When we started talking to people about our upcoming year in Colombia, about the Spanish learning for our family, about our new living arrangements and about full immersion for the kids there was a common theme that emerged… what is Kellen going to sound like, be like and will he be understood? True, it is hard to understand his ways but his language became more incomprehensible after he had three teeth knocked from his grill a month before we left.
So here we are in Colombia and I would like to share a short post on how Kellen is doing. With time I hope to do this for all of our kids… he just gave me the most writing material the quickest.
So far, he is the only person in the family that has yet to obtain his visa. We have tried three times and are not quite there… I do think it will happen soon. If you were to watch our family, you would see that Kellen has a way of standing out. We often hear “you have your hands full” after people spend 5 minutes around Kellen.
Kellen was always excited about making the trek to South America and was excited to learn the language but requested to take Ty Ty, his cousin, with him. That was the hardest part about leaving for Kellen.
Upon having our first meal in Colombia and learning that we would usually be eating soups followed by a full plate of food for lunch, we learned Kellen would not go hungry. He loves the food here and has developed a facial expression to tell us he is excited to eat. When we ask him what he wants to eat, he licks his lips in an animal-like fashion, gives his toothless grin, widens his eyes and begins this slurping sound. We do not know where this came from, but I have come to love it.
La Mesa is a sloping hill and we live at the top. he shopping, school and church are all at the bottom of the hill. We are getting lots of good family time walking the streets, holding hands and bribing Kellen to make it to the next block. It really is special time together. On our third day when emotions were full and spirits were tired, Kellen asked a question “when do we get our costumes?” I responded explaining to him that he will only get to wear a costume to school when he does a special presentation or when it is a holiday. After more discussion we figured out he was asking when he would get the school uniforms that students wear every day. We all had a good laugh about Kellen’s costumes.
As Kellen got more used to walking the streets and seeing people, he wanted to start interacting with him. The most common greeting on the street is “Buenos Dias, or Buenas Tardes” but that was a little much for his beginner tongue so he stuck to “Hola” but in a very gringo way. He soon began saying this to everyone that we passed and most did not respond to it or recognize it as a greeting from the little blond-haired boy walking past them. He would then ask over and over… “why aren’t they talking to me.” When the occasional response came from a stranger he would then blurt out “Adios Amigo.” It always brought a smile to our face because we knew he was trying! He is now greeting on the street in the more common fashion and getting a lot more responses.
In our first week here we learned how big Soccer was because Colombia was playing in the Copa America. We bought jerseys and headed down to the local tienda (small grocery store) to watch the game outdoors. There were around 10 other people cheering and shouting out things in Spanish. We didn’t understand much, but did recognize the many drinks being consumed and cigarettes burned through by one table in particular. When the game was winding down and the intensity was picking up… the ladies from the front table started standing in the street to cheer, pace and smoke. Kellen asked one of the ladies where she bought “the smokers.” I translated and the lady pointed to inside the store. Kellen interpreted the gesture quickly and immediately ran inside to buy some cigarettes of his own. The lady was yelling at him “no no my love, they are bad for you” and we had to explain that “smokers” were for older people. He was disappointed until the lady showed up with a candy that emulated a long cigarette:) Yes, Kellen ate the candy holding in a smoker’s fashion and enjoyed all of it. The next day as we were walking the streets Kellen told us that he couldn’t wait to grow up to use and sell “smokers.”
Kason was the first of the kids to start plugging in to sports. We live very close to the stadium where all of the formal soccer practices happen. The boys of the family went to the first practice as Taylor and I stayed back. It wasn’t long before Kellen returned home because he wasn’t getting to play. I asked him the reason he wasn’t playing and he simply told me that it was because he didn’t have shin guards (not because his age group wasn’t practicing today, although I am not sure he even knew). So this superhero mom sprung into action and dug through Taylor’s drawers to find the other pair of shin guards that we have. Kellen was pumped!! He quickly put on the shin guards, found socks that fit over the shin guards and went running back to the stadium. I followed not far behind just to check in on the situation, but sent him ahead to talk to Mark. As I got to the gate of the stadium I saw Kellen run right past Mark and on to the field. HE WAS PUMPED!!! He looked so cute, and he was ready to play. After stopping to talk to Mark, we decided to go help him figure out if he could play. I went and touched based with the coach of the littlest looking group and unfortunately they were 7 year olds. The 5 year old practice was the next day:( He was soooo bummed. It was crazy to see him go from the happiest of kids to a heartbroken kid. The rest of that Friday he spent talking about his soccer practice the next day and even including it in his prayers that night. To our disappointment, on Saturday when he showed up for practice the coach couldn’t make it so the practice was cancelled. We played as a family, but it was a far cry from this boy’s expectations!
The Sunday before school started I was able to take a nap. When I joined the rest of the family in the living room, they were playing Phase 10. I was secretly hoping that they were all at least on Phase 8 (I know some of you know what I am talking about!!) but most were on phase 2 or 3. Kellen was on phase 4 but starting to fade; he was in the lead early on but his cards weren’t quite as favorable when I showed up. I soon took over his hand and would give him occasional updates when he would check in.
With 4 of us playing cards, he was getting bored. He asked me how to ask the neighbor to come play. When he went to ask, the doors were locked and they weren’t home. Back came a crying kid. We continued on with our game and after about 10 minutes I hadn’t heard noise from Kellen so we started looking. This passive looking for Kellen became a full out man hunt in about 10 seconds because he wasn’t in his usual spots. I was close to panicking but kept calm. I decided to head down to the tienda down the hill where we have started to form a relationship with the owners as I sent Mark to the stadium because I knew soccer was being played. The other kids were to stay in the house. As I went running down the hill almost to the tienda, I passed a car and there was Kellen slowly walking up the hill. You don’t need to know what happened after that, but yes, we were relieved to have found him and yes, he has wandered off as many of you were projecting:) As we went to bed that night it was comforting to look at my phone and have a text from the store owner saying that “Kellen was walking by himself in front of their store”… we do have angels watching over him!!
The last story I will share before I bore you, because truth be told… I could go on for a while, is about his first day of school. This kid jumped in like a champ. He just followed along and did what others were doing. I was so proud as I sat at the back of the classroom as support or to help communicate if needed. I watched the teacher go up to Kellen and talk and point to the toilet paper. I knew that she was telling him that if he needs to go to the bathroom to get TP from her first. He nodded his head like he understood and went on with coloring. Now, fast forward several hours until recess break. They get a 50 minute recess and snack break in the middle of the day. This is because lunch usually isn’t served until 1-2pm. We couldn’t find Kellen at recess. I wasn’t worried but Mark decided to go hunting. He didn’t have success. It then dawned on me that Kellen was probably stuck in the bathroom without TP. So I sent Mark looking and he checked the bathroom by the classroom and Kellen was not in there. About 3 minutes later Mark saw a line of boys banging on a door, it was another bathroom. Yes Kellen was stuck in the bathroom with no TP, so Mark came to the rescue. Oh, the little things we don’t think about yet:)