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Category Archives: foreign service

Wonders of life as a Foreign Service Family – Life at the New Post.

Greetings from Brasilia!

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After several weeks of ‘transitional homes’ we safely made it to our permanent housing assignment. And why is it important to mention it is a ‘permanent house’? Maybe for the curious ones, with friends cruising thru the joys of the Foreign Service life, there’ll be a long explanation out there waiting to be spelled out. :o For now, it’s enough saying we’re glad we don’t have to move to a difference residence. We’re comfortable and settled down. At least, as comfortable as possible – kids have enrolled into a Summer camp program, and we’re getting to know new families, learning the ropes for the city…

What and where to find our immediate needs for the house (forgot to mention that, although we like our ‘new place’, it’s pretty bare, hence the need to go out and buy not only groceries, but trash cans, cleaning products… You name it!).

The illusion of two hands together reaching up to the sky creates the Metropolitan Cathedral of Brasilia
The illusion of two hands together reaching up to the sky creates the Metropolitan Cathedral of Brasilia

Despite all the usual initial difficulties, inherent to the nature of the move, we believe we’ll have a nice time here. That’s the ultimate hope. We now have cable TV and internet – a great milestone! Kids have already made friends with some other children who would likely be attending the same school. We’re trying to build our own niche, despite the smell of fresh coat of paint that greets us every time we come back to the house… :)

I believe we’ll be happy here – at least we’ll try… Right now, wearing my most-hopeful-foreign service-spouse hat… The only one I was able to fit on our suitcase… Yeap, the same suitcase I’ve been living out of, for the past 8 weeks… But, who’s counting, right? :)

Now, let me get back to checking on my 3 little ones – just heard some clapping, so, I’m assuming the movie outside-and-popcorn event just ended – will go hug my kids with the most thankful smile to the Summer Camp supervisors and organizers: they enabled this very busy mom to enjoy some quiet time (and a coffee!), while getting back on the blogosphere horse!

Ate mais!

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Wonders of life as a Foreign Service Family – Random Thoughts on Home Leave

Well, we’re back in Washington, DC – the last part of our ‘transitional’ Home Leave, surviving thru the perks of living out of our suitcases since May 19… but you know, not bad at all! :o No complaints on hauling our three children around, departing La Paz, Bolivia, heading to California for some family catch up… taking the kiddos to Disneyland and Legoland, surviving the long lines, the screaming, the cries for attention and for over-priced popcorn… picking up a few family members along the way, driving all of us to witness in loco the magnificent views offered by the Grand Canyon… and flying back to the East Coast… much has happened, and definitely, no time to spare… not even for blogging!

Need to do a better job trying to catch up with our lives… Haven’t had much free time, I must admit – the little ones keep me on my toes, and as any parent around here must know, Summer Break has all of us [parents] pulling our hair trying to find educational, recreational, interesting and fun activities for our lovies, during this time… it’s work, people… and we’ve been doing this for some 5 weeks already.. again… living out of suitcases, staying with family, long car rides… a few car sicknesses along the way… always fun! :o

Now, it’s home stretch – a few days in the DC area, and we head out to our newest work and life adventure – Brasília, the capital of Brazil [yeap, the beautiful country that just put out the most unbelievable performance during the recent World Soccer Cup - don't even get me started on that... as a Brazilian-born soccer-passionate soccer-mom-wife, I'm still recovering from the 'bad dream' many of us witnessed these past weeks...] Our family will be in Brasília for the next 3 years. Husband’s duty, as many wives/spouses here would relate and sympathize... :o

Presently writing from a government-per-diem-acceptpleasant hotel room, packed with my noisy and restless adorable and very understanding little children, enjoying some quite time while I gather my blogging thoughts together [who am I kidding?? And why do we need to have both TVs on, and so loud??] But, all in all, I guess we’re ready for what’s in store for us… let’s wait and see! :o

Classic pic, right? Gotta have your moment in the sun with Mr Mouse! A quick snapshot from our first stop during Home Leave 2014 - not-yet-tired parents at Disneyland!

Classic pic, right? Gotta have your moment in the sun with Mr Mouse! A quick snapshot from our first stop during Home Leave 2014 – not-yet-tired parents at Disneyland!

 

 

 

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Last Sunday in Bolivia.

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Definitely, no regrets. Glad for the experiences we were offered.

Now, time to look into the future…

 

14 Days to Depart Post…

I believe we’re ready to begin saying goodbye to Bolivia – our home for the past two years – with a big THANK YOU! :o

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Photography: Train Cemetery in Uyuni, Bolivia.

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It’s said to be gateway for tourists visiting the world’s largest salt flats, the nearby Uyuni salt flat.

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Founded in 1890 as a trading post, the town has a population of 10,460 (2012). The town has an extensive street-market. It lies at the edge of an extensive plain at an elevation of 3,700 m (12,139 ft) above sea level, with more mountainous country to the east.

 

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The city also acts as a gateway for commerce and traffic crossing into and out of Bolivia from and to Chile. One of the main attraction, and in our case, for 2 visiting families, with 7 kids, ages ranging from 3 to 12 years old, is the Train Cemetery. :o

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The so-called ‘train graveyard’ is located 3 km outside Uyuni and is connected to it by the old train tracks. The town served in the past as a distribution hub for the trains carrying minerals on their way to the Pacific Ocean ports.

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The train lines were built by British engineers who arrived near the end of the 19th century and formed a sizable community in Uyuni.

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The rail construction started in 1888 and ended in 1892. It was encouraged by the then Bolivian President Aniceto Arce, who believed Bolivia would flourish with a good transport system, but it was also constantly sabotaged by the local indigenous people who saw it as an intrusion into their lives. The trains were mostly used by the mining companies. In the 1940s, the mining industry collapsed, partly due to the mineral depletion. Many trains were abandoned thereby producing the train cemetery.

 

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“Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time” Book Review by Brigid Schulte

A couple of weeks back, during my ‘usual morning routine at work’,  I stumbled upon a book review published on the Washington Post, under the ‘Parenting’ section, and found it so clear, so engaging, that I felt like ordering the book right then!

The review was written by Jennifer Howard, and today I received the ‘okay’ from the Washington Post editors to have it shared here – for the ones who didn’t have the same opportunity read it over there :o here is the link, and below, the full review. Enjoy as much as I did!

 


‘Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time’ by Brigid Schulte

By Jennifer Howard, Published: March 21
When did we get so busy? For many of us, life unspools as a never-ending to-do list. Wake up, pack lunches, get the kids to school, get ourselves to our jobs, work all day, collect the kids, make dinner, supervise homework, do the laundry, walk the dog, pay the bills, answer e-mail, crawl into bed for a few fitful hours of sleep, wake up already exhausted, then do it all over again. Weekends, which ought to be oases of leisure, have their own hectic rhythms: errands, chores, sports events, grocery shopping, exercise. Dispatch one task and six more take its place, a regenerating zombie army of obligations.

This brain-eating assault of to-dos leaves its victims wrung out, joyless, too tired to stop and smell the roses (which probably need pruning and mulching anyway — add that to the list). But “this is how it feels to live my life: scattered, fragmented, and exhausting,” Brigid Schulte writes early in “Overwhelmed,” her unexpectedly liberating investigation into the plague of busyness that afflicts us. “I am always doing more than one thing at a time and feel I never do any one particularly well. I am always behind and always late, with one more thing and one more thing and one more thing to do before rushing out the door.

She could be describing my days and probably yours, especially if you’re a working parent in the overcommitted middle part of life. Schulte, a longtime reporter for The Washington Post and the mother of two school-age kids, has a word for this shared unpleasantness: the Overwhelm. She takes her own harried-working-mom life as the jumping-off point for her research on where the Overwhelm comes from and what we can do about it.

Busyness has become so much the assumed default of many lives that it feels as elemental and uncontrollable as weather. So Schulte’s shocked when John Robinson, a University of Maryland sociologist known as Father Time, tells her that women have at least 30 hours of leisure a week, according to his time-use studies. She can’t reconcile that statistic with how her hours seem shredded into “time confetti — one big, chaotic burst of exploding slivers, bits, and scraps.” Nor does she believe it when Robinson tells her that we feel busy in part because we decide to feel busy.

Schulte quickly moves on to other researchers’ explorations of workplace culture, gender roles and time management, finding both reassurance and confirmation that she’s not making up the Overwhelm. She learns that the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that “acts like a patient yet controlling kindergarten teacher,” shrinks under the neurochemical onslaught of constant stress. That lets the amygdala, “the seat of negative emotions like fear, aggression, and anxiety,” take over. Anyone who has ever yelled at her kids while searching frantically for the car keys 10 minutes after the family should have left the house understands this.

If the neuroscience Schulte reports is right, feeling busy all the time shrinks the better part of our brains. But busyness also delivers cultural rewards. We feel important when we’re always booked, according to researchers such as Ann Burnett, who has studied thousands of the holiday letters people send to trumpet the year’s accomplishments.

Burnett’s collection of letters, which date back to the 1960s, make up “an archive of the rise of busyness” as something to aspire to. As Burnett tells Schulte: “People are competing about being busy. It’s about showing status. That if you’re busy, you’re important. You’re leading a full and worthy life.” The more you do, the more you matter, or so the reigning cultural script goes.

That script dictates how many offices and homes run. At work, the cult of the always-available “ideal worker” still “holds immense power,” Schulte writes, even as more people telecommute and work flexible hours. The technology that untethers workers from cubicles also makes it very hard to not be on call at all times. (I’d have liked to see Shulte spend more time on how technology fuels the cult of busyness.)

Those who escape the “time cages” of traditional workplaces confront what Schulte calls “a stalled gender revolution” at home, with consequences especially burdensome for women. She cites work by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on how women’s time is “contaminated” by “keeping in mind at all times all the moving parts of kids, house, work, errands, and family calendar.”

Only in Denmark does Schulte find a culture that appears to balance work, home and play in a truly egalitarian way. Because “Overwhelmed” sticks closest to the experience of working American parents, she goes after the shameful lack of affordable child care in this country. She even interviews Pat Buchanan, who in the 1970s helped sabotage a bill that would have created universal child care.

While that’s a useful bit of policy history to contemplate, and one that still affects us today, the most engaging sections of “Overwhelmed” stick to the here and now and how we let the cult of busyness lay waste to our hours. “Contaminated” time eats away at leisure, according to researcher Ben Hunnicutt, and by “leisure” he does not mean hours spent parked on the sofa in front of the telly. Leisure, to Hunnicutt, means experiencing “the miracle of now” or “simply being open to the wonder and marvel of the present” — the sense of being alive, which no to-do list will ever capture.

Although it illuminates a painfully familiar experience, “Overwhelmed” doesn’t speak for or about everyone. It lingers most on the conditions under which middle-class mothers and fathers labor, but the Overwhelm afflicts the child-free, too. The working poor are stretched even thinner. And how workers in China or Indonesia or India or South Africa feel about the balance of their lives is understandably beyond Schulte’s scope, although Europeans make a few appearances.

The question raised by “Father Time” John Robinson nags at this book like a forgotten homework assignment. The further I read, the more I began to wonder how much of the Overwhelm is at least partly self-inflicted and to see opportunities to reclaim time. Like Jacob Marley’s ghost, we’ve forged chains of obligation that we drag around with us. But if we made those chains, we can loosen them too, as Schulte has tried to do, with some success. In an appendix, “Do One Thing,” she offers useful starting points, such as learning not to give your time away and setting clear expectations about what really needs to be accomplished. Not every to-do item is created equal.

Do our employers really expect us to be on call 24/7, tethered to our smartphones as if they were oxygen tanks? Just because we can check e-mail at all hours, should we? Do our offspring really need to be hauled around to every soccer game and music lesson? Does every last piece of laundry have to be folded and put away before we can sit down with a cup of coffee, stare out the window and daydream? As a neighbor said to me not long ago, your work e-mail can wait. Your life can’t.

