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Gayle & Latin America:getting to know you better.

Bienvenidos!Welcome!Well, the game has begun.I'm still in Dublin, Ireland knowing that I've probably forgotten a nuclear amount stuff that I should have pre-pared for this trip, before I even entertain a final touch like this one.What the hell am I going to Latin America for?-The McDonalds, the florescent Fanta,the Kentuckey Fried Chicken...?-No. I'm a meateater myself and I have better experiences in mind, sin gas.Two special volunteer projects in fact: one in Ecuador,the smallest of the great Andean nations in South America and the other in Nicaragua, the biggest and baddest revolutionary country in Central America. So I'll be living with indigenous communities, dartblowing, shimmy shimmyin' it with the shamans, writing articles about ancestoral land rights and teaching in schools.One important thing I should warn you about is that, well, I like to talk a little.As I will be trying my best to speak as much Spanish as I can to blend in with the needs of my new everydayness, I'll want more of an outlet than usual.So I hope that I will have some interesting stories, thoughts, feelings and frustrations to share and comment on.Visual representation is a must!!So there will be lots of photos, technology permitting!Well this is a start, at least.I'm really looking forward to getting to know Latin America better, and also myself in adverse situations....... and of course all those that are up for a bit of discussion or just random ramblings!

Diary Entries

Friday, 23 November 2007

Location: Tena, Ecuador

So things are getting kind of shakey around here.Making our way back to Tena from Quito after the football(Ecuador v Peru 5-1!!!) there was some earthquakiness happening and a huge landslide came down all over the main road.When ´I´ say huge, apparently its not the worst that has happened around here, but Ive never seen one before like that so for me its something new and everything new is always bigger than it really is.In fact there were two.One small one we firstly encountered with our first rate banger of a bus, which we walked across easily after many 4x4s had led the way, and had to sadly leave our bus behind.Boo hoo banger blues.Then a local on the way to Tena offered us a lift in his landrover which was great, but included half of Tena as well...my face hasnt willingly been that friendly with car windows for a long time.Anyway, moving along, Ecuadorian style, who always manage to turn bad situations into humourous ones, and then we come across the second landslide which completely blocked the entire road half a km long and 20 or 30ft high.This is 11pm at night in the middle of the winding roads and mountains with dangerous animals (ok theyre only jumping spiders), pitch dark except for the moon, the rubble is 6 hours from clearance and Tena is 2 hours away... and Im knackered.So what do Ecuadorians do in this situation?Get out of the car, stand in a circle and break out the bottle of rum to do the rounds while we wait!!How can you not love that??I think in fact it was one of the best nights I´ve had here, standing in the middle of the road with truckies, police and other locals with the moon illuminating the misty andes all around us.Fantastic.Situations like that are really interesting for me as Ecuadorians are great storytellers and you gain great insight into a segment of the population´s thinking about their country and the countries surrounding them, particularly Colombia and Venezuela which we could appreciate as we had just returned from both.So there was a guy who worked high up in the petroleum industry in Ecuador and travels widely for his work,a couple who were getting married the next day,truckies who like to live it up in Cartegena where the women make them weak at the knees, a kid who high on sugar aftere a birthday party in Quito, my travelling partner who strangely met his godfather who he hasnt seen in 4 years ...and me.Great discussions and arguments and jokes about life, love, people and politics.I was dying to get off the bus and take a look at those mountains for real anyway.So the moral of their stories is Hugo Chavez(Venezuelan president) is crazy and is trying to take over the world, Colombians have to queue seperately to all other South Americans in Houston airport,dont eat chocolates from hotels in Cartegena,Colombia as that will cost you 50 dollars for 3 little pleasures,Rafael Correa is crazy and is trying to take over the world(Ecuadorian president) and rum mixed with 12 or 13 Ecuadorians makes for good conversation.
Anyway after it started to rain we all squashed back into the landrover.An army truck came and said they were going to try and find a digger to remove all the land that fell down and an hour later they started working on the mesh of trees and huge rocks and fresh soil.So we all fell asleep for a bit until there was another tremor about 130am and more land fell down.At 430am the digger wasnt even half way through clearing the road, so we got our things and walked across the landslide to the other side,which is difficult with a rucksack on your back !!.So alot of the traffic on the other side were just arriving to find their early morning surprise and often joy that they couldnt go to work just yet.But one of the buses was turning back to return to Tena so we grabbed a lift and we were finally on our way.7am we reach Tena, when we left Quito at 5pm the day before!!Usually Quito to Tena is only 5 hours, but I really was happy I was there that night.You appreciate what people have to do when they are in these situations such as landslides, something I have never experienced.. the waiting, the walking, the isolation and and the jovial sense of community when things go wrong in ths country.As they will go wrong.In Ecuador if you think you might fall in that hole men at work have left poorly covered for pedestrians , you will.The people here will laugh themselves silly if you start taking about the company at work or a local council´s ´responsibility`.The electricity will get cut off for no apparent reason.The water is sometimes brown, just because.All you can do is wait... and wait for that apparent reason to manifest itself, as apparent.Its frustrating but I really like this country despite its unfairness, injustice and kiddish electrical temperment.I think its the calm attitude of most people in those situations here,that usually Europeans freak out at and whine ´but thats not fair...´ That makes me laugh, but I also appreciate it , as they have helped me relax alot and not worry so much about things you cant do anything about.Well so we made it to Tena, and the heat here is sticky city.We´re expecting another set of tremors soon, but hopefully it wont be too bad, not like the poor people in Chile and Peru who have had 6.7 and higher tremors and aftershocks and alot have died.Well.Talk soon.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Location: Quito, Ecuador

