Mexico, don’t go there!

Posted: October 12, 2016 by bernardbarbour in Expedition/Travel

So what are our friends up to in mexico?

by the Travel Amateurs

I don’t care what other travelers say, Mexico is dangerous.  We followed the travel warnings issued by the U.S. State Department but still found ourselves in multiple situations where we felt unsafe.  I researched as much as I could to prepare for leaving the safety of the U.S.  We carried bear spray, a small hatchet and other blunt objects.  I planned code words so we could communicate discretely.  We studied Kung Fu, Jiu Jitsu, and Sumo Wrestling for Dummies.

Be sure to follow the link above, we know you’ll enjoy this adventure.

Our Perspective

We knew before we moved to Ecuador that we were Gringos. And we have been called Gringos frequently – by store clerks, friends and even strangers on the street. I’ve gotten so used to it, I describe myself to Ecuadorians as “el Gringo” because its the easiest way to describe who I am. In a community of Ecuadorians, the term Gringo identifies me as the 6ft tall pale-faced guy.

What is a Gringo?

The term Gringo comes in a few variations

  • Gringo – for the man
  • Gringa – for the woman
  • Gringita / Gringito – for the child or the “dear little gringo”. This is a term of endearment.
  • los Gringos – the group of gringos

Online forums and blog comments are full of Americans and Canadians who are insulted at the thought of being marginalized, by being reduced to a word.

Here in Ecuador, a Gringo is anyone foreign – from any country. However, the taller and blonder you are increases the odds of being called a gringo. But the telltale give-away is when you open your mouth. Once you speak, either exclusively in English or with the distinctive English accent, you become a “Gringo”.

Something to remember: in Latin American culture, it is common, accepted and even a kindness to give people nicknames based on their physical appearance. For example:

  • Flaco (thin or skinny)
  • Gordo (fatty)
  • Gordito (little fatty)
  • Suco (fair skinned)
  • Negrita (little black)

Two years ago, while visiting Margarita Island, I was driving with a Venezuelan friend. He referred to a friend of his as “negrita” – I was shocked. I thought that it was out of bounds – that it was an international insult. But no . . . in Spanish its common term of endearment. A professional friend, a Cuencano, calls his wife “flaca”. When translated literally means “skinny woman”. In English, it doesn’t sound so nice, but in Spanish it is a sweet expression from a husband.

In Ecuador, people are often identified by where there are from:

  • Cuencano (a person from Cuenca)
  • Guayaquileño (a person from Guayaquil)
  • Quiteño (a person from Quito)

For us, being called Gringos is equivalent to being called Canadian. It simply identifies our origins. It isn’t uncommon to be walking downtown and hear two older Cuencanas say: “Mira – la gringita”, referring to our daughter. They say it with all the love and interest that her own grandmother would. To us, it is a very kind.


What Are the Alternatives to “Gringo”?

While most people from the United States consider themselves “Americans”, this doesn’t have the same meaning here. America isn’t a country: it includes everything from Alaska to Argentina. After all, Ecuador is part of Latin America, located in South America. Technically speaking, everyone from Canada south to Patagonia is an “American”.

If you are from Canada or the United States, you may be called norteamericano (North American). At a glance, it is impossible to tell Canadians, Britians, Australians and New Zealanders apart. So just as the the diverse nationalities of Latin America have been grouped (right or wrong) under the term “Latino”, it seems that “Gringo” have come to define foreigners as a group in Latin America. Have you noticed a Gringo Superiority Complex?

What do you say? Are you offended by the term? If you are Ecuadorian, what do you say about it?

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We’re getting close. Excitement fills the air as we continue testing, preparing and solidifying our plans. Attending Overland Expo West 2016 was great and we had the opportunity to catch up with a lot of good folks, check out vehicles, attend training and get new ideas. If you missed it, not to worry, Overland Expo East is coming up soon and we’ll keep you posted. Attending Overland West gave us a great opportunity to shake down our vehicles and equipment prior to our departure for Argentina this fall. Additionally we had the opportunity to visit family, friends and a few of our wonderful state and national parks. So, meanwhile enjoy this pics of our wonderful tour across the US of A and few of the expo. Thanks for following.

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Davis Falls Belize, the final cut!

