A Baptism

We received the invitation to be the godparents of Edwin’s nephew by WhatsApp while visiting the monastery near Villa de Leyva with my Mum and sister. Edwin wanted to respond straightaway and pressured me for a response, when I just wanted to have a discussion in private. Surely receiving an  invitation by text message rather than a phone call is an indicator that an instantaneous response is not required.

I never expected the privilege and to be honest I thought our duty was done when one of the two names we suggested for the baby was selected. I can’t say I was overly keen to have this responsibility.

Anyway, an enthusiastic Edwin responded with a phone call to the affirmative, only adding “it’s an honour” as I wildly gesticulated that he needed to include that phrase for politeness sake.

We didn’t hear anything about the baptism for a while after that, not until Edwin and I were chatting about the looming date and I said that his sister and brother-in-law had to check with the priest about the requirements and that they needed to know that I’m not Catholic, because imagine if I turned up to the baptism only for the priest to say the godparents had to be baptised and confirmed Catholics. I was also not willing to perform any kind of religious act to turn me into an eligible fairy godmother should this have been the requirement for the job. My thoughts on religion are at opposition to my spiritual beliefs and I was not disposed to put myself into a hypocritical position solely to appease others no matter how many family feathers it would ruffle. As it turned out, there was no issue with my non-Catholickness at all.

On the day of the baptism we raced back from having our hair and nails done in town to meet with the priest at 2pm prior to the 3pm baptism. We were 15 minutes late and the priest was nowhere to be seen. Edwin’s brother-in-law put in a call to him only to be told that he would be an hour late, and therefore also late for the start of the baptism.

My anxiety levels were probably the highest at this delay, although the Colombian anxiety was regarding the possible lateness of the start to the birthday slash baptism party at 4pm and the concern that guests would be turning up to the party and we would still be in the chapel. I couldn’t quite grasp this reaction, as surely the party invitees had also been invited to the baptism and would be in the chapel with us. If this wasn’t the case, then that is like rocking up to only the wedding reception and not the ceremony – plain rude.

While we waited, we went to check out the party site where the decorators were no more advanced than before we had gone to the beauty salon. They had been there since 6am, supposedly to decorate, but what they did could have been done in 2 hours, maximum 3 hours. It’s another shining example of wasted efficiency and perception. The party place sells the decoration and entertainment package saying that the decorators will spend 10 hours decorating the venue to your theme, instead of just saying “we will decorate your venue for $X” and then send the decorators out there for 3 or 4 hours and then to another party for another 3 or 4 hours that they could make more money from. Because of the apparent ineptness, I’m also sure that the impressive George the Curious balloon tree filled with cute balloon animals came ready made from the shop, as the decorating guys couldn’t keep the other balloon bouquets from escaping in the wind and popping on the grass.

At 3pm we drove up to the chapel to greet arriving guests. After almost three years in Colombia I still have the foolish expectation that people will arrive on time for important events, yet Edwin’s brother-in-law’s family only arrived at 3:30pm. It didn’t matter anyway because the priest didn’t show up until 4pm, and dispensing of any pleasantry or need for consultation with the baptism’s protagonists, went straight to put on his robes and then called the parents, Edwin and I to the front and launched straight into the ceremony as though the devil was snapping at the heels of the toddler.

I’d never even been to a Catholic baptism and all of a sudden I found myself a participant in one, in another language to boot. I had been counting on the pre-ceremony pep talk with the priest to help guide me through the experience. Thankfully the priest was very instructional about what to do. He told us ahead of a passage that we had to say “Si, renuncio” or “Si, creo” and thankfully I understood when I had to make the sign of a cross on the toddler’s forehead. I also think that most people would recognise the Lord’s Prayer in any language just from the melody of the lines. It was over in 15 minutes and then we were rushed to the priest’s office to provide our names for the baptism record where the most conversation we got was when the priest asked if Edwin and my sister-in-law are siblings after seeing the identical surname structure.

