“E-waste doesn’t exist”: the social complexity of ‘spoiled’ mobile phones in Ghana

“E-waste” has become a complex challenge for Ghana. Agbogbloshie, located in Accra, is the world’s largest e-waste dumpsite, harming health and environment. But how can Ghana face this problem when old, electronic devices are hardly seen as waste?

‘Spoiled’ phones and ‘scraps’: the role of the repairmen

“Madam, why have you bought a new phone? Was it completely spoiled?” I was looking at the second phone that I used for my workshop ‘environmental awareness’ at Senior High School for girls in Tamale, Ghana. To be honest, it wasn’t completely destroyed. The screen was broken, the phone was a bit slow, but in the end I was still able to make phone calls. However, I felt ready to buy a new phone because I wanted a faster connection and fancier camera options. I looked back at the student: “No, it is not completely spoiled. But in the Netherlands we buy new phones when the newest Samsung or iPhone is available in the shops. We never use our phones until it is not working anymore.” The girl looked at me like I was completely out of my mind, and she walked back to her table.

Home Economics 1B

In Ghana, a phone is called ‘spoiled’ when the phone is completely damaged and cannot be repaired anymore. For example, when it suffers water damage, when you cannot make any phone calls, or when the touchscreen is not working anymore. In all other cases, a phone can be repaired by the mobile phone repairman. The repairman decides if a phone is still useful or ruined. If the phone is called spoiled (which is completely damaged) the owner often leaves the phone with the repairman, after which the phone switches from a valuable gift into a trade product. As Tsing (2015) describes in The Mushroom at the End of the World, the value of a product changes when it ends up with different groups of people. The social meaning of the phone is constantly changing. Remarkably, for the repairman the ruined phone still a product he can use. He will remove valuable parts, such as the battery, out of the ruined one to repair other phones. After he uses the important parts of the phone, he dumps the leftovers or ‘scraps’, as the repairmen call it. The value of the product has changed again, from ‘useful product’ into ‘scrap’. However, both owner and repairman never call  spoiled phones ‘e-waste’, because ‘waste’ is something that you cannot use again. Even ‘scrap’ can still be traded on Agbogbloshie (Learn more: Aljazeera E-waste Republic by Ottaviani 2015).

Ownership and responsibility

During one of my workshops, a student said to me: “But madam, we cannot buy the phone ourselves. It is expensive, and my dad does not allow me to do my own purchases.” The students always depend on someone else for their purchases. That is why they find it hard to see their spoiled phone as waste because it was a gift from a special person giving it a high social and economic value. The girls often get their phones from parents, aunts, uncles, older brothers or sisters, or boyfriends.

Barikisu

The person that gave the phone to the girl is seen as the ‘owner’ of the phone, the girl is the ‘user’. Because of this social construct, the user does not decide for herself what she can do with the phone, when she can use the phone, or what happens with the phone when it is damaged. When she damages the phone, she needs to tell the owner that it is spoiled. The students tell me that this is sometimes scary as the owner will be disappointed, angry, or will ask annoying questions about how it happened. Also, because the owner paid a lot of money for it, the student will feel guilty. The process of telling the owner that the user broke their gift, and the decision if the phone is unusable or not, is upon the owner.

Thus, it is difficult for owners and users to call a spoiled mobile phone ‘waste’ because the phone was a valuable gift from owner to user giving it a high social value. Secondly, it shows economic capital because it was an expensive purchase for which the owners paid a lot of money. Lastly, the phones and even the scraps are always useful again. It is hard to solve the e-waste problem in Ghana when old, electronic devices (like mobile phones) are hardly seen as waste by their owners, users, and the repairmen. It is important to understand the role of electronic devices in the form of ‘gifts’, ‘spoiled phones’, and ‘scraps’ to understand the impact of e-waste on the environment (Reno 2015). Governmental – and environmental organizations should take this into consideration when making policy and designing projects to reduce the e-waste problem in Ghana.

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Workshops on Environmental Awareness

Hello everybody!

Over the last four weeks I did ten workshops on environmental awareness with the juniors and second year – students in Tamale Girls Senior High Pagnaa. I divided the workshops into three subjects: language, responsibility, and mobile phones. The first week, I focussed on the language topic by making wordwebs with topics like the weather (seasons), nature or environment, waste, and mobile phones. The second week, I did the workshops on responsibility for waste in different contexts like the school, the family, various public spaces, and in the church or mosque. The last two weeks I did the workshops on mobile phones with a special focus on e-waste. I asked the classes questions like: “what do you do with your Phone when it is broken?” and “what happens with your Phone when it is completely spoiled?” Of course I also brought up the discussion about Agbogbloshie, the e-waste dumpsite close to Accra, and I learned the girls the importance of recycling and re-using elements of the mobile Phone.

