Travelling solo female inCentral America on a budget-First stop Belize

Once again, I decided to escape the harsh Canadian winter and spend it in Guatemala with a friend.  As usual, my trip wasn’t just one stop at a beach and an all-inclusive resort.  Despite my intention to relax, I had come to realize that my trips are never quite relaxing but instead consisted of at least 2 long bus rides, some in chicken buses, hostels and street food.  While this kind of travelling certainly isn’t for everyone, the experiences and encounters with local people make it all the more worth it.

I was unable to find a cheap flight to Guatemala, so instead ended up flying into Belize for 1/2 the price.  My plan, if you can call it a plan was to fly into Belize, catch the bus to Guatemala and then go to Nicaragua.  I had heard Belize was expensive and been on a student budget, decided to just use it as a one night stop.

I arrived at the Calgary airport and I knew it was going to be a good trip when they announced that West Jet was celebrating it’s 1 million flight to Belize and everyone was a winner! We all were handed a bag with one free hotel, a free week parking and a 20 dollar food voucher! After all these years of flying, I was finally reaping the benefits!

When I arrived at the Belize airport, it was about 20 degrees warmer while I waited for my ride to come. I had booked a night at the Red Hut Inn. A hostel bed for $20 US a night in the safer part of town (the north part).  While I waited for my ride to come I met a couple of interesting guys from Belize.  The guy was a soccer coach for youth and had travelled everywhere.  Speaking with him brought me back to why I love travelling.  Having the opportunity to meet someone from a different culture and to find out you have more similarities than you think is inspiring! Studying about intercultural competencies for my research certainly makes me more aware of why it is important to relax and just engage in dialogue with others.  Before I had left, I must admit there was a part of me that was a little worried. I had read that Belize was dangerous and women should be cautious.  While of course, it is important to be cautious, if you are too cautious and scared to talk to anyone, you may deny yourself an opportunity to learn about ourselves and others.

Finally, my new Belizian friend called my hostel for me (since my phone didn’t work) and they said they were on their way.  I questioned if they forgot me, but nonetheless waiting at the airport for an extra 45 min had given me the opportunity to meet someone new.  The driver picked me up and drove me to the Red Hut Inn-http://red-hut-inn-belize.50megs.com.   On the way, he taught me a bit of Kriol (one of the 3rd Belizian languages) and then dropped me off.  The Red Hut Inn was a fairly basic hostel, but good enough for one night. There was a large rooftop patio where a couple of American guys spent talking, a guy from Germany and a girl from Toronto.

20171223_075330Another thing I love about hostels, is while they may not be glamorous, they do offer opportunities to learn about other people and cultures  In my experience in staying at hostels, hostellers are often more adventurous and willing to take risks, while saving money on accommodation and of course, the social areas are platforms for enriching conversations to take place.

However, my stomach took over and my first priority was food.  Not wanting to travel far for food, the receptionist recommended a local Greek restaurant called Sahara Grill (

 

about a 10-minute walk so I headed there and had a lamb chop, rice and veggies a glass of red wine.  Not exactly Belizian cuisine, but I’ll take it. Tomorrow, I am taking the bus to Guatemala city so this was my experience in Belize, but I will come here on my way back.

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Tips on Interviewing Second Language students

Interviewing Second Language Students

In relation to interviews that involve participants whose first language is not English (i.e. immigrants, refugees or ESL post-secondary students), it is important to be aware of cultural differences, language barriers and ensure that your interview questions are clear and easy to understand. When a language barrier exists between qualitative researchers and their interviewees, the research can come with unique challenges (Temple & Young, 2004). Despite the emphasis on cross-cultural communication, researchers have paid little attention to the effects of the language of the interview or cultural backgrounds of interviewees and the interviewer (Polio & Friedman, 2017).

I have had the opportunity to interview and transcribe interviews from a study on second language writing and culture and a study on online feedback and post-secondary ESL student’s perceptions and experiences. I will take what I learned from conducting these interviews and transcribing these interviews to my own research study, from the literature and discussions with peers.

I have included a few points below from my insights:

  1. Listening
    • Listening is key in any interview, but I really had to listen closely to understand some of the students due to their accents and use of words.
  1. Building Trust and Relationships

For the study I was working on, I did two rounds of interviews with the students. The follow up interviews took place a month after the first one.