Jennifer Howard , a fiction writer and journalist, is a senior reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

 
 

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Hot off the Press! Featured Expat: Interviewed by the ExpatsBlog.

Expat InterviewsAfter reading, if you have any comments about the interview, or any questions to ask, hop over to the ExpatsBlog and share your thoughts there! Thank you!

American Expat Living in Bolivia – Interview with Raquel

The mastermind behind 3rdCultureChildren Blog is a Foreign Service spouse, mother of 3 third-culture children aged 8 and under, with an endless passion for discovering and learning new languages, cultures, traveling and photography. Before joining the foreign service lifestyle, her background in Science and research took her to understand that world is much more than the geographic and physical boundaries may display it. Se enjoys teaching, talking, and, as an avid blogger, sharing hers and her family’s stories and lessons learned with other expat families. She’s contributed her experiences to the Foreign Service Journal, online publications and to a recent book on expat resilience. She initially began blogging to share impressions, observations and along-the-road experiences with families and friends, and later other expats experiencing similar challenges/adventures. So the blog morphed into more than just a quasi-travel and photo journal. Raquel’s expat blog is called 3rd Culture Children (see listing here)
Archipelago Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
Archipelago Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Here’s the interview with Raquel…

Where are you originally from?
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In which country and city are you living now?
La Paz, Bolivia

How long have you lived in Bolivia and how long are you planning to stay?
Since August 2012. Planning to stay until June 2014.

Jericoacoara Beach, Brazil
Jericoacoara Beach, Brazil

Why did you move to Bolivia and what do you do?
Because of my husband’s assignment with the US Foreign Service. I also have a full-time job with the US Embassy La Paz, and have been working since March 2013.

Did you bring family with you?
Yes. The two of us and our three children, aged 8, 6 and 3.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Extremely easy, as a matter of fact. I grew up in Brazil, where my parents also worked for the Brazilian government. Our original family of 5 [my parents and my 2 brothers] were often requested to move to different cities, changing schools every couple of years. As an adult, working as a laboratory researcher, moving was also part of my normal routine. After marrying my husband, and due to his assignments with the State Department foreign service, the cycle ‘moving/adjusting/changing/re-inventing’ has become a regular task on our lives [smiles!].

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
It’s never as easy as one expects. There are always challenges, being those related to language [although in our household we commonly switch between Portuguese-English-Spanish], culture, new schools, new jobs [for me, especially!]. Leaving old friends behind, and aiming to make new ones is never easy. I try to think of myself as a ‘serial-social being’. I’m always on-the-go, and throughout the years, I found myself displaying social skills I didn’t really know I had. I’m social because it’s a necessity. But I also enjoy the change, which tends to make the moves a bit easier. Especially on the family – it’s less difficult to face challenges when one has an idea what could be ahead of them, and has the time and the emotional support to deal with them…

Kruger Park, South Africa
Kruger Park, South Africa

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Bolivia is a country with beautiful landscapes. Any outdoors activities are highly recommended, if the basic precautions [with the high altitude, especially] are taken. The Bolivian people tend to be warm and welcoming. Shopping for arts and crafts should be included in any expats visiting list, as well as, reserving some time to enjoy the typical food, and the dancing and musical expressions, only found around the Andean region.

What do you enjoy most about living in Bolivia?
The climate is great – it feels like a nice Fall day all year around. We live surrounded by mountains, which offers us a very soothing scenario – if one likes to lounge around, reading a good book, or enjoying a glass of wine by the fireplace, that’s definitely a place to be. The crime rate [a crucial point for any expat list!] is very low, and La Paz is a friendly city for families – lots of parks and activities to do with/bring little kids along. Again: safety is key.

How does the cost of living in Bolivia compare to home?
Much less than in the USA, or even in Brazil.

Reed Dance in Swaziland
Reed Dance in Swaziland

What negatives, if any, are there to living in Bolivia?
It’s a landlocked territory – we’re far from the water. Also, the high altitude can play not-so-funny games with one’s health. Our family, so far, hasn’t suffered much from those effects, but we’ve heard others complain about getting sick all the time… Each one is different, and again, the regular, recommended medical/health advices should be taken very seriously.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Bolivia, what would it be?
Bring your best adventurous spirit – you’ll need it! Also, keep your expectations low: it’s the bet advice to a prospective expat or visiting fellow – expecting less, one may be pleasantly surprised with the outcome!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The difficulties to fly out of Bolivia to other countries, presently. From previous posts, the physical distance between our family nucleus and our parents.

When you finally return home, how do you think you’ll cope with repatriation?
Communicating with others, we hope! We have a very good group of friends and former colleagues at home [it's Washington DC, and we all work for the government, so, it's pretty common to have people coming and going, all the time!] It’s all part of work: the moving, the paking-out…

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?

  1. Dream away. And dream big. Dream of traveling to unknown places, learning from new people, immersing into new cultures.
  2. Keep your expectations low. Many surprises should come your way if you’re not waiting for anything!
  3. Be social. Be friendly. Be smart. Street Smart! Be conscious and be aware of your surroundings, as well. Teaching lessons come in different envelopes, sometimes, in a not-so-nice ones!
  4. Try to learn a new language, try to communicate with the locals and understand their stories and their culture. Communicate. Listen and be heard.
  5. Attempt to comprehend the new country’s traditions, faith, and fears… The harmonious relationship between the local community and Mother Nature. Learn from their experiences and build your own story. It’s worthy every second in invest in!

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
As a traveling family, we’ve lived in Mozambique, South Africa, Brazil, Bolivia, and during our work assignments, we traveled to England, Chile, USA and Swaziland. I liked the idea of organizing not only our travel notes, but also providing resources for other parents, and encouraging an exchange of ideas through comments, questions and suggestions from viewers. The name for the blog came from the term itself: “Third Culture Children” are children whose parents come from distinct cultures, and grow up under a hybrid environment, experiencing diverse cultural growth. “The result of this transcontinental growth can never be taught or learned or fully understood by anyone who hasn’t actually experienced it. The developing child takes the culture of their parent’s passport country, or their first culture, to a foreign land. The result is that the child (and later on, the adult) adopts the qualities of the Second Culture into their preexisting First Culture, creating a unique cultural perspective known as the Third Culture”. As an expat who is now raising three children, all aged 8 and under, the titled seemed a natural fit! I’m so pleased to share with other expatriates, parents, and traveling families, not only the beauty and excitement of traveling, but also resources regarding languages, social and cultural adjustments, and our not-so-professional advice as “parents-on-the-go“.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Feel free to send me a note thru Twitter, or visit our expat blog, http://3rdculturechildren.com, sharing your comments on any recent post or pages – I’d love to hear from you!

 

http://www.expatsblog.com/articles/1722/american-expat-living-in-bolivia-interview-with-raquel

 

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What Drives Me Crazy?

Oh, boy!

If you asked my husband, he’ll clearly tell anyone, I don’t need any triggering reason to go insane… <3 He’d state that in a very loving way, and yet, he’d say it!

The ‘little voices in my head’ would likely echo his statement. But I firmly disagree: it’s hard for me to lose my cool, although, a few things would definitely make it to the list of ‘strong reasoning facts’ that drive me crazy… This morning I was cruising thru the WP ‘inspirational’ suggestions, and found Krista’s topic, on ‘She drives me crazy’. In my case, “She” has morphed into a  list of well-balanced reasons, which I should name ‘boiling point checklist’ :

  •  Somebody over here, another ‘inspired blogger’, came up with a masterpiece on how useless the so-called “inspirational images” from FB [and why not, from other social media channels?] are – I could not agree more with him. That said, thank you very much RichyDispatch for getting me all fired-up for this writing prompt! You’ve become my instant Monday Hero! :o

  • Still on the “social media” subject, another boiling point disclosure seems to be the way people describe themselves/their achievements/their fantastic lives on the ‘social scene’…. is it me, or, pretty much everyone else out there seems to have the smartest children, their overachiever spouses, the greatest and best paid jobs? Maybe it’s just me, but this constant display of ‘my grass is greener than yours’ gets old very quickly…

  • Leaving the social media aside, now let’s move to another common boiling point-trigger: The School Moms. Oh, my! This is for the many parents out there, especially the ones who try to get involved with their kiddo’s school activities. I’ve got a question for y’all: have you ever had any issues with [not of them, but they've got representatives all over the world] the PTA mafia? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, there’s no need to worry, and it also means you haven’t had any bad experiences with the before-mentioned group – for the ones who understand my pain, that’s enough said!

  • Different scenario, now: the work place/social gatherings:

I’m born and raised Latina, so I believe I’ve got a pass to share my two cents on this. In most of latino countries, people never miss an event; they’re also, never on time! I try my best to get all my household act together before heading out to work. I’m currently living and working at a latino country – the perception of regular/expected work hours seem to differ from one person to the other. And why? Latinos don’t believe in a set time, for anything! [again, I can speak out my thoughts 'cause I was born in Brazil, and when I last checked, it's part of the colorful/wonderful Latino community!]. 

You wanna plan a dinner starting at 8, remember to tell your guests dinner is scheduled for 6. Most people will be there at/around 8:30. It’s a good technique, and you don’t stress out.

You’re throwing a birthday party for your toddler, and it should run from 2-4, don’t expect the lovely little ones [and their respective families] to depart before dinner time. That said, get your post-birthday-dinner ready for the tardy ones – they’ll likely overstay, and they’ll surely be hungry!

 

Do these type of issues make my blood boil inside my veins? 

 Just a little bit… :o

 
 

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The Jesuit Mission of Santa Ana de Velasco, La Cenicienta Chiquitana…

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An extraordinary discovery was made in 1972, at one of the old Jesuit missions of Bolivia. There were 3,000 sheets of Baroque music in a trunk kept in the priest’s lavatory and used as toilet paper. Most of it was by an almost forgotten Italian-born composer called Domenico Zipoli (1688-1726). “How on earth did Baroque composers end up in South America to produce this extraordinary fusion of classical and local traditions that is still being discovered?” Question asked by Simon Broughton – worth a read, for sure!

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Apart from its beautiful church (the most indigenous of the mission templos, as it was built entirely by natives without Jesuit assistance or direction), Santa Ana is famous for its music. The church’s organ and diatonic harp (the latter of which was built by native hands) are still functional, and during restoration, thousands of missionary-era musical scores were discovered.

Music played a special part in all aspects of life and in the evangelization of the natives. Realizing the musical capacities of the Indians, the Jesuits sent important composers, choir directors, and manufacturers of musical instruments to South America. The most famous was probably the Italian baroque composer Domenico Zipoli, who worked in the reductions in Paraguay. Fr. Johann Mesner and Fr. Martin Schmid, two Jesuit missionaries with musical talent, went to the Chiquitania. Martin Schmid built an organ with six stops in Potosí, disassembled it, transported it by mules over a distance of 1,000 km on a difficult road to the remote mission of Santa Ana de Velasco, and re-assembled it there from hand. It is still is use. The Jesuits used musical lessons as a first step to the Christianization of the natives.

Now, we’re on 2014: Directly from the Mission in Santa Ana, although quaint, discreet, a favorite for our family, because of its humble beauty. A bonus added to our visit to the Mission Jesuitica de Santa Ana de Velasco? Listening to a real play on this simple, yet so magnificent organ. Enjoy as much as we did!

 

And guess who just decided to sit down and play a bit for her [so-very-proud!] children – after the very-gracious young girl Antonia finished her piece? :o You guessed right! Thank you for joining us on this beautiful journey through art, music, history and emotions!

 

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Photo Journal: UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bolivia – The Jesuit Missions.