Posted: April 8, 2016 by bernardbarbour in Expedition/Travel

Thanks to our partners Ashley & Adam Swierczek, and Angela & Scott Woodhams for documenting their adventure to Davis Falls Belize. Enjoy!


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A hearty welcome at the King’s Children Home Orphanage
by Scott Woodhams

This week, we spent the afternoon at the children’s home in Belize. We were able to get 90 % of the list they had provided, that they were in need of. Thanks to all who contributed to the purchase! Ms. Leoni, the children, and her brother were very grateful for the food and other items.

It was such a blessing to be able to meet and talk with the children. I, of course, became the amusement park ride for the smaller children, providing piggy back rides around the facility. News traveled fast, and soon other friends came for their ride too!

We got the grand tour of the farm that they have recently began building. Complete with 5 cows, 1 bull, and 3 newborn calves. This provides the needed milk for the children, along with beef in the future. One of the older boys, George, who recently lost his mother, came to live at the home. He has found a new passion taking care of all of the animals, some 125 laying hens, several sheep, 9 cows, and a couple dozen chickens for eating. He has named each one of the cows, and they come to the sound of his voice. Very valuable experience, and I’m sure consolation in his own situation. Ms. Leoni said George would sleep out in the pasture and chicken coops with the animals, if they would let him. He truly loves what he does.
He told stories as we walked, I with another tag along on my back, of the garden they started, only to have the cows get in and wreak havoc, with the freshly grown greens! They plan to re plant soon.

Currently with 74 children in the home, vegetables are a necessity.
Moses, was a young boy of about 3 that stayed by my side, messing up my sweaty hair with his hands, making it stick up everywhere. It was 94 degrees and humid, so the extra body heat and sun caused excessive sweating! He reluctantly gave up his spot on my shoulders for his friend Emerson, a 5 year old.

On the back side of the property, there were 1 or 2 youth mission teams pouring concrete (by hand), for the foundation of the new on site church building. Although you could tell the youth were struggling with the heat, rolled up sleeves, and ghostly white skin from lack of previous sunshine, they were working hard and smiling.

It is fulfilling to see so many people willing to help these children in need. My wife and I’s heart is to provide food and housing for every child in need, throughout the world! Even though this seems almost unobtainable, God doesn’t place a desire this big in your heart without his provision. So we will continue to go as we are called!

Do you have a dream so big that it would seem ridiculous to those around you? So big that it doesn’t seem realistic? Don’t be afraid to follow your heart and dream big! God has placed a calling on everyone of our lives. We are all a different piece of the puzzle. Each piece is as important as the others, to accomplish His plan.

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Thanks to our esteemed  co-founders  and correspondents Angela and Scott Woodhams who are now “On the Road in Belize” we have these wonderful pictures to share of daily life there. Enjoy!

And if you have any questions about traveling to and around Belize please check out: On the Road in Belize

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What do we do in Belize when family comes to town?

We make Chocolate !

by Scott Woodhams

Yesterday we took a road trip on the road in Belize, down the Southern highway toward Punta Gorda. We took my brother and his wife Rebekah Lynn Woodhams, to Ixcacao Mayan Chocolate farm, one of our favorites! As usual, Juan Cho greeted us with a big welcome, and his infectious laugh. We took a quick tour viewing a cacao tree that displayed tiny flowers waiting to be pollinated, to a full blown cacao pod. We were intrigued to find out the fact that the nuisance “No see-um” bugs play a large roll in the growing of cacao, as they are what pollinate the flowers. So keep that in mind the next time you are swatting at them madly!

Inside we were treated to a demonstration, and trying our hand at peeling the cacao beans, grinding the beans on a generational stone, and ultimately eating 100% cacao. We had it in both liquid (hot chocolate), and candied forms.

We found out about all of the healthy benefits of eating this chocolate (yes!). In its pure form, it is has tremendous medicinal and health attributes, including reversing cancer cells. Do not confuse this with the highly processed nutrient depleted cocoa powder we are used to getting. This is 100% natural, truly farm to table. This was followed up by a traditional Mayan meal including chicken sauted in chocolate (amazing), white rice, greens, and fried plantain. Chocolate zen!

The amazing part is that this whole operation is 5 generations old, operated by the family and some hired help. Juan just added 20 more acres of cacao trees to try to keep up with the demand.

In 2014, Jimmy Carter, former president of the U.S., visited and immediately began a whole foods diet with pure cacao from IXcacoa. Well you know that he recently announced that he was cancer free!

