Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Christmas Eve in Usme:
Silent night came on while Mary held the baby Jesus with Joseph, the angel Gabriel and padre Romero nearby
Julian and Dilan patiently waiting for Christmas presents!
Nelcy and Alejandra loved their new shirts/dolls! We gave gifts to the kids from the mission, while Padre Romero and members of the congregation gave toys to the others. There were over 200 kids!
Santiago happy about his new shirt and dinosaur!
Feliz navidad de usme!

Christmas morning: I skyped my family during breakfast and while they opened their presents from Colombia. They were celebrating in Davis, WV and it almost felt like I was there with them!

Christmas night: Brittany and I went to the bus station and boarded our overnight bus to Cali, Colombia. We were in pretty comfortable seats, but we had to go up and down mountains so it wasn't the steadiest trip. The last time I took an overnight bus on Christmas was with my old soccer team, the vipers, to Florida for a soccer tournament. It brought back some great memories. :)

December 26 around 8am we arrived in Cali. A little bit sleep deprived, we found a taxi on the road (completely missing the huge line of 'official' taxis...oops) and took it to our hostel. Later that day we went to the Cabalgata, a big parade of 3,000 horses. It was a very cool parade and the horses were all doing 'dressage' (Brittany taught me that means that the horses were doing advanced trotting/tricks). We were impressed.

December 27 we went to the 830am service at Trinity church. It was the first episcopal church built in Colombia and is beautiful. We met lots of people, including one man (Daniel) who gave us a quick tour of downtown Cali.

Then, Daniel took us to the bus station, where we took off for Padre Diego's finca, two hours away in Palmira. Padre Diego is the 11am priest at the cathedral and we have worked a lot with him recently. It was great to get away from the city and spend some time with his family. His kids and nephews loved showing Brittany and me the chickens, cows, huge pigs with their newborn babies, rabbits, etc... We even were able to share in his eldest daughter's birthday celebration and play a traditional Colombian game!

Our third (and last) day in Cali was spent with Daniel, the man from the church. He invited us over for lunch and then we went to the parade of 'cali vieja' (old cali). This parade was packed with people and there was lots of music and dancing. It was so much fun to see all of the different styles and costumes. After the parade, we ate cholados (traditional snow cones from Cali). Late afternoon, we left for the airport and made it back to Bogota.

Cali was a great trip, but way too short. We have a long list of things to do/see when we go back. There are a few missions there that we would like to get involved with. We are definitely going to plan a trip there this spring!

Feliz navidad de Bogota!
Love, Kate

Thursday, December 24, 2009

novena! part 3

Days 4/5. December 20/21. Cathedral.
My mom's quick trip ended on day 4 of novena..just when she was starting to get some of the songs down. The kids brought in new noise makers, including maracas made out of beer cans, and were encouraged to sing as loudly as they could. There was an 'angel tree' program at the cathedral where the congregation bought a special present for all of the kids from the poor neighborhood. Unfortunately, we missed the gift-giving night because we were in Soacha (dec 22), but it was big success, and there were lots of happy kids!
It was sad to see my mom leave Colombia, but I'm so glad that she was able to share some of the novena with me. Brittany and I decided to see her off at the airport..and it's a good thing we did. With all of the snow in NY/DC, we had to reroute her cancelled flight. Then we realized that they never stamped her passport when she arrived. We had to help her get a stamp, a tax exemption, and finally...a boarding pass. And not just any kind of boarding pass...the computer was broken so it was handwritten (without a date/time...amazing):

here are a few quick 'non-novena' highlights of mom's trip:
walking along calle 53 to find wrapping paper and ribbon to wrap the kids' gifts; skyping to family and friends back home; long, crazy bus rides to the missions, watching mom and clemencia (padre jose's sister) become friends...even though they don't speak the same language; watching all of the kids ask her questions in spanish; christmas shopping at an open market; coffee downtown at juan valdez, taking myriam and oscar out to dinner, with Brittany and Andrew, to say thank you for being our parents away from home.

Days 7/8. December 22/23. Soacha. 
Having spent a weekend at Father Carlos' home before, I was so excited when he invited Brittany and me to stay there during novena. We met him at Soacha's novena on the 22nd. With such a small group, he really gets everyone involved. He asks lots of questions and really gets into the different topics of the novena. 
After novena, we went back to his home. It was great because we only had to spend an hour on the bus (instead of two), and we were able to spend some time with his amazing family. That night, we had a big dinner and then left to go see the lights at a park nearby. The next morning we went on a long bike ride and then spent the afternoon coloring with the kids. We left early to go make some home visits in Soacha and visit a lady who just had surgery and was stuck in bed. 

