Guest Posts

I Left My Heart in Medellin — But Brought Back a Pablo Escobar Shirt

After spending two wonderful weeks in Guayabitos, Mexico with my Earnshaw family, the day had finally come. I had been dreaming of visiting the famous city of Medellin, Colombia for some time, and I had finally decided that this would be the year.

To say I was a bit nervous would be an understatement for sure. This was the first time I would do a solo trip. My sister-in-law, Karen, sets up the entire trip for me when we go to Mexico or Cuba. All I have to do is grab my suitcase for follow everyone else.

Lloyd sets out solo.

Karen re-assured me that I could navigate the big airports myself, no problem. Plus, I  had my cousin, Jody, waiting on the other end to greet me when I landed in Medellin. That was a huge comfort as arriving at 22:30 was daunting. Hell, it would have been scary even in the daylight.

Things did not start out as planned, which I‘ve learned is part of travel. My flight from Puerta Vallarta to Mexico City was three hours late, which caused me to miss the connection to Medellin. I was very stressed about spending the night in Mexico City, but the airline assured me that tomorrow I would get to Medellin. They shuttled me to a very nice hotel and gave me vouchers for dinner that night and breakfast the next morning.

The following afternoon, I was back at the airport to wait for the flight. A few hours later I was wowing at the awesome view as we descended into the famous city of Medellin. I knew my stress level would drop considerably as soon as I saw cousin Jody, and there she was.

After a big hug and smiles, she handed me a wad of Colombian pesos and led the way to where the buses back to the city were waiting. A cab ride after dark is not a good idea as too much can go wrong.

Jody had booked a room for me in the same hotel/hostel where she lives. A very nice little apartment type of accommodation with a TV, fan, and the all-important private bathroom.

They don’t rent daily or weekly so I had to pay for a full month, a whole $300CAD, That included wifi, the communal kitchen and everything. Back in Canada you would be lucky to cover two nights for that price.

Meeting Jody’s freinds made me realize that she was pretty much a celebrity in their eyes –the “North American gringa” with the bright red hair. We wouldn’t get very far down the street before bumping into one of her freinds. Then theres would be hugs, the traditional kiss on the cheek and a short chat, before we were on our way again. I could only hope to fit in as well as she does.

Alvaro and Lloyd

I met Alvaro at Andres’s little store, a little convenience shop where you can also pull up a chair and have a drink if you like.

I liked Alvaro right away, A very interesting man, in his early 70’s.

He lived in New York for 12 years and speaks English well. When he returned to Medellin, he became a former big-time food caterer, and his clients included Tata Escobar, Pablo’s wife. A serious car accident left both his legs badly damaged, He lives in the Boston area, the same as Jody.


Mayra is a young very ambitious woman who helped me out big time with my phone problems. She set me up so I was able to stay in touch with family back home in Canada, She is an expert with cell phones, which explains why the electronics store where she works is always busy. Ya, she makes me wish I was about 30 years old again.

Jody’s freind Will —short for Willington – impressed me as soon as I met him, A smart good-looking young guy who speaks very good English. He works for an international company called UPS.

With Will and Lloyd at Parque Periodista where you can cut the weed smoke with a knife.

He has the personality and the tech skills to do very well. I was a bit surprised at his monthly wage of about $400USD per month.

Fernando and Hiro are two brothers who run a small streetside restaurant with the best Venezuelan food you could hope to find. You need to make a reservation a couple of days ahead of time and they will cook an awesome Venezuelan meal for you, It costs about $6CAD.  Great guys to sit and visit with as well. Fernando also makes empanadas in the evenings and they are usually sitting outside ready for a visit from their many friends.

I was able to meet Jorge – which translates as George in English. He is a very famous Colombian artist. This was an honour for me because he is a personal friend of Jody’s. His apartment and studio are the entire sixth floor of the apartment building, so it is huge.

His  late wife, Ethel Gilmore, was also a legend and her work covers the walls.  This is not something you will find in any tourist pamphlet anywhere. Although his health is failing, I was able to shake his hand and his personal caregiver, Lidis, gave me a tour of his home and the famous paintings while Jody visited with Jorge.

Then we were introduced to a man named Don Rodrigo, who lived in the same building on the entire 18th floor, He showed us around his beautiful home and I was able to snap some impressive photos from his balcony. The opportunity to meet people like this is quite humbling.

Santa Elena – a town up the mountain — was an interesting place to go on a Sunday afternoon. Its about an hour’s bus ride and costs about one dollar for a ticket. It is a small town that attracts quite a few tourists.

Actually, they were the first ’outsiders’ I had seen since I arrived. Jody doesn’t know any foreigners, which is why she gets to be ‘la gringa.’

We toured the town on foot and sat down at a small bar for a drink. There we watched the locals playing Sunday afternoon soccer, We later found a nice little restaurant and had lunch before heading back down to Medellin.

Another nice little place Jody introduced me to was La Polonesa.

A striking little bar that is famous for salsa dancing between the tables. And the coffee there was very good.

We took a cab to the suburb called El Poblado. This is a place that attracts lots of tourists.  Its obviously a wealthy part of the city judging by the houses and apartments, the price of pretty much everything goes up accordingly as well. Although it was very nice, I would much rather be off the tourist path and back in the Boston area of the city.