Whoahoo!!One of my photos made it to the planetranger homepage!!
That´s all.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Location: Popayan, Colombia

Well.I think that I have gotten a little ahead of myself and bypassed huge chunks of this story, while I was busy living it.
I was supposed to head to Central America after Ecuador, but then extreme weather such as hurricanes, floods and mass destruction of homes and means of travel in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador saw our tickets being cancelled.We had to make a decision.Leave it till later and have only 3 weeks in all those places, if, the situation gets better.So we decided to stay in Ecuador and work on our project with the indigenous in Shiwa Yaca.We managed to contact our NGO in Nicaragua and they were really understanding and apparently we werent the first to have problems, which is a shame.There wasnt so much damage caused with them at least,but the means to access the different schools and the town itself became difficult and dangerous, so maybe it was for the best.But in retrospect, the money we raised for them was able to help build an extra building which they badly need for the numbers they have at present in the school so thats always good to hear.So.Ive been working on the project in Shiwa Yacu but also taking time out in between to travel and see a little of the indigenous in other areas such as Colombia and Venezuela.I did it all by bus, which was a challenge, but worth it to see the gradual changes in terrain, population and weather.The indiginous concentrations while sometimes obvious,are often hidden within more secret forests away from the main towns and cities and requires a bit of searching in the right places.
Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela.Its hard to take the fruits of new experience and pummel them into words.Nothing I say will really express the beauty, kindness or the type of air these countries breathe.The coastal waters of Ecuador are warm like a winter fire in Ireland,the Colombian people are similar in their way and the coffee in Venezuela gives this familiar aroma with its dark heat.Well.Again Ill have to run and finish this page later... but a communal hello to everyone again!!!

Thursday, 01 November 2007

Location: Venezuela

Well. I think that there are many reasons why I love travelling so much but there is one that dominates them all.As I come to the near end of my journey here in South America, it has been wangling its way to the fore with a fear that such impressions on my thinking may fade and blend into the casual camoflage of some average daily musings.I love the way travelling writes those next few pages in your mind´s book of general knowledge, reanalyising all that has been written before.There are things I thought I would never see,sparks of new conversations within walls I never thought Id be privy to.Its so refreshing to see the different ways people interpret the world and in turn the thinking process that gets started about your own methods and approach towards other humanoids.I love South America,but it has also made me love things about my own country.We have such freedom to move around and we have so much protection dorn upon our dainty selves, in terms of rights to life, rights to education, rights to earn a decent living,rights to more freely about the world without question or a suspicious brow.Its chance and luck that I have been born in Europe and I wonder how things would be if my luck was born of the beauty that rests in the Andes or the Amazon.I feel a little like a cheat as I did absolutely nothing to earn such apparent freedom,whereas here,, for example, in Venezuela every time you buy something you have to produce your identity card, police speedily chase your (my!) taxi on motorbikes to stop you and ask seriously for your ´cedula´ or id., you need a visa to travel to most places in the world, for fear that your holiday will turn to contaminate the working population of that country. Its a hard life when police for example in Colombia are opening your bag at every opportunity and you can buy there silence or administration services just name your price(they are willing to negotiate).Corruption is rife as they are paid next to nothing for their efforts.Even small things like in Ecuador, a guarantee with a mobile, it doesnt seem to apply, and its almost like once you have lumbered yourself with a purchase,its, dont look at me, honey.
But there is something so intriguing about the evolution of this place, its so raw and open and still in the process of forming its freedom.... I just cant say no.Well Im back in Colombia after a short stint in Venezuela and making my way back to Ecuador.There are freak tornados and snow storms in Bogota at the moment.. my next destination.Well.Why not.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Its the rainy season here on the North coast of Colombia,just enough to wash away all those grey preconceptions about this country.The coast is more of a Carribean haven than a military zone, full of national parks and accessible, yet remote indigenous communities.So I´ve been sleeping in hammocks and tents in Tayrona National Park, a park teeming with one of the most diverse ecosystems I´ve ever seen.Yes, you actually do manange to see some animals, snakes and all sorts of weird insects, some id rather not, see me!
This is not Iraq.Indeed the people have chat shows, botox, washing powder adverts,parties,intense conversations on the street, laughter,curiousity,middle class houses and jobs they go to everyday.Despite the normality of most of the country at the moment, down South in the Department of Putumayo there are severe problems which mainly affect the indigenous in the region who are fleeing to the nearby Province of Succiumbios in Ecuador.But the military presence is still noticible throughout.Mainly because they haven´t much to do at the moment and all the army have been designated to road patrols. You know that your approaching the ´Policia de Carretera´ when youre greeted with a big thick rope accross the road which has the same effect as traffic calming I guess, without the calm.I have been closing my eyes alot while in taxis and buses as the fast and the furious is very fashionable here.... 2 seconds head to head with another car until you pull over to the right side of the road.In retrospect,most drive on the wrong side of the road which is the right side of the road for me!The ideals of transport here are actually bizarre.The Minister for Transport has introduced a law that all vehicles outside the city need to have their headlights on 24 hours, because he read somewhere thats the way they do it in Europe.This guy must have some poor advisors but some new technology he´s not sharing, because everyone else seems to have a poor exhausted battery as a result.But the people here are really firendly and so chatty and willing to help.Its a nice surprise and so different than I imagined.Have to go....... but will finish this later!!!Hello to everyone once again!!


