If I could define my experience of Barker’s Homeland Tour in one word, it would be grateful.
For years I’ve wanted to travel back to Bogota and explore where I was born, and I finally got the chance to go in the summer of 2016. I had mixed feelings of the trip where I was excited but nervous as I didn’t know what I would experience or find out going on this trip. In the end, I found a new perspective on how I saw my adoption, the Colombian people and the country I was born in.
Our first few days in Bogota we toured and spent time at FANA. It was surreal seeing the orphanage and everything it offered. It had modern facilities and a big beautiful outside space for the kids to play. What stood out to me was the love and care the workers have for each child. Over the few days at FANA, we were able to interact and play with the older kids at the orphanage which was a special moment. We played with paint, bubbles, the playground and more, they were so excited to just play. I didn’t know what these kids circumstances were but I saw that they were happy, smiling children which made me feel almost reassured knowing the care I had and all the other FANA children have.
As an adult adoptee I was able to see my file at FANA. I tried going into the meeting not expecting anything as I was used to not knowing much about my birthmother and her story. After going through the file, I ended up getting some answers to questions I had been wondering about my whole life. I also saw for the first time a picture of my birthmother.
It was a weird but powerful moment for me but felt thankful coming out of that meeting knowing what I know now.
The last day at FANA we were able to meet two women who were staying in the Hogar section of FANA. We gave them gift baskets we made earlier that day full of goodies for them to use as they stay there. These women were pregnant and in the process of deciding if they were going to give up their child for adoption. Meeting these two women put everything into perspective for me. I saw how scared and conflicted they were to decide not only their child’s future but their own future as well. Leaving FANA that day was emotional but gave me peace. I saw firsthand the care and dedication FANA has for the children, as well as the women. This process is one of the hardest decisions these women face, and I felt even more respect and gratitude for what my birthmother sacrificed for me.
The next few days on the homeland tour was very eventful in exploring the city of Bogota. We experienced everything from art, to food, and places to shop. We toured the Gold Museum which is an amazing museum exhibiting the history and beauty of gold from Colombia. We went to the Botero Museum, the Colon Theater, toured Colombia’s Presidential Palace, walked through the Nemocon Salt Mine, made Coffee at a coffee factory and went up the Monserrate mountain overlooking the whole city of Bogota. Monserrate mountain was one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever been too. Literally, the high altitude took my breath away but the beauty of seeing the mountains surrounding the whole city was truly incredible.
The tour was filled with many things to see and do. But when we weren’t touring and had down time we could explore on our own. Walking around local spots, going grocery shopping, and exploring the mall was a cool feeling as I didn’t feel out of place. I met locals at different spots and the saying is really true, Colombians are the nicest, happiest people you will meet. Colombians live to celebrate, especially when the Colombian National Futbol team is competing in the Copa American tournament which was happening during our time there. All the locals would gather in the mall parking lot to watch Colombia play. It was so fun to be in the moment watching soccer and celebrating even if Chile beat us in the tournament.
The Barker Homeland tour was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had and would encourage any adoptee and their families to go. Being one of the oldest adoptees to ever go on the homeland tour was special not only for me but for my family. I’m very grateful my mom and my older brother who is adopted from Chile was able to experience this trip with me. The homeland tour connected me with more than I had imagined. I connected with local Colombians that made me feel welcomed. It connected me with other adoptees experiencing the same emotions I had. The trip made me feel more connected with my adoption and having a better understanding of my birthmother’s story. But most importantly I felt more connected to the city I was born in, Bogota where I was proud to be Colombian.
Gabbie has a background in public relations and currently resides in Maryland.