Jody introduced me to her freind Alex and I liked him right away, He grew up in the “communa”, a very tough part of Medellin, We had no worries about being safe around Alex and he is a great tour guide.

Lloyd and Alex beside a sign that says ‘do not go here.’

We went to Parque Arivi with Alex. To get there we had to First, we took the metro train, It is a public transit system which is awesome. Next, it was onto what I called the “sky tram cars”. They are like ski lifts and take you up the side of the mountain over the slum areas of the city, It is probably about three or four kilometers of the jungle before reaching Parque Arivi.

There are a lot of interesting things to check out in this park, so we did lots of walking and admiring the view before we came to a restaurant. It was a pretty hot day, and it was nice to sit and have a drink and just enjoy the view.

Jordon and Lloyd

As we sat there I couldn’t believe who I was seeing, A young guy named Jordan whom I had met in the airport in Mexico City was walking by with some other people, He didn’t notice me so I yelled,” You gotta be kidding me”. Of course, we laughed and snapped a couple of pics and yakked a bit, and then we were on our way again. What are the chances of that happening?

A few days later we met with Alex again to go to a place called “Communa 13”. This is a slum area made famous by none other than Pablo Escobar. Escobar had one of his headquarters in this communa, and he hired many of his people from there. He also often hid there from the many different sources that were constantly looking for him.

Although the place is attracting alot of guided tours, I would not want to be here alone when the sun goes down. I did see a flashy Colombia hat I liked, so I bought it. Thats when Jody and I noticed Alex admiring a hat with an embroidered semi-truck on the front. We knew he liked it, but it probably wasn’t in his budget, so  I went and bought it for him. He was so happy. We both looked pretty sharp in our new hats.

The boys in their new hats.

We also took Alex for Chinese food. The portions were huge and there were plenty of leftovers, so Alex took them home to enjoy a Chinese supper with his mother that night. How good is that?

I wanted to see Alex once more before I left so we arranged to meet at Parque Boston. Alex is a huge soccer fan. He almost made me cry when he presented me with an official jersey of his favorite soccer team. He gave me a hug and said ” mi hermano,” which is Spanish for “my brother” It would be hard to top that moment.

In the Boston area of Medellin where I was staying, I quickly became known as “Primo,” Spanish for “cousin” because of my relationship with Jody. That made me feel good. More than once when I was out on a walk I heard someone call out “Hola Primo” — hello cousin, I felt like I was fitting in with Jody’s friends just fine.

Adela lived in the same building where I was staying in.

She is a very nice Colombian woman who spent several years in the USA. She speaks very good English and loves to excersise and she asked me if I would like to go walking with her, I really enjoyed getting to know her. We went for coffee and spent some time in Parque Boston just enjoying each other’s company.

Jody had arranged Spanish lessons with a teacher by the name of Isabel. Another very nice person. I know my Spanish is pretty limited, but everyone encouraged me, saying i was really learning fast. I didn’t notice it, but I think if I lived in Medelliin for a year, my Spanish would be pretty good.

I was quite impressed with Jody’s ability to communicate in Spanish. If I were at that level, I would be more than satisfied. The toughest part for me is understanding as Spanish is the second-fastest spoken language in the world.

Did I stick out like a tourist? Ya probably, but I did my best to try dress like the locals in jeans, a button-up shirt and running shoes,

I came away with a whole lot of ambition to continue improving my Spanish.  You don’t learn a new language in a few weeks, for sure. In the Boston area of Medellin its pretty rare to see tourists and very few people in this barrio speak English, so it is advisable to know enough Spanish to communicate or have someone with you who can. It makes being there so much easier.

A couple days before I was supposed to leave Jody came down to my room and said, “You wanted adventure. Well, now you’ve got a story” She showed me an email she recieved from the Canadian Embassy, advising against all travel in Columbia for 72 hours.

A group of rebels had announced an armed strike from 06:00 Friday, February 14th to 06:00 Monday, February 17. it was not safe to be out and risk being caught in the middle of a very serious clash between the rebels and the authorities.

Great, so now what? I was supposed to leave on Saturday, February 15th right in the middle of it. Jody’s idea was to talk to the locals and find out how they felt about chancing the bus ride to the airport. She got alot of different opinions, but the general feeling was that it would be safe to try getting to the airport,

Her plan was simple. We would take a cab to the the bus stop at 09:00, by then the buses would have made several trips to the airport. If they were getting through, no problem, If they weren’t, then we go back to the hotel and rebook the flight for Monday.

Turns out they were running so we hopped on the bus and 45 minutes later we were at the airport, It was a huge relief, but I was still worried about Jody getting back safely, which she did.

There were a lot of police and military presence, choppers in the air as well, the airport was not near as busy as it normally would be, but I was there, My flight didn’t leave for several more hours, but I had no problem killing time,

I felt pretty safe as its unlikely there would be any problems at an international airport. From there it was pretty easy, a short flight to the capital city of Bogota, then on to Toronto and then the final leg of the journey to Regina.

Overall it was an amazing trip, and I would — and probably will — go back without a second thought. Some may find it a bit silly that I was so stressed at times, but managing the huge airports, the plane delays and an armed Colombian guerrilla threat was a pretty big accomplishment in my mind, especially on my first solo trip.

