Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I got published on Budget Travel Online!

10 Amazing "Small World" Encounters

We recently asked readers of our blog to share their experiences of traveling somewhere far from home only to encounter someone from their hometown…or from their past. You sent us dozens of great stories. Here are the 10 most surprising ones. read more

Check out number 6!

#6 I was in Budapest and had just been attempting to use a pay phone to call an arriving friend at our hotel. After dumping more than three euros of change into the phone and getting nowhere, I was frustrated so I gave up and decided to walk back to the hotel. As I was walking I saw a women talking on a cell phone. I looked at her and the ease of her phone with great jealousy. Suddenly I took a closer look and saw that it was Katie Callahan, an old friend from high school who I hadn't seen in almost 20 years! She practically dropped the phone in surprise. I ended up borrowing her phone to call my friend, who had also gone to high school with us and we all went out and caught up at an elegant hotel overlooking the Danube.

It reminds me to always look at people when I am walking around, no matter how far away I am from home!

Posted by: Cordelia Persen | May 21, 2007

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Silvermines in Potosi, Bolivia

One of the stops on the trip was in Potosi. It is a small silver mining city where the Spanish Empire reaped the majority of its wealth. In the height of the empire Potosi was larger and more important that London and Paris. Money was pouring out of the city and it was the place for entrepreneurs to come make their fortunes. Today Potosi looks beleaguered. While there are little signs of its older grandeur with ornate churches lining many of the streets, it shows more signs of the reaping and pillaging of colonial empires, than the investment of people planning to stay.

During the Spanish Empire over 9 million people died in the mines. Today silver mining is still the main job provider in Potosi. And while job conditions have gotten a little better than in colonial times the average life of a miner is still only 10-20 years from the time he starts working. Arsenic poison attacks their lungs. As Westerners, who have been able to choose our professions, it was very hard for us to look in the miners eyes without why do they keep doing these jobs? How does one start a job when they know it’s an early death sentence? How can you father the average 6 kids and then leave your wife as a widow at 30 or 40 years old to raise them, when for the most part there are no almost no pensions or support after you die? But, in reality, we had to reflect back that this is all these people know. For hundreds of years the men of Potosi have been sacrificing themselves to dig up silver and now other minerals like zinc. Their fathers died as they will too.

We were able to go into the mines and experience a bit closer what life is like. We climbed through little tunnels and traveled deep into the mine. We met miners and even got to experience a dynamite blast and hear the broken rock fall away in the tunnels around us. At times in the mine I really began to question what I was doing there. Safety seemed to be a secondary concern. The smoky dusty explosive filled air sent sharp pains through my sinuses. Darkness, mud and deep holes were treacherous parts of our journey, but I am an experiential explorer and feeling that blast of air from the dynamite that practically pushed me over might be the coolest thing I’ve ever felt. The process we experienced is how most minerals are retrieved and I got to feel it first hand in a way I'd never be allowed in most countries.

In the end, I must say though I’m looking at silver in a new way now. Capitalism pushes for the lowest price for commodities but if you saw the conditions that people worked wouldn't you pay a little more for your trinkets???

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Beautiful Bolivia

Hats, hats and more hats! If only those sales ladies really would have let me take their photo?!? Can you see them?

Tiwanaku, the worlds second oldest civilization, existing almost 3000 years before the Incas

The sprawling Salar de Uyuni

White churches, public squares and kids playing soccer... Bolivia in a nutshell.

Yes, I am off again, for a mental health break from job searching. I've headed down south to Bolivia, tucked up in the Andes at 12,000 feet above sea level! Yes, that means I'm high up in the mountains! Its beautiful, traditional and oh so very alive. Bolivia has the largest indigenous population in Latin American with between 50-60% of its people having pure Indian blood. It makes for fascinating people watching. Its a country with even more hats!