Lindsey Chapman's Travel Blog

Life in the Classroom

Up to this point, all of the kids in my class at Colegio Anakena have been between the ages of three and four, which is of course the most adorable age and size kids come in. Most of the children have some minor learning or behavior problem, but they all also have some sort of speech impediment or difficulty with pronunciation. There are many times they have to repeat what they are saying three or four times before they are understood. I’m sure it’s as frustrating for them as it is for the listener.  It can feel very debilitating to be misunderstood even when you can pronounce every word perfectly, but even worse when the recipient is unable or refuses to understand what you are trying to say.

Attendance is generally low, and almost zero when it rains. There are major problems with flooding in the streets here so it becomes nearly impossible for people to get in and out of their homes.

A new student joined our class last week. Her name is Laura and she is mute. She hears and understands everything you say but she cannot say anything. How difficult it must be to have all the words and thoughts in your head but no ability to communicate them vocally. A critical case when actions must speak louder than words.

My heart has a special place for Nely because she doesn’t have a mom or a dad. She can be very disobedient at times, but knowing her situation gives more than enough patience to provide her with the affection and attention she is looking for.

My birthday at Anakena with previous students

I know I shouldn’t have favorites, but Miguel is my favorite. He was the first one to understand my language barrier.  He gets in trouble a lot because he has a free spirit and he’s a four-year-old boy, but he listens and respects authority.

Amanda has the most adorable face you could think of putting on a child. She has puffy pink cheeks, big brown eyes and a sweet personality.

Monserrat is four years old and a little more mature than the other students. She knows how to color inside the lines and loves to sit on your lap.

Benjamin is the trouble maker. He is always disobeying and testing the authority of the tias. He can be so adorable at times but so frustrating too. He has taught me the incredible difference in patience it requires to discipline children with disabilities.

Fernanda was the first child I really connected with because on my first day working at Anakena, I had to console her for about 10 minutes while she cried in my arms about missing her mom. It was comforting for her to be held and it was comforting for me to feel needed.

Javier is the biggest kid in the class but he acts the youngest. He is always copying what the other children do or say and requires a lot of patience. But he always greets me with a hug, a kiss, and an “Hola tia!” which I love.

Victor is a kid who tends to blend in with the crowd. I try to give him extra attention and encouragement because I don’t think he is used to receiving it.

Anthony is the smart kid in class. He always knows the answer and seeks the praise that follows. He respects the tias and is a good leader in general.

After spending about two months getting to know these kids and pouring my heart into them, I was asked to begin working in another classroom. A classroom where the kids have more severe disabilities and the tia needed more help.  Of course I want to be used wherever I am needed most. I miss all my kids but I still see them every day and they are excited to see me when our classes cross paths.  My new classroom is great too. The kids are between the ages of five and seven years old, and are also very adorable. I deal with a variety of disabilities, such as Down syndrome, varying levels of autism, and some physical disabilities as well. It is challenging to say the least but I am excited to continue getting to know them and to create a lasting connection with each of them.

There are times when the days fly by and there are times when the days seem long, but my time in Chile is limited with these kids. I know I only play a small role in the grand scheme of life, but I want to leave the biggest mark on them that I can. I want to do something nice for the kids and the tias before I leave to let them know how special they are to me.

Any ideas? Please share!


Part 2: The Ins and Outs of Traveling Bolivia

En La Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia

This is Part II of Lindsey’s traveling in Peru and Bolivia series.

Someone at Loki Hostel in Cuzco recommended the bus company Litoral for the trip from Cuzco to La Paz. Unfortunately, sometimes even with recommendations you have to do your own research.

I should have been alerted when the bus company representative tried bargaining the price with me.  I was told there would be heat, comfortable seats, blankets, and a snack. It was all a lie. For 60 soles I got a freezing cold 14 hour bus ride. And to top it off, the bus left me at the Bolivian border while I was paying my 135 USD reciprocity fee. Luckily, the girl I was traveling with screamed several times at the driver to stop and wait and I was able to catch up. If you are American, be aware of this. Your paperwork and payments to cross the Bolivian border take a lot longer than it takes for everyone else to get their passport stamped. Make sure your bus doesn’t leave you stranded with none of your things at the Bolivian border. I have heard of people being able to bribe border control officers with 50 USD to get around paying the reciprocity fee but they don’t give you the stamp and the visa you need if you are going to be crossing any checkpoints. And if that’s the case, you will have to pay the full fee later on. I recommend paying the fee right away because we had about six checkpoints where officers were examining our passports.