I rode bulls when I was young, I practised baseball with a semi-pro team in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, I even fought a bull in Cancun, but this trip ranks highest on my list of awesome experiences.

Other ‘out and about’ photos:

Guest Posts

5 Tips for Dealing with Acid Reflux When Travelling

5 Tips for Dealing with Acid Reflux When Travelling

Having lived with acid reflux symptoms for quite a few years I know that sometimes travelling particularly on long haul flights where you don’t know your food options can be quite troublesome or worrying.

Undoubtedly when you are travelling there are a lot of things to consider, particularly for someone with acid reflux. Luckily though if you have minor or even more severe acid reflux with a little preparation beforehand and with a little thought you should be completely fine when travelling.

Below are my top 5 tips on how to deal with acid reflux when travelling from my own personal experiences.

#1 Don’t Overeat

Probably my top tip when travelling is to not overeat. There are a couple of reasons I recommend this. The first reason being that when you eat too much in one sitting it puts more pressure on your stomach and importantly the valve about the stomach. When there is more pressure on this valve means more likelihood of acid reflux which we want to avoid.

The second reason is because when you are eating new foods in airports or on planes it will be often something you are not used to. So eating too much is not the best idea, particularly when you overload the stomach with foods the stomach isn’t familiar with.

#2 Drink Bottled Water

If you drink tap water or water that you aren’t used to this can lead to some possible issues with the stomach. Ideally try to drink only bottled water because this kind of water shouldn’t cause you any problems.

It’s also worth mentioning in certain countries you shouldn’t drink the water at all so it’s worth researching before you leave for your destination if the water is drinkable. Finally I would like to mention avoiding water when you are on the plane is wise, because the water is stored in big tanks which aren’t usually the cleanest – in this case after you pass through security you should buy water that will last you for your whole flight.

#3 Bring Some Medicine

Of course I would recommend to bring medicine with you. Some people with acid reflux will take medicine regularly whereas some will only take some when they have a flair up. What I suggest is having some medicine in both your hand luggage and your main luggage as well. That way if you lose one you will still have medicine. I also recommend bringing at least 50% more medicine that you expect you will need during your travels. This way you will have enough in case you need more no matter what the reason.

One final thing I wanted to mention is if you take a Gaviscon type liquid like me and want to bring some on the plane you can. Just remember you will need it to be stored in clear bottles 100ml or less and kept in a clear transparent bag.

#4 Eat Plain Foods Where Possible

This may seem obvious but try to eat more plain foods when possible. When you are travelling your body will need to adapt to new foods and spices etc. So it’s best to keep them to a minimum at least initially when travelling. The same thing can be said to avoid trigger foods, things like spicy food, fatty foods, chocolate and coffee to name a few.

#5 Order the ‘Bland’ Meal Choice on Longer Flights

When you are travelling on longer flights where meals are provided some airlines provide the option for a bland meal. What a bland meal is, is basically a meal that is plain and doesn’t include spices etc or thing that could worsen acid reflux. They also usually include less preservatives and salt which is an added bonus.

These kinds of meals are basically for people who suffer from acid reflux – it’s usually what I opt for when flying long haul flights.



Guest Posts

DIY Travel Hacks That Will Change How You Pack Forever

DIY Travel Hacks That Will Change How You Pack Forever

Admit it, packing for your trip can be both fun and stressful. It only depends on how you do it to determine which will outweigh the other. This is an integral part of traveling, especially when you’re going to a far off place. At times, you’re going to need to bring a lot of stuff to ensure that your trip will be a comfortable and easy experience. But with that, comes the hassle of fitting them all in your baggage and hoping you don’t break any airport rules. You’d also want all the stuff inside your luggage to be well-maintained by the time you arrive at your destination and open your bags up. 

Just because packing can be challenging doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. It’s all about finding the right ways in bringing along all your necessities and more. Nowadays, there are even all sorts of travel hacks you can do to make packing a whole lot easier. Check some of them out.

Weigh Your Bag With You

The weight of your luggage is one of the strictest limits of all the airport rules. They can also vary from country to country, as well universal limits laid out by international bodies for the safety of world travel. But how can you assure that your luggage doesn’t exceed such? Weigh them together with yourself. If the combination of your weight and that of your bags haven’t reached the limit, you’re good to go. Otherwise, you can always gauge how much to take off to still stay within the aforementioned weight limit.

Zip-locks are Your Bestfriends

At times, you’re going to have to bring liquids that are necessary for your everyday life, regardless of where you are. But this will also lead you to worry about them spilling onto your clothes and other belongings. A surefire way to prevent this from happening is to place all your liquids inside zip-locks. Your perfumes, mouthwash, liquid makeup, and more will stay secure inside these nifty plastic containers. They also won’t take up as much space in your luggage.

Pack some Clothes inside Your Carry-On

You never know what might happen on your flight or wherever you end up on before you reach your destination. You can, however, be prepared for anything. If you suddenly need to change your clothes, for example, packing some inside your carry-on will do wonders. A drink can spill on your outfit or your seatmate might accidentally vomit all over you (it has happened!). Whatever it is, at least having some clothes handy will save you a lot of time and less humiliation on your trip.

