5 Language-Learning Apps: Cracking the Language Code

Before I traveled, I failed to realize that having English as my first language was such a privilege. I have always been envious of foreign accents. Foreign languages are like a code that your brain so badly wants to crack. You lean closer to the foreigner’s face as they speak, you stare at their moving lips, hoping their words will translate before your eyes. But they don’t. You try to pick out keywords. But every words is a keyword. Because you have no clue what any of it means.

English speakers often learn other languages for fun or to put “bilingual” under the skills section of their resume. I am doing so myself.

But non-English speakers often learn English to improve their socioeconomic status. English dominates the academic, working and social worlds.

“My friends and I were studying Spanish at the same school in Quito, Ecuador. But when socializing, we relied on EnglishI expected everyone around me – whether they were Dutch, German, Swiss, Latin American, and so on – I expected them to speak English. How arrogant is that?”

This thought didn’t occur to me until my Swiss friend asked me the other day “Has it ever occurred to you that you don’t have to learn other languages, because every other country is trying to learn English?”

From then on, I tried to speak to her in Spanish – a language we were both learning. Also, she taught me a few Swiss-German phrases.

Respect is a universal language. The easiest way to show respect in any culture is to, at the very least, try to communicate in the corresponding language. Do not resort to your own language. Trust me, no matter how bad you sound, people will appreciate your effort.

Here are a few apps to help you crack the code of your new language:

Duolingo

Screenshot from https://www.duolingo.com/

Screenshot from https://www.duolingo.com/

Duolingo allows you to learn Spanish, French, Italian, German, or Portuguese during your morning commute or lunch breaks. Duolingo does not beat conjugations and vocabulary into your head like your high school language teacher. Instead, you’re trained to understand total phrases in various communication methods like writing, reading, listening. Your language studying becomes game-like. So you’re always trying to level up!

The App is totally free. No demos or trial runs. How? Luis von Ahn, founder of Duolingo, partnered with companies like Buzzfeed and CNN. These partners send documents to Duolingo that need to be translated. Those documents are used as teaching materials for Duolingo students who translate the documents. Technically, Duolingo creates a win-win situation for  its users and business partners.  

Screenshot from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.duolingo

Screenshot from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.duolingo

*Available for iphone and android users

Babbel

With Babble, you have the opportunity to learn 13 different languages. The app tests your language level and suggests different lessons for you. Sometimes you know the word you need to say, but you don’t know how to say it correctly (which doesn’t help when you need to converse with someone). That’s why Babbel provides pronunciation training as well.

Screenshot from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.babbel.mobile.android.en

Screenshot from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.babbel.mobile.android.en

Babbel also places an emphasis on vocabulary. The use of pictures helps visual learners engrave words into their memory for more effective learning.

Also, you can study languages as they pertain to different categories like:

  • Marketing
  • PR
  • Human resources

You can try a Babbel demo for free and pay for the full version later. The best value package is 12 months for $6.95/month.

*Available on iphone and android devices

 

 

 

 

 

Mango Mobile

Learn over 50 languages with Mango Languages – a program used by businesses, higher education programs, government agencies, and individual learners all around the world. Mango also adds an emphasis on cultures and dabs cultural facts into your studying. Features like voice comparison and audio listening allows you to perfect your pronunciation.

Screenshot from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mango.android

Screenshot from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mango.android

Other features include:

  • Memory building exercises
  • Learn through conversations
  • Understood and literal meanings
  • Grammar insights

Mango languages, originally an online platform, is now available on mobile platforms. But you must be subscribed to Mango Languages to use this app. It is more expensive than other applications.

The first level costs $79 and the second and third level cost $132. To buy all three levels at once costs $176.

*Available for iphone and Android users 

 

 

 

Lingibli

Screenshot from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lingibli.app

Screenshot from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lingibli.app

If you have ever tried learning a new language, you know you have a foundation of most used words.

For example in Spanish, verbs like “quierer,” “estar,” and “ser,” are commonly used during conversation. Mental trainer Tony Buzan claims that “only 100 words make up 50% of all conversations.” Lingibli uses this data to focus on key words and phrases to teach its users.