Clearly, I haven’t had a lot of time lately to devote the deserved attention to our family’s travel blog. Shame on me! :o But really: we’re getting ready for an upcoming pack-out/home leave in the US/next country assignment – Brazil. All that, while still working as a full-time professional, around-the-clock mom, wife and friend! Well, will do my best from this point on! Here’s a ‘photo jounal’ of our week-long trip to the Department of Santa Cruz, including several worldly recognized cultural and ecological sites:

[Placeholder] Visiting the Jesuit Missions in Bolivia.

Trying to offer a bit of ‘catch up’ with our travel posts [before many more begin pilling up !] Our family still has a big trip planned before we depart Bolivia – somewhere around the school Easter break, but for now, let me share a bit of our visits to some of the Bolivian UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The first one refers to the Jesuit Missions [Misiones Jesuiticas] in Santa Cruz de La Sierra.
In a very near future, I’ll aim to tackle another heritage site: the wilderness and unique culture of Samaipata, also located in the Department of Santa Cruz.

The Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos are located in Santa Cruz department in eastern Bolivia. Six of these former missions (all now secular municipalities) collectively were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990. Distinguished by a unique fusion of European and Amerindian cultural influences, the missions were founded as reductions or reducciones de indios by Jesuits in the 17th and 18th centuries to convert local tribes to Christianity.

Between 1696 and 1760, six ensembles of settlements of Christianized Indians, also called “reducciones” inspired by the 16th-century philosophers idea of an urban community, were founded by the Jesuits in a style that married Catholic architecture with local traditions.

 

The six that remain – San Francisco Javier, Concepción, Santa Ana, San Miguel, San Rafael and San José – make up a living heritage on the former territory of the Chiquitos [Source: WHC UNESCO].

 

The interior region bordering Spanish and Portuguese territories in South America was largely unexplored at the end of the 17th century. Dispatched by the Spanish government at the time [towards the New World], Jesuits explored and founded 11 settlements in 76 years in the remote Chiquitania – then known as Chiquitos – on the frontier of Spanish America. Our family flew from our home, La Paz to Santa Cruz de La Sierra. From there, we drove some 1,500 km in order to visit most of the Jesuitic Missions still standing – only one was left unseen, due to been too far from our planned route – close to the Northeastern boarder with Brazil – the Jesuit Mission of San Jose.

They built templos with unique and distinct styles, which combined elements of native and European architecture. The indigenous inhabitants of the missions were taught European music as a means of conversion. Obviously, when we remember learning about the Jesuitic times in school, there’s the controversy around the Jesuits original goals – some would believe in a not-so-positive influence; others still remain faithful to the good-hearted intentions praised by the Spanishmen… I, for one, admire the work and teaching left here – and invite to continue the journey with us!

The missions were self-sufficient, with thriving economies, and virtually autonomous from the Spanish crown.

After the expulsion of the Jesuit order from Spanish territories in 1767, most Jesuit reductions in South America were abandoned and fell into ruins. The former Jesuit missions of Chiquitos are unique because these settlements and their associated culture have survived largely intact.


A large restoration project of the missionary churches began with the arrival of the former Swiss Jesuit and architect Hans Roth in 1972. Since 1990, these former Jesuit missions have experienced some measure of popularity, and have become a tourist destination. A popular biennial international musical festival put on by the nonprofit organization Asociación Pro Arte y Cultura, to be held this coming April 2014, along with other cultural activities within the mission towns, contribute to the popularity of these settlements.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2014 in BOLIVIA, foreign service, TRAVEL

 

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A Traveler In The Foreign Service: The Best Foreign Service Blogs, by Dave Seminara.

Guest Post by Dave Seminara

smoking huge joint womanThe World Wide Web is saturated with amateurish blogs created by people who’d be lucky to command the devoted readership of their immediate family members, let alone the wider public. There are scores of blogs managed by Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) and while many of them are worth reading, some aredownright bizarre. This post will steer you toward some Foreign Service related blogs that are well worth your time.
I started this series nine months ago to help people get a better understanding of what life in the U.S. Foreign Service is like. Many of the posts have been about my experiences but I’ve also introduced readers to an intrepid, single female diplomat fresh off of tours in Syria and Pakistan, a diplomatic courier, a USAID Foreign Service Officer currently serving in Afghanistan and others. But spend some time at the sites listed below to get a flavor of what it’s like to represent the U.S. Government in The Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, Pakistan and dozens of other exotic locales.

One major caveat here is that FSOs have to be careful what they write because free speech only takes you so far in the precarious, uber-cautious world of government service. Most FSOs have disclaimers on their sites warning that the views expressed are their own, but many still tend to steer clear of tackling political issues or anything controversial.Peter Van Buren, a now retired diplomat who wrote “We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People,” was effectively driven out of the Foreign Service partially because he posted a link to a cable on WikiLeaks and made some disparaging remarks, which he later apologized for, about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on his website.There’s no doubt that his experience has had a chilling effect across the board, so visit the sites below to get the low-down on the Foreign Service lifestyle and the travel opportunities, not the dirty underbelly of how diplomacy plays out overseas.Some of the blogs below contain little, if any biographical info, and I wasn’t able to read each one in its entirety, so my apologies in advance if my impressions of these blogs below miss the mark. That said, I would invite the authors of these fine sites to tell us more about themselves, if they dare, in the comments section.DiplodunitDomani Spero has no U.S. government connection and thus has the freedom to write about the world of diplomacy without having to worry about his career. Diplodunit is as close as you’ll find to one-stop shopping for a candid look at what’s going on in the Foreign Service community.

Adventures in Good Countries- Getting Along In The Foreign Service

I love this blog. The author, apparently a single female public diplomacy officer who, “doesn’t date outside the visa waiver program,” blogs with style and passion about life in Japan, Pakistan, Jordan and elsewhere, coping with Multiple Sclerosis and whatever else pops into her head. How can you not like a writer who offers advice to protesters on how to construct a good effigy? (“Don’t just throw something together with the rationale that you’re only going to burn it anyway – take some pride in your work.”)

We Meant Well

You might not agree with Peter Van Buren but you will want to read his blog, which is sometimes offensive but never boring.

Third Culture Children

This blog, which details the lives of a family of five living in Recife, Brazil, La Paz, Bolivia and elsewhere, is one of the very best Foreign Service related sites out there. It’s a particularly good resource for parents who are wondering what the overseas experience will be like for their children.

amy gottlieb usaidAmy Gottlieb’s Photography & Blog

Gottlieb is a doctor and a USAID FSO currently serving in Vietnam. Her portraits from Jamaica, Nepal, Vietnam, South America, Africa and beyond are as good as any you’ll find anywhere.

Adventures Around the World- A Foreign Service Officer’s Tales of Life Abroad

The author of this refreshingly candid and well-written blog is currently in Kabul and has previously served in Iraq and Nepal. Here’s how she described the “honeymoon” period at a new post: “The honeymoon period is the time frame after moving to a foreign country where the excitement of being somewhere new overshadows certain harsh realities of living in a foreign country. People burning piles of trash in the street give the place ‘character’ and bargaining with a taxi driver is part of the ‘adventure.'”

Worldwide Availability

This is a stunning photo blog from an American diplomat who was born on a farm in China and is currently serving in South Korea. Visiting this site is the next best thing to booking a ticket to Seoul. Also, for those who are curious to know how long it takes to join the Foreign Service, take a look at his instructive personal timeline for some clues.

Wanderings of a Cheerful Stoic

Anyone who features a photo of themselves (I presume) with a Gambian poached rat on their homepage is all right by me. This is a blog from a FSO posted in Conakry, Guinea, a place where “you tend to find yourself without a really specific reason.”

The Slow Move East- Thoughts on Being an Expatriate

Hannah Draper, a FSO currently serving in Libya, might be a “Type-A bureaucrat who professionally pushes papers in the Middle East,” but her writing is compulsively readable.

Where in the World am I? Notes from the Streets of Hyderabad, India

A FSO in Hyderabad who previously served in Burundi blogs about food and life overseas with gusto.

Cross Words- A Blog About Writing and Anything Else That Comes to Mind

Ted Cross, a FSO currently living in Budapest who apparently just signed up for Facebook last week (Friend him!), tells us on his homepage that his “dream is to be a published author.” I like someone who isn’t afraid to tell the world what he wants. He’s into fantasy and science fiction, neither of which interests me, but his blog is unique and his writing is lucid.

Four Globetrotters- The (Most Likely) Incoherent Ramblings of a Sleep-Deprived Single Mother Living Overseas with her Trio of Kiddos

Anyone who can pull off being a single mom in the Foreign Service is someone I want to meet. This blog, written by a former Foreign Service brat, isn’t nearly as incoherent as advertised.

Beau Geste, Mon Ami- The Chronicle of my Journey to and through The Foreign Service

Even a quick breeze through this visually appealing blog will give you an idea of how varied and interesting life in the Foreign Service can be. If nothing else, do not miss the photos of the tribal warriors in Papua New Guinea.

Zvirdins at Large- Jamie and Andrew’s Excellent Adventures

If you want a slice of life from the Marshall Islands, this is the place to go. I love this blog but I couldn’t bring myself to click into the video entitled “Pig Shooting” in a post on “Pig Butchering.” Yikes.

Let me know in the comments section if you think I’ve missed any great FSO-related blogs and if you’re the author of ones of the sites mentioned above, tell us a bit about yourself.

Read more from “A Traveler in the Foreign Service” here.

(Photos courtesy of Amy Gottlieb)

Read more from “A Traveler in the Foreign Service” here.

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This year’s April issue of the Foreign Service Journal (FSJ, April 2012) discussed the Family Member Employment, and the search for meaningful work overseas. Reading through the whole edition, you’ll find great stories about living and working as a Foreign Service spouse. Several FS spouses shared their experiences and impressions regarding working overseas. It’s an honor to be one of the contributors to this edition. Congratulations to all who contributed to that month’s issue. Here’s the link to another FS blogger, also sharing her impressions about family member employment.

Giving expats a hand

A Traveler In The Foreign Service: A ‘Trailing Spouse’ Speaks Out (gadling.com)

Career options overseas (anagentswife.wordpress.com)

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2014 in expat, foreign service, TRAVEL

 

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‘Saudade’, the untranslatable word for missing something or someone…

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Hoje, eu sinto Saudade. I believe it’s related to our constant nomadic mode, moving every so often… I miss a place and a time that may not exist anymore… But please, don’t get me wrong! It’s not a ‘sad feeling’ – I live the happiest life I could’ve asked for: the dearest husband, my loving kids, pursuing our dreams…

We’re on the ‘home stretch’ right now: less than 3 months to depart post… again… pack-out… again… Today I realized I’m a bit tired of this, but I also know that, with a little time to adjust [again!], it’ll all be fine, at last. But right now, I’m feeling saudade… and we haven’t even left yet! What a crazy feeling,  crazy lifestyle… and right now I’m asking myself: ‘why did we decide to do this?’ And I know there are no answers for this rhetorical question – once you join or decide to move along with this Foreign Service life, you’ve signed off on all the perks, advantages and challenges that come along with it – and we did sign it… and we’ve read thru the fine print… and we’ve discussed the pros and cons… But, although we’re extremely satisfied with our life choices, today… I feel Saudade… Saudade of a stable lifestyle… saudade of a time we didn’t have to move, change, adapt and adjust… Saudade of not having to tell our children they’ll have to leave their school friends behind, and should be excited for making new ones… at the new school… speaking a new language…

Oh well, thanks to my dear Portuguese language, I’m able to express my current feelings using one single word – and not bother trying to clearly translate it – “Saudade” – my March 11, 2014 pure self!

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s one of my favorite words in Portuguese – ‘saudade‘. It’s an expression with a lot of emotion and deep sense of compassion. There’s no comparison to this word in English; and definitely, doesn’t carry the same degree of emotion involved… Few other languages have a word with such meaning, making saudade a distinct mark of Portuguese culture.

