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Water is Life in San Pedro de Vilcabamba

Sebastian and I spent a day accompanying the men who run the water facilities,. We followed them on their daily maintenance work on their system that ensures the residents of the towns in valley have plenty of excellent potable water.

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Conservation and Community Development in San Pedro de Vilcabamba

We spent the last several weeks of our time in Vilcabamba getting to know the work of an NGO called Colinas Verdes, a foundation for conservation and development in San Pedro de Vilcabamba.

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Galapagos: "The Enchanted Islands"

We spent five weeks on the Galapagos Islands and every single day I felt a deep sense of gratitude to those who recognized the unique and intrinsic value of the island’s fauna and flora and chose to preserve it.

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Welcome to "Gringobamba"

Given its beauty, tranquility and perfect climate, this little corner of Ecuador is a magnet for foreigners who come, not just to visit, but to live. A whole lot of foreigners are coming to Vilcabamba and Ecuador in general, to live or retire.

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Vilcabamba, the Valley of Longevity

We have settled down in the small highland town of Vilcabamba where we are renting a house outside of town. It’s a very small town and its "muy tranquilo”.

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 Ecuador "Ama la Vida"

We arrived in Ecuador over two months ago after a whirlwind six months of being on the go.

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On God, Gold and Glory: The Church in Latin America

The Europeans arrived with the sword in one hand and the cross in the other;  the history of the Church and the conquest were completely intertwined.

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Lake Titicaca and La Paz

We spent a week on Lake Titicaca and a few days in La Paz.

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A Story Woven with Thread

The tradition of weaving in the Andes is thousands of years old and the quality is the result of this. Each design pertains to a specific indigenous group and each has its own meaning. They can tell the history of a family in the same way a First Nation’s totem does or it can identify animals, plants and activities (agriculture, herding) of the weaver/wearer.

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A Few Words on Sustainable Tourism

Tourism can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing.

It can be bad if it is done on a large scale, such as a large, all inclusive tourist resort / complex that’s built at he expense of the environment, that consumes large amounts of energy and water, produces enormous waste while paying poor wages to its employees. Small cities and towns can be overwhelmed by the noise, pollution and disruption of tour buses as they barrel through town while very few of the profits seem to make their way into the hands of locals.

Tourism can be good if the companies that transport, accommodate, feed and guide tourists are smaller, locally owned and have a stake in the well being of the people, their culture, the environment and the community as a whole.

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From Cuzco to Puno: The Altiplano

We travelled by bus from Cuzco to Puno, which took us from the majestic green mountains of Cuzco, to the dry peaks and onto the Andean Altiplano: the great grassy highland planes. The population thinned as did the vegetation. Fields of corn gave way to arid grasslands dotted by tiny homesteads made of adobe brick and grass.

 

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The Andean Carnival in Puno

We arrived in Puno to find that we landed in the middle of the most extravagant festival of the year: Festival de la Candelaria, situated in middle of the larger carnival festivities of the region.

This is the time of year that all of Latin America is celebrating carnival.

Carnival, is a pre-lenten festival that is celebrated in Europe and Latin America. Many countries put on a elaborate pageant of dancers who dance in a procession that can last for days.

 

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Cuzco and the Sacred Valley

We landed in Cuzco where we spent a week exploring the city. Cuzco was the capital of the Inca Empire until the Spanish captured it in the 1530s.   A form of imposing their power and culture and religion upon the indigenous inhabitants, the Spanish destroyed the Inca temples, military fortresses and important buildings.

 

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Some things that Uruguayans can feel lucky for:

Uruguayans can feel lucky for living in a country that doesn’t make the world news, except for when they play in the World Cup...

 

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10 Things I like from Cuba

I have not seen destitution in this country. I might have seen one or two makeshift dwellings. If there is homelessness it is negligible. Their homes are extremely humble, many are in really bad shape, but there are no people sleeping in the streets or shantytowns. People are materially poor, but people seem to have the most basic essentials for a dignified life.

 

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Organic Farming in Viñales

We met two farmers in Viñales that I’d like to introduce you to.

 

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Two economies of Cuba

There are two economies in Cuba, just as there are two currencies.

One economy is the Cuban economy based on Cuban salaries. Pubic servants work for the equivalent of approximately 20 US dollars a month. A doctor earns the equivalent of 40 US dollars. Here it is important to put these wages into context. The state provides housing, education, health care and medicine, a guarantee of food rations (albeit these rations have been cut back to the point that they do not provide enough to eat, making the need to buy food necessary). Based on what I can see from the cost of things, the wages does not leave Cuban with any disposable income for things like home maintenance or luxuries like eating out or traveling. All Cubans I have spoken to complain that they need to find and income on the side to make ends meet.

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Volunteering in Cuba

Based on my experience in Cuba so far, it seems that the best way to do volunteer work in Cuba is to join a volunteer brigade. The way to do this is to connect with the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples - Instituto Cubano para la Amnistad con los Pueblos (ICAP). The Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba recruit the volunteers from there. The Canadian brigade happens in May.

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A 100 Mile Diet in Cuba

Its one thing to be aware that we eat like kings in Canada compared to people in other countries, it’s a whole other thing to feel it in your gut, quite literally. In Canada we eat such a variety of foods all year long regardless of season or local.

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Cuban Health Care from the Inside

Its not exactly how I intended to research how Cuban health care works, but getting sick, seeing doctors and being hospitalized in the children’s hospital has given me some insights on Cuban health care that I think are worth sharing.

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Rainforests

We arrived in Santa Elena yesterday, a town close to Monteverde.
The town is located high up in the mountains, strung along a winding road that makes it way on the very tops of the mountains.

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Nature Deficit Disorder

Thinking back at our time at the Finca and the people we met there, one thing seems to stand out. The people who are very dedicated to sustainable living, building and farming and conserving nature are people who have had a strong connection to nature as a child or developed one as an adult. Two people we met at the farm expressed this to us. Eduardo and Umberto both grew up in nature and experience the loss of it, both now passionate about conserving it in the work that they do.

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Meeting Vandana Shiva…the dog at Finca La Flor.

Some of you may know Vandana Shiva. She is India’s celebrity environmentalist (India’s equivalent of our David Suzuki). Like David, she is a scientist (physicist) who has become spokesperson for Indian farmers struggle against chemical /seed giant corporations such as Monsanto.

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