It was then off to the party to sit awkwardly in rows around the perimeter of the open-air venue and watch the children’s activities and entertainment. At any Australian kids birthday party, the parents will mingle with others and the parents of the birthday child would introduce people to each other, with the children’s activities not necessarily the central focus for the adults, however here, once you had a seat, that was it and adults only spoke to those either side of them. I didn’t even see my sister-in-law go around and talk to the parents of the invited children. Come to think of it, at an Australian party, there is always a food and drink table, where while a plate may get passed around every now and then, each guest can go to the table for a nibble or a top up and circulate. The seated and served nature of a Colombian party is far less sociable.

Balloon tree
The sad story of the balloon tree

Just before the parents gave their speeches of thanks, the pinata came out. I always thought a pinata had to be whacked with a stick for all the lollies to come bursting out, but in this case, the contents of a container were tipped over the kids’ heads and they were sent scrambling for a prize amongst the confetti and streamers. Once prizes were claimed for those lucky enough to have snatched one up, the kids started sweeping around on the floor with the contents of the pinata and it was precisely at this moment that they turned into destructive little feral monsters pulling all the animals off the balloon tree and then pulling the tree apart. It was as though a consolation for not getting a pinata prize was a balloon animal. Perhaps it is mean-spirited of me to have described the children like this, but I wanted that balloon tree and its animals to go home with my godson.

In the thank you speech I got a special mention. I hadn’t expected my foreignness to still be such a novelty within the family, but Edwin’s brother-in-law said “We are very proud that our son’s godmother is from Australia, and that is very cool” at which there was a ripple of excitement through the crowd and one blushing face in particular.

The special treatment continued when at the family dinner held afterwards, I was ushered over to be introduced to my brother-in-law’s colonel while Edwin was left to cut the cheesecake that I, in all my BYO Australianness, had brought to share (something else that still sticks with me despite the only obligation to bring to a Colombian party is a gift).

The next day before heading back to Bogota we went to see the duplex that my sister-in-law and her husband have bought and will move into after he retires from the army. The current tenants were in the middle of moving out and were trying to figure out how to load the fridge in the back of a ute when Edwin’s brother-in-law waved to me “Camille, come in and have a look”. Edwin, standing right beside me, just looked at me with a wry smile, wondering when my celebrity would fade and that he would finally get a look in as the valued godfather.

Are you a godparent? If so, I’d love for you to share your thoughts on the role and its responsibilities. 


A crazy day of Colombian cliches

Yesterday was one of those days where there are so many observations to make about Colombia and Colombians. Even if my phone had enough memory for a Twitter app, I wouldn’t have tweeted this, but let’s just say that if I had live-tweeted yesterday, it would have looked something like this:


12:55pm – Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllllllllll #Colombia

1pm – A little loco comes running into the bedroom screaming and yelling. He flies on the bed and appears to be having some kind of fit.

1:02pm – The little loco starts jumping on the bed brandishing pillows and repeating “Gano! Gano!” (They won, they won)

2:05pm – Time to get ready to go to a family birthday party at the opposite end of Bogota #familycommitments

2:10pm – I want to wear a dress, but everyone else will be in jeans so I guess I’ll acquiesce

2:25pm – On our way to the #Transmilieno station

2:29pm – We need to buy a present, chocolates from Carrulla

2:31pm – Uh oh, looks like some kind of riot ahead.

2:32pm – It’s a sea of yellow shirts throwing cornflour and spraying silly string everywhere. How do we avoid this?

2:33pm – They are blockading the road, there are traffic jams, beeping horns, mess and people cheering

2:33pm – What?!? They are even spraying foam into rolled down car windows #chaos

2:35pm – I’m told a gaggle of people on the median strip are surrounding a woman hit by a car #sickinthestomach

2:37pm – The pricing on supermarket shelves rarely matches up with the product. Where are the  $18,000 chocs?

2:40pm – Oh great, #cardrejected. x2

2:41pm – Now we only have about 15,000 pesos and we’re going to the boondocks. I need emergency taxi ride money.

2:43pm – Taking the side route to avoid the #crazyColombians and to exit unscathed

2:43pm – Feel sad for the woman being stretchered into the ambulance #sickinthestomach #nosyonlookers

2:46pm – These Colombians are #outofcontrol. It’s mayhem in the streets

2:46pm – Police are out n about but so many people yelling, cheering and blowing those horrible horns

2:48pm – I don’t feel very safe. What’s it going to be like at the other end of #Bogota?