      • I did not know the students, but I did find that during the second round of interviews, they seemed to be more open and trust me more.
      • I was flexible with scheduling interview times to accommodate participant’s schedules which may have helped build our relationship.
      • In my own study, I am aware that it will take a lot of time and flexibility to gain access and build relationships and trust.
  1. Ensuring that language is clear and easy to understand
    • As with any interviews, it is important to make the language clear and easy to understand. It is even more important for second language learners.
      • I had to rephrase some questions in a couple of ways before the meaning was clear as some of the participants did not understand the terminology.
    • I will remember this with my own study as I am looking at a construct that is not easy to understand (intercultural competence).
  1. Using a translator or interviewing in the participant’s second language?
    • Using an interpreter can be beneficial as participants can speak in their first language and may able to speak in more depth about the topic and their perspective
    • However, if one uses an interpreter, the researcher must be aware of the “interpreter version” of the interview.
    • In this study, I interviewed students in their second language (English) which may have limited their ability to express themselves freely and clearly.
  1. Body Language
    • Taking account of participant’s body language is critical.
    • It is valuable for researchers in the field, to consider the interview’s non-linguistic aspects, e.g. the interviewees’ body language, gestures and other sources of ‘unsaid’ data, as they represent an interesting source of research information (Talmy, 2010).
    • Researchers need to be aware of other forms of communication norms within interviews, including non-verbal communication, which may differ between cultures. (Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2011)
  1. Taking notes
    • Even though I was recording the interviews (with the permission of the participants), I found it was beneficial to take notes.

Transcribing

        1. Patience and time
    • Transcribing takes a lot of patience, concentration and time. Take breaks and go back to it, but it often better to finish one transcription at once.
    • I always do one round and then go back to do a second listen right after I listen to the fist so that it is fresh in my mind.
    • I often pick up phrases or words after I listen to the transcription the second time.
  1. Online tool used for transcribing are: 
    1. O transcribe

References

Talmy, S. (2010). Qualitative Interviews in Applied Linguistics: From Research Instrument to Social Practice. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 30, 128-148. doi:10.1017/S0267190510000085

Polio, C. & Friedman, A. (2017). Understanding, Evaluating, and Conducting Second Language Writing Research. Taylor and Francis, Roudege.

Samovar, L., Porter, R., & McDaniel, E. (2011). Intercultural communication: A reader. Cengage Learning

Temple, B. & Young, A. (2004). Qualitative research and translation dilemmas. Qualitative Research. 4 (2). 161-176. doi.org/10.1177/1468794104044430

Travel Stories

Are you visiting Calgary, Alberta? Did you move to Calgary,Alberta? If so, do you have a story to tell? Stories can be funny, sad, serious, frustrating, scary, dangerous or surprising! Examples include:

Love/Romance

Weather

Meeting a local Calgarian

Touching moments

Cultural Misunderstandings

Getting Lost

Outdoor Adventure

Travel Issues

Immigration Issues

These are just examples. I am looking for all types of stories.  Maybe you were chased by a bear and lived to tell it? Did you try skiing for the first time or maybe you met a great Calgarian or a really bad Calgarian! So, go ahead send me a story! I would love to read it!

Thanks!

Erica

Contact me for more information!

Travel Stories

Are you visiting Calgary? Did you move to Calgary,Alberta? new to Calgary, Alberta? If so, do you have a story to tell? Stories can be funny, sad, serious, frustrating, scary, dangerous or surprising! Examples include:

Love/Romance

Weather

Meeting a local Calgarian

Touching moments

Cultural Misunderstandings

Getting Lost

Outdoor Adventure

Travel Issues

Immigration Issues

These are just examples. I am looking for all types of stories.  Maybe you were chased by a bear and lived to tell it? Did you try skiing for the first time or maybe you met a great Calgarian or a really bad Calgarian! So, go ahead send me a story! I would love to hear it!

Thanks!

Erica

How to survive in Cuba without your luggage?

I remember when I went to Cuba last winter.  As usual, I had managed to find a last minute flight at a cheap rate.  Because of this, I did not have a direct flight.  Instead I was to fly to Toronto, stay the evening and then catch the morning flight to Varadero.  So, there I was with my large backpack and my small backpack.  I purposely put everything into my large backpack so I would not get harassed at the airport as I was always treated as though I was someone trying to sneak stuff into the country.  So, what happened.. Well, when I arrived in Varadero, I waited patiently for my luggage to appear on the carasoel and so I waited and waited and waited.  I soon discovered, that my luggage had taken a different flight. It had decided to a) either stay in Toronto  or b) go to a different destination.

