Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Music

If you are lucky enough to be in Colombia on New Year's Eve, what you will hear is a LOT of music. But, no matter what you happen to be listening to during the evening, at five minutes to 12, you will hear a song called:

Cinco Pa' Las 12 by Nestor Zabarce.

Hear a sample of this song at the following place.

The other song you will inevitably hear is:

El Año Viejo by Tony Camargo

Both songs are also available at i Tunes for .99 cents each. Another great Colombian music purchase and addition to your Año Nuevo festivities.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

El Año Viejo

Okay, so I LOVE this next tradition. After Christmas, most Colombian families make an Año Viejo. The Año Viejo is a life size doll made of old clothes and stuffed with straw and newspaper. Just before midnight, people set fire to the Año Viejo. It is burning the old and bad of the past year in preparation for the new.

In our family, we make an Año Viejo and since it would be illegal to burn it here, we just ceremoniously throw it away. Here is our Año Viejo from this year.

Here are some pictures I found on Flickr. Enjoy! And consider making your own Año Viejo this year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Abuelita Carmen's Tamales Boyacenses

Christmas and New Year's are typically the time when Colombian families will go through the arduous work of preparing TAMALES. Tamales are a family affair and every one has a job. Preparation for tamal making starts the day before you plan to actually make the tamales by preparing a GUISO and marinating the meat that will be used.

Step #1 -- Marinate the Meat

6 pork chops -- bone in is a must
12 chicken legs and thighs -- again you need the bones in

Marinate this meat overnight in the following GUISO.

12 green onions
4 medium onions
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons Colór -- the ingredient I mentioned for the Empanada recipe.
salt -- to taste

Blend the above ingredients in a food processor. Then add:

3 whole dried bay leaves

Pour GUISO over over meat and then stir the meat until all the meat is covered. Place in the refrigerator over night.

Step #2 -- Cook the Meat

First, remove bay leaves from the meat. Brown the meat in a frying pan and then boil in water 20-30 minutes. Make sure that the water covers the meat throughout the cooking process. When the meat is thoroughly cooked, remove it from the water -- but keep all of the water DO NOT DRAIN. Cut the pork into cubes and set aside in a bowl. Pull the chicken into small pieces and set aside in a separate bowl.

Step #3 -- Make the Caldo (Broth)

Add the following to the left over water/guiso/broth mixture.

1/2 cup butter (Again, I use regular Smart Balance)
Several teaspoons of powdered chicken broth (Again, I use Herb Ox, MIL uses Knorr)

You want to make sure that the CALDO has a rich, slightly salty flavor. If it tastes too watery, add more powdered chicken broth and butter. If it is really strong, use less or add a little water. Let the caldo cool completely -- (since it is winter here in the US on New Year's, I stick the pot outside in the snow).

Step #4 -- Make the Masa (Dough)

1-1 1/2 bags (the 1lb. 8 oz. size) of Arepa Harina

Slowly add the Arepa Harina to the cooled Caldo, stirring constantly. Once all of the flour is in the broth, cook over low heat until thickened. Once thick, let the Masa cool. When cool, the Masa is kind of shiny and gelatin like.

Step #5 -- Prepare the Leaves

2 pounds frozen Banana Leaves

Thaw, rinse, and lay flat. Do not let them dry out. Keep them under moist towels until ready to use.

Step #6 --Prepare additional ingredients.

1 large can of pre-cooked garbanzo beans or cook some yourself
4-5 large carrots cooked and sliced into circles about 1/8" thick
1 bunch of Italian flat leaf parsley washed and cut into small pieces
More GUISO -- make a new 1/2 batch of guiso (without basil) but add 1/2 cup oil and cook until tender.

Step #7 -- Prepare Tamales

15-20 2 foot long pieces of string (cotton only)

On a large banana leaf, place a glob of masa (about 1 cup). On top of the glob place, 2 or 3 pieces of pork, a couple chunks of chicken, 5 garbanzo beans 2-3 slices of carrots, a sprig of parsley, and a heaping Tablespoon of guiso. Fold the leaf completely around the filling and tie with string.

