Adventures and More in Loja: What is the Next Chapter?

Adventures and More in Loja: What is the Next Chapter?

Notice Loja in the middle of the southern part of the country.

While it is not for everyone, I really enjoying landing in a place I have never visited, don’t know anyone, and have no idea what will happen. Hey, I survived moving to Watrous when I was 14, so all relocations since then have been relatively easy.

And the “Here I am, bring on the adventures,” is a theory that served me well when I arrived in Loja, a small city in the south of Ecuador.

Describing Loja

Perched 2,060 m up in the Andes, the city was founded in 1571 by the Spaniards who wanted a base to explore the Amazon. When I visited the Puerta de la Ciudad, I gasped softly. How the hell did they manage to do it?

There is also a gallery with revolving exhibits at the Puerta.


The city itself is really a big small town.

The traffic is reasonable. And there are very few motorcycles, which is a refreshing change from Medellin where they swarm like hornets and take aim at anyone foolish enough to try to cross the street in front of them. And bike lanes. I might buy one to get around, although almost everything I want is within walking distance.

Loja is also home to the two oldest professional universities in the country, as well as a new polytechnic.

This city is also the cultural capital of Ecuador with even more music, art, and poetry than Quito, the capital.

Finding an apartment

On my way to get the zipper on my boot fixed I noticed a “for rent” sign for a student apartment. Hey, I quality as I am studying Spanish.

Bags ready to unpack.

I indicated interest and met the owner the next day. Don Hector wanted $210USD per month – which included utilities. No contract, no deposit, no agents. It was rented on a hand-shake. So refreshing and a welcome break from overwhelming bureaucracy.

The area of Lourdes where I live is an historical area with café, shops, bars, and restaurants. It is also pedestrian-only.

Across the street from the apartment.


And please note that I had to do it all the initial work in Spanish. There are only a couple of dozen native English speakers scattered around in the city – none of whom I have met – so Spanish is essential. Bumbling that mine may be, I can make myself understood most of the time.

Moving in

Buying a bed at Mercado Majorista proved to be a bit of a challenge. Most beds come with garishly caved wooden headboards that are enough to give one nightmares.

Finding a mattress with a matching base? What a quaint idea. I finally settled on a mattress. I will get a base built from pallets if Andrew Collins sends me the plans he used to make one for himself and the Nurse in Phnom Penh.

The mattress waiting for a base.
Who else do you know who buys a blanket to match her coat?

I also found some cotton sheets. A long way from the 400-thread Egyptian ones I used to enjoy in Surry Hills, but times and places have changed and I adapt accordingly.

Darwin – born and bred in Loja, but who live in London for 12 years and speaks impeccable English – helped me with shopping and delivering the goods in the back of his truck. Without him, it may have taken me almost forever to buy a gas stove and have the attachments – from another store – hooked up for the propane bottle.

Being a minimalist, I enjoy my “camping” lifestyle. Darwin suggested that I buy a sofa to brighten up the living room. Why? I would never use it as my office chair and bed occupy all my available time.

My desk/dining table/food prep-area, and make-up table.
Bella — the ornament my great-grandmother gave me about 60 years ago.


The neighbours view me as a bit of a curiosity. Fair enough as there aren’t any other foreigners on the block. My apartment is on the ground floor. As people walk by I look out the window, wave, and say “hola.”

Angelo Agusto – the 12-year old son the of shoemaker next door—is a touch “special” and his hobby is peeking in the front window to see if I will wave. Yo, smiling and flapping my hand in the air doesn’t take much.

Living in Loja

When I rented the apartment, I visited it three times and it was quiet. Then I moved in and all hell broke loose. The place goes from tomb-quiet to a zoo of televisions, radios, and screaming kids in about 30 seconds flat. Then it will go silent again.

Hey, this is South America and there is no way I am going to win that battle, so between earplugs and headphones I’m coping. Sort of.

Looking for work

What is happening with the world economy? The Canadian dollar now costs $1.33 for one USD. And the USD is the currency of Ecuador, as it doesn’t print its own money. Translated, that means “expensive.”

So, I’m looking for on-line work that pays in USD. Teaching English to Chinese students has become the new waitress job. People foolishly assume it doesn’t require any skills as long as you are a native speaker.

No, no, no. And to make it worse the Chinglish materials that are supplied are unedited by a native speaker and littered with mistakes. Consequently, the plethora of English schools that have mushroomed in the Middle Kingdom are constantly advertising for teachers. Many are dodgy.

