This time (yes, I do plan on going back) I flew to Brisbane and from there and thanks to my amazing friend who lives up there, we went on to discover the city and incredible surroundings, by car.
Even though I come from a small town were a car is pretty much indispensable in one's everyday life, I've lived in cities for so long now, that feeling the imperative need of a car again felt rather odd. But that's one of the first things I've learned in Australia, you will need a car if you're expecting to do 'cool' things. I mean, you can fly, take buses and trains places, of course, but the really cool things, you only get to by car, and the not so incredible but still on the cool side things, say like going to the beach, can quickly take up to two hours by transport or a quick 45min drive. So yes, you need a car to be in Australia.
A lovely lunch by the harbour followed, and we wrapped up the day with a 'siesta' on Muffat beach. Spanish style.
The following day more beach time and my first BBQ awaited. Met some super friendly Brazilians, got to see the Street Food set up; really quite impressive on variety of foods as well as on the carefully selected decoration which makes it a great walk and talk and eat dinner spot.
Sunday was probably my laziest of all days, slept in a bit and headed into Brisbane town for a walk around the Botanical Gardens, a scenic view of the city's many bridges, their local sea-pool (yep, artificial beach right in the middle of Brisbane) and of course their shopping streets.
Overall, nothing too impressive about the city, nice, but not spectacular. Yet the best was still to come. I got invited to a local brewery where my new Brazilian friends were going to perform, right in the heart of the West End. Now that's what I call atmosphere. Who knew Brisbane had such a vibrant alternative scene?
On my last day, the world-renowned Gold Coast was up. I had high expectations for this particular spot, and it didn't deceive. Call me illiterate, but I was quite shocked to realise that Surfer's Paradise is an actual name of a town here, that surf, truly is at the heart of this town, and that other than a handful of hotels concentrated around this one town, the rest is a rather unexploited piece of sandy and bushy land.
uite a refreshing image for a super popular touristy spot that somehow remained relaxed and easy going, nothing like some more crazy beaches I've seen in the past where tourism truly runs down anything else. It might be they did an amazing urban planning around it, or simply they got lucky because isolation comes as a given in this broad land.
However it is, I really enjoyed Broadbeach, Surfer's Paradise and the more inland pieces of the Gold Coast I got to explore in my short trip, and yes, I'll definitely be going back up there too.
So next time you think of travelling to Queensland, do think about sunny beaches, but make sure you portrait a few trees in them, and remember the wind will be blowing strongly while you're on the beach, also make sure you give yourself enough time to eat around (I had Mexican, Vietnamese, Thai, Brazilian BBQ and Greek in only four days), and above all, organise yourself a car and some sunscreen, trust me on this one, you'll need it.
Surfer's Paradise (an actual town name) on the Gold Coast
So after spending a wonderful birthday with new and refound friends, I couldn't wait to go back online and tell you about all the things that have happened over the past couple of months, you know since I was left in the middle of Peru with no card...
I've you've completely lost me during this time, you'll also like to hear I moved again, and I find myself enjoying the wonderful weather and beaches of Sydney and hope to do that for quite a bit longer. To hear all about my travels from Peru to Sydney via Barcelona, don't miss out on coming posts.
As always, thanks for reading; It's so good to be back!
I'm writing this post today much to my despair and regret, as I would have hoped that the Customer Service from HSBC would have been able to truly solve my issue, but for all answers I got 'we're sorry, but your new card has already been issued and there's nothing we can do'.
Let me tell you the story from the beginning...
Problem no. 1
My relationship with HSBC never really had a great start. I needed two pieces of documentation to start an account for which I used my passport and my Spanish ID. After saying a number of times that my address was in London, and that's where my new card should be sent to, my mom calls me one day to tell me she's received the card at my home place. One more week without a card at my arrival in the UK.
As you do in London, you move, you upgrade apartments, you go to better places as your work gets better, you get to learn the city, etc. So last year I moved (for the third time), and when I went to my branch to inform them about me moving, they announced they've just sent me a new card. An upgrade they thought would be great for me to have. Very thoughtful, if it hadn't been I knew nothing about it, and therefore my card was lying on the floor of my old appartment, oh, and my current card was about to expire as a new one had been issued! Something one would usually really appreciate knowing.
And the reason of this post. Because this time, they've really done it. I visited one of the HSBC branches before leaving London to explore whether there were any changes I needed to do to my account to ensure my card would keep working through my 4 months of travels in South America.
Much to my amusement/desperation, the first person I spoke to at the branch thought I'd be absolutely fine to leave without changing anything. When I insisted there was a clause in my contract that said I had to have a minimum amount come into my account monthly to qualify for it, and what would happen if that stopped happening, well they really didn't know. So I was advised that the best was to downgrade already just in case.
Here's my favourite part. The guy who attended me didn't know whether a new card was going to be issued or not. So again, just to be safe we changed the sending address of any new cards (which should take a maximum of 5 days) to be sent to my parents address where I was going to stay another two weeks.