After the novena, all of the kids went upstairs for a little Christmas party. Laura-Catherine had picked up a pinata and they were so excited! We lined up the kids from shortest to tallest and gave them the end of a broom to take a few swings. When it finally broke, the kids went wild. Also, when my mom was here, she brought lots of gifts for the kids from the states that my Aunt had bought at a closing sale at an amusement park (t-shirts, bugs, dinosaurs, etc...). Thanks Aunt Kendel!! We came up with a great plan to evenly distribute them between the three churches. After the pinata broke, we handed out the shirts and toys. They were so grateful and excited about their gifts. It was a really special night.

We're going to Usme tonight celebrate the last night of novena. Merry Christmas Eve!
Love, Kate

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

novena! part 2

Day 2. December 17, 2009. Cathedral

After a busy day in Usme, we stayed close to home and went to the cathedral's novena. There were lots of kids there from a very poor neighborhood that is located about 5-10 minutes above us. We have been working with them every other Saturday while their parents go to workshops at the cathedral. Padre Diego started this program a couple of months ago, and it has been very successful. It's a great way to get everyone involved and excited about going to church. The people from this neighborhood have quickly become an integral part of our congregation. 
The novena was smaller than it was at Usme, but there were still lots of children. They were doing readings and singing loudly. It was great!

Day 3. December 19, 2009. Usme
Back to Usme for another BIG novena. This time, my Mom, Brittany, and I arrived at 4 for a Christmas party with our kids from the mission. We were walking up the hill to the mission when one of the kids, Dilan, saw us from around the corner. He yelled to the other kids that the "profes" (Brittany and I) were there. The next thing we know, 15+ kids were running as fast as they could down the hill to attack us with big hugs and kisses. It was the best feeling in the world.
After hugging all of the kids, we went inside and started our party. Brittany had printed out pictures of all of our kids and thought of the idea to give them to their parents as Christmas presents. We brought art supplies to make their gifts and it was amazing! Brittany was in charge of glitter glue, while my mom and I helped them add confetti and feathers to their creations. They were all so cute!

The second hour of our big Christmas celebration was spent playing a new game. My mom brought 'bingo' from the states and they loved it. The three kids with 10 stars (according to our star chart) got to open the big box. Most of them already knew how to play, but Brittany and I had to help some of the little ones. The padre's nephew, Camilo, was our 'caller' and he was excellent! 
Overall, it was a fun party and the novena afterwards was just as packed as our first night there. After the novena, the kids picked up their pictures and gave them to their families. It was easy to see how excited they were to give their parents (or parent) something special. 

Love, Kate

Monday, December 21, 2009

novena! part 1

Day 1. December 16, 2009. Usme.
Taking the bus up to Usme, my mom and I really didn't know what to expect. Padre Romero had told me that over 200 kids would be there to sing and listen to the story of Jesus' birth. We arrived really early because we were on 'refreshments' duty that night. Neither of us had cooked Arroz con Leche before, but it's a traditional Christmas drink in Colombia. Luckily, we had the help of the padre's sister and another lady from the congregation. We went down the hill to pick up 15 bags of milk, 10 pounds of rice, a huge bag of sugar, cinnamon, raisins, etc... We made it back up the hill (with the help of the padre's niece and lots of rest stops), and got to work. Of course, we got the wrong type of cinnamon so we had to make one more trip down and back up the huge hill.
We had just started boiling the water and pouring in the rice when the padre came running in and told everyone to get out!  There was a natural gas leak and it was really dangerous. Of course, the padre's sister said, "we can't leave, we're cooking the rice!" After about 30 minutes of waiting around, the bomberos (firefighters) came, along with the police and a gas company. They put up caution tape and eventually fixed the leak. We got back to cooking, but were now pressed for time. 
The 200 kids started showing up, including almost all of our kids from the mission. Brittany and her boyfriend (Andrew) were also there. Brittany and I both did readings in front of a packed church! After our readings we had to rush back to the kitchen, because there was lots of work to do. We had an assembly line going:
The lady from the congregation would pour the arroz con leche into a cup. My mom would put in 4-5 raisins, Brittany would pour in some condensed milk, I would put a spoon into the cup (tough job) and then put it on a tray. Andrew would then take the full tray to the table while the padre's sister handed it out the kids. Andrew also helped pour the cookies onto another big tray.
Overall, day 1 was amazing. Everyone loved the arroz con leche and cookies. My mom even brought candy canes from the US for all of the kids. It was so great to see all of the kids', and the padre's, happy faces. 

Love, Kate