I stayed in the Loki Hostel in La Paz as well and it was absolutely stunning. The architecture was gorgeous.  Changing currency one more time, the cost was 35 Bolivianos. Aside from the really touristy restaurants, everything in Bolivia is very cheap. Taxis shouldn’t cost more than 10 Bolivianos for a ride across town. Food prices in La Paz ranged from 10-20 Bolivianos per meal.  La Paz is a great place to buy gifts and souvenirs. There are several large markets where Bolivians bargain with you to buy their hand made goods and pirated media.  I recommend spending two days to explore the city and do some shopping, but steer away from the tap water and food sold on the streets.

The Witches’ Market in La Paz

From La Paz I traveled to Uyuni via a bus company called Todo Turismo. Todo Turismo was amazing; only slightly more expensive than other companies and way nicer. It was 26 USD for a comfortable, heated, 12-hour bus ride with a meal included. They told us ahead of time the roads would be bumpy (a major understatement) but they made it as comfortable as it could have been.

Uyuni has nothing to offer except that it’s a launching pad for visiting the Salt Flats. There are over 80 different companies that offer tours and I’m still not sure it matters which one you go with. It’s like a caravan of jeeps traveling through the desert together all doing the same thing, eating the same food, staying in the same places. Everyone in our jeep paid different prices for the same thing so I’m not convinced that paying more gets you a better tour. I used Laqaya for a three-day tour from Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama and it cost me 800 Bolivianos, while others in our group paid a little less than 600. You don’t want to bargain too low because they do need to cover the cost of gas and wear and tear of the vehicle driving through the desert. But be aware of the fact that you will experience the same thing as the person sitting next to you no matter what you pay. There are also two park entrance fees you have to pay along the tour that are not included in the price. One is 15 Bolivianos and the other is 150. If you are heading to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile or back to Uyuni, the bus ride should be included in the price.

Back in Chilean pesos, a hostel in San Pedro de Atacama should be around 6,000. There isn’t a whole lot to do in Atacama but there is enough to fill the time while you wait for your next transit. There are a lot of cute restaurants and cafes but it is very touristy. There are a lot of tours to take you to hot springs and to watch the sunset. Or you can just rent bikes for a full day for 7,000 pesos or a half day for 3,500 pesos like I did. I biked through the desert to the Valle de La Luna and did some independent exploring and it was so incredible. It felt so refreshing to not be followed by a bandit of tourists. The park entrance fee is 2,000 pesos for adults and 1,500 for students.  It was incredibly beautiful and tranquil; you could hear a pin drop. Dinner in Atacama is more expensive because you are back in Chile and will cost you at least 10,000 pesos.  The bus ride from San Pedro de Atacama back to Santiago was 24 hours including multiple stops to pick up people on the way. It cost 28,000 pesos, which was significantly less than flying and it goes by quickly when you can sleep for half the time.

Overall my trip through Peru and Bolivia kept me on my toes and always had me wondering what was around the next corner. There was so much to see that my eyes had a hard time staying focused on one thing for longer than about three seconds. If you are ready for anything and have the ability to be flexible, Peru and Bolivia are a must see.

Part I: Traveling Peru, Lonely Planet Style

Traveling South America can be overwhelming because you have to be ready for anything. Flexibility is key. Prepare yourself for broken down buses with no heat, no means of communication, shady bargain prices, and cross your fingers for relatively smooth, low hassle travel.

I flew one-way from Santiago to Arica, in the North of Chile, through Sky Airlines. It cost 88,759 pesos, including all taxes and fees. (The conversion rate is 516 pesos to the dollar.) It was double the price to fly round trip. I had to go directly to the office located here in Santiago because their website wouldn’t accept my foreign credit card. It was kind of an annoying hassle but nothing too dramatic. From Arica I took a colectivo to Tacna, to cross the Chile-Peru border, which I highly recommend. It took about an hour and the cost is a flat fee of 24,000 Chilean pesos shared among however many passengers were riding. Obviously, if possible, ask around on your flight or in the airport for others going to the same destination as you. The driver provides the visa paperwork, drops you directly at the door of your destination, and helps with your bags as well.

I was dropped off at the bus terminal in Tacna and there are tons of bus companies to choose from. As soon as you walk in you hear strained voices screaming the names of destinations they think you may be headed to. “Arequipa, Arequipa, Arequipa! Lima, Lima, Lima! Cuzco, Cuzco, Cuzco!” It’s best to go with a company recommended by someone because you never know what you’re going to get when you do the guesswork yourself. Our taxi driver recommended Flores bus company and so do I. They had comfortable seats, heat, and they served a snack. It was a six hour trip to Arequipa and the cost was only about 30 soles. (Exchange rate is 2.8 soles to the dollar.)

