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April 1997

21 April 1997

England (again)
There is obviously not too much to report this month, judging by the date of the first entry, but no news is presumably good news. Having spent the first week planning Elena’s upcoming birthday party, which grew and grew the more we thought about it (and all against my better judgement, I might add), we spent the second week on a relatively successful trip back to the motherland. It helped that the bank was willing to pick up the tab for the horrendously expensive BA Club Class tickets, which made the journey with Elena a little more bearable, especially the daytime return flight (even I do not expect a two year old not to get bored on a 9-hour flight).

But, once in England, Elena certainly had the time of her life, visiting cousins, aunties and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers (some of these now separately), and friends, all of whom went out of their ways to amuse her and provide her with toys and trips to the swings (where she particularly distinguished herself on the jungle gyms, to the trepidation of various grandparents). It turned out to have been a good idea to base ourselves in one place and make day-trips out, rather than doing the full tour and overnighting in a different place each night like the last time, even at the risk of offending certain parties. It was an almost-forgotten luxury for us to be able to go for a walk around town in the evening, stop off in a pub for a half, and meet friends for a meal, all safe in the knowledge of the willing baby-sitters back home. We were also able to dump Elena on various relations while we raided the shops – it is amazing how quickly one can spend money without her (even if most of it was for her anyway).

Everyone, especially the easily-impressed grandparents, seemed surprised by both Elena’s physical and mental development, particularly her speech, and some of the cute phrases she has picked up from somewhere ("That’s a good song, Daddy", "What’s that noise?", "Oh my God", etc). At times she still surprises even us, for example with monologues like the recent "Where’s Baby Doll gone to, then? I don’t know. Maybe under the table? No. Maybe under the cushion?", or "Go away Daddy. Go and find Maritza. Elena’s going to sleep", "Don’t play with that. I’ve told you. That’s Elena’s one.", etc.

The grandparents were less impressed with the news of our impending move to Bogotá, although I do not really know what they had expected us to do next. It seems increasingly unlikely that we will ever move back to England, but we really have not the heart to tell them so. At least my mother seemed in marginally better health than of late (probably the main reason for our visit in the first place), although that still leaves her with angina, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and skin cancers among other complaints.

Having fixed our new computer, after a mammoth phone call to the manufacturers where a techie talked me step by step through some very complex manoeuvres inside the CPU, I have been gradually getting to grips with it. The Internet connection through the local phone company turned out to be as obstacle-prone as expected, and after three weeks and many, many phone calls, they decided that there must be a problem with the phone line itself, and so, as it seems very unlikely that such an obscure problem will ever be resolved, never mind before August, I have resigned myself to waiting until we move to Colombia to explore the Internet.

29 April 1997 Back to top

The major negotiations and preparations for Elena’s second birthday party, which have been taking up our time and exercising our patience recently, finally all came good on the day, to our mixture of relief and disbelief. It was a typically over-the-top Venezuelan affair, with hundreds of balloons, dressed tables and chairs, a huge hand-painted cake, a Barney piñata, two clowns, and even an appearance from a life-size all-singing all-dancing Barney. I really cannot quite believe I ever agreed to it all (although in fact, as these things tend to, it actually grew from relatively humble beginnings).

Photo: Elena's second birthday party, Caracas, Venezuela. Apr 1997.
Elena's second birthday party, Caracas, Venezuela. Apr 1997.
Because we and most other ex-pats found the spectacle of Minnie Mouse being battered to oblivion somewhat gross and disturbing last year, we managed to arrange for a different type of piñata, apparently just as traditional, with ribbons to pull rather than the usual thrashing with sticks, and, although at least one Venezuelan child was in floods of tears because he was not allowed to whack it, I think most people found it preferable, and we were left with an almost intact Barney which our cleaner was able to re-use for one of her relations’ party.

Elena certainly had a great time at the party (we had been building it up for weeks), and spent most of her time opening a ridiculous number of presents (there were around twenty kids there), ranging from the practical (books, T-shirt and knickers) to the sublimely ridiculous (Barbie Goes Shopping, a too-small gold bracelet, and a dress tasteless even by Venezuelan standards). And all this before we handed over our own ridiculous number of presents on her actual birthday. But she danced and played her heart out, and luckily people did not overstay their welcomes. Her actual birthday probably came as something of a let-down after the party, but she did accumulate a significant amount of more loot, most of which seemed to go down quite well.

And so ended our third year in Venezuela (and our second with Elena), with lots of bangs and very few whimpers.

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