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Recent Messages

From elaine
HI Gayle
I just love reading your updates and check in regularly to see how life is going! Its same old same old here - am sure that Anita has been keeping you updated!! Keep posting your fantastic updates!! Stay safe...~Elaine
Response: Hi Elaine!Great to hear from you!!I hope I didnt miss much with September and all.....Im ashamed to say it but I miss Insomnia coffee!!!For all their coffee producing here you still get Nescafe instant on the table.Well, I hope everyone is well in Quinn and that the new semester wasnt too painful.Chat soon!!
From Kelly
Gayle,
How are you? Wonderful to read about your adventures and ashamed to say this is my first time on here! In my defense I have been incredible busy since you left. I've been in Scotland a week and am loving it. Tom went over ahead of me and found us a cool 2 bed apartment in a very trendy,central area. He is 2 weeks into his course and has handed in 3 assignments already! Crazy busy but he is really enjoying it. Today is the 1st day of my new job as Procurement Officer at the University of Dundee. Going well so far but will fill you in in more detail by email. Hope this finds you well and happy and the adventures keep coming. Miss you, especially the last month or so, glad to be out of UCD, my last few weeks were not the same without you. xoxox
Response: Hey Kelly how are you?Can you send me an email to my gmail?Everytime I send a mail to your address its failing!!Glad to hear that all is good with you and Tom and that Scotland is working out for you..hows my blender??Hope you got all your stuff over all right in the end!!Talk soon properly I miss you too!!....best of luck in the new job and keep in touch! xxxxx
From Anita
Hi Gayle
Glad to see read that you are doing ok, in spite of the mozzies! We all miss you here and everyone says hello and take care of yourself
Besos
Anita
x

Response: Hey Anita, how is everything in Quinn!!I hope that september wasnt too painful.....let me know how the two Sarahs are doin!!You must have loads of other new people by now too..boo hoo...I hope that all is well with you and I´m sorry but I havent had really any time until now to write to people!Take care and take it easy!
From AOC
Hi Gayle!

Wow, I'm massively overdue in looking up this page and writing to you. My phone went on an almost 2 month holiday with my friend to Copenhagen and just returned today. Make sense of that. So I have just retrieved the text with your email and this site.

I am amazed by the detail in your writing, it really jumps out at you how amazing the experience you are having is. I'm sorely jealous. You've sure got a way with words, and indigenous people!

I wait with bated eyes for the next update. Hope you are doing great and sorry I wasn't able to talk to you in the days before you left.

AOC
Response: Hey hey!!How are you?I hope your phone had a nice time in Copenhagen!!Glad to hear that youre ok....a bit of confusion with your birthday present...long story but it got sent back to my parents´house as Chris didnt collect it from the post office,... it didnt fit through his dads letterbox.Its that big you know.Not his fault..just one of those things...Anyway Ive mailed him again, to ask if he minds if I send it again so I hope that you get it before Christmas!!Take it easy and its good to hear from you.Gayle ;)
From Erin
Hi Gayle, Not sure if you received my last message. I think my computer froze so possible it didn't go through. I'm really enjoying your comments and observations. Keep them coming. It sounds amazing. Enjoy the trip.
Response: Hey Erin how are you?So glad to hear from you!I hope that the job is working out for you..if you see my friend Bolivian friend Nuri knocking about say hello for me!!Anyway you off to the promised land again thisa year or have you been already??Let me know what your up to!!Take care and chat soon. x
From Steph
Hey Gayle

