Women’s Opinions Didn’t Count – Planting Trees in Bolivia

During Coen’s photography assignment for Bevrijde Wereld, a Belgian NGO that supports agricultural projects with a focus on food safety, we visited various rural communities in Bolivia. In the village of Kolga Koya each household received six fruit trees and was instructed on how to plant and maintain them.

Planting trees? You dig a hole, put in the tree, close the hole and water the tree, right? Or is it not that simple? Continue reading

An Act of Kindness (Day 11): Opening Your Restaurant When it Isn’t Open Yet

To have internet access we depend on WIFI spots.

This is day 11 in the 30-day series “An Act of Kindness by a Stranger“. We are staying in Santa Cruz and need WIFI.

We need to get work done on the Land Cruiser, but since our workshop does not have time until tomorrow we decide to have an “online workday”, as we call it. All we need is WIFI.

Right, where can we find that? Continue reading

An Act of Kindness (Day 9): Opening the Women’s Bathroom

This is day 9 in the 30-day series “An Act of Kindness by a Stranger“. We are camping in Santa Cruz, in eastern Bolivia.

The dogs are pretty much on their own, as are the cats, as is the macaw, as is the caretaker Domingo. We are all doing our own thing in the garden at our own pace, with us mostly sitting behind our laptops as it is an “off-line working day”, as we call it.

When we arrived last night, Domingo informed us that the Private Pilot Club does have toilets but no shower. This didn’t pose a problem as we have a shower bag. It isn’t the grandest shower in the world, but it does what it has to do. Continue reading

An Act of Kindness (Day 8): Offering a Place to Camp

This is day 8 in the 30-day series “An Act of Kindness by a Stranger. We need a place to stay in Santa Cruz.

With 1,5 million inhabitants Santa Cruz, in eastern Bolivia, is the second largest city in the country. Generally we prepare our visits to such large places, at least in terms of a place to sleep. For some reason we haven’t done that this time, but we do have a GPS waypoint from our previous stay in Santa Cruz 2.5 years ago and hope we can stay there once more.

The GPS waypoint is next to the airport: Asociación de Pilotes Civiles, the sign says. Like the last time, the place looks incredibly inviting: lots of shade and space. To our question whether we can stay here we get two answers: Continue reading

An Act of Kindness (Day 7): Serving an Egg!

One of the restaurants in Bolivia where we had lunch

This is day 7 in the 30-day series “An Act of Kindness by a Stranger”. We have stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant in eastern Bolivia.

The owner asks what I’d like to have. I can choose between costilla frita and milanesa. I ask if I can have the milanesa without the milanesa, if she understands what I mean. We arrived in Bolivia only a couple of days ago and after two years of speaking Portuguese, English, French and Dutch I have to dig deep to find any Spanish word at all, and am not sure if my question makes sense. Continue reading

An Act of Kindness (Day 6): Pointing Out a Short-Cut

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there ~George Harrison

This is day 6 in the 30-day series “An Act of Kindness by a Stranger. Our journey through Bolivia’s Jesuit history is pleasantly interrupted by seeing some wonders of nature.

In the Jesuit Mission of Santa Ana we take a look at the map and conclude we will have to return to the mission of San Rafael in order to be able to reach San Miguel. While we are discussing this, Flora, the caretaker of Santa Ana’s Jesuit Mission, chimes in and says there is another road which, in fact, is a short cut. Continue reading

An Act of Kindness (day 5): Offering Cold Drinking Water

The only Jesuit Mission built of stone: San José de los Chiquitos

This is day 5 in the 30-day series “An Act of Kindness by a Stranger“. We are in San José de los Chiquitos, one of the former Jesuit missions in eastern Bolivia.

Outside it is bloody, bloody hot with temperatures high in the thirties and everything dripping with humidity. We feel like we’re slowly being cooked in a pressure cooker. We’re thirsty. The car with our bottles of drinking water is on the other side of the plaza but having to walk over there feels as exhausting as having to run a marathon. We’d rather stay in the former Jesuit church, pleasantly cool thanks to its thick walls.

Continue reading

An Act of Kindness (day3+4): Going Downtown

Corumbá Harbor at night

These are days 3 and 4 in the 30-day series “An Act of Kindness by a Stranger”. We are camping in the harbor of Corumbá, on the Brazilian border.

Day 3

We have a problem: Yesterday Coen replaced the Land Cruiser’s oil but now the filter is leaking. When he takes it apart it becomes clear that there are a couple of punctures due to rust. He needs epoxy glue to fix it and chats with a couple of boatmen to find out where he can buy it. Continue reading

An Act of Kindness (day 1): Handing a Seat and a Cup of Coffee

This is day 1 in the 30-day series “An Act of Kindness by a Stranger”. Today I did not encounter 1 but 2 friendly gestures worth sharing, which I consider a positive omen for this project.

We are camping at a petrol station near Campo Grande, in southwest Brazil. The Land Cruiser is being washed. There is no automatic carwash system where you put your car on a belt and the employee only has to push a button (a system that is practically non-existent in South America). Nope, washing cars is generally still done by hand, and so it is taking a while. Continue reading

An Act of Kindness by a Stranger

Sharing Time and Knowledge with a Stranger, here in Bhutan, where the owner of a restaurant taught us our first words in Bhutanese.

So often we encounter kindness, and so often from people we don’t even know. For the next 30 days I will share these acts of kindness by a stranger with you. For me to become more mindful and for you how simple joys can make the day of a traveler. Continue reading

Indian Food – Eating From a Lotus Leaf

We have been staying with a family in a gold-mining town. Uma, our host, lives with her parents and her young son Nigel on the outskirts of town. She suggested we should visit one of her aunties and family for a celebration. It takes a bit of patience but we are rewarded with how it feels to eat with our fingers again. (For some reason we have no photos of this particular day, but these will give you an impression of Guyana’s countryside). Continue reading

The Remains of What Once Was the Largest Sawmill in the Caribbean

We had been driving all day through the rainforest and couldn’t find a place to camp because there weren’t any clearings. Until we came upon a fork and, in the distance, saw an antenna, which indicated habitation. We drove there and arrived at Anarika, which turned out to be a logging concession. We asked for permission to stay, which was granted, and were shown around by the passionate guard Owen. Continue reading

Is Tourism always Welcome?

Leaves of the carnauba tree are braided into a hat.

With his six brothers and parents, Marinaldo lived on fishing. Day in, day out. “We would leave on Monday, be gone the entire week fishing in either the lakes or if there was not enough water we’d go out on the ocean and return on Saturday. We’d have one day at home and we were off again.” Continue reading