Author archive for Lainie Liberti

Name: Lainie, aka "ilainie"

Posts by ilainie:

    Finding Flavor, Organic Coffee of the Bolivian Forest

    September 29th, 2015

    Following our interests, a coffee-infused-worldschooling education

    It is no secret that Miro and I love coffee. Well, I love coffee and Miro is extremely happy when I have some. We travel with our small coffee press and search high and low for the best coffee available at every new place we visit.

    As you may have read in Miro’s article review of the wonderful cafe we stayed upstairs from for three of the six weeks we stayed in Bolivia, we loved the food, the hospitality, the owners and especially the coffee. The Danish-Bolivian couple who run Café MagicK place much attention into the quality of their food and the presentation and the events they produce. Plus, they serve the best coffee in La Paz. After several deep conversations about the coffee standards, Stephan shared with us information about the beautiful organic coffee farm which supplied the cafe. Just then, we added another location to our “must-see” in Bolivia list.

    After our trip to Copacabana, we shared our plans with Daniela and Omar of The Travel Store Boliva and asked if they’d like to join us. We planned for a day trip the following Saturday.

    Early Saturday morning we boarded a bus for the three hour trip from La Paz to Coroico, where the Munaipata Organic Farm is located. We traveled over the new paved Yungas Road which was built in 2006 as an alternative to the famous Death Road where thousands of bicycle tourists test their fate every year.


    Our little bus passed dozens and dozens of helmeted mountain bike riders making their way to turn off to the original dirt road pass as we remained on the paved road. I looked at Miro and asked him once again, “are you sure you don’t want to do the Death Road Bike Tour?” I held my breath, hoping to every conceivable god he didn’t change his mind. Then without hesitation, he replied with, “Mom, anything with the words ‘death’ and ‘road’ in it does not appeal to me”. Whew! What a sensible kid!

    The Yungas Road is one of the few routes that connects the Yungas region of northern Bolivia to La Paz. Upon leaving La Paz, the road first ascends to around 4,650 meters (15,260 ft) at La Cumbre Pass, before descending to 1,200 meters (3,900 ft) finally arriving at the town of Coroico. The three-hour bus ride offers a quick transitioning scenery starting at the cool Altiplano terrain ending in the high rainforest as it winds through very steep hillsides and atop cliffs.

    The farm, located in the little town of Coroico, has long been a favorite with visitors and residents of La Paz. The town is situated in the center of steep, forested mountains surrounded by orange and banana groves, coca farms and coffee plantations. From every side, Coroico offers stupendous views, where from the distance you can see the snowy peaks of the Cordillera Real. Even though our visit to Coroico was brief, Omar and Daniela told us there are wonderful hikes and birdwatching opportunities in the countryside surrounding Coroico.

    If we had more time, Miro and I would have loved to stay and explore the area leaning of the of the cultural history of the surrounding communities including Charobamba, which was established by Jews escaping Nazi Germany. Also interesting is Tocaña, which is known as the Afro-Bolivian community established by former slaves who gave Bolivia its famous “saya” dance. And finally just a short ways away is Coroico Viejo, where Coroico was originally established before indigenous attacks caused the inhabitants to move their town.


    But this day was dedicated to coffee and I couldn’t be happier.

    Upon our arrival at the Coroico bus station, we walked up what seemed like a mountain of stairs to reach the main square. There, I was acutely aware we were lower in altitude from La Paz. Although I was still out of breath, it did not feel like my heart was going to jump out of my chest and caught my breath rather quickly.


    After asking a few locals for directions, we made our way from the center of town to a side street about six blocks away, where we boarded a small pubic van. After about twenty minutes on the dirt mountain road, we were dropped off at the front gate of Cafe Munaipata and the organic farm with the same name.

    Our coffee tour began with a beautiful meal served at Cafe Munaipata. Before we arrived we made our choice between a lasagna or llama steak. Miro and I chose the cheesy option and Omar and Daniella chose the meat. (Both looked and tasted wonderful.)

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    Our meal started off with the most delicious quinoa salad, accompanied with a frothy jamaica (hibiscus) drink.  The main course was incredible.We finished our meal with a delicious scoop of homemade coffee ice cream.  Overall, our meal was complete, satisfying and divine.

    After lunch the tour of the grounds began. We were joined by another two people, making our tour complete with six people. Andres was our passionate guide and shared his love for the entire coffee process, from planting to roasting. Later, we met Renee who owns the artisanal coffee production estate.


    The Munaipata Organic Coffee Farm covers three hectors, which consists of hillside and flat land. Coffee plants require 50/50 shade to sun ratio so you will find a variety of other trees throughout the farm. Each coffee plant is grown using regional organic best practices and including a variety of citrus trees and other local non-fruit bearing trees which provide shade for the coffee plants as well as a natural habitat for the local bird population. Andres told us that a portion of the coffee crop is consumed by parrots, but that that is the price for opting to remain organic and not using dangerous pesticides and chemicals.


    From the start, we noticed many different elevations which must represent several different microclimates. Throughout the Munaipata farm, we found several varieties of coffee plants including catimor, arabica, criollo, and caturra. The different plants produce beans of varying flavor profiles.


    Andres talked about the life cycle of the coffee plants; each plant can live between 65-70 years. Each coffee plant will take about three years to produce fruit. We observed the plants with thicker stocks indicating that were older. Those plants had off shoots that were ripe for cutting and replanting to start new plants.


    Alternatively, we learned that coffee plants needed to mature at least ten years to be ready to harvest fruit for seeds. We also learned that that ten year period marks the point that the plants begin to diminish both in levels of production and quality of bean.


    It seemed as if Andres knew each plant personally throughout the three hectare farm and knew the age, and variety as if he was looking at his own family tree. One of the many benefits of touring a speciality trade organic farm is learning the differences between their process and the practices of most bulk producers. Growers who bulk produce coffee, often cultivate plants past their peak. Munaipata does not and the evidence can be found in the rich flavor… but more on that a little later on.

    From Beans to Seedlings


    We learned about the process of harvesting seeds. The beans are germinated in compost, some in larger bags, some in smaller boxes depending on the season, variety and current needs of the farm. Munaipata farm retains many of the seedlings for planting on their property, but they also sell a portion to nearby farmers.


    After a few weeks, the seedlings are wrapped into little planter bags and transferred over to the nursery which is an open air greenhouse. Depending on the time of year, the seedlings remain in the nursery area for a period of seven weeks up to ten months, after which they are planted or sold.


    Optimally each coffee plant should be planted one to two meters from one another, however through natural germination and growth, there are several plants that do not retain that distance.

    Picking the Right Bean

    It takes an experienced eye to know when the fruit is ripe for picking. Not too early, not too late. Each bean needs to be analyzed visually and picked when ready. A single branch, may have 20 beans at different stages of maturity. Andres showed us the color and size of the optimal bean, but even to the naked eye not every bean passes the final test. In fact, each coffee bean must pass through our or five tests that indicate the quality of the bean necessary to reach final product.


    I asked Andres how many kilos of fruit (coffee bean) does it take produce one kilo of Munaipata coffee? He estimated it took 46 kilos (just over 100 pounds) to produce 7-8 kilos (roughly 15 – 18 pounds) of coffee. WOW!!!


    Nothing is wasted. During each stage of production, the beans are sorted and the lesser ones are removed from the batch. The unused beans are either turned into mulch or fertilizer or, depending on the state, sold into the bulk market.

    But nothing is ever wasted.

    The Water Test


    After picking, the beans are placed in a bucket of water to pass the float test. A fruit with a rotted interior, or an under formed bean will float to the surface.


    After the lesser beans are separated, the remainder are then run through the device which hulls the beans, meaning he coffee bean is separated out from the skin simply leaving fruit.

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    Next comes the fermentation process.

    After the coffee beans have been separated from the husk, a sort of gooey-like membrane is left surrounding the bean. The purpose behind fermentation is two-fold. First, to dissolve the membrane around the bean and second, to contribute the flavor of the final coffee.


    Cafe Munaipata uses a fermentation tank, basically a large water container that can be covered. (For the purposes of our demonstration, the beans were pre-fermented in a smaller plastic container, seen above.) The beans are soaked in water sourced from the natural spring, which is chemical and chlorine-free. The beans are left to ferment for 15-20 hours during the warmer months and several hours more during the winter, but each batch is unique and not brought out of the fermentation process until it is “done”.

    “Andres, how do you know when the fermentation process is done,” I ask?

    “Experience,” he replies.

    Once it is determined the fermentation process is final, the water that used is funneled to an onsite “distillery” that separates the toxins from the water so it does not contaminate the natural spring. The distilled water is drained back into nature and the toxins are stored. Miro and I were so impressed with the attention to preserving the natural balance of the ecosystem.

    After the fermentation process is complete, time for one more test; washing the beans and removing the beans that are not of top quality. Beans that have defects, discoloration or cracked do not make it to the drying phase.

    Air Dry


    Just as the Incas dried many of their crops with the dry air of the Andes, the wind and sun, the coffee at Munaipata is treated in much the same way. The farm built a special drying room called a “secador”, on the edge of the hill, allowing the moving air to circulate through the “secador” and dry the beans. The “secador” utilizes passive solar drying methods with stacks of racks each containing five kilos of beans.

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    The beans dry for a period of seven to ten days depending on the moisture content of the bean and climatic conditions. After their time in the solar drier, the beans are measured sorted once again, the bad ones removed from the batch, based on weight and moisture content and any hints of mold contamination.


    Bagging and Storage


    After the beans are dried, they are placed into ten kilo bags for storage. Munaipata has created a special arid storage room. We toured this room and witnessed rows of bags stacked from floor to ceiling, each marked with dates. Each bag must be stored from three months to a year before roasting.

    Rich Rich Roasting

    After a three month (to a year) slumber, the beans are ready for the roasting process.

    Well, almost.


    We warmed up the roasting machine, to 150C.

    But before the beans can be placed into the roasting machine, their out outer encasement must first be removed. Beans with the outer husk still in tact are refereed to as “cafe pergamino”.


    After the outer case is removed, the beans are called “cafe oro verde” or green gold because of the golden green color that is revealed.


    And to a coffee lover, the richness of placing beans into the roaster and experiencing the aromas is a little slice of heaven.


    Eight kilos of cafe oro verde can be roasted at a time. A standard roast required thirty and for the slightly darker European roast, thirty one to thirty two minutes are required.


    And with that, we are just about a half hour away from finally tasting.


    The Best Deserved Cup of Coffee. Ever.