I really liked doing the workshops with the classes. Overall, they were really enthusiast and I received interesting responses. I also had the feeling that the classes liked the workshops as well. I was a bit nervous for that because I have to do my program after schoolhours because I am not allowed to disturb the education program. It is of course difficult for the students to come back to class after lunchtime. But most of them were there and were willing to help me with my research. I thanked them by making pictures with my polaroid camera and my Phone and after I’d printed the pictures, I gave those to the classes as a gift.

Besides the specific information for my research, I found it also very interesting to learn more about the students’ backgrounds. Where are they from? Why have they choosen Pagnaa for their education? What do their parents do? And what are their dreams? I figured out that Pagnaa is known as the best school in the Northern Region. Therefore, children from all over the country are coming to Pagnaa. As well, the parents of the children have different professions. A lot of girls that I have spoken to have uneducated parents or even illiterate parents. Only a few of them have parents who completed some forms of education like Senior High, College, or University. But the children do all have dreams. They all know what they want to become. From professions like doctor, nurse, nutritionist, and lawyer, to soldier, pilot, fashiondesigner, and lecturer or teacher. I found that very impressing for girls in the age of 15 till 18.

The results of my workshops are interesting because I found a lot of important social relationships of responsibility and ownership between the students and their teachers, parents, and other important groups. And I learned a lot about Dagbani (the language they speak in the regio of Tamale) as well.

Language

In Dagbani, there is no translation for ‘the weather’. They do not describe the weather as we do. Every time I was talking during the workshops about ‘the weather’, the class stayed completely silent. One time, a girl said to me that in Dagbani, there is no word for the weather. It is not generalized. I thought this was really interesting and switched my discussions towards the seasons. When I was talking about the seasons, the girls came up with the different temperatures, the rain, the sun etc. Furthermore, I found out that the children never call their Phone ‘waste’. Because ‘waste’ is something that cannot be used anymore. A Phone is always re-usable. Even when you cannot use it anymore, it is still good for recycling.

Responsiblity

In Ghana, there is a lot of trash alongside the road. But I figured out that it is difficult to hold the individual person responsible for that. There is a complex relationship between ‘client’ and ‘executor’ when it comes to waste. There always have to be an older person or a person with a higher social status that gives a younger person the task to clean the environment and to burn the rubbish. In the school, these are the senior students or the teachers. In the family, parents let their kids work. In the church or mosque, the children do want to keep the place clean anyway to worship God. In public places, the government is responsible. In cities, the national cleaning service Zoomlion is cleaning every morning. In villages, the local chief or assembly man is responsible to organise cleaning actions.

Mobile Phones

The girls use their phones for the same things as the Dutch youngsters do. But there is one big difference, and that is that the students use their phones for ‘research’. That means that they search for information, translations, definitions, and places on their phones. They see their Phone as a tool that can help them during the learning process. Furthermore, when their Phone is broken, they have to say it to the person that gave the Phone to them. With phones as well, there is a complex relationship between the giver (the owner) and the user. The girls are socially not seen as the responsible owners of the Phone. The parents are. When the Phone is broken, the owner of the Phone as to repair it for them. They have to bring the Phone to the repairer.

These are only a few research results that I wanted to share with you guys on my blog. I hope that you also think it is interesting! I still have two more weeks left and I am already feeling sad about saying goodbye to all the students and teachers in school. Let’s see how the last part will go!

Thank you for reading!

Isabella

 

 

Mole National Park

Last weekend, Roos and I went on safari in Mole National Park in the Northern Region of Ghana. This park is one of the main tourist attractions and one of the most beautiful parts of the region. Unfortunately, the landscape itself was not that special because of the dry season (Harmattan) where we are in now. Mostly all the trees and plants are dry and have a vague yellow color. In rain season, the landscape must look like a kind of rain forest. Well, at least that was what I imagined myself… 😉

Apart from the nature, the animals that we’ve seen were really cool. When we arrived around midday, we arranged a safari on top of the jeep with a local guide. We were in a group with a Ghanian couple, a girl from Brasil, a girl from the United States, and our driver. We were all sitting on the roof of the jeep, which I thought was really cool because from there we had a good view over the animals we saw. And we’ve seen a lot! First of all, a big family of elephants from so close! After only ten minutes on the jeep, the guide told us to step out of the car to walk a bit closer to the elephants that he spotted. And indeed, behind a few trees were at least six elephants eating their lunches. These elephants are wild and not able to pet (as what I did in Thailand), so we had to be carefull and had to stand on a distance. However, after a while the elephants started to move and we had the possibility to watch them from even closer! It was amazing to see how big they are. They look so friendly but at the same time they can be dangerous.