At this point I can still afford to be picky and look for jobs teaching business English, writing, and editing for another week or so. The thought of hello-my-name-is lessons with a 4-year old is like running fingernails down a blackboard. But we do what we have to do if we have to do it.

Planning the next chapter

As usual, I don’t really have a “plan” as such. But things will happen as they always do. The vague idea is that I will get a 90-day extension on my tourist visa. Then I can slip across the border to Peru for a couple of weeks in December until it is 2019.

Once the new year arrives I can stay in Ecuador for another 180 days. Ah, the contradictions of a woman who has three passports and no long-term country.

Photos from life in Loja

Lourdes historical street
Darwin on a cold day.











Laundry facilities




Drying area








High local fashion PJ-s that I wear over my cotton clothes. I might look like stuffed panda, but I am warm.
Bathroom the size of a USB


Door to the building












An artisan making bracelets.
So good to see kids just playing without a phone or a tablet.










Another shot of the gate to the city.


Puerta de la Ciudad built in 1571.








The market a block and a half away.









Restaurant at the market for truly local food.


















Checking the Ecuador Experience Links

Country report –

Cost of living –

Visa information –

TAME Airlines –

Universities –

YouTube tour –

Traffic –





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.




How to Find Your Prairie Childhood in the Andes


“In Canada these cows are called Holsteins.”

“It is the same name in Spanish,” Ana replied.

That figures as the breed originated in Europe, specifically the areas of Northern Netherlands and Friesland – which explains why there are sometimes referred to as Friesians. The distinct black and white can’t be mistaken for any other breed and the cattle are good both for milk and for meat.

“Those two almost look like Angus, except that they are all black and these ones have a bit of white.  But, in the paddock over there, it is definitely a Jersey,” I waxed eloquently as though I had grown up going to 4H.

Image courtesy of Alvarosa at Flickr

When we lived in Neudorf – population 400 on a good day – Mrs. Litzenburger — a proverbially little old lady to a six or seven-year old – had a Jersey cow she kept for milking.

Bessy was a small, gentle, caramel brown, and her milk oozed a distinct taste as it had so much fat. I was fascinated by the cow’s doe eyes and loved to stroke her soft hide.

Leo – a retired farmer in the same town – kept a couple of cows in a field not far away. Sometimes I used to visit them. Talking to cows was a wonderful way for an overly creative imagination to express my ideas and garner encouragement. While the cows stared at me and quietly chewed their cud, I told them about my latest grand schemes and outrageous ideas.

My cow knowledge was definitely obtained by osmosis. My paternal grandparents were mixed farmers. As well as pigs and chickens, they had Herford cows – sort of burgundy with a white face. Not pure breeds, for sure, but some kind of Heinz 57 that was at least a good percentage Herford.

Cows are a shared interest with Ana and they have greatly influenced her work as an artist.

Cows painted on a box
Box and coasters

We laughed about how we used to direct the milk from the cows directly into our mouths or squirt it at the cats to lick off their faces.

Canada and Colombia might be continents apart, but childhood experiences are childhood memories, regardless of location.


How to get an invitation to the finca

Ana, an artist whom I met in Lima — — invited me to visit her finca – read farm — about an hour from Medellin.

“Where are you going?” asked Yoly.

“Don’t know exactly. Some place called La Ceja, which translates as “eyebrow.” I’m not at all concerned about it as time with Ana is always an adventure — — I am going to meet her at Falabella tomorrow afternoon.”

Yoly shot me a somewhat exasperated General Jean 2 look as — once again — I was off without any specific idea of destination.  My “go forth and adventures shall happen” approach is difficult for people like my mother and Yoly to appreciate as they make “plans.”

How to get to the finca

I met Ana at Falabella and she introduced me to Berta. For years, Berta has looked   after and cleaned Ana’s farm house and apartment in town while she is in Peru.

According to Ana, were it not for Berta, Luz and Antonio – the couple who look after the farm – she wouldn’t be able to maintain it.

Ana Berta & Luz

True. Being an absentee landlord wouldn’t work in Colombia and the place would be stripped or taken over by squatters in a matter of hours.

We hopped on a sturdy local bus and started to snake our way up the mountains. Ana and I chattered and caught up on the last few months since we had seen each other. As we climbed higher, the temperature dropped lower. Halfway there I was already starting to get cold, wimp that I am.

