Lindsey Chapman's Travel Blog


Book Review: The Road Less Traveled
January 31, 2011, 2:42 am
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , ,

Travelers are always seeking a road less traveled. Sometimes you travel to embrace new challenges.  Other times you travel to escape current ones. Either way, the act of journeying to another place lends itself to finding truth. It takes you away from your day-to-day routine, and forces you to ask yourself hard questions.

I recently read The Road Less Traveled by psychiatrist and M.D.M. Scott Peck. The book is broken up into four main parts: discipline, love, personal growth and religion, and grace. Regarding personal spiritual growth, Peck shares some pretty incredible insights about how to achieve it. His main premise is that pain and suffering in life should be welcomed because you cannot achieve spiritual growth without it.  They go hand in hand. “We must always consider our personal discomfort relatively unimportant and indeed even welcome it in the service of the search for truth. Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs,” he states. Sometimes you may resist the truth because it’s not what you expected or were hoping for, but achieving balanced mental health is seeking and recognizing that it is, in fact, truth nonetheless.

He also says, “If your goal is to avoid pain and escape suffering I advise you not to seek higher levels of consciousness or spiritual evolution. You cannot achieve them without suffering. Then why desire to evolve at all, you may ask. If you ask this question, perhaps you do not know enough joy.” I think the average traveler can relate to this point in some form or another.

But perhaps my biggest takeway from the book was related to love. In a philosophy I’ve gathered for myself, I’ve realized that love is not the dependency of “needing” someone or something. Love is wanting someone to flourish as an individual so much that you are willing to do anything within your power to aid them in their person growth and development, no matter the cost. Even at the cost of your own happiness.

Talk about a selfless love. From living and volunteering here in Chile, it’s something I’m aware of everyday.

 

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Weekday Veg

My Chilean roommate is a raw vegan chef. RAW vegan. It sounds so restricting right?

The obvious first question is, “How do you ever feel full?” His response to that was, it’s not about how much you eat, it’s about how much you absorb. Then he proceeded to prepare some of the most delicious and beautiful dishes I have ever seen or tasted. No joke. You should see our fridge. It usually contains separate piles of zucchini, carrots, onion, ginger, spinach, beet root, and tomatoes. And the freezer contains ice cubes. I have never been one to do much in the kitchen besides eat or accompany those who are cooking, but I have learned so much since I have lived here, and have been thoroughly inspired. I haven’t converted to vegan or even vegetarian for that matter, but I’ve definitely changed a few of my bad eating habits.

There are so many good reasons to be vegan or vegetarian but I’ve never made the commitment. Recently I watched a short TED talk where Graham Hill explains his samehesitation to becoming vegetarian and offers a nice compromise he calls “weekday veg.” The name is pretty self explanatory.

It’s a good place to start and it’s really easy to be a socially conscientious citizen and actually contribute to the change you’d like to see happening. I’m not ready to go vegan and give up cheese or ice cream, and I can’t say I’m even ready to give up a good hamburger once in a while, but I also can no longer ignore the alarming statistics of harmful effects from meat production. Aside from the nutritional harm, the animal cruelty involved, the enormous amount of pollution, and the insane amount of food and money that goes into feeding the livestock that feed us is simply too much to just look the other way.

One tofu salad and one veggie pasta at a time, we can make a difference.

 



Misión Cumplida Chile (Mission Accomplished Chile!)
January 3, 2011, 10:59 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , ,


Try and think about the things you look forward to after a long day’s work. Maybe on this particular day you were hoping to leave a few minutes early to make it to the end of your son’s baseball game. Maybe you had to pick up your daughter from daycare or finish paying the bills or do some paperwork that you had put off until last minute. Or maybe you were just looking forward to a nice, relaxing evening at home.  

As a best case scenario, any of these instances could have been the case for the 33 miners who were trapped in the San Josécoppergold mine on August 5ththis year after an alarming collapse.

I still can’t even begin to imagine the fearful thoughts that must have been running through their heads after day 5, day 30, and day 60, wondering if they were ever really going to get out of there. And that’s only if hunger pangs and physical exhaustion weren’t completely taking over their thought processes.

Thankfully all 33 were rescued and lifted out of 700 metres (2,300 ft) of mine, one by one. As the last miner was lifted out, the rescue workers held up a sign that read, “Misión cumplida Chile” (Mission Accomplished Chile!) The survival and rescue of the miners was celebrated in Chile and all over the world, broadcast on every major news channel.  Presidents and foreign leaders across the globe congratulated Piñera, president of Chile.

The people of Chile came together like I’ve never seen done in the States.  Together, the 33 miners plan to start a foundation to help in mining safety to prevent cases like this from happening in the future.

Misión cumplida Chile!

 



“Follow Your Bliss”
October 19, 2010, 2:18 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , , ,

It’s an odd sensation going through the same orientation I went through three months ago as a new volunteer, only this time as an “antigua” rather than a “newbie,” as VE Global likes to refer to their respective volunteers. Being on the side of preparation and serving rather than observation and learning sheds new perspective on the activities. But meeting the new class of volunteers has also proven to be a good way to end my time here. I’ve had the opportunity to be behind the scenes of an NGO, and ample time to reflect on my experience to give useful advice to those expecting to have a meaningful next few months.

Your time abroad is whatever you make of it.

Your current position on the globe isn’t what provides you with the life lessons you hope to learn, or goals you hope to achieve.  You have to seek out the challenges that will stretch you beyond your comfort zone, because the difficult things in life are the things most worthy of your time and energy. Furthermore, I don’t know anyone who has learned and honed a truly valuable life lesson or skill during the easiest and happiest time of their life.

