Disclaimer:

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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Only Have 6 Hours in La Paz, Bolivia? You’ll still have a blast!

Going on holidays is always exciting.  You might be a little stressed about work, nervous about making your connecting flight, and dreading the lack of leg room (if you’re a tall guy like Steve), but mostly it’s supposed to be fun.  You’re going somewhere new to explore.  It’s an adventure!  Since you only have a limited amount of time off work, you decide to leave as soon as you can after your last work day!  Is this the best for your sleep?  Probably not.  But it gives you chance to see the most you can of the cities you’re visiting, so I think it’s worth it!

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Left: Last views over the hills of Sucre from the taxi window. Right: Steve and I in front of the plane on the runway.

Sucre, Bolivia – December 21st, 2016

I have to get up pretty early for work.  Thankfully my commute is just a 15-minute walk, so I can get up at 6:30, leave the house at 7:15, and still make it to work for 7:30.  Although I have a really early start, I also have shorter work days, and I’m able to finish by 1:30 in the afternoon – totally worth the early mornings!  Originally when I asked my boss he told me that we have holidays from December 22nd to January 9th, so I booked my flight after work on December 21st.  It turns out he was wrong, and the week actually went until Friday for the school, but I already had my flight booked so I was out of there Wednesday afternoon!  After work, I walked home, took a shower while Steve made lunch, ate some food, did some last minute packing, and we were ready to go by 3:30.  Since our street is super narrow, we walked with our luggage to the corner with the bigger street and flagged a taxi to the airport.  Thankfully, since it was a local flight we only had to get there about an hour in advance.  But the actual drive is about 45 minutes through winding country roads.  We got to the airport, checked our bags (mine was exactly at the correct weight, Steve’s was way under – as usual!), and bought some chocolate to bring for my family.  We paid the airport tax, went quickly through security, and got on our flight to La Paz no problem.

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Left: Steve is too tall for Bolivian planes and hits his head on the ceiling if he doesn’t duck. Right: You can see that El Alto is a huge city, with tons of small buildings that stretch out as far as the eye can see.

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Blog Award 2016 Nominations Announced (NEPALIAUSTRALIAN)

Apparently, I have been nominated as one of the Best Travel Blogs of the year (2016) by NEPALIAUSTRALIAN.  It’s definitely a nice feeling. 🙂 I know that she’s been following my blog for a while, and her blog is visited by thousands of you from all over the world.  Her blog features lots of interesting content, like guides to visiting 119 different cities in 23 different countries(!), how to travel as a mom, food and fashion from around the world, and even a guide to learning Nepali!  It’s an honour to be appreciated as a blogger.  There are 5 of us in the “Travel” category, so if you’d like to nominate one blog as your favourite, please make sure to comment on the original post of her blog with your choice. If you’re interested in looking for more blogs to follow about a specific topic (such as fashion blogs, food blogs, photo blogs, etc.) then make sure to check out her original post below for some great inspiration.  Thanks NEPALIAUSTRALIAN! 🙂

Read below and click the link if you’re interested in finding out more information or want to vote for your favourite!

Thank you everyone for getting behind Nepaliaustralian Blog Award 2016 and nominating your favourite blogs. So now the nomination has closed and it’s time to vote for your favourite blogs to win t…

Source: NEPALIAUSTRALIAN’s Blog Award 2016 Nominations Announced

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Luck of the Draw: Why having a Canadian Passport is like Winning the Lottery

I’m in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and I flag down a taxi.  After explaining my destination and haggling a bit for a price, I get in.  I’m playing on my phone – checking Google Maps to make sure we’re going in the right direction and texting my friends that I’m on my way.  The driver strikes up a conversation.  “Where are you from – Germany?”.  “No, I’m from Canada” I reply.  He smiles and says he LOVES Canada.

The situation above happened to me almost daily when living in Ghana.  The last statement was usually followed by some version of the following three scenarios:

1) How do I get to Canada – can you help me with a visa?

2) I have a cousin/brother/aunt/etc… who lives in Canada.  It’s so beautiful there.  I’m going to go one day when…

3) You should marry me so I can come to Canada!