So of course, a new card was issued with no contact to myself, so again, my mom called me to let me know a new card had arrived just after I left Spain.
I contacted HSBC to request that my current card (expiring 2018) please continues to work as I'm travelling and can't get hold of the new one they've issued me, and for all response I got an email saying 'we're sorry, but once a new card has been issued there's nothing we can do'.
Frustrated is the slightest I can say about HSBC right now. Not only have they caused me problems in the past, but after spending a whole morning at the branch to sort my things so I would not have any issues with my card while travelling, well, here I am hearing again, we're sorry there's nothing we can do, can't your parents not send you the new card.
Honestly, this is not how a bank should work. A bank is a utility, a thing you use to make your life easier, they amongst everyone should understand the importance of our cards working, and the information coming from them being clear. But no, instead, all you hear is a personal sorry from the poor customer service attendant, and we hope this gets sorted, but no real solution.
Needless to say I'll cancel my accounts with HSBC the moment I set foot in the UK again. But I hope this post helps a few make the decision to avoid them, and skip this lot of nightmares I've been through. It should really never be like this.
To HSBC, tell them there are two very simple things they could do:
a) Start comunicating with your clients more clearly (a phone call with no message doesn't tell me my bank called, no email policy at all is really not helpful, even a 'you've got secure mail' would be great, and when a change is made in their account, be sure your clients hear about it)
b) Please train your personnel better, improve internal comms, and for God's sake, integrate your cards department once and for all, because right now, this really isn't working.
Thanks to the efforts of Cooperar Perú, three months ago a water tank was instaled in the community so all houses with access to the pipeline system can have running water in their homes. That has been one of the big achievements for the project, but its everyday runs much deeper into the wellbeing and education of the Tankarpata children.
Every day at 3pm the volunteers head from Caja Mágica (the hostel helping fund the volunteering project) to the Tankarpata neighbourhood to help children with their school tasks, prepping for exams, or even playing. We have four sections running from 3.30pm to 5pm; Biblioteca (library), Ludoteca (play area), Computo (computer room - 4 units to be shared and no internet) and Area de actividades y Lavatorio (activity area and washing area).
As part of the education for good health and hygene habits all children must brush their teeth and hands before entering the building. Trust me, that does raise a few complaints but in the end, they understand (and I'd dare say welcome) the rules, so all end up obeying.
The favourite sections seem to be Computo for the 12-14 year old boys who love playing with their games, a few 4-10 year olds head directly to the Ludoteca should they not have homework to complete, and finally the few with homework do stay in the Biblioteca until their tasks are completed. From maths, to painting and colouring, to writing and conjugating and social sciences, we need to be ready to help with all at all levels, quite a challenge specially as the majority of volunteers' mother tongue isn't Spanish.
It's those very little wins that we see every day, a small 'thanks' here and there, a heartfelt hug, it's that which makes us realise what little big impact we're having in their lives. Today was a culmination of a great first week for me, and a big push of energy for all to continue with our task. One more day, one more week to keep learning of this wonderful children, who despite their sometimes strong temper and rough manners, when given very little open their hearts wide open to you in return.
He convinced me there was one closer by, and I believed him, so off we went to Avenida Cultura to the Hospital Regional. There's something I've come to realise about Peruvians, and it's that it seems they always tell you what you want to hear, something that doesn't help much when you're trying to figure out the best hospital to go to.
As I aproached Hospital Regional, I started having a feeling that this had been a bad idea. The hospital looked old, worn off and half in ruins. Almost like the hospitals I'd seen on tv on developing countries where health care was a struggle (I must say I really know nothing about how good or bad healthcare is here in comparison to other countries in the world, so another one to take for the 'silly tourist').
As I walked in, and saw the state of the interior (along with the fact that there were no other European looking people around) I started to feel very unconfortable and unsafe. Something in my mind was just telling me I couldn't be sure if the instruments were going to be clean enough, or the doctors savvy enough, or what would happen if I was asked to stay to be monitored... This was just not a place I'd feel comfortable being treated at.
For someone who's always vouched for public healthcare, who believes in being integrated and trying to blend in with the cultures I've visited, this was a hard hit to take, but I just couldn't stay. I felt like a tourist for the first time in a very long time. Someone who comes in to see only the pretty things and then leave, keeping in their minds the image of the beautiful postcard looking place they'd just been to.
I really don't like tourists. I've disliked this group of people I considered closed minded for a very long time. Yet here I was looking for a place that held 'tourist standards'. After calling my travel insurance and confirming I was ok to be attended at a private facility, I headed to the private hospital across the road from Hospital General.
The visit with the GP would cost me 100 soles (about €26.50) and for another s/100 they've even run some blood tests for me. Treatment was quick and professional as I'd have expected and a fever that had been worrying me turned out to be an amigdalities that will be cured in a couple of days with the help of some antibiotics. I even met some great Americans there and had a great chat about their lives here in Pisaq.