Olavo Bilac

Olavo Bilac (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Considering I went deep into my thoughts, I went out looking for ‘ closer definitions’ of this unique feeling, which according to my father’s quote of Olavo Bilac, ‘represents the presence of the ones who are absent..‘. I simply love this quote, since I was a child. Back then, and still living in Brazil, I couldn’t really perceive the true meaning of his words – ‘how can somebody/something be present, and yet, absent?‘How could I miss something I’d never experienced before?’

Saudade

Saudade (Photo credit: Fábio Pinheiro)

Today, as a grown woman, I understand my dad’s words, and they’ve become a part of who I am, and how I carry myself through life. I need to feel ‘Saudade‘, it’s a requirement to keep living, we all need to be linked to our past, and we need to long for people, moments, places and emotions that were part of our development as humans. Saudade makes us more humane, more grounded, more prompt to learn through our emotions…

Saudade

Saudade (Photo credit: A Sheep in Man’s Clothing)

So now, going into the ‘formal definitions': the Urban Dictionary describes the word as used to “explain the feeling of missing something or someone. It is used to tell about something that you used to have (and liked) but don’t have anymore”.

(Portuguese: “yearning“), Saudade was a characteristic of the earliest Portuguese folk poetry and has been cultivated by sophisticated writers of later generations. 

Missing Naples

Photo credit: Wikipedia

“The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.” (In Portugal, by AFG Bell, 1912).

Chega de Saudade (album)

Chega de Saudade (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Portuguese word ‘saudademeans, broadly, to miss someone or something. But the English miss doesn’t begin to convey the intensity of the Portuguese word. It can cover the sentiments understood in words such as “longing” and “yearning,” as well as “homesickness” and “nostalgia”; in fact, it is all of those, and many more. Although saudade first appeared in Portugal somewhere around the 15th century, there is something about it that is particularly suited to Portugal’s New World child, Brazil, where I come from. Everything there, including feelings, is intense. We [Brazilians] never say “I love you” casually.

In Brazil, when you say it, it means a lot.

And, then, you feel saudade:o

 
 

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The mysterious Calle Jaén in La Paz: a place for urban legends…

Calle Jaén

No ghosts were seen today at Calle Apolinar Jaén, in downtown La Paz… Despite the legends, myths, stories from long-time residents and local business owners… This morning, there were no wondering gnomes, nor widows, searching for lonely bachelors, too enebriated to find their own way… This morning, the bright and warm colors covering this street’s colonial houses offered nothing but a pleasant welcome to the two of us, on our last-minute decision on visiting one of the most famous streets in La Paz – la antigua Calle Kaura Kancha…

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Today, the street so used to host commercial exchanges, is now a hotspot for the bohemian crowd visiting La Paz – it’s a must-visit sight for expats in search of learning more about the Paceña culture, its stories, its fears…

We found Calle Jaén, just after a short walk from the city center and Plaza Murrllo, and we confirmed it’s one of most charming colonial streets in the city.Museo Murillo is on this street. This old mansion was once owned by Pedro Domingo Murillo, a hero of the Bolivian republic, and now houses furniture and items from colonial times. The buildings and cobblestoned street are preserved, without traffic, and attract visitors for the soothing atmosphere. This morning, husband and I had the opportunity to enjoy the peace and quietness from Calle Jaén – apparently, the ghostly tales do not come to life on Monday mornings… :o

While walking along Jaén, we visited the Museum of Musical Instruments, and an art gallery, displaying several pieces from the Mamani collection – the warm, earthy colors and textures, as well as the unique musical instruments inventions made up for a delightful beginning before we headed out to our other sights: the San Francisco Church and Plaza, its informal market [for some well-deserved craft shopping!], and a peek at the Mercado de Brujas [Witch Market]…

Definitely, one of the best ways to spend a morning off-work: learning, experiencing, living the Bolivian culture – a tale at a time… :o

And, little bit in Spanish:

El lugar más mágico de La Paz, la calle Jaén, ubicada en el casco antiguo de la capital, calle empedrada de misterios que se esconden detrás de las paredes de sus casas coloniales. Según cuenta la leyenda, en la calle, entonces llamada callejón Cabra – Cancha, se han venido produciendo fenómenos paranormales con los condenados desde tiempos coloniales.Los fantasmas, duendes, almas en pena, ruidos infernales de carruajes tirados por caballos y cadenas arrastradas por el suelo, sembraban el pánico en los habitantes.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2014 in ART, BOLIVIA, expat, foreign service, photography

 

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{Weekly Writing Challenge} Parenting as a Cliffhanger…

When being called “Incredibly Good” is really not good for children?

Great Wednesday, although it began with a not-so-welcoming weather in La Paz – the rainy season has arrived, and flooded streets displaying the hectic driving behavior are definitely not the best place to be! The inspiration for this ‘quasi-op-piece’ comes from the idea of leaving the readers ‘hanging’ [thanks, Michelle W., btw!]‘, while I freely start a discussion on possible strategies on parenting well-rounded children [or lack of thereof!].

Back to work, as expected, and having the opportunity to read the paper before the work day starts is key! The Washington Post column on ‘Parenting’ called my attention with an article on ‘Stop heaping praise on your kids’, by Amy Joyce, really brought some thoughts up, as well as, a few questions and concerns.

STOP PRAISING YOUR KIDS??

Not really, but let’s keep on moving on. Also, nobody should be telling us what to do regarding the way we bring our kids up, correct? :o

We’ve all done it, stated Amy Joyce. But I’m sure not all of us knew we might be hurting our kids by doing it… At least, I did not know. How could I? Simply trying to work my best magic tricks when it comes to parenting…

Why would we, parents, knowingly harm our children?

Let’s start thinking! Continue reading

 
19 Comments

Posted by on January 8, 2014 in children, expat, FAMILY, foreign service

 

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Blog Milestone: WP Follower #4,000. Thank You!

 

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This travel/family blog just reached the mark of 4,000 WordPress followers…

Thank you for helping us keep on growing! Great way to begin 2014!

And a special thank you goes to ‘follower # 4,000′: MeralKathwari – hope you enjoy the journey with us!

 

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2014 in expat, foreign service

 

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[Photography] Back to the Past: The world’s largest site of dinosaur tracks!

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This is the second post on the historical Bolivian city of Sucre – now, stepping a little deeper into the past… some 65 million years ago, to be more exact! :o

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Another opportunity for our traveling family to enjoy some kid-friendly activity during our end-of-the year holidays.

After spending a full day in Sucre, we decided to venture out. A quick bus trip took the 5 of us to the Parque Cretacico – and I understand if you’re not able to replicate our day, so, feel free to take the park’s virtual tour here!

It seems that 65 million years ago the site of, 5km north of the center, was the place to be for large, scaly types. When the construction grounds were being cleared in 1994 for Sucre’s Fancesa (Fabrica Nacional de Cemento SA) cement quarry, some 40 minutes out of town, plant employees uncovered a nearly vertical mudstone face with some 5000 tracks of, at least eight different species of dinosaurs – the largest collection of dinosaur footprints in the world.

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Take a look at this, and imagine these images been turned inwards some 90 degrees – now it looks vertical, but this area used to be flat, horizontal, the perfect path for some, let’s say… dinosaur strolling! :o

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Though you can see some of the prints from outside, entering the family-friendly Cretaceous Park gives a better panorama, and that’s exactly what we did, after paying a very ‘family-friendly fee’- gotta love the expatriate life down here in Bolivia!

From downtown Sucre, right across from the Cathedral, we took the 2:30 bus – we’d been told the best light for photographs is during the afternoon. Enjoy the images!

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A general view of the surroundings, just outside of the park [the past looking into the present!]

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[Photography] 65 ways of Sucre, Bolivia.

 

2013 was ending, and our traveling family was in deep need of a quick trip before the new year rang in…

…it had to be to a kid-friendly place, not too far from our home, La Paz, and yet, a place that offered great sights, tons of history, tales and stories to write home about… We were looking for a visiting site that wouldn’t break our end-of-the-year budget [between the Christmas holidays and the New Year’s!].

We found it – Bolivia’s historical capital, the [sweet!] city of Sucre, whose name, coincidently means ‘sugar’, in French [completely unrelated to this blogpost, but a nice send-back to my high school French lessons!] Again, nothing to do with our trip, so, forgetting now my long-lost French lessons, and back to our reality – family life, parenting & traveling!

All that said, our family of 5 headed out to Sucre, a comfortable, affordable short flight from La Paz, right after Christmas Day, for a long and well-deserved weekend.

This post showcases several images we were able to capture with our constantly-switching-hands camera. More yet to come: a visit to Sucre’s Dinosaur Park, the largest one in South America – but I’ll leave it for later… too many beautiful sites/snapshots to enjoy for now!

And, if curious about things to do in Sucre [according to the Lonely Planet http://www.lonelyplanet.com/bolivia/the-southwest/sucre/things-to-do, there are some 112 items to add to any expat visiting list!], feel free to hop over to another friendly site, from a Twitter follower, @SucreLife, and get insider tips, info and advice on traveling to the “White City”[www.sucrelife.com]

Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/bolivia/the-southwest/sucre/things-to-do#ixzz2pRfOUGq5

 

 

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[Photography] Back to the Past: A visit to Sucre, Bolivia [Part I].

Well, this is the very first blogpost of 2014 – a promising ‘blogging year’…

Let’s wait and see!

2013 was a fantastic year for our family, and we’ve enjoyed every bit of it – life in Bolivia has proven to be warm, friendly, healthy and joyful. We’re now ready for embracing our last few months here, prepare for home leave back in the US and for our future assignment, Brasilia, in Brazil.

A bit of a regular day in the beautiful city of Sucre: can’t beat a sky like this, right?

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Closing up our travels in Bolivia in 2013, our family had the pleasure to experience the country’s capital, the original historical place, its stories and tales – the city of Sucre.

The city's main plaza

The city’s main plaza

Right after Christmas Day, we flew out of La Paz for several restful days in the country’s original capital – more on this visit will soon come, but for now, I’ll leave you all with this ‘placeholder’ for future posts.

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Sucre (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈsukɾe]), also known historically as Charcas [ˈtʃarkas]La Plata [la ˈplata] and Chuquisaca [tʃikiˈsaka](population 247,300 in 2006) is the constitutional capital of Bolivia, the capital of the department of Chuquisaca and the 5th most populated city in Bolivia. Located in the south-central part of the country, Sucre lies at an elevation of 2810 m. This relatively high altitude gives the city a cool temperate climate year-round [Excerpt from Wikipedia].

 

 
 

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2013 in review – according to the WP Stats Monkeys!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 49,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 18 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in BOLIVIA, foreign service, TRAVEL

 

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{Weekly Writing Challenge} Ghosts of Christmas Past…

Like many around here, I’m working right now.

Yeap. It’s December 24th, I live in a South American country – Bolivia, to be more specific, and yet, I’m at work – but not for much longer, I dream… We’re all hopefully waiting for some good news from above, letting us know we may go home. and get ready for Christmas eve. At end, in a latino country, it’s more than expected. Large family meals, moms will be cooking all afternoon for the well-deserved supper.

Oh, forgot to mention: I’m also the mom, right… the one who should be at home, cooking a feast, at this very moment! :o

But it’ll get done. Sent my dear husband on a ‘shopping mission’ (did I mention he is not working today?). I’m sure he’ll find everything I’ve asked him to search for. And once I’m home, there’ll be some cooking!

Now, talking about Christmas ghosts. My ghosts of December 24th are all sweet little creatures. All my past Christmas memories seem to be filled with happy moments, even the ones who were somewhat challenging, due to family difficulties… The ghosts in my life are lively and loving.

December 24, 2012, last year. Our first family Christmas at our new Bolivian home. Our household effects [aka stuff being held hostage by the moving company] had arrived. We decorated the house. We had a lit Christmas tree and our bundle of joy had their first Navidad Paceno.