After the elephants we drove a bit deeper into the park and along the way we saw a lot of other special beings like dears, antilopes, pumba’s (Timon and Pumba from the Lion King), crocodiles in the water, a lot of apes among even a mother and a baby, and some beautiful colored birds. At the end of the safari the sun was lower than when we started and the temperature was cooling down, which made it a perfect moment to enjoy the weather a bid. – Let me clearify, during the day it is 38 degrees so it is nice to have some lower temperatures sometimes. – When we came back we were really statisfied. And Roos and I decided to enjoy the pool in the evening and in the next morning.

The next morning, after breakfast, we were sitting at the viewpoint on top of the hill. This belongs to the Mole Motel were we stayed and the location of this place is outstanding. We sat down with some coffee and tea and saw the elephants bathing in the lake from a distance. After a while, they even started playing which made the whole situation even more enjoyable. It was a great morning, and after a good swim in the pool with, again, a view on the monkeys and elephants playing down the hill, we went back to Tamale for our third full week on our projects.

My first experience in the school

Hello everybody!

First of all, thank you for reading my blog again. I really appreciate all the friendly comments and positive words to my writings. That said, I would like to tell you about my first fulltime week in Tamale Girls Senior High School Pagnaa. It was a week full of new experiences, interesting talks with both teachers and students, and fun games!

Tomorrow (Saturday February 3rd) is it ‘Speech and Prize’ at Tamale Girls, which is a celebration during which hardworking students receive prices and speakers give speeches to the public (as the name says it though). Because of this, there were no classes this week. Last Tuesday, a cleaning activity took place which was really interesting for my research. I had to lead a group, together with mister Fuseini, for the ‘community cleaning’ outside school. Four groups were divided to clean outside the school campus, two other big groups had to stay on campus to do the cleaning overthere. I had some really interesting conversations with the students about this. For example, some students told me that there is so much trash alongside the road because ‘people do not know that they have to burn the trash’. Another girl told me that ‘the wind was blowing all the trash to one side of the road’. I asked who is responsible for the cleaning outside campus. The girls told me that sometimes the community organizes a cleaning activity, but otherwise the government organisation Zoomlion needs to take their responsibility to collect the trash. It was also super interesting for me to see from very close how the girls burned the plastic bags. It was a statisfying day!

On Wednesday, we had ‘Indoor – and Outdoor Games’. I arrived early in the morning in my sportclothes because I was really looking forward to this day. And my feeling of enthusiasm was right! Because it was a nice day full of sports and other games. However, it was exhausting. I like the way how friendly and interested everybody is in me, but the bad part of that is that I have to play all the games with them, haha! 😉 I played three badminton games against students and teachers, I danced with a group on African music, participated in a running match, played table tennis, and played two football games. Again with both students and teachers. I really liked the day and it was also fruitfull because in the morning I spoke to two teachers who told me that if I am interested in e-waste, I also have to pay visits to the repairers of mobile phones. Because, when they cannot fix the phones anymore, they dump them in nature. I became super enthusiastic and thanked the men a lot!

Thursday and Friday were less busy days but still interesting. I spoke to a lot of teachers about the identity of the school, the benefits of boarding – and same sex schools, the schooluniforms of the girls, and the statement “if you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a nation” by James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey. It was super interesting to hear the teachers talking about the school and the quote. And I learned a lot about the role of the women in the family.

So, that was really shortly described how I experienced this first week at the school! Next week I can finally start my research workshops and English homework assistance. I am looking forward to that!

Have a nice weekend!

Isabella

The first week in Ghana!

Last week we (Thyrza, Roos, and I) arrived in Accra for our 2,5 months of fieldwork. The arrival was already a challenge because my backpack was lost and I had to look for it on the airport. When I was waiting for the information desk, other people suddenly started to run back to the arrival hall to look for their suitcases. I decided to do the same and went back to the hall where I luckily found my backpack. After that, we were brought by car to the campus of the University of Ghana in Accra. We stayed there for two nights and explored the old city centre of Accra and did a first ethnographic assignment during breakfast.

Ghana airport

In Accra I experienced a culture shock which I found very hard to handle. I was quite shocked by the poverty, the amount of trash next to the roads, and by the difference in human-animal relations. I found it hard to see several goats and cats suffer from the warmth and the lack of food. It just took me a few days to comfort myself a bit in this new world.