Lingibli is not meant to teach an entire language, however. The idea is to reduce friction and frustration when you are thrown into a different country. It’s for those moments often taken for granted in one’s home country – like ordering a meal at a restaurant or asking for directions.

Lingibli provides learning material for over 20 languages and is free to download. Internet access is not required to use this app.

 *Available on iphone and Android devices

Byki

Screenshot from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.transparent.android.byki.BykiMobile

Screenshot from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.transparent.android.byki.BykiMobile

Byki teaches over 80 languages in a 3-step process aimed for speed and addiction to ensure learning that sticks. Equipped with a flashcard interface, the user is taught their new language through memorization style.

Quickstart multiple choice quizzes test your learning. Also, test your pronunciation skills with Byki’s SlowSound™ technology. 

Byki emphasizes vocabulary rather than grammar structures stating that “vocabulary is more fundamental than grammar.”

Byki is also available as an online program. For mobile platforms, each language costs $7.99.

 

 

 

 

 

What language tools do you use to prepare for your travels? Share them with us!

Safety: 3 Tips for Preventing Danger on the Road

Whether you’re a first time tourist or a well seasoned traveler, there is always a concern for safety. Quito, especially, can be an overwhelming city because it is so huge and the traffic- is a topic for another blog. Let’s not forget to mention all those travel pamphlets you’ve been reading up on about the capacity for danger on your travels.

Regardless of what you’ve read or heard, you are a lot safer than you think. Often, your safety depends on you and the decisions you make.

COMMON SENSE

If you look like a million bucks, you are asking to be robbed. Do not carry around your iphone, ipad, laptop, and wear expensive clothing.

Try not to take large amounts of money from the ATM. Try to take a good amount of cash with you and lock it up when you get to your destination. Then, only carry small amounts with you daily.

Tip #1: Flaunting your money is the one thing you DO NOT want to do.

PUT YOUR FOOT DOWN 

If someone tries to rob you, give them what they want with no hesitation. Sound familiar?

But what if you did the opposite?

Recently my friend from Denmark was on a bus in Quito. The buses in Quito are super crowded so its an easy target for robbers. The robber tried to cut into her backpack which she was holding on her side. Once she saw what he was doing, she screamed obnoxiously. The robber freaked out and ran off the bus. He was more scared than her!

Remember criminals are humans too. They aren’t born without fear.

Keep in mind, though, there were plenty of people around her to help. If there is no one around when you are threatened, submit.

Robbers really want your stuff, not your life.

Tip #2: If you must carry a bag or purse, tuck your wallet between your hip and your pants and do the same with your cell phone. So if you do get robbed, you still have money, communication, and your life.

HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR

Say something bad does happen – you get lost, you get into a heated argument with a taxi driver, or even if you do get robbed – it’s all an experience. I am sure you will laugh about it later.

On their first day in Quito, my American friends were trying to find their way back home from school. A Dutch man, who was staying with the same host family as my friend, was helping them. He spoke very little English and very little Spanish. My friends spoke very little Spanish. But Spanish was the only common thread between all of them.

Tip #3: Language barriers can be – and will be – frustrating. Learn simple phrases before you leave. You will save yourself time and money. 

Anyway, of course they got lost. Once the Dutch man realized they were way off course he began to say a Dutch word that sounded like “Fixed Pound.” My friends shook their head and wrinkled their foreheads in confusion. The Dutch man began to move closer and closer to their faces and yelled the word louder and louder, “Fixed Pound! Fixed Pound! Fixed Pound!” Because it’s our universal, natural instinct to think that speaking louder will make people understand us right?

Wrong.

It wasn’t until he pulled out his translator – which he forgot was in his pocket the whole time – that my American friends realized he was saying “Full stop.”

Eventually, they made it home. To this day, they wouldn’t have chosen to start their trip any other way. Every time they tell the story , they double over in laughter. Memories like this are better than any souvenir you could buy.

Have you ever been in a sticky situation during your travels? Share it with us!

 

 

A Getaway from Quito Traffic: Mindo, Ecuador

If you need to get away from the horns in the bustling Quito streets, take a 2 and a half hour trip to Mindo, Ecuador. Mindo is a small village up the Andes mountains. The bus ride to Mindo will only cost you $2.50. Why not?