Roll Your Clothes

Wherever you go, it’s important that you secure your bag to not lose anything or leave it vulnerable to thieves. But securing your luggage is more difficult if your the bulk of your clothes won’t allow it to close properly. With this in mind, try rolling your garments instead of folding them. doing so can leave a lot of extra space and allows you to bring along as many clothes as you think you need. Ultimately, it’ll also be a lot easier to close your baggage and have it stay closed throughout your flight.

Turn Jackets Inside Out

This hack will certainly help you in your business meetings or elegant affairs you’ll attend overseas. a jacket is a quick and easy wardrobe piece that can turn any outfit instantly dressier and more appropriate for business or more sophisticated events. But how can you avoid it getting wrinkled during your flight? Turn it inside out. This way, the lining is more exposed to external forces that’ll wrinkle the garment. And when you turn it right-side-in again, the outer appearance of the jacker will still look smooth.

Overhead view of suitcase being packed for vacation

Belts Help keep Collars Stiff

When it comes to your inner garments, the most challenging ones are ensuring the quality of your shirts while you travel. You should note that despite any earlier hack, crisp shirts for evening or business attire should not be rolled up. And in order to keep the collars stiff, roll up your belt and place it within the neck area of the garment. This will keep the collar straight, stiff, and you won’t even need to iron it again when you land.

Place Gadgets and Other Fragiles in Between Clothes

If you have an important business meeting overseas and you’re going to need your laptop and other gadgets for it, you have to ensure that they’ll stay safe within your luggage during your flight. One thing you can do is to place them in between your clothes. The more layers there are protecting them, the more they’ll stay safe inside your bags. More than one layer will do for both below and above your gadgets to ensure such safety. But if you pack them in your carry-ons instead, wrap them with the clothes you’ll be bringing along inside the bag.

Always Bring your USB Wire

If you suddenly lose your charger but you really need to charge your phone, your USB wire is all you really need. Certain establishments, particularly in airports and in convenience stores, you can find designated areas wherein you can simply connect your phone to your USB wire and it’ll automatically charge your phone. In your hotel room, you can also connect them through the slots at the back of your TV. As long as you have your wire, you can charge practically anywhere you go within the city.

Store Items inside Old Sunglass Cases

Sometimes, the worst items to pack are the smallest ones. Jewelry, gadgets accessories, and the like. You’d like them to safe and secure inside your bag, but since they’re so small, it’s easy to lose them and you’ll have to ravage throughout all your belongings to find them. But not anymore. If you have old sunglass cases lying around, you can use them to store all your precious. Your earphones will probably benefit the most, as it won’t end up tangled by the time you land on your destination.

Refill Old Toothpase Bottles

Don’t waste your money by buying multiple pairs of toothpaste for your trip. By the end of one, store your empty bottles aside for future use. And when it’s time to travel again, get your normal sized toothpaste (which are usually large) and extract some to put into the stored travel-sized bottles. IT’s easy to do and a lot cheaper than buying a new one altogether.

Don’t let the packing ruin your trip when it hasn’t even officially started yet. These hacks and more will make life much easier for you, both before and during your world travels!


Guest Posts

Hawaii Capping Uber Surge Pricing: What Does this Mean for the Industry?

Hawaii Capping Uber Surge Pricing: What Does this Mean for the Industry?

Lawmakers in Hawaii delivered a severe blow to the ride-sharing industry with new legislation that puts a cap on “surge pricing.” Honolulu is the first city to restrict how much money ride-sharing companies, such as Lyft and Uber, can charge consumers during times when demand is high. The legislation, officially called Bill 35, prohibits the companies from charging higher rates during rush hour, severe weather, and major events or concerts.

One Councilwoman who voted in favor of the limits, Kymberly Marcos Pine, voiced her concern when sailors from the U.S. Navy were given rates as high as $221 to travel from Pearl Harbor to Waikiki. By comparison, cab fare was only $44 for the same distance. A spokesperson for Uber said that the trip, which never actually occurred, was during an extremely busy time and for a higher priced-tier of rides in the “Uber Select” program instead of the basic rate.

Lyft and Uber both argue that the market shouldn’t be concerned with price gouging because customers know how much the ride costs before they book it so there are no surprises at the end of the trip. A driver for Uber, Michael Goodman, agrees that people don’t want to pay more during busy times, but they see the prices before requesting a ride. 

This pricing model enables Lyft and Uber to encourage more drivers to work during periods of high demand, creating more options while taxicabs are limited by the size of their fleet and drivers available during those hours. Surge pricing was a significant factor in 38 percent of drivers deciding to work during those hours. The incentive increases how many drivers are on the road, reliability, and reduces wait times for customers. Eliminating that incentive for drivers would negate these benefits and lead to less reliable transportation options

Tabatha Chow, senior operations manager for Uber in Hawaii, notes that there hasn’t been a single complaint in the city about the structure of pricing. If the bill passes, innovation decreases and consumers are left with fewer choices for services. Adrian Durbin from Lyft said that if the law passes, customers would have less access to reliable and safe rides that they depend on for their day-to-day activities.

