Author Archive | The Fighting Couple

Guest Post: Ever thought about global volunteering?

Image001You may have heard now about short-term international volunteer opportunities, where you’ll have the chance to soak in a new culture while giving back to your host community. You also might have looked into different programs – figured out where you’d like to go, what you’d like to do, how much it costs, and more. It sounds like a fun trip, so what are the pros and cons?

Pros

–          You’ll help an underserved community! There are so many options out there, whether it’s education, health care, orphanage work, wildlife sanctuary assistance, business startup, and more.

–          Many organizations charge very little for your assistance. My website, for example, lists hundreds of groups who ask their volunteers to pay only $15 per day for their food and accommodations.

–          You’ll experience a new culture, and in many cases, live with a local family. Depending on the type of trip, you’ll be immersed in the host community’s way of life – from working alongside them to living with them.

–          Many new opportunities are short-term, allowing those who only have limited vacation time to help others and explore a new area.

–          You’ll meet new people – both in the local community, and from around the world.

Cons

–          Is the group helping or hurting the community? Unfortunately, some organizations may have the best intentions, but aren’t going about their “help” in ways that are sustainable, or that involve the host community in the best capacity. Try to find one that actively involves locals, giving them the tools necessary to help themselves.

–          Costs can pile up. The first organizations you’ll find in Google searches charge upwards of $5,000 per week, not including your airfare! Look around until you find something affordable, and don’t become discouraged. Find people who have volunteered before, and see what they recommend – many can be found through Facebook and Twitter.

–          Immersing yourself in a new culture will take you out of your comfort zone. Perhaps you’ll be in a community that views women’s rights differently than your own; are you comfortable adapting to and being respectful toward it?

–          Short-term isn’t always the best. My general rule of thumb is that if you’re working with animals, children, or victims of violence, disaster, or neglect, it may be best to go for at least one month. A revolving door of one-week-workers isn’t exactly the best plan for vulnerable people or wildlife.

–          It’s work! And it can be tough, uncomfortable, frustrating, and you probably won’t see the effects of it by the time you leave. But if you understand that before you go, and prepare yourself for it, you’ll have a great time.

Are you up for it?

As you can see, there are pros and cons for embarking on international volunteer projects. They can be frustrating but rewarding, and as long as you prepare yourself and know what you’re getting into, I can almost guarantee you’ll love it. And by “almost” I mean, I’ve only met one person who didn’t.

I’ll sign off here with one last bit of advice: Figure out whether you want your trip to emphasize “volunteer” or “vacation”, and then find a group that’s on the same wavelength. Once you do, you won’t be disappointed – and probably want to go again and again!

Cherry Blossoms

A huge thanks to our friend Sarah Van Auken for a great guest post!  Sarah runs a website called www.Volunteer Global.com.  Her site highlights the ins and outs of volunteering!  Volunteering is the next best thing to fighting!

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Surviving the Talkative Airplane Seatmate

(CNN) — All I wanted to do was to fall asleep in my tiny seat on the last leg of a grueling day of air travel, when I was cornered by the Talkative Airplane Seatmate — a species oblivious to yawns and one-word answers.

My chatty neighbor was a forklift accident expert — a job he described in great detail as my eyelids grew heavier and heavier.

I mentioned that I was barely functioning after an 11-hour flight from China to California, followed by a six-hour layover at San Francisco International Airport.

Still, he recounted his life story, showed pictures of his family and listed his hobbies. I finally fell asleep, but when I opened my eyes, he opened his mouth again.

Most travelers have crossed paths with the Talkative Airplane Seatmate at some point, discovering that even lackluster responses and chilly body language can’t stop the stories or personal questions from coming.

“As soon as the guy beside me sat down in the aisle, I knew he was itching to strike up a conversation. I avoided eye contact like the plague, but he wasn’t a master of social cues,” wrote an air traveler this month in a post on Flightsfromhell.com, a Web site where passengers vent about their horrible flight experiences.

“I grabbed my book and made the mistake of turning my light on, an action that inspired him to break the ice. Immediately, he was completely facing me, leaning into my seat and asking me questions.”

Twenty-four percent of business travelers like talking to people on planes, according to a survey by the corporate travel management company Egencia. When trying to signal they want to be left alone, half said they start reading, 38 percent listen to music and 15 percent pretend they are sleeping.

Gregg Rottler, founder of Flightsfromhell.com, said he tries to stop talkers in their tracks by bringing a bag full of newspapers and reading throughout the flight.

Randy Petersen, editor and publisher of Inside Flyer magazine, flies up to 70 times a year on business. He said his favorite defensive strategy is to put on headphones immediately.

“I never want to be a curmudgeon,” Petersen said. “[But] there are plenty of people out there who find 11 o’clock at night on the red-eye from LAX to JFK to be a perfect time to be talking. I take the red-eye because I need to get some rest before I go immediately to a meeting.”

Nervous, nosy or networking

Why do these overly aggressive talkers do it?

“I think most of them are clueless, to be honest,” said etiquetteexpert and author Anna Post, who is also a spokeswoman for theEmily Post Institute.

“They’re not thinking about how their chatting could be affecting someone else. They’re just thinking that they want to talk, so they’re talking.”

Some also may be trying to network — especially during tough economic times.

If you’re not sure how much to talk with your neighbor or are faced with a Talkative Airplane Seatmate, Post offers the following tips:

To chat or not to chat? There is no obligation to talk with the stranger seated next to you, but some eye contact, a smile or a nod can serve as basic acknowledgment of that person. If you’d like to start a conversation, remember that some people may be shy or exhausted.