I had a number of different responses depending on my mood, including how cold Canada was, that I have a boyfriend who lives there (who isn’t 100% white, which shocked them – but that’s a different story for a different day), or that yes, Canada is a very nice place to live (with a bit of a geography lesson about the different parts of the country).  At first it annoyed me.  How dare they ask to marry someone they just met, and don’t even pretend it’s for a reason other than personal gain (getting a Canadian visa)?  But after awhile I started to get it.  In many “developing countries” there is a serious lack of opportunities for work, good school, and other public services.  Why wouldn’t they want to do whatever they could to make a “better life” for them and their families by moving to a “developed country”?

20150908_120458Even if they have enough money to travel, most Ghanaians can’t easily get a visa for a country like Canada.  They need to prove tons of things, like how much money is in their bank account (so they can pay for their own expenses), that they’re not at risk of staying in Canada forever (by proving ties to the community), that they have a good job (even though many people in Ghana work in the informal economy), etc.  Even after providing all the paperwork, they often have to jump through many more hoops, like in-person interviews, invitation letters, etc.  In fact, people often only tell their families that they’re moving away about a week before they leave. Although the process of getting a visa takes many months/years, they know that it’s not a sure thing.  They don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, so they wait until it’s finalized to tell everyone. Conversely, when a Canadian wants to go to Ghana, it’s pretty easy for them to pop-up to an embassy, provide a few easy documents (passport, photos, return flight information, etc.), and be on the flight 2 weeks later.  This is what some people would call “passport privilege”.

Note: This post expands on some of the ideas that I covered in a previous blog “Is travelling classist? I certainly don’t think so!”, which looked mostly at people from “western” countries (North America, Europe, etc.) but didn’t really touch on the realities of people from other countries which have a lot more travel restrictions places upon them.

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Getting Sick is Never Fun

Nobody likes getting sick – that’s a major understatement!  Your throat hurts so you can’t eat.  Then you’re exhausted and nauseous because you haven’t eaten anything.  You can’t sleep because you keep coughing, and then you’re super emotional because you’re so tired.  It’s not a fun place to be in.  Yes, there are meds, but they don’t make you instantly all better again.  Usually you just need to rest, sleep lots, drink fluids, and pretty much just chill until you feel better.  It also helps if you have a friend, significant other, or parent to help take care of things like cleaning, laundry, and cooking while you’re out of commission.  But when you’re travelling or living in a new place, being sick can feel like the end of the world!

img_02451Some of my worst moments abroad have been when I’m sick.  All of a sudden I hate everything, and I just want to go home.  I’m no longer my lovely, flexible, go-with-the-flow self.  I’m grumpy, and I want what I know from home, and I hate everything different about the new culture.  It’s definitely not something I’m proud of, but I think it’s normal.  When you’re sick, every little thing seems like a giant obstacle.  It’s even harder because you don’t have a social network or anyone to lean on in your new city. You don’t know what to eat or what will make you feel better, so you lie in your bed and feel sorry for yourself.  After getting better you realize that nothing was really such a big deal after all…

Here’s an excerpt from my latest blog about Getting Sick While Abroad:

Living in another country is like a roller-coaster of emotions.  Sometimes you feel great: you love your job, enjoy all the food, and you’re fitting in with the local community.  Sometimes you feel lousy: the traffic is loud, you hate your new roommates, and you’re having a hard time making friends.  However, the hardest thing for me while living abroad is getting sick. 

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So many drinks at this graduation party! Overnight in Huantapita (Betanzos), Bolivia

As part of living in a new country, it’s part of my goal to learn more about the country, the language, and the culture of the people living there.  What’s the point of living in a new place if you’re going to live in a North American bubble the whole time?  Two of the new Cuso volunteers that arrived about a month ago are living in a nearby town called Alcala, and regularly come to Sucre for weekends.  One of the volunteers, Christina, is half Bolivian.  Her family invited her to a graduation event a few weeks ago in a city about 2 hours outside of Sucre, and she invited us to tag along.  We had no idea what to expect, but we jumped at the opportunity!

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Waiting for Christina by the plaza (featuring lots of pigeons and a frapaccino).