[This is actually the fun family step. Every family member has a job. Some one is in charge of the pork, some one the leaves, some one the beans and carrots, etc. ]

Step #8 -- Cook the Tamales

Steam the Tamales for about 20-30 minutes. Let cool and eat. They are usually more tasty the next day.

Yes, I recognize that they are a TON of work. But, so worth it once a year. It is also a great family participation activity. I will add pictures after we make them on New Year's.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Día de los Santos Inocentes -- Day of the Holy Innocents

The 28th of December is the Día de los Santos Inocentes in Colombia. It is based on a Catholic holiday that commemorates the children, younger than 2 years of age, that were ordered killed by King Herod after the Three Wise Men did not return to tell Herod where the child king could be found.

This holiday is celebrated much in the way we here in the US celebrate April Fool's Day. It is a day for playing tricks on people, fake news reports, and jokes. On this day the Colombian newspaper, El Tiempo, publishes a sepcial insert called El Trompo which is filled with funny and fictious stories about current events.

If you'd like to prepare your family a special Santos Inocentes dinner in honor of this holiday, Check out the recipes that Family Fun magazine has for April Fool's Day. There is a section called Fun Food Pranks. It is a fun way to introduce kids to this Colombian holiday.

Click on the title of this post to go to the Family Fun website.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mis Aguinaldos

The English translation of Aguinaldo is Christmas Gift, and it can mean many things depending on the Spanish speaking country where you are from. For example, in Mexico, it refers to the Christmas monetary bonus that people often receive. In Colombia, there is a fun game that people begin to play 9 days before Chirstmas during the Novena. It is one of the oldest Chirstmas Traditions in Colombia. The game is often called just Aguinaldos, and though there seems to be some variety in how people play it, the idea remains the same.

You make a agreement with one person, or perhaps several people to play a specific Mis Aguinaldos game, of which there are several including:

Al Sí y Al No
Dar y No Recibir
Tres Pies
Pajita en Boca
Preguntar y No Responder
Beso Robado

Before you play a game, you agree with one or more people to play a particular Aguinaldo game -- rules below. You decide who be on which side of the game and you decide on either a prize for the winner or a punishment for the loser. You seal this agreement with a "Pinky Promise", by linking pinky fingers with your opponent(s), and then resleasing the fingers shouting "Mis Aguinaldos" -- pronounced [Mees ah ghee NALL dohs].

Rules for Playing Al Sí y Al No (Yes or No game)

When people agree to play this game one person (or group of people) agree to only answer YES to questions. The other person (or group) agrees to only answer NO. After the Pinky Promise, you start. If you get the other person to say YES when they should only say NO, you shout "MIS AGUINALDOS", and you get a point and vice versa. You keep track of your points and on Christmas Eve you get your reward for winning or your punishment for losing.

Rules for Playing Dar y No Recibir (Give but Don't Receive)

When people agree to play this game one person (or group of people) agree that they will NOT Take or Receive anything given them by the other person or group. For example, in our house, if I pass the potatoes to my husband and he grabs the bowl from me, I yell, "Mis Aguinaldos" and I get a point. I, on the other hand, if I try to pass it and he won't take it, no one gets a point -- I set it down and then he picks up the bowl himself. You keep track of your points and on Christmas Eve you get your reward for winning or your punishment for losing.

Rules for Playing Tres Pies (Three Feet)

When people agree to play this game one person (or group of people) agree that they will keep their legs together while standing. If a person opens their legs while standing, their opponent can come up behind them and stick his foot in the space between the feet and yell "Tres Pies, Mis Aguinaldos" and they get a point. Again, you keep track of your points and on Christmas Eve you get your reward for winning or your punishment for losing.

Rules for Playing Pajita in Boca (Straw in the Mouth)

In this game, one side agrees for keep a piece of straw in their mouth all day -- except during meals. They also agree to have the opponent try to scare the straw out of your mouth by yelling, "Pajita en Boca," at any time. If the straw falls or is taken out of the mouth, then the opponent yells, "Mis Aguinaldos" and earns a point. The winner is announced on Christmas Eve.