Stick to basic subjects. “Avoid things that are overly personal,” Post advised. “Avoid hot button things like politics. … You’re in a small space, you don’t want to set off any fuses.” Good topics? Your destination, the movie that just played or the book the person is reading.

Early clues that your neighbor has had enough. When people begin answering questions with a question or respond with “uh huh, sure, mmm hmm,” it’s time to back off, Post said.

Signaling you’ve had enough. “I like to do the long, slow unwinding of my iPod ear buds,” Post said. “It gives them plenty of time to recognize where I’m going without just cutting them off short. Then when they take a break, I say it’s been great chatting, I’m going to turn on the movie for a bit or I’m going to go back to my book now.”

Be polite but firm. Post advises against telling the person directly that you don’t want to talk. Instead, turn your attention to another task such as reading or doing work.

Networking in the air. Looking for business contacts is fine, as long as you’re not pushy. Being overly aggressive can damage a potential business relationship.

Talking with a colleague. When sitting next to a co-worker, a boss or someone you supervise, chat at least a little, Post said. “If they’re senior to you, follow their lead. Let them set the tone for how much to chat. If you’re on more equal footing, it’s going to be a bit more give and take.”

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Amazonas

I was surprised when I first suggested to Luci that we spend a few days in the jungle that I didn’t face any resistance…just a “great honey”.  I don’t quite think she realized what we were in for.  It was not until the date of departure neared, that I informed her that we needed to get a “few” shots did her level of concern begin to escalate.   The shots weren’t that bad, what bothered me was the extensive detail that the nurse went into describing the different afflictions that the serums would prevent.

We caught a Taca flight from Cuzco, Peru to Puerto Maldonado, Peru.  I kept looking down at the bright green carpet of the canopy.  We flew for an hour straight of continuing green.  Yet we were only on the fringe of the jungle.  Out of the vast sea of vegetation appeared a short landing strip.

Peru 2008 481 - CopyAirport isn’t quite LAX… we gathered our gear and headed out into the sea of tour company vans.  We found our van in short order.  We decided on Lake Sandoval Lodge based on strong reviews on Tripadvisor and it is off the beaten path aways.  Puerto Maldonado is truly a frontier town.  A number of sawmills, dusty streets and many shops for supplying the jungle-ites.

Van took us to the river port on the Rio de Madre de Dios a tributary of the Amazon.   There were 20 some people in our group.   We brought 5 different flavors of insect repellent.

Amazon river port

our group

There were three couples in our group:  an older couple from Britain, and a young couple that had won the trip on Yahoo. (I guess someone does win those contests).  Javier is in the dark jacket, and Paul in the light blue in front.

luci and pau

We boarded or canoe for the 1 hour trip upriver.  Water is chocolate mocha brown.   We arrive at the dock for our hike into the lodge.  We are introduced to our guides: Paul and Javier.  Both have a pretty good command of English.—As we were prattling one afternoon Javier says,” Eutrophication…you know Eutrophication?”  Luci and I had a good chuckle.  We were impressed with his knowledge of biologic terms.

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During the day we would go on the dugout canoes and criss cross the oxbow lake looking for monkeys, giant river otters, and other critters, including a boa below:

In the evenings we took a couple of night hikes.  Luci was a trooper.  Night is a great time to see all of the creepy crawlies. Including scorpions, spiders and beetles.

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The noises at night were awesome!  The Jungle is extremely LOUD at night.  During one of our night hikes, I asked our guide how long we would last in the deep without light, he stopped, thought to himself for a few seconds and said, “about two hours.”  I heard him chuckle a little to himself as he continued on up the path…

Our sleeping qtrs were fine.  Each bed had netting:

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The sunset in the Jungle was so impressive!

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The Amazonas is not to be missed!  We highly recommend visiting the Sandoval Lake Lodge!

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mike hammock

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1000Fights.com featured on travel site!

1000fights recent visits to Peru, Turkey and Southern France were highlighted recently on the Willgoto travel site.

Willgoto is a multilingual world travel directory and travel guide.  The travel directory provides all tourism and travel information for travellers to any country in the world. Tourist information, hotels, vacation rentals, b&b, airlines, car rentals, tour operators, travel agencies, maps, pictures, weather and all other useful links are sorted by language and destination.

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The Oak Room

Oak Room (at the Plaza Hotel) on Urbanspoon

The food highlight of our NYC weekend!!  Brace yourself for the price.  It is a true four star establishment in every sense of the word.  Dinner is served in American dim sum manner: they have a cart that comes around, you pick out the dishes you would like.  For the main course, I went with the New York steak.  Luci had the lobster pot pie.   Waiter makes your salad at your table: Choice of greens, veggies and other interesting toppings.  For dessert I had one of the strangest banana splits.  Pics will be forthcoming.  It looked like a great big wafer…very good!  Beautiful decor.  Waitstaff were knowledgeable and competent.

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10 Downing Street

10 Downing on Urbanspoon

We took the Context travel immigrant food tour.  Our guide was an executive chef and is really keyed in on the food scene in NYC.  At the end of the tour I posed the question.   If you had a day to live and were able to goto one restaurant in NYC, which would it be?   She thought hard and long and said 10 Downing.  We took her recommendation for dinner.  It did not disappoint.  I had the balsamic beef, which was extremely tender and very flavorful.  The highlight for me was their house lemonade!  I am a softy for the really sour.  Try it!  Luci had the flounder and it was ok.

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Where are all the price tags?

The latest “quick-punch” features the 10 keys to successful bartering/barginning while abroad.  It is not as tough as it sounds.  Do you have any good advice or great tactics?  Good success stories?  Ever paid too much for something?

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