2:49pm – Made mi novio call his aunt for an update on the situation in Bosa

2:51pm – Made him call again to ask how far we have to walk from the last bus stop

2:51pm – Okay, it’s just a block. I guess that should be okay #stillfeelinguneasy

2:54pm – Phew, card worked at #Bancolombia. Now we have emergency taxi cash.

3pm – Hand over $50,000 and my card at the Transmilieno stop. Teller shakes her head. Can’t hear over the noise

3:01pm – Apparently this station doesn’t recharge cards. #cranky #whydidtheymakemebuyonethen

3:03pm – Which bus to Las Americas? #Transmilienoconfusion

3:04pm – Darn, the F14 just passed.

3:04pm – The F14 doesn’t stop here. Just get on the next one.

3:10pm – Change here or at Jimenez? Yes, no, yes, no …. get off!!

3:10pm – F14 right behind. Woohoo! Seats for all three of us #Transmilienomilagro

3:20pm – We’re practically the only people on the bus not wearing yell0w jerseys

3:25pm – Street watching on the way south. Mostly quiet, most shops closed. #ChaosOnlyInNorth

3:45pm – The centre is also full of #crazyColombians

4pm – Passing Pradera outlets. I want to go shopping!

4pm – Haha “Pradera Outlet Factory” jajaa #Englishclasses

4:15pm – Finally we are arriving at Portal Las Americas. Long way from home.

4:16pm – I love that the feeder buses are called ‘alimentadores’. Obvious translation, but still sounds cool.

4:16pm – I didn’t think Colombians knew how to line up neatly and patiently for a bus #Transmilieno

4:20pm – Here’s our bus. We’re not going to fit.

4:21pm – We made it on, no seat. #squishy

4:24pm – This road is worse than the 4wd track to Ciudad Perdida. #hugepotholes #ridiculous

4:30pm – Feeling #claustrophobic. I don’t know how so many people do this every day. #Transmilieno

4:32pm – D just called it Transmi Lleno (full) #jajaja

4:40pm – Esta vaina es leeeeeejos

4:43pm – I wish we had left earlier. #readytogohomealready

4:51pm – Patience has just about to run out. Let me off this bus!

4:53pm – I think this is our stop. Get off. Push, shove.

4:55pm – Where is the building? #neverbeenherebefore #endoftheearth

4:55pm – I think we got off a stop too early. #walking

5pm – Me: what’s the birthday lady’s name? Novio: I don’t remember. What? She’s his step-grandmother.

5:01pm – This is it. Entering the conjunto and chasing down the rellies ahead.

5:01pm – Who’s that in the green #dress?

5:03pm – Sister-in-law looks fab in a dress. Never seen her in one before. #wishIhadwornadresstoo

5:05pm – The reception room is set theatre style #weird #antisocial

5:06pm – Greetings and kisses all round.

5:07pm – The birthday granny remembered my name. Still don’t remember hers. #Awkward #justuseSenora

5:11pm – 2 month old baby thrust upon me by the mother. #justrollwithit

5:13pm – Am told that #babies like me. Waiting to hear the usual question…

5:14pm – When are you going to have a baby? #unavoidablequestion #notodavia

5:20pm – Staring at the fields & mountain out the window #Bogotacitylimits #woopwoop

5:24pm – Food or drink haven’t been served yet. #onColombiantime #neveranynibbles #setplan

5:35pm – Found out that we will be having #lechona. Yum. Spit pig stuffed with rice & meat. #crackle

6pm – Mariachi band! #morepopularthaninMexico #thereisamariachiwoman

6:03pm – Mariachi guitarist’s white pants are very, very tight.

6:30pm – Still no drinks. Novio’s gone to the shop.

6:38pm – OMG I think a #priest is here to give #communion

6:38pm – He just put a robe on over his party outfit

6:40pm – Have never heard of #communion at a birthday party. Wonder if he’s taking confessions too

6:49pm – It appears he’s the nephew of the birthday granny

6:49pm – And he’s giving a #mass not just communion! #catholicism

6:52pm – Is it rude not to stand and kneel when everyone else is? #notcatholic #canIpretendIdontunderstand

6:55pm – Talking about the great mystery of God being 1 but 3 different things & and the message is we can be different but unified

7:04pm – Birthday #mass is over. Now the babies are being blessed.