As I am about to depart, it’s very grounding for me to think about the fact that Mom is still working at Otsego Dental everyday, Dad is heading to American Family Insurance carpooling with his buddy every other week, and Royce is starting up her first year teaching at Elk River high school after enjoying the summer off with her friends.  I’m not sure how they are going to feel when I tell them I want to leave again. I already know that I am not ready to head back into the working world in the States, as there is still so much I would like to do and learn abroad, especially with my Spanish.

But I’m finding I don’t mind the uncertainty of the future because uncertainty just means possibility. All I know is that I would like to continue working with the disabled whether I can find a paid position or not. And if all paid positions fail, I can always teach English on the side. I also learned that native English speakers can find jobs really easily in Santiago, so if you’re looking, I’ve got the hook up.

Even though friends and family will probably not encourage another departure abroad, it’s important to follow your heart. I’ve come to gain a new respect for the work of American mythologist, writer and lecturer Joseph Campbell who coined the phrase, “follow your bliss.” He also said, “When you follow your bliss… doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors; and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else.”

I think his theories are important for everyone but especially for the life of a traveler, because life abroad isn’t the norm. If you read his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, you’ll find that following your bliss doesn’t mean merely doing what feels most fun at the moment. It means figuring out what you are passionate about, and doing it. When talking about the journey of the hero he says, “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

So whether you are thinking “Should I go or should I stay?” or “Should I give up or push through?” follow your bliss even if it seems to go against all logic. Because in the end, it will have been the only logical decision.



Olympiadas A Anakena
October 19, 2010, 2:09 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , , ,

Last week we had Olympiadas at an outdoor public field a few blocks from Colegio Anakena. In the first heat of runners, there were five kids all around the age of five-years-old. Uno, dos, tres and they were off toward the finish line. Until the boy in Lane Three looked down to realize that the ground he was running on was made up of sand. As with most kids, a sand box is at least a few hours worth of fun. So he plopped down and started playing in the sand. And then a few others stopped to stare at him with jealous eyes.  We all cheered, encouraging them to keep running. One tia had to come and help him up, and remind him that he was racing. Eventually he found the finish line.

There were two running events, one long and one short, and three other events consisting of biking, long jump, and throwing a tennis ball. After all the events were over,  there was an award ceremony with certificates, medals, and trophies. The age categories were “mini,” “super mini,” “hyper mini,” and “infantile mini.” It was absolutely adorable.

I had the glamorous job of crowd control, and attempted to keep all of the kids that weren’t competing from running out onto the field. It was difficult to say the least, and the key word here is “attempted.” At the end of the day, all of this competing is in preparation for a bigger Olypiadas when Anakena will compete against about ten other schools in October. I wish I was going to be here for it!

The sun was shining and everyone was smiling — we got lucky. Olympiadas at Anakena were a success! Hopefully, come October, they compete on a grass field.



Recognizing Difference
October 19, 2010, 2:07 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , ,

My experience with the disabled began with Colin.

He was a happy, 19-year-old boy with Down syndrome when I started working with him as a personal care attendant. During my sophomore year of college, I spent one or two evenings a week with him until a few months after I graduated. I also had the opportunity to help out at his Sunday School class that his mom lead, a class  full of students with any type of disability that existed within the church.

My interest in the disabled increased as my friendship with Colin and his family grew closer. I decided to join him, as a volunteer, at a week long summer camp he attended each year called Joni and Friends. I hopped in the car and made my way to Indiana about a month after I graduated. I was assigned to work with another boy with Down syndrome named Dan, who was also a happy-go-lucky kid around the same age as Colin. Because of the wide range of severity and accompanying complications within the same diagnosis, in this case Down syndrome,  it was a very good learning experience to work closely with another kid like Colin. They were very different. Colin was more reserved and used to love just sitting alone, trying to make me laugh by making funny noises. (Trust me, this could occupy his entire day if you let it.) While Colin wouldn’t touch water with a ten foot pole, Dan had the time of his life tubing behind a boat at summer camp.

As I work with the younger kids at Anakena here in Chile, I am continually reminded of the infinite levels of independence and unique personal characteristics possessed by children with the “same” disability. I had to ask my tia why Leonardo was in our class because for all that I could tell after working with him for a week, he appeared “normal.”  He helps with the other children and always knows the answers in class.  She responded by saying that he has a low level learning deficit and is probably the highest functioning child in the class. I hope for his sake, that being in that position doesn’t hinder his learning process. Then there is Alejandro, who’s autism is evident upon first glance. He experiences its effects both mentally and physically. He is a challenge, to say the least, because he’s in the stage of life where he must question authority at any given opportunity. And if you have spent any time with kids, you know that disobedience is contagious among a group of curious children. Disciplining children with disabilities opens up Pandora’s box of life lessons. The biggest one? Patience, patience, patience.

There are two children in the class with Down syndrome, Javiera and Felippe. They are both incredibly adorable and extremely stubborn in their own way. It is really interesting to work with them and think about what Colin and Dan might have been like at their age.

I have been disappointed with the education provided by Anakena when I am wearing my red, white and blue lenses. However, the school is quite impressive when you consider that “discapacidades en Santiago, Chile” brings up less than ten relevant results in Google, which is nothing for a city of five million. I’m not exactly sure what kind of resources exist for the disabled in schools and programs here in Chile, but I know it is little to none.  I have only seen one computer at Anakena, in the director’s office. The tias hand write all the assignments for each of the kids because there are no printers, copiers, projectors, or smart boards. They re-use all plastic “disposable” cutlery and paper plates each day for snack time. There is no heat and no hot water.

Yet, without all these things they manage to make education happen day in and day out. They make it happen out of necessity, but surely they would appreciate some of the luxuries we call “necessities” in the states. If you are interested in changing the lives of some teachers at Anakena or other schools in Chile, please contact VE Global to see how you can help.



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.