At midday, I left the hospital to grab some lunch while I waited for the analytics to come back and confirm the initial diagnose, and as I sat down at this nearby 'pollería' and told my mom about my experience, a tear came down my cheek. How lucky was I; To come from a place where healthcare is free, of very high standards and for all; To be able to afford the 'rich people' hospital here so I could receive treatment at a place where I felt safe; And then even more lucky to be able to be here, experimenting this shocking reality and appreciate my luck a hundred times over.
I took a taxi to the hospital, but on my way back I decided to jump on my first bus since I've been here. A 'colectivo' they're called. The way those are run is short from crazy, but sitting there surrounded by Peruvians with my antibiotics and assurance of a prompt recovery I felt blessed. I'd experienced what it meant to be lost in this city, and in that, I found myself again.
What was arguably more surprising was the amount of tourists (mostly gathered in big groups) travelling through the square and of course, the Starbucks along other western brands which have somehow made its way into this iconic peruvian town.
It is indeed a town for tourists, well adapted, full of little stores advertising they take Visa, and many shouting you promotions in English as you walk down the street. And here is the feeling I think will take a bit to settle, how much is it good and how much is it bad for this culture what is slowly becoming an 'invasion' of tourism and occidental/european culture?
Further into the day, my steps took me to my first grocery shopping experience, and it couldn't have been anywhere better than Mercado San Pedro, the biggest in the city. So truly peruvian, it put my thoughts to rest for at least the time I wandered through its busy lanes. Clothes, fresh juices, meats, vegetables and street food all perfectly organised in a grid of white stalls. All looking the same, all offering very similar products, all shouting very similar sales chatter. It really made me wonder how people sell their product ahead of their neighbour who is clearly a friend of theirs.
So much amazing looking food (not the meats I must say), but oh the vegetables, fruits and legumes... I counted at least 6 types of maíz and countless other types of foods I'd never even seen. So incredible, and so frustrating not to know anything about that food, so incapable of preparing it to be able to taste it. So unable to select what to take as I wouldn't know whether I'd like it or not, and in a way, not even sure how much it was! Quite a lot to learn, but an area I'm really looking forward to learn more and more about.
Another full day of cultural shocks and visual inputs finished with a lovely family dinner at the hostel, a great way to gather everyone together once a week. A lovely way for me in particular to start to know those who will be my family in the days and weeks to come.
A trip to a place where the world just seems different, like it's got nothing to do with anything I've seen before. A place where the most cliché images of Peru you could have seen are not only real, but truly happening on every corner of the city as honest expressions of their people and their lives.
The many [visual] impacts experienced from landing to arriving to my hostel are difficult to describe, but I have made it my mission to capture the immense beauty of this city and its people. So stay tuned for more coming soon.
For now I'll leave you with three sweet anectodes that have happened:
- A smiling moon (the menguant type) has received us at our arrival at Lima
- I'm two heads taller than any other woman in the country (or so it seems) as suspected
- Peruvians speak Spanish, but with their own and expected swing, so kind and welcoming it's impossible not to feel at home right away
However, redescovering it, is just something else. To me, one of the best presents you can make yourself.
Pictured above is the 'Passeig' in Manresa, the town next to mine, a pedestrian streen I've walked about a gazillion times. Yet in my 30 years, I only found out this week what a beautiful framed picture of Montserrat one can observe halfway down the street.
Had I not been in the clouds enjoying that which I know so well, yet have missed from the heart and therefore now find myself scutinising with my gaze, it'd probably been another 30 years until I'd discovered this view, much like it happened to my mom.
Leave your home town, or don't, but as The North Face so well says 'Never stop exploring', even if it means truly discovering something you've 'seen' yet not 'experienced' those many times before.
It's difficult to explain if you don't work in events, or a high pace environment where similar situations may happen, but the increasing hype that one feels over those 21 and the incredible feeling of triumph once everything happens simply has no equal.
This time is different, is more like the anticipation before the launch of the event, when you've been prepping your marketing campaign for months and as soon as tech shouts 'we're live' you start praying nothing goes wrong. Because believe me, there's always something that goes wrong, only if you're lucky, it won't be that serious and you'll have a successful launch.
So here I am, with all (or the majority) of my todo list items ticked, and well, three weeks to go... I think I'll start praying now.
If you're in the process of a similar travelling plan. Here's where I stand:
- Discussion with work about me leaving: completed 3 months ago
- Buying flights and checking visa requirements: completed 2 months ago
- Starting vaccination process: started 1 month ago (looking back you might want to start 8+ weeks before your departure)
- Sorting storage/selling my stuff: completed 2 weeks ago
- Packing my stuff: started two days ago
As recently described, one could say I'm a free spirit. Not something I'd usually write on my resumé, but as it turns out this is my blog, my space, and my thoughts, well, that seems accurate enough. The rest, you'll learn in reading my posts.