    Our tour ended and our group convened back at the restaurant. I was ready to sit down and enjoy a nice cup of coffee. And after three hours of walking around the farm, learning about coffee, I deserved it.

    But we had to wait just a little longer.


    First, our group gathered around the table and as we watched Andres take ground coffee from six bags, marked with nothing but numbers. Then after a spoonful of coffee was added to each of the cups, boiling water was added.


    One by one we passed the coffee around, stirred the coffee with our individual spoons, and smelled the aroma. Each of of the cups smelled and tasted slightly different, from strength, richness, flavor intensity and bitterness. After we shared which was our individual preference and which clearly was not, Andres revealed the results.


    Unanimously the fresh European blend was the group’s favorite.

    Unanimously the coffee that had been ground months before and had been sitting getting old was the group’s least favorite.

    Apparently we all had a good nose and taste for quality coffee.

    I know I did.


    And quality coffee is what we experienced at Munaipata Organic Farm.


    A week later, as I am sitting down to write this and I mourn the half empty bag and am faced with the grim reality that my Munaipata Organic Coffee will be gone soon.


    But the experience and knowledge will stay with me a lifetime.





    Munaipata Cafe – Organic Coffee Farm

    Road to Carmen Pampa km. 4
    Community Munaypata
    Coroico – Bolivia
    Cel. 720 42824
    René Brugger
    renebrugger (at)

    Café MagicK

    Presbitero Medina n°2526, Esquina Pedro Salazar,
    Zona Sopocachi, La Paz, Bolivia
    T: +591 77553535
    T: +591 (2) 2910625

    Travel Store Bolivia

    CENTRAL OFFICE: Street Comercio 1486, La Paz-Bolivia
    BRANCH OFFICE: Avenue Montes 641, La Paz-Bolivia
    (+591) 705 38088WhatsApp (+591) 705 38088

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    For the Love of Learning – Voices of the Alternative Education Movement – Epi#33

    September 25th, 2015

    For the Love of Learning – Epi 33


    For the Love of Learning Episode 33

    Show Title:

    Life-Long Learning for a Changing World

    Monday September 21, 2015  8:00 pm – 10:00 pm EST
    Tuesday September 22, 2015 1:00 am – 3:00 am BST

    Special Guests:

    Anna Brix Thomsen
    Zak Slayback
    Brandon Hay


    If education is the process of learning and evolving, does not a changing world demand constant evolution? The question is not, “does today’s education prepare us for a changing world?” The question should be, how as individuals can we make conscious choices to continue to grow, evolve and meet the needs of a changing world as a life long pursuit? In this episode, we’ll explore the the experiences and ideas that inspire our panel of life learners, activists, visionaries and facilitators as they strive to match the needs of a changing world.

    The world is changing and part of that means changes within the global context , which is characterized by the increased interconnectedness and interdependency of all people, societies and cultures.

    In addition, we’ll consider 21st century learning: the digital world, virtual worlds, a connected world including immersive & experiential learning and the relationship to a greater global perspective. What are the essential elements needed in order to enable and empower humans to be lifelong learners and active participants in our society? And just what does society need? We explore all this and more during this episode.


    Bios of Tonight’s Guests:

    Anna Brix Thomsen

    AnnaAnna Brix Thomsen is a teacher and host of the blog A Teacher’s Journey to Life. Anna has over 15 years of experience within the education system including an undergraduate degree in pedagogy and a graduate degree in educational sociology from Aarhus University in Denmark and Stockholm University in Sweden. She is a contributor to the working class think tank The Hampton Institute’s department of education and the independent online sociological journal Current projects including an impendent publication in the International Journal of Progressive Education’s Handbook of progressive education. Anna calls herself “a guerrilla teacher by day and a social media activist by night”. She documents her journey daily on various social media sites to share her insights and contribute to a meaningful and transformative discussion about education.


    Zak Slayback

    zakZachary Slayback is an entrepreneur and writer focusing on issues of education, innovation, and philosophy. He is an Ivy League dropout and speaks and writes regularly on college, the negative effects of elite education, and how we can improve education for the individual and society-at-large. He believes that entrepreneurs are the primary actors of social change.

    Zak is a founding team member of and Business Development Director for Praxis. He has been published at Newsweek, the New York Examiner, the Daily Caller, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the Christian Science Monitor, the Foundation for Economic Education’s Anything Peaceful, among others, and has also appeared on The Glenn Beck Program and HuffPost Live. He’s spoken at Coin Congress SFO, The Thiel Foundation Summit, regional Students For Liberty conferences, and elsewhere.

    Brandon Hay

    BrandonBrandon Hay M.E.S. (C) Founder of Black Daddies Club –
    Brandon Hay brings over 10 years of experience working in Canada and internationally with a background in strong mobilizing, leadership and facilitation skills, taking a transformative and equity approach to issues of marginalization, health and well-being and working in ways that sponsor: anti-racist, anti-oppressive and decolonizing practices. He views diversity, complicated intersections, life transitions and responses to marginalization as occasions to anchor communities with agency, informed and responsive supports. In doing so, this allows us (from a participatory framework) to be able to shift through the layers, lend understanding to crisis and affirm capacity are skill sets which he honed after years of service, community engagement, project coordination and research.

    Having been the founder of Black Daddies Club, Brandon knows firsthand the importance of community cohesion, promising practice, evidenced-based and best practice. Bringing insight, analysis and awareness. His expertise have been acknowledged by: the African Canadian Achievement awards of Excellence (ACAA) for parenting in 2011 and the Black Business & Professional association (BBPA)- Distinguished Man of Honor Award in 2010. I have also been profiled by CTV, City TV,Global TV,TED X Toronto, CBC Radio and Television, CFRB 1010,the Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, Toronto Star, Toronto Life, Sway Magazine, Urbanology Magazine and others, bringing the voice of black fathers into the spotlight



    Lainie Liberti

    As always, you can find out more about your host, Lainie Liberti at her website and the alternative education & world schooling project she runs with her teenage son at: You can also connect with her on twitter @ilainie & facebook.

    For full archives of this show and programming schedule, please visit: 

    Find us on facebook: For-the-Love-of-Learning-Voices-of-the-Alternative-Education-Movement

    For comments, questions, suggestions or if you’d like to be guest on the show, please contact us here.



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    For the Love of Learning – Voices of the Alternative Education Movement – Epi#32

    September 21st, 2015

    For the Love of Learning – Epi#32


    For the Love of Learning Episode 32

    Show Title:

    Creating Community Outside of School

    Monday September 14, 2015  8:00 pm – 10:00 pm EST
    Tuesday September 15, 2015 1:00 am – 3:00 am BST

    Special Guests:

    Julia Bergson-Shilcock
    Sue Patterson
    Katie O’Connor


    Talk to any practitioner of home or alternative forms of education and they’ll tell you that the most common two questions asked are, “how will your children ever be socialized?” or “how will they ever find friends and and feel connected to a community?” It is true, ‘socialization’ looks very different to a child who learns without school. Commonly, these children interact more with their family and their surrounding community than most schooled children. Children who do not attend school have time to extend their social activities and community seeking by participating in interest groups and local activities, educational co-ops, field trips and outings, joining clubs, and visiting a variety of public places where, it’s guaranteed, there will be other people to socialize with, thus create community. In this episode, we will explore what creating community outside of a school environment  looks like with a panel of engaged facilitators and parents.


    Bios of Tonight’s Guests:

    Julia Bergson-Shilcock

    JuliaJulia Bergson-Shilcock is Co-Director of Open Connections, a forward-thinking, innovative nonprofit educational organization located in Newtown Square, PA.

    Open Connections (OC) offers programs for young people ages 2-18. Julia’s main focus areas at OC include: supporting OC families as they create and navigate their educational journeys; overseeing admissions for prospective families; facilitating the parent-toddler program; and developing and running OC’s staff training sessions.

    When not at OC, Julia conducts workshops on Natural Learning for parents at area birth centers, yoga studios and other like-minded nonprofit organizations. She also offers educational consulting services for families.

    A lifelong self-directed learner, Julia never set foot in a traditional classroom until college. She graduated from Arcadia University with a degree in sociology. In addition to her work at OC, she has worked with hundreds of youth while volunteering in a Philadelphia public school, serving as a private tutor, and leading numerous summer camps.

    Julia and her husband, Mike, are the loving parents of three self-directed learners, ages 6, 4 and 1.

    Sue Patterson

    sueFirst and foremost, Sue  has three grown unschooled “children” who are now 26, 24 and 21. She has had several careers over time, and  moved frequently with the Air Force for over a 20 year period. Sue and her family have lived in many communities from San Antonio, Texas to Anchorage Alaska,  from Dixon, California to Greensboro, North Carolina and many places in between. With each move, Sue and her family connected with families, parents and children joining multiple support groups, homeschool communities and finally started out her when none of the options available fit her family. Sue also frequented  numerous conferences around the country, listening to speakers, meeting other families, sharing stories and becoming versed in the world of home education.
    Through these experiences, Sue realized she was raising her kids differently from most parents.

    Sue says that she didn’t start out as someone who knew she’d be a homeschooling mom. She didn’t read any books about it or subscribe to magazines on the subject. For all practical purposes, she considered herself a fairly mainstream soccer mom from the suburbs. But it didn’t take long  to realize that school was not a good fit for her family. After trying out traditional homeschooling first, Sue and her family moved into a radical unschooling paradigm.

    Sue now runs Unschooling Mom2Mom. Her Facebook group has over nearly 6500 members – and that’s just in one year! Sue is also the Managing Editor for The Homeschooler Post – now sharing articles online for free to help families learn more about learning and parenting.

    Sue has a book about to be published called Homeschooled Teens  – where she interviewed 75 teens and young adults from 15-39. Sue also has  a coaching practice, where most of her clients are leaving or about to leave the school system but wanted a coach/mentor to help them through some of their own obstacles and get them on steady ground.

    Sue can be reached for a free 20 minute consultation at SuePatterson .com

    Katie O’Connor

    katieKatie has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. She is ardent about the importance of self-directed learning experiences and works to make such experiences as accessible as possible. She has worked in alternative learning environments such as the Albany Free School and Open Connections.

    Katie founded Talking Stick Learning Center in 2006 and currently serves as Founder, Co-Director, and Lead Facilitator. Katie leads the Day Program. Katie is also responsible for all staff training as well as the development of the vision, mission, and philosophy of Talking Stick.



    Lainie Liberti

    As always, you can find out more about your host, Lainie Liberti at her website and the alternative education & world schooling project she runs with her teenage son at: You can also connect with her on twitter @ilainie & facebook.