Bus travel

I stayed in two different hostels while visiting Arequipa, Bothe Hostel and the Home Pro Palestinian Backpackers Hostel. Bothe Hostel cost 23 soles a night for a room with six beds, and a portion of the money goes to children in need in Peru. The Backpackers hostel cost only 15 soles per night for a room with six beds. It’s super nice and brand spanking new so the price will likely increase as they become more established.

Taking money out in Peru can be difficult depending on what card you have. Visas are accepted virtually everywhere. Scotia Bank is an international bank and you can withdraw money from Scotia ATM’s with almost any card, no matter where you are from.

Food in Arequipa has a wide range of costs. I ate a couple really typical meals for only three soles and I ate tourist pizza for 30. I definitely recommend eating with the locals a couple times. You may stick out like a sore thumb but it’s worth the experience.

I went out to “the nightclub” in Arequipa, called Déjà vu. There is no cover if you go before midnight and it costs 10 soles for a mojito or a piña colada. Don’t expect to experience true night life anytime before about 1:30 a.m. The real partying doesn’t start until 2 a.m. and the bars close at 6 a.m.

It takes about one full day to tour Arequipa and really get a feel for the town. There are numerous museums and cathedrals to visit and a couple markets with Peruvians selling their handmade goods.  A lot of people also visit the Colca Canyon, which is about 100 miles northwest of Arequipa. Tours range from about 40 to 80 USD depending on the company, and if you go for one day or two.

From Arequipa to Cuzco, I used Flores bus company again, and the cost was 40 soles for about a 10 hour bus ride for semi-cama seats. I stayed at the Loki Hostel in Cuzco which was 28 soles for a room with five beds. It is really big and has really nice bedding but is a party hostel, so if you want to sleep, I recommend getting a room away from the bar if possible. Loki is also a very busy hostel so making a reservation is important when possible. I strongly suggest having a name and address of a hostel in hand when you arrive to your destination as well, so that you can just tell the taxi driver where you need to go. Ask someone in the bus terminal how much the taxi should cost so the taxi drivers don’t over charge you. Either way the taxis in Peru are so cheap it will always be cheaper than catching a cab in the states. It was between 3-5 soles to make it all the way across town, which is slightly over a dollar. Food in Cuzco had a wide range of prices as well so it depends on what you are looking for. I ate for about 10-15 soles per meal.

The attraction for visiting Cuzco is Machu Picchu.  Trains and treks to Machu Picchu all leave from Cuzco. I booked the two day/one night Sunrise tour with SAS travel for $270 USD. It was a great experience and the cost wasn’t much more than the total of everything that was included. The train ride alone costs 80 USD, and it’s about 50 USD to enter Machu Picchu. One night in a hostel, food for two days, a two hour tour, and a bus ride are also included. I found it to be well worth the price, especially if it’s your first time visiting.  Please come visit!

“The More You Know the Less You Understand”
August 1, 2010, 5:24 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , ,

The Chinese philosopher Lao Tse once said,  “The more you know the less you understand.” It’s sort of a beautiful yet annoying paradigm.

This philosophy has never rung more true in my life than over the last week. I am on vacation from volunteering in Santiago right now, traveling through Peru and Bolivia. Lesson of the week: the more you see the more you realize you haven’t seen.

I have truly developed a new passion for traveling and seeing what the rest of the world has to offer, for better or worse. Originally the trip was going to consist of one destination, the infamous Machu Picchu. But I was going to be so close to the Uyuni Salt Flats, and to not stop would be a travesty. (Of course I wanted to get the oh so coveted pictures of the vast salt desert with the distorted depth perception.)  Then one traveler recommended a couple of beautiful cities on the way to Machu Picchu that are a “must see,” Arequipa and Cusco in Peru. Another traveler recommended a stop in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, on our way to Uyuni. Of course, there was a multitude of other suggestions but we had to be realistic with our time and money constraints.

Traveling to developing countries doesn’t come without sacrifices to your health, your pocket book and your well-being, but it is most definitely worth it. So far I have had bed bugs in Santiago, elevation sickness in Peru, and food poisoning in Bolivia. That alone sounds like enough to make someone run like Forrest Gump in the opposite direction to the conveniences and pleasantries of home in America. But it’s not. And let’s not forget the pleasure of drying your clothes after they’ve been washed, or a consistently hot shower. Or indoor heating. Or the convenience of putting your dirty toilet paper directly into the toilet. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy these things, but it is still not enough to deter me from wanting more: the joy of helping people less fortunate than yourself, the rush of skiing in the Andes, the accomplishment of climbing Machu Picchu, and a view from the top that is more than enough.

It looks like my time in Chile, Peru and Bolivia is only the beginning of new discoveries.