On Saturday – after we visited the old center – we had a flight to Tamale. This was again a special experience because the plane was old and small and had only one emergency exit. On the inside, I was full of panic. But on the outside, I tried to look calm and focussed. However, we survived the flight haha! Anyway, in Tamale we stayed a couple of nights at the Catholic Guest House. The guest house will be my home for the next few weeks. The place is nice and relaxed and the people are friendly. They even have a restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But most of the nights we’ve been to the Ginni Pass, which is a famous restaurant among the Anthropology teachers of Leiden University. The restaurant indeed is good and they even have a rooftop bar where you can dance and drink. My first experience of Tamale is really good, and that is important because this will be the location of my research. Even the first ethnographic assignment on the market in Tamale was interesting for me. After I shopped for the assignment, I went on my own mission to buy a typical ‘teacher-dress’.

female chief

Let me clearify this. My research is about environmental awareness among young female pupils in senior high school. Therefore, I have to participate and observe in high schools. Last week, I decided to go to Pagnaa Senior High School for girls in Tamale to have a job interview and to ask for permission to do my research. The day before this special meeting, I already prepared myself by buying this dress. As my supervisor said: ‘this is important impression management’. And it turned out very well indeed because I am happy to say that the female mistress of the senior school would love to work with me. Next week I will go back to the school to make it official and to talk about the lessons I will give next to my own research. It would be awesome to combine education with my anthropological project!

Tamale Ghana

Yesterday we arrived in Bolgatanga, a city in the North of Ghana which is close to the boarder with Burkina Faso. We sleep on the campus of MOU (Millar Open University) and are currently attending a 2-day event on ethnographic projects and environmental issues. Therefore, I had the possibility to present my research in front of PhD students and professors. I received a lot of positive feedback and comments on my presentation. But most important, I received important information about the concepts of ‘ownership’ and ‘responsibility’ of e-waste which I will definitely work out in my fieldwork and thesis. I am very thankful for the opportunities we all get by attending the fieldschool of Leiden University in Ghana.

Presentatie Bolgatanga

At last, I would love to thank Roos and Thyrza for this first week! We already went through a lot together. Let us please continue with our crazy research and adventures. I really enjoy my time with you guys. Let the months of fieldwork begin!

Isabella

 

Volunteering in Holland

Hello!

I really want to tell you about the volunteer work I am doing. Currently, I am working for Greenpeace Netherlands and ‘Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland’. And I feel so enthusiastic about this! A few months ago I decided to sign up myself on the volunteer platform ‘Greenwire’ by Greenpeace Netherlands. You can find all the upcoming Greenpeace actions in Holland on this platform. A few weeks ago, I went to the volunteer evening at the office in Amsterdam to get some information about the options for volunteers. After they had presented results of earlier projects, I followed a workshop on the plastic bottles by Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola is not recycling the plastic they are producing. All their bottles exist for 97% out of new plastic. This is really harmful for the environment. During the workshop, we were brainstorming about an action against Coca-Cola which would take place in The Hague. It was super interesting and I really loved to do something for a more sustainable world.

Greenwire Netherlands

Second, I am volunteering for ‘Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland’ as a language coach (taalcoach). I am helping Maryam -a refugee from Somalia – with learning Dutch. I started with this work about a month ago. I am so happy I signed up. I am meeting with Maryam every week to practice assignments and to talk a lot about literally everthing. I think Maryam is enlightening me. I have been traveling a lot, but I have never met people like Maryam. She told me she has never been to school. Of course, I know that there are girls in every part of the world that are not going to school. But still, it was quite shocking for me to talk with her about this. I felt super spoiled and even guilty.

Vluchtelingenwerk

I am learning a lot from both Greenpeace and Vluchtelingenwerk. I think everybody should be doing some kind of volunteer work. It doesn’t matter if this is related to health issues, society and humanity, or environmental issues. As long as you want to put some effort in your neighbourhood, city, country, or just the world you are living in. It is challenging for the personal development and knowledge about various issues, it is good for the people you are working with, and organizations or institutions will appreciate your work. I am also doing this work to expand my professional network. It would be awesome to work for organizations like Greenpeace or Vluchtelingenwerk.

Until next time!

With love,

Isabella

 

 

How to explain Anthropology to my friends ?!

Hey guys!

I’m sorry, it’s been a month since my last post! In the meantime, I’ve been studying and working a lot. I have to say that I really like my study and my job as a waitress. But, I’ve been experiencing some difficulties the last few weeks. And those difficulties are always about – according to my friends – explaining the ‘weird’ kinds of studies I do. And indeed, after my college year in Cultural and Societal Education, and my Bachelor degree in Arts and Culture, Cultural Anthropology is not really a topic that attracts a lot of students. And to be honest, I don’t know why. Because: Anthropology is awesome!

So, at the moment I’m following the MSc program in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology in Leiden. As I said, lot of people ask me what it actually is. And every time I find it really hard to explain. I awkwardly say something like ‘it is about cultures’, ‘it is about research’, ‘it is about NGO’s’… Eventhough I think this is the best study for me, I find it very hard to actually tell why it ties in with what I want in my career. Yes friends, you got me there!

Let’s check how the website of the master describes the program. The website says ‘the program is about how to do research into the ways in which people experience and cope with global problems at the small scale of their everyday (universiteitleiden.nl)’. Mmm.. Is it more clear now? I don’t think so… Let’s switch to my research project then. Maybe you will have a better view of my interests and field if I tell you a bit more about my research internship in general.