December 24, 2011, we’re in Fortaleza, Brazil. Got to spend Christmas eve with my parents, my brothers, their wives and my niece. Chaotic as any Brazilian holiday should be. Every one talks over each other, and nobody can really hold on a conversation. But life’s still good. Kids running around, screaming… some crying here and there. My parents giving us unsolicited advice on how to raise our children [cause, you know.. we really don't know how to keep 3 children alive, move around every so often, adjust to different countries/languages/cultures...]. And we listened to the advices, while mentally preparing our grocery list for the next day… :o

December 24, 2010, we’d arrived in Recife, Brazil, a couple of months prior. We’d also welcomed into our lives our youngest baby girl, our only child born in Brazil, like her mama. Not much of a shut-eye, restful holiday, especially with a new born, but the ghosts of Christmas were merciful, and allowed our family of 5 to enjoy the season… At the end, after being gone from Brazil for almost 10 years, I was back…

December 24, 2009, welcome to the Foreign Service Family! The Washingtonian ghosts of Christmas were applauding, secretly smiling while setting out their plans for our soon-to-be a full-time nomadic troupe! And we got trapped home, thanks to the East Coast Snowmagedon! :o

December 24, 2008, family, now with 4 members, came back to DC, after our tour in Africa. Christmas with the in-laws, and plans for the future.

December 24, 2006-2007, our family of 3 celebrated the holidays with the the colorful Mozambican ghosts of Christmas, our first overseas post as a family, as it’s dearly called ‘a hard-to-fill assignment’.

December 24,  2005, the Lima-Miranda couple enjoyed the lovely sleepless nights, while rocking our first-born. The cold DC weather brought us the ghosts of Christmas as a family. Between bottle feedings, changings and lullaby singing, the ghosts held our hands and kept us on our toes!

December 24, 2004, husband and wife are reunited, after the man-of-the-house came back from a temporary-duty at a far land… Does this sound familiar to anyone? :o The ghosts of Christmas past made sure he’d come home safe and sound, with a nice gift to his dear wife!

December 24, 2003, we just got married [a couple of months back, but still!]. Plans for the future, naive minds, ideas of how good we’d be as parents… :o The ghosts of Christmas made sure our newly joint bank account would have enough for a decent holiday season… And we were grateful to them…

As I started this post by saying, the ghosts of Christmas past have been nothing but nice to us. As a couple, as a beginner family, as a traveling serial expatriate bunch. We’re working well together – the ghosts and us…

Merry Christmas to you all! May your December 24, 2013 be merry and bright. I’m sure mine is!

And for the ones who are still at work… the time is coming! The clock keeps ticking, and soon, we’ll be back home… enjoying our Christmas Eve feast! :o

my 3 little ghosts

Thanks for the inspiration!

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in children, foreign service, humor, TRAVEL

 

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This Blog won Top Tweets on ExpatsBlog! “Twenty reasons for adding Bolivia to your expat visiting list – and maybe sticking around for a while!”

Expat blogs in BoliviaExpat blogs in BoliviaThank you for all the comments, and shared tweets! Not only this blog is bringing home a sweet shopping voucher from Amazon, but the Silver Badge on the side – great way to begin this Christmas Week! :o

[Could not repeat the same feat as last year, when this blog was awarded Gold. Congratulations Jessica for representing so well this year the beautiful country of Bolivia with her 'Bohemian Diaries'! Keep on blogging!]

Expat Blog Awards 2013 Top List Contest Winners is pleased to announced to the winners of this year’s Expat Blog Awards! The standard was simply breathtaking, with such a diverse range of talented bloggers quite clearly pulling out all the stops to bring you the best they can! Without further ado, here are the Expat Blog Awards 2013 prize and award winners…

Our Top 3 Prize Winners

Overall Winner: Kathleen Siddell
Contest Entry: The Top 8 Ideas Worth Adopting From the Chinese

1st Runner Up: Becky the Great
Contest Entry: N is for Nomads

2nd runner Up: Emily Calle
Contest Entry: Top 50 Ways You Know You’re an Expat Living in Vienna

Our Fave Reader Comment: Mrs Partly Cloudy
Contest Entry: Welcome to Singapore:don’t look down
Blog Listing: Partly Cloudy

Top FB Likes: Paul Giles
Contest Entry: The Top Six Dangers You Face When Travelling to Colombia
Blog Listing: Colombia Travel Blog

Top Tweets: 3rd Culture Children
Contest Entry: Twenty Reasons for Adding Bolivia to Your Expat Visiting List
Blog Listing: 3rd Culture Children

Random Winner: Christie Montague
Contest Entry: 6 Things You Should Know About the South of France if You Want to Blend in
Blog Listing: You can go your own way

Now, here is the Top Tweets Winner Post – with all its colorful images! Thanks again for all who read, commented, shared the link, and learned a bit about Bolivia – and maybe, the ones who are now considering adding the country to their Expat Visiting List! :o

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From the ExpatsBlog team of editors: “After our hugely successful Expat Blog Awards 2012 last year, we thought we’d take a different spin on this year’s awards! Realising that last year’s scenario would be unfair to recently-joined newer bloggers, we’ve decided to combine the Expat Blog Awards 2013 with a big expat writing contest!
Twenty Reasons for Adding Bolivia to Your Expat Visiting List !

Expat Blog Awards 2013 Contest Entry That said, here’s my pitch… If this blogpost here makes you a bit curious… hop over to ExpatBlogs and check out a list especially prepared for this year’s writing contest: Suggestions on why expats should add Bolivia to their visiting list… they’ll be so in love that may want to stick around for a while! And remember: your great comment will help this blog go for Gold… two years in a row… why not? :o

Bolivia is a culturally diverse, geographically unique and strange in so many other ways that it’s hard to find another place/country quite like it. And this statement is coming from a ‘serial expat’, a traveling mother of third-culture children, a trailing spouse married into the US Foreign Service, and a Latina-born woman.

Hummm… need more examples of the colors and textures? Take a look:

The worldly recognized, the Andean rugs…

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Also, here one may enjoy the  typical “salteñas“, recipes borrowed long ago from neighboring Argentina

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Craving for more? Let’s go on a quick trip towards this unique place on earth!

What you may find in Bolivia? Take a look at these images, and don’t forget: go visit the Expat Blogs and share your wonderful comment about this travel blog! [Thank you!!!]

dressed in patterns

dressed in patterns

Madre Luna, from the Moon Valley

What looks like a carpet of stalagmites canvassing a desert, Valle de la Luna, or “Valley of the Moon” is what is left of a mountain composed of clay and sandstone that has been battered by strong winds and time.

Here are more images of this unique country… looking for a bit more explanation? Check the full text prepared for this year’s contest

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death road bikers...

Mountain biking trip

Mountain biking trip

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comadres

Cotapata Park, Bolivia

Cotapata Park, Bolivia

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Kal7

bolivian unusual

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Aguayo

Aguayo

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Laguna Verde ['Green Lagoon']

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Singani in Tarija

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Pre-Inca Ruins

Pre-Inca Ruins

The Table of Sacrifices

The Table of Sacrifices

Pre-Inca Ruins

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Immerse into the local culture and traditions

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Español: Alumnos del Colegio Padre Luis Gallar...

[Photo credit: Wikipedia.com]

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The famous “trufi”!

Connect with the past, experience the present and look into the future… Bolivia offers it all! ♥

muela del diablo

Twenty Reasons for Adding Bolivia to Your Expat Visiting List !

 

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From the ExpatsBlog: What are people talking about our take on Bolivia?

This is the second part of the ‘contest post’ – the article published on ExpatsBlog about our ‘list on why expats should add Bolivia to their bucket list… and maybe sticking around for a while!’ is getting some feedback! See below what others are talking about the article, and don’t forget to hop on over to Twenty Reasons for Adding Bolivia to Your Expat Visiting List!, leaving your comment about our take on Bolivia for expats.

Thank you! :o

Contest Comments »  

Reader 1 wrote 20 hours ago:
 
 I’m intrigued: I thought Lhasa was the highest capital in the world. I’ve been there, and the mountains and the light in your pictures, and the way the people look remind me of it a lot. I hope you have a wonderful two years.
 
 
Reader 2 wrote 18 hours ago:
 
 I love your writing style and your suggestions make me want to visit Bolivia now! Enjoy your tour
 
 
Reader 3 wrote 8 hours ago:
 
 Wow! What a delight to find out about your blog from this contest. Too bad your entry as posted here doesn’t show your wonderful photography. Best to you and your family as you travel across Bolivia and the world with you open loving hearts.
 
 
Reader 4 wrote 2 hours ago:
 
 ADOREI SEU BLOG!! Meu Deus…you made me cry, I MISS Bolivia like crazy, everything you posted is SO TRUE…I am glad that you guys are having a great time. Being in EUR its so different from Bolivia, 180 degree change for me…the culture, the people, the weather and the community- there are no comparison, I enjoyed my time there. I miss the warmth and kindness of the people, and that I was called “señorita” by everyone made me feel very special. Great photos, keep it up, GRACIAS! for sharing. Good luck to you! Beijos!
 

Expat Blog Awards 2013 Contest Entry Connect with the past, experience the present and look into the future… Bolivia offers it all! ♥

muela del diablo

Twenty Reasons for Adding Bolivia to Your Expat Visiting List !

 

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Twenty reasons for adding Bolivia to your expat visiting list – and maybe sticking around for a while!

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From the ExpatsBlog team of editors: “After our hugely successful Expat Blog Awards 2012 last year, we thought we’d take a different spin on this year’s awards! Realising that last year’s scenario would be unfair to recently-joined newer bloggers, we’ve decided to combine the Expat Blog Awards 2013 with a big expat writing contest!
                                           

Twenty Reasons for Adding Bolivia to Your Expat Visiting List !

Expat Blog Awards 2013 Contest Entry That said, here’s my pitch… If this blogpost here makes you a bit curious… hop over to ExpatBlogs and check out a list especially prepared for this year’s writing contest: Suggestions on why expats should add Bolivia to their visiting list… they’ll be so in love that may want to stick around for a while! And remember: your great comment will help this blog go for Gold… two years in a row… why not? :o

Bolivia is a culturally diverse, geographically unique and strange in so many other ways that it’s hard to find another place/country quite like it. And this statement is coming from a ‘serial expat’, a traveling mother of third-culture children, a trailing spouse married into the US Foreign Service, and a Latina-born woman.

Hummm… need more examples of the colors and textures? Take a look:

The worldly recognized, the Andean rugs…

bolivian-rugs

Also, here one may enjoy the  typical “salteñas“, recipes borrowed long ago from neighboring Argentina

saltenas

Craving for more? Let’s go on a quick trip towards this unique place on earth!

What you may find in Bolivia? Take a look at these images, and don’t forget: go visit the Expat Blogs and share your wonderful comment about this travel blog! [Thank you!!!]

dressed in patterns

dressed in patterns

Madre Luna, from the Moon Valley

What looks like a carpet of stalagmites canvassing a desert, Valle de la Luna, or “Valley of the Moon” is what is left of a mountain composed of clay and sandstone that has been battered by strong winds and time.

Here are more images of this unique country… looking for a bit more explanation? Check the full text prepared for this year’s contest [shameless, right? :o]

IMG_5671

death road bikers...

Mountain biking trip

Mountain biking trip

DSC_0006

comadres

Cotapata Park, Bolivia

Cotapata Park, Bolivia

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IMG_0407

Kal7

bolivian unusual

unplugged2

IMG_0805

IMG-20130816-00021

Aguayo

Aguayo

IMG_4668

Laguna Verde ['Green Lagoon']

DSC_8066

Singani in Tarija

IMG_5777

IMG_5763

Pre-Inca Ruins

Pre-Inca Ruins

The Table of Sacrifices

The Table of Sacrifices

Pre-Inca Ruins

IMG_5708

Immerse into the local culture and traditions

IMG_5663

IMG_5669

IMG_5623

IMG_5622

IMG_5658

IMG_5562

Español: Alumnos del Colegio Padre Luis Gallar...