So, what did I do:

First, I did not panic!  There was no need to panic at this point. In fact, this had never happened to me before and thought it could make a great story. Just think, great story.  Chances are, you’ve packed too much anyways!! Have a snack and a drink . So, first I went to security and was asked to pick the description out of a lineup of backpacks! Then, I took out a granola bar (something I had put in my daypack-hey I was hungry and needed energy. Then I proceeded to fill out all the necessary paperwork for westjet to find my bag.  At this point, I found out I would be awarded a daily allowance to shop for necessary items.  “You are not to shop for cigars or souvenirs, the stern voice on the other end of the phone instructed me.  “This is just for necessary items.”   Oh, darn I was thinking of getting some cigars! Well, I must admit I wasn’t as upset as I thought I would be.  It actually kind of excited me.  Frankly, I was sick of my clothing anyways. I needed some new items, although I had just bought a new bathing suit!

So, it turned out this task was not as easy or fun as I though.  First, I was not given all the money in one lump sum. Secondly, I was to get receipts for every item. Third, I was not to buy souvenirs or cigars (did I mention that already).  So, how does one survive without their luggage for a week?

I had learned a lot throughout the week. 1) If you are going to a warm country, pack a good pair of sandles in your daypack.. It was too hot to walk around in my runners and the cheap flip flops I had bought gave me blisters.  It took me 4 days to figure out it was worth it to spend my entire daily allowance on a good pair of walking sandles.  After all, I needed those to beat the pavement scouring for ‘necessary items everyday. Secondly, those small resort town only have overpriced touristy items.  Be prepared to come home looking as though you are an ambassador for Cuba.  Third, be prepared to never see your luggage again.

When my luggage did eventually arrive, I was oddly enough somewhat disappointed.  I was just about to leave the resort for my trek around Cuba and now would have to lug around all of this stuff.  It turned out I could easily survive on a couple of shorts and a dress.. I just needed a good pair of shoes.

 

Hub and Spoke

For my hub and spoke model, I am going to put myself in the shoes of a marketing manager for recruiting international students, agents and schools to your program. I would make my website or blog as my hub. I would most likely put a website or a blog in the middle, because I am in control of my website or blog and its content. A third party can not change the format like they can with Facebook or Twitter. As for my spokes, I would have a LinkedIn profile up as this may appeal to various professionals in the field (other schools, agents, recruiters). I would also have a Facebook site as a lot of students may have Facebook accounts and may feel comfortable using this form of social media. I would hope to gain fans and likes via Facebook which would bring them to my website or blog. I would also have YouTube as a spoke as I could put up videos (with other students consent) of past students, lessons and activities. Again, they would be directed to my blog or website. Twitter would be put as another spoke as a another way to gain followers and engagement. Past, current and prospective clientele could go back and forth on why they are looking for, why they like/dislike the program (past/current students) and what they are looking for. This was I could see what people are looking for and look to see what changes can be made.

I would use SlideShare another way to keep past and current clientele and attract potential clientele as it is very visual and you can say what you want to say short and to the point. This may appeal to an international audience whose first language is not English and does not have the ability or time to read a lot of text in English.

With these social media sites, I should be able to drive people to my website or blog. I would also be able to see what sites worked better than others and if I needed to use other social media sites, but to start with, I would use these ones.

Mountain Equipment Co-op Persona

Persona #1-Mark-44 year old father of 3

Mark is a 44 year old Caucasian father of 3 teenagers, 2 girls and a boy (13, 15 and 17). He has a Bachelor of Education and currently works in a school teaching physical education and English. Mark is very outdoorsy and loves to camp, rock climb and hike in the summer and back country ski, downhill ski and snowshoe in the winter. He often goes with his family. Mark spends a lot of time shopping at Mountain Equipment Coop with his 3 teenagers and his wife. He spends time on the Mountain Equipment Co-op website to look for sales and new products. His teenagers spend a lot of time on the online social media sites to keep current. They will often keep their father updated on the latest trends and new products available.
Mark also shops at Mountain Equipment Co-op for supplies for the outdoor education classes he takes his students on. Mark grew up in Vancouver, but came to Calgary to be with his wife and for his work. He lives in a house in Canyon Meadows which is close to his children’s school and his work.

Persona #2-Jen-25 year old single white female

Jen is a Caucasian female who moved to Calgary to go to school at SAIT. She graduated with a marketing certificate in oil and gas 3 years ago and currently works as an office manager at TransCanada Pipelines. Her family lives in Saskatoon, Saskatewan and she has no children. Jen is single and owns a small 2 condo in the Beltline. She purchased her condo 3 years ago and in her spare time loves to ski, hike and bike. She belongs to a hiking club and a ski club. Jen is on many social media sites and checks into her sites daily-such as Twitter and Facebook to give feedback on products on Mountain Equipment Co-op and look for feedback and ideas.