Rules for Playing Preguntar y No Responder (Ask and Do Not Answer)

With this game, both sides try to get their opponent to answer questions. If the questions are answered, the asker can yell "Mis Aguinaldos" and earn a point. So the trick is just never to answer a question that is posed to you by your opponent. Keep track of your points and determine the winner on Chrstmas Eve.

Rules for Playing Beso Robado (Stolen Kiss)

This game is strictly for couples. You each try to steal a kiss from the other. If you get your true love to kiss you back, you yell "Mis Aguinaldos" and get a point. Again, the winner is determined on Christmas Eve.

How to Implement This Tradition in Your Home.

Here in the US, it can be hard to play this game for 9 days when the kids are in school. It is also hard to play with young children. So, in our family, instead of playing for 9 days. We play strictly on Christmas Eve, and we limit ourselves to one game that the whole family plays -- everyone against everyone. (When our children were really small, we played in teams --one parent one child per team.) This has allowed our boys to learn and understand the game and focus on just one thing.

Yesterday, we played Dar y No Recibir. It was so fun to see our 7 year old refusing to accept candy from his Uncle. You could see how much it pained him to refuse. No matter what his uncle said to convince him to take it, our son continued to refuse to take the candy. Everyone was laughing. Finally, his uncle put the candy down on the table. My son grabbed the candy and started to unwrap it. The paper was sticky with chocolate and his uncle was standing next to the garbage can. My son turned back to his Uncle and said, "Tío put this in the garbage for me please." His uncle grabbed the wrapper and my son yelled, while laughing hysterically, "Mis Aguinaldos".

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What happens to some children that are never aodpted?

On December 14th, 2008, El Tiempo published and article about 2,678 people, who although they were abandoned as children, were never adopted. This is the number of people who are now adults and yet remain dependent on ICBF for their care. The article states that of the 2,678, only 1,074 have some sort of disability.

Here is a summary, in English, of the article.

The article follows the life of Luz Ameida, who became part of the ICBF system when she was 8 year old -- now 27. She is paralyzed on one side of her body. She recently received her diploma and hopes to find a job in a supermarket and become more independent.

On average, 8,000 children ages 0-18 are on the waiting list for adoption. Of these 5,749 are considered SPECIAL NEEDS because of disability, age (over 8), or because they are part of a sibling group. Others are not adopted because they are of African American or Indigenous decent.

The article mentions that the KIDSAVE program in the US and the Private Adoption Houses often help these Special Needs kids find permanent homes in foreign countries.

It mentions that Colombians mostly want to adopt infants.

Next, the article discusses the life of Malkis Real, who beame part of the ICBF system at age 2. He is now 24. He has no disability, but because he was always a good student, ICBF continues to care for him while he goes to college.

There are a few other stories about the kids that remain in ICBF care, but overall I think that the important point is the need that SPECIAL NEEDS kids have to find homes. There are millions of abandoned children worldwide that need homes, and thousands of them are in Colombia. I am grateful to every family that chooses adoption.

If you would like to read the article in Spanish or see the pictures for this article check out the following link:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

ICBF December Wait List

The most recent wait list was published by ICBF on December 11, 2008. This list does not reflect sepcial needs children. The definition of special needs are children with disabilities, children over 8 years of age, and sibling groups of 3 or more.

Age of Child / Date of Application Approval

Child 0-12 months Sep-2005
Child 13 - 23 months Sep-2005
Child 2 years Apr-2005
Child 3 years Nov-2004
Child 2 - 3 years Mar-2006
Child 3 - 4 years Apr-2005
Child 4 years Jun-2005
Child 5 years Jan-2006
Child 4 -5 years Jan-2006
Child 5 - 6 years Mar-2007
Child 6 years Aug-2008
Child 7 years Jul-2008
Siblings 0 - 4 years Mar-2007
Siblings 0 - 5 years Jul-2006
Siblings 0 - 6 years Aug-2007
Siblings 0 - 7 years May-2008

In answer to the comment below, ICBF provides this list to agency representatives in Colombia. Those reps then decide how to provide their clients with this information. As I have access to the list that the Spanish (as in Spain) agency Adecop posts, I just provided the English speaking audience with a translation. If your agency does not offer you the same information, you may want to ask them about it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Books for Colombian Children

If you are looking for a great present for your Colombian child, might I suggest one of the following picture books.