[Photo credit: Wikipedia.com]

 

IMG_4960

The famous “trufi”!

 

Connect with the past, experience the present and look into the future… Bolivia offers it all! ♥

muela del diablo

Twenty Reasons for Adding Bolivia to Your Expat Visiting List !

 

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Snapshots of Soccer in Yanacachi, Bolivia.

Despite the holiday season ringing in, demanding [yet, wonderful!] family life, my hubby and his colleagues find time to visit communities outside La Paz, and share joyful and peaceful ‘soccer moments’… :o

Yanacachi is a location in the La Paz Department in Bolivia. It is the seat of the Yanacachi Municipality, the third municipal section of the Sud Yungas Province [Source: Wikipedia].

 

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‘What did you do last weekend?’ I know what THIS family did!

programa MUNDIALITO

 

 
 

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Understanding the Bolivian Traditions: ‘Día de Todos los Santos’.

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All text here [in bold], including the explanations, traditions, etc, may be found on the website: “Bolivia Bella”[http://www.boliviabella.com/bolivia-dia-de-los-muertos-day-of-the-dead-bolivian-holidays.html], except any ‘notes’ added by myself and/or inserted as comments. Thank you very much, Bolivia Bella! :o

Dia de los Muertos (or Dia de los Difuntos) means Day of the Dead, which in the Catholic faith is also known as All Souls Day. In Bolivia it takes place on November 2 after the celebration of Todos Santos (All Saints Day) on November 1st.

[Note: During the first week of November, we were fortunate enough to partake at a ‘Todos Santos’ ceremony at work, with a throughly explanation, even enjoying a nice meal [lentils & meat] at the end of the presentation!]

Prior to this day, both the public and the city governments begin preparing the cemeteries for this holiday. Usually the city governments begin cleaning and fumigating the cemeteries while individuals and families hire bricklayers and painters to repair and paint individual tombs and family niches.

On Dia de los Muertos indigenous customs mix with Christian (Catholic) religious beliefs. Families visit the tombs of their dead with a feast, which they prepare the night before. They spread out the feast in the form of a picnic, setting places for their dead relative at the “table” as they wait for the souls of the dead to “arrive”. If the dead person is a child, a white tablecloth is used. Black or dark cloth is used if the dead is an adult. The table is also adorned with candles and photos of the dead. Some believe the dead return to Earth to see if they are still being remembered by their families and friends.

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Often families hire bands or take other forms of music with them. They also pay children to recite prays at the tombs. Many believe God takes pity on the prayers of children or the poor, more than on the prayers of those who are not in need. Families sometimes also sing or hire someone to sing.

Many people don’t take the feast to the cemetery. Instead, they spread out a feast at home and guests who visit are offered all the favorite foods of the dead.

Many believe death is not separated from life. So they await the dead to show themselves. It is said the dead arrive at noon, and depart at the same time the next day so at noon on the next day, another great feast is held because the dead need a lot of energy to return to their world. Anything out of the ordinary that takes place during the feast is taken as a sign that the dead have arrived (even the landing of a fly on food can be thus interpreted).

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The dead are always present but on this particular day, they either come down from heaven to join their families, or rise to heaven. November is springtime and also planting season on Bolivia. The rainy season begins and gardens and trees begin to bloom.

In Western Bolivia, according to Andean indigenous beliefs, the “table” is usually set in three levels: the Alaxpacha (heaven), the Ak’apacha (earth), and the Mank’apacha (hell). The preferred foods of the dead are taken into account when preparing this feast and the foods are set out in a certain order respecting the ecological layers in which they are produced (sky, earth, underground) as indicated above.

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Many of the Andean cultures belief in the importance of reciprocity. The living feed the dead, whose bones are drying under the November sun, and the dead intervene with the earth to ensure she provides rains, which begin in mid-November, and eventual harvests are abundant.

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Before the arrival of the Spanish, the dead (who at the time were embalmed) were taken out of their tombs. Friends and family members would dance with them, walk them around the cemetery, eat a meal with them and then put them back in their tombs. When the Spanish arrived they forbade this ritual. So today, a family member often dresses up to look like a dead family member and appears at the family reunion at the grave. He or she takes part in the feast that has been prepared and asks how the family has been over the past year. Sometimes the “dead” person gives advice to the children.

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When the day ends, the children take palm fronds and chase the person in the costume out of the cemetery just to be sure the soul of the real dead person doesn’t give in to the temptation of inhabiting their body in order to remain among the living.

Another important ritual is the baking of tantawawas which are sweet breads made into various different shapes. Some of the breads are shaped into babies (wawas) and faces are either decorated onto the breads or little clay heads and faces are baked into the bread. In addition, other breads are shaped like ladders (so the souls of the dead can climb up to heaven), stars, crosses, or angels with wings to help children and babies to rise to heaven.

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8 Comments

Posted by on November 20, 2013 in ART, foreign service

 

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Catching up with October: Part II – ‘Dia de las Brujas’ in the Neighborhood!

We’re already half way into November… Lots have happened: our FS family got our next post assignment – so grateful, the stressful bidding season is over, and we’re happy we’ll be heading out to Brazil!

Bolivian culture is full of celebrations and traditions: the Todos os Santos Day, with the ‘apxata’ and the waiting for the spirits ['ayayus'], but I will leave it for later.

Right now, need to ‘catch up’ with last month – due to bidding season, our focus completely shifted towards our imminent future. All good now. :)

October catch-up – Trick-or-Treating in the Neighborhood – who thought Bolivian wouldn’t have that?! :o

 

 

 
5 Comments

Posted by on November 16, 2013 in ART, foreign service

 

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Catching up with October: Part I – Halloween at the workplace!

We’re already half way into November… Lots have happened: our FS family got our next post assignment – so grateful, the stressful bidding season is over, and we’re happy we’ll be heading out to Brazil!

Bolivian culture is full of celebrations and traditions: the Todos os Santos Day, with the ‘apxata’ and the waiting for the spirits ['ayayus'], but I will leave it for later.

Right now, need to ‘catch up’ with last month – Dia de Las Brujas [Halloween in 3 ways], School Book Week… and this couple’s 10th wedding anniversary. Due to bidding season, our focus completely shifted towards our imminent future. All good now. :)

October catch-up – Halloween at work, for little kids, and big, big ones!

marine house1

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 13, 2013 in ART, foreign service

 

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Happy 238th Birthday to the USMC!

'Semper Fidelis', boys!

Semper Fidelis‘, boys! now, let’s get ready for the ceremony!

On November 10th, 2013, Marines stationed all over the world will celebrated the 238th Birthday of the Marine Corps. It couldn’t be different here in La Paz, Bolivia.

IMG_0956I’m honored to say that more than being members of the same mission, I’m grateful and proud to call the Marines here our friends. And my gratitude must be expressed as support. Support to our MSG.

I’m happy to know that each and every one of the young men working at Post One is there for us, despite being short-handed, despite the long hours, the apparently endless shift work… Their daily duties is to be ready. Ready before any of us would think of being… And tomorrow, when we all get in to begin our work day, they’ll be ready, with their usual ‘good morning’ from the ‘box’…

They’re more than a familiar voice behind the after-hours phone calls… and for the FS community out there, I’m sure you can all relate – they need our support as much as we need theirs…

I’m glad and honored to say, that more than sharing the same workplace, we share friendship… These young men have become my friends… Semper Fidelis, boys – Happy Birthday, Marine Corps! :)

 
4 Comments

Posted by on November 13, 2013 in BOLIVIA, foreign service

 

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Great Bidding Victory! Guess where we’re going?!

The illusion of two hands together reaching up to the sky creates the Metropolitan Cathedral

The founder, President JK

This city is well-known for its unique architecture, and the use of other media, like the water, to create architectural and sculptural illusions. Here is a bit of the city, showing that, even with the lack of focus on the main feature, the city constructions and its urban art remain unique, powerful and fabulous!

The Cultural Center

Have you guessed where will be heading out to next Summer? :o

 
18 Comments

Posted by on November 8, 2013 in BRASIL, foreign service, TRAVEL

 

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64 weeks at Post. Great bidding victory – we got our #1 choice [again]!

We’re a couple of months into our second year at Post, and we’ve enjoyed every bit of it.

Soon we’ll have news to share: The Mirandas are going to their #1 Choice – once again – hard to believe! The stress is over, and now, we oughta begin looking into our future – gotta love the Foreign Service – never a dull moment!

No, not sharing much at this time… Just wanna leave these images here… maybe it’s a clue?  :o

greenpeace

caldinho

Let’s just wait and see… :o

 
 

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Update: Then & Now – A Decade of Togetherness.

Photo from October 2013
Celebrating 10 + 1 years of married life? Pretty nice.

Having the opportunity to spend a pleasant evening together as a couple? Even better.

Discovering that another couple of friends, posted here in La Paz share your same wedding anniversary date? Priceless! :o

 

Taking a quick look into the past, looking forward into our future.

Ten years of a life together: laughs, love, joy, challenges…

A few tears, here and there, because we’re living a real life – the two of us have built a story for ourselves and for our ‘nomad family’. The two have become five; and we’re grateful for what the past and present have brought to our family.

We’re intrigued with what the future will unveil…

We will keep moving forward, despite any difficulties or unpleasant moments… And quoting one of my favorite readings from our wedding ceremony: “love knows all things, love believes all things, endures all things… love never fails…” 

Now, cheers to many more decades together! 

 
 

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Then & Now: A Decade of Togetherness…

 

Taking a quick look into the past, looking forward into our future.

Ten years of a life together: laughs, love, joy, challenges…

A few tears, here and there, because we’re living a real life – the two of us have built a story for ourselves and for our ‘nomad family’. The two have become five; and we’re grateful for what the past and present have brought to our family.

We’re intrigued with what the future will unveil…

We will keep moving forward, despite any difficulties or unpleasant moments… And quoting one of my favorite readings from our wedding ceremony: “love knows all things, love believes all things, endures all things… love never fails…” 

Now, cheers to many more decades together! 

 

 
9 Comments

Posted by on October 18, 2013 in FAMILY, foreign service, LOVE, photography

 

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Why expat life is not always a smooth ride: another infographic about expats

Originally posted on expatsincebirth:

Expat Life: Not Always A Smooth Ride!

Expat Life: Not Always A Smooth Ride! – An infographic by the team at Overs

This is another infographic about expats (see the sources at the end of the infographic). I chose to post it here on my blog, right after the post about the Sea Change Mentoring symposium I attended last Saturday, because many issues listed in this infographic have a major impact on expact children, and Sea Change Mentoring is one place to contact when facing issues like these.

Expat life is not as easy and smooth as many people think. Especially the different stages of expatriate adjustment should be taken seriously. These stages affect parents and children, and often not simultaneously. This is exactly why parents and children should reach out for help.

Another point seems very important to me: that expats or people who envisage this kind of life, should consider longer stays in a new…

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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in expat, foreign service, TCKs

 

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Expatriation and Relationships — Intercultural Blog Carnival

3rdCultureChildren:

 “Moving on to relationships with children, Reflections on the Expat Life by 3rdCultureChildren touches upon the difficulties that children experience when following their parents around the world — and the approach that parents can take to make those moves easier.”

Great collection of posts – thanks Margarita for the inclusion!

Originally posted on "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...":

by Margarita

The fourth Intercultural Blog Carnival is finally here and today we will be focusing on ExpatRelationshipsExpatriation and Relationships. A huge topic for sure since it can include relationships with just about anyone (and anything!) — and luckily for our readers, today’s collection does. So without further ado, here are our participants:

Learning a language for love — Cat Gaa starts us off with a personal story of how learning the intricacies of a foreign language can make your romantic relationship evolve and flourish while also saving you from those awkward moments when you think they said/meant something that they actually didn’t.