7:20pm – #Lechona is being served.

7:45pm – We got served last despite being closest to the kitchen 😦 #lovelechona

8:05pm – Meeting more extended, removed and estranged family members. Colombian families are confusing.

8:20pm – Hometime. Getting a lift with the bro-in-law. #awesome #lucky #nonightrideTransmilieno

8:30pm – Birthday granny was a nun for 20 years! #thatexplainsthemass

8:31pm – Happy 80th birthday Dona Elia!

9pm – Family commitments met for a little while. #happyColombianfamily #phew




A fiesta!

Singing happy birthday
All the kids gathered around to sing happy birthday to D

When asked what he would like for his ninth birthday, a present or a party, D chose a party.

Preparations began by choosing a theme, Ben10, and trying to find all the Ben10 party paraphernalia as cheaply as possible. I’m sure the invitations, plastic cups, cake plates, lolly bags, plastic tablecloth and cardboard neckties on elastic came from some rip-off company and so were cheaper because we weren’t paying for an officially licensed product. But then again, what do a bunch of nine year olds care about royalties.

I brought to the party planning table an Australian mentality: There will be games, there will be prizes, there will be fingerfood and there will be a cake worthy of inclusion in the Australian Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake recipe book. However without having been to a kiddie birthday in Colombia before, I didn’t really have anything to benchmark against. I mean, I could throw a great party by Australian standards, but how would this hold up in Colombia?

The day before the party I was busy making jelly cups. Unfortunately they don’t have Freddo Frogs here, so they weren’t to be frogs in ponds, but just plain old ‘gelatina’ in strawberry, grape and cherry flavours. I said to mi novio “I think 25 jelly cups is enough. I mean not all of the invited kids are going to come to the party.” Mi novio replied with:

“Things are different here, the kids bring along their brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbours, whoever. All they want to do is dance and eat cake/sweets/lollies.”

Sudden panic overcame me as I did the sums. 24 invited kids x 1 sibling + 1 parent + 1 more extra just to be safe = not enough food and drink.

The dinosaur cake
The dinosaur cake, a winner with young and old!

We had the birthday cake (an elaborate test of my cake decorating skills dinosaur based on this plan), 25 jelly cups, little deep fried pastries with cheese inside, 7 litres of neapolitan ice-cream, 28 cupcakes and some wafer biscuits. After some dithering as to what I could make in an oven with no visible temperature markers, I decided we also needed honey joys. I hoped to goodness this would feed the hordes, I couldn’t have all these people think I was a bad hostess.

I spent the morning of the party icing the dinosaur. I have to admit I’m pretty pleased at the outcome given working in a small kitchen with no real baking tools, 30 plus degree humidity and with no proven cake sculpting skills under my belt. It also helps when practically all Colombians buy their birthday cakes from a cake shop, so the dinosaur created multiple wow factors. Wow! It’s a dinosaur! Wow! You baked it yourself! Wow! It tastes great!

Mi novio spent the afternoon blowing up balloons with the help of D, his cousin and his friends in the street and la suegra spent the afternoon putting away her precious ornaments.

At four o’clock the hour of the party arrived. Yet no guests arrived. Half an hour later and the sole guest was one of D’s best buddies from two doors down. As five o’clock started to come around, the house started to fill with kids and relatives. Mi novio and I were busy in the kitchen pouring cups of soft drink and sending out platters of cakes and jelly cups. No sooner had I arrived back in the kitchen would a child come up and hand me their finished cup/plate/spoon, only to be followed by all the other party goers. Whilst their tidiness was to be admired on one hand, the other (busy hand) was wishing they would just leave it under their chair to be collected later so they could stop interrupting us!