So, in January 2018 I will go to Ghana to do my fieldwork. I hear you thinking: Why? Ghana? Fieldwork? Well, in the first place because I love to travel and Africa is the only continent in the world I haven’t been to yet. But the most important reason is because I want to get a bit familiair with a country like Ghana. How cool is it, that I’m actually going to live in a town (Tamale) in the northern part to experience how it really is to be in that specific place. That is the ‘out of your comfort zone 8+’! So, what am I going to do in that town then?

I will do my research project in collaboration with the Amsterdam based company Closing the Loop. Closing the Loop recycles old batteries and mobile phones in countries like Ghana to reduce the e-waste. However, they’ve experienced that the people there have a whole different perception of waste management and climate risk than that we have in Europe. Thus, I am going to research how young women in Tamale interact with the environment according to their waste management. This means that I will look how the women think about climate change, how they talk about green topics, how they think about waste recycling, think about the value of their mobile phones, think about e-waste… etc. Of course, my research is more complicated and academic than I explain here. But anyway, this sounds cool, doesn’t it?

When looking at my project, the explanation on the website becomes (hopefully) a bit more clear. I am going to research how young women in Tamale deal with a global problem like climate change. I am going to investigate this by giving workshops on environmental awareness on secondary schools. And this kind of research is exactly the thing that I am really enthusiastic about. And in that way, I think it ties in so good with my future career goals. Because: I would love to work for a NGO like Greenpeace. And how nice is it then to do active research on human-environment interaction in Ghana? I can tell you, that’s really nice…

I don’t think the concept Anthropology is more clear now. But, hopefully, the topic that I am studying right know became a bit understandable for you! Now you also understand my struggles when I have to explain you where my study is about. It is just soo broad! It is possible to choose whatever kind of topic you want to focus on. The only thing is that it has to fit in a global context (which is basically everything). Anyway, I understand if Anthropology is still a bit vague for you… But at least, I tried to explain you how I feel about it. It keeps me busy, I find it interesting, and I think that is the most important.

Till next time!

Isabella

Back in Rotterdam!

Hey guys!

So, my Lonely Planets about South-America, Cuba, and New York City are now on my new closet in my new room in Rotterdam. I finished my travel diary and I just uploaded my 3000 (!) pictures of my trip on my laptop. I’m looking around in my new home and it feels strange. My whole trip feels like a big dream, an adventure I made when I was sleeping for a very long time. But off course, I wasn’t asleep, because everything is new now. I just started my MSc program in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology and I found a new job as a waitress last week. I have a new house, and celebrated my 23rd birthday… What did all just happened the last 5 months? Not only I traveled from Peru and Bolivia to Canada, but I also changed my whole life from a fulltime worker into a student again. It is something that I already planned for a really long time, and especially my study is something I really want to start. But still, what happened with my adventurous life? Where did it all start 5 months ago?

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As you all now, my trip started in Peru. I traveled here with a group of 18 people and a wonderful guide, named Gino, through the country. From Lima to Nazca, Arequipa, Chevay, Cusco, Machu Picchu… All the people on my group were so kind and friendly. I had a great start of my trip. Thank you guys for teaching me the card game ‘hobo and the president’ and helped me to give names to my little lama, elephant, and buddha I was carying with me on my trip. After, I did a Spanish language course for a week with a super cute teacher that was super enthusiast about everything I did (and that was not much to be honest haha). In my group, I met lovely Irish girl Clara, with who I traveled to the Amazon, after my language course. The Amazon was amazing and I remember I was so happy to practice my Spanish and that the guide said my Spanish was ‘bastante bien’. After this trip, me and Clara traveled to Titicaca lake and Bolivia together. I’ve seen the most beautiful nature ever in my life. The salt flats are magic, cold, and so beautiful. In Bolivia, I got sick for the first time. I remember I puked 15 times that day and I had to catch a flight to Colombia that night. When I arrived in Colombia, I fel in love with the country, the people are so friendly and so positive! For the first time in my life I found a city (Medellin) inspiring for my life. The people here do not complain, they forget the past and contiue their lives with a smile. In Colombia, I traveled from Bogotá to Medellin and the Caribbean coast. I took surf lessons, salsa classes, and made my own coffee. However, I also had some health struggles. I got food poisoning for the second time and had on the worst point 57 muscito bites on my legs. Also, I had to get more common with traveling by myself in a country considered by the Dutch government as ‘dangerous’. Lucky for me, nothing bad happened so I’m proud to say that South America in general is amazing!