The view from the bus is a tease. It resembles a patched quilt of green squares blanketed over the mountain hills. If you get car sick easily, try to focus on the sights around you or the movie being shown on the bus.

In Mindo, you will forget what it feels like to be bored. There are several activities to participate in:

Just a little hike up the mountain. Photo taken by Alexandra Reilly

Just a little hike up the mountain. Photo taken by Alexandra Reilly

Hike up the mountain to and see waterfalls

If you enjoy walking and exploring at a slower pace, then hiking is for you. A cable car will take you across the rain forest to the hiking trails (the cable car is also a great preview of the zip lines). Once you get off the cable car, an hour long trail to your left will lead you to a huge waterfall. On your right – a shorter, 15 minute trail will take you to a  waterfall and river where you can swim and slide down the mountain into the river – a natural water park. Be sure to wear hiking sandals or boots and bring food and water.

Butterfly style! Photo taken by Alexandra Reilly

Butterfly style! Photo taken by Alexandra Reilly

Zip line above the rain forest 

At the canopy, one of the most popular touristic places in Mindo, you can zip line across ten different cables through the tropical rain forest. The cables are not very fast at first. If you are afraid of heights you’ll have plenty of time to warm up on the slower cables. Your fear will be overcome by the beauty of your surroundings.

At about the fourth cable, you will be able to test your adventurous side with different positions on the cables – superman and butterfly. The superman is a horizontal flying position and the butterfly is upside down.

Tube down Mindo river 

At first glance, tubing does not appear to be safe at all because of the rocks poking out of the water. But the tube is designed to navigate over and through the rocks – which are slippery and smooth from water erosion. Keep your feet above the tube to avoid injury. The guide will maintain the tube’s balance all the way down the river.

One crazy ride down the river. Photo from www.ecuador365.com

One crazy ride down the river. Photo from www.ecuador365.com

Marisposa de Mindo

Change is a beautiful thing – the butterflies told me so. Here, you will witness firsthand the four stages in the life of a butterfly - egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly. The butterfly  pupae looks like a collection of earrings because of the different colors necessary to blend in with the butterfly’s natural habitat. 

 

El Quetzal

For all you chocolate-lovers! At 4:00 you can tour Mindo’s chocolate factory and see how chocolate is made from the cocoa bean to the bar. Afterwards, enjoy a taste test!

Photo taken by Alexandra Reilly

A little treat from Quetzal. Photo taken by Alexandra Reilly

As you can see, there is almost too much to do. Many people stay the night in Mindo to have more time to see all that Mindo has to offer. The cost of activities ranges from approximately $5 – $20. Take your time and savor the experience because it’s well-worth every dollar.

Anti-World cup protests: Will Brazil pull it together before the 2014 World Cup?

Uruguay’s talented right-winger, Alcides Ghiggia, hushed the Maracan stadium with his ghostly goal to beat Brazil in the 1950 World Cup. Brazil was the hands-down favorite in the competition – the reason why Ghiggia’s swift score around Brazil’s goal keeper, Barbosa, has haunted Brazil ever since. Convinced that their home, white, blue-collared jerseys were cursed from the unexpected loss, the Brazilian colors were changed to yellow and green.

The changing of jerseys proved to be a good call as Brazil captured 5 title wins in 1958, 1962,1970, 1994, and 2002.

But the ghost of Ghiggia’s goal is coming back to haunt Brazilian authorities. Brazilian protesters have taken to the streets to demonstrate their discontentment with public spending on the World Cup. Protesters are convinced authorities have given them nothing but empty promises and are in poor spirits about the World Cup.

The protest movement is just as shocking as Brazil’s loss to Uruguay in 1950. Authorities are hoping that the games will distract the public and cause a change in attitude.

Protesters are not the only disgruntled characters in the story of Brazil’s politically corrupted World Cup. Brazil’s own three time world cup winner, Pele, has expressed frustration with World Cup preparations in Brazil. He calls the situation a “disgrace” and further explains the team has no involvement with the political corruption which has delayed stadium construction. He deems the circumstance of Brazil before the World Cup in one word – “unacceptable.”

