Monthly Archives: August 2012

City Life in Buenos Aires

We like it here in Buenos Aires.

The city feels one part Europe, one part US and one part something all its own. It seems to be both coming and going; fading into the past and diving into the future. It is super sophisticated and kind of messy. We ride the spray-painted and rickety subway to the children’s museum, grab some awesome Middle Eastern take-out on the way home and when finished we take our trash out and throw it on the corner with recyclables separated so the “waste pickers” can find them faster.

Buenos Aires is a massive city and we ended up in the Palermo Soho neighborhood. There are old sycamore trees lining the streets, cafes on nearly every corner, trendy clothing boutiques and dogs, lots of dogs. Not the wandering, stray ones we’ve seen everywhere else in South America, but the kind with sweaters and color-coordinated leashes. So loved are these pups that people let them poo on the street and then leave it there for everyone to admire. Luckily our boys have been in training and are very skilled at jumping the stink bombs.

The house we’ve rented has an office, a nice courtyard and plenty of space for everyone. The kitchen is fully loaded including a dishwasher. I mention this because we haven’t seen a dishwasher since we left the states. We also haven’t had a bathtub. This place has a huge bathtub, much to Vaughn’s delight. In fact, as we were touring places to rent, his only criteria was if it had a tub. So Vaughn approves of this place too.

It feels nice to be in a home that seems like it could be ours. It’s cool to be surrounded with so much culture and so many options. Great food and drink are good for the body and the soul. It’s not perfect of course, but for us and for now, it seems just about right.

Categories: From Bo | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Bolivia Photos and Thoughts

The Following Post Comes with this Disclaimer:

Of Course there are nice people in Bolivia, Of Course there are pretty places in Bolivia, Of Course La Paz is not the epicenter of all darkness and loathing and misery…just not in our experience.

We intended to spend only a few days in La Paz getting used to the altitude and seeing some sights before heading out to do a tour of the Salt Flats which offer up mind-bending optical illusions, pink flamingos, colored lagoons, and even a train graveyard. Then, take one of the very much alive trains on an overnight journey from the edge of the salt flats and down into Argentina. Sounds fun, right?

Obviously, none of that happened, and even after we made it through the work of securing new passports and getting replacement Bolivian visas, it became clearer and clearer to us that there was no longer a choice of do we continue on as planned or not. We had to get out. We had to get out as directly and quickly as possible because the La Paz of our experience was nothing and nowhere that a tourist should take time to visit. Tourists with young children…I can’t even…we just didn’t know. And we were honestly a bit afraid to fully vent our impressions of the place while we were stuck there as the possibility of someone mining the internet for bad Bolivian press and refusing our visas out or making us miserable in other ways didn’t seem all that far-fetched. Truly.

So now while I’m sipping great coffee on a beautiful wooden table next to a tree-lined street in Buenos Aires, I’m getting it out.

The light is strange there. Otherworldly. It is also brutal. Which makes sense I suppose at that altitude and proximity to the equator. And the buildings looked grown out of the mountainside rather than built by human hands. Think Star Wars I guess. Beautiful in a way, though that wears off as the eye of the beholder takes more in.

There are missing children signs everywhere. Plastered on every street corner, light post, the doors to the airport, government buildings, barber shops – everywhere. It was one of the reasons the Embassy tried so hard to get our passports back, two of them had children’s birth dates on them, making child smuggling that much easier. I considered throwing down for one of the 2 or 3 nice American chain hotels that are there, but even they had review after review after review online of people having items stolen from their rooms, or grabbed out of their pockets in the lobby. It felt that nowhere was safe. I don’t know how to explain what that did to us, to feel that no matter what we try or where we go or how much money we have, nowhere is safe.

There is also a near constant reek of sewage. La Paz has some of the worst water conditions in South America, and a home by the river would be punishing there as it is not water but foaming, trash-ladden, torrents of sewage. You’ll see in the pictures below some of the playgrounds we found to take the boys to, and they were great and fun and such a gift to have nearby, but what you can’t see in the photos is how it smelled in one of them to play next to that river.

We did stumble upon a nicer park one night, that was simultaneously holding a break-dancing competition and some ladies practicing flamenco. It was nice, and bizarre for being so. That is the only non-frightened, sick, angry, worried, and Mama-Bear-mode memory I have of our time in La Paz. And then Luke fell off of one of the climbing structures, and that ended that.