The bill creates an interesting perspective for the ride-sharing industry, but transportation experts don’t foresee other cities implementing similar legislation. A transportation policy expert with experience working at Uber, Pete Gould, stated that price caps were implemented when the concept of ride-sharing was new to the market. Surge pricing presented itself as an issue before Uber and Lyft entered the market with upfront pricing. Customers can see how much a ride costs without experiencing shock when they arrive at their destination and have to pay a fare exponentially higher than they expected. Customers embraced the transparency ride-sharing companies provided.

Both Massachusetts and New York have laws that prevent ride services from increasing rates during natural disasters or states of emergency to protect consumers from price gouging practices. Both companies responded to the legislation by announcing that they have their caps in place for natural disasters, storms, or other emergencies where demand for transportation is high. Cities are moving on and examining other issues related to ride-sharing services such as taxation and the rights of drivers, who are independent contractors and self-employed, to collectively bargain.


Gould described the law as an attempt to level the playing field between taxis and ride-sharing services but noted that attempts to do it was taxis failed, and it was unfair to limit consumer choices. He ended by exclaiming that the policy is something that could have been an issue in 2015, but it’s long past that in 2018 and there is no need for debate.


Mayor Kirk Caldwell has ten days to sign the bill and make it a law, veto it, or allow it to sit and become law by default without his signature.

Lisa contributes all sorts of content to Deal Meisters, with a special interest in food related topics. A true foodie at heart, in her free time Lisa enjoys cooking, trying new local restaurants, creative writing, and relaxing at the beach.


Photo credit to tshein at Flickr.

Guest Posts

The Environmental Harm Fracking Causes

Hydrofracking is a method of extracting gas and oil from the Earth in areas where conventional drilling is not possible. The process involves smashing rocks with millions of gallons of water and chemicals, which force gas to the surface. Workers drill a well thousands of feet below the Earth’s surface and force chemicals and water through. Fracking is an effective way to extract natural gas, but the potential environmental effects are devastating and negate the benefits.


Take a look at some numbers. Each fracking site uses 40,000 gallons of chemicals and 8 million gallons of water. The country obtains 300,000 barrels of oil per day fracking. There are 1.1 million gas wells in the U.S. for a total of 360 gallons of chemicals and 72 trillion gallons of water to keep the fracking sites operational.

Water contamination

The fracking process produces thousands of gallons of wastewater that need to go somewhere. The water is full of toxic chemicals such as and can seep into the groundwater of local communities. The chemicals end up in their drinking water. Sometimes the wastewater is taken to a sewage plant that is not equipped to treat it properly, and then released into rivers where some people get their drinking water. Wastewater contains radioactive elements and hydrocarbons, which are 17 times higher in areas close to fracking wells. Storage requirements for wastewater vary from state to state, with some states having little to no regulations to protect the environment.

Wasting water

The majority of water used in fracking remains below the surface, which removes water from its natural cycle and can intensify droughts in areas facing dry conditions. The demand for water in the gas and oil industry hurts farmers, as they all have to compete for sources of water and have better financial resources to get it.

Contaminated air

Alaska pipeline

Wastewater sits in pits open to the air to evaporate, which sends volatile organic compounds or VOCs into the atmosphere which contaminate the air, ground-level ozone, and acid rain. Exposure to these can lead to or contribute to conditions such as asthma, headaches, cancer, heart attacks, and anemia. Babies born to mothers exposed to the contaminated air have an additional 30 percent chance of having a congenital heart defect. Homes in fracking areas have 39 percent more radon concentrations in their homes than homes located in areas without fracking. Wyoming’s air quality close to fracking sites was worse than the large city of Los Angeles, with ozone levels reaching 124 parts per billion compared to Los Angeles at 114 ppb. The Environmental Protection Agency set 75 ppb as the maximum healthy limit for the air.


It’s been an idea for awhile, but reports from the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed that fracking causes earthquakes. Faults in states where fracking occurs are starting to move after not moving in millions of years, including portions of AL, AK, CO, KS, NM, OH, and TX. From the years 1973-2008, there were 21 earthquakes with a magnitude of at least 3.0. Compare that to the period from 2009-2013 when that same region experienced 99 earthquakes with a 3.0 magnitude or higher. Oklahoma experienced 585 earthquakes in 2014 alone. The increase in seismic activity is a direct result of injecting wastewater into disposal wells in these states.


Global warming

Natural gas is primarily composed of methane. It traps 25 times more heat as one of the other contributors to global warming, carbon dioxide. Approximately four percent of the methane used in the fracking process is released into the environment, negating some of the benefits of fracking being cleaner than coal. The increasing levels of methane gas contribute to heating up the Earth. Even small leaks can create excessive methane levels and eliminate the benefits of using natural gas due to its impact on climate.


Spills in the soil

Oil rig

Spills are inevitable in the oil and gas industry, and fracking has increased chemically tainted soil by more than 5,000 percent in the past ten years. Pipelines can erode, and leaks can spill thousands of gallons of oil into rivers, lakes, and surrounding areas.

It is blatantly apparent that fracking is detrimental to the environment. The risks of fracking to the environment and people living in the vicinity exceed any potential benefits. Many of the impacts aren’t immediately apparent, which requires years of studies and observation to pinpoint when problems surface.




Kylie is the editor at Green & Growing. She enjoy the outdoors, especially when she can go on a fun hike or adventure. She likes to focus on the perks green living. She feels it is so important to take care of our earth and hope to spread more awareness as she edits and writes.