Brazil is prepared in that they already have their team chosen for the World Cup.

Will Brazil be able to pull together as a country before the World Cup? Or will the seams of the country, weakened by the loss of 1950,  continue to be torn apart?

 

 

 

La Compañía De Jesús Church: Quito’s Golden Garden

The Church of the Society of Jesus Christ (La Compania De Jesus Church), the largest symbol of the Catholic religion in Ecuador, is a perfect example of why the heart of Quito is the strongest heart of them all. Since it’s foundation, it has survived multiple Earthquakes. Quito, Ecuador is a place where the work of man and nature coincides like threads in a carefully constructed hand-made quilt. Especially in this church.

The entrance of La Compañía De Jesús Church. Tourists are not permitted to take pictures inside the church.

The entrance of La Compañía De Jesús Church. Tourists are not permitted to take pictures inside the church. 

The church’s groundbreaking was in 1605 and it was finally finished in 1765. With time, one can create a masterpiece. And that is just what the Jesuits did as they created the richest temple in South America – not because of its size, but because of the articulate detailed carvings found inside. Once you step into the church, it feels like a rich, man-made garden of golden foliage, vines, fruits, and birds.

The layout of the church is a Latin cross. The church design is influenced by various architectural cultures including Moorish, French, Italian and Spanish. The Quito school is located right next to the church where students are trained in indigenous artistic expression. Student artwork produced at the Quito school is hung inside the church walls.

There is one magnificent painting that really causes one to wonder about the consequences of sins. In the painting, humans are consumed in a fire surrounded by serpents. Beside each person is a spanish word that translates to various sins such as adultero (adulterer) and asesino (murderer).

A circular window is located at the top of the church. The sunlight pours inside and gives the walls a red, almost bloody accent (maybe a representation of the blood of Christ). In the window is a painting of the sun. The sun is an indigenous symbol used to attract more people to the church.

A round mirror, placed directly underneath the circular window, magnifies the designs on the walls and ceiling. If you look in the mirror, it’s as if you have a huge, gold crown around your head.

The outside of the church is just as impressive as the inside. The Solomonic, constructed in an upward spiral, show that life begins at the bottom – or on Earth – and when one follows the holy path, it will lead upward – toward Heaven.

The Solomonic columns on both sides of the church follow the symmetrical design of the entire church.

The Solomonic columns on both sides of the church follow the symmetrical design of the entire church.

 

 

Montañita labeled as one of the world’s “coolest surf towns”

For those travelers in search of the aquatic component in their journey throughout South America, Montanita offers a little bit of everything for those interested in traveling to the coast while visiting Ecuador.

The Town and Surf

The Town and Surf
Photo by: Andrew Magill

Surfing in particular seems to be the main draw of the town itself, but as a consequence of this near-universal sport, the town itself has become a magnet for foreigners from all parts of the world looking to bask in its laid-back vibes. As all things seek to balance themselves here however, you’ll find the night life here is over the top to the point that certain clubs in Quito can’t even hold a candle to just how crazy things get here after sundown.

Fire Twirling

Fire Twirling
Photo by: Carlos Adampol Galindo

Great waves, mellow locals and an abundance of international restaurants scattered throughout the town turns Montanita into a rather interesting getaway; one which almost becomes a wormhole into another place entirely, given the diversity of the people here. You’ll find artisans selling their wares on the side of street, and once questioned you’ll find they hail from the likes of either Argentina or all the way from Germany!

Town Streets

Town Streets
Photo by: Jonathan Hood

You’d swear it wasn’t even Ecuador anymore.

Dusk

Dusk
Photo by: Gabriel Argudo

So in a sense, dear traveler, we’re asking you to do yourself a favor in regards to getting your feet wet – head to Montanita should you feel compelled to check out Ecuador’s coast and ride a wave or two before the party starts!

via Travel + Leisurehttp://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/worlds-coolest-surf-towns/9

Read up with our guide to Montanita at: http://www.vivatravelguides.com/south-america/ecuador/the-southern-coast/montanita/ 

Christmas Traditions in Latin America

When Christmas time comes along in Latin America, it’s pretty impressive just how similar (and how dissimilar) a number of countries choose to spend their holidays commemorating the birth of baby Jesus.