This stuff is amazing and it tastes great too. Due to being a family operated facility, the production is limited, just the way they want it. Juan prides himself on providing superior quality control so the taste remains consistent. They offer so many flavors it’s hard for me to choose. I like dark chocolate, coconut, orange, ginger, and nibs.

We bought our share to eat later and headed to a nearby ruins. Luckily, I found out Anita Reimer Loewen, carries several flavors of the Ixcacao bars at her store, Healthy Addictions, in Maya Beach. So I will be able to get my fix in the future. She is one of only two people that distribute the chocolate in Belize, besides the actual farm! The other is on Caye Caulker. Love my chocolate, and it’s healthy! This really is paradise!

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Can you get a decent cup of coffee in Belize?

by  Scott Woodhams

My resounding answer is, Yes! We set out in search of a good cup of java, and we’re pleased to find at the end of a pothole ridden dirt road in Southern Belize, a beautiful resort called Belcampo. Here they offer cappuccino, mocha, medium roast, frappuccino, and good old black coffee. We found that while currently the resort is drying and roasting Guatemalan beans,  trees have been planted, and they anticipate their own beans to be available within 1 – 1/2 years. The staff was excellent, attentive, and informative educated us on the science and mathematics behind making their coffees consistent every time. Everything from how to correctly steam the milk (not too hot), to the exact weight and compression of the ground beans. Let me tell you it really paid off. The coffee was fresh, flavorful, and delicious! The aroma alone heightened our senses anticipating, as each cup was individually prepared and served. Once served, we enjoyed the spectacular views right from the dining room and deck, while wandering and sipping our brews. The many species of birds could be heard and seen, as if we were in our own personal sanctuary. Off in the distance, glimpses of the Caribbean Sea could be seen glistening through the tree tops. If you are ever down near Punta Gorda, I recommend you give them a try, even if only for your own cup of bliss!

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Meet one of our Sponsor. Aieee!

Posted: February 25, 2016 by bernardbarbour in Expedition/Travel

Hello Tales of the Pan American Highway friends. Every week we will feature one of our sponsors. Those companies, people and organizations who toil quietly in the background to keep us going.

We would like to publically thank all of our sponsors for their time, commitment and participation, assisting  us in making the world a better place. Be it through a charitable donation of time, monetary assistance or just helping us spread the word about a particular project or event, all has been welcomed.

This week the spotlight is on:

Chef Ted Bourque

Lafayette  Louisiana

Always a favorite stop of ours whether coming from or going to Central America and beyond. No road trip through Louisiana is complete without stopping in to visit with Chef Bourque, his wife lovely wife Shirley,  and our favorite neighborhood friend ” No Air Time John” John Dupree.  Talk about the best Cajun cooking in Louisiana, a night of howling karaoke, and a warm send off in either direction, Chef Bourque, his wife, and the Lafayette crew keep us humming  along.  Known throughout Cajun Country for his famous cooking of authentic specialty dishes, be sure to tune in to his Youtube channel for mouth watering recipes and humorous stories about life on the bayou. You can also buy one of his books on Amazon. Aieee! Thank you dear followers for supporting our sponsors.

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by Tammy Barbour

So my husband looks across the dinner table at me one evening last year and said “Let’s drive to South America all the way to the end of Argentina.” I froze, my fork full of food stopping just short of putting it in my mouth. My first response was “What??” then “Can we even do that?”

That was his chance to explain his dream to me and get me on board. Excitedly, he spoke about the Pan American Highway, Aztecs, Mayans, Inca’s the Andes and Patagonia,  all sorts of exotic things. Luckily with my experience in driving with him through Central America before, I understood it all. I thought about it for a split second and then I said “YES”.
We do not have the HOW all figured out but the WHY is….. Why not and because we want to. We want to experience lands, people, and cultures different from our own. My husband and I are inflicted with the same incurable condition: an insatiable case of wanderlust that is currently flaring up for both of us.
We now have lots of travel books and have done tons of research on border crossings and logistics, etc. Over the next few months we will prepare for our grand journey which may take about a year. Do we have everything figured out or have tons of money saved for this trip? No. But our WHY is big enough to overcome any issues we may encounter. Besides, it is the journey, not the destination. And thus Tales of the Pan American Highway was born…… and now you know the rest of the story.
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