    For full archives of this show and programming schedule, please visit: 

    Find us on facebook: For-the-Love-of-Learning-Voices-of-the-Alternative-Education-Movement

    For comments, questions, suggestions or if you’d like to be guest on the show, please contact us here.



    No Comments "

    The town time forgot, Sampaya, Bolivia at Lake Titicaca

    September 21st, 2015

    Our worldschooling adventure on Lake Titicaca, Bolivia – Part 3

    Read Part 1 – 
    Copacabana On Lake Titicaca – Worldschooling on the Largest High-Altitude Lake on the Planet

    Read Part 2 – The birthplace of the sun, Isla del Sol


    Sampaya, Bolivia

    On our third and final day of our Lake Titicaca trip, Daniella, Omar, Miro and I set out to visit a very special pueblo, not commonly found on the tourist track. Because Daniella and Omar knew that Miro and I value authentic cultural experiences on our travels, they wanted to share Sampaya, a very special place with us.


    Sampaya is an Aymara community that retains its customs and traditions from ancient times. It is located 18 km. from Copacabana on the peninsula, reached 45 minutes by car or 4 hours on foot. We arranged for a taxi to take us to Sampaya and wait for us while we explored the town for a few hours.

    The dusty road took us through a rural landscape up and over several mountains and into a place where time stood still.

    We reached Sampaya and immediately became aware we at a place filled with magic, a place where time stood still. Sampaya was a living history, a testimony of a culture that had deep roots to an ancient world. Miro and I looked around with awe as we both felt as we were transported back in time.


    There was the grand church marking the entrance to the village and an ancient cemetery just before the entrance to the pueblo. The stone houses dotted the slopes of Sampaya along both sides of the valley, following invisible topographical lines that reminded us of Inca crop terraces. The houses boast cold stone walls and joints fitted with mud mortar masonry. Some roofs were comprised of gabled structures formed by tree trunks, dry straw and leather cords. Other rooves have replaced the natural materials with a more modern corrugated tin.


    The winding streets tiled with flat stones were only large enough for pedestrian traffic. Everywhere you looked, you could see small Kantutas trees which bloomed Bolivia’s national flower. The breeze from the lake swept through town, shaking the trees as if to offer a sense of presence in this otherwise empty town. Sampaya was beautiful and Sampaya was eerily quiet.


    We started down a foot path on the south side of the town Omar knew well. The four of us walked in silence, Miro and I were in awe of the visions around us, Daniella and Omar seemingly deep in thought. After a fifteen minute incline we reached the merging of two paths forming a fork in the road. This was the corner where Omar’s grandmother had lived her life. She had died within the last decade and the house had since remained vacant. Locked with small padlocks, Omar said a variety of family members periodically visit the house and spend one or two nights at the Lake. Besides those time, the house remains vacant.


    Omar shared stories from his childhood, visiting his grandmother house along with his cousins. Each time the boys arrived, Omar and his cousins knew they would be required to transport water in from the town’s well into colorful buckets in order to provide water for washing and bathing during their stay. Omar told stories of the group running down to the shore, picking samples of the farmer’s yield and snacking on fresh fruit and vegetables down by the shore. Through these stories, Miro and I experienced a part of Omar’s history, and knew immediately that Sampaya was a special place to our guide.


    Sampaya rests in a small valley on the shore of Lake Titicaca and is surrounded by the populated islands Isla del Sol in the distance and and directly ahead Isla de Luna, known as “Koati” by the Aymara locals. From the vista, you can see a magical spectacle of Andean glaciers across the horizon.

    In pre-Colombian times, the highlands surrounding Lake Titicaca were divided into Aymara communities, forming such towns as Sampaya, Lupacas, Collas, Omasuyos, Pacajes, among others. The Aymara communities formed around the lake were considered sacred within their religious beliefs.

    From Sampaya stopped at the time of the Inca

    “In the 19th century, the famous Explorer and German archaeologist Friedrich Uhle reached Sampaya in search of a quipus, but instead bought a resalipichis from Serapio Chuquimira, Aymara chronicler of the town. The resalipichis were some leathers painted with simple sepia color figurines that conformed a hieroglyphic writing to display Christian prayers. That object is now preserved in the Ethnological Museum of Berlin.”

    Daniela, Omar, Miro and I wandered around the village for the next several hours. We crossed over a small, almost dry river running through the center of the valley. Omar said when he was a child he remembers that river rich with flowing water, running from a natural spring below. Now, he fears within 10 year the river will be dry.


    During our visit, we encountered four other people. Three were farmers heading to the fields. The two women in their full skirts and traditional hats looked like they were in their early fifties. They were carrying heavy pouches on their backs, as they scurried past us on the trail. The man that accompanied them appeared to be a few years younger, but it was difficult to be sure.


    About fifteen minutes later, we met another man on the footpath. He seemed surprised to see us and smiled at us which felt welcoming. We all stopped on the path to chat for a few minutes. He asked if we were visiting and what we thought of his pueblo. We all said we were enjoying our visit. I asked him how many residents lived in this beautiful settlement. He replied that only 42 families were left and said the average age was between 45 and 50 years, which included the 15 children that went to school in Sampaya’s small schoolhouse. Then, he wished us a lovely visit and continued on his way.


    Miro and I were stunned. There were at least 200 or more houses we observed throughout our walk through Sampaya. With only forty two families living in the pueblo, most of the village was left vacant. Omar explained, that although the town had major upgrades and within the last ten as plumbing brought fresh water into the houses, and electricity was finally installed, still most of the younger families left to live in the larger cities for work, education and the idea of progress as an adaption to a more modern world.


    It is difficult to accurately describe the experience of visiting Sampaya. Miro and I felt the magic of the place, a direct contact into the roots of a people with ancient roots, a place where the ancient codes were still practiced, living in harmony with their surroundings. A place time forgot. Sampaya is a place where ancestral traditions thrive and mystical and spiritual practices are honored as part of daily life. This is also a place whose last generation is currently living in the town, and is at risk of fading like memories of a time past…



    11257197_875225635874375_1236780856939978451_oPlanning a trip Bolivia?

    Contact Daniella or Omar at the Travel Store Bolivia to have them help you design your custom trip.



    The birthplace of the sun, Isla del Sol

    September 18th, 2015

    Our worldschooling adventure on Lake Titicaca, Bolivia – Part 2

    Read Part 1 – 
    Copacabana On Lake Titicaca – Worldschooling on the Largest High-Altitude Lake on the Planet


    Read Part 3- The town time forgot, Sampaya, Bolivia at Lake Titicaca


    An island of secrets and mysteries

    As the sun rose over Lake Titicaca light poured into our room from our balcony window. I nudged Miro to wake up as we knew we needed to start out early. We met Daniella and Omar for breakfast in the hotel and began to prep for the day. The boat taking us to Isla de Sol departs from the dock across from our hotel at 8:30.




    The night before I had been absorbed in a book written by a Bolivian investigator who is seeking the opening to the caves leading into the pre-Colombian underground cities. In addition to his archaeological investigations, he also experienced extraordinary metaphysical visions involving time portals, meetings with the spirits of the ancient ones who originally came from the star system Sirius and founded a civilization here on earth which was part of the mysterious continent of Mu and Lemuria over 20 thousand years ago.


    The book is called In Contact with the Grand Masters by G. Antonio Portugal AlvizuriIt’s an interesting tale and coincides with much of my archaeological research into the elongated skulls in Paracas, Peru, our encounter with the alien hybrid mummy in Andahuaylillas and other investigations throughout our travels.

    I have always been fascinated by this line of investigation and I neither claim its validity or deny it, rather have discovered I am excited to explore deeper, learn everything I can from all angles and go as deep as I possibly can. Exploring ancient sites such as Isla del Sol have such meaning to us as Miro and I discuss and explore all the possibilities and mysteries found within history.




    According to G. Antonio Portugal Alvizuri one of the many things I learned about the ancient Aymara culture who settled around the lake ages before, was that it is customary to ask the spirit of the lake permission to cross. Daniella, Omar, Miro and I boarded the boat along with 20 other passengers, a mix of tourists and locals. We found a seat on on the wooden benches and according to tradition, I mentally asked the spirits of the lake for permission to cross. I am confident that my silent prayer was granted as we had calm waters and a clear passage for our two hour voyage.




    Our plan for the day was to explore both sides of Isla del Sol and head over to Isla de Luna for the later part of the afternoon.

    Isla del Sol

    Isla del Sol is the largest of all the lake islands measuring 5.5 miles by 3.75. Isla del Sol is revered as the most important site within Inca mythology.




    Isla del Sol is thought to have been the birthplace of the bearded Sun God, Viracocaha which is at the center of the Inca culture of beliefs. But all tour guides I’ve read simplify history by saying first Viracocaha was born and then he created the sun followed by the first two Incas. But to put some perspective on the table, the Incas culture existed from the early 13th century to 1572, when the Inca Empire were conquered by the Spanish. The nearby site of Tiwanku has the sun gate which features a carving of Viracocha ( future post) was thought by conventional archaeologists to have been built as early as 1500 BC (and some alternative investigators such as  Arthur Posnansky estimated that Tiwanaku dates back to 15,000 BC, based on his archaeoastronomical techniques.) which is much earlier than the birth of the Inca culture.


    Regardless, this place is certainly special to the inhabitants of the distant past and the immediate present. According to the Inca belief, there from the depths of Lake Titicaca, Viracocha rose up from the lake (perhaps like a UFO) to create the Sun in the sky above, the universe surrounding, then subsequently he breathed life into the first two Incas who are known as Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo (the Adam and Eve of the Andes).




    Archaeologists have found evidence of existence of people on this island dating back to the 3rd millennium BC, which predates the Inca by two thousand years. Upon Isla del Sol, there more than 80 ruins scattered about on the tiny island. This is truly an energetic place filled with history and mystery.


    Isla del Sol has four or five small villages that are home to the island’s permanent population and tremendous views wherever you look. Today, there are around 800 families and their main mode of survival is tourism, fishing and farming. There are no vehicles on the island and the only mode of transportation is walking. There is a 20km walk that cuts over the spine of the island to the Chincana ruins, the island’s biggest Incan ruin, and returns along the coast passing through a few villages. Tour guides swear it only takes a few hours to complete the entire circuit.



    Best Intentions

    We disembarked on the north side of the island in a small pueblo called Challapampa. From there, we made our way to the northern starting point, stopping first to explore a rustic makeshift museum called the Museum of Gold, displaying artifacts found around the island and underwater surrounding the island. We spent much time there as I examined each artifact from side to side, top to bottom.