Tuesday Morning – Getting to Betanzos

On Tuesday morning we got up and packed some overnight bags.  Normally I’m a huge over-packer, but this time Steve and I managed to fit all our stuff in one regular-sized backpack – not bad!  We went to the plaza to meet with Christina, but she was stuck at the bank so Steve went to get a frapaccino at the delicious ice cream place!  Then we met with Christina around 10:15 and headed a few blocks over to grab a bus.  We waited about 5 minutes and then caught the number 3 bus to the terminal.  The bus was pretty full, but we were able to get seats.  At the bus terminal we got off the city bus and walked a street over to where all the cars are.  In this area there are cars (kind of like taxis but they look like normal cars) that are willing to take you to farther places than the city buses.  They’re more expensive than a bus or micro, but they also make less stops and can drive faster over the mountains.  We got in a car with another guy who was going to Potosi (same direction but a bit further), and each paid about 80 Bs.  The trip was pretty uneventful.  The views were the same as on our trip to Potosi, lots of windy roads through the mountains, dry rivers (that are a bit less dry now), and desert-like plains, with random barnyards animals and communities dotted along the side of the road.

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Left: Cactus along the side of the road. Right: Lady selling coca leaves in Betanzos.

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So many beautiful fabrics – Sunday market in Tarabuco, Bolivia

Since we’ll be living in Sucre for a whole year, I figured we might as well explore the communities around the city.  There are lots of different places to go and activities to do.  For example, you can go learn about agriculture in the countryside, take a dip in the pool in the warmer communities down in the valley, check out dinosaur footprints, or swim at the bottom of a waterfall.  Last month, we decided to check out the famous Sunday market in Tarabuco.  It’s located about an hour from Sucre, and people come from many of the different surrounding cities to sell their wares every Sunday in Tarabuco.

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Left: City sign Right: So many textiles!

Cost: 10 Bs. ($2) for public transport (each way) – plus whatever you buy from shops/food

Travel time (one-way) from Sucre: 1 to 1.5 hours

Time needed for activities: 2 to 4 hours

Activities: Shopping and lunch

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Views of the countryside between Sucre and Tarabuco.

Leaving Home

We met at our house with a fellow volunteer from Canada, Anthoine-Maude (she works for a different Canadian NGO/local partner, and we met here in Sucre, Bolivia).  We met at 9:15 and decided to take a taxi.  We had to wait for a little while to get one, but we found one a block from our house.  It’s a bit annoying but in Sucre you have to pay per person for a taxi (which is usually 5 Bs. – $1), so its cost 15 Bs. ($3) for all of us to get to Parada Tarabuco (Parada means stop in Spanish).  On the way, we encountered a cute, little plant market on the side of the road that I’m definitely going back to check out.  Once we were there, we waited to some of her friends to show up.  Eventually, all three girls made it to the stop.

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Is travelling “classist”? I certainly don’t think so!

I came across an article recently that talked about how travelling was “classist”. It left me with the impression that the author thinks that people either shouldn’t travel, or at least shouldn’t tell others that they travel, or if they do, they should feel bad about it. As someone who travels constantly (and works in a field where travel is necessary), I must say that it left a bad taste in my mouth. I was going to reply to it on Facebook but decided I wouldn’t for 2 reasons.  For one, I hate getting into Facebook debates that are just going to leave both sides upset without further advancing the argument, and two, I had more than a few words to say.  Therefore, I decided to write this blog post in response.

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Note: All photos in this post come from a stockphoto website, except the photo above which is a screenshot of the original article.

If you ask me, classist is a term that means someone who judges others based on their socio-economic class (similar to how racism is someone who judges others based on their race).  It implies that simply because you travel that you must be judging and looking down on people who don’t travel – which I think is untrue.  Calling a huge, diverse group of people (travellers) classist is judging an entire group of people based on one characteristic – which just seems like another form of judgement to me (which I think should be avoided).  So, here I’ve broken down all the major points that are made in the article and responded to each one separately.  I’m not saying whether you should or shouldn’t travel (that’s totally up to you) but I am saying you shouldn’t say that people are bad because they travel.

  • Point #1: Travel can be educational and enriching – True 

educationTravel is a good way to learn a lot of things.  You can learn many things in your hometown, like how to read, how to get along with people that come from a similar backgroung, anything that you can learn on the internet, etc.  But certain things are best learned in context.  So, if you want to learn how to speak a new language it’s best to be immersed, and if you want to learn a certain style of cooking, it’s best to learn from people who know that style of cooking really well.  Travelling can also teach you about yourself, to take less things for granted, that not every place is the same, and how to get along with people who are very different from yourself.
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