Tag Archives: culture

Travel update

9 Mar

Greetings from Iquique in Chile! A few of you have been in contact and have been wondering how we have been getting on in South America so far. I will write more when I am home (I have been keeping my diary up to date) but so far, so good.

I did have a few really bad reactions to mosquito bites in Iguazu and Sao Paulo and a bit of sunburn in Boliva, but apart from that healthwise, we are both fine.

Here is a short summary of what we have been up to so far:

Buenos Aires, Argentina

I arrived here in what seems like an age ago. Markus was very excited to see me and promptly walked the legs off me, showing me everything that he had discovered in the seven weeks previously. We will be back again to Buenos Aires at the end of the trip but my first impressions were that it is a really nice city. It’s not quite was I was expecting, with large open spaces and lots of public areas. It will be nice to come back here at the end of the trip.

Iguazu, Argentina and Brazil

I love waterfalls and I am slowly ticking off the biggest and the best in world one by one. We had heard differing reviews about which side is the best side to see the Falls from, so we saw it from both. Water is such a powerful, beautiful thing. Unfortunately, when we were there, the weather wasn’t great and we did get a bit wet but we would have got wet from the spray from the waterfall anyway so it didn’t matter much. Plus, as a Brit, I never leave home without waterproofs!

Sao Paulo, Brasil

This stop-over was never part of the original plan but we stopped here because the route was easier to take. The problem was that Portuguese and Spanish are quite different languages. We had no idea what people were saying most of the time. I was pleasantly surprised by the city. There seemed to be quite a lot to do and there is a lot of history surrounding the city. Unfortunately, there is a huge problem with homelessness here.

Santa Cruz, Bolivia

We hardly saw any other tourists here (maybe 3 other couples?). There were some interesting things happening in the main square and the colonial past of the city was quite apparent. We visited a wildlife centre where you could really get up close to exotic birds, butterflies and tarantulas, which I loved.

Cochabamba, Bolivia

Most tourist only visit Cochabamba to see the statue of Jesus Christ which overlooks the city. It is in fact bigger than the statue in Rio, on which it is modelled. We also visited the market, which is the largest open-air market in the whole of Latin America, and Laguna Angostura, where we enjoyed a nice lunch of fish and chips on the lake.

La Paz, Bolivia

Arriving in El Alto airport at 4,000m above sea level feels like you have been slapped around the face with a brick. It took me a while to adjust to it but I was glad of the cooler temperature for a few days. Here we took a free walking tour where we learnt a lot about the city and the politics of Bolivia. I was amazed that instead of trams, you have to take a cable car. What a commute that must be!

We also saw traditional Bolivian wrestling which was an experience. As we were up in the mountains and there was a Swiss Fondue restaurant, we had to indulge a bit in some home food comforts.

Uyuni, Bolivia

Another bucket list was ticked off my list when we visited Salar De Uyuni. I have wanted to go here for longer than I can remember. Armed with wellies and a camera, we set off to explore. It was like being on another planet – so calm and dream like. It far exceeded my expectations. We also waited there until sunset; just magical!

Oruro, Bolivia

This is THE place to be in Bolivia for Carnival time. We were obviously a bit too late for carnival but we did manage to see the statue of the Virgin Mary (which you can’t really miss) and some silver mines. We actually went into the silver mine with the president of the cooperative. It was a bit unnerving and I spent most of the time wondering if they had passed a health and safety inspection so that tourist can visit. Answer: definitely not. There is more to explain about this experience and I will promise to update you soon!

And that is us about up to date. As I said we are now in Iquique in Chile, enjoying the warmer weather and the amazing seafood on offer.

I will write again soon to let you know that we are still alive and enjoying life.

Until next time, or as we say here, Hasta luego!

Adventure on the Horizon

12 Dec

The last few months my life has been as follows: Work, German lessons, Gym, Work, More German lesson, More Work and Work. I will be glad in a few weeks when the routine should be a bit different, namely less work and a break from German lessons over the Christmas period.