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    After a longer than usual visit, Omar and Daniella knew we were in trouble with the amount of time we had allotted to explore the entire island. We set out with best intentions to explore the entire island, see each of the main archeological sites and take in the spectacular views. However Omar and Daniella soon discovered that Miro and I were not your typical tourists, highly engaged in the history surrounding us and transformed into an investigative state. Readers of our blog know that I personally love all archaeological ruins (sometimes to Miro’s annoyance) and I tend to move very slowly, looking at rocks, construction, layout in search for uncovered mysteries.

    So be it. We are worldschoolers and life learners, after all.

    Rock of the Puma & Footsteps of the Sun



    After the museum, we started our journey up the rocky hillside incline away from Challapampa. On the path, we passed two anomalous sites, first the sacred rock carved in the shape of a puma. Then, we observed two very large footprints. These are said to have been created when the sun dropped down to earth to give birth to Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo.




    We continued our way up the rocky path towards the site of “Chinkana”. Chinkana is known to the locals as the labyrinth. The Chinkana is a huge stone complex filled with mazes, built in the typical Inca construction we’ve seen throughout Peru. According to the guide books, this site is thought be a training center for Inca priests. Some archaeologists theorize because of the “sloppy construction” as compared to the expert building found at the “Inca sites” of Saksaywaman, Ollantaytambo to name a few, the builders must have been in a rush to build it.




    Throughout our explorations among hundreds of archeological sites from Mexico to Bolivia, we’ve heard many such stories, and we’ve began to discern some of these stories, which seem to be told as a way to create a cohesive story to weave meaning into site we were visiting. But in reality, no one really knows….




    Within the center of Chinkana site, a beautiful fountain can be accessed. Daniella and Omar told us this was known among the locals as the fountain of youth. The source of the fountain is a natural spring that runs under the island and appears again in a sacred stone fountain in Yumanion the south side of the island.

    The Inca Table



    There also we saw what the guides called “the Inca table”, a place where sacrifices were made. Again, another assumption to make sense of the artifacts left behind, but in reality one does not really know. From our perspective, Miro and I remarked it looked like those stones were originally a part of a much larger (perhaps sunken) structure and the stones were moved. There were no stones of that type anywhere else in the northern part of the island and to us, it looked like a later culture re-used some of the older artifacts for a functional purpose.

    But who knows, we are are only amateur archaeologists.




    However, if the research of the author G. Antonio Portugal Alvizuri whom I mentioned in the beginning of this article, is true, there are massive underground cities which can be found deep within the depths of Lake Titicaca. Perhaps there, we will find large carved stones, like the one that creates the table top at the site known as the Inca Table.

    Temple of Pilcocaina

    Up on the hill above the Inca Table is a site overlooking the lake called Temple of Pilcocaina, which is a surprisingly well preserved Inca settlement.




    We managed to explore the norths side of the island for hours and hours and decided we did not have time to make our way to the south side of the island and to our disappointment, nor did we have time to explore Isla del la Luna. Here is some of the research I found based on what others have written about those two areas for your reference.




    On the south end of the Isla del Sol is Yumani, the largest town on the island and the site of the Inca steps. Here, 206 steps built by the Incas lead up into the town and to a sacred fountain. Made of stone and having three separate springs, it is said to be a fountain of youth.


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    Isla del la Luna

    An hour’s boat ride from Isla del Sol will take you to Isla de Moon on the eastern side. Isla de Moon is comparatively smaller than Isla del Sol and should take about an hour or hour and a half to explore the entire island. Maybe double that for Miro and myself.




    Known for its mythological significance to the Incas, legend says that Viracocha commanded the moon to rise here. The Island of the Moon is the legendary home of the Inca goddess Mama Quila. The structures on this island were originally built by the pre-Incan Aymara culture, but the Incas left their mark on the architecture as well such as the typical trapezoidal doors. (Darn!! I wished we had time to see it! We’ve seen doors of the same construction at the site of Ollantaytambo  in Peru and know there are similar ones at at Tiwanku which we have yet to explore) During Inca times, the Isla de la Luna housed chosen women known as the “Virgins of the Sun,” who lived a nun-like lifestyle. They wove garments from alpaca wool and performed ceremonies dedicated to the sun.

    Did someone say fresh trout?

    Since we were missed the opportunity to hike both sides of the island, we boarded the boat at the north side of the island in hopes of being able to visit Isla de la Luna. We were told the boats were not going there that day and we were given two choices. One, take the boat to the south side of the island, and wait one hour for the next boat back to Copacabana. Or, take the boat to a man made floating island to eat some fresh trout. Well, we were kinda hungry…




    We landed on an “isla flotante”, a floating reed island where the fisherman and chefs who are one in the same, gathered to serve fresh fried trout to their customers. Lake Titicaca is famous for farming “trucha criolla”, which is one of the largest species of trout in the world. We ordered our dishes (mine, “sin cabeza”), then he went off to catch it. We each had a plate of fresh fried trout, french fries, rice and salad for 30 bolivianos, which is around $5.



    Getting to Isla del Sol from Copacabana

    A standard tour of Isla del Sol begins around 8:00-8:30am. You can get a standard tour by just going down to the waterfront – there will be many people trying to sell you a ticket. It costs 40 Bolivianos for the day of transportation. The boat ride takes about an hour and a half to two hours. You can sit in the cabin or on the top level which is great for those that get motion sick. The boat takes you to the north end of the island, where you can choose to spend a few hours seeing the sites there and then returning to take a boat to the south end at 1:30pm, or you can see the sites at the north end and then take the 3 hour hike to the south end of the island. At the high altitude in Copacabana, which makes hiking more difficult, if you’re not great at hiking you may want to stick with taking the boat to the south end.




    It costs 10 Bolivianos to see the north end of the island, and an additional 20 Bolivianos to walk from the north to south end. The boat gets to the south end of the island around 2:30pm, providing about an hour to grab lunch and walk around but not enough time to head into the ruins. It costs 5 Bolivianos to enter the south end of the island. The boat leaves from the south end of the island at 3:30pm and at 4pm, and arrives back in Copacabana around 5:00/5:30pm.


    Miro and I just sampled a taste of Isla del Sol. Mark my words, we will be back.


    11257197_875225635874375_1236780856939978451_oPlanning a trip Bolivia?

    Contact Daniella or Omar at the Travel Store Bolivia to have them help you design your custom trip.


    Copacabana On Lake Titicaca – Worldschooling on the Largest High-Altitude Lake on the Planet

    September 14th, 2015

    Our worldschooling adventure on Lake Titicaca, Bolivia – Part 1

    Read Part 2 – The birthplace of the sun, Isla del Sol

    Read Part 3- The town time forgot, Sampaya, Bolivia at Lake Titicaca



    Before arriving in Bolivia, Miro and I were very excited about our upcoming trip for many reasons. For one, we were excited to finally explore the beautifully rich country located just next door to Peru, a country we resided in for three years. We had read about the attractions, sites and history as part of our immersive research into the history and traditions of Andean cultures. Visiting Lake Titicaca, the Isla de Sol and Copacabana were also high on our “must see” list.


    Another reason we were excited to arrive in Bolivia was to work with the Travel Store Bolivia, a leading travel agency located within La Paz. Miro and I met with the owners, Daniella and Omar a young entrepreneurial duo who founded the Travel Store which has been serving visitors to their beloved country for several years. The couple met at the university and both discovered a deep passion for sharing their cultural heritage with others by designing custom experiences. The couple also own the Bunkie Backpackers Hostel and just took over an old hotel in the middle of the city center as a second project. The hotel is currently being remodeled and they soon will launch the new “York B&B” marketed to upscale travelers. That is where Miro and I stayed for 2 weeks. The Travel Store  specializes in custom trips and listened to our desires, to learn and experience the attractions through the eyes of a local. Although the Travel Store has 3-4 guides that work with them on a regular basis, the owners Daniella and Omar decided to show us a slice of Lake Titicaca themselves.


    Our 3-Day Journey

    Miro and I were picked up early Tuesday morning by one of those large tourist busses that pick up passengers from a variety of hotels and hostels around the city. After about an hour, the bus was full and we arrived at the main bus terminal in La Paz. There, we changed busses and set out for Copacabana. After about two hours we arrived at San Pedro, a small pueblo on the shore of Lake Titicaca. The town is located at one of the narrowest points of the massive lake. Because of its proximity to the nearest shore, it is the location that many busses, collectivos and cars cross without circumnavigating the entire circumference of the lake. After a short 5 minute crossing, we were on the other side, waiting for our bus to arrive from the vehicle transport ferry.


    We re-boarded our bus and continued our trip onward. One hour later, we arrived at the pueblo of Copacabana.


    A Brief History of Copacabana

    Copacabana is a town that sits between two hills located on the southern shore of Lake Titicaca with a very rich history. After the disappearance of Tiwanaku culture who were thought to have ruled from 500 to 900 BC, the Aymará rose to power in the Titicaca region. The words Kota Kahuaña, translates as ‘lake view’ in Aymará.

    virachochaAccording to Inca lore, after a great flood, the god Viracocha arose from Lake Titicaca to create the world. He commanded the sun (Inti), moon (Mama Kilya) and stars to rise, then went to Tiahuanaco to create the first human beings, Mallku Kapac and Mama Ocllo. These first humans were formed from stone and brought to life by Viracocha, who commanded them to go out and populate the world.

    The Inca rule came to power in the early 1400s. The Aymará people were “absorbed” into the Inca empire. Inca Emperor Tupac Yupanqui founded the settlement of “Copacabana” as a wayside resting point for pilgrims visiting the shrine known as Titi Khar’ka located on Isla del Sol.

    The Aymará culture was community-oriented and had some struggles as they were assimilated into the Inca way of life. Before the arrival of Spanish priests in the mid-16th century, the Incas had divided local Aymará into two distinct groups. Those faithful to the Inca empire, known as Haransaya, and those known as Hurinsaya. The Haransaya were assigned positions of power. And those of the Aymará culture who resisted were labeled as Hurinsaya, and were relegated to manual labor. This separation of the community-like spirit which went entirely against the Aymará culture. In 1570 there were great floods and crop failures that were believed to be the result of the social aberration.
    When the Spanish priests arrived to Copacabana and the Hurinsaya, who rejected the Inca ideology, adopted a new system of belief by blending the Aymará rituals and beliefs with Christianity and helped establish the Sanctuario de Copacabana in the late 16th Century.




