No Jet Lag? No Kidding!

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Have you ever had jet lag? A week or more of not sleeping through the night, or falling asleep during the day after a long flight?
I was very skeptical when my son gave me a package of these No-Jet-Lag pills. But they are homeopathic… so I figured if it doesn’t help, it won’t hurt.

When I flew to Israel, I took them.
No jetlag at all. But then, I do all the right things when I travel: set my watch for the time at destination, as soon as we depart so I have several hours to tell myself it will be morning, or evening, or whatever. I mentally ‘condense’ the day or that night.
I close my eyes and relax, even sleep – if I arrive in the morning and should sleep during the flight.
Or I fight sleep, by watching a movie or reading – if I arrive late in the day and should go to sleep shortly after arriving.
I don’t drink caffeine or alcohol during flying.But still…
I took the tiny little pills when I returned from Amsterdam to Canada’s west coast. No jet lag at all.
I was still skeptical. It could be coincidence.
But a friend, who had terrible jet lag last year, took them going home to England and she was fine, too.Then I had to fly to China. I arrived on Sunday afternoon, having taken the no-jet-lag pills as prescribed: one on take-off, one on landing and one ever two hours in between. I slept through the night, got up on Monday morning and was fit enough to speak to 500 children.
Same story coming home: no jetlag.
So.. by now I do believe these homeopathic pills are making a difference. That, and all the right moves when you travel.
I hope they will help you, too, on your next trip. I know I will keep using them.
Did You Pack This Bag Yourself?

I am now ‘on my way’ to join Kees on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. But first I have to do workshops at an international school in Venezuela. Left home yesterday for 2 months…
After Venezuela I will join Kees to hike the final week of the Camino. Then I’m happy to be speaking at a conference for international school librarians in Belgium, then we’ll fly to Amsterdam and from there to Zambia.
In Zambia it’s volunteer work with the book bus and at an elephant orphanage.
So… what do you pack for 2 months, in which you need to have some dressy clothes, some old clothes, mostly hot but also cold (the last week of October in the Netherlands)…. I need to carry my Camino pack for a week. AND I do not want to check luggage on any flight… So what do you do?
First of all, I found the perfect luggage. One small wheelie suitcase was already living in my basement. It’s small enough to be cabin luggage. I’m allowed a second piece so a small pack. I still have a small purse around my neck. If anyone argues that this is a third piece, I can pack it inside the large pack.
For the pack I decided on 40L as the ideal size. It needs to hold everything for a week including a sleeping bag. And it’s not as huge as the pack I’m wearing in the photo above. Carrying that on our last 2 hikes was too heavy.

So what’s inside?
Most people tend to take their best things. I take clothes I’m ready to part with. Sometimes I even buy something specific at the second hand store so that I can leave it behind when I don’t need it anymore. I packed one very thin, very light silk jacket that makes anything look dressy. One lightweight dress and a blouse I can wear as a jacket on it. 2 pairs of capri’s, both of which I can leave in Africa. A pair of long pants for the last week. A fleecy, some tank tops. A nightshirt. One pair of flip flops that will stay in Africa, one pair of sandals and one pair of sturdy hiking shoes. Not boots but shoes – much easier to pack.
A large scarf – which I’ve already used as blanket in the plane.
Books – yes, I can’t travel without books. But I selected titles I can part with as I go. A toothbrush that folds up. 2 small tubes of toothpaste. One cream that is also medicinal – for chapped lips, disinfectant, etc. All in one.
I also have a fair supply of pencils and bookmarks for kids in Africa. And a small photo album to show them my home town and grandchildren.