In an appropriately titled Expatriation and Relationships, Susan Cross explores what it’s like to make a friend while an expat, then say good-bye to that friend, and then have to make friends again. A regular expatriate conundrum, isn’t it?

The topic of friends — and…

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Weekly Writing Challenge: DNA Analysis

Clearly a writing challenge inspired by a topic titled ‘DNA analysis’ had to catch my attention. Not only I’m a born-again geek, I’m a ‘recovering scientist’, and up for grabbing any opportunity to jump right back into my past!

Funny how reading through this week’s suggestion from the Daily Post put me into a time machine, sending me back and forth in time: remembering my days as a researcher, scientist, professor; and yet, imagining how it would be when my [now little] children grow and decide on their own careers, taking up on different life paths…

Who knows what the future will have for them? What I’ve got is my past, followed by a great present bringing my off-spring up…

Talking about offspring, let me take you back to this post’s original idea, before my reminiscent past [and the uncertainties of our nomad future], take me completely off-track! My family is a melting pot: I seem to bring to the table a mix of Portuguese and Northern African backgrounds, surprisingly revealed by a recent DNA analysis. Our 3 children are a mix of Portuguese, Spanish, English, French, German ingredients, bubbling up from inside a hot deep cooking pot.

[Quick note: one of my husband’s passions, besides me, obviously, is Genealogy. He maintains a website on his parental families, and we’ve done together the DNA analysis, to learn more about our ‘ancestry’. The triggering idea for immersing into the research was actually the moment our first child was born: leave a knowledge legacy for our children].

Off-track… again? Not really! Back to my Portuguese/Northern African heritage…

From my mother I’ve inherited the quick temper and the sharp tongue – aww, those Portuguese Senoritas! I’ve also learned from her how to appreciate food and cooking, especially seafood dishes; all well-accompanied with good wine. She is the Teacher in my life, in more ways than one. My mother has taught me to understand and develop a passion for artistic expressions: music, dance and painting. Later in life, they all morphed into a healthy taste for fashion, dining out, event hosting, social outings and the passion for traveling to new places…

From my long-lost past...

From my long-lost past…

My father’s legacy is deeply imprinted in my body and mind. I became a person of Science because of him. Like my mother, he grew up orphan, lacking a present father-figure at home; nevertheless, made a life for himself as a chemical engineer, and teaching me how to love and appreciate all expressions of science and investigation and discipline. From my father I’ve inherited a ‘not-so-healthy’ taste for questioning, inquiring, and looking for answers and justifications. I’ve learned I’m capable of challenging facts of life, seeking solutions to daily problems.

I consider myself a product of hybrid environments, a product of mixed cultures, nicely blending together. I consider myself not a noun, but a verb… I’ve learned to accept and embrace new cultures and traditions as my own, since a very early age.

Life went on, and as it should be, the day I had to overlap my nucleic acid sequence with someone else’s came around. Considering that recombination is a common method of DNA repair, it was definitely the way the ‘future Mr. Right’ and I decided to pursue. Structural repair? What a great suggestion for a lucky start! Genetic recombination with breaking and rejoining of DNA strands is accelerated by many different enzymes. In our case, those enzymes were an endless curiosity, the unpaired desire to travel and visit new places and the recognition that neither one of us could survive withought the other’s genetic material… And so we merged; two genomes fusing into one happily married sequence… trust me, PCR results can prove it! :o

The results of this apparently odd combination can be checked [through a quite simple molecular biology experiment]: the three children that fill our house with joy and love. They have dark, brown and blond hairs. They’ve got dark and light eye colors. They dance and play like Brazilians, eat like Mexican and Portuguese; cry like Spaniards and French. They’re emotional and they’re grounded. They like art, and they like science. They’re growing up knowing the world is much bigger than what’s stated by their birth certificates, or stamped on their 9 passports…

Our children understand they come from mixed backgrounds, and know in their hearts they need to honor their heritage. And one day, they’ll be telling stories about their parents and grandparents to their own offspring: tales about how recombinant DNA, Portuguese cuisine, Mariachis, and American football traditions are all related:o

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20 Comments

Posted by on October 1, 2013 in FAMILY, foreign service, humor

 

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The little voices in my head and I, discussing an article on ‘Working Mothers’…

As I usually do, I try to [jump]start my [work] day catching up with the news. My routine begins with a brief read through the Washington Post and a couple of coffee. Since it was Monday, I was a bit delayed with my start. After going over the unsettling headlines on the very sad events in DC [a metro stop from our house, now rented] and, as a parent, could not stop thinking about the 12 year old Florida girl, victim of cyber-bullying

Two stories that hit really close to home, and make us reconsider the world we’re raising our children into…

I decided to move on, and hopped over to the paper’s Parenting section, another favorite of mine. That’s when my ‘internal conversation‘ decided to take place. An article from Mary-Jane Williams had me nodding my head in agreement, asking the author/interviewee questions and answering them before any of them [the article's author and the interviewee] had an opportunity to do so.

Katrina Alcorn, a writer-editor and mom of three in Oakland recently had a book published about ‘struggles, juggling work and home responsibilities’ and yes, it’s about many of us, working moms out there, trying our best to survive as professional, spouses and state-of-the-art moms.

Here’s how the ‘little voices in my head‘ began reading through the article:

[voices in my head speaking up] “I bet you she [book author, previously 'maxed-out' mom] will tell us it’s virtually impossible to juggle, perform and excel at all tasks we [working moms] are expected to display”…

[article] “The expectation is that there’s an adult at home, but that’s not how we live anymore. We’re trying to make something work that doesn’t work…”

[voices in my head to the conscious me] “I could have told you that. Don’t you know that already? Do I have to remind you how hard some mornings can be when, while fighting a splitting headache and trying to get a couple of coffee out of the microwave, you find yourself mopping the floor because one of the kids has already spilled orange juice from his/her breakfast? And remember, it has to be done carefully, so you don’t get your work clothes dirty before you’ve got a chance to leave the house!?”

[the conscious me]  “I guess you’re right. Maybe I don’t need a book to tell me that, it’s fairly common sense. We all know how hard it is nowadays to be a working mother…” And then, I resume back to reading the article: “but… let’s keep on reading it… she [book author, previously exhausted mom] seems to be pretty grounded. Maybe she’ll bring something up that I don’t know yet… let me keep reading…”

[article] “We need to change the conversation. We need to get out of this obsession with individual choices… We need to change the conversation so it’s not about what women are doing, but what society is doing. Do you want a bunch of bulletproof women to have this, what we think of as a normal life?”

[the conscious me to the little voices in my head] “WOW, she just nailed it on the head! See how simple the problem is: we [women, mothers] are not the problem; the society is, and the way the society ‘perceive’ the participation of working mothers is the big issue – and I loved her metaphorical comparison using the ‘bulletproof’ women! I totally feel like, every morning, before we all go out [of our bedroom] and face the real world [aka, our demanding kids, our needy spouses, our challenging jobs], we need to put on some sort of invisible, but yet, effective shield, and carry on with our daily chores. And don’t even consider the possibility of failing! Failure for a working mother, whose goal is nothing less than perfect, is completely out of question!”

[little voices in my head] “You’re overreacting. Do you believe you’re the only mother that works outside the house? You actually got it pretty easy… and don’t get me started on the whole ‘you’ve got household help’ speech… Remember: it was one of the reasons you guys decided to keep going with this foreign service gig… be honest, what would life be like if you were back in DC? Would you be working?”

[the conscious me to the little voices in my head]  “But that’s the whole point! You’re right, very likely, I wouldn’t be working. How could I? And a nanny? There’ll be no way on earth we’d be able to afford one! And if I’d decided to work, even part-time, I had to find a reliable day-care for the baby girl, juggle with a flexible work schedule, and be prepared for the ‘not-so-friendly looks’ my co-workers would give me every time I had to leave early, due to some unforeseen cause! But this lady here [the book author] is so right, let me read out loud her statement:

[the article] “The women in my life are really capable, smart, hardworking and dedicated to their families. They don’t really need advice.Their employers need advice, their co-workers need advice, the policymakers need advice.”

[the conscious me to the little voices in my head] “See? Do you get the main issue? It’s all about this endless conflict women have to deal with; the conflict between working [outside the house] and raising kids. Here’s another excerpt:”

[the article] “For better or worse, women are raised to be nurturers and to say yes. But I think there’s more to it. Research shows that when employers know a woman has children or is going to have children, her performance is scrutinized more. . . . If a woman is worried that she’s being scrutinized at work because she’s a mother, she’s going to be really circumspect about setting boundaries at work because she doesn’t want to be seen as someone who is not pulling her weight… Those things came at a price. They were not free. We may put in extra time at night after the kids go to bed, early in the morning or on weekends, but that time isn’t seen the same way as the time in the office. . . . I think we need to challenge the idea that to be effective at work or be a leader you need to work long hours.”

[little voices in my head to the now, caffeine-deprived me] “Did you notice that when you began ‘psycho-analyzing the article, your completely forgot about your coffee? It’s probably ice-cold by now! We need to fix this, asap!”

[the not-so-sure about being conscious me, to the little voices in my head] “I guess you’re right. Totally forgot about it. And now, I have to go find a microwave at somebody else’s office and warm it up… it won’t be the same, but hey, the article really got me engaged, which is a good sign…. I hope more working moms out there come out with similar ‘poking discussions’… some good food for thought… And talking about food, let me get that coffee warmed up!”

[little voices, now fading] “Good chatting with you. Hope you have a nice day at work… Talk to you soon!” :o

Written in response to this week’s writing inspiration, “Dialogue”

 
21 Comments

Posted by on September 27, 2013 in FAMILY, foreign service, humor

 

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Photo Project ’52 Bolivian Sundays’ [week 37, 'Inside'].

During a family day at their school, following the rules of the game: one would be safe if and when, inside the circle…

This photo shot capture not one little girl heading for ‘base’, but actually three having the same idea, at the very same time… ♥ 

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♥ Enjoy as you please, and thanks for stopping by! ♥

 

 
8 Comments

Posted by on September 14, 2013 in BOLIVIA, foreign service, photography, school

 

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‘Backward’ Tale – The Boy and The Girl.

 WeddingIt’s been a nice hand, more precisely, a full house,

with three Queens and two Kings

It’s been a roller coaster… living and moving…

And adjusting… and moving again.

They traveled because of work,

They moved because it’s their passion.

It’s been nine years and eleven months
Since the boy and the girl have wed.

One decade awaits to celebrate their togetherness

But it was not always like that


The boy had dreams

The girl had fears

And yet, they were so alike…

The girl had left her home country,
Her job would take her to a far away land

The boy would wait for her.

He had found a job, he had finished school.

His job would yet take him to far away lands

But the boy liked to travel

And so did the girl.

boy and girlThere have been financial difficulties.

There have been physical distances

There have been emotional challenges

But the boy and the girl have never given up.

That boy and that girl had met some twelve years back

And could not wait to meet up again… and again…

They traveled to see each other

They traveled because of work.

They traveled to unknown places, for the ordinary pleasures of moving, seeing and learning…

Even if there had been no money to travel, they would still do it

And simply pay for it later.

Some twelve years ago,

The boy had gone to the girl’s home country

To learn a new language,

To learn a new culture,

To find himself into a whole new adventure.

Without even looking for it,
He discovered love

And so did the girl.

Neither one of them had ever believed in love at first sight.

The boy and the girl were probably the most skeptical people on the face of the Earth,

But those two were so wrong!

And they found what they were missing, on each other

Some twelve years back…

Now, the boy and the girl have aged

And they are proud to show their hand: they’ve got the most perfect full house

With three Queens and two Kings….♥

king-and-queen-of-hearts-playing-cards-courting-each-other

This post is written in response to WordPress’ Weekly Writing Challenge. The details of the challenge can be found here.