Finally, the illness that struck Bo, and subsequently the boys and myself, was no small part of our La Paz challenge, and is not over as my body waited to let it manifest until we were safely in Argentina. But at the onset, in a freezing hotel room in the cold stark city of La Paz, I had never seen my husband that ill. Ever. He was beyond anything I can describe. I had also never heard my children cough that hard for that long or their eyes get that red and their bodies that worn. And I have never been in the midst of all of that while being scared to death that a trip to the hospital in this place could easily end up killing them. We did find an English speaking doctor that saw Bo in her private clinic, and she was kind, but her best advice was to get rest and see a doctor in Buenos Aires if/when we got there.

So all efforts to leave were re-doubled. And then re-doubled again.

And while we still have a Bolivia hangover in the form of stolen documents and goods and sickness that just keeps on and on… we did make it out. And we are all together.

And we had ourselves a good laugh at the decoration spread across the wall at our first hotel in Buenos Aires. Wish you could have been there when we walked in and saw this:

Okay, now that my rant is fairly spent, here are the Bolivia photos you all have been asking for. I am sorry it took so long to get them up. Unfortunately, among the things stolen in La Paz were all the connecting cords for downloading photos from our cameras to our computer, and where we are in the world (even here in Buenos Aires!) any loss of electronics is just not an easy gap to fill. Bo found a way however and so here you go!

Thank you again for all your support and encouragement from all corners of the globe. We are loving Buenos Aires and look forward to sharing it with you in the posts to come!

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Moving On to Buenos Aires

After another unbelievable day in the bureaucratic jungle, Jamie just walked through the door with our Bolivian visas! With those, our new US passports and four tickets to Buenos Aires, we are leaving bright and early tomorrow morning! Although we’re not out of the woods completely, it seems we’re going to make it.

I will never forget what we just went through. If life is measured in memories, we just gained a lot of life. We gained new appreciation for what we can take on and work through. Jamie was amazing and I’m proud to be her partner and grateful she is my boys’ momma. Vaughn and Luke just took each day as it came with only the occasional request for ice cream or some playground time. We, as a family, circled the wagons, checked our priorities and got after changing our situation. It took good people here on the ground and a lot of moral support from back home. We are now more grateful for each other, for our health and safety and our friends and family.

We also lost a lot. We lost $1000s of stuff in nice outdoor gear and electronics, but those can be replaced. We lost a lot of private data in the form of an external hard drive and copies of personal documents. We are taking the steps to protect ourselves, but we lost a certain amount of financial and identity security.  We lost and are still loosing a bunch of time, money and energy. It will take many more days and even weeks to put this all back together. We lost having a sense of wonder about Bolivia and hope for edifying adventures in this country. Instead we got more than a week of walking in smog at 12,000, three head/chest colds, endless hours of waiting in line and a continually being cold because our warm cloths were stolen and haven’t had time to find new ones. I’m sure Bolivia can be great and I know most of the people here mean well, but we are just ready to get out of here.

With the loss acknowledged, we’re moving on and doing it with our heads held high. We’re moving on with a greater appreciation for a number of things and one of those is that we don’t have stay here any more!

Categories: From Bo | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Couldn’t Make this Up

Look at me writing to you all in the middle of the night again. In addition to everything else, Bolivia is clearly hard on my beauty sleep needs.

As you read this update you’ll see that today is not going to go down as one of the better days we’ve had. I want you all to know though that we are all together and safe and caring for each other, and that remains the most important piece of this entire story. This entire trip.

THAT said…

Our Friday morning began the same way our Wednesday and Thursday mornings went, and that is with the sound of an alarm, a quick bite of a cold hotel breakfast and then off to the U.S. Embassy here in La Paz. I have to say that the people at the American Embassy here have been Godsends. They have been efficient, helpful, kind, patient, and hard-working. The thought of how we would have had to deal with all of this without their help…just the thought, makes it hard for me to breathe.

Yesterday’s Embassy visit revealed the location of our stolen passports (inside a notorious Bolivian prison) and today’s Embassy visit revealed more of just what kind of system we are trying to work within.  It was explained to us that in an effort to retrieve our passports two undercover agents were sent into the prison posing as buyers for them because the inmate that has them is demanding money for their return. At our confused looks, they explained that there is really no way to fully describe just how dangerous a place this prison is. It is completely run by the inmates and has been dubbed “Thieves City”, a place where chaos and murder are rampant and the guards are scared to go in. It is not possible for the Bolivian police to just walk into this place and demand the passports from the man who has them, there would be no way to be sure of finding him and it would be a monumental risk to their lives.