    Copacabana Cathedral

    Copacabana Cathedral, formally called Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Copacabana, has a rich history. The Cathedral was constructed from 1550-1651. The church has large round domes, commanding pillars and mudéjar (Moorish) style design. From outside, the cathedral looks completely out of place in the rustic pueblo, boasting a whitewashed facade, walled courtyards and white chapels in each corner. Inside the temple are a long row of wooden pews and a ceiling painted in deep reds, blues and yellows. In a small chapel is the miraculous Virgen de Candelaria, Bolivia’s patron saint. The ornately robed, Andean-looking Virgin was sculpted by Francisco Yupanqui, grandson of the Inca ruler, Tupac Yupanqui.




    The cathedral is rich in both local and European art and Miro and I noticed some interesting symbology within the paintings throughout the church. But most breathtaking was the gold leafed fixtures, wall hangings, carved pillars and picture frames. The wealth accumulated by this church is visibly apparent.




    History of Virgen de la Candelaria

    According to a local legend, the sculptor Tito Yupanqui, grandson of the Inca ruler, Tupac Yupanqui and part of the Hurinsaya or those that rejected the Inca traditions, had a powerful dream. The Virgin of Copacabana appeared in a dream to Tito Yupanqui, who was not a sculptor. But he was so affected by the vision that he set out to Potosí (one of the then most important art centers in the world) to learn how to sculpt.




    With his new skill, Tito hand-carved the Virgin from the wood of a maguey cactus and carried her by foot for the 400 miles from Potosí to Copacabana. She was placed in an adobe chapel in 1583. Soon afterwards, the crops of those who doubted her power were mysteriously destroyed. Then miracles began: people were spontaneously healed. People from far and wide began to make pilgrimage to see the Virgen de la Candelaria.




    The statue is never removed from the cathedral, for popular belief says this would cause a devastating storm and flood of Lake Titicaca. A finely-dressed replica is taken out on festival processions. Believers have bestowed millions of dollars worth of gifts upon the Virgin in the form of gold and silver jewelery and objects, placed on the statue. In 1879, the government of Bolivia sold some of her jewelry to finance the War of the Pacific against Chile.



    The Cathedral Annex

    Once you exit the church through the back of the cathedral you immediately cross a smaller courtyard into an annex building. There is a statue of a modern indigenous family praying. Unfortunately I only took a photo of the back, but what I captured says “estos pobres hijos”, translated as “these poor children”. Upon entering the building it’s a small cold concrete room with rows and rows of concrete shelves. The smell of melting wax fills our nostrils and a smattering of burning candles lines the concrete shelves. Our hosts, instructed us to light a candle and make a wish for ourselves.

    I lit my candle with a heartfelt sense of gratitude for all the indigenous hands that built this church and for the belief systems of their ancestors that came before. I stood in gratitude for the privilege of being a part of this living history in all of its forms.


    Blessing of the Cars

    We exited the church annex and found ourselves on the street in front of the main cathedral. There, we noticed many collectivos, trucks, cars and taxis parked in front the church all decorated with ribbons, flags, banners, flowers and small hats. We asked Daniella and Omar about what we were witnessing. We learned that the “Benedicion de Movildades” (blessing of the vehicles) occurs daily at 10am and 2:30pm.


    There the owners of the decorated vehicles line up waiting to pay the 10 Bolivianos donation to have their car blessed by the priest. Ironically, a ritual offering of alcohol is poured over the vehicle, consecrating it for the journey home.

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    We witnessed the priest, (who reminded us of Friar Tuck) in his brown robe, confidently dip his flowered wand, into a an old paint bucket filled with what was believed to be holy water. He splashed each of the vehicles moving in a counterclockwise direction until he returned to the starting point. There he collected the donation and moved on to the next vehicle. We were told that this ceremony is especially important to pilgrims and long-distance bus companies with new fleets between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.




    Cerro Calvario

    After our visit to the Copacabana Cathedral we geared up for a hike to Cerro Calvario.




    We walked to the summit of Cerro Calvario to admire the panoramic views of Lake Titicaca and what was promised to be one of the most scenic sunsets of South America. We were told the hike would take us 30 minutes, but for me, I struggled up the steep hill in the altitude and took about an hour to reach the top. Yes, Miro and our two guides Daniella and Omar made their way up to the top at least 20 minutes before I actually joined them. The altitude at the summit is around 13,123 feet (4,000 meters) above sea level and I assure you, I felt it!




    The rocky trail led us passed several crosses that represent the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross), dedicated to the suffering of Jesus. The hill provided uninterrupted panoramas of Lake Titicaca and Copacabana from several angles. Once on top, we could spot Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna in the distance.




    On holy days, the local spiritual leaders perform centuries-old fortune telling ceremonies at the top of the summit. They burn incense and place lead in bowls of steaming water, among other rituals. Pilgrims make offerings to the various religious monuments too by placing colorful stones at the foot of the statues. Most common on Good Friday, when thousands of devotees arrive on foot from La Paz, they form a candlelit procession from the Cathedral climbing up to the hilltop summit. Once they reach the top, pilgrims request a favor or forgiveness from the Virgin. Each August, pilgrims honor the Andean goddess Pachamama (Mother Earth) by offering flowers and burning llama fetuses, and by spraying beer. Unfortunately we missed that sight by one month, however that must have been a sight to see!




    After our long rest at the top, while taking in the mind-blowing views while Miro wrote some poetry and we pondered the beauty before us, we made our way back down the hill. I assure you, the way down was considerably easier for me.



    Miro’s Poem

    This was the inspired poem he wrote from that beautiful vista:

    Charybdis’ Hunger

    Alone on an island peak
    overlooking the surrounding infinity
    waiting for starvation
    to take me

    My chest roars
    as the storm assaults
    my foundation

    And the pit of my stomach
    shreds my core
    as Charybdis awakes
    from the deep

    Swallowing the horizon
    leaving all dead and barren

    Decrepit and dreadful
    discontent with the
    insatiable hunger
    that drained the life
    from my world

    Leaving me at the mercy
    of the sands and scarabs.


    Copacabana Beach

    Our hotel Estelar de Titicaca rested on the shore front of the famous Copacabana beach. Believe it or not, this is Bolivia’s only public beach. While it doesn’t even attempt to rival its namesake in Rio de Janeiro, it attracts hundreds of families during the weekends and many festivals held in Copacabana.


    While on the beach, you can visit one of the many eateries on the shore-front, play beach football with the talented locals or rent from a variety of watercrafts: paddleboat ducks, canoes, sailboats, among others. Horseback rides, motorbikes, and bicycles are also available for hire.


    We rested and watched the most colorful sunset from our hotel room. This was our first day touring the beautiful Copacabana located on the mysterious Lake Titicaca.


    Lake Titicaca

    It is famed for being the world’s largest high-altitude lake, situated at an altitude of over 3,000 meters above sea level. Lake Titicaca is located between Peru and Bolivia. The lake is not only fascinating, but also enormous, spanning over 8,400 square kilometers (km). And the views.. don’t forget the views…



    11257197_875225635874375_1236780856939978451_oPlanning a trip Bolivia?

    Contact Daniella or Omar at the Travel Store Bolivia to have them help you design your custom trip.


    The place the spirits seek peace, in La Paz Bolivia

    September 8th, 2015

    A cemetery visit may appear to be a surprising “tourist” suggestion. But Miro and I found the site fascinating, full of history, tradition and a great understanding of the Bolivian culture.


    Our visit to the cemetery was accidental as we stumbled upon the site without prior knowledge.


    One afternoon, Miro and I set out to explore the sprawling city of La Paz from above, riding the modern teleferico transportation system, built with precision by a Swiss company. Miro and I both were engaged in the the incredible birds-eye view of the grand city, peeking into the neighborhoods below. We sat speechless most of the time, drinking in the sites below, rooftop laundry lines, unfinished brick homes, dogs and children playing on the surrounding streets. We noticed the imaginary lines dividing the neighborhoods by class, illustrated by collections of structures and their state of completion.


    Miro and I rode the yellow and green lines, and the last line we set out to explore was the red line. As we approached the “cementerio” station, we saw below us the enormous sprawling grounds filled with rows and rows of concrete tombs.

    “Wow, look at that!” I said pointing below us.
    Miro replied, “let’s go!”

    We exited the teleferica and crossed the street to the main cemetery entrance.


    This is no ordinary cemetery, and we’ve stumbled across dozens on our travels from Mexico to Peru. But the sheer size of the grounds of La Paz’s cemetery is incomprehensible.

    The following information we found based on our research after the fact, but like all normal worldschooling adventures, we were inspired to learn more, research and really go deeper.


    The cemetery had been a burial place for at least a hundred years in the city of La Paz. It was thought to have been built sometime around the turn of the century. The Bolivian government took control of the informal grounds in the 1930s or 40s as a public facility. The purpose was to provide a decent burial ground for the poor who did not have the land or resources to bury their loved ones.


    The cemetery is located within the heart of city center, covering an area of about 3km. There are no ground burials or grave sites with the exception of two that we saw, who belonged to a famous Bolivian writer and a famous Bolivian musician.

    Instead of grave sites, all bodies are stored in concrete structures with about 6 tombs stacked high and about 30 across. There are endless rows of the buildings as far as the eye can see. The unique design of the cemetery makes it look like a 3-acre apartment complex.

    For the dead.



    According to my research, initially the grounds seemed sufficient to contain the number of tombs for La Paz’s population. But after several decades it became over populated. To ensure that there was enough space, the administration decided that the deceased remains from the grand tombs would be stored for 10 years. After which, the remains would be removed from their resting place and cremated. Then their ashes would need to be collected by the family and transferred to another building containing smaller compartments with glass door tombs.

    (Unfortunately I did not find information answering this question “what happens to the ashes of the deceased if the family does not claim them?”)


    Taxes. As above, so below.

    As Miro and I strolled through the grounds, we noticed receipts of rental agreements on the face of the tombs. Some indicated the rent was overdue, others indicated the debt was canceled. And as the lower income families worry about their livelihoods, they must too worry about the monthly rent for their deceased loved ones… After all, the final resting place is not actually final, in La Paz.


    On a normal day visitors will find a few people coming to the cemetery to bring flowers, updating the offerings and taking care of the space of their loved ones. There is a deep tradition within the Andean culture to care of the soul of the passed on family member and most grave fronts within the cemetery display this dedication.

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    According to research, the most interesting time to visit the La Paz Cemetery is in November when they celebrate the day of the dead. The Bolivians have a strong belief in the power of the dead and on 2nd November they have an entire celebration dedicated to the dead. The colorful ceremony takes place at the La Paz Cemetery where locals carry actual human skulls, either of a loved one or for a favorite dead person but the majority do not even know the owner of the skull, it was just passed on to them.



