Wednesday, May 27, 2009

La Cultura

More about the area and the culture:

Medellín - The city was founded centuries ago by Jewish refugees fleeing Spain after they were given the ultimatum to either convert to Catholicism or leave the country. They founded the city in the beautiful Aburrá valley where it resides today, making it one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Driving and Traffic - Traffic here is different in one big way here. We take it for granted in the U.S., but there is NO respect for other cars on the road here. The best way I can put it is that in the United States we utilize defensive driving, here in Colombia they use offensive driving. When you´re on the road, you better know where you´re going and stay out of everyone else´s way. When you´re trying to merge, get out of a parking lot into traffic, no one is going to slow down and let you in, you have to make a move and get in there yourself, or you´re going to get some dirty looks and honks. That said, it works, and there are not many accidents.
Also in regards to traffic, Colombia utilizes something quite interesting to lower emissions and reduce rush hour traffic fatalities. It is called ¨Pico y Placa¨ and roughly translates as ¨the peak and the plate.¨ It means that at least twice a week, on two days in a row (monday and tuesday, tuesday and wednesday for example) you cannot drive between the hours of six thirty and eight thirty in the morning and five and seven o clock at night. This is determined by the last two numbers of your license plate. It´s quite interesting to see this in action, and it works and everyone abides.

Food - I know i´ve talked a little about food, but one thing I must mention. Colombians are in LOVE with desserts. Whenever you´re between meals anyone can ask you if you want to ¨tomar de algo,¨ and that means do you want to go get a little pastry and maybe some coffee? It´s pretty cool, and as for something we don´t have in the US that they eat here that´s AMAZING is Arequipe. It is like caramel, except sweeter and tastier and not as rich. They can put it in ice cream, in a hot pastry, anything really. Another awesome dessert they eat here is really simple but they eat it all the time. It´s called fresas y helado ...strawberries and ice cream. Not strawberry ice cream, strawberries in vanilla ice cream. And the FRESHEST strawberries I´ve ever seen. All of the fruit here is excellent, which leads me to another point, that they drink a LOT of juice here. Everyday at lunch at the orphanage there is a different fruit juice accompanying my meal, and to tell you the truth I haven´t heard of any of them really, but they are all SO GOOD. My thing with food is, whenever you´re traveling, ask a local what´s good, and eat it. They usually won´t lead you wrong. And don´t be afraid of something weird or only live once!

My hands are tired, more tomorrow, I have to update you on the kids of course! They´re doing great and the people there are SO nice. They really are loved and well-fed and love each other and me...haha more on that tomorrow, Que dios les bendiga - God Bless

María, Full of Grace

Howdy folks, Matt here in Medellín. I know i´m getting a little behind on blogging, but I had quite a busy weekend and start of the week. My next few posts will deal a little bit with the culture here, so that those of you who are considering adoption or are in the process can understand a little bit how things are here.

On Sunday, I got up around ten and had a nice breakfast with the family. We left for mass around eleven thirty. Most of the population here (more than ninety percent) is Catholic. I have been to many a mass in my life, but not in many years, so I was not quite sure what to expect. My church that I attend in Myrtle Beach is a rock out, dance kinda church, so I knew it would be different. I was pleasantly surprised with how heartfelt and beautiful the service was. It was only about forty five minutes long, and included all things that any American Catholic would expect, and the people were all so nice and so so faithful and it seemed like they really meant it when they turn to one another and said, ¨peace be with you,¨or ¨God bless you.¨
After church, we went to eat at an amazing restaurant on the side of a mountain looking over the whole valley, where I had the ¨típico¨ (typical) that is eaten in Colombia, which includes on a huge plate steak, sausage, an arepa (best compared to a fried tortilla), fresh avocado, rice, beans, banana, and my favorite, chicharrón. Chicharrón is best compared to the fatty part of the bacon, cooked until crispy, just how I like it :). Needless to say, I was quite full and satisfied.
We then walked around the mall for awhile. Turns out Medellín is a world center for fashion, and it shows. There are more than twenty malls here, many of which specialize in high class clothing. Being that the peso is such a weak currency, I would recommend traveling here to check out your next Dolce and Gabana or Prada or whatever it is you ladies are into these days.

Another thing that is amazing is the climate. I know I have mentioned this before, but it is so awesome that people don´t use air conditioning here. I´m sitting at this computer with the windows open in the house, yea a car goes by every now and then, but the view is amazing, and there is always a light breeze blowing through the valley. Also, all of the malls and restaurants are open as well. It is just really relaxing to sit here and take it in.

