Reader Appreciation back and forth!

I’m not entirely positive that all writing always has its purpose. More often than not, however, there could be found one. Purpose, that is. Some write for themselves, some don’t think about the audience at all, and some perpetually try to spread their phrases throughout the whole World Wide Web. These are bloggers as I understand it, and it is me as well.

I started off assuming that my friends and family (some of which do not even speak English, really…) want and will read what I’m scribbling here, and without any precedence, sent the link out in the open. With some self-imposed success, mind you. That was a year ago, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to see that there are more and more people appreciating my sharings. With that comes such gratefulness and happiness that I’m really excited to announce my very first ever Blog Award (or actually two of them!) coming from lovely Lillian, who scribbles along at High, High, Higher!

First up is the One Lovely Blog Award.

Rules:

  • Link back to the blogger who nominated you
  • Paste the award image on your blog (look right)
  • Tell 7 Facts About Yourself (look down)
  • Nominate 15 10 other blogs that you would like to give the award to. (I will be a rebel in this one)
  • Contact the bloggers that you have chosen and let them know about the award. (Will do with pleasure)

1. I have been blogging since I was 11, meaning since we got Internet at the family apartment. This is my 5th blog or so, first one in English (I’m Polish and, well, spoke Polish for most of my life). Back then it was so cool and hip, that I aspired to be a graphic designer and do blog layouts. None of those back-in-the-day skills are with me anymore, unfortunately.
2. In 2009, I shaved my previously long, blonde hair off almost for a cause (long story short, I wanted to donate my hair to Locks of Love, but I went a little too far with asymmetrical haircuts and dyes for my hair to be donate-able). I should write about that.
3. This year I will turn 21 (FINALLY!!!) and as of now, I’ve visited 21 countries. My life goal is to make that number at least 150, or ideally 196 (dear uncle Google tells me that’s currently the number of countries in the world)
4. I have ridden an elephant in India and… hated it. (another thing I should probably write about)
5. As a teenager I chose to pierce my ears over getting my first cellphone.
6. I have read the Harry Potter series (or parts of it) in Polish and Spanish, but not yet in its original version – English.
7. When tagging my posts, I haven’t yet used “backpacking”, even though that’s what I write about. It wasn’t on purpose! It’s just the obvious that is the hardest to realize, it seems.

Then The Sunshine Award.

Rules:

  • Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog. (same spiel: look right)
  • Answer 10 questions about yourself. (look down)
  • Nominate other fabulous bloggers.(keep looking down)
  • Link your nominees to this post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated. (will do)
  • Share the love and link the person who nominated you. 

What is your favorite childhood memory?
Finding out that I will have a little sister. I was 7. I think the first person I shared this lovely news with was my kindergarden teacher.

What is a real fear you have?
I kind of don’t like being surprised by spiders.

How would you describe yourself?
21 years old ambitious Polish traveler? For now.

What Countries have you lived in?
Poland, India, USA, Guatemala (does a summer count?)

What is your style?
Of… clothing? Cute. I like cute things! Hipster wannabe (take that with a pint of salt). But mostly comfortable. Or in exams period: first pair of jeans I can lay my hands on and a hoodie.

What is your favorite breakfast food?
Ooooh! This is an exciting one. Avocado toast! Or cottage cheese with spring onions on fresh bread. Or my grandma’s scrambled eggs. Or granola with yoghurt and berries. Or mangoes. Definitely mangoes.

What are some of your hobbies?
Writing. Reading. Spinning fire. Traveling. Languages. Cooking. Sustainability related stuff. Sometimes swimming. Sometimes yoga. Sometimes hiking. Sometimes biking.

If you could tell people anything, what would be the most important thing to say?
You can make the difference.

What is one of your passions?
Changing the world (one more pint of salt, please). But really: sustainable development; and writing.

What is the one truth you have learned?
That I need to keep learning more. Always.

***

Now, isn’t this entertaining?

Onto recommendations!
Banana Skin Flip Flops (amazing travel blog that was definitely an inspiration for me)
Jump For Joy (simply such an awesome initiative! who doesn’t love jumping photos?)
boy & the rabbit (amazing recipes; mostly vegan; and a good dose of writing)
Everywhere Once (speaks for itself. Great travel blog.)
Burk Krohe (just discovered it today; it’s funny and I like it!)
The Nomad Grad (funny girl with funny stories and so much traveling!)
The Vagabond Baker (such beautiful food, and such cool lifestyle)
Sophie’s World (someone who inspired me)
The Volunteer Fringe (interesting travel stories from another perspective)
Around The World Or Bust (simply a great plan!)

As an extra: if you have not yet heard of the Thought Catalog – go and waste some hilarious hours on their random, but entertaining articles!

Thank you so much again, Lillian!

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The Best Way to Cure a Hangover

I knew, stated, and confirmed that I would come back to Xela one day. As much as it was predictable that such thing would happen in the span of July, my last month in Guatemala, I had no idea it would be only after three weeks of living in San Juan.

Las Fuentes Georginas

Dreams do come true, I tell you! After only commenting on a picture of beautiful Las Fuentes Georginas (quote-in-quote “WHERE IS THIS PLACE?!”), Marina, my friend who decided to share this NGO internship in Guatemala experience with me, had her way to convince us to spend a day in this gorgeous natural spa. It just so happened to be the weekend of my recently acquired friends’ birthday, and guess what? He lives and throws parties in Xela exactly. We packed our backpacks lightly, put away some money for champagne and Quetzalteca (local white rum that has an image of traditionally dressed Guatemalan woman as a logo), made sure our swimsuits are ready and took the infamous chicken bus to Xela (Quetzaltenango).

