Our plan overnight worked reasonably well, we fed Nicol a bottle just before 11PM and changed her nappy. She was still half asleep, so was reasonably compliant. In return, she slept until nearly 6AM, which was a much better outcome for us.
We got up, had breakfast and got ready for our important meeting this morning with the Defensor at ICBF. It is the Defensor who makes the decisions about which children are “adoptable” according to the law, and so it is their responsibility (for their district) to ensure that they are aware of all children currently in the system and their full social and legal history.
Since our last visit in 2009, the ICBF offices have moved to a location only a couple of blocks from the Hotel Pension Stein, which was very convenient. It was a leisurely 15 minute walk from the hotel where we met our interpreter (Magnolia), our lawyer and the Defensor.
Our meeting today was to determine whether to permit our file to proceed to the courts via the lawyer we had been assigned. It was a simple meeting – situations with a healthy infant are generally fairly clear cut and unless there is an unforseen problem (from either side) – it is generally just a procedural meeting. We spent more time talking about how cute the kids were than we did checking the legal documents and signing them.
Next, we went to the building next door which was one of many Notario offices (Notaries) who provide various services, in our case to notarise copies of our passports for the legal process. We lined up for a short period and paid our fee, then were free to head back to the hotel.
Back at the hotel, Leanne took Andres out to the front porch while I did some work and watched over a sleeping Nicol.
Lunch was the usual delicious fare, but I was surprised after returning from a trip to the toilet with Andres to find a large cake on our table with candles, and everyone started singing happy birthday to me. At least I was supposed to be surprised – Andres had blabbed something to me about it yesterday, but I had honestly forgotten about it, so I was actually surprised when I came in and saw it there. The cake was delicious!
After lunch, we got dressed up again and climbed into another hire car for yet another trip to Chiquitines. This time is was for a tour of the orphanage and to meet some of the staff we didn’t get a chance to say hello to last time.
The drive there was uneventful, the tour was just like last time – lots of kids in need of families. We still believe they do a fantastic job at the orphanage considering the limited resources they have. The kids all look healthy and well cared for – the staff really care about their jobs and their responsibilities to these children.
After the tour, we dropped Magnolia off for her next appointment and sat back to enjoy the rest of the ride back to the hotel. We could see a big thunderstorm brewing in the distance and as we got closer, it looked like it was raining quite a bit in the area around the hotel.
As late-afternoon traffic grew heavier, our driver took a different route to avoid the usual congestion around the river. However, as we wound our way up into the foothills around Cali, the rain started and got heavier and heavier. Soon, there were torrents of water flowing down the roads – and in many cases, across the roads. In one place, the water looked close to two feet deep and flowing very, very fast.
As we proceeded, the traffic got heavier, we started seeing trees fallen across the road, mud- and rock-slides across the road, and a lot of damage everywhere. It seems that we missed the worst of the storm and it was actually quite serious in some places.
After coming across almost stationary traffic in several places, our driver back-tracked a couple of times before giving up and driving back the way we came, almost to the point where we started our original detour to avoid the heavy traffic!
What proceeded next was an interesting tour through the back-streets of Cali, working our way through narrow alleys and winding roads. Eventually, we came back to the normal place we would have tried to cross the river – traffic was very heavy, but at least it was moving, even if only slowly.
It was a little disappointing that I was not able to reach my camera and take some photos of the more interesting areas we drove though, but Andres was asleep on my lap for most of the journey. The wet car windows and very dark and overcast conditions outside would have made it difficult to get good photos anyway, so I don’t feel I missed too much opportunity. We might have to arrange a tour another day where I can take photos.
We finally made it around to the river crossing and due to a fortunate (for us) circumstance of a fallen tree blocking the road that usually makes it difficult to get around the next couple of corners, we were able to take a not-quite-legal shortcut and avoid several very busy intersections to get back to the hotel about 10 minutes quicker than we otherwise would have.
I think we set a new record for travel from Chiquitines to the Hotel Pension Stein – it was almost two hours by the time we got home. As I hopped out of the car, I could smell the clutch burning quite badly – I hope the driver made it home okay!
However, if we thought we were now home and could relax, we were mistaken. We got in to discover that the storm had taken out several transformers in the region only about 20 minutes earlier, rendering our hotel and many neighboring buildings without power. The word was that it would not be repaired before morning – so we would need to spend the night without power.
After getting changed in our room by the rapidly failing twilight and the help of a compact torch we always carry when travelling for moments just like this, we headed out to the front porch of the hotel to find out what was going on and wait for dinner.
Apparently, Enrique had hurt his knee quite badly (I’m guessing after the power went out) and was sitting on one of the couches, directing “traffic” (ie staff and guests) around the hotel. His daughter organised some wine, peanuts and popcorn for the hotel guests and we sat around with some candles and enjoyed the peaceful evening.
Actually, it wasn’t peaceful at all – due to the traffic chaos, there was constant honking of horns and regular sirens to be heard from the street below as frustrated drivers tried to make their way home. However, it was still pleasant.
It seems that the storm had actually caused some bad flooding in some parts of the hotel, but we seemed to have escaped that, no water inside our room – and not much out on the balcony, although some clothes we had hanging out there to dry were damp again.
Being my birthday, Leanne had arranged a romantic candle-lit dinner for two at a nearby restaurant with my favourite meal. Well, it was actually the hotel dining room. Our two kids were there as well. So were all the other families and guests. The candles were only there because the power was out. It wasn’t exactly romantic in reality. But the meal was quite nice – Spaghetti Bolognaise – and the power outage did provide an interesting ambiance to the evening.
The worst part about the power being out is that we can’t have the fan going in our room. To cope with the hot and humid weather and the fact that our room stays hot at night (we can’t really open all the doors due to mosquitoes and such) – we have our ceiling fan running pretty much all the time we are here. We do have an airconditioner in the room, but it is the old wall-mounted type and quite noisy. Usually the fan is sufficient to keep the air moving and it feeling pleasant enough in the room.
However, with the fan non-operational, it is stifling in here. Right now, I’m writing this blog post by the light of my laptop keyboard light (with the power set to “maximum battery life” mode), sitting next to the only window with functional insect-screens and the occasional waft of cool air comes in to make it bareable in here.
Although some of the other buildings in the street have power (they are served from separate transformers), I can’t find any available and not-secured WiFi networks close enough to be able to get online. I’m writing this in Notepad and will post it tomorrow once the power and internet come back online.
There’s not a lot more I can do tonight – the battery on the laptop should last long enough to watch a couple of TV episodes I’ve got stored, there’s a couple of games on the ASUS Transformer that don’t require internet access, but otherwise I’ll probably just be lying there, sweating, longing for the power company to come and fix things as soon as possible.