Samaipata – A Bolivian Village You Must Experience

Samaipata is easily one of my favorite places in Bolivia. Why? Maybe this quaint village in east Bolivia showed me how to slow down. Or perhaps the Bohemian attitude of Samaipata made me think about life differently. Or maybe the German and the Dutch and the Arabs who have settled down in Samaipata taught me that home is where the heart is.

I cannot pinpoint on any one reason, but Samaipata, a lush town in the foothills of Andes, calmed me down. It is after all the resting place in the mountains (the meaning of Samaipata in Quechua).

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Why You Must Visit Santa Cruz –The City of the Rich in Bolivia

When I had stuffed myself with enough streetside potato empanadas, I flew from La Paz to Santa Cruz. The dream was to see the wild jaguars in the forests near Santa Cruz.

Drifting off through a one-hour flight and waking up to chew upon the dry fruits that the Boliviana de Aviación attendant served, I landed at the Viru Viru international airport and hopped onto the airport shuttle to go to the central plaza. My travel friend was staying in a fancy hostel there.

As always, I had not read much about Santa Cruz. But my curiosity to talk to the local people makes up for my lethargic online research, mostly. In a casual conversation, the manager of the Santa Cruz airport shuttle told me that Bolivia was still furious about losing the Pacific coast to Chile. He added that the elite businessman and politicians of that wealthy city we were in had stopped caring as they were busy securing their bank balances.

And that is how I was introduced to Santa Cruz, a city where you would forget that you are in Bolivia, if not for the cholitas selling sinful salteñas on the roadside.

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Bolivia Visa for Indians – Getting the Visa from India and South America and the Extension Process in Bolivia

Bolivia gives a visa on arrival to most of the western countries (excluding the USA), to other South-American countries such as Chile and Peru, and India. But you can only get the Bolivia visa on arrival if you land at Santa Cruz or La Paz airports, and this visa costs USD 55. As I was crossing into Bolivia via land, I decided to get a visa before the visit, and so I went to the Bolivian consulate in Cusco. The visa application process was fast; the visa was free; I had the visa in an hour.

If you are planning to get a Bolivia visa on arrival, then please confirm by calling the Bolivian consulate in Delhi, as I have heard mixed reviews of Indians who tried getting a visa on arrival in Bolivia.

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My Essential Bolivia Travel Guide – Everything You Need to Know About Bolivia

When I think of Bolivia, I remember stout, brick-red mountains.

Women adorning traditional Bolivian clothes mending potatoes in fluorescent open fields.

Men with wrinkled faces driving taxi up the steep streets and roads.

Potato and cheese empanadas being sold in kiosks on street sides.

Bolivian soaps running on the TV in local food courts.

People marching against the democratic government and Chile.

Golden sunshine beaming in through the blue sky.

Enormous graffitis watching us from the walls of a few big cities.

The charismatic salt flats and the blue lagoons sprinkled with pink flamingoes spread in the midst of the driest desert of the world.

Tiny villages bustling with people who went there looking for a simpler life from around the world.

A gorgeous high lake where the indigenous Bolivian people first established themselves but now only a couple of thousand Bolivians live on the legendary islands on the lake.

Sky trolleys flying people from their homes to run their chores in the administrative capital.

And the clingy high altitude that never leaves you oxygenated while you are traveling in Bolivia.

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My Chilean Host Mother Took Her Broken Heart and Said to Life Vamos (Let’s Go).

We were in September, and the sun had been hiding away for many days from Chiloé, a southern island of petite Chile, and rain thudded the brick-tiled roof unabashedly. As I shivered after a shower on a cold evening in Castro and to avoid getting scolded by my host mother when she would have seen my wet hair at dinner, I walked down to warm my head near the kitchen fire.

My host mother, who was already sitting at the round, wooden dining and sipping mate from her cup, called me to join her while patting the thick sofa cushion on her left. Perched on her right, the British volunteer, who was also teaching English with my program, rolled his eyes as he saw me accepting her invitation and approaching them. Respecting our usual friendly banter and rekindling the Indo-British feud, I threw some bad words in his direction. 

Then as the three of us huddled at the dining and sipped tea in the cozy kitchen of our uninsulated home, my host mother told us that her brother had just come home to request some wine, and then she warned us not to trust him as he was an alcoholic. 

Though I had seen her brother visit us every day, eat bread and cheese at the dining, drink wine, of which she kept a big bottle in her kitchen especially for him, I never realized that he was an alcoholic. Maybe I was focusing on cracking the heavy Spanish that darted to and fro between the siblings.

But his alcoholism was not the devastating part of the story. 

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Golden Highlights of 2018 – A Year of Writing, Love, and Nomadness.

The whistles of a black kite which is hovering above me in the light blue sky are the only sounds that break my attention now and then. In front of me, a green parrot just flew by; I see more of them in the morning, when one after another they go, searching for grains and guavas and water and, maybe, more parrots. The coffee cuckoo, similar to the one that used to visit me in the earlier place where I stayed, also showed herself to me by flying from one tree to another in the jungle of the army campus, in front of which this rooftop one bedroom house of my partner is located.

I have stationed myself in one corner of this terrace on a chatayi or as we say a mat nowadays, and from here I write my heart out. In this nomadic life, you can find me on and off in Bangalore, for I always come here to be with my partner, and thus I pen down many pieces from his vicinity with a temporary feeling of home.