You’ll find that the traditions often held by families and friends hold a deeply religious significance. What’s more is that throughout Latin America there’s little nuances that distinguish each country’s traditions from the next. Read on below to find out how they differ in our guide to Christmas Traditions throughout Latin America.

Argentina & Uruguay
With a number of historical and cultural influences dousing each of these countries in a smorgasbord of traditions, Argentina and Uruguay tend to consolidate and celebrate their holidays with Christmas trees and the nativity scene. Religious folk (specifically catholic and christian) attend church on the 25th and spend this time of the year (summer for them) getting together with close friends and family outside to host get-togethers and relish the good weather while preparing bountiful meals grilled over the barbecue. Sweet bread and apple cider often accompany these gatherings.

Christmas Day, Bariloche. Photo by: Paul Burnett

Christmas Day, Bariloche. Photo by: Paul Burnett

Bolivia
Bolivians celebrate their Christmas in a more deeply religious way, often putting up their nativity scene (pesebre) in their homes with a level of dedication and meticulousness unparalleled in other places. Churches too often put up a larger and more elaborate nativity right outside their doors. At midnight on christmas eve, the mass of the Rooster (La Misa del Gallo) is held and a large christmas meal is served afterwards at the household of each family. A traditional beverage served during this time is “cola de mono,” similar to eggnog.

Festive Frolics @ the Salt Flats. Photo by: Ewar Woowar

Festive Frolics @ the Salt Flats. Photo by: Ewar Woowar

Brazil
As a South American country we have included Brazil although its national language is Portuguese. Northern Brazilians, like Mexicans, enjoy a version of the folk play Los Pastores (The Shepherds). In the Brazilian version, there are shepherdesses rather than shepherds and a gypsy who attempts to kidnap the Christ Child. Friends and family members may also take part in these plays. People make a special meal and decorate their houses. Many go to church to attend services in line with family tradition. Christmas picnics and banquets are also common. Special items and usual holiday recipes are tried along with the cakes and wines.

Christmas chorus in Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by: Marcusrg

Christmas chorus in Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by: Marcusrg

Chile
Chileans like to bring in a figure similar to that of Santa Claus into their Christmas celebrations, known as the Viejo Pascuero (Old Christmas Man). He, like Santa Claus, wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and New Years, but as chimneys are rather scarce in the warmer climate of Chile, he simply comes in through the window instead. The nativity scene is also set up in the household as well, and midnight (on christmas eve) is followed by a bountiful meal that includes cazuela de ave (chicken cazuela) – a soup made of potatoes, onions and corn on the cob. This is followed with desert in the form of pan the pascua (fruit bread).

Colombia
The Christmas traditions start on December 7, with families lighting a candle in honor of the Virgin Mary. Following this day, churches commemorate the day of immaculate conception. What’s nifty about all this is that households typically end up lighting upwards of around 100 candles on the curb or sidewalk area in front of their house. Adding to this dazzling display of flaming lights are Christmas lights that decorate the trees and lampposts throughout the city.

December 16th sees Colombian families setting up and decorating their Christmas trees and nativity scene; gathering around said decorations throughout the days leading up to the 25th with prayers and carols (Novena de Aguinaldos).

Christmas eve has families getting together to eat and spend time together, with typical Colombian dishes such as ajiaco (a loaded and heavy chicken/potato soup) and natilla (corn based dessert) and bunuelos. Following this, the family waits until midnight to exchange presents and words of affection.

Christmas at Parque 93, Bogota. Photo by: Christopher Kirk

Christmas at Parque 93, Bogota. Photo by: Christopher Kirk

Cuba
While Christmas was considered somewhat of an oddity for some time (if anything, it was completely avoided after Cuba declared itself an atheist nation in 1962), the tradition itself has experienced somewhat of a resurrection in the past decade . Following the visit of Pope John Paul II, Christmas was reinstated as a national holiday and brought with it large following, including religious congregations that are now held in Havana’s Revolution Square. Cubans tend to head to mass at midnight, with the church bells announcing the transition from Christmas eve into Christmas day. Bountiful meals are served at households for family and friends following this.