There is also no way that the American government is going to pay a bribe (GOOD!), so the plain clothes go in just posed as buyers. The plan being to draw the inmate into a waiting room, close the door behind him and once he got in, THEN bring in the police to arrest him and confiscate the passports. They drew him in as far as the door and just as they were about to close it he sensed something going on and bolted. Disappearing back into the prison. Unreachable.

Given this new information, Bo and I decided to cancel our old passports and get new temporary ones from the Embassy that we are assured will get us into Argentina and back home. A few forms and $400 dollars later, we were on our way to being passport holders again. Since it was going to take a little more than an hour to process them, we decided to use that time to head back up to the airport, checking again on our lost bag.

Two days ago when I visited Avianca, I was told that they had found what they thought was our bag in Bogotá and had requested it be sent to La Paz for identification so we allowed ourselves to hope that we’d be getting it back after all. Today however, we were told that that wasn’t our bag and they think our bag is lost. I asked how they could know it wasn’t our bag if we didn’t get the chance to i.d. it, and they said because it didn’t have the corresponding luggage tag number. It didn’t have any luggage tag apparently. The essence of our looonng and bizarre exchange is thus:

“Couldn’t that have ripped off?”

“Yes.”

“So…shouldn’t we check the contents to see if it’s ours?”

“Hmmm. It’s not here. It is in Cartagena. Or Bogotá. I’m not sure. We think it’s lost.”

“Well. What do we do now? Can we check your luggage room of unclaimed bags?”

“No. We don’t have one. We will keep looking for your bag. Maybe 2 more days.”

“If it is lost, what do we do? Is there a claim we can file in case it turns up? A police report if we suspect it was stolen? When you have a customer with a lost bag, what to you recommend they do? We are not staying in La Paz much longer and need to know a plan for this kind of situation.”

Shrug. Silence.   “Un Momento.”

At which point another lady comes out and asks us to make a detailed description of all that was in the bag. If tennis shoes-what brand, she says, then they will look in the bag (this would involve cutting the lock) and if the contents match they’ll send the bag to La Paz. So Bo and I head to a restaurant, give the boys sandwiches and cookies and make the list. Hugely disappointed and increasingly worried about what someone with access to the paperwork in that bag could do to our lives, we drop the list off and head back down the mountain to the Embassy where after a short wait, we become passport holders again. (Another round of cheers for the Embassy workers!) I then dissolve into tears. Partly relief, part frustration about the airport visit, part exhaustion, part duration of worry — I don’t really know, but after my momentary mental break and the reassuring feel of Bo’s strong arms around me, we take stock of what’s next.

Only one thing left to get before we are free-moving travelers once again. A replacement Bolivian visa. Which can only be attained at a government office downtown. And feeling so close to the end, we head off to the Oficina de Migracion to see what that entails.  The migracion office had the feel of a DMV, but with armed guards throughout and thick walls of glass surrounding each worker making it nearly impossible to hear things that were already difficult for me to understand. Once we figured out which window was ours, it became clear that problem #1 was how to keep the boys from utter mutiny while we wait in another long line. Bo offers to take them with him while he runs back to the hotel for more money; we didn’t want to get everything done only to not have quite enough dough on hand to pay for them!  So off they go and I hurry up and wait. And wait. And then the metal door is being dragged down and locked so they can close for lunch and I’m feeling glad that I got in before that happened. I’m last in my line, and it’s actually starting to move. Still no sign of Bo and the boys and I’m wondering what I’ll do if they aren’t here and she needs to see them to verify their identity when the person ahead of me says, “Gracias” and walks off. I step up and the teller looks at me, announces she’s closed and to come back at 2:30.

Waiting in the sidewalk for Bo and boys I fight off another round of tears (what is with me today?!), and once they arrive we head BACK to the hotel where the boys get to watch a cartoon, Bo (who seems to be coming down with the flu) takes some aspirin and I try to track down someone at Montrose Public Health to see about verifying our vaccines since we’ve received mixed reports as to whether or not Argentina will let us in if we can’t prove we’ve had the Yellow Fever shot.

2:30 finds us heading back to Migracion, #3 line is long, we wait, boys squirm, we make it to the teller and explain what we need. She sends us to the teller next to her in window #4. He hears our story, tells us to wait, leaves, comes back, leaves again, comes back, tells us to come back in an hour because he needs time to look us up to prove we did in fact have visas before.  An hour would make it 4:00 and on a nearby map we notice a park nearby and head that way.

Back at 4:00 our new teller’s line is long, I beg everyone’s pardon and slide in front to tell him we’ve returned, he looks very surprised to seem me and says, “NO. Cinco. Regresan a cinco.” (Come back at 5). We decide to wait in case he can help us sooner, they boys draw for a while, I take them for a walk, our teller’s line ends and Bo steps up only to be told “No. Cinco.” again. Boys have a melt down on our walk, we patch that up best we can, Cinco finally arrives and as we approach our teller behind window #4 he looks at us, holds up his hand in a wait gesture and walks away to another room. 10 minutes later, he’s back and telling us to come back at 6.

There is no way that works for us as Bo is now coughing and aching and running a fever, and the boys are so restless and hungry and grouchy…. and we have no sense that he’ll help us at 6 either!  So, we track someone down again, explain the whole situation and ask if, now that everyone in the office has seen us to verify I’m not making them up, can I do the application alone or do they need to stay? I can do it alone. Phew!

They head off, I wait. Teller #4 comes back with forms for me to fill out and says he’ll need photocopies of our passports and police report as well when I’m done. I finish the forms hand over the passports and police report for him to make copies and absorb another one of his surprised/annoyed looks. Where are the photo copies, he wants to know. I’m sorry, I thought you were making them here.

“No.”

Okay, where do I get photocopies? He gives me directions and then the man who has been holding up his hand to me all afternoon to wait, points his finger to his watch and says, “Rapido! Rapido!”.

I “Rapido” my way to the photocopy store and “Rapido” my way back. He takes it all, takes an inordinate amount of time organizing it. Hands it back and send me to the teller at window #3.  Teller #3 re-organizes all the copies and passports and visa forms, gives me more papers to sign and then sends me on to window #9. The man in window #9 hands me 4 huge white folders to write my family’s names on while he types on his computer and determines how much I should pay for these new visas. He tells me a number, I pay it, he says no, in American dollars.

“No tengo dolares, solo Bolivianos.” He rolls his eyes, consults with his friends, does further calculations, and 2,190 Bolivianos later I am pointed over to window #2.

At window #2 I am given another whole set of forms to fill out, which I do, and hand them over. The big metal door is clanging shut behind me once again and I’m soooo close! Teller #2 asks for our transportation tickets showing when we are leaving Bolivia.

This. Again.

I explain we are hoping to leave Bolivia by train and I don’t have the tickets yet. She rolls her eyes, consults with her friends, writes something on all the white folders I have brought over, sticks every form I have filled out, every photo copy I have made, and all 4 of our new passports in their respective white folder and walks away.

Fifteen minutes later she returns and tells me to come back on Monday, they are closed. I ask for my passports back and she says that they are very secure and I cannot have them until this application is complete. I explain that I REALLY want them and she says impossible, they are secure. Come back on Monday.

Begin at window #5.

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

US Embassy Visit and Update

We just got back from the US Embassy and we’ve made some progress with a surprise twist to keep us on our toes!

Before I give the update, Jamie and I want to give a big THANK YOU to our awesome friends and family, especially Dave and Linda Gann. It is great to know that we have so much support and back up. I got so many emails of people offering to send money, I felt like I was a Nigerian prince who had billions in a bank just waiting to be unlocked if you’d just wire some money! Thankfully, we had other ATM and credit cards that were not part of the double theft so we are not in need of money, just passports.

Back to the Embassy visit this morning…As we explained our situation, the gentleman helping us said they had a report of four passports that were found and he left to go get more information. Our tired hearts leapt with cautious hope. He returned with a lady who explained that four US passports had been reported found within the Bolivian prison system yesterday. What?!? We had them repeat themselves because that didn’t make sense, but then again a lot of things around here don’t make sense to us. Our best guess is that the thieves smuggled the passports into the prison to use as bribery to release a cohort, but who knows.  We don’t even know if they are our passports. What we do know is that the Embassy is going to speak with the prison today to see if the passports can be recovered, but they will of course not pay any sort of bribe to get them back.

So we have a chance, however small, that our actual passports could be returned. If that doesn’t work out, which we’ll know tomorrow, then we can either get a temporary passport or wait 7-10 days for actual replacements. We’re leaning towards the real thing. Assuming we’ve paid our bad luck dues in Bolivia, we could have passports in a week or so and continue on our journey with a few thousand less dollars and a few hundred new gray hairs. Plus, we have travel insurance from www.worldnomads.com and they have been nothing but helpful with some of our previous smaller thefts.

Everyone at the Embassy was professional, clear, timely and kind. The grounds were clean and the flowers were in bloom. After we walked out of there, I turned to Jamie and said, “That was great. I didn’t know how much I need to know that we had help here on the ground. It makes me proud to be an American.” Although I like country music, I am not an overtly patriotic person so it takes a lot for me to say that.

Despite the pictures of snow-capped mountains and gleaming high rises we saw in our guidebook, La Paz is a rough, haphazard and pulsing city. It makes getting simple things done much harder. This place makes working things out in Ecuador seem like a breeze. For example, the taxis only pick you up if you want to go the way they are already headed and if they get a bit confused along the way, they will just kick you out of the car. Don’t get me wrong, the people are generally very sweet, but more often than not, not able to help. I had a national police officer not be able to tell me how to get to the tourist police office. Really?

In this context, yesterday Jamie took the boys on a whirlwind taxi and hotel tour of La Paz and found us an extended stay hotel with warm water, wi-fi and room for two boys to play. I got the police report filed after only six hours which I think must be a record.

Today, Jamie is headed to the airport and the hopefully open office of Avianca Airlines to get an update on the lost/stolen backpack. We are changing all of our passwords and double checking our financial and personal safeguards.  The boys, who have been so patient, are in the living room playing with all eight of their toys wearing their two super hero costumes. When I’m done with this update we’re headed to a large and nice playground nearby.

Tomorrow, we’ll head back to the Embassy and maybe find a pharmacy so we can buy some lotion and other toiletries. Actually, we might find the pharmacy today because let me tell you something: nothing makes you feel like a man like using your wife’s deodorant.

That’s what we know for now. Thank you again to everyone for you thoughts, prayers and encouraging words. We feel like you’re here with us!

Categories: From Bo | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Bienvenido A Bolivia

It’s 1:10am in La Paz, Bolivia and since I can’t sleep with all the worries chasing each other in my head, I thought maybe if I got up and wrote them all out- got them out of my head for just a second, maybe I could sleep. There’s nothing about the next few days (weeks?) that is made easier by being sleep-deprived.

The hard part is deciding where to start, regressing back, looking for the precise moment things went wrong. That’s hard to tell though and only leads to another round of  coulda,’ shoulda’, woulda’s — which is just as helpful as not sleeping.

So, let me try this by just listing out the events as they happened.

The route from Santa Marta, Colombia to La Paz, Bolivia only happens at night it would seem. All flight options we explored were red-eyes, which can be a struggle (loss of sleep, not able to check into a hotel at 3am…) but, again, there was no other option. So, as Bo just posted, on Sunday the boys and I went to the beach, he packed up, and then at 2pm our taxi arrived to take us to the airport for our 5:30pm departure from Santa Marta.

Checking in at the Avianca Airlines desk began normally enough and then quickly went awry. The woman checking us in reached a screen on her computer that wouldn’t allow her to complete our check-in until we provided proof of our exit. I explained what we were doing,  that we were entering Bolivia by flight but leaving Bolivia by train into Argentina and that we only expected to be in the country for a week, maybe two. No, she shakes her head, she needs proof of our exit from South America. Back to the States. (??!) Which we don’t have because we don’t know the exact date of our return. Again explaining our extended travel and the looseness of our plans, she nods that she understands but preceeds to tell us that there is no way for us to fly from Colombia to Boliva without proof of our return to the States. “I understand why Colombia would want to know when we are leaving Colombia, but why does Colombia care when we are leaving all of South America??” It’s not important to Colombia, she says, it’s important to Bolivia. Again, “Why?”

“Cada país tiene sus reglas.” (Each country has it’s own rules.) She says and shrugs.

And with that we agree to purchase flights home.  Our Avainca rep lets Bo get on her computer to book them as there is no wi-fi or public computers in the airport. Having had to change plane ticket plans once before down here, we knew that on Expedia we could usually cancel our flights within the first 24 hours of booking. After spending $6100 on  random tickets from Buenos Aires to Denver, we were praying that this would still be the case.

Finished the requirements, checked in 3 bags (our 2 suitcases and Bo’s backpack) and finally we are in the air towards Bogotá.

Sadly, the boys did not sleep on that flight, nor did they manage to nod off during our wait for the 11:00pm departure for La Paz. Did I mention that Vaughn got up that morning at 5:30 with Luke not far behind? Tired. Boys.

The flight to La Paz itself was uncomfortable and hot, but otherwise fairly uneventful. The boys did get a little less than 2 hours of sleep, Bo and I nodded in and out around them.

Arrive, go through the visa process (American citizens cannot visit Bolivia with just a passport, a $135 visa is required for each person), go through the customs process, never once asked for our “proof of exit”, grab our 2 suitcases and… no backpack. Plane searched, luggage area searched, help called in… no backpack. Head to other side of the airport to file lost baggage claim at the Avianca desk. Takes a long time but she seems confident our bag will be found and returned, I run to change some money, turns out money exchange doesn’t do Colombian pesos. We had some American dollars ready for paying our visa fees, but something about their serial number made them not changeable either — had one $20 bill that was accepted, and with enough to pay a taxi to get us to the hotel we finally started to head out. While loading up, we meet 2 other passengers from our plane filing claims, not for lost luggage but stolen items from inside their luggage. At which point I notice that our clips have been undone, although that is all because we also have locks on the zippers of our suitcases. So, our clothes were safe but we now have serious doubts as to what actually happened to our backpack. Still don’t know. Boys are zombies at this point having slept roughly 2 hours in the last 24 (pretty sure my mother of the year award is in the mail), but troopers. Honestly, we have rock star kids.

Things in the backpack: external hard drive for our computer, various other electronics, folder with all our copies of passports and our actual legal documents like marriage certificates, birth certificates and the like. The idea that they could be lost (stolen?) is worrying, but I have the originals of our passports and social security cards and vaccine cards in their own zippered pouch which is always in my purse when we travel so that not everything is in one place. Someone savvy on the hard-drive though could access info we don’t want accessed so passwords need to be changed and safeguards double checked. Thankfully, we do spread out our valuables when traveling and the other backpack that Bo used as his carry-on had our computer and ipad so not all was lost.

A lot though.

And now it is 5:06am and we are just checking in to our hotel, unable to do anything about the bag until after we get some sleep.

Amazingly we all start stirring just 5 hours later, around 10:30, and by 11 are headed out the door to find breakfast/lunch. It is cool and bright and we are definitely in the mountains again. We walk around for about an hour but are still pretty worn out so soon head back to our room, around 1pm.

Sometime between 11:00am and 1:00pm, the pouch I keep with our original passports and documents, was stolen.

Desperately hoping I had had an unusual bout of forgetfulness, Bo and I took turns plying the boys with movies and tearing our room apart- piece by piece. Aside from discovering a used condom between one of the mattress sets and some other traveler’s old luggage lock- we came up empty. I studied the surveillance video at our hotel and you can see me taking our passports out at 5:06 am to write the numbers down on the hotel check-in sheet, put them back in the packet, zip the packet closed, put it in my purse, zip my purse closed – and that’s it. That’s they last they were seen.

When it became clear that they were stolen and not misplaced, Bo kicked into high gear calling our bank first and sure enough, someone had tried to get into our Wells Fargo account that day. Same news from our credit card company.

Knowing that step one of moving out from under this mess is getting replacement passports I head downstairs to use the hotel computer (and start another movie for the now-getting-very-restless boys) and look into the American Embassy here in La Paz. It was closed today for Bolivia’s Independence Day but I was able to get a list online of what we would need to get our new passports. Every item listed is something we have ready in case this ever happened while we were down here, stored safely away from the originals in a locked bag – a black backpack to be exact. A missing (stolen?) black backpack.

It is now 3:44am La Paz time, and hopefully getting this out will help me quiet my brain for a little while tonight. Tomorrow involves police reports, finding an apartment for our now much longer stay, gathering info, making appointments at the embassy, figuring out how to prove we are who we say we are, and taking care of our sweet kids in the middle of it all.

Planning being Bo’s specialty, we do have other safeguards in place. A couple ATM’s that still work and copies of our important things stored electronically; and we were able to cancel those Buenos Aires tickets and stop the thieves from accessing any of our accounts. We’ll figure this out. And for the record, what absolutely could have devolved into chaos and screaming, instead saw us crying (me), hugging and holding hands and finally standing up straighter and stronger. An unbroken unit.

And now, taking the time to remember that, I do think I can sleep.

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Travel Light for Now

We are in Bogota waiting for a redeye to La Paz, Bolivia. Jamie and the boys enjoyed one last morning at the beach while I packed up our things. I thought picking up and zipping up would take all morning, but it only took an hour. We simply don’t have that much stuff anymore.

When we decided to do this sabbatical we did a mega purge. We moved from a four bedroom with a huge family room to four suitcases and a backpack. When we left Cotacachi for this travel phase we moved everything into two suitcases and a backpack. Now that we’ve throughly used our swimming trunks, cheap t-shirts and snorkels we are leaving those, plus a few other things we won’t need in the cold highlands of Bolivia.

It feels good to be so nimble and without much to drag around. Travel is challenging enough without bringing things you might need. It’s just the four of us, some clothes for the next week, stuff to keep our bodies clean, a nice selection of Apple products and a few toys. As we head into South America’s poorest country, I suppose it is good we’ve been practicing living with less. It’s also amazing that our less is more, way more, than most of the people we’ll meet.

I’m looking forward to Bolivia. Most days, I’m also looking forward to our return when our stuff isn’t dictated by what we can fit into the back of a small taxi. When we land stateside in just a few months and pick back up for life as we knew it, we’ll have nearly a clean slate on which to add our new stuff.  As I consider just how few things we have and ponder what we need and what we want, I hope we will be a bit more intentional filling that slate up than we were before.

I’m looking forward to that.

Categories: From Bo | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Two – no make that THREE weeks in Taganga

One of my favorite precepts of our travel phase was that if we got somewhere and didn’t like it- we could just move right along regardless of our original plans, and visa versa — if we showed up and loved it, we had the permission to stay as long as we liked. Taganga, Colombia has most definitely been a STAY place for us. Our one week in Santa Marta turned into one night in Santa Marta and two, now almost 3, weeks in Taganga. We found a great little apartment to rent that is steps from the beach, has air conditioning, and someone who helps sweep up all the sand that finds its way in on our clothes and hair and everything else. Ah, life at the beach…

Taganga drew us in in a way few places have, and it’s hard to explain just why. It is not safer, cleaner, friendlier, cheaper, or more beautiful than Cotacachi was, for example. And yet, every time the day of departure came close, we found ourselves asking the landlord for a few more more days, one more week…

It is a working fishing village boasting one cobbled walkway along the water with good restaurants, dreadlocked-artists selling shell necklaces on felt pallets, and some obligatory beach-ware stands.  All other streets and pathways here are made of dirt and populated by chickens, children, cats, dogs, turkeys, and card tables – the latter being where one’s neighbors congregate for hours at a time to play games and hope for a breeze.  Which they get in spades each hot afternoon when an in-no-way-subtle “breeze” comes racing down from the Sierras behind us and collides with the ocean air. Makes keeping glasses on the table and hair out of your eyes difficult, but also makes the heat bearable and keeps the bugs away- I love it.

All in, Taganga is a rough around the edges, hot, peaceful, helter-skelter, fishing and diving sweet spot. The Carribbean sea from this spot is neither turquoise colored nor warm, but on good days is instead the bright clear of a mountain stream and nearly as cool. On not good days, there is trash that washes in on the lapping waves and impassable mud rivers throughout town when it rains. To get word of tourists getting mugged on the trail from town to Playa Grande is not uncommon and yet the path is never empty. There is a lot that is difficult about Taganga, but for us anyway, it’s beauty and charm and …. I honestly don’t know the word… unique something, has been completely captivating.

We’ve posted a huge amount of photos here to add to the description of this place. Believe it or not, we’ve taken over 900, so sharing 60 is very conservative by comparison. 😉  And to start this off… here’s a video Bo caught of the loud, chaotic, completely unsafe (and therefore very South American) celebration of Colombia’s Independence Day we managed to catch on our 2nd night here.

As one spray-painted sign next to the water says, “Vive Taganga!”

Categories: From Bo, From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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