    This celebration involved dressing up the skull in headgear, decorating them with flowers and making offering to them. It is a time to worship the dead and ask for protection and favor. This celebration has its roots in the indigenous population, but it has been embraced even by the Catholics. On the day of the dead, you may find a few skulls carried into the nearby local church for the cemetery.
    Towards the night, you may witness a real party being thrown at the cemetery as some people like to carry on the celebration in a more modern fashion.

    Visiting the Cemetery

    As we mentioned, to get there, take the teleferico red line and get off at the cemetery station. I have read, there are also walking tours throughout La Paz where you can see a number of landmarks including churches, Plaza Murillo (with the backwards clock Miro writes about in this post) museums and of course, the cemetery.

    Some facts about the cemetery include:

    • The locals believe there is supernatural power that guards the burial ground
    • It is the biggest cemetery in Bolivia
    • Deceased people are buried in storied walls over 4 stories tall
    • It is mainly the poor who bury their loved ones at La Paz Cemetery
    • The skull of Captain Victor is one of the most popular skulls at the November 2nd celebration of the skulls
    • After 10 years of normal burial, the dead are cremated
    • It is common to find foods and popular drinks like coke and Pepsi left behind as an offering to the dead
    • Many native visitors to the cemetery pray to their dead for guidance and protection


    Finally, I leave you with a short poem Miro wrote inspired by our visit:


    Closing epitaphs;
    a chapter for the mourning,
    book’s final pages.

    An extension of
    sagacity from beyond
    the earthen decay.


    Visiting the Valley of the Moon near La Paz, Bolivia

    September 7th, 2015

    Upon arriving in La Paz, Miro and I created a list of places we wanted to explore. The Valley of the Moon was one of them, our only regret, we didn’t have our Star Fleet uniforms packed for our visit.


    The Valley of the Moon or Valle de la Luna isn’t actually a valley, rather a spectacular maze within mountain-like formation. Situated about 10 km from La Paz, the Valley of the Moon is a very popular among tourists, for its lunar landscape and weird geological formations.



    The Valley of the Moon: A geological wonder

    The Valley of the Moon has formed over thousands of years as a resulting in a surreal landscape formed through erosion caused by wind and rain. The magnificent canyons and playful spires have been named for the benefit of the tourists, with names like the Happy Grandfather, Devil’s Point and Viscacha’s Jump. The mountains are composed of clay and sandstone, which are highly prone to erosion. Because of this erosion over the years, the mountains present a breathtaking hue and color ranging from clear beige to dark yellows and oranges. This natural phenomenon is due to a large variance in mineral content, creating colorful compositions and impressive optical illusions on the eroded hillsides as they catch light and shadows.


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    Local guides explain that the place acquired its name “Valle de la Luna” not very long ago. After a visit by one famous astronaut, none other than Neil Armstrong, he remarked how closely it resembled the landscape of the moon. Tour guides assure us that’s how the name was adapted. It’s possible, I suppose but I haven’t been able to authenticate this story anywhere online. Nevertheless it’s a fabulous tale,.

    Getting to the Valley of the Moon from La Paz

    Most travel agencies throughout La Paz offer organized tours to Valle de la Luna, with private transportation, bilingual guide (Spanish-English) and park entrance fees are usually bundled in the price. We didn’t do that. But if you don’t want to worry about details you should take that option, especially during the week when the traffic is heavy and public transpiration confusing and crowded. Alternatively, we were told taxi’s could be hired from the center of La Paz for about 100 Bolivianos ($15.00 US) to drive you there, wait and bring you back. But Miro and I, being the more adventurous type, we jumped on a local bus headed towards Mallasa for a mere 3 bolivianos ($0.40 US) each. We told the driver where we wanted to go and he left us out in front of the site. Easy-breezy.



    Exploring the Moon’s surface

    The tourist information center is located at entrance to the Valley of the Moon. There you can you can pick up maps of the trail, use the facilities or visit the gift shop. Then you are off…




    Do you need a guide? It’s up to you. We didn’t opt for one, rather listened in to another groups guide for a few moments. Because Miro and I read about the site before, we were confident about the geological information. The site is enclosed, there are marked paths and hand rails in many of the areas. There were two path options, the short route which was supposed to take 15 minutes, but Miro and I wandered through it in 5 minutes. We ended back at the entrance and headed back through the 45 minute loop, which did indeed take us that long, as we stopped, sat pondered the landscape and Miro wrote some beautifully inspired poetry.

    Although the trails are clearly marked, I’d caution everyone to be careful while navigating the narrow paths. My shoes had no tread and I regretted my fashion choice that day. I do recommend wearing shoes with firm grip.


    Note that the visiting hours are between 9 am and 4 pm Monday through Friday and the entry fee is 15 Bolivianos per person (around $3.50 per person).

    If you are looking for an overnight stay at the Valley of the Moon, there are several camping options that we looked into. But in the end, we decided to make our visit a day trip from La Paz. We found this lovely site Colibri Camping and Eco Lodge, recommended highly on trip advisor and it seems also have a local children’s services non-profit attached to it. If you decide to go and stay there, write us back and let us know what you think!

    Happy lunar landings.

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    For the Love of Learning – Voices of the Alternative Education Movement – Epi#31

    September 3rd, 2015

    Alternative Education: The Teen Panel

    Monday August 31, 2015  8:00 pm – 10:00 pm EST
    Tuesday September 1, 2015 1:00 am – 3:00 am BST

    Special Guests:

    Miro Siegel
    Ben Riley
    Wiley Krishnaswamy
    Jack Borden
    Bek Martens
    Kaameel Chicktay
    Tameer Chicktay
    Natalie-Marie Hart
    Meguire McRae-King


    In this episode, we explore alternative education from the teen perspective. We are joined by an incredible panel of teens who are taking control of their education and following an alternative path.  Tune in to hear about about their dreams, hopes, challenges and successes.

    Tonight’s Co-host:

    Miro Siegel- 16, Unschooling Worldschooler – International

    miroMiro is an intrepid 16 year old who is indefinitely traveling and experiencing what the world has to offer with his mom. After traveling for almost 6 years, he’s been gifted with the opportunity of learning about the countless cultures that dot this planet with color. Miro has been worldschooling for almost a half of his life, and would have it no other way.

    Currently writing a collection of poems and short stories, he spends most of his time tapping away on his keyboard or reading, although sometimes a day of footie pajamas and video games is called for. Miro is a devout, practicing Pastafarian, and is personal good friends with The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Miro has dug into his interests such as botany and mythology and has practiced them to some extent.

    You can read his writing here:

    Bios of Tonight’s Guests:

    Ben Riley- 19, New York, College Student & Musician, Former Homeschooler

    benBen Riley is an accomplished guitarist and vocalist who plays acoustic, electric, and classical guitar. Ben is a Graduate of Berklee School Of Music’s Master Guitar Certificate Program, and is currently a classical guitar performance major at Nyack College. Ben plays an eclectic mix of covers and original songs that resonate with a wide range of audiences. In addition to guitar, Ben also plays Bass, Mandolin, and Banjo. Ben has played at numerous venues throughout the Hudson Valley including the Nyack Farmer’s Market, UNoodles, Roscoe Beer, and The Art Café in Nyack. Musical influences include Willie Nelson, James Taylor, Sting, The Allman Brothers, The Indigo Girls, and The Police.

    I was “relaxed homeschooled” by my mom from Kindergarden-12th grade. It was a great experience for me and gave me the time and space to fully explore my various interests. I am most passionate about playing, practicing, and learning more about music. Other passions include nature, drawing and reading.

    Here are some links related my music and educational experience:

    My Soundcloud link:
    Bandcamp link:
    Facebook: Ben At Nyack
    Alternatives To School interview about my educational experiences:
    Interview about my music:

    Wiley Krishnaswamy- 17, Massachusetts, Eclectic Homeschooler

    wileyMy name is Wiley Krishnaswamy, I’m 17, and I’m an eclectic homeschooler from Dunstable MA.

    What does eclectic homeschooling even mean? Basically I have some sort of cobbled together curriculum that includes the usual suspects such as mathematics, sciences, writing, etc.

    I also incorporate various elements of unschooling and alternative learning to supplement this curriculum, hence “eclectic”. (I totally didn’t have to google any of that)

    I particularly like learning languages, not really sure why. I speak a bunch of them.
    Travel is also one of my passions. In the last couple of years I have visited India, Ecuador, Peru, Barbados, and Cuba (!!!) among other places. The two former countries I visited as a member of Lainie and Miro’s retreats. I had an amazing time on both of them.

    In my free time, I like to play accordion or one of the other various instruments I own, cook random things, and be generally lazy.

    I am a senior in high school this year (or I would be were I in school), and the normal thing to do at my age would be to send in college applications. I have no solid idea of where I want to go or what I really want to study, but I will pretend to if you ask. Probably anthropology or linguistics or the like.

    Jack Borden- 13, California, Roadschooler

    jackJack Borden is 13 and currently traveling through Mexico, Central, and South America with his parents, Terry and Sandy, on 2 BMW motorcycles. He started out his education with traditional schooling at a Spanish immersion school of which he attended for 7 years. By the time Jack was in junior high school, he started his worldschooling education. One of the many things Jack loves doing is making music.

    Since Jack can remember, he was always playing the drums or making a beat with anything he could find. Throughout his travels, Jack has also taken an interest in photography, capturing moments of many cultures he has visited throughout his time in Latin America. One of the best things he personally likes about schooling on the road is being able to go and see the things he would normally see in a textbook.

    The best part? To be able to say, “I was there, I saw that!”.

    Bek Martens- 14, Manitoba, Canada, Self-Designed Learner, Doula

    beksBek Martens is 14 years old and on the adventure of her lifetime! She has been self-designing her life for the past four years. Conforming to the mandates and teaching styles in traditional school was suffocating her as a young student. Bek’s spirit has returned and is soaring since she’s engaged in and embraced self-directed learning. She is the youngest of four children (her three siblings are grown and no longer live at home) and lives on a hobby farm in the prairies of Manitoba Canada. Her days are full connecting with nature and riding her horse, Jalepeno Jimmy.

    Bek’s family has visited and helped with projects in Kolkata, India and Belize City, Belize the past two years. These experiences have opened Bek’s heart to becoming a world traveler. She is currently certifying as a doula (the youngest in Canada) and engages with vibrant communities such as the organic food co-op, youth group, and home school groups. She’s passionate about giving back to the community and world, engages in music and art, and is waiting for the next adventure to unfold!

