Survival Tips

A few helpful hints for surviving Colombia that seem to work for the entire continent, or at least the countries I have been to.

  • Close your eyes and ignore the health/safety issues that you cannot do anything about and just be as safe as you can.  Well do not close your eyes when you cross the street, that traffic is lethal.
  • By all means, ask other travelers about safety in an area but don’t be too alarmed by reports of theft, crime, or disease in every city/barrio/country/bus. Usually when you get to the bottom of it, the person did something stupid or dangerous (they went to the beach alone with all cards/phones/money at 2 AM or tried to sell/bargain/cheat/abused the prostitute to a drug dealer).  Also do not take reports of complete carefree safety, they might have been lucky.  Ask locals, they know more and put the two reports together.
  • Always carry toilet paper or wet wipes or both.
  • Pick the nicest meat market you can find (that is not a touristy gringo trap), ignore the smells and the fact the lady just put raw chicken on the scale without a paper and gives it to you in a regular plastic grocery bag with chicken juice all over it.
  • Ignore the children running across the street with cabs gunning for them or the fact there are no safe alternate routes when a road or sidewalk is closed, just cross the street.
  • Watch to not step in dog poop and puddles of mysterious brown liquid coming out of pipes and when you see the pipe being fixed under ground and while its fixed all the liquid running into the street.  And for your own sake, hold your breath.
  • Ignore the fact that even though your door is locked with four locks your neighbor can still break in for you with a broom, but be safe and use all of those locks.
  • But, make sure you have a store of medicine you need for crazy diarrhea because with all this other stuff happening, you will get it and it is not a pleasant taxi ride, moto chiva ride, or walk to the drug store to get it when you are worried there will be an accident.
  • And, be sure to push your way in front of the people trying to push you out of the way to get in line first, no matter how much they call you a pushy dirty American gringo.  Or let it all loose (your incredibly irritated bowels, not your mouth) and see how they react, you probably wont see them again.
  • People will give you unsolicited advice about every medical problem you might not know you have and offer every herbal remedy they know.  Don’t tell them about it and you will still get the advice if you hold your stomach or head, have acne, your hair looks out of place because you are a backpacker and do not care, you sniffle/sneeze/cough, you have but bites (you will) or another rash, your are standing near a pharmacy.  The likely hood of unsolicited advice increases dramatically ever second you talk to someone.  If the cure is a yummy tea, hot chocolate, or cocoa leaves, or some herbal spiritual remedy (read: hallucinogenic), which is almost always is, partake as you desire.  You might even get it for free and make a lifelong friend.
  • Somehow though, this advice sharing does not go both ways. If you have not integrated more in your community or known a person long, you giving unsolicited advice can be interpreted as you being an arrogant gringo who thinks they know everything and you also must think they are completely ignorant and uneducated and stupid.
  • Only, if you are worried about this stuff all the time, you will get more stomach problems and not enjoy yourself. Have fun!
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I am a horrible backpacker…

So, I have decided I dislike backpacking.  It is fun for about a week at a time and then moving around and different people get tiring.  You miss the really cool person you met in the other town but who was flying back to Australia or flying to the US for another leg of their trip.  I hate riding on buses especially with almost everything I own in areas where robberies are not uncommon.  I prefer to fly or take a tourist bus.  I also prefer to stay in one place for a longer time.  Get to know the baker and grocery store owner and the guy that sells papayas and mangos.

So I am staying in Gautape on a work exchange at a hostel for a couple of weeks.  Guatape is a gorgeous little town nestled into mountains on a huge reservoir that was created in the 1960s for power generation.  It buried a town called I think El Penol under water.  There is still a steeple under water that people apparently gather around in boats for an Easter service.  There is a big rock with 740 steps to the top of the little tower on top with tourist shops on the top and bottom.  There are wonderful views of the reservoir and surrounding villages and gorgeous houses.