Christmas Day, Cuba. Photo by: Ingmar Zahorsky

Christmas Day, Cuba. Photo by: Ingmar Zahorsky

Ecuador
Ecuador celebrates the holidays with the usual fare of family, food, Christmas trees, lights and nativity scenes. In fact, in the capital, you’ll find that up on El Panecillo (a substantial hill visible throughout the city) the statue of the Virgin Mary has her own gigantic, glowing nativity scene at her feet and is a sight to behold from a distance at night. Families tend to gather on Christmas Eve for food and drink. At midnight they exchange gifts and words of affection. Attending mass during this time is also quite common.

El Panecillo, Quito. Photo by:  Adn Montalvo Estrada

El Panecillo, Quito. Photo by: Adn Montalvo Estrada

The indigenous have a show of color and fine threads as they dress in their finest and ride brightly colored llamas down to the ranches where their employers live. Typically, they’ll bring gifts of fruit and produce with them, which they then lay down in front of the nativity scene which is set up out by the farmhouse. Children are the ones that typically give words or songs to the holy infant, asking for blessings for their family and future. Following this, festivities ensue with singing and dancing outside. The owner of the farm also gives gifts to his employees and their families, along with a big feast.

Christmas Decorations at the base of El Panecillo

Christmas Decorations at the base of El Panecillo

El Salvador
El Salvador is fond of intimate gatherings focused on family and friends. You’ll find that families, in their entirety, go to church together at this time. Following this, they’ll head back to the house and have a huge meal throughout the evening up until midnight, at which point presents are exchanged. One distinguishing feature about this tradition is that, throughout the weeks following up to Christmas, you’ll find that the nativity scene in homes lack the baby. It isn’t until midnight on Christmas Eve that families finally take out baby Jesus and put him in the manger, symbolizing that Christ is now born.

Plaza de las Naciones Unidas. Photo by:  Edwin Merches

Plaza de las Naciones Unidas. Photo by: Edwin Merches

Mexico
La Posada, as it’s known in Mexico, is a religious procession that focuses on the search for shelter by Joseph and Mary, and is usually performed as a reenactment by children or adults. The groups typically go from house to house carrying images of Mary and Joesph. During this season, market stalls pop up all around the city known as “puestos” that house all kinds of foodstuffs and flowers. Flowers specifically (the poinsettia in particular) seem to replace the concept of Santa Claus here, as their brilliant red-star shaped petals are found nearly everywhere.

Children receive gifts on Christmas Day, and are also (sometimes) blindfolded and given a swing at a pinata. Once successfully broken, the children scramble to reap the sweets and small toys that fall out. Should the children behave extra good during the holiday season, they’ll also receive a bonus present on the 6th of January from the three wise men.

Christmas at Zocalo Square, Mexico City. Photo by: Juan Carlos

Christmas at Zocalo Square, Mexico City. Photo by: Juan Carlos

Peru
Nativity scenes in Peru are typically made by Quechua Indians, and you’ll find a number of these beautiful, wood-carved figures throughout the country (should you get a chance to step into someone’s home). Following midnight on Christmas Eve, dinners are held back at home which feature tamales among a number of other delights. On Christmas day, the streets come alive with religious processions commemorating the Virgin Mary, her statue of which is transported throughout the streets.

Venezuela
Aside from attending the usual mass on Christmas Eve and the exchange of presents on Christmas day, Venezuela has a distinct tradition held on January 6th.

On this day, when the children awaken, they will discover gifts by their bedside, What’s more is that the children will know that the Magi and their camels have been at home, for when they look themselves in the mirror and see a black smudge on their cheek they then know that Balthazar, King of the Ethiopians, has kissed them while they slept.

In Search of Latin America’s "Black Friday" Deals

And as the holidays draw near, you know what’s on your mind aside from all that eggnog, gingerbread and apple cider you so desoerateky crave… PRESENTS! And what better place to look for them than in an exotic land far, far from home?! Nothing beats the ability to bring home gifts that are of a complete and foreign nature. Whether it’s the warmest and softest alpaca sweater you’ve ever worn, or a flask wrapped in 100% leather (to keep that cider warm), the markets throughout Latin America offers every visitor a chance to acquire something incredibly unique to take back to your loved ones back home. So be sure to check out our list below as we highlight the best places to shop at in some of the hottest capitals throughout Latin America. Happy hunting!

