Posts Tagged With: Family Sabbatical

Spreadin’ the News…

It has been nearly 7 weeks at home now and we are certainly getting all the wheels turning again.  For the boys that means school and play dates and reconnecting with friends. For Bo that has meant starting out on his own in work he has wanted to make his career for as long as I’ve known him. He’s working full time as a management consultant and loving it.

And for myself… in trying to figure out what my next progression ought to be, one option in particular got me excited about the idea of heading to work each day.  Thanks to all the encouragement from you readers of this blog, I am exploring the world as a writer.

So far this has entailed writing everything from wine reviews to pages of prose no one will ever see to further summaries of our sabbatical experience for those wanting to hear more. And today, thanks to our wonderful and supportive hometown newspaper, I get to share with all of you findingforeigners my very first ever byline!  Thanks to the Crested Butte News for letting me tell our story in their paper!

Here’s the link, and below is the image of how it appeared in the paper itself:

Believe it or not, I have a couple other pieces being published in the next few weeks and will share those with you when they come out. In the meantime, if there is a topic you want to hear more about or a question you’ve been wanting to ask, or a fantastic and high-paying world-wide major publication that you’d like me to write for…

now would be an awesome time to drop me a line about that.  😉

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

One Month Ago Today…

…we were here:

 

Which is so hard to believe! I didn’t have the chance to share our Uruguay visit with you before we landed Stateside, so when I realized that that’s where we were on October 4, 2012 – it seemed like a good time to bring those photos out.  🙂

Colonia is beautiful. And magic. And if you ever have the chance to go there, do. Its tranquility defies logic, given that we arrived there via ferry from bustling Buenos Aires, a Huge and Packed ferry that does that trip 3 times a day, and yet somehow all those people became no more than mist as we found ourselves walking along utterly quiet tree-lined cobblestone streets with only the birds and a the river’s waves for company. Maybe it was part nostalgia, knowing that our trip was almost over, but I thought a number of times as we explored around that Colonia had a fairy-tale feel to it. We had one of our most care-free, joyful days there and it was a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful end to our sabbatical.

Let me show you:

 

 

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Home Sweet Foreign — wait, what?

We have made it all the way to Crested Butte, CO! And we are, without question, HOME, don’t let the title of this post fool you on that score. Crested Butte is just as beautiful as we remembered, our friends even more precious than before, our senses alive with the sights and smells and sounds (or lack thereof) that yell Home! It’s nice.

That said, while moving first to Ecuador then to four other South American countries and taking on scary Bolivian Immigration all within the framework of one year was/is impressive; I’m almost of the opinion at this point that what we’ve done in the last two weeks may be ever more so. The fact that we can all speak in our native tongue when trying to get stuff done does make things easier and faster, it surprisingly does not make them completely stress or mistake-free. Our day car shopping was the first testament to that, and we’ve had many others since.  We are settling in, mas o menos, yet finding it nearly as foreign to be here, as a new us in our old setting, as it was to be the old us in all those new settings.

It’s a strange sensation to describe, this homecoming of ours. I love knowing the streets and directions and which exact isle at the store has cereal or coffee. We love seeing the familiar faces and hugging all the friends and family that were so so missed.

But it’s also a little jarring sometimes. For me, it feels as if I have a new and attached shape of…something… all around me that is not quite solid, but more substantial than air, and I keep knocking it up against doors and boxes and pedestrians as I walk by. I don’t take up the same shape of space as I used to, but I don’t know what shape I currently claim.

Coming from a South American sabbatical to start your entire career and community life up again, but with a more light-hearted and calm pace than you left with, within the structure of a modern American community template is a mammoth undertaking. Even when that community is as relatively laid back as CB.

It’s like trying to catch a brake-less racing train. Choice one: you can wait until the end of time for it to come to a full stop, allow you on, look around for your new seat and view, then- slowly-chug, chug, chug up to your pre-approved speed. Or, Choice two: You sprint alongside and jump.

South America taught me to look for a Choice 3.

Still looking. 😉

Thankfully, it is off-season here. It is quiet. The colors are gone and the snow not yet arrived and the tawny fields and stark aspen trees lend a peaceful stillness to our spirits that makes this strange reverse culture shock much easier to absorb.