My Name Is Gabito/Me Llamo Gabito: The Life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez/La Vida De Gabriel Garcia Marquez by Monica Brown with illustrations by Raúl Colón.

To say that Colombians are proud of their noble prize winning author -- Gabriel García Márquez -- is an understatement. He is a national hero. This bilingual book introduces young readers to the life and magical realism of García Márquez. While your kids may not be ready for One-Hundred Years of Solitude or Love in the Time of Cholera, yet. This is a great way to introduce them to this GIANT of Colombian literature.

Saturday Sancocho by Leyla Torres

Ms. Torres is a native of Colombia and this book is set in Colombia. The girl spends Saturday making Sancocho with her grandparents. The pictures are so great. I feel I am walking to the mercado with my suegra (mother-in-law). This book is also available in SPANISH under the title: "El SANCOCHO DEL SÁBADO".

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Just a Reminder

I am planning on posting Monday - Friday. I need to take the weekends off :). See you back on Monday. I've got 5 new entries ready for next week including last minute gift suggestions for your adopted Colombian child.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Abuelita Carmen's Colombian Empanadas de Carne

The taste of Empanadas Colombianas can vary depending on the region where you try them. However, this is the recipe for my Mother-in-Law's empanadas.

There are basically 2 different kinds of empanadas -- the meat ones and the chicken ones. This is a recipe for the meat ones.

STEP 1: Prepare the MEAT. I use a pot roast, though some people use a pork roast.

You must season the meat the night before with a GUISO -- this is the word my Suegra (Mother in Law) uses.
In a food processor, mix:
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
4 green onions
5 sprigs of cilantro -- cut off the stem
Pour this mixture (the Guiso) over your meat and let it marinate over night. Next morning, put the meat on to cook. I use a Crock-Pot so that the meat is extra tender. I dump the meat and its marinade into the pot and let it cook 8 hours on low. When the meat is cooked and tender, take it out and separate it into little pieces with your hands. Place in a bowl and set aside.

STEP 2: Prepare the POTATOES.
8-10 Yukon Gold Potatoes -- the ones that are yellow inside
2 teaspoons Salt
Peel and boil the potatoes. When tender, drain and let cool. Then, lightly mash them -- DO NOT MAKE MASHED POTATOES. You want some bite sized chunks. Place in a bowl and set aside.

STEP 3: Prepare the HOGAO.
In a food processor, mix the following.
2 large tomatoes
4 green onions
1 medium onion finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic
4 sprigs of cilantro -- cut off the stem
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chicken broth instant powder (I like Herb-ox my MIL uses Knorr).
Salt to taste, if necessary
Once ingredients are all mixed and chopped up in the food processor, I cook them in a frying pan on medium in:
3-4 Tablespoons butter (I use regular Smart Balance instead).

Cook the GUISO in the butter until everything is tender and the onions just start to brown. Take off the stove, mix with the meat and potatoes and set aside.

STEP 4: Prepare the MASA (dough).

3 cups AREPA HARINA (La Venezolana, Goya Masarepa or PAN) -- Arepa Flour
3 - 4 cups boiling water (start at add more water if necessary)
1-2 teaspoons of Colór (This is a yellow spiced food coloring I can only find in Colombia. So, while you are there stop at Carrefour, Exito, or some other store and pick up a few packets of COLÓR. It is a powder that is orange in color. If you do not have Colór, try using "Sazón con Azafran" by Goya, or just buy Yellow Arepa Harina.)
Salt to taste (I usually do not add much salt).

Mix the water and flour and then let it cool a little. When warm, knead until you can form a nice ball. It SHOULD NOT BE STICKY. If it is sticky, you will need to add more flour. It should also not fall apart easily. If your dough is crumbly, you will need to add more water. Unfortunately, each brand of flour is a little different, so this is not an exact science.

STEP 5: Prepare and Fry the EMPANADAS.