When we arrived at La Ceja we went to Berta’s house. She prepared arepa – a flat type of corn bread – and cheese for us, nursed with a cup of strong coffee and chocolate to fight off the mountain chills.

Then Carlos — the taxi driver — arrived to whisk us off to the finca. When he turned right onto a dirt road it was posted at 20K for a good reason. As the headlights reflected in the water in the potholes it reminded me of the road to Stanley Mission circa 1978.

Then he turned onto a trail where the grass grew between the tire treads.

Road to the finca.

Hells bells, I haven’t been that rural since Scott organized my spectacular surprise 60th at Victoria Falls —


How to revisit a childhood

At breakfast the next morning, Ana told me that Luz makes the butter from the milk of cows on the farm. Really?


How well I remember milking the cows with my grandparents and uncle.

When we were finished the next stop was the separating shed. Here the milk was poured into a machine with about 35 metal disks that had to be washed separately every time it was used. A finicky job, and I hated to do it as the water got milky and sometimes smelled.



“Separating” was a work-up-a-sweat sort of exercise and I wasn’t strong enough to give it more than a couple of turns. The cream floated to the top and the skim milk gushed out a spout at the bottom and into the waiting pail.

Home-made butter that I haven’t had since almost forever.

My grandmother would skim off the cream she wanted for the kitchen. The super kid treat on the farm was homemade bread slathered in cream and sprinkled with copious amounts of brown sugar. Just thinking about it now makes my teeth hurt.  When I was a kid, however, I would lap it up for breakfast every morning – and then help myself to seconds.

Grandma would put the rest of the cream in a metal jug—with a rope attached so it could be retrieved — and drop the container into the well. There the water would keep it cool enough until she could go to town to sell it. The “cream cheque” ritual was alive and well with the rural women, as that was their “pin money.”

How to tour a farm house

Ana’s house sort of snakes into a square and having no sense of direction, I managed to get lost a couple of times. The thing to remember is that the huge cobblestone courtyard is always in the middle.

The cobble-stone courtyard.









When one of the children would get married the parents would build an apartment for them so that they had their own space. The area Ana and David were given has since become her studio with the bedroom and balcony upstairs.

Ana’s desk

















Lounge in the apartment.









Bed in the loft.








Balcony off the bedroom.











Frankly, I lost count of how many bedrooms and bathrooms there were.

Beds and . . .

But putting up an extended Colombian family required space – lots of it. And the beds came in all sizes from a crib though to a super size queen and various others in-between.


more beds.







I had a delicious sleep in the oldest room in the house. Snuggled under about five quilts with my nose getting cold, I was eight years old and back on the prairies.

The oldest room in the hacienda.

But since a picture is worth a thousand words, I will quit writing so you can visit this living-museum hacienda – the original house was built by Ana’s grandfather — for yourself.

The hacienda


















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.

Link —


The Apartment in the Heart of Magical Medellin

The Apartment in the Heart of Magical Medellin

Photo credit Juan F. Uribe at Flickr

Looking for a perfect place to stay in the center of Medellin? Do you want to be surrounded by cafes, bars, galleries, theatres, and interesting people? And avoid the tourist hordes?

Close to everything.

El 401 – as the apartment is nicknamed –caters to a variety of travelers from individuals to small families. It is affordable, regularly cleaned, and can be rented by the day, the week or the month.

Run by a Colombian national and a Canadian, these hosts can help you live like a local in both languages.


This large fourth-floor two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment offers travelers a multiple of options. The apartment has abundant natural light, pleasant ambiance, and is secure.

Wi-fi, television and the usual amenities are included. Laundry service is available for a small fee.

The apartment is pet-friendly so you can bring Rocky or Fluffy. Smoking, however, is not allowed.

You can come and go as you please, but only registered guests are allowed at El 401. The bedrooms have keys for additional security. Please arrive with copies of two pieces of photo identification.

Sorry, no elevator.

Our apartment is one floor below El 401, so if you need anything, we are easy to find and always pleased to help.

Reservations, fees and payments

Tell us the dates you want and we can take it from there. We accept cash, credit cards, and PayPal. There is an ATM 50 or so paces away.

Cancellation is flexible.

The large room with a comfortable double bed and ensuite                                                                                                           

Double room with lots of open closet space.



Ensuite for the double room with a large shower.







One person 

$55USD per day

$350 per week

$1350 per month

Two people  

$60USD per day

$385 per week

$1,500 per month

The smaller room with two single beds and a private bath at the back of the apartment

Room with two single beds.









