The first night it was hard for J to go to sleep. I think the day had been overwhelming, and she was super hyped up and could not calm down. But each day after, she was fine.
The interesting part of the 'integration' week is that we are all finding our rhythm. We are first-time parents, so we are finding our way in the process. This is J's first family as she had been in the orphanage since she was 2 years old, so she is finding her way too. While my husband is an extrovert, I am an introvert, and suddenly I have no time alone - so I have to find my way in that too. There is so much to learn and figure out.
Luckily, my husband speaks pretty good Spanish, and I speak enough to talk to an 8 year old girl, so that made the integration period go a bit easier.
Mostly we spent the week trying to bond with her, and have fun, and get to know each other, while also introducing the structure our family will have (such as bed times). We went to parks, and the botanical gardens, and a large amusement park. We had fun, as a family.
I want to part on some great advice we received before we came, which was to "go chill on the rules".
Meaning, there is plenty of time in the future with the child to get them clear on expectations. But at first, pick your battles and let the rest go, because they were being raised by someone else for the last 5 years and you cannot just throw an entire new regime at them in one night. It would be too much for them.
During our Encuentro, Integration, and after Sentencia, we are choosing to stay at Zuetana, which is a hotel in Bogota that specializes in supporting families in the adoption process.
Here is our review of Zuetana:
We really like this hotel. The hotel manager, Claudia, can be reached on WhatsApp, and the hotel website has a 'chat' function too, so you can easily talk to them about your needs before traveling. At first we thought we would prefer a private apartment, but, now we realize that would have been a huge mistake. That is because the first week of the adoption process is a bit hectic. We had tons of appointments, at the doctor and elsewhere for the adoption process. And, we are also trying to focus our energy on becoming parents to J, and getting to know her and spend time with her. I now realize that if I had to throw in cooking and grocery shopping into that, I would have regretted it.
The Zuetana hotel includes the breakfast and dinners, and the meals are typical local foods that your adoptive child is used to and will be willing to eat, and also teachers you, the parent, a bit about what types of food your child is used to having. This takes the pressure off meal times!
There are also lots of other adopting families in the hotel, and the kids often play together (which gives you a little break to make blog posts! :) ). And, you can talk to them about the process and how they dealt with various steps. We also went out on daily outings with several of the families, and it was fun to connect with others who are also adopting. Zuetana also has lots of areas for lounging, and a front room with TV for movies, and a room with toys, an outside there are some toys for kids, and nearby is a part with toys too, and also near by is a center that offers gymnastics and swimming lessons a-la-carte for a reasonable price.
The hotel is also near to many of the places you will have your appointments, and the owner practically knew more about how our process would go than our agency! ha ha. The only complaint we would have about Zuetana is that this week the city is working on the water outside the hotel, and so inside hot water is hit-or-miss, and comes and goes, which I do not like having to force an 8 year old to take a cold shower (or myself for that matter), but that will hopefully be taken care of soon, and ultimately, that is a "first world problem".
Zeutana is also in a really nice part of town, so you do not have to worry about safety, and there is a large mall nearby that we really appreciated as the orphanage did not provide a single outfit with J when she left, so we had to take her to buy her clothes - everything, including underwear, socks and shoes.
At the mall (Unicentro Mall) there is a store, called Exito, that on the 2nd level has tons of children's clothes at very reasonable prices.
But, if you prefer a private apartment, Zuetana also has them, in another building near by, just ask Claudia about it.