Guest Posts

What You Should Know About Promotional Merchandise – guest post by Eva at Custom Gear

Promotional merchandise is a cost effective and efficient way of connecting with your consumers, building brand awareness and generating more leads.  Large enterprises often give away freebies so that their potential consumers always remember them and can engage with them. But even small businesses can use promotional merchandise to their advantages.

Set your objective

What is your primary objective? Do you want to increase sales or just increase band awareness? Choose whatever you want, but do come up with KPIs that can help you measure success.  Why is this important? Because your choice of merchandise depends on what your goals are. You get a return on your investment only when you choose correctly.

Select a product

Selecting the right promotional product is vital.  Think about your customers, and get to know them well.  Get all the demographics data that you can about them, and use the information to figure out which kind of products they will value the most. 

Figure out for the duration for which the message should stay with potential consumers. As an example, clothing can be used for a long time.  Whichever product you choose, make sure that its quality is fine and is useful for your targeted audience.

Choose a supplier

Decide three names and then compare each of them using various factors like quality, product range, turnaround time, and cost. While price is important, it still shouldn’t be your only consideration. Other things matter just as much. 

Work out the costs

Promotional merchandise marketing is affordable, but you still you do have choices in terms of suppliers. Your total costs also depend on the product that you select and the volume which you want to produce. Check out all your options, decide a suitable product and volume, and ascertain that the total costs are within your budget.

Come up with a distribution plan

What is the per unit cost of your chosen product? The greater it is, the more targeted your campaign should be. Send out the merchandise to a smaller audience, and then begin tracking your results. 

You can give away these promotional products at meetings, conferences, exhibitions or networking events. Rather than just sending away the gift with the ordered product or mailing them, give it to them face to face for a deeper connection.

If your promotional product isn’t so expensive, then you can just include it with your packaged products or leave it at your kiosk for consumers to pick up.

If you sell your products or services to another business rather than individual consumers, then can be a good choice.



Guest Posts

How Education Can Reduce Crime – guest post by Scott Groza

How Education Can Reduce Crime

Education is an effective way to reduce crime and combat adversity. Instead of harsher laws to prevent crime, individuals can attain productivity in society with training and education. This can reduce the murder and crime rates, decrease the number of inmates in prison, and save both resources and money. 

There have been numerous studies conducted regarding the impact of education on crime. One study concerned children ages three to four, participating for fifteen years in an educational program. The study showed the children not enrolled in the preschool program did not have the same developmental opportunities as the other children. The chances of these kids being arrested before they turned eighteen was seventy percent higher than those who attended preschool. The study proved a child’s early development and education is critical regarding the development of their mental health. This can help prevent these children from committing crimes when they are older. 

The education children receive in the early stages plays a significant role in the development of their mental health. During a child’s first three years of life their behavioral and cognitive traits develop. This development provides the basis for their personalities in the future. One of the most important aspects are the learning skills children are taught during this time. This includes the best way to deal with confrontations and problems. When the child learns in an environment in which they feel safe, their confrontational skills are better developed. When a young child acts out due to difficulties with cooperation, they are taught non-violent and safe ways to handle their feelings in the educational program. There are instructors and teaches to show the child effective ways to channel any negative energy and frustrations into productive actions. The child gains the ability to control their discomfort and anger.

These characteristics and behavioral traits provide the basis for the mental health of the child. As the child grows, the concepts they have learned remain a part of their characteristics. When the child grows in an environment that is violent and abusive, and they do not have educational support available, the odds of becoming a potential criminal or a juvenile delinquent are significantly higher.

When issues regarding preventing crime are talked about in society, reactive measures and retaliation are the most common defense. If a community is experiencing an unusual amount of substance abuse, the immediate reaction is to incorporate harsher penalties and punishments to discourage further abuse. If the stricter punishments do not have any effect, the next step is usually to find a way to make the substances more difficult to attain. This places the focus on the prevention of the actions, but does not take the motivation into consideration. Education can have a much greater effect than punishment.

When education is made the primary goal in a child’s early education, the result is often less interest in committing a crime as the child grows into adulthood. An educational focus enables a more permanent solution to reducing crime due to the shift in mentality provided by the child’s upbringing and education. Role models are necessary to provide a strong moral compass to deter crime. This often comes from educators and teachers who have earned the respect and admiration of the child. This becomes especially important when the child’s parents work, and do not have as much time available to spend with their children. This lack of a role model can play a large role in the child committing a crime in the future.

When the child is attending a daycare program or a preschool, the void is successfully filled. Well planned programs, and educated teachers can teach the importance of morality to the children. The most critical years for these programs are preschool through grade twelve. These are the years the child develops their moral compass, and are given preparation to become a part of the workforce. This is when the life of the child starts to be determined.

Harsher laws have not proven an efficient detriment to prevent individuals from making errors and committing crimes. People can receive encouragement as children to become productive within society by receiving the necessary training and education. One of the major contributors to crime is poverty. When a child receives an education, and the tools needed for success, instead of turning to crime, they have the ability to build a life.

Education is the best way to combat adversity. Education fights against ignorance, and creates a respectful society with an open mind. When funding is placed on education instead of preventative measures, people become productive, contribute to society, and the number of delinquents is decreased.