Another task that has been keeping me busy over the last few weeks is my next big travel adventure. Or should I say, Our Big Travel Adventure. In February, I will be taking five weeks off work to join my boyfriend in Argentina. We will then travel around Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Uruguay, with a short stop over in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

For the best part of nine months, I have been living on my own, after my boyfriend quit his job to improve his language skills in other countries. He has been 6 months in the UK (Liverpool and Cardiff) even though I am convinced that spending time in these two places has probably made his English worse (joke), 2 months in Bordeaux and 1 month in Guadaloupe, which is actually a French territory that uses the Euro. So, with English and French learnt, he decided to go to South America to learn Spanish. I would be happy to be able to speak one other language but there seems to be no end to what he wants to learn. It’s my theory that because Switzerland has four official languages that the people think that this means that they should learn as many as possible.

As the saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I’ve invited myself over; partly because I have always wanted to travel more in South America after going to Peru in 2011, and partly because I just can’t stand any more pictures of beaches/wine glasses/beautiful scenery. I want to see this myself.

So far all of the flights, buses and transport are booked and we have a general plan in place. I am in charge of finding accommodation. Once that is done, we are almost ready to go.

I am nervous about the trip. Five weeks is a long time to be on the road, in a place where you don’t speak the language. Although my other half is under strict instructions that he must be fluent in Spanish before I arrive, I am a little nervous about the language barrier still. He will leave on 1st January and is enrolled in a language school for 6 weeks and then I will fly over.

I’m also conscious of the fact that we will have been apart for around 11 months and have only seen each other for the odd weekend here or there. To go from that to being with someone 24/7 with no break from them at all is a little bit daunting. The phrase from one extreme to another has never been so appropriate.

I must admit as well that I am not always in the best mood in a hot country. If that is then somehow combined with sunburn, it could be a disaster. I also have bad reactions to insect bites. They take chunks out of me and then my skin sort of blisters. It looks worse that it actually is but it looks disgusting. In 5 weeks, we will probably come into all sorts of creatures and, like I say, things tend to like to bite me. In Peru, I even got bitten by a parrot. I mean, who actually gets bitten by a parrot? Me, that’s who. But that’s a story for another time.

When I am home for Christmas I will definitely be buying some insect repellent and anything else that claims to repel critters, and a few other things that I need for my trip. Then I will be more than ready to leave the Swiss winter behind and experience a South America summer.


Another year older

5 Sep

Yesterday I celebrated by 35th birthday. I’m not really a big birthday celebratory but I was persuaded in the evening to have Raclette and a birthday cake. A choice I could never regret.

It got me thinking about the cultural differences between UK and Switzerland on the subject of celebrating aging.

In the UK a work colleague would normally arrange a cake for your day because it’s your birthday and why should you go to the effort of baking/buying a cake and hauling it into the office? In Switzerland it is very much expected that you bring something in for everyone.

I have a bit of luck on this front because 5 people from my department had birthdays over the weekend or yesterday. I know from prior years that this normally results in far too many croissants, cakes, pastries and other sweet things. I didn’t bring anything in, not because I am tight, but because I will bake something over the weekend to bring in next week when everyone’s sugar levels have reverted back to normal.

The cake thing I can deal with but not so much the hand-shaking, kissing and congratulating that comes along with it. All of these things are ok between close friends and family but I find it a bit unsettling between work colleagues.

So many people have congratulated me. But what are they actually congratulating me for? I have achieved nothing, apart from not dying and getting a day older. And I am fairly sure that they can’t possibly be congratulating me for evading death for the 35th consecutive year.

At home people just wish you a nice day and tell you not to get too drunk (because that’s the only pastime of the British). I find both of these sentiments to be much more preferable than wondering if my work colleague will shake my hand, kiss me three times or hug me.

I do sound like I’m complaining but I’m. It really. It’s these small cultural differences than I found so interesting and, sometimes, funny. Will I ever get used to these small things? Will I always find it awkward and a touch embarrassing? Only time will tell. But I will say one thing: it’s far better to be congratulated and feeling awkward than for your birthday to be forgotten.