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After, I sailed from Colombia to Panama with stops at the San Blas Islands. I’ve never seen such a tropical Paradise in my life. Snorkeling and tanning were the daily activities. From Panama, I took a flight to Cuba, where I spent 2,5 week. I consider Cuba as my favorite destination. Also, because I met so many other travelers here who wanted to share their days with me. I liked to spent more time with the people here to get to know them better. Also, Cuba was for me a whole different world, so interesting and so frustrating but amazing. I loved it! Cancun, Mexico, was the first destination that I considered as a bit American. I saw big resorts with names as ‘Golf and Spa’ and a lot of big cinema’s, restaurants, and clubs. The Maya ruines in Tulum were really pretty though.

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And then: North America! My first stop was New York City where I met so many beautiful people as well. The city felt a bit like home after spending two months in latin American countries. Washington DC was amazing as well. I had a wonderful 4th of July here. And off course: Chicago! Where I stayed 3,5 weeks and got to know the city very well. My last country on my list was Canada. Well, it was not really on my list, I made a spontanious decision to go there as well. I’m glad I did. It is such a laid back country. I will always remember the Canoe-trip and my days in Montréal, because Montréal is the best city! After Boston and again New York City it was unfortunately time to go home.

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I’m so happy I made this trip all by myself. I’ve seen so much, I’ve learned so much about the history of all the countries, got to know people from all over the world, with all different stories, I’ve seen so many different cultures on my trip, so many stories, all connected together on two continents, on one world. I’m so happy I could meet all these people. I can now say that South America is not that dangerous as everybody thinks and that USA is full of nice people as well!

To be honest, I’m also glad to be at home now and to chill with a cup of tea while thinking back about my trip. Sometimes, on unexpected moments, a funny story or a beautiful memory pops up in my head. When I’m running outside, when I’m taking my shower or cooking my dinner. And I hope this will last for a long time! Because except that I learned that I’m sometimes not that open minded as I always thought I was, or that I don’t need so much stuff and clothes in my life (or maybe I do, because: CLOTHES, duh), but I also learned to appreciate the memories and home. For now it’s okay to be back in Rotterdam, to face again a new chapter in my life and to wait for new adventures to come…

Hopefully they come fast, because I’m already bored (no, just kidding, or maybe not 😉 )

And oh! By the way, I will continue with this blog eventhough I’m not traveling at the moment.

The last part of my trip…

Hey !

On August 3rd, I arrived in Toronto, Canada. This was the beginning of the last 3.5 weeks of my trip. And I remember that I really liked it to travel and stay in the hostels again.

Toronto is a huge international city. I really liked it there, and after New York City, Washington DC, and Chicago, I’m a bit more used to megacities now. I did all the tourist hotspots during the first three days I was here. I visited the University of Toronto, went to the harbour side, to the Distillery District, and the Lawarence market. The Distillery District and the Lawrence market are for me two top sights in Toronto. The District is a small old neighbourhood where a lot of artists are located. Besides that, I could find some cool vintage shops and cozy coffee places. I loved the Lawrence market because it is one big indoor market with so many delicious food stands. Off course, I love food, but this type of food (think about tapas and cheese) reminded me of countries like France, Spain, and Italy, which made the market for me it even better 😉

Because I couldn’t go to Canada without visiting the Niagara falls, I took a bus to the falls from Toronto to spend one weekend in this area. I was glad to go to some ‘nature area’ because after all those big cities I was really in for some nature hikes. However, I was a little bit dissapointed in the falls because the place is so touristy and they are basically located next to a small ‘Las Vegas’. For me, the magic was a little bit gone, but it was still nice to see the falls off course. In the night, they have a lightshow that lights up both the American and the Canadian falls. Which is cool!

After Toronto and the Niagara Falls, I took an 8 hour bus to the capital of Canada: Ottawa. I stayed here in the HI Ottawa Jail Hostel. This hostel is located in, off course, an old prison. The prison closed in 1972 and opened as a hostel in 1973. Until 1972, a lot of aweful things happened there, like tortures and executions. As backpacker, you stay in the old cells, where you share your dorm with 4 to 8 people. On the 8 floor, it is possible to sleep in the cells ‘of death’, where people were waiting for their execution. The story goes that it is haunted there 😉

Ottawa itself was a small but interesting city. It’s Canada’s 150th birthday this year so there was a lot going on. For example, on the first evening I went to the Parliament to watch a lightshow about the history of Canada. Besides that, I visited the Canadian war museum, the museum of Canadian history, Chinatown, Little Italy, and I did the Haunted Walk of Ottawa one evening.

After Ottawa, I did a 3-day Canoe tour with Wild Adventures Canada. This was amazing! The tour took place in Algonquin Provincial Park, which is maybe not the most interesting nature park of Canada, but it is kind of easy to get there from Toronto and it is beautiful as well. The park exists out of more than 2000 lakes and a lot of forests. I was with a small group of 3 people and one guide. We did wild camping on one of the islands in the lake. It was really wild camping: so no electricity and we had a campfire to make our food on. We canoed or hiked every day to other parts of the park, viewpoints, and waterfalls. We wanted to see a Moose, but we were unlucky so we haven’t seen one.