Having spent more than four months now as a nomad, I have realized that you don’t have to own or rent an apartment to be at home. Neither are you always on the go even if you are a nomad. At the end of the day when I think about getting back to home, I imagine a quiet place, where the bathroom taps do not drip and where I cannot hear the screeching tires or intruding honks, but I can only tune into the crickets singing songs to each other. Where I can lay on a bed or in a sleeping bag in a tent, preferably tucked away in the midst of trees, with a warm cup of tea and a book to read. From where I can make a phone call to my parents and family for they worry if I disappear for even a day. I imagine a home that is a window into the world, or it has a window from where I can see the world, which I like to have at a distance. And that is all.

Such are my preferences these days. I started penning down this article to tell you about how my priorities shaped up the year 2018, and so on I go.

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Basic Spanish Phrases You Need to Know Before Traveling to Latin America

Unlike the US, in India, we do not have Spanish or a foreign language course at our school, especially in the small town that I studied in. I grew up studying Hindi, English, and Sanskrit. I took a foreign language course in French during college, but a few classes and a French certificate was the farthest my foreign language aptitude extended to. 

 When I landed in Chile, I couldn’t speak any Spanish. I started living with a Chilean host mother who woke up with the motivation of teaching me Spanish so that we could communicate and thus began my struggle with the language that soon turned into eternal love. 

Without trying to be melodramatic, I promise that if you learn Spanish while traveling in Latin America, you would also fall in love with this language; for Spanish is a passionate dialect and have phrases and words for almost every emotion. Some of the feelings that can be described eloquently in Spanish are strangled by the lack of words in the other languages that I know.

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Malaysia eVisa for Indians – All You Need to Know.

When I traveled to Southeast Asia this year, I knew that I would visit Indonesia, but I didn’t know where I would go from there. I zoomed out of the Asia map and turned the globe around to understand which countries were green and gave a visa on arrival or an e-visa.

The closest country to Indonesia was Malaysia, and its green footprint on the map captured my attention. Also, I am always excited to visit the less-popular places, and Malaysia is one of them. If you are planning to go to Malaysia now, you are lucky as you will see it before the country is flooded with tourists. I went to Malaysia in October, and sometimes I was the only one in a room in the entire hotel or the only one camping amongst 100 empty tents.

When I first traveled to Malaysia in 2012 for two days, my friends and I drove in and out of Malaysia-Singapore border five times due to some immigration problems. Back then I had applied for a Malaysia visa via an agent; in those days I was not so rigid about I-will-plan-all-my-travel-myself.

This year when I googled about Malaysia visa, I found out that Malaysia now gives an eVisa to Indians which is valid for three months, and you can travel within Malaysia for thirty days on that eVisa.

Happy as a girl who had just discovered ice cream, I applied for the eVisa for Malaysia within a few hours. The next day my visa was approved.

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100 Days of My Nomadic Life – Highs and Lows of Living While Traveling

I haven’t gone out of my partner’s home, where I sit and write here in Bangalore, for three days, apart from a small walk that I did to the grocery store because I wanted to eat something better than lifeless noodles with invisible vegetables. Ironically, today I am writing about my 100 days of nomadic life.

I thought that being nomadic means staying on the road 24×7, and maybe, you feel that way, too. I will get to that, but first, let us go back in time a little bit to understand how my digital nomad journey started.

I chose this life for I wanted to be location independent. I wanted to be able to travel whenever I yearned to see a new place or live in a jungle where I could only hear the crickets whistle and the leaves rustle instead of the incessant blasting traffic of Bangalore or any other metropolitan. But having a rented apartment was sort of becoming a hindrance to free movement and adding up costs without adding any value, apart from providing me with a quiet writing space with a balcony.

I thought that I better spend the money which I paid for the apartment where people shut doors on each other as if they were enemies on gorgeous Airbnb’s or friendly homestays or rustic hotels in the hidden corners of the world. At least I would explore, meet interesting people and have some meaningful conversations, and live life at my own pace.

So I gave up my room in the Bangalore flat and packed my bags to wander freely while working online. The whole idea was to move slowly; I have never found any joy in visiting a place for a weekend or two days and then leaving it, while I didn’t even know what lay in my backyard though I saw all the famous attractions of that destination. And while exploring the world one place at a time, I could afford the lifestyle of a digital nomad because of my writing portfolio.

But I have come to realize that not having a permanent location is not about traveling all the time. It is about moving with a choice.

This nomadic life has put up all sorts of choices in front of me and let me be honest with how I feel about them.

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Teach English in Chile – All You Need To Know About English Open Doors Volunteer Program

What does this Teach English in Chile guide contain?

  1. What is the English Open Doors Program?
  2. What is the duration of the English Open Doors program?
  3. Who can apply to the English Open Doors program?
  4. What is the application process?
  5. But English Open Doors is a volunteer program. How well-organized would it be?
  6. Do I have to pay to volunteer for the English Open Doors program?
  7. Does the program pay the volunteers to teach English in Chile?
  8. What all does the English Open doors program provide?
  9. Which visa do I have to take to teach English in Chile?
  10. Do I need to know any Spanish if I travel to Chile?
  11. Which grades does a volunteer teach?
  12. Would the program train me to teach English in Chile?
  13. What is the English level of the students whom the volunteers would teach in Chile?
  14. How did a week of teaching English in Chile look like?
  15. Is teaching English to Latin-American students hard? How was your teaching experience in Chile?
  16. How was your living experience in Chile?
  17. Do you think your classes helped the students or made any impact?
  18. What do I do when the English Open Doors program finishes?
  19. Would you recommend the English Open Doors program and teaching English in Chile?
  20. I am still not convinced if the English Open Doors program is good?
  21. How do I contact the English Open Doors program?

 

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