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Hi kittens! I am full to bursting with fantastic news today, so get your happy pants on...
First of all, I just found out that next month I'll be going to COLOMBIA! I am so excited to be spending ten days in Bogota, Cartagena, and Santa Marta. I speak no Spanish (gonna work on that... though at least it should be easier than going to Barcelona and hearing a completely different Spanish than I am used to!*), but am psyched to give myself the challenge of learning some phrases and maybe even beginning to read it. I actually find Spanish really difficult to imitate (something about all the rolled Rs), so it will certainly be a challenge!
This will be my first trip to South America, and I am excited to expand my travels that much further. Have you been to Colombia? Any advice or tips? I haven't even got as far as buying a guide book yet (typical!) so I am still very much figuring this trip out...
In other awesome news, a friend of mine just put up a link to a very cool micro-loan website called Kiva. Some readers of this blog know that I studied development economics, and so functioning micro-loan programs are very close to my heart. Micro-loans are loans made in very small amounts, usually to help folks jump-start a business in areas where that money will stretch quite far. It is not charity - the loans do get paid back - but because they don't come with as many strings attached as loans made by commercial banks, they are that much friendlier to people who are looking for capital.
Kiva is currently allowing you to make a free $25 loan via the website, because a sponsor has just put up $5000. So, at no cost to you, you can go on their site and decide where $25 of that $5000 should go. And if you enjoy the process of reading about great start-up businesses around the world, maybe you'll put up $25 of your own next! (And that $25 is, again, NOT a gift - you will be repaid!) If you have the flexibility in your financial life to make these types of small loans, they do a hell of a lot of good and are a great way to help out our global community,
(And yes, I DID just participate today! I chose to loan to a communal bank in Nicaragua, and your help can be the difference that means they make their goals!)
This article, on balancing the value of you time vs. your money when planning travel, is a helpful little tidbit.
And last in our day of feel-good-and-help-folks news, Aaron Dana has come out with some new shirt designs - no, not travel-related, but they are awesome sports graphics (he'll be putting up a Pedro Martinez shirt in two different colors, for all the members of Red Sox Nation out there)! So hop on the ol' interwebs (yes, I know you're already there... no excuses!) and check them out!
All right, off to the crazy-busy week that has become my norm...
*That's right, I said I don't speak Spanish, but am familiar with American Spanish. That's because the United States is multilingual, y'all - no matter what anyone says! Since I came back here after living in the UK, I have been much more aware of just how often information is presented in other languages, usually Spanish, and I am really appreciating the depth it brings to our culture (ahem, even if I don't understand it all...). I'm also surprised by just how often I hear Caribbean French spoken here as well - I think I must have just never noticed when I was younger!