My last stop in Canada was Montréal, the biggest city in the Province of Québec. I loved Montréal! It was so French with a lot of cozy restaurants and bars, unique boutiques  and an old city centre. It was so cool! When you’re there, definitely eat Poutin, which is a typical Canadian dish. Furthermore, you can just enjoy your days with walking around because there is a lot going on in this city. There are photo galleries on the street, art exhibitions, festivals… I had a really great time there.

And then… Back to USA! Boston was still on my list of places in North East America that I still wanted to visit. I spent 4 nights here. Boston is interesting because of the history. I did the Freedom Trail through the city and it learned me a lot about the first Europeans that arrived in USA. Besides that, I visited Harvard University and did a tour there as well. Harvard University was really impressive, not because of the buildings, but because of all the inside stories and the important inventions and research that has been done here. I wish I could study there one day…

One week ago, I took the bus back to NYC from where I had my flight back to The Netherlands. I still can’t really get it that I’m already home. The last 4,5 months went so fast. It is the end of my Panamerica trip. I finished my travels in Boston and NYC, thinking over the last few months and my new future as master student Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology. I’ve seen so many beautiful places, and people that are connected with each other through shared history and culture and language. I learned so much about the countries I’ve been visiting. I can now say that South America is not that dangerous as everybody thinks it is. The continent is full of super friendly people, the same for USA. I started to love USA and Canada as well, and I will definetly be back one day.

Next blog will be about what I learned on my trip and about my new life at home!

Love,

Isabella

Bella’s Chicago

Hello!

Because I have spent 3.5 weeks in Chicago I decided to write reviews about most of the places I went to. This post will therefore be a bit Lonely Planet like but from my personal point of view. I hope you enjoy it and that you can use it one day!

Workaway

A really good option to get free accommodation in Chicago is to find volunteer work on Workaway.com. This is a website for backpackers that would love to stay at some place for a bit longer. I was so lucky to find a really good spot. I spent 3.5 weeks at Francesca’s house with dog Dolce. I worked from 8 till 12 in the morning every weekday to ‘earn’ my accommodation and some food.

What to do?

Art Institute

If you love Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Seurat, and other super famous painters: go here! They have everything from Religious European to Impressionism and American art. I liked it a lot.

The Field Museum

This museum is big! I spent here 2 hours and it was still not enough. Go visit the Africa department and do the nature walk. Seeing the dino Sue is cool too.

The Shedd Aquarium

Zoo’s are not really my thing as I am a vegetarian and I really care about animals. However, seeing tropical fish, penguins, and dolphins is fun and the Aquarium offers a lot of info about water, coral, climate, and tropical animals.

Museum of Contemporary Art

This museum is lovely, however you need to be interested in modern art. They have a really good exhibition of the Japanese artist Murakami till September this year.

Adler Planetarium

The Planetarium offers great information about our solar system and space in general. However, the museum is small but this makes it easy to combine with the Field Museum or the Shedd Aquarium which are all located in the same area.

The Museum of science and industry

I’ve been visiting a lot of museums ha 😉 ? This museum is too big to be honest. It is easy to spend here a full day. But they have some interesting topics about genes, airplanes, human bodies, food, trains, WWII etc.

Rent a bike

Get around by the Blue Ventra bikes and cycle the beach coast route. I started in the south at the Aquarium and went all the way up to North Av. Beach. Every 30 minutes you’ve to make a stop to check your bike in and out again. I combined these stops with lunch and coffee breaks (brought my own).

Walk around down town

Please go explore down town by yourself to find your own favorite spots! Use Google Maps or get a good street map at one of the hostels. I walked around down town to see the shops. I like shops as ‘Forever 21’ and ‘Victoria’s Secret’. Those can be find at Michigan Av a.o.

Go explore the Blues at Buddy Guys Legends

Nice Blues music here! Concerts start in general at 9PM but there is also pre music during dinner. Admission is 10 dollars.

Buckingham fountain by night

Go visit the fountain by night as there are light and music shows often.

John Hancock building (360 chicago)

Please don’t go to the official viewpoint because this will cost you 25 dollars. Go to the lounge! Ask at the counter where to go. Over here, you can order a Coca Cola for 6.90 and the view is the same. It is beautiful!

Kayak Chicago

Kayak Chicago is a company that offers tours on the river. The 3 hour tour is a heavy work out (yes even for a sports fan like me) but it is worth it. Tip: Buy your ticket on Groupon to safe more or less 20 dollars on the price.

Free Walking Tours by Foot

I did two free walking tours in the time I was here. Go to freetoursbyfoot.com to book yours! I can recommend the Lincoln Park and Gangster tour and the West Loop tour. Tours are free but they ask for a tip for the guides.