One person

$30USD per day

$175 per week

$600 per month

Two people

$45 per day

$280 per week

$1,000 per month

Additional person on the sofa bed in the lounge $15 per day.

The entire apartment for up to five/six people

$120 USD a day

$770 a week

$3000 per month

Lounge with television

Lounge area


Need to check your emails or write a report for the meeting tomorrow? The large desk gives you room to spread out and work. Or to play computer games.

Office space







Dining area

Dining area
Dining 2









The kitchen

The large, spacious kitchen is fully equipped with pot & pans, crockery, cutlery, and just everything you might need including a can-opener and a corkscrew.

For those who want to cook, basics like tea, instant coffee, salt, pepper, sugar, and such are provided to save you the hassle of having to buy them. As well as a gas stove, there is an electric oven.













The apartment building before the bar opened.

El 401 is on Maracaibo Street about half a block from Girardot. The major Avenida Oriental is two blocks west and the action-packed Avenida La Playa is two blocks to the south.

La Playa

Eats and Drinks

In this regard, you are spoiled for choice – as shown on the map above.

There is a bar just to the left of the door of the apartment building and an empanada café to the right. There are also three larger restaurants – two of which offer outdoor seating — on the block before you get to the corners. And there are three more on the other side of the street.

Jenibre – the cafe next door

We will provide you with photocopies of the cards of restaurants and services you might want/need. Vegetarians and vegans are well served in this area.

Wild hip-hop and sports bars you will have to find on your own, but there is no shortage of them in the barrio.





A 20-minute stroll will take you to all the public transport options. The metro – as the trains are known — are fast, inexpen

sive and hook up with the cable cars, buses and electric stairs. The trambia — a new train service that takes up the whole street – is about a 10-minute walk.

Taxis – small yellow cars that buzz the street like swarms of hornets –have fares that start at about $1.50 USD and you can get across the city to suburbs like El Poblado, Laureles, and Envigado for $10 to $20.


Supermarkets and convenience stores abound within a 10-to-15-minute walk. Plaza de Flores – a three-story building that virtually takes up an entire block – is also a must-visit.

Placita de Florez

We will send you to our favorite grocer who doesn’t over-charge foreigners. You will enjoy some of the freshest vegetables and tropical fruits you have ever eaten.




Additional Services

At El 401, we are dedicated to making your stay as memorable as possible. We start with a welcome basket of information, drinks and snacks so you can just relax.

There is a bus from the airport that is cheap and takes you to downtown Medellin. Then it is a $2 to $3 taxi ride to the apartment. A taxi directly from the airport will cost about $35.

A private taxi with an English driver can also be arranged.

We will also give you our business cards – complete with our cell numbers and e-mails so it is easy to find your way home if you have too much cervisa (beer), get lost or want to show it to a taxi driver.

Bike rental

Two mountain bikes are available for rent at $5 for a half day or $8 for the day. The only conditions are that you have to carry them up and down the stairs and make sure that they don’t get stolen.

Bikes for rent.


We have a list of bilingual guides who can take you where you want to go, be it to Parque Arvi – for people who like hiking in the mountains — the Museum of the University Antioquia, or down the road to Santa Elena – the flower capital of Colombia — for lunch.

About us

Yoly is a paisa – as the people in Medellin call themselves – Colombian.

As the restaurateur of Ambrosia Café — she is gone for much of the day and night. La Posada 401 guests who want to eat at the cafe – an eight-or-so-minute walk — will receive a 10 percent discount.












Jody is a Canadian-born travel junkie who hasn’t lived in the land of ice and snow for 25 years. She is a writer, editor, and teacher who works from her home office and is generally around.


Our apartment is one floor below El 401, so if you need anything, we are easy to find and always pleased to help.






Photos from around the barrio


Across the street at the Colombo-Americano













Jose at the launch of his book Poesia Y Astronomia. There are always lots of cultural events going on in the area – theatre, music, art exhibits, photo displays.

Jose reading at his book launch of “Poesia y Astronomia.”












The trambia — train — runs on this street, so it is traffic free. Medellin is winning international awards for urban development and public transport. a 10 minute walk.

Avenada La Playa – two blocks away — at Christmas.



Street art abounds








Pargue Perodista, half a block




Lots of theatres varying from the Little Theatre (pictured) to the Pablo Toron Teatro

The Little Theatre


Another touch of culture in the barrio.








And for those who crave the great outdoors – there is something on offer for everyone —