many porters wore shoes made of old tires
Once again we woke up really early. This time we didn't have any water or anything in our tents. We had to hike over one peak, but afterwards it was all down. It was around 19 kilometers, and was definitely the longest day. We ate lunch at the top of the peak, and could see Aguas Calientes and some terraces. It was a very pretty view. 
Lunch break
After lunch we only had to walk down, but there were some very steep steps, then we saw some ruins. We didn't stop for long while our guide told us some history. We walked for a while more and Damon, Elena, and Dad went way ahead of us. They waited for us for quite awhile and made a bet on how long it would take us to get there. Apparently we were about a half hour behind. Damon was the closest at guessing when we would get there, so Elena and Dad each had to carry his pack part of the way to the campsite. 
Before we got to the campsite we came to the terraces; there were about four llamas walking around, eating on the terraces. There was one black one…the black ones were considered sacred to the Incas. The terraces were very big, and each step was about 7 feet high and 6 feet wide. Some of the terraces had 'floating steps', pieces of stone sticking out of the sides of the terraces to get from one level to the other. After we saw the terraces we finished walking the half hour to the campsite, and Elena and Dad each carried Damon's pack part of the way.
Inca Ruins of Runkuraka
Before dinner, we had snack. There was kettle corn and they somehow made a chocolate cake. It was pretty good (better than Colombian cake), and we were impressed. After dinner. Had a ceremony to say thanks to the porters, and tip them. They all seemed nice, and had made our trip good by cooking and taking care of the campsite and carrying tons of stuff for us.

Terraces for farming
- Maddie

Note from Mom:  Another killer of a day.  You wouldn't think that walking down a mountain could be so painful.  A lazy, meandering trail may not have been too bad, but we walked down steep, ancient steps for hours and hours.  Before the last hour was completed my legs completely froze.  The muscles stiffened and I found myself clinging to the sheer rock wall as I slowly lowered my body each step careful not to topple off the precarious edge.