    Kaameel Chicktay- 17, South Africa, Unschooler

    KaameelHello everybody. My name is Kaameel Chicktay, I’m 17 years old. I’ve been unschooled my whole life and wouldn’t have it any other way. Well actually, I did attend school for a day once….. worst day of my life LOL! But yeah. I live in South Africa (Beautiful Country…. just with a tad bit of crime). I am just a boy making his way in this fascinating world. Learning and Growing everyday.

    Tameer Chicktay- 16, South Africa, Unschooler

    TameerHello, I’m Tameer Chicktay. I’m 16 (born 1999). I live in South Africa. I’ve been an unschooler all my life. I’m ever so grateful to be an unschooler, as unschooling gives me the freedom to choose how I use my time and thus creating a much more enjoyable and productive lifestyle. When I was younger I played tennis on a daily basis for several years and now my current lifestyle is set around competitive gaming.

    Natalie-Marie Hart – 15, Toronto, Homeschooler

    11925683_747146335432045_129271702_nNatalie-Marie Hart is a Canadian teenager who began a radio show by the name of Crystal Kids Radio at the age of 11. She began showing her true compassion and concern for the protection of the environment, animals and mankind. She is now on the CCN Network broadcasting once a week on Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. Eastern a called Crystal Kids TV. Natalie-Marie Hart is known as the World’s Youngest Investigative Talk Show Host because she started a radio show online on youtube. She was only 11 when she began producing, directing, and editing many series of documentaries. Natalie-Marie is working on a book called Decoding Lost Knowledge yet to be published. Her websites are:

    Meguire McRae-King

    Almost 13 years old and an avid equestrian and actor, Meguire considers herself a SelfDesigner and student of the world. Her learning is passion driven, mentor rich and self directed.  She is a part of The Winnipeg Learning Centre, a family centred homeschool community that provides rich and eclectic learning opportunities ranging from social justice to crafting.  Such Stuff Players, a multi-age Shakespeare group is an off shoot of the Winnipeg Learning Centre and plays a big part in Meguire’s life.  She has also landed roles in 3 major Canadian stage productions.  In 2012, Meguire along with a group of youth and adults passionate about the SelfDesign philosophy started dreaming and envisioning a youth program dedicated to mentor rich, youth driven learning and in 2013 three65 was born.



    Lainie Liberti

    As always, you can find out more about your host, Lainie Liberti at her website and the alternative education & world schooling project she runs with her teenage son at: You can also connect with her on twitter @ilainie & facebook.

    For full archives of this show and programming schedule, please visit: 

    Find us on facebook: For-the-Love-of-Learning-Voices-of-the-Alternative-Education-Movement

    For comments, questions, suggestions or if you’d like to be guest on the show, please contact us here.

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    For the Love of Learning – Voices of the Alternative Education Movement #30

    August 26th, 2015

    Show Title:

    Alternative Education in Mexico

    Monday August 24, 2015  8:00 pm – 10:00 pm EST
    Tuesday August 25, 2015 1:00 am – 3:00 am BST

    Special Guests:

    Miranda Ortiz
    Guillermo Borbolla
    Rebecka Koritz


    Tonight we speak with three visionaries who are creating alternative education opportunities in Mexico right now. My hope for this show is to examine some of the challenges , trends and opportunities they face and explore the alternatives they’ve put into the world.


    Bios of Tonight’s Guests:

    Miranda Ortiz

    MirandaMiranda Ortiz was born in Mexico City and moved with her family to Canada at the age of 8. She graduated from McGill University with an honours degree in International Development Studies which she was able to help form as the area was only being opened at the time. Her work has touched local communities as varied as the Zapotecos from the hills of Oaxaca in Mexico, the Mohawks from Canada and various groups from northern Papua New Guinea.

    Currently she resides in an off grid home in southeastern Mexico. Over the last 9 years she has been working to help women achieve natural births. The focus of her Enlightened Birth -Parto Iluminado program is to share information and deep relaxation techniques with families so as to empower them to take independent decisions for themselves and their families. Her own children were born at home and are being educated within the family circle.

    As an outgrowth of this, she founded Centro Bek, a centre aimed at bringing tools and support to families and individuals so they too can create their own independent realities. Alternatives in birth, education, health, and living lightly on the earth, are all part of the integrated, consciously created, sustainable future which the centre promotes.


    Guillermo Borbolla

    GuillermoGuillermo considers himself an idealist at heart. He began his project as a dream to change the world after realizing that the only way to do it was by changing ourselves as individuals. The only way to really change as individuals is to change our way of thinking since we are born and that means education. The main life goal of any human being is happiness and the only way to get it is by working on it in an internal conscious way. We want to come back to the main ingredients that made mankind evolve; love, collaboration, play, exploration, experimentation. If we want to revolutionize the world, we should revolutionize education.

    Mauna Kea- Founder
    New school based on happiness and freedom

    Rebecka Koritz

    rebecka3OK2Rebecka Sofía Koritz is a pedagogical visionary and harsh school critic. She is an author, lecturer and former language teacher. Born in Sweden, she moved to Mexico in 2003. For over a decade she has been training teachers and giving workshops for parents, teachers and psychologists. In 2009 Rebecka co-founded Papalotes, a small Waldorf initiative in the state of Oaxaca (Mexico). In 2012 she co-founded its sister school in Puerto Escondido on the Pacific Coast, where she currently holds the position of Pedagogical Coordinator. In 2015 her book about the exciting journey of starting up alternative schools in one of the poorest states in Mexico, is going to be published in Swedish in Sweden. The overall question she asks herself is “why do we need schools?”.

    The schools´ website:
    My blog on education (in Swedish):
    The school´s FB page:



    Lainie Liberti

    As always, you can find out more about your host, Lainie Liberti at her website and the alternative education & world schooling project she runs with her teenage son at: You can also connect with her on twitter @ilainie & facebook.

    For full archives of this show and programming schedule, please visit: 

    Find us on facebook: For-the-Love-of-Learning-Voices-of-the-Alternative-Education-Movement

    For comments, questions, suggestions or if you’d like to be guest on the show, please contact us here.



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    For the Love of Learning – Voices of the Alternative Education Movement – Epi#29

    August 22nd, 2015

    For the Love of Learning Episode 29

    Show Title:

    Alternative Media in High School – Free Student Press

    Monday August 17, 2015  8:00 pm – 10:00 pm EST
    Tuesday August 18, 2015 1:00 am – 3:00 am BST

    Special Guests:

    Damon Krane
    Alex Walker


    In tonight’s episode we explore Alternative Media in Highschool and have a conversation with one of the founders of a program called Free Student Press.

    Recently I came aware of this project through an article authored by Alex Walker, called Bringing Unschooling to School. You can find the article published here on CCN , on the web site and on one of our former guest, Dr. Peter Gray‘s blog on the the Psychology Today web site. Alex writes:

    “A big part of the society I’d like to leave behind is its school system. I want to keep my son out of the depressing feedback loop of the 19th century factory-style education system that 1990 New York City Teacher of the Year and unschooling advocate John Taylor Gatto aptly called “instruments of the scientific management of a mass population”.

    As Alex formulates her argument and justifications to keep her son out of the school system.  Soon, her tone softens  as she shifts her focus to include choices that focus on empowerment and the freedom of expression for students to pursue their own curiosities and creative impulses. Even from within a school system she vows to keep her son out of.

    Free Student Press is one of those programs.

    Free Student Press teaches public high school students their little-known press rights to distribute uncensored, independently produced publications at their schools. Free Student Press believes these publications can serve as empowering spaces for public dialogue and learner-directed education, and that through producing these publications and defending them against censorship, students can gain the critical thinking, communication, and grassroots organizing skills to transform students’ own lives and our world for the better.

    Students looking at Lockdown zine

    Free Student Press is based on the same foundations that most unschoolers adapt as an integral part of their learning experience. In essence, Free Student Press takes unschooling  into the school itself.


    Bios of Tonight’s Guests:

    Damon Krane

    authorheadshot2Damon Krane is an Atlanta, Georgia-based journalist, community organizer and critic of conventional schooling whose interest in all three areas first coalesced when he founded an underground, democratically managed, public access student magazine at his public high school in the late 90s. A few years later, he co-founded Free Student Press to teach public high school students what their schools don’t want them to know about their First Amendment press rights, and to support students in the struggle to make their voices heard.

    Kickstarter Campaign


    Alex Walker

    Alex Walker is a stay-at-home mother to a three-year-old son living in Littleton, Colorado. Formerly a figurative artist and portrait painter, Alex is fascinated by sustainable architecture, alternatives to schooling, gardening, and homesteading. She is following her intention of learning more about human rights and progressive values and movements, as well as becoming a practitioner of ecological living.




    Lainie Liberti

    As always, you can find out more about your host, Lainie Liberti at her website and the alternative education & world schooling project she runs with her teenage son at: You can also connect with her on twitter @ilainie & facebook.

    For full archives of this show and programming schedule, please visit: 

    Find us on facebook: For-the-Love-of-Learning-Voices-of-the-Alternative-Education-Movement

    For comments, questions, suggestions or if you’d like to be guest on the show, please contact us here.



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    4 Must-See Places in Bosnia & Herzegovina

    August 22nd, 2015

    When it comes to European travel destinations, the usual cities get most of the attention. Paris, London, Amsterdam, and the other big cities in Western Europe receive the bulk of the European tourism market, and while there are wonderful things to see in these cities, they’re also often crowded and expensive.

    Despite its turbulent past, there is another part of Europe that is beginning see an upswing in tourism and these are the countries of the Balkan peninsula. Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, and other countries in this region are experiencing a tourism renaissance of sorts due to the fascinating history, beautiful landscapes, and low costs. While they aren’t as famous as other European cities, traveling to cheaper European cities can save your travel budget and still give you the vacation of your dreams.

    One of the most special and interesting of these Balkan nations is Bosnia & Herzegovina. Once the site of a terrible war and the 1984 winter Olympics, this little country is now thriving and has much to offer the intrepid tourist in search of fascinating, off the beaten path experiences.



    In 1984 Sarajevo hosted the winter Olympics. Ten years later Sarajevo was a city under siege. Today this small city of just over 500,000 people is nestled in a beautiful valley and offers a wide array of activities for visitors.

    Sarajevo is truly a multicultural city and this is evident in its beautiful churches, mosques, and synagogues. A simple stroll around the city center offers visitors a chance to see the beautiful architecture and the quaint shops and restaurants.