QUITO

The Mercado Artesanal is a small and bustling market full of artisan handiwork, which is located on Calle Reina Victoria (on the edge of La Mariscal) and close to Parque El Ejido. The market is home to permanent stalls that sell Ecuadorian hand-knit goods, wood carvings, silver, jewelry and native musical instruments, among other items. The Mercado Artesanal de La Mariscal is a significantly smaller version of the famed indigenous market in Otavalo, but you can find most everything here that you would there, without having to make the 3.5-hour journey. All things can (and should!) be bartered for, whether you’re looking for souvenirs or an addition to your alpaca sweater collection. Daily 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Calle Jorge Washington and Reina Victoria.

aretesans
Photo by: David Berkowitz

LIMA

Lima has some great shopping opportunities, from outdoor markets to handicraft cooperatives and from retail stores offering the finest alpaca clothing to those displaying the latest fashions. Several large malls, like Larcomarin Miraflores, Real Plaza in Central Lima (Av Garcilazo de la Vega and Bolivia) and Camino Real in San Isidro (Belaunde 147) present any type of shop, movie theaters and food courts to keep you fueled during your sprees. Several large markets specializing in computer and electronic gear are on Bolivia and Uruguay avenues, between Av Garcilaso de la Vega and Camaná, in Central Lima. Take extra care of pickpockets in Lima’s markets, especially in Central Lima and other poor areas of the city. +Dédalo is a must see. Even if you don’t plan to spend any money, it is well worth the visit. Staged in an old refurbished house in Barranco, a block away from the sea, it offers Peruvian non-traditional workmanship at its best. You will find beautiful handmade ceramics, blown glass, design-winning woodwork, stone carvings and the latest in textile design, among other works of art on a world-class level. It has a nice coffee shop on the inside patio, a children’s toy area, handmade jewelry and a permanent exhibition of unique objects made out of recycled materials. There is no pressure to buy, so you can just wander at your leisure through the treasure-filled rooms. Located at Paseo Sáenz Peña 295, Barranco

BUENOS AIRES

If you like the idea of searching for hidden treasure, the Mercado de las Pulgas (flea market) is the place to go. The market’s six aisles, labeled with the six letters of the word pulgas, are stuffed with cheap antiques, knickknacks, oddities, collectables and second-hand goods, at prices that are tough to beat. The oldest items are European pieces, mainly furniture, from the immigration boom of the 1920s, but you’ll find trinkets from a range of decades (the 70s seem particularly prevalent). This market, which has been around since 1988, is a nice alternative to some of the more touristy markets and artisan fairs. You can find some truly unique items here, and the value is virtually unrivaled anywhere in the city. This is also one of the few indoor markets, so it’s perfect for a rainy afternoon. It can feel more like going to a museum after a hurricane, but don’t forget that you can buy the things you see. Bargaining is expected, so don’t accept the first figure. The export boom after the 2001 crisis has cleared out many of the choice items, and most valuable treasures are either gone or priced accordingly, but it’s still worth it to poke around. Located on Alvarez Thomas and Dorrego.

LA PAZ

It has been said many a time that La Paz is one big market, and it can certainly seem that way, wandering around the hectic streets with stalls on every corner. A huge array of goods can be bought on the city’s streets, including dog’s clothes, kid’s toys, mobile phones and mattresses. There are also vegetable markets, flower markets, fish markets and markets selling electrical goods. Some of the mercados of most interest to visitors include Uyustus, the place to head to buy clothes, trainers, cosmetics, hairdryers, CDs, stationary and other bric-brak; Eloy Salmon, where you’ll find all kinds of electrical equipment on sale, from i-pods to mobile phones and portable DVD players; and Graneros, a narrow pedestrian street filled with jeans and other clothes. The whole area east of Avenida Buenos Aires, around the junction with Calle Max Paredas, is filled with street stalls selling clothes, hair accessories, pots and pans, cutlery and crockery (including plastic versions), cleaning products, shoe polish and just about anything else you can think of. Even if you don’t need to buy anything, this is a good place to wander around and soak up La Paz’s unique atmosphere. Don’t take any valuables with you, and if you get lost just ask to be directed to the Prado.