Great to read about your travels here. What an experience! What was the website you used again to organise this trip?
From Sarah
Hey there!!
Glad you made it in one piece, and that you have continued my travels!! Its great to be home though, back at work this week though, can't get used to the early mornings.... Your blog is great, it makes me want to re-write my one as it seems so mundane in comparison!! Keep it up and can't wait to see the pictures!! Say hi to Merixtell for me,
Keep safe and well
Sarah!!
Response: Yo yo.. whats the story!!I hope that your settling into working life again ...where are you now actually...awwh is it raining in Wexford??Well its 25 degrees here!!Ahhh, only messin its kinda too hot for me really and ive sorely accumulated muchas muchas freckles!!Let me know how you are and I´m putting up more photos soon.... its just really slow here!!Take it easy !!Gayle
From paul
Hi Gayle, super diary entries, I just came across your text today with your web address, what an adventure.. looking forward to next update.
All the best
Paul (at Oxfam Ireland)
Response: Hey Paul how are you!!I hope that you have more volunteers to help you out with the Christmas ´Unwrapping´!!How is everything in Oxfam??Say hello to everyone for me and I promise a postcard is on the way, it just takes two months from here!!
From Sarah D
Hi G,
Glad to see you made it alive!
Seems like you're enjoying yourself already which is great. Missing you loads around here, but I know we have to sacifice you for the greater good! Whats with the Nietzsche by the way, feeling a bit nihilistic are we?!?
Anyway, kepp us posted
xxx
Response: Hey hey missus how are ya getting on??I hope that the job is going great and I didnt leave too much carnage...Let me know how the thesis went!!Take care and sorry for the late reply the rainforest doesnt do much in the line of telecommunications... jungle whistles and hand signs don´t get me anywhere, it seems....anyway let me know how everyone is and how youre getting on...I think loose me mi Ingles..Later, chicita xxGayle
From dorothy
Such a nice surprise when I went to your website. Am enthralled with your diary and am hooked already on your adventure. Wish you all the best and I would recommend lots of that dancing, good for everything, morale, figure and fun. Bon courage and chin up, good to be out of the irish rain. Will keep checking on your progress. Lots of love
From Debbie
Hi Gayle,
Nice to know you've arrived safely. Its great to be able to keep in touch with you. Enjoy your wanderings. The sun is shining in Manchester for a change. Lots of love Debbie (AKA Aunty Debbie) which makes me sound really old so I won't use it. X
Response: Hi Dorothy!!Yea thiungs are brilliant here at the moment.Just back from the mpuintains and will have lots of photos soon!!Off to the rainforest tomorrow for more newness!!Take care and keep in touch if you can!!
From Maeve Houlihan
Gayle,

I'm so sorry I didn't see you before you go but did want to send you on your way with a huge cheer - you've been a great heart around Quinn for so long it won't be the same without you but you but it is magic to see you set off on this adventure and I will follow your journey with great smiles. May the road rise to meet you my friend!

Maeve
Response: Thanks Maeve!!I'll miss our little chats! Best of luck with the book and conference!!Stay in touch!Gayle
From Elena and Sean
Hi Gale
Both Elena and I are in Geneva for the summer and so didnt get a chance to bid you farewell. Have a wonderful time and I'm sure our paths will cross again at some stage. Thanks for everything. You have always been so wonderfully helpful in every way.
Best wishes
Elena and Sean
Response: Thanks a million!!Have a great time and it was lovely working with you both.Take care, Gayle .
From Evelyn
Gayle,

We'll miss you so much - but hope that you have a great adventure. I look forward to keeping up to date with all your news on this webpage.

Keep safe, Evelyn.
Response: Thanks Evelyn, it was so lovely working with you!!I'll miss your funky jewellery and your good kind, humour :you even encourage smiling on your door sign!Keep in touch!
From rosaleen
Gayle, I miss drinking bottles of wine with you and talking similar cheese. Keep up with the postings, and i will drink wine while i read back what you write. And as the wine works its magic I will even talk back to the computer screen as though we have those days back again.
The warmth of south and central america sounds just lovely now as I freeze my little digits off in what some might describe as the south pacific..when actually its northern antarctica.
Best of luck with this great adventure.
Rosaleen x
Response: Me too!!!Could you pop over to Guatemala or Nicaragua for a quick coffee?I won't keep ya long I promise!!Do you mind if I post this?Too late!I'm glad you're settling in: so drink up and read on!!Call me before I go if you can!It was so lovely chatting with you last week: I really do miss the cheese on wine man!!oo hoo.But anyway i'll mail my first impressions of Quito as soon as I find them!!Take care and talk soon beautiful!!!Gayle