Scott Groza  is one of the founders of the Groza Learning Center. He uses individualized academic programs to improve the performance of his students. His lengthy career in education has enabled him to achieve outstanding results by providing students with the development of a comphrenisve educational plan.

Guest Posts

“I’m Starting My Own Business: What Do I Need to Know?” guest post by Jessica Watson

Starting a business is not a single step task. Time is the must thing with intelligence. Getting the title of the business owner is difficult but not impossible.

Most of the entrepreneurs establish the business because they have some understanding of the business. But only knowledge is not enough for the establishment of the business, for the owner of a successful business you have to read the guidelines to start the business. Try to put these instructions efficiently. Although you may have known about the steps that are important for the progress of the business, you have to focus on the significant points that play the decisive role in your business growth and success.

Consider your competitors as a challenge

When you take a step towards the establishment of the business, you have to focus on your targeted industry. You can conduct the short survey of the market to understand the targeted industry. If you have not enough time to perform the surveys, then you can hire another group of experts who can get the results of the survey.

Through the reviews, you can compete in the market. You will be capable enough to move your business towards the success if you have a challenge. So, your competitor is your challenge and by nature, you will perform the best in your business.

Obey the rules and regulations of the business

Successful and well-reputed business must have rules and regulations of the business. It is undeniable that the business which has strong background will have bright future because they have unique identification in the market. So, as a new entrepreneur, you have to take the proper license of your business and also have to follow the rules of the business. The most necessary rule is that you have to pay all taxes that apply to the business. It’s the way through which background of your business becomes stronger with the passage of the time.

Take expert advice and guideline

You may have some advance knowledge of the business and may you discover latest tactics of the business. Your knowledge and information will not compete with the guidance and advice of the expert person.

Only expert business pupils can cope with the business hurdles so don’t hesitate to take the expert opinion. Experts can save your money, time and enormous energy. Different consultants in different fields are playing their role to provide the guideline to the new ones. Business setup consultants in UAE are playing the positive role to give awareness about the business set up to the new business pupil. As business experts are the members of the different business consultants companies. Most importantly, through expert guideline, you will be able to estimate money for the business.

Understand your targeted customers

Your business will grow effectively if it fulfills the demand, requirement, and needs of the customer. It is because; all business services are for the customers. Customers are the real consumer of the business. So, to give growth to your business, you have to understand the targeted customers. You can estimate your targeted customers through the social platforms. Social platforms are the place where you can enquire different type of information from various people and can generate the list of targeted audience.

Do effective marketing strategy

Once you understand your targeted audience and establish your business under the needs of the customers. The next you have to apply some promotional tactics to give popularity to your business and to present your business as a brand in front of the outside world. For such purpose, you have to use the latest and popular marketing strategy. Like the content marketing, social media marketing, and Email marketing. Don’t ignore the promotional and marketing strategies. So, give your proper time and attention to these strategies to get the best outcomes.

Business set up is a way through which you can earn as much as you want. And of course, if there is a chance to make the business then there is also the chance of the loss of money because the establishment of the business is dependent on the investment. The only thing is that you have to stick with your targeted goals of your business so don’t think although the failure may occur in the path of the success. Keep your focus on success rather than failure.

Author Bio: Jessica Watson has been writing for websites and blogs for three years now. She had a fair share of writing in various niches but her main focus on business, finance, and social media, and technology.



Guest Posts

Saving Money While Traveling Around The World – guest post by D. Scott Carruthers

Saving Money While Traveling Around The World

Traveling around the world is a goal for most people. However, traveling can be an expensive undertaking. Even with a lot of money, prudence is required for you to travel as many places as possible. You don’t want your finances to get in your way when it comes to touring the world.

If you decide to hike into the Andes, you want to enjoy the awesomeness of the scenery and the wilderness of the endless jungles without anything pulling you back.

The following steps will ensure that every penny is judiciously spent.

  1. 1. Travel off-season

It is called peak season because everyone is trying to go there. Demand for flights, hotels and accommodations, entry tickets, local guides and tours, and basically everything else including food is high. With this crazy demand, the prices shoot to near doubles. Decent hotels charge you an arm and a leg for a suite.

During off-peak, the buzz is no more and even five-star hotels are struggling to get business. You can enjoy extremely good times off-season than you’ll ever imagine you could under any circumstance. At this time, you will not need to find deals; they will be thrown at you at every turn. Which means you will spend as little as possible

  1. Keep haggling where possible

If you are an art collector, then you know that it is possible to get a curving for just $5 in some parts of the world. For some, the same curving, they will get it at $50 or even $500. It all depends on your haggling skills. When you travel to less developed worlds, you are likely to be the center of attraction and you will most likely be slapped with impossible prices of curio and souvenirs.

However, you don’t have to pay over the odds just because something looks majestic. Haggle until it becomes apparent that the person cannot go any lower. I prefer to work the math in my head about how much in local currency the person would get from my dollars. I also ask myself what he or she can buy with that. If I am satisfied, I will pay. Haggling is a good way to make friends too.

  1. Look out for budget accommodations

They are everywhere. For example, you don’t have to visit the tourist site; most destinations there are expensive. However, if you visit the nearest town, you can still access the tourist attraction and still get quality accommodation on a cheap. Apartments, hostels, and surf-couching are also good for budget accommodation.

