Very early start for me this morning after a restless night. Andres woke up a couple of times and Leanne has come down with some gastro, so nobody had much sleep.
Even so, I had to get up around 5:30am – Magnolia was picking me up just after 6:30am to drive me and our lawyer down to the town of Santander de Quilichao. As part of the adoption process, we get new birth certificates issued showing us as the parents of Andres – the problem is that we needed to go to the registration office in the town that he was born in!
Andres was born in a hospital in Santander de Quilichao and was subsequently brought to Chiquitines in Cali, where he lived up until we collected him a couple of weeks back.
It was a damp morning – it had been raining all night, but it only drizzled a little on our drive south. The town we were heading to is about an hour or from Cali – it is actually in a different state, but the state border is a river not that far from Cali.
Only I came with, the lawyer was quite insistent that we not bring Andres – given it was a relatively small town, she didn’t want any issues with anyone recognising Andres (the registrations office is not exactly private!). As it turned out Leanne was quite unwell, so wasn’t up to travelling anyway.
We arrived a bit after 8am and wound our way through the back-streets of the town looking for the registrations office – towns in Colombia are generally laid out fairly logically in a grid with numeric street names, so you can usually find your way around pretty easily.
Santander de Quilichao is a lovely little town, set up against the mountains at the southern end of the valley. The Andes split into three ranges in southern Colombia, with the western and central ranges forming the valley where Cali is located. Santander de Quilichao is where the ranges split to form the valley, and there is a pass through the mountains there which allow you to travel further south, down to the main towns of this state.
The town is quite old with simple architecture – the downtown area we were in consisted mostly of small row-cottages facing the street. There was a very nice park running along a creek, with well established old trees, and the town square was also filled with trees and provided a nice shaded area to sit and chat. Magnolia tells me that the surrounding rural area is almost exclusively populated by people of African descent, and while I was there I don’t think I saw anyone else white (other than a policeman who looked very out of place – I asked Magnolia and she confirmed he was likely not from around here!).
Once we found the registrations office, we went in and waited around while the lawyer found the correct forms and got the information we needed. Next, Magnolia and I walked around to the bank to pay the fees for the birth certificates. While Magnolia filled out the form (and helped a few other people with their forms – literacy is quite poor in the regional areas), I queued up with everyone else waiting to do their banking. Over 45 minutes later we made it to the front of the queue – by which time I was feeling very white and very tall. The people in this area are mostly all African or South American Indian – and generally aren’t that tall. I got a lot of attention, but the people were quite friendly, if I looked back at them staring at me, they would usually smile. I wish I could have stood there taking photos of everyone in the bank – a real mixture of people and colours.
It didn’t take long to do our business once we got to the front of the queue, and then we headed back to the registrations office to lodge the form. Once that was done, we waited around some more. There were a few people there with very young babies come to register the birth and apply for a birth certificate, plus lots of others waiting for ID cards for travel purposes – school holidays are coming up in a few weeks. We walked down the street and stopped at a small cafe to have a snack and a drink – and to sit down for a while (there were only a few chairs at the registrations office).
Eventually our form got processed and they produced a new birth certificate for us to check – there was a mistake on it (Leanny), so we had to get them to change it. Once that was done, I signed the forms and the birth certificates and then applied my fingerprint next to the signature – as they do here in Colombia.
I thought at this point we would be just about done – only to be informed by Magnolia that “now we wait”. I wondered – what was it we had been doing for the past 90 minutes?
We stood around and talked (our lawyer doesn’t speak any English, so Magnolia would natter to her in Spanish for a while before talking to me in English for a bit). After another half our or so we finally got the finished forms (I think they had to be authorised or notorised or something like that, which was why it took a while).
So after more than two hours of waiting, we were finally done, and headed out to the car. The only problem was – it wouldn’t start! Magnolia had accidentally left the lights on and the battery was flat. Eventually we found someone who was able to help – he sped off on his bicycle and summoned someone from a nearby car maintenance shop, who then drove back on his motorbike, a colleague perched on the back with a battery and a couple of jump-leads on his lap. They got the car started and operational in short order and we were on our way.
We wanted to do a quick tour of the town to try and find the hospital where we think Andres was born – but we were running a bit late so we weren’t able to see as much of the town as I would have liked. After driving around in circles a few times (too many one-way streets), we eventually got some meaningful directions and found the hospital – it turned out to be just around the corner from where we had been waiting all morning.
On the way out of town, we accidentally turned down the wrong street – and being Friday of course it was market day, with everyone out selling their fresh fruit and vegetables along the street. We were worried that Magnolia’s car wouldn’t fit down the crowded street, but nobody seemed overly upset by our presence there and they moved their carts out of the way for us as we passed without too much drama. I wish I had time to stop and wander around and take photos – it was a lively and interesting place.
The drive back was uneventful and it started drizzling again, so I wasn’t able to get many more good photos of the area. After dropping the lawyer back home, we got back to the hotel in time for lunch.
Leanne had not had a good morning and was still feeling really unwell when I arrived back. I took Andres down for lunch and fed him some banana while I ate my lunch – he’s quite enthusiastic about eating now, and leans forward with mouth open when we bring the spoon near. Now that he seems to have worked out how eating works, we have to get more organised with trying other foods.
I spent the afternoon with Andres to give Leanne a bit of a break and some rest – we sat out on the front porch and watched the rain and talked to some of the other families. Dinner was also just the two of us – although I did sit with the other Australian couple who are leaving for Bogota tomorrow.
It was a long exhausting day – I hope everyone sleeps well tonight.