In early September, when Brian found out he’d have to attend an October conference in Bogotá, Colombia, the kids and I bought plane tickets to go with him for a few days. We thought we could see our friend and former neighbor Mike and his much loved dog Scout, now living in Bogotá. It had been about a year since we’d seen our old friends and the boys were excited. Because of end-of-fiscal year funding issues, Brian was delayed in buying his plane ticket until about two weeks before the trip. When he looked closer at the conference details once the funding was finally approved, he realized the conference was not in Bogotá. It would actually be in Cartagena.
Brian and I debated a bit about what we should do: Should the kids and I skip Bogotá altogether and go right to Cartagena with Brian? Should the kids and I stay in Bogotá the whole time? Should Brian come with us to Bogotá and then go on his own to Cartagena? Should the kids and I cancel our whole trip? We eventually decided that Brian would come with me and the kids to Bogotá for a few days before his conference and then go to Cartagena alone while the kids and I stayed in Bogotá for a few more days.
To prepare for our trip, I watched “Romancing the Stone” (when I thought the kids and I might go straight to Cartagena) and bought a Colombia guidebook (which I didn’t have time to look at until we were on the plane).
Mike picked us up at airport in Bogotá and we headed to his home. It was drizzling and cloudy. We could see the mountains as well as posters supporting the FARC peace deal which had just been narrowly defeated by voters.
Patrick and Danny were very excited to see Mike and Scout. The boys gave Scout lots of snuggles and kisses! Scout seemed to recognize them the boys and gave them lots of kisses too.
To get ready for our arrival, Mike stocked his home with all kinds of food and drinks from the local Costco and with borrowed toys and baby gear from our friends Patrick and Whitney who served with us in Asunción and now live in Bogotá with their two little boys.
The boys gave Mike a gift they had helped to make for him – a painted impression of Scout’s paw. We had actually made the impression about a year and a half ago when Mike and Scout lived near us, but then forgot to give it to them. Just before our trip, Danny helped me paint it.
Mike has a nice, big apartment with three bedrooms and four bathrooms (five, if you count the bathroom for the maid). The boys liked the elevator and the stairwell in his building, and loved the walking paths outside of the building.
We took advantage of the mild weather and ample paved walking paths and went for lots of walks with Scout and Mike. We enjoyed the Sunday “ciclovía” when many of the city’s main roads are closed to cars, allowing for easy pedestrian and bike access.
The boys begged and begged for popsicles and then didn’t like or eat what they had ordered. Danny announced that he’d rather eat my popsicle, so I traded with him. He didn’t like my popsicle either, so I ate them both. Patrick didn’t like the seeds in his raspberry popsicle, so he gave it to Brian.
Kev was nervous about trying the slide, but Patrick convinced him to go for it!By the end of the day, we had walked about two miles, and the boys were worn out! That night we had dinner with our friend Patrick who served with us in Asuncion. We had fun catching up! Danny, who had been particularly wiped out by the day’s walk, had a major meltdown at one of the parks, and then fell asleep at dinner snuggled up on two chairs pushed together. He seemed a little feverish but we didn’t have a thermometer and he refused to take baby Tylenol. The next morning, Danny seemed to be feeling better and Brian headed to Cartagena after some big goodbye hugs from Patrick and Danny.
Danny was not feeling so hot and began screaming and crying and demanding that we go back to Mike’s place. This went on for quite a while. He eventually calmed own when I said I would carry him. Kev did not like this plan and began to cry as soon as I passed him off to Mike. So I carried them both – Danny in the baby carrier resting his head on my chest and Kevin on my hip with my arm around him. Two elderly women, noticing me struggling with the altitude and trying to carry nearly 60 pounds of children, gave Mike a dirty look and then said to me, “¡Dios mio! Dos Niños! Que Dios the bengida!” (Oh my God! Two kids! God bless you!)
When I bought the boys Colombian soccer jerseys, the vendor gave us string bracelets in the colors of the Colombian flag. Patrick hasn’t taken his bracelet off yet, prompting one classmate to tell his mom that he wanted to travel to Colombia to get his own bracelet.
During lunch, Danny slept on two chairs pushed together, Patrick drank water from a wine glass, and Kevin sampled – but did not enjoy – my lobster. We were the only table with kids and we were quite the curiosity in the restaurant.
After our delicious lunch, we knew it was time to go when Danny woke up extremely crabby and Kevin, due to an unfortunate diaper accident, was left with no clean clothes aside from a sweater. Patrick threw two coins in the wishing well as we left.
Patrick was excited to ride on a llama at the base of the mountain. Kevin, having soiled his pants, was a little chilly though perfectly content, and Danny, a little under the weather, was just crabby.
When we got back to Mike’s place Danny was feverish and exhausted and was in bed for the night by 4:30. He still refused to take baby Tylenol. Our friends Patrick and Whitney came by that night for a glass of wine and brought with them a child thermometer. When I found that Danny’s temperature was 103.6, I held him down and forced the baby Tylenol down his throat. He did not like that. A couple hours later, his temperature was up to 104.4. I gave him more baby Tylenol, put a cold and wet washcloth on his forehead as he slept, and talked to a pediatrician referred to me by Patrick and Whitney. Finally, his fever started to go down. The next morning, the doctor made a house call and diagnosed Dan with strep throat. She checked the other two boys as well, though they were thankfully strep throat free. The doctor prescribed Danny a few medications that were delivered by a pharmacy in less than an hour. Extremely efficient!
It was a struggle at first to get Dan to take his medicine. At one point Mike helped me hold him down while I tried to put the syringe full of medicine in Dan’s mouth. Danny kept trying to spit the medicine out and Patrick, watching this battle, said to me “Mom! You have to pinch his nose!”
We had a great lunch at a French bistro with salmon and quinoa, butternut squash soup, goat cheese salad, roasted asparagus, and pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes (though we told the kids it was chicken so they would eat it). Kevin spend a lot of time waving to all the waitresses.
We had a great time in Colombia enjoying the things we don’t have in Paraguay like Uber, mountains, fresh seafood, and Domicilios, a phone app for an amazingly efficient and well-coordinated delivery network that will deliver anything and everything quickly and cheaply. During our trip, we ordered firewood, PF Changs, Italian food, beer and wine, medicine, and Mexican food from a restaurant called Sipote (a Chipotle knock off). Everything was very good and arrived quickly.
We asked the boys what had been their favorite part of the trip. Danny, perhaps confusing this five-day trip to Colombia with our three week trip to Chicago in July, excitedly and immediate said, “When I had my surgery!” Patrick, a bit more in touch with reality than his younger brother, said his favorite thing was making wishes and throwing coins in the fountain. We had a great time in Colombia. It worked out well that Brian originally mistakenly believed his conference was in Bogotá. If we had known all along that his conference was in Cartagena, the kids and I probably would not have gone to Colombia at all.
The next morning, it was time for us to head home. Mike took us to the airport and helped us get checked in and to security. The kids were sad to say goodbye to him and Patrick immediately asked when we could come back and visit again. We boarded a quick flight to Panama and then switch places for our six hour flight back to Paraguay. Lots of people had lots of questions for the presumably mentally unstable mother embarking on 12 hours of international travel with three active little boys. But, everything went pretty well.
The boys were exhausted by the long day and when we had about an hour left in our last flight Danny just laid down on the floor and fell asleep. Patrick and Kevin, equally tired, fought sleep.
These tired boys (and their tired mama) sure were glad when we made it home! Just a couple more weeks until Daddy gets home from his trip!