  1. Use public transport

Trains and buses offer the best value for transport in most places. In most parts of the country, a cab will cost you up to 10 times what a bus would cost you. You will spend almost negligible sums to move for hundreds of kilometers using public transport. Public transport also offers you a chance to interact with the locals. Sometimes you make friends and end up staying with them for a day or two.


5. Use budget airlines and connection flights

Mainstream airlines tend to be a little expensive and somehow crowded compared to new airlines making it into the market. They offer budget-friendly tickets. Another way is to use connection flights. Apart from saving on time, they can be quite cheap. It is always good to book online because most airlines offer coupons and discounts on their online profiles. You don’t want to miss. Especially if you are traveling with your family, bulk tickets can be very cheap.

  1. Visit cheap places

It is a no-brainer that if you visit places such as Greece, you are likely to spend less due to the economic downturn. Take advantage of struggling economies to travel there and enjoy while it last. In fact, these countries need you to boost their economy.

  1. Avoid the beaten path

If you keep the beaten path, you are getting yourself trapped into a tourist siege. Everything is sold at a tourist premium. Travel elsewhere and discover new attractions.

About the author

Scott Carruthers — —  is a travel and food enthusiast. He has toured over 25 countries around the globe. He is also keen on art and photography.

Guest Posts

English Education in Vietnam – guest post by Rose Perry

Since 2007, Vietnam has become a member of WTO (World Trade Organization). Vietnam is known as a developing country which received 10.2 million US dollars from FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in 2006, the highest amount since 1997. Countless foreign companies was established in Vietnam because of large market with more than 90 million peoples. English is an international language that should be a second language in Vietnam. Compared to other countries in Asean, such as The Philippine and Malaysia, Vietnamese English command need to follow them.

English learning and teaching have been a contention for years in Vietnam as teacher qualifications and assessment methodologies are blamed for students’ failure to use the language in real life. These two issues are a major problem. This is a good signal that people can recognize the issue, then coming up with solutions.

In 2008 Vietnam issued Government Decision 1400, the goal of which is: “To renovate thoroughly the tasks of teaching and learning foreign languages within the national educational system”. Project 2020 of MoET (Ministry of Education and Training) was created in 2010 to implement this national renovation. Under Project 2020 Vietnam wants most of its students to be able to use a foreign language, especially English, confidently in their study, daily communication, and work by 2020.

Followed by The Guardian, more than 80,000 English language teachers in Vietnam’s state schools are expected to be confident, intermediate-level users of English, and to pass a test to prove it, as part of an ambitious initiative by MoET to ensure that all young people leaving school by 2020 have a good grasp of the language. MoET demands that high school teachers reach the framework’s second-highest skill level (C1), while elementary school teachers must achieve the fourth-highest level (B1) and middle school educators the third-highest (B2). The shocking result of the test was that a mere 3-7 percent made the grade. In Ho Chi Minh City, a paltry 15.5 percent of 1,100 teachers passed the test, even though the southern economic hub has some of the country’s highest academic standards. (Followed by statistics of in 2013).

B1, B2, and C1 themselves are not diplomas or certificates, they are just guidelines used to describe language command. Speakers of other languages often take common English tests such as TOEIC, TOEFL, or IELTS and get their scores compared to the framework. In that fashion, Vietnam should design a standardized testing system to assess teachers’ language proficiency like the above tests do. For the time being, TOEIC, TOEFL, IELTS or other international equivalents can be utilized pending such a system.

For years Vietnamese schools have focused on English grammar and reading comprehension, so exams have had to be set this way. It is no wonder, then, that pedagogical colleges would train their future teachers in these areas so that they can teach their students to pass the exams. As a result, both students and their teachers are trained to be experts in grammatical structures and vocabulary, but not to utilize these skills as a language. As a result, many students graduated from high school could not basic communicate in English. Thus, the testing format should be transformed to test four skills including reading, listening, speaking and writing that will be the best solution.

Not like in countryside, students merely depend on state schools to learn English. In cities, there are variety choices to learn English. Recent years, we can see English centers grow as mushrooms and the quality upgrade by years. Parents might see how important of English is hence their children would be sent to language centers from the early ages. At centers, methods focus on interaction in English, that means students will learn in active ways such as playing-role games and English camping. There is no better method to learn English but take an English bath daily. Especially, teachers’ quality is a plus at language centers. The teachers have international certificates of English besides holding a pedagogical degree and learning English with native speakers that helps students pronounce correctly as English pronunciation standard. But not many children have an opportunity to study English at centers, that depends on family’s affluence.

Nowadays, the Internet plays a crucial role in studying everything including English. That gives a huge opportunity for everyone no matter where he is, countryside or city, lack of conditions or wealth. There are giant knowledge sources offering for free on the Internet, such as Google and Youtube. All the things people need is merely a proper device can access to the Internet. They can access to Youtube or Google, then search “how to speak like a native speaker”, “how to write an essay” or “how to be good at English pronunciation” and learn English for free of charge. The internet opens a new door of learning for people that enables people take an active choice and arrangement for their future.

Besides two issues should be solved in education system of Vietnam, there are a bright side for studying English for free by the internet. The world is flat for learning knowledge by a huge effect of the internet. The matters are how much your effort is and how your time-management is.

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