Plastic Wrap
Rolling Pin
Large frying pan or pot
Corn Oil

Once your dough is ready, place some on a large piece of plastic wrap. Roll out the dough into a thin layer about 1/4" thick. In order to see how to make the empanada look like a half moon, I am sending you to the following You Tube video. The woman's recipe is a bit different, but the process of making and cooking the empanada are the same.

Here is a website where you can purchase the AREPA HARINA or try going to a local Latino Market.,_Arepas,_Harina_PAN,_Harina_de_Maiz,_Corn_Meal

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pesebre -- "Where is Baby Jesus?"

"Where's Baby Jesus?" This is a comment heard every time someone visits our house during the Christmas season. Unlike here in the States, where most perople's Nativity sets are displayed through the season with Baby Jesus is full view, in Colombia the infant is noticably absent.

Absent that is until December 24th, when at midnight the children make a big deal of putting the infant child in the manger.

This is our Colombian nativity set. It was made in Ráquira, Boyacá.

Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds have a unqie Colombian twist to their attire. They are dressed like Boyancenses -- complete with Ruanas and Sombrero.

I thought it would be good to encourage adopting families to purchase a Nativity set while they are in Colombia. This one cost us $5 US. It is small enough to fit in 1/2 of a shoebox, and well worth seeing and using every Christmas.

Sorry I am not a great photographer. I will work on that. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Potty Language -- "What Did He Say?"

A while back, I read in an adoptive family's blog a story that made me laugh and cry. This adoptive family had just adopted an almost 3 year old boy. This little boy was reported to be potty trained. Of course, the family was thrilled. Who wouldn't be?

Imagine their surprise when a shell shocked little boy would mumble something and then pee his pants. What was going on?

After several experiences, the family was sitting at a restaurant when the boy began mumbling something. The waiter, understanding what all Colombians understand, leaned over to the family and said, "He go toilet." Sure enough, the boy peed his pants.

What is it that the waiter knew that the family did not? Two simple words: "CHI CHI" Pronounced (chee-chee). These are the nearly universal words used by Colombian kids to let you know that they GOTTA GO!

If you want to know what they use for #2, typically either "PO PO" (Pronounced: poh poh) or "POPIS" (Pronounced: Poh pees).

Hope this will help some of you avoid disasters in the future!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Colombian Person of the Year

Just like Time Magazine, the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo announces a Person of the year every December. This year's winner has been announced: JUANES.

JUANES, for those who don't know, is a Colombian musician. Back in March, when Venezuela was amassing tanks and troops on the border with Colombia, Juanes organized a concert --Peace Without Borders (Paz Sin Fronteras) -- right on the bridge that connects Colombia and Venezuela in Cúcuta. He also has worked tirelessly to promote the removal of land mines in Colombia. A recurring theme of the lyrics in his songs is PEACE in Colombia, and he has been called the Bono of Latin America.

If you are lucky enough to be able to read the article in El Tiempo, you will find it refers to one of his songs called SUEÑOS. According to the article, it is the anthem of those being held by the FARC in the jungles of Colombia.

Here are the lyrics and a translation:

Sueño libertad para todos los que están -- I dream of liberty for all those that are

Secuestrados hoy en medio de la selva -- kidnapped in the middle of the jungle

Y sueño con la paz de mi pueblo desangrado -- And I dream of peace for my blood sucked people

Y con el final de esta injusta guerra -- And of the end of this unjust war

Sueño con tantas cosas que quiero que sean realidad -- I dream of so many things that I wish would come true

Sueño con morir de viejo y no de soledad -- I dream of dying of old age and not of loneliness.

Sueño con ir a trabajar -- I dream of going to work

y mucho más con regresar -- and even more of returning

cada noche a mi casa -- each night to my home

para estar junto a ti -- to be together with you

y que no muera nunca nuestro amor -- and that our love will never die

eso sueño yo -- this is what I dream of

y que se fundan balas -- and that they will melt down the bullets

para hacer campanas de libertad -- In order to make freedom bells

y que no muera nunca nuestro amor -- and that our love will never die

eso sueño yo -- this is what I dream of

Sueño despertar en un mundo sin dolor -- I dream of waking in a world without pain

pa’que el corazón no sufra más las penas -- so that the heart will not suffer anymore pain

y sueño caminar por las calles de mi país -- and I dream of walking the streets of my country

y solo encontrar paz -- and only finding PEACE.