There are waterfalls, hiking paths, great vistas, a monastery, lots of boating and kayaking, and a lot of tourist things to do on the weekends, such as party boats, little paddle boats shaped lie tractors with large plastic wheels, jet skis, private boat tours, touristy shops, and games, etc.  During the week, however, there is a whole lot of nothing going on except backpackers going on treks and school kids running around at lunch and after school.  I have been able to see a marching band and color gaurde practicing, a small wedding, people watching the same futball game at every tienda or restaurant, and since I am getting a bit of a rapport with a few locals I am practicing my Spanish more and I am taking Spanish lessons.

I even got asked for directions today.  Though, when I asked for her to repeat where she wanted to go because I was somewhat dumfounded someone thought I would be able to provide directions and speak Spanish, she stopped.  The sad part is I just was studying directions and might have been able to answer properly in Spanish but the man she was with was English speaking and she just deferred me to him sort of hiding behind him.  Most people here just smile or if they know any English want to say hi to me in English.  Occasionally I try to strike up a conversation with old ladies who are incredibly amused at my attempts and usually end up laughing in fits at me.  It is kind of funny.

In other news I found out how to use a vpn to watch hulu.  It feels much more normal sticking it out in one place, cooking dinner, going on hikes everyday, seeing familiar faces, and watching the sunset with a Colombian cerveza (beer).

Well here are the pictures!

Medellin

Guatape

Blog Updates and New Purchases!

Hey everyone! I am house/dog sitting for my friend S again! I have been staying on and off with my friend’s C and J and their cute baby who smiles whenever he sees me, I think I am in love! It is great catching up with friends and blogs and traveling information and in general doing inside stuff because it has rain ever single day, all day since I have been back!

Blog Updates

New Purchases

I have been a busy busy bee.

New Computer
Acer Aspire One AO722-0473 11.6-Inch HD Netbook (Espresso Black)

I bought my new computer.  After months of agonizing over what to buy (ultrabook, tablet, Macbook, netbook, laptop…) and then physically agonizing over carrying my huge laptop and accessories bag around the Minneapolis Airport, I finally bought my new computer.  It is an Acer Aspire One.  I decided my budget was cheap and I needed something I would not cry about if I lost it, broke it, or someone stole it. However, it still had to be functional.  I need to be able to bulk edit photos, browse multiple websites to blog and keep in touch, video chat, use Google Voice/Chat/Talk, and watch Hulu Plus.  This is a good one so far. It is light, keyboard is large, it’s not so tiny it is difficult to use, it works with Google Talk/Voice/Chat really well, and Hulu is even better than my old computer (hello Daria and Bones).  I still need to check out photo editing.  To boost the computer a bit I also bought…

4 GB Memory
PNY 4 GB DDR3 1333MHz (PC3-10666) 204-Pin Notebook SO-DIMM, Single (MN4096SD3-1333)

I opted for the upgrade to 4 GB of memory on my own.  I bought it and installed it easily by myself.  You just need to:

  • Slide battery release at top with screwdriver
  • Remove battery
  • Remove tiny screw on opposite side of battery
  • Slide bottom casing towards the side of the screw
  • Lift casing
  • Push to pins on edges of memory to pop out old memory
  • Slide old memory out (take note of which way the metal end goes – down towards screw end of casing)
  • Slide new memory in paper side down metal into slot
  • Push down to lock pins
  • Replace cover by putting four corners into the correct slots and sliding up towards battery
  • Replace screw

Literally took 3 minutes and it only took that long because I did not notice the slots used to put the cover back on.  Another option is to watch this guy do it in 60 seconds or this guy has a clearer picture but sometimes moves the laptop off-screen.

The package came with a free movie download, have not tried to get that yet.

Amazon Kindle Touch
Kindle Touch, Wi-Fi, 6″ E Ink Display – includes Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers

I actually bought this one a while ago when I got rid of all of my stuff, including my books.  I realized I needed books!  I chose the touch WiFi with advertising because of price, 3G only goes to Amazon’s store and Wikipedia, and because it has amazing battery life.  It can last for weeks of usage without a charge, I have tested this and found it accurate, but remember this is not using it all day.  It can connect to WiFi to get to Amazon store and to its experimental browser which is not really fancy but works better than my crappy old phone to check Facebook.  It has a lot of little games for free or cheap and some other apps.  It is not like the fire or Nook Tablet.  But I really enjoy it.