    Tours are offered that give more information about the Bosnian War and its aftermath, and some of the buildings still display the wounds of the bomb blasts.


    Located southwest of Sarajevo is the beautiful village of Mostar. While Mostar also suffered severe damage during the war, much of the old city has been restored and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The jewel in the crown of Mostar is its famous Stari Most, or Old Bridge.

    Built in the 1500s then destroyed during the war in 1993, Stari Most was restored in 2004 using the original design and techniques. Today you’ll find the members of the Mostar Diving Club jumping off the bridge into the Neretva River. Tourists are not advised to make the jump, as the landing needs to be precise and the water is very cold, but that rarely stops those who truly want to make the jump.

    The Bosnian Pyramids

    Pyramids have long fascinated travelers and the ancient ones in Egypt, Mexico, and Central and South America typically receive most of the attention. However, many people don’t realize that there is a collection of pyramids in Bosnia that one scientist says are 12,000 years old.

    Located in Visoko, just outside of Sarajevo, are several hills that are believed to be these ancient pyramids, but many archaeologists disagree with this claim. Whether they’re actual pyramids or not, this area is a big draw for tourists and tours are offered that take you inside some of the excavated portions and provide more information about the Bosnian Pyramids themselves.



    While the region of Herzegovina is large, it’s also home to some of the country’s most beautiful areas. Dotted with rivers, waterfalls, and small villages to explore, Herzegovina is also quite culturally different than the Bosnian regions, hence the name of the country itself.

    Explore the area near Jablanica, famous for its lush forests, or head further south to the country’s wine producing regions, hailed as some of the best in Europe. The sunny beaches of the Adriatic Sea are also very popular highlights of the region.


    The small village of Travnik might not make it on the itineraries of most travelers, but it’s very much worth the time. Located northwest of Sarajevo, Travnik was once the center of the Ottoman Empire and its ancient fortress still stands today.

    With a style and feel that reminds many people of Istanbul, Travnik is a beautiful reminder of the history of this part of Europe. A visit to the city’s castle, Stari Grad, is a must, not only for its beautiful architecture but it also provides a sweeping view of the city from its hilltop location.

    Beautiful, inexpensive, and full of interesting and sobering history, a visit to Bosnia & Herzegovina is one of the best ways to explore the Balkan region. Book your flights now and see for yourself.

    1 Comment "

    Unschoolers, homeschoolers and worldschoolers, your teen has freely chosen to enroll in traditional high school? This might be why.

    August 21st, 2015

    Developmental Stages: The teen brain, unschooling, worldschooling, attrition to high school and much more.

    It’s been a while since I’ve written a post about our journey into learning, growing up, travel and the teen experience. But I felt inspired.

    This post may appear to be a mish-mash of thoughts, but hopefully by the time you reach the end, you will see how they weave together and offer some value to you in your life, especially if you are the parent of a teen.

    At least I can hope.

    I sat down to write this article: “Why do some unschoolers, homeschoolers or world schoolers trade in their freedom lifestyle and independence for a traditional high school experience?” But soon realized this post was really about the teens and their developmental stages and how those changes inform their decisions. Understanding those changes may answer the question, “why do some unschoolers, homeschoolers or world schoolers trade in their freedom lifestyle and independence for a traditional high school experience?”

    Attrition to high school.

    I get it.

    Right now, I am flooded with posts across my timeline including many on the subject of “back to school”. As an unschooling mom active within the unschooling community, I have also read several posts from parents who are in disbelief that their teen has chosen a more conventional path.

    As parents, (especially those that follow the unschooling philosophy) we stand in support of our children allowing them to guide their own path (and even allow them to make their own mistakes). We empower our children to direct their own learning and trust they are learning exactly what they need to learn. As an unschooling parent, if our child chooses high school as their path, we stand in support this decision too. But aren’t we thinking, “How could a child who has been given complete freedom about their life, decide to go into a system that takes away their freedom?”

    I am grateful Miro has never expressed the desire to go back to a traditional school setting. I think one reason is his love for travel being that our world schooling experiences are rich and immersive. From the academic perspective Miro feels satisfied directing his own learning experiences and does not feel he is lacking in that area either. From a social perspective, since we started Project World School, he’s had those needs met too. But you know what?

    I really do get it.

    I understand why many teens who were either once unschoolers, homeschoolers or even world schoolers would freely choose to the path of a traditional high school school during their teen years. Just as peer pressure is an important element that may have some influence in a teen’s life, so can be society’s ideals. Society says one “must get a good education to make something of them self”.  A teen may not fully believe that message but during this stage of their development, they may not necessarily believe in themselves either.


    With the onset of adolescence, there are many developmental changes taking place. I am inspired to share some of the research I’ve come across over the years as I’ve committed to expanding my understanding of this stage of life. This is very important to me, as I’ve been working with teens for the last three years and as you know I’m the parent to a wonderful sixteen year old who is empowered to make his own choices.

    There is no denying, teenagers develop new preferences as a way to meet their the physical, intellectual, emotional and social needs. I’ve read numerous articles and books on the subject, but in no way can claim any expertise. From working with numerous teens over the last three years, I recognize that during these three stages of adolescence, the brain is making new connections defining how they relate to the world.

    Equally, researchers believe that these new connections are happening at the most alarming rate, defining new neural pathways unlike any other time in a human’s development. Adolescence is the time of development that humans form one’s own identity and begin to prepare for adulthood.

    Because of these changes, I can understand why some teens may choose a more conventional path. But I wanted to share with you some of the amazing insights I’ve come to understand through my journey of becoming more understanding an empathetic to the teen experience.

    Physical Development

    This aspect of adolescence is the most obvious. We all know puberty is defined as the process of physical changes through which a child’s body matures into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction. Puberty is initiated by hormonal signals from the brain, within girls to the ovaries, within boys, to the testes. And the teen starts to develop a new sense of sexuality.

    Let’s face it, we all knew that. But let’s look deeper into the teen’s other changes:

    Referenced from an article about adolescence on the site: 

    Intellectual Development

    As teens enter into early adolescence it’s common for them to perceive the world around them in concrete terms, either right or wrong, awesome or horrendous, in or out. Younger teens generally experience the world in the moment with out much sense of long-term consequences to their actions.

    Later in adolescence, many teens develop the ability to appreciate subtleties of situations and practice the refinement of complex thinking and gain a better handle on projecting consequences into the future. But because teens are still relatively inexperienced in life situations many teens can still act impulsively without thinking thinking about future consequences.

    Emotional Development

    Emotional development can be seen as the single greatest challenge during all three stages of adolescence. Self awareness around emotions begins to occur, but sometimes teens have a difficult time reconciling their emotions with their life situations. This is a time when teens begin to identify and name their own emotions and many feel they are on shaking grounds doing so. From the emotional perspective, teens become more socially aware. One of those aspects can be recognizing emotions and feelings in those around them, and when encouraged, teens can develop a deep sense of empathy for others (thus expanding worldviews ). Many may not trust the support system around them as their emotional development demands a different communication of support then they needed before adolescence set in.

    Part of the emotional development includes the adolescence’s sense of self. It’s a time when teens begin to explore and assert their personal identities (and how those identities fit into the world). From time to time, it is common for teens to experience an unstable sense of self and try out new labels or identities and associate with variety of peer groups, movements, trends during their exploration.

    Identity is made up of two components:

    Self-concept – the set of beliefs about oneself, including attributes, roles, goals, interests, values and religious or political beliefs
    Self-esteem – how one feels about one’s self-concept

    This is no easy task. I am grateful for my own personal struggles during my own adolescence which give a greater sense of empathy through those going through it now.

    Looking for ways to support your teen’s social and emotional developments? This article offers some great suggestions:

    In addition to the challenge of developing one’s own identity, teens are establishing their own sense of autonomy. For unschooling, homeschooling or world schooling teens, this may be one of the reasons teens might seek out public school. Remember, we are conditioned to think of teens as rebellious, but in actuality, it’s an expression of autonomy. I grew up watching the TV show Growing Pains and I remember the wonderful liberal parents somehow birthed the staunch conservative, Alex P. Keaton . Was it an act of teen rebellion? No, it was an act of identity and autonomy.

    Intimacy and sexuality are two of the driving developmental stages as well. Perhaps for a home-educated teen, it may seem like traditional high school may have more to offer in these areas. I am not saying it is a fact, but it may be one of the ideas surrounding the decision to leave their current life style for the dream of another.

    Finally, along the lines of the adolescence experience, accomplishment is a big part of their emotional development. High school provides an external structure in which one can measure their “learning” or “accomplishments” no matter how manufactured they may be. It may or may not be a part of your teen’s decision making process, but it’s certainly something to consider.

    If you wish to explore these ideas deeper, here’s a great article exploring these issues with some support suggestions.

    It’s easy to see how an unschooling, homeschooling or worldschooling teen would see traditional high school as an option or a forum to explore those themes. We must be supportive understanding parents.

    Social Development

    One of the greatest social changes for adolescents is the new importance of their peers. If you have been following this blog for a while, you know we’ve written about Miro’s changing social needs, thus the birth of Project World School. Like the emotional need for autonomy and developing an identity outside of the family, teens start to identify with their peers and have a greater need for this sort of interaction.

    This is where we can provide the biggest support as an unschooling, homeschooling or worldschooling parent. We can balance these needs by redefining the definition of “peer” to not be solely based on age groups or learning styles (homeschoolers vs. high schoolers) or gender or any other arbitrary division. Rather defining the idea of a “peer” as someone who has a similar interest, say perhaps in organic farming, creative writing, science, sports, etc. That could satisfy the social needs of the teen, who otherwise may be considering going to school.

    One researcher I’ve come to resonate with is Dr. Dan Siegel (no relation to me or Miro). He wrote an incredible insightful book called Mindsight, in which he talks about our human capacity to perceive the mind of the self and others. Although his research is not focused specifically on teens, I can see the value of his work has when trying to understand the teen mind.

    “Mindsight is a powerful lens through which we can understand our inner lives with more clarity, integrate the brain, and enhance our relationships with others. Mindsight is a kind of focused attention that allows us to see the internal workings of our own minds. It helps us get ourselves off of the autopilot of ingrained behaviors and habitual responses. It lets us “name and tame” the emotions we are experiencing, rather than being overwhelmed by them.”

    My only advice to you if you are an unschooling, homeschooling or worldschooling parent whose teen has decided to enroll into a traditional high school, be understanding and supportive. It’s not easy being a teen.

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