Here is a link to Juanes singing Suenos at the Paz Sin Fronteras concert.

The pictures to the left of Juanes are of many of the hostages held by the FARC, some of whom were liberated by the Colombian Army Last summer.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Más Villancicos

There are other Villancicos. I have a link to each one. Granted some of these versions are a little annoying, but you get the idea.

1. Los Peces En El Rio
YouTube - Los Peces En El Rio - Villancicos - Musica Navideña

2. A La Nanita Nana
YouTube - A La Nanita Nana - Villancicos - Musica Navideña

3. Campana Sobre Campana
YouTube - Campana Sobre Campana - Villancicos - Musica Navideña

4. Vamos Vamos Pastorcitos Vamos, Vamos Pastorcitos: MP3 Downloads: Los Niños Cantores De Navidad

5. Tutaina
Correct if wrong "Tutaina" Lyrics by "Villancicos"

6. Los Reyes Magos
YouTube - Los Reyes Magos - Villancicos - Musica Navideña

7. A Belen Pastores A Belen Pastores: MP3 Downloads: Los Niños Cantores De Navidad

8. Anton Tiruliru liru
YouTube - Anton tiruliru liru - Villancicos - Musica Navideña

Here are the lyrics to Anton Tiruliru liru:

Anton tiruliru liru
Antón tiruliru ra
Jesús al pesebre vamos a adorar
Duérmete niño chiquito
Que la noche viene ya
Cierra pronto tus ojitos
Que el viento te arrullara

Duérmete niño chiquito
Que tu madre velará
Cierra pronto tus ojitos
Por que la entristecerás

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Colombian Christmas Carols

Christmas Carols in Colombia are called VILLANCICOS (pronounced: vee yan see cohs). Most have their roots in Spain and the Catholic church, however, there is one song --written by a Venezuelan that is like the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer of Colombia and Venezuela. It's name is EL BURRITO SABANERO or EL BURRITO DE BELEN. All the kids know it and its famous Tuqui Tuqui Tuqui chorus.

Two years ago the Colombian singer JUANES came out with his own version of this popular song. If you click on the title of this post, you will be lead to a site where you can hear the song.

It is also available at the ITUNES store for 99 cents. Well worth the expenditure for any Colombian family. My boys both know and love the song.

Here are the lyrics:

Con mi burrito sabanero
voy camino de Belén
Con mi burrito sabanero
voy camino de Belén
si me ven si me ven
voy camino de Belén
si me ven si me ven
voy camino de Belén


El lucerito mañanero
ilumina mi sendero
El lucerito mañanero
ilumina mi sendero
si me ven si me ven
voy camino de Belén
si me ven si me ven
voy camino de Belén


Con mi cuatrico voy cantando
mi burrito va trotando
con mi cuatrico voy cantando
mi burrito va trotando
si me ven si me ven
voy camino de Belén
si me ven si me ven
voy camino de Belén

Tuqui Tuqui Tuquituqui
Tuquituqui Tu qui Ta
Apúrate mi burrito
que ya vamos a llegar
Tuqui Tuqui Tuquituqui
Tuquituqui Tu qui Ta
apúrate mi burrito
vamos a ver a Jesús.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Colombian Christmas Lights

December 7th marks the official beginning of the Christmas season in Colombia. It is the Día de la Anunciación -- a Catholic holiday. However, Catholics and non-Catholics alike celebrate this day by placing candles and lanterns and lights all over the front of the house and along the sidewalks. It is known as the Día de Velitas or El Alumbrado.

We continue this tradition in our family by placing red, white and green paper lunch sacks each filled with sand and a lighted candle around our front yard. My husband also tells about Angel Gabriel's announcement that María was with child. In Colombia, the entire neighborhood is outside and you can hear music, laughter, and singing. There is also plenty of dancing. Here in the States, we are the only ones on the street, but it makes for a meaningful evening with our kids.

You can see how this holiday was celebrated in Colombia last night by clicking on the title of this post and then clicking where it says VER GALERIA.

My In-Law's home.