I was even able to replace almost my entire Paulo Coelho collection for 12 dollars because Paulo Coelho put his entire collection except Aleph and The Alchemist on sale for $0.99 each.  The sale is over now and everything is back up to apx. $10.00 each.  I told you guys to get on it!

Photobucket Pro

As a way to back up photos and track where people are linking to my photos from I bought a subscription.  So far I am slightly upset because my new computer does not read the stats and half the referring pages are unknown.  I have yet to upload my full size photos so we will see how that goes this weekend.  I plan on uploading all my photos into private albums full size so that the photos I already have backed up are accessible on the road.

New Shoes

Sadly my plantar fasciitis has flared up and the Merrell shoes I bought are not going to be able to hold up good enough for my arches.  I bought a new pair of Orthaheel flip flops and slides from Fleet Feet Sports in Altamonte. This is a great all around running store with clothes, shoe fittings, shoes, supplies, gear, and hydration products for running and cycling.  The flip flops, which do not look that dark in real life, are great.  It took a while to get used to the thong in between my toes again (I do not wear flip flops often). The slides have given me blisters the one time I wore them but I think my old pair (which I wore down until there is no more arch) did at first too, I just need to put something over the back seam.  I will only bring one pair with me.  Probably the flip flops.

Officially Unemployed…Let the Traveling Begin

Unemployed

So as of Thursday I was told I will no longer be working for my company.  It was not a huge surprise, but still somewhat unsettling.  I do not quite have the amount of money I would like to have to be able to travel without worrying about money and my student loans.

Things to Think About

Tomorrow I am heading for Michigan to see my family and visit my grandmother who is sick.  While I am there I will think about what my next step is.  I am thinking in July or August I will head to  south America.  July would be preferable time wise because that gives me a July and August and part of September to get through Colombia and Ecuador and then I can be in Peru at Machu Picchu at the end of September for my birthday.  However, August would give me more time to save up money (if I can find a source of income, I guess there is always unemployment but that is not a lot of money).  Plus flights are dirt cheap to Cartagena in August, $240 one way from Detroit and $115 one way from Miami from Spirit.

Also, I need to grieve the ending of one passage and celebrate the beginning of another.  I forgot how the much power grieving can give to the celebration of new.  I was not previously celebrating the end of where I was in life so I was not being reborn into my new life. That is why I felt I was not moving on i think.

So I have things to think about.

Maps

In order to visualizing my thinking process, I am putting together a Google Map of places I want to visit.  I just started so it only has a few pages, but you can add suggestions to it!  This map is open to suggestions.  Places I want to go or I am thinking of going are in green.  If you could add in suggested sites, transportation, hostels, etc in colors OTHER than green, that would be great!  I will make another map of my final destinations and projected path once I get going!

I added a few pages to the website for Maps.  On the top Menu under Travel you can access my Maps page and under the Maps page is my South America Suggestions Map Page.  Also, I am looking for help trying to figure out how to embed the Google Map to my blog page.  Google’s instructions are here, however, when I try to follow them WordPress does not accept the HTML and just changes it to a click-able URL link.  Am I just not allowed to do that on WordPress?

Loose Ends

One of the things I am doing now is tying up all those loose ends I should have taken care of long ago. This includes getting shots and doctors visits in before my insurance ends, visiting friends, cleaning out my car and doing one last downgrade of all my “stuff” that i have left, getting rid of my cell phone and getting a cheaper pay as you go plan (anyone have suggestions on where to find an unlocked gsm phone?), deciding what to do about a computer (mine is so heavy), and setting up my house sitting profiles.

I have not joined a site yet.  An article written by Nora Dunn, the Professional Hobo, has a discount to Trusted House Sitter. I did, however, put up the recommendations I got a long time ago from friends and family I have house sat for in the past (well I have two of them).

House Sitting Profile

So, if you need someone to stay in your house while you travel and watch your puppy or kitty, here are:

My house sitting profile

Sarah H. Recommendation

Kathy M. Recommendation

You can also find a link to those pages at the top menu on the right hand side!

So Many Changes

I hope you can all keep up with all the changes to the blog and my life, because I am having trouble with it!