The Zoo plus the garden

The Zoo at Lincoln Park is free and they have some impressive animals like tigers, lions, sea lions, gorilla’s, apes (all sorts), zebras etc. When you enter the Zoo at the West entrance there are some beautiful gardens as well that are free to visit.

Go visit a baseball game

Be prepared: a game will take like 4 hours but it is a typical American thing to do. Go to m.mbl.com to buy your ticket for the Cubs or the White Sox. Prices vary from 7 till 70 dollars.

Festivals

Thai food festival

This is a festival with good Thai food in Lincoln Park in July. They also have some stands with typical Thai clothes and there is Thai music. However, be there early because the food was all gone when I arrived at 6PM.

Chinatown Summer Fair

Market in July with a lot of stands to buy stuff. I bought a nice vintage handbag here.

Fireworks at Navy Pier

During Summer, there are free fireworks at Navy Pier. On Wednesday it starts at 9PM, on Saturday at 10:15PM.

Music and movies in Millennium Park

During the whole summer there are concerts in Millennium Park. On Mondays and Thursdays there is music. Every Tuesday a movie is playing (anno 2017).

Sheffield Music Festival

Festival in July with music close to Fullerton Subway station at Lincoln park. I liked it here because the festival also offers free garden tours and a visit to one of the churches.

Michigan Art Festival

Free festival in July down town. It is kind of a market where artist can show and sell their art. I liked it!

Sports

Go Run Chicago/CARA sport

Check out the websites or Facebook pages of these organizations to see if there is a run in a park close by! It is free but registration is necessary.

Summer Fitness class at Navy Pier

Every summer on Tuesday at 6Pm there is a free fitness class at Navy Pier. It is a good way to dance off your Chicago Style Hot Dog.

Summer sunset yoga at Navy Pier

Every summer on Tuesday at 7:30 PM at Navy Pier. Beautiful way to try yoga if you’ve never done it before. Free!

Markets

The French Market

Located at N. Clinton Street, this market has everything from fresh salads to sushi, chocolates, wine, good cheese, and fish and meat. Of course, it is a bit pricy but worth a visit!

The Randolph Street Market

This is a really nice vintage market that takes place in July. I bought a super cute jacket here. You’ve to pay entrance to visit but it is sooo worth it. General admission is 10 dollars but if you’re a student it will cost you only 5.

Where to eat?

Smoke Daddy BBQ

This place has the best veggie burger in town. Well, that’s what I think! And they have cheap beers for 3 dollars and good cocktails. Winning! (Located at Division Street)

Parlor Pizza Bar

Kind of expensive place because a meal will cost you 20 dollars. However, it is always crowded here and that makes this place fancy and cozy. (Located at Division Street)

Pizzianos

This pizzeria, located at Division street, offers the good typical Chicago deep dish pizza. You can have an individual slice for 8.90 dollars or a small one with a drink for more or less 20 dollars. A small pizza is enough, because the pizza is super filling.

Patso’s last Place

This snack bar has delicious Chicago style hot dogs. And even has a veggie dog! The orders come with a lot of fries so please be prepared. A veggie dog with fries is between 6 and 8 dollars. (Located at Chicago Av.)

Places to drink?

Big Shoulders Coffee

Even though I prefer tea, this place has a good cappuccino. It is located on Chicago Av. next to the Blue Line Metro station. They have vegan options as well.

Atomix Coffee Bar

My favorite coffee bar in town! This place has good and big cappuccino with soy milk for 4 dollars and it is a nice place to get work done as it is a flex work place as well.

Fatpour Tap works

Good place to go out on Division street (Jup, I love Division Street). They have some cheap beers for 3 dollars and you can even have dinner here before going out.

Uptown Neighborhood

Just this whole neighborhood is an amazing place during the night. There are late night restaurants, theaters, cinemas, bars and some clubs.

Nice parks and beaches

Because Chicago is located at Lake Michigan, it has some good beaches and of course a lot of parks. Here a list of the parks and beaches I’ve been visiting during my stay:

  • North Av. Beach
  • Oak Street Beach
  • Montrose Beach
  • Ohio Street Beach
  • Smith Park
  • Humboldt Park
  • Millennium Park
  • Grant Park
  • Milton Lee Olive Park]
  • Polk Bros Park

General Tips

On Chicago on the Cheap (website and Facebook) are a lot of cheap and free options about festivals and activities in and around the city.

Use Hostelworld.com to find good hostels in the city. My favorites are Holiday Jones Hostel and HI Chicago.

If you’re running out of budget or just really want to meet local people: use Couchsurfing. There are a lot of local Chicago peeps on Couchsurfing.

 

Who! That are a lot of recommendations right? However, I really liked to write all this down for you. What I already said, hopefully you can use this tips one day. Maybe ‘Bella’s Chicago’ will be your new guide book 🙂