Leaving On a Float Plane…
Climbing into the little floatplane, that held 4 other people, I started on my amazing race to Venezuela.
Salt Spring Air is fabulous. Halfway across the water to Vancouver, the pilot spotted this incredible tall ship. He circled it low so that we could get a good look of the wooden decks, the masts, the sails.  Check it out: http://www.sailtraining.org/membervessels/vessel.php?@=222&pg=Public_Information)
The next flight took me to L.A. and from there I was on a midnight flight to Miami. Slept like a log all the way. In Miami airport I had many hours to wait but found a great little coffee shop with wifi. Then the 4th and final flight took me to Barcelona, Venezuela. It was cool to fly over the Atlantic and then the Carribean – seeing the Bahamas, Cuba and Haiti/Dominican Republic. I’d never been to South American so am learning more geography as I go. For instance, I didn’t know that Costa Rica and Venezuela are basically at the same longitude rather than north/south of each other.  
It is a balmy 34ºC here and quite humid. I’m staying with a wonderful teacher/librarian who feels like an old friend (she did visit me on Salt Spring this summer!). I booked a few extra days so right now it feels like a holiday. Turns out that today and tomorrow are Virgin del Valle Festival, a religious holiday. First, her library assistant came over to cook a traditional Venezuelan breakfast. She made scrambled eggs with onions and tomatoes, with arepas (Ah-ray-pass) – round bread made from corn flour and baked slowly on a special flat baking sheet. We had sliced avocados, fried plantains and freshly squeezed orange juice with it. Pretty awesome, what a welcome!
Then we spend some time in and by the pool under the palm trees (while Arnout emailed a photo of the first snow fall in northern Canada… heehee). We walked to the beach where the festival was in full swing, with lots of people, music and stalls with food. At the first stall we bought the most perfect pina coladas I’ve ever had.. Good festival.

Next we sampled warm tequeños, deep-fried breadsticks with melted, white cheese inside. Yummy. And of course we had to take home tres leches cake and torte de chocolate to eat on the balcony in the warm breeze after our bean soup and wine. I must say… I like Venezuela so far! But.. things could deteriorate once I have to go to work…

Smuggling Librarians!

Bienvenidos! Welcome in Venezuela!
I am learning many interesting things in Venezuela.
Did you know that the country is officially called ‘the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’?
The currency is the Venezuelan bolívar (popularly called “b’s” (as in ‘bees’ not b.s.) and how many you get for a dollar depend on wether or not you buy them at the black market.
People are very friendly and outgoing. I always love being at an international school and listening to teachers who have lived and worked in so many different countries. They teach children that speak 3 or 4 languages, even in First Grade. And they aways have interesting stories of all the places they have lived.

I am staying with the librarian and we get along famously. We have pina coladas every night and enjoy many of the same things. Every morning we get picked up by taxi to go to school. The school has verandas and a large green courtyard. The children are so sweet. We eat lunch in the outside cafeteria and I go home in another taxi. Her condo has a beautiful pool and since the temperatures are a balmy 34º, we use it a lot. I’m doing presentations all day for students, parents and teachers. The kids are so lovely and excited. They all want their picture taken with me 🙂

On the way through the city it feels a lot like the Philippines: half finished concrete buildings, lots of potholes in the roads, sidewalks that end abruptly. Palm trees. Stalls selling bananas or coca cola.

Food remains important. I’ve sampled many wonderful things: the warm fried cheese bread remains one of my favorites. We’ve had pastas, salads, barbecued meats.
Yesterday, to go for dinner, we got picked up in a huge SUV, some kind of heavy Ford. One teacher said to the driver “Tell her how much it costs to fill this thing up with gas!” I was thinking, ‘Hhhmm… 100, 150 dollars in the US..’ when the driver smiled and said, “Oh… about 20 cents.” I wondered what kind of joke this was. But no, seriously, gas is practically free in Venezuela. The other person said he just paid a dollar for 75 gallons…. How can this be? Well, apparently it is one of the few perks that the government provides for the people. They produce gasoline here and provide it for next to nothing. In North America we think that this is an amazing, lucky perk for the people here and that their government is wise to provide it instead of sell it overseas. Here, however, people tell me that they would be happy to pay more for gasoline if that meant that roads would be fixed and other services provide. But, they say, if more is charged for gas we’re not so sure the extra money actually goes to roads. It might end up in pockets.

I was told that, whenever people here want to protest something – high costs, or lack of products, power outages or political ideas – they gather in the streets and bang on pots and pans. Often a tweet will get more people together at a specific time and a pot-banging crowd gathers in no time.

Products can be very cheap here. Today I bought 2 cinnamons buns for breakfast, a 1.5 liter bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice and 2 pastries. Total cost was less than 4 dollars. But there is also a huge lack of some necessities.
The librarian who is hosting me asked if I could please bring a bottle of shampoo, because there is no shampoo or soap available anywhere. Some people were grading big old bars of soap with a cheese grinder to make detergent.

But the most hilarious story was that the librarian ordered my books from the States. She asked the bookseller to please pack the books in toiletpaper rolls, rather than in useless packing paper, because there is a serious shortage of toiletpaper here. The bookseller was happy to oblige.
But when customs opened a box of books, in addition to books they found toilet paper. They quickly went through all boxes and labeled the rolls as contraband. The librarian was fined for smuggling toiletpaper!

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