SANTIAGO

Head to Feria Santa Lucia for souvenirs such as T-shirts, leather and wool goods, jewelry and wooden handcrafted items. The market items are cheaper than the tourist shops in Patio Bellavista, but prices are fixed and are more or less the same on each stall. Cerro Santa Lucia. Center, Santiago, Chile.

BOGOTA

Not far from the amenities of the Hacienda Santa Bárbara and the delightful Usaquén plaza, surrounded by restaurants and artsy cafes, can be found the Sunday flea market. At the Usaquén Flea Market, artists, designers and craftsmen all display their curios here. T-shirts, shawls, carvings, organics and other items are up for negotiation here. Located on Ca 119B, Usaquen. Alternatively, the Mercado de Pulgas San Alejo flea market occupies a parking lot near Museo Nacional on Sundays and offers general bric-a-brac. Flea market enthusiasts can find some real steals here, or just while away a few hours sieving through antiques and trinkets. Located on Cra 7 and Ca 24.

Latin America leads the way in preparing for Global Warming

A strange sense of irony might befall many when you consider that it’s the poorer and smaller countries (compared to the likes of North America and Europe) that are taking proactive measures to prepare for global warming.

“Invention is the mother of necessity,” seems to be the motto that Latin America is taking on, while up north and across the Atlantic many developed nations are caught up in the ongoing political debate over whether or not Global Warming is even an actual phenomenon. What blindness has befallen them!

What makes Latin America more vehement in its pursuit (casting any notion of doubt into the wind) over preparations for global warming is the fact that the entire region has been victim to a countless number of disasters due to climate. And things are only getting worse as time goes on.

Hopefully the sea level won’t rise up to where those clouds currently are… that would suck.

global_warming

“In places where the climate seems to be a growing threat to human lives, resources and urban infrastructure, local officials have been working with scientists, conducting assessments and examining which new measures may best prepare them for the future.“

An MIT survey shows that:

  • 95% of major cities in Latin America are planning for climate change.
  • 59% of such cities in the United States are planning for climate change.

In the end it seems that only those countries and cities pressed by the forces of nature are the ones that are actively seeking countermeasures to the growing phenomenon, even if they truly are (comparatively) not the biggest or wealthiest countries to be doing so.

Here’s to hoping that the rest of the world wakes up to Latin America’s wiser bit of activity and preparation; otherwise it may very well be that Latin America becomes the “Noah’s Ark” of the world as they’re the only ones prepared for the potential onslaught of natural disasters that we, as humans, are ultimately responsible for having procured.

Via MIT News: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2012/cities-climate-change-preparedness-survey-0605.html

Google Street View arrives to the Galapagos! But in a much simpler form…

Those dying for a chance to viscerally experience the towns of the Galapagos through pictures can rejoice now that Google has your fix… but only partially.

The search engine giant has officially graced the shores of the enchanted islands and offered a means to visually experience and acquaint yourselves with the islands via their website, but it’s nowhere near what Google street view has traditionally offered its users in the past. The new addition to the maps of the Galapagos introduces 360-degree “snapshots” of specific parts of the towns and trails only, rather than the seamless click-and-glide-to exploration of the town streets that’s typical of Google Street View. This might be due to the fact that the photographs also go “off the grid” and actually explore other, isolated parts of the islands.

What does manage to be impressive however, is the 360-degree underwater pictures they have of offshore diving sites (Google Subaquatic View?).

So Cool!

galapagos_street_view

The photographic addition is the result of a project between the Charles Darwin Foundation, Google Maps, Catlin Seaview Survey and the Galapagos National Park Services. In addition to being a means to explore the towns, the placement of pictures on the maps is aimed to assist in the scientific investigation of certain areas as well as the management of protected areas in the park itself.

The project itself took place during the month of May of this year, and after being processed by the labs over at Google are now ready for our perusing. Be sure to check them out HERE!

Via Diario EL COMERCIOhttp://www.elcomercio.com/tecnologia/Galapagos-Google-StreetView-GoogleMaps-fotografias-360Grados_0_991700945.html