In an attempt to get the party revved up, mi novio wanted to commence with the games. So we played musical chairs, and then while he dashed off to the supermarket for serviettes and apples, he told me to start dancing to liven up the party and get the kids dancing. I succeeded in getting the 3 year old nephew to dance, but all the other kids looked at me awkwardly. So I retreated to the kitchen to make my honey joys.

The tiny kitchen was overflowing with used cups and spoons, trays, ingredients for honey joys and 600ml blocks of ice. The music was throbbing at the typical Colombian ‘nobody needs to hear anyone talk’ level and my feet hurt. Was it time to cut the cake yet?

But no, we still had to play the other games. Despite never having played, or even seen it played in real life, I had decided an apple bob would be fun. Because it was raining outside we had the tub of water on a chair inside and each kid had a turn at pulling an apple out with their teeth. I had underestimated how popular this would be with the kids, even with 12 year old girls. They relished the challenge and it was insanely hilarious to see their heads bobbing about and their faces come out dripping wet! Note to self, this is a game we can play again.

Playing pass the parcel
The kids playing pass-the-parcel, they’d never played it before.

After pass-the-parcel where D started to sulk because the parcel never stopped for him to open a layer, we moved on to the cake and happy birthday. I should have remembered from last year that I would need to brush up my birthday singing in Spanish, however I overlooked this detail. The Spanish version of Happy Birthday they sing here seems different to that which I learned in Spanish classes. So I just smiled and murmured and took photos.

With the birthday cake dished out, the party started to grind to a halt, and mi novio and I could breathe a sigh of relief, pour ourselves a soft drink and eat a left over jelly cup. I had been petrified that a zillion kids would come, but there were only about 13. Most of D’s friends from school didn’t show up. I think if they did, it would have been chaos!

D went to bed happy, full of sugar and with lots of new clothes given to him by his guests.

And I went to bed thinking that at the next Colombian party we throw, we need to have ample drink and ice and just make sure we feed our guests as soon as they arrive. That, I think, is the key to a successful Colombian fiesta.

Excitable in Las Vegas

My second wind suddenly appeared at the same time as this song came on. Yes, Vegas is the place to unleash your inner silly and have a bucket-load of fun.

Thanks to Dustin for capturing the moment… I think.

Oh, and if you are thinking of replicating this, the day after this was filmed, an old-school arcade game was bolted to the bench, possibly to discourage such disrespect of common areas, or maybe just to add another mini podium.

Oh what a night

Not half excited

Last night was seriously in my top 10 nights ever.

To celebrate my leaving Mildura, I hosted a party for my A-listers and it totally rocked my world. I still can’t wipe the smile off my face. I mean, I normally have a smile on my face, but this is one of those big, stupid, cheesy grins that gives your face major wrinkles.

It was the perfect combination of family, friends and food mixed with dance-time tunes and laughs all around.

I just want to give a MASSIVE shout out to the 60 or so people who came along and made my night. I also want to thank the gate-crashers, because no A-list party is complete without gate-crashers!

Thanks also to Mario and co at Stefano’s Cafe for supplying the fab venue and even fabber food.

There are so many amazing people in my Mildura life, it will be sad to leave their company but with the kind of send off they gave me, they’ll never leave my thoughts.

The party in full-swing

Tis the season for party dancing

There’s not much I love more than carving up the dancefloor at a party.

It could be a house party, private party or wedding, if there is good music, I will be taking my sharpest dance skills to carve up the floor.

I don’t know why, but it is so much more liberating to dance at a party. I always let way loose on the dancefloor, pulling out all the stops and contort my face and body like it’s an extreme sport.

Perhaps it has to do with more space on the dancefloor in which to show off the grooves that get the cheers, or maybe it’s just that you are among like minded people that you either know or or could potentially know. Either way, there just isn’t the same kind of posing as the dancefloor of a club, where everyone is trying to look better than the next person and where a sour face tries to scare off unwanted attention yet at the same time seem just hard enough to get to attract that hot guy over by the bar.

With Christmas rapidly approaching, I’ve been hitting the dancefloor in all manner of styles from  work parties with my best aggressive dancing to Pink’s “So What” to funky beats on a friend’s dining room floor.  

My feet may be hanging out for the festive season to finish, but the endorphins are having a ball.

See a snippet of dancefloor action here: