Tuesday, 11/16/10 – Wednesday, November 17, 2010. I have discovered so much on this trip that I wanted to share five lessons I have learned so that when you go on your overseas or out of country trip, you might want to take advantage of this knowledge:
1. Plan ahead. Now it goes without saying that you must decide where you are going to go, how you are going to get there, and where you are going to stay. What I am talking about here are the day to day details of living in another country. Like, check the weather before you go into town. I failed to do this today. I started out on a bright and sunny day and before I was halfway to the bus stop, it had started raining. Of course, I had my umbrella so it wasn’t a bad trek but if I had known it was going to rain, I would have waited for another day. Another thing I did was not burn the trash last night. I should have because now I have to wait until it stops raining. In addition, I have one towel and I decided to wash it this morning, so of course it is hanging limp and wet on the clothesline. Guess I’ll have to wait another day for a shower too!
2. Be flexible. One day I went to the Mailbox, ETC. store in town and it was closed for a holiday. So, instead of getting upset, I waited until the next day and called with my question. Another example; today when I was shopping, there was no ground beef in the meat section. I think most Latin Americans go to the butcher counter and get it there. So that’s what I did even though it was different than my norm. Finally, I had found a good website to download my TV programs. The only thing bad about it is that it takes forever to download one show and the waiting was making me crazy. On a whim, I decided to check out the network sites. Did you know that you can watch pretty much all of the popular shows online and streaming so that you don’t have to download?
3. Be disciplined. Now I must say that I am not good about this. Sometimes, especially with the language barrier, it gets frustrating. But just keep your cool and don’t act like the “Ugly American.” These people are already jealous of us because they think we are all rich and probably in comparison, we are. Sometimes they will act like they don’t understand what you are saying. Like today I stopped at McDonald’s to have a sundae. At the counter, I said, “Chocolate Sundae, por favor.” I think she was trying to tell me they didn’t have them. So I asked her what did they have and the second one she named was chocolate. Now, I think she understood me the first time and was just messing with me. But I have learned that a smile goes a long way.
4. Be teachable. This is muy importante! The way I figure it, these Latin Americans have a lot to teach me and I need to remember that. Whatever I am doing or wherever I am going, I do so with an open mind. Everything is different so leave your expectations at home because they aren’t going to be met. For example, I hate the phone I bought here for emergencies. All the instructions are in Spanish and since I can’t remember my number, I put it in my contacts. Well guess what? When I went to access it today, the number wasn’t there. But, I let a local give me a lesson on how to use my phone. Simple, everyday stuff can make you crazy if you aren’t willing to learn to do it the way the locals do. One thing I haven’t learned is not to overshop. Dang, it’s like I have to put that one more thing in my basket then I end up suffering on the walk home carrying too-heavy bags.
5. Enjoy! You go on trips to have a good time, right? So enjoy yourself and go with the flow. I have had some pretty bad accommodations on this trip because I have a budget I have to stick with. Did I let that spoil my venture? No! I spend most of my time outside my room anyway. Even the lovely house I am in now has its shortcomings. There is no hot water for showers, there is no washer for laundry, the dogs next door sometimes get into a barking jag and I am a looong way from the grocery store (or any kind of store for that matter.) But, I look at it as an adventure I will never have again and enjoy the days as they come. Remember, wherever you are, there you are. In other words, the place doesn’t determine if you have a good time, you do.
Well, I hope you benefitted from my little message today. It helps me to remember these things when I put them down on paper too. Until next time, hasta luego!