I think we tricked ourselves into thinking that once we got home Everything would be so much easier! We would know exactly what people were saying, could follow conversations with ease and have current season Grey’s Anatomy showings each week.

Ok, that last one is just me.

Not the point.

The point is that our Sabbatical was never meant to provide us with the secret tools to An Easy Life.

It was meant to provide us practice time with some pretty well-known tools for living Life.

And so as we start school and look for work and buy cars, we also take long walks, lots of photos, and do our own full-stops of time with people and places, and each other.

It is good to be home. Amidst all that we are figuring out anew, it is good to be home.

And it is good that home is foreign enough to us that we can’t live it on autopilot.

What a fantastic surprise.

“Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.”
 — Donald Miller

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Day 248

I remember writing our Day 1 Post. I remember the awe and excitement and wonder, and nerves, at all we had just done and all the unknown that was ahead of us to do.  I remember saying that it was great. I remember that it was.

Beginnings get a lot of press. Like the first day of Spring, which we are experiencing in the Southern Hemisphere right now, beginnings are clean and open and green. They smell good. They are unmarred and easily celebrated. As they should be.

Endings though, rarely get the joy of that flip-sided coin. And that is a shame. Endings are beautiful. It is in the beginning that something becomes possible, it is in the ending that something becomes precious.

This was true of leaving Crested Butte last January. I had lunch with friends, took impromptu walks on trails I thought I knew, and initiated longer sidewalk conversations all on a moment’s notice, and devoid of the “busy” excuse I used to wear like a uniform. Anxious to get the time and love in before we left.

This was true of leaving Cotacachi, when suddenly all the oddness and quirks and messes that hours before drove us mad, took a drastic turn towards the endearing.

This was true of leaving Taganga, Buenos Aires, and even our one day in Colonia as well. Each place that we found new and exciting in the beginning really revealing their worth as we prepared our goodbyes.

Of the blogs I’ve read of other families that have done something like this, they unanimously report at the end of it that they wanted more time. It felt too short. They wish it could be longer. They were just getting the hang of things.  All of them say that – whether their stint was 3 months, 6 months, or over a year. Importantly, all of them say that in their last, or next to last, post.  We feel the same way. We want more, now that at the end of things we see without distraction the gift of what we have together.

These are the most fantastic people I hang out with. They are funny and brave. Cute and dashing. Kind and honest. They are my heroes. I knew these things about them before of course, but I know them differently now. I know them in the way I know my own skin or recognize my own voice. And I suspect that while we may feel like we are “just now getting the hang of it”, it would be truer to say that we are just now realizing how much we actually got the hang of  together and are justifiably in awe, with a splash of disbelief.

This has been amazing.

Amazing, Amazing,  Amazing.

Beauty and love and awareness and appreciation don’t always show up at first, but they unfailingly swell at the end. Daring you not to cry at the noticing.

And so through the tears and the reflection I can’t help but grin. I am so happy about this ending. I am so grateful for all the spotlight on the precious. I am so fortunate to have a lifetime experience that is wonderful enough to mourn its passing.

What happens for us after the end? After Day 248?

We wake up tomorrow in Colorado with yet another clean slate and a multitude of spring green options ahead.

We wake up on the next Day 1.  And all the joy and possibility beginnings always have.

So. Grateful.

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Jamie’s Happy Place

Truth be told, I am blessed to have a lot of them and from every section of this trip.

But holy cow.

Those of you who know me well will no doubt understand why I titled this post that way when I tell you what I found.

El Ateneo.

El Ateneo is a beautifully renovated and restored early 1900’s theatre that is currently run as a bookstore and cafe.

Theatre AND Bookstore AND Wine – in one gorgeous space!

You can browse selections in the balcony seats, marvel at the artwork covering the ceiling and then have a cortado or copa de vino on the stage while you peruse your latest literary find.

It is beautiful.

I took the boys on an excursion there, and proving my genetic contribution in ways other than their looks, they LOVED it as well. 😉

Check it out:

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Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

It Is Time

Well, not really. It is ALMOST time. After 27 more days and one more country, THEN it will be time.

Time to come home.

It is hard to believe but it was just last October when Bo and I took a trip to Cuenca, Ecuador that the wheels in our imaginations began to really spin around the dream of pulling a family sabbatical off. And now, this October 6, we will be flying from Montevideo, Uruguay to Denver, Colorado having actually pulled this family sabbatical off!

My, what you can do with a year.

After Uruguay, the hope is to set up house again in Crested Butte, Colorado but we are looking into Denver as well. Bo’s passion for business consulting and my desire to see the inside of a classroom again will play a large role in where we land.  We are both excitedly looking forward to what this next step in exploration will reveal.

There will be posts-a-plenty coming about insights and highs and lows and all that has happened in between, but what we really want to share now is the news that we’ll be spending the holidays with loved ones and hugging all of our friends and family and LUCY soon!

I do have two thoughts for now though, real quick.

This whole sabbatical thing?

It’s fantastic.

And coming home?

It doesn’t feel like an end. It feels like the time for another beginning.

It feels like this,

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , | 14 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

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

Cartagena!

A fairy-tale city of the first order, Cartagena, Colombia did not disappoint. The air and the magnolia trees and the buildings and the people… all made me think of this place being a mix of New Orleans and Charleston — only even more mysterious with a palpable old world South American majesty that it carries with it to this day.

In addition to the obvious charm of the place,

 

 

And the HEAT :

 

 

There was incredible DANCING!!

We caught an impromptu street dance-off, which the boys loved and then tried to copy:

 

These dancers were harder to mimic, but amazing to watch!

 

 

 

So far, WE ARE LOVING COLOMBIA! 🙂

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

Plans Change

One year ago life was pretty good.

It was early summer in Crested Butte. The boys were enjoying the long warm days and time with friends and family, Jamie was looking forward to her cousin’s wedding and to doing another show, I was getting in biking shape and work was as good as it had been in years. Things were all right and the plan was to keep building our lives more or less like we had been.

But, plans change.

Under the surface of our relatively steady lives, and maybe in part because of our relatively steady lives, there were the makings for some major change. In fact, within six months, we would announce that we were going to leave all that we knew: friends, family, home, work, toys, favorite activities and even our dog, to live a different life in a different land, at least for a while. There was a unique window of opportunity that might not come again to follow this dream and to be closer to each other in a new way.

We had thought hard about making this change and done what seemed like a lot of research on the logistics. The plan was to start in Ecuador, travel around, find a place we liked, live there for six months and then travel to other parts of South America for another 8-12 months. We looked at our finances and estimated that if we could live on a very lean budget (1/3 of our monthly budget in the US), that we could make our family sabbatical last for 18 months. After our “down time” in Ecuador, we hoped to visit and spend weeks and months in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. With that as the plan, we were off!

But, plans change.

In the ensuing weeks and months, we learned a few things. While Jamie and I are willing to put ourselves through some crazy stuff, we have limits when it comes to our boys. We now realize that although it’s possible to live on 1/3 of our previous US budget, it’s not preferable. We still like to eat good meat and sleep in quiet, “undank” rooms with a low chance of bug infestation. We’ve used many resources to aid us along, but there is no “Lonely Planet” type manuel of instructions that addresses our family-with-young-kids-on-a-prolonged-family-sabbatical demographic. We are writing our guidebook as we go. So yes, we have learned how to live with less, but we’ve also learned to appreciate who we are and what we want!

Usually, what we want when we are thousands of miles away from home with our young boys costs more money than we budgeted, sometimes by a lot.  In fact, on top of our newly defined culinary and lodging sensibilities, we have also determined that more than eight hours on a bus with our boys is a recipe for disaster; one of us is likely to crack, or at least throw up. Alas, the alternative of flying from country to country also turns out to be much more expensive than we’d read! The result of these lessons and other now better understood realities is that it is time to change our plans again.

We will be leaving Ecuador in a few weeks, which is about a month sooner than we’d thought, and heading to the Caribbean coast of Colombia for a few weeks. From there, we hope to make it down to Peru for some more time in the Andes and then onto Argentina for some trains, good steak and wine just as their spring arrives. It seems then that Bolivia, Chile, Brazil and Uruguay have been placed back into the some day maybe category again. After all this, roughly 6 months from now, we plan to be back in Crested Butte gearing up for a great and very snowy winter.

But, plans change.

And that’s okay with us. The point was never the plan, the point was, and remains, to follow this dream and grow closer to each other while we do. Which, as it turns out, makes for one really good plan; one that hasn’t changed.

Categories: From Bo | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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