Quetzalteca

The problem was, the drivers here just want to pack anyone and everyone inside their vehicles, so instead of explaining to us we’re boarding a bus to Guatemala not Xela, they just rushed us in and assured everything’s going to be alright.

Except it wasn’t.

Instead of just sitting uncomfortably for 3 hours, we ended up hanging out on the side of a “highway” not of out of our own choice and changing buses 3 times before we got where we were supposed to be. Then I realized I don’t know the city as well as I though I did, and we walked forever before reaching our very first and very important stop: Xela Pan. Now, literally it just translates to Xela’s bread, but goodness! This bakery offers quality pastries (real éclairs!) for half a dollar. I’m sort of glad I had to move to San Juan – otherwise I might have ended up twice as heavy as I usually am.
Two of us split three of those delicious, creamy mood-lifters, and partied the rest of the afternoon and night away. In the rhythm of salsa, of course!

The very foggy spa

The next day started with a perfect (but scary, since it was incredibly foggy) 20min drive to the Hot Springs, followed by very hangover-friendly relaxation. The weather might not have been the most desired, but feeling the cold rain on our faces while soaking the rest of our bodies in comforting hot water felt incredibly freeing. It very well might have been the first time ever since we started interning that no one thought about work, at least for an hour or two.  With all the skin hydration and wrinkly fingers, we ate tortillas like one should in Guatemala and drove back, a little less tense about the road and actually… anything else, really.

Too bad that on our way back, all the relaxation faded away as soon as we heard “Buses to San Pedro don’t run on Sundays”. Perfect. Three bus-switches later, we just went for a tuk-tuk (aka rickshaw) lift and fell onto our respective beds. Sleeping after that weekend was even more delicious than the Xela Pan éclairs. Especially because I most surely dreamt of them.

Tip-Toeing To The Tire Turtle

It all started two weeks ago. Actually, the ‘mother project’ has been executed several months before, but the hatching of our turtle could be traced back to the first trip to a dump.

Santa Clara dump

Yes, a dump. We (the Rising Minds team) were to construct a playground for very young Guatemalan kids, and we were to do it in a sustainable, cheap, and empowering way. Inspired by endeavors like the “enTIREly fun playgrounds”, we set off into the tangled roads up the mountains and did a little pinchazo (a sort of tire/car parts shop) orientation. In the towns of Santa Clara, San Juan, and surroundings there were quite a few of those ‘shops’ and with equally clueless expressions, their owners promised to let us take their… trash. All we needed were used useless tires that didn’t have any metal stringy parts sticking out of them. Lesson #1: tires have metal in them. Not always, but when they do, they’re not the safest playground building material. And no worries, we figured that way before anyone got hurt.
So with the good word, we counted 22 promised tires and went back home, very satisfied, and very excited to confirm our sandbox/turtle design.

Things in Guatemala run slightly differently than they do in, let’s say, US. That’s the sole reason why the next day we ended up with only 15 out of those 22 promised tires on top of a Rising Minds’ friends’ van. That did not seem like enough, so decisions had to be made: with very adventurous hearts the three of us (plus the dedicated young son of the driver) slid down the slope and into the Sana Clara dump. We knew there were recently-thrown-away tires there, and all our hopes seemed to lay in there too. A rather questionably hygienic hour later, we had 6 tires more, very dirty hands, and sweaty foreheads. Us rolling the tires up the hill was excruciatingly similar to Sisyphus’ work, and believe me, that comparison was not motivating. But it didn’t matter. Mission accomplished!

It took two more weeks of waiting for the rains to go away and for my co-worker’s engineer dad to come, but we were more than ready and extremely excited to get the actual job done. Upon our arrival in the village of Panyebar, where we were constructing, 11 mothers were waiting for instructions with their kids wrapped in blankets around their backs, and hoes in their hands.

Empowerment: Mothers of Panyebar working on a playground for their kids

It was all work in progress that we needed to figure out as we went: trials and errors, realizations about tire structure (they’re very flexible and not that easy to put a screw in, as the rubber closes on you before you put a bolt through), and capacity/reality checks. Those are just details, though. We got on the job without a blink and finished the same day despite some lags revolving around the lack of washers that would prevent bolts and screws from pulling through the tires.

For stability, we stacked 4 tires on top of each other as the main turtle body part, constructed two-tired legs/shell parts around it, and put two tires half way into the ground to make up for the neck and tail, which brought about a wave of laughs amongst the mothers, as our sometimes-poor Spanish skills made us confuse ‘tail’ with ‘butt’. Cheerful.

The head was a whole new project altogether, and with a limited battery power tools, we had to fight for the eyes to be done out of separate tires rather than painted on. It might have been challenging for two college girls dealing with slim tuk-tuk tires, but the effect was well… well worth it:

Our soon-to-come-to-life Turtle

We came back the next day to paint the playground and make sure the turtle comes to life. Even though the sun there was striking hot the entire day, we still managed to convince the kids to put the play off for one more day to allow it to dry, but I must say, I was curious and excited myself to see them climb the turtle and give it a good endurance test. We’re back there Wednesday, so nothing missed. For now we’ve just decided to stay in the office and stare at our screens, this time decorated with the bright green TURTLE pictures.

THE TURTLE: Recycled Tire Playground

More photos of the process HERE.