The views and opinions expressed on these blog posts are solely those of the original author, myself,  Amanda Cox. These views and opinions do not represent those of any company, government, or organization I may be affiliated with.

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You’re going where? That sounds dangerous!

I think that everyone has pet peeves.  Something innocent that someone else does that drives you a bit crazy!  Maybe it’s illogical, maybe you think it’s gross, or maybe it’s just happened to you so many times that it now drives you crazy.  For me, it’d definitely the third one. When people ask you “Is it safe?”, it’s a sign of concern and caring, but for me, it’s really annoying.  I even freaked out at my sister about a month ago over this exact thing – sorry again!  So many people are constantly bombarded with the idea that travelling is unsafe. Don’t go to the Caribbean because of Zika, don’t go to Colombia because of drugs, don’t go to Europe because of terrorism, don’t go to Asia or you’ll be kidnapped.  Enough already!  Where exactly am I supposed to go?  People like to worry about things they see on social media, but it’s not always very logical.  Risk is an inherent part of life (any life, whether you travel or not), so I think you should keep travelling even when others are full of worries.

Here’s a preview of my latest blog on Expat Coffee Club, about why we need to to think twice about warning others of safety concerns while travelling abroad (especially solo, and especially as a woman): Safety while travelling alone as a woman

I’ve been travelling across the world on my own since I was 15 years old.  I love to explore new countries. It’s fun to travel with others, but sometimes it just doesn’t work like that and you end up travelling on your own. It can be a bit scary at first until you learn how to be independent and try new things. It’s going to be a bit uncomfortable to do things in a new way, but once you get the hang of it, you feel great!  The first time taking a bus on your own through Dhaka and actually arriving at your friend’s house. When you finally feel like the lady at the tienda down the street understands what you’re asking for in Spanish. Catching your flight after navigating a long customs line and running through an airport to make it to your gate.  These are all stressful situations, but once you master them, you feel totally accomplished – like you can do anything!

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Dancing the Weekend Away for Carnival – Oruro, Bolivia

In South America, the highlight of the year is Carnival! Since most of the countries are Catholic*, the whole period between Christmas and Easter is actually full of various holidays. Every city in Bolivia has their own celebration. They usually focus on costumes, parades, dancing, singing, food, fireworks, and, of course, drinking!  Out of all the cities, Oruro has the biggest festival. Everyone goes there for carnival, so we figured we should check it out!


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The Value of Diversity

Moving around the world has benefits and challenges. One of the biggest things you deal with on a daily basis is new people and new cultures.  This is always a challenge, but once you get into the swing of things it can also be a huge benefit.

Every culture, gender, generation, religion, and occupation has their own unique way of seeing the world. No two people have the exact same view point, and the more they diverge, the more opinions you’re going to have being thrown around. Some people think this makes things difficult, but I think it’s really interesting.  Having to compromise makes you think, and in the end you’ve both learned something. I think that diversity in the workforce and in your own friend group or family is so important. Without differing opinions we’re never going to grow and learn new things. Diversity helps us to learn about empathy, about walking in someone else’s shoes, and that makes us all stronger individuals.

Here’s the first bit of a piece I wrote called Working with Different Cultures, I hope you enjoy it and click the link below to read the full article:

When you’re an expat in a new place, you have to get used to a new culture, with new types of people.  Since I work in international development, I’m always working with colleagues and “clients” from different countries. Primarily, the country that I happen to be working in, but that’s not always the case. I also end up working with other people from all walks of life:

  • Young and old
  • Men and women
  • Liberals and conservatives
  • Christians and Muslims
  • Volunteers and directors
  • Partiers and quiet types
  • Locals and international staff
  • Every profession imaginable….

A lot of jobs these days have a requirement along the lines of “Values diversity”. It’s always a tough thing to answer. Of course, I value diversity, I’ve worked all over the world. But what do you actually say? “I worked with “x” group of people and they contributed a lot…” – not great I think. But I do love that working with a diverse group of people is included on job applications. Of course, some are probably just doing that for legal purposes or corporate social responsibility reasons, but probably not all of them.  I really do think that having a diverse group is more likely to get you new opinions. Although this might cause a bit more discussion, I think it will ultimately lead to the most successful “product” for your organization…….

Read the rest of this blog over on Expat Coffee Club:

Working with Different Cultures

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I made it! A Hike to the Seven Waterfalls: Day Trip in Sucre, Bolivia (Part 2)

Keeping with my theme of “making the most of my time in Bolivia”, we decided to check out the seven waterfalls (Siete Cascadas), located in a valley within the Sucre city limits.  You probably know I’m not much of a hiker, but I decided that it was worth it to check out some great local waterfalls.  It almost killed me, but eventually we made it there and I was proud of myself! Here’s the story….


Note: This is part 2 of the journey, check out the first part of the day here:

Walking in the Footsteps of the Dinosaurs: Day Trip in Sucre, Bolivia (Part 1)

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Walking in the Footsteps of the Dinosaurs: Day Trip in Sucre, Bolivia (Part 1)

When I first arrived in Sucre, I was so excited to visit all the interesting local sites. Unfortunately, time flew by, and I still haven’t visited many of the famous tourist attractions that the area is known for! Since I’m only here for another month, I’ve decided to make the most of my remaining afternoons and weekends. A few weeks ago, Steve and I decided to combine two excursions into one. In the morning we went to visit the famous dino park, and in the afternoon we hiked up to the seven waterfalls.