 
36 Comments

Posted by on September 9, 2013 in FAMILY, foreign service, LOVE

 

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Photo Project ’52 Bolivian Sundays’ [week 36, 'Unusual Point of View'].

Photo Project  ’52 Bolivian Sundays’ [week 36, 'Unusual Point of View'].

A traditional, hand-woven fabric made by Bolivian women artisans who use it to carry anything from their groceries to their children.

Each pattern is unique to the woman who has woven it.

bolivia unusual 2

Aguayo (cloth), a multicolored woolen cloth, part of the traditional dressing in the Andes region.

Texture and color, under an usual point of view…

bolivian unusual

♥ Enjoy as you please, and thanks for stopping by! ♥

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13 Comments

Posted by on September 6, 2013 in BOLIVIA, foreign service, photography

 

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Snapshots of Soccer in Quiripujo, Pucarani – Bolivia.

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Mid-August: the U.S. embassy soccer team visited the Community of Quiripujo in Korila for a friendly soccer match and a book donation. The visit began in Quiripujo school where a cultural event took place, the day continued with a soccer match between the teams of Korila and the U.S. Embassy, which ended with a resounding victory for the local team and concluded with the traditional Apthapi communal feast.

Reference [text]: http://bolivia.usembassy.gov/soccerinquiripujo2013.html
Photos by L. Miranda:

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Photo Project ’52 Bolivian Sundays’ [week 35, 'Sea']. Okay, no sea in Bolivia, but…

Location of Bolivia in South America on the 1s...

Location of Bolivia in South America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I totally understand the words ‘sea’ and ‘Bolivia’ do not got together in the same sentence!

Sorry for that… ♥

For the ones who have forgotten a bit of their geography:

Unfortunately, the country of Bolivia do not have access to the ocean, it does not have a ‘sea view’ of it’s own…

Not going into political details…

Some neighboring countries may have some justification to that… :o but for now, leaving politics completely out of any of my blogposts!

For this week photo series, I’m bringing in two possible options for the ‘Challenge Sea‘.

The first one: Bolivia does have the largest fresh water lake in South America [woot,woot!]

Lake Titicaca

The youngest hiker

The youngest hiker

Largest freshwater lake in South America

Largest freshwater lake in South America

The second option: the easiest way to get a unique ‘sea view’, on any given ‘Bolivian Sunday’ is to visit the neighboring Chile…. like our family did, some time this year!

Maybe, I’m cheating…(?) but I can’t go against geography, right? If there’s no sea, there’s no sea… ♥ Enjoy as you please, and thanks for stopping by! ♥

Read the rest of this entry »

 
30 Comments

Posted by on September 1, 2013 in BOLIVIA, foreign service, photography

 

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The emotionally resilient expat [by Linda Janssen].

Oh, well, why not mention here a great book that just came out [July 2013], by the author Linda Janssen?

And the reason for that? Linda interviewed several expats, families, collected their experiences, challenges, suggestions, stories and tales. All together, bound in one book – and I’m happy to say I’m one of the proud contributors to her compendium…

[insert a shameless smile here! :o]

My little 2 cents: lessons learned from our ‘nomadic life’ with the US Foreign Service – as a professional, a around-the-clock mother, a traveler, an FSO spouse… a serial expat… ♥

Happy reading!

Linda A Janssen, The Emotionally Resilient Expat

The Emotionally Resilient Expat: Engage, Adapt and Thrive Across Cultures

Living abroad offers enriching experiences of growth, broadened perspective, enhanced cultural understanding. Yet its transition-rich, change-driven, cross-cultural nature can place considerable demands, leaving us stressed, disconnected, our identity in flux. Building on existing literature and benefitting from recent developments in psychology and brain-body connections, The Emotionally Resilient Expat: Engage, Adapt and Thrive Across Cultures shows the key to successful transitions and beyond lies in emotional resilience to adapt, adjust or simply accept. Linda A. Janssen combines candid personal stories from experienced expats and cross-culturals, with a wealth of practical tools, techniques and best practices from emotional, social and cultural intelligence, positive psychology, mindfulness, stress management, self-care and related areas. FACTORS™ offers a way to live a healthier, more positive, emotionally engaged, culturally connected global life.

Curious to learn more about the book? Follow this link:

www.theemotionallyresilientexpat.com

REVIEWS

“Using personal story and solid theory in her groundbreaking book on emotional resilience, Linda A. Janssen guides those facing the challenges of cross-cultural living to dig under the initial rocky surfaces of overseas life to discover – and use – the rich gold of their own experience. A great resource for expats of all backgrounds.” Ruth E. Van Reken, Author, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds

“Janssen’s work is sure to be a stand out in any expatriate or cross-cultural arena. She eloquently, articulately and incisively delves into areas previously considered taboo in order to highlight how we can all gain mastery over whatever life throws our way. I will definitely be referencing Janssen’s material when working with TCKs, expat parents and international students.” Tina L Quick, Author, The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition,www.internationalfamilytransitions.com

“A practical guide in the art of managing the risks of overseas life in ways that will promote endurance and effectiveness. Full of honest and hope-filled stories from the lived experience and life-long learning of Janssen and her dozens of expatriate contributors. An invaluable companion for expats who want to know that they are not alone.” Duncan P. Westwood, PhD, (C)OACCPP Clinical Director of Expatriate Care & Development, International Health Management

“As with any food rich in nutrition, this book is best sampled regularly and digested slowly.” Drs. Douglas W. Ota, NIP Psychologist, NMI Mediator, Family Therapist, www.dougota.nl

 
 

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Pictorial Journal: Hiking adventure throughout the “Devil’s Molar” [Muela del Diablo], Bolivia.

On top of the Devil's Molar - quite a view!

On top of the Devil’s Molar – quite a view!

Thank you for stopping by… 

Promise: there’ll be no regrets at all!

The city of La Paz seen from the Devil's Molar [Muela del Diablo]

The city of La Paz seen from the Devil’s Molar [Muela del Diablo]

But, first, let me showcase here my newest discovery: The Media Explorer

Embedding Tweets!

How cool is that? :o

Now, go for it: enjoy the image gallery, our so-called ‘Pictorial Journal’!

 

 

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Photo Project ’52 Bolivian Sundays’ [week 34, 'Focus'].

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For this week photo series, I’m bringing in our view from the top of the Muela del Diablo ['The Devil's Molar'] mountain – result from a recent family hiking trip. If curious to see more unique images about this intriguing, challenging attempt, filled with endless beauty, come by later and click here! [Still working on the "Pictorial Journal"!] :o

La Paz surrounded by mountains

For the second view, moving the point of interest a little – from the natural scenario, searching for the urbane: at the center, the city of La Paz, surrounded by the mountainous chain, and blessed by the lightest blue sky…

Enjoy as you please, and thanks for stopping by! ♥

 
 

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Always in good company! 3rdCultureChildren among Multicultural Bloggers!

Image

Check the directory out at: http://www.multiculturalbloggers.com/

Multicultural Bloggers

 

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Blogpost ‘Place Holder': Hiking through the ‘Muela del Diablo’, Bolivia.

muela del diablo

I know, I know…. Procrastination seems to be word of the moment… :o

Evnetually, I’ve gotta get the images from our recent hiking adventure out, the drive to the Muela del Diablo ["Devil's Molar", and its 150 meters, on a 3,800m of altitude]; but feel like we’re always caught up, keeping ourselves afloat while cruising through daily homework [kids], attending to the demanding toddler and obviously, going to work [outside the house, for the grown-ups!]

This wild rock ["Muela"] can be seen from almost every where in the southern part of La Paz. The giant appears steep und unapproachable right within its bizarrely shaped erosion landscape and green lands.

Muela del Diablo, Bolivia

For the time being, I’m leaving here a little ‘place holder’ for what’s to come. Hopefully, very soon. :o

And, as a bit of a spoiler [text borrowed from The Gadling], “Devil’s Tooth is an inactive volcano that is approximately 492 feet high. According to our guide, it got its name because indigenous people believed it looked like the tooth of Satan.

The command for our past Sunday was: “are you ready?” I’m sure these ones here were!

Muela del Diablo

More images to come in the near future… stay tuned!
Related:

http://strollingsouthamerica.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/hiking-la-muela-del-diablo/

http://en.wordpress.com/#!/read/topic/muela-del-diablo

http://triptobolivia.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/muela-del-diablo-y-valle-de-la-luna/

http://icsboliviavolunteers.wordpress.com/tag/muela-del-diablo/

http://hakanronnblad.com/2012/01/12/la-muela-del-diablo/

 

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Black & White to celebrate our friends’ second decade of ‘togetherness’!

Quite an accomplishment, I’d say. Especially in our present time, where marriages come and go with the wind… :o

Castillos Anniversary

Our proud friends were happy to celebrate their 20th Wedding Anniversary – in a fantastic style – Red for the Victorious Couple, and black & white for the guests!

My hope is that one day, husband and I will be repeating this… for our own anniversary. But for now, still looking forward to celebrate our first decade together – just a few months ahead of us! :o

 
 

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Reflections on the expat life, inspired by Buckminster Fuller: “I am not a noun, I seem to be a verb…”

IMG_5308

This is a third post on my ‘random thoughts‘ about bringing our children up into this ‘nomad world’ [first one discussed multilingualism and its approach as parents], especially when it comes to the diverse society they [children] are about to face…. any moment from now… the second post presented a discussion on the misperceptions on being a ‘serial expat‘; a nomad, a ‘rolling stone…. I’m sure there’ll be more posts to come – thank you all for reading, and for the continuous feedback on this [and other!] topics – the suggestions, comments and shared stories from other parents/travelers/expats have made this ‘blogging experience’ much richer. And I’m very grateful for all that.

The discussion on social diversity is not only part of our family’s daily life, but it also tailors the way we are raising our children, and the way we would like them to understand and perceive their surroundings.

Buckminster Fuller

Geodesic Dome, by Buckminster Fuller  (credit: Wikipedia)

For many children, expat life is an enriching, wonderful experience, but for many others, it is an unbelievably difficult time. Much is gained — language, travel, worldview, diversity – but there are very real losses — extended family, longtime friends, a sense of belonging. Some of the losses are unrecognized and unacknowledged until later in life…

As parents of TCKs, my husband and I try to be sensitive to their particular situation. Each child is different, and reacts to the uprootedness differently. Some are more sensitive, and others relish in it.

English: Cropped and flipped photo of young Bu...

Buckminster Fuller (credit: Wikipedia)

One thing we have always tried to be, however, is their anchor. Since their external life is in constant flux, we try to keep our family life constant and stable. We try to have our own habits and traditions, which, as it turns out, are a bit of a blend between the countries we inhabit. Yes, they [our kids] may be exotic to the kids around them, and again, each handles that differently. One thrives on that, another cringes, but it is what it is. We know that they would have a different perspective than we do as their parents…

Perhaps, the best way of handling the identity issue is to adopt the dictum of the late Buckminster Fuller: “I am not a noun, I seem to be a verb…”

Related articles

 
 

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52 weeks at Post: Smile like you mean it…

Statler and Waldorf
[that's exactly how my husband and I see ourselves! We're just sitting up there, watching the world go by, and quite often, criticizing the way it moves!] :o

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One year’s gone by since we first arrived in La Paz, for our 2-year assignment with the Foreign Service. This song from The Killers seems pretty fitting for the moment we’re living:

The Killers on stage

The Killers on stage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Looking back at sunsets on the east side

We lost track of the time

Dreams aren’t what they used to be

Some things sat by so carelessly
Smile like you mean it

Smile like you mean it…

We’ve got mixed feelings regarding our present. Our future is still blurry. And yet, we’ll keep on smiling at life… smiling like we mean it…

Let’s see what the future has in-store for us… ♥ Will keep you posted. :o

Related:
 
10 Comments

Posted by on August 1, 2013 in BOLIVIA, foreign service, music

 

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