I´ll write more, but I think this is enough for one blog post. Que dios les bendiga - God Bless

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Howdy folks, this has been quite a week here in Medellin. I have been teaching two children in the mornings, helping them learn english, and then in the afternoons I teach about ten children. I am certainly not an expert in ESL, but I do know how to manage a class and I do know a little bit of how the brain most quickly learns a language. So, I teach the children a few things that they will have to know in order that we can have a successful class, such as ¨be quiet,¨ ¨sit down,¨ and ¨repeat¨. Along with that, I always repeat myself in spanish after everything that I say. After just two days of an hour of class, they are already wowing their caregivers, asking them ¨what is your name?¨and ¨what time is it?¨ pretty cool.
As for the city, it is really cool. Last night, my host family took me for a drive around to catch a view of the nightlife, this city has many, many outdoor bars and restaurants, as the climate here is just superb. We then stopped in the middle of town and I got to sample a bit of the street food. I had a ¨perro ranchero,¨haha. Don´t worry, it was not a real perro, but the Medellin-version of a hot dog. It was incredibly messy, filling, and delicious. For the not so experimental pallate, I would not recommend it, but hey, get out there and try something new, right?
Today has been a relaxing saturday, just hanging around listening to music and watching tv, but later on we may go out, we´ll see. I¨ll keep you posted. Hope all is well with all of you and I appreciate your continued thoughts and prayers. Que dios les bendiga-God bless- Matt

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


That´s the only word I can come up with to describe the first 24 hours in Medellin. To say I was thrown to the wolves is an understatement, haha. It´s quite insane for me to think I´m really going to be here for almost two months, but my nervousness is mixed with excitement definitely.
This morning, I awoke and ate an arepa for breakfast, arepas are small pancake like things made from bananas and you cover them with this sweet butter that makes them both delicious and filling. Then, it was off to the Casa de Maria y El Niño. When I got there I was introduced to the head of the orphanage, Raquel, a very nice lady who led us to a back room where I could be briefed on what my job would be for the next weeks. Needless to say I was quite intimidated. My spanish is good, but these people speak really fast. I see it taking maybe a week to adjust to the accent, it´s already getting better even in the last day or so. I met Daniel and Maria, in charge of the children´s education while at the orphanage. The older children go to school (some in the morning others in the evening) but the younger children participate in a kind of kindergarten at the orphanage under the tutelage of the women who work there, whom all the children refer to as ¨mamás.¨ I then was introduced to Mauricio and Lina, two kids who are quite excited to be adopted soon, and we discussed what they already knew in english, which surprised me as it included numbers, colors, greetings, and various day-to-day vocabulary. This got me quite pumped for what was to come. I was told I´d have to wait for the morning-schooled children to return to begin teaching a little english.
While waiting, I was treated to an excellent lunch by the kitchen staff at the orphanage, including beef, rice, and vegetables as well as soup. Also, Colombians drink very little soda, mostly staying with fruit juices and milk, which they find a way to make really really tasty.
After the kids returned and lunch was consumed, I met the older children and as soon as they learned that I was from the United States (a shocking fact in itself for them) and was going to teach THEM english, they were estatic. I have NEVER seen kids so thirsty for learning. In fact, my first day ¨teaching¨ turned into the kids asking ¨como se dice ______ en ingles?¨ over and over again and me picking up little kids and letting them touch the ceiling, which they liked so much that when I told them I was getting tired of everyone bouncing on me and climbing, they simply formed an orderly line as they waited for tired ¨mateo¨ to pick them up, haha.
After about an hour and a half of my english school, they kids were allowed outside on the playground to play. There they begged for me to let them ¨montar de caballo,¨ (piggy back ride) until I could barely walk. Let´s just say I¨m definitely going to lose some weight on this trip haha. Then, my ride came, and off I went. What a day.
So in the next few days I¨m going to have to come up with a way to teach these kids in an organized manner, which could be hard because of their varying ages. I´ll figure it out though. I´ve been on the computer a while though, so I should prolly get off. The view is amazing from this house. I¨ll put up pictures as soon as I start taking them, I´m still in a little bit of culture shock, but I´ll get over that soon. Until next time, Que dios les bendiga. God Bless.- Matt

Monday, May 18, 2009

Matt Parris - New Colombia Blog Author

Gladney adoptee, Matthew Parris, is spending his summer working in a Colombia orphanage. He will be immersing himself in the culture and teaching the children how to speak English. Follow his journey through video, photos, and the Colombia Adoption Blog.

Monday, May 04, 2009

2009 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces List

Each year, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption announces a list of employers with the best adoption benefits in the nation. Rankings are based on the amount of financial reimbursement and paid leave for employees who adopt. Honorees include the top 100, the top ten by size and the top five in each industry.

America's Top Ten
1 Wendy's International, Inc.
2 Citizen's Financial Group, Inc. / RBS Americas
3-TIE Liquidnet
3-TIE LSI Corporation
3-TIE United Business Media LLC (UBM)
6 Subaru of America, Inc.
7. Bowen Engineering Corporation
8. Timberland
9. Barilla America
10. Time Inc.