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Don’t flush the toilet paper! – Access to basic services in Bolivia

Moving to a new country is never easy, but it’s a lot easier if you have the “creature comforts” from your home country. It can be a big adjustment to go from living in downtown Toronto to living in a small room, full of cockroaches and ants, washing your clothes in cold water, by hand, in the dark! However, these adjustments have one positive thing about them – they are great learning lessons! They help you to understand what other people encounter on a daily basis in their lives in different countries. They make you grateful to what you took for granted back at home. Most of all, they’re a good character builder, and teach you a lot about being patient!  Thankfully, this is not the way I’m living here in Bolivia!


Left: Beautiful, precise landscaping in the parks and plazas of Sucre. Right: Eating hot chicken soup on a cold, rainy day.

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Travelling as a Picky Eater

If you know me, you know that I’m a picky eater. I’ve always made an attempt to try new things, but there are a lot of common ingredients which I just can’t stand.  On top of things like spicy food and fish, I also don’t eat common vegetables like mushrooms, onions, or peppers that are common in dishes around the world. So, what do I do as a constant traveller? Well, I make do. I haven’t starved yet, though my diet is a lot less interesting then most. Almost every country has at least one or two staple starches that I can rely on for calories (but usually not flavour).  Some of the usual suspects are bread, potatoes, noodles, pasta, or rice. In some countries, like Ghana, they like to serve two to three carbs on every plate, which works perfectly for me! All the foodies of the world are probably shaking their head in dismay that I travel to wonderful exotic places but don’t enjoy all the foods that they would love to try. Sorry guys! I wish I loved eating spicy curries, and that I could shove any empanada in my mouth without worrying about the contents – but it’s just not my cup of tea!

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Day Trip in La Paz, Bolivia – Valle de la Luna and Mount Chacaltaya

While in La Paz for Carnival, we weren’t really sure what to do. We knew that museums and other tourist attractions would be closed, and we found out that almost all the restaurants were closed as well – not ideal!  We normally try to do activities on our own, but had no ideas, so we looked into a group tour instead.  I’m super glad we did because it turned out to be a really fun day!


Left: Steve and I on the road leading up the mountain. Right: Alpacas here are as popular as cows in Canada.

We talked to our hostel (Hostel Pirwa in Sopocacchi) to find out which tours were possible in just one day, given the season and the carnival festivals. Some weren’t available at all, or we had already done, so we chose this tour.  Unfortunately, our hotel said that we needed four people and we were only two. So, when we went out for lunch and shopping near the Witches Market that day, we decided to go in a bunch of tourist agencies.  They all had basically the same tour for exactly the same price, so we just chose the one that would pick us up closest to our hostel (they wouldn’t pick us up there because it’s not on their list of hotels). When we got back to the hostel, they said they could do it for us with just two but we had already booked so we just declined that tour.  We also booked the tour that didn’t include the entry fees. This was because the tours normally include the “foreigner” entry fee, but since we have a residence card, we can get the “local price” instead.


Left: View of the city of La Paz from Mount Chacaltaya. Right: Snowball fight!
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Why Bolivia (a land-locked country) is so obsessed with the sea!

Even though Bolivia has no ocean, they’re completely enamoured with the idea. Everyone from young to old feels passionate about the need for access to the sea. Bolivia once connected to the Pacific ocean between Chile and Peru, but lost the land over a century ago in The War of the Pacific. However, Bolivians are still not ready to accept the result, and feel it is a great injustice that they don’t have the land that was theirs when “their country was born”.  I’ve become completely fascinated with this event, and took time this past week to do some digging into the history of this country that I currently call my home.


Boats are definitely the theme of the day! Everything from giant boats on top of cars with oceans of blue tarp to teenage boys with paper sailboat hats.

Yearly Celebrations for Day of the Sea

Day of the Sea is celebrated on March 23, commemorating the day of the Battle of Topater (the first battle in the War of the Pacific) in 1879. The Bolivians were trying to defend the town of Calama from Chile. It was in the battle that Colonel Eduardo Aboroa died, making him into a national hero. You can still see streets named after him in every big city in Bolivia, and one of the main squares in La Paz is also name Aboroa.  Every year on this date (or at least 3 full days this year in Sucre), the whole town is excited. Thousands of people come out to the main square to watch the spectacle. Politicians come and speak about important issues on a stage in front of hundreds of flags. Every marching band in town shows up in blue to navigate through the central streets. School children with hand-made signs march through town in blue to show their support.  Music videos are made about the sea and shown to spectators who sit for hours watching them on the big screen – nodding along and cheering in agreement whenever someone states (or sings) about Bolivia needing the sea. Everyone in the city shows up with pride to share their support in the need for Bolivia to regain access to the Pacific Ocean.


Left: Aw, what a cutie in his little sailor costume! Right: Boris and Julie found me these great paper flags with the Bolivian naval flag – yay parades!

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Pujllay: The Harvest Festival in Tarabuco, Bolivia

Bolivia loves festivals of all types! The Pujllay festival is a wonderful festival in the city of Tarabuco (just an hour outside of Sucre, Bolivia).  The area is known for its Yampara culture, and people from far and wide flock to the city for the yearly festival.  The main part of the festival is the parade, with dancing groups in amazing costumes visiting from 60 nearby cities around the district. Last weekend, we were able to take a day trip to Tarabuco to join in the excitement!


History of the Festival

Meaning – The word “Pujllay” is a Quechua word (one of the most spoken indigenous languages in Bolivia) for play or dance. The festival signifies the harvest season, when the wind plays with the clouds in the sky and the blossoms dance in the fields. This time of year in the central Andes of Bolivia is a time where the rainy season is coming to an end and the crops are ripe for harvesting.  The festival begins with a Quechua mass, followed by a marching progression of dancers in costumes.  Quechua doesn’t translate perfectly to English and is more of an oral language, so you’ll often find alternative spellings to all Quechua words on various signs around Bolivia. Pujllay (the word for play/dance) can sometimes be spelt phujllay, pugllay pujhllay. or pukllay.


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