100 DAYS — 100 WAYS

For our hundredth day abroad, we made a list of a hundred things we have seen so far in South America that you don’t find back home.

  1. DSC06566 (1024x1024)There are countless stray dogs (and cats in some towns) everywhere from the parks to the streets to the beaches.
  2. Obviously, the wildlife is quite different and ranges across the continent: from penguins in the far south to toucans in the rain forest to geckos and pelicans in the tropics.
  3. The definition of a thunderstorm has been completely redefined – when a thunderstorm hits it HITS; the rain comes down in buckets and the noise of the thunder is insanely loud and rattles buildings. There is also generally very little warning that one is coming and you have very little time to find shelter before you’re absolutely drenched.
  4. DSC06017 (1024x1024)Wildlife and livestock commonly wander through the streets of smaller cities and towns.
  5. DSC06773 (1024x1024)Llamas are treated like celebrities in Andean cities. On weekends, they are groomed, dressed up and march into the cities main plazas where people pay to have photos taken with them.
  6. White sand beaches, palm trees, fresh coconuts, and beach bungalows actually exist.
  7. DSC04853 (1024x1024)Fresh road side juice is a common theme from fresh squeezed orange juice in the south to lemonade in Bolivia to tropical smoothies in Ecuador and acai bowls in Brazil. All for less than the price of a bottle of water back home.
  8. There is an abundance of cheap exotic tropical fruit – ranging from passion fruits to fruits with names that have no English translation for as cheap as 10 cents at the local market.
  9. DSC05019 (1024x1023)Almost every town or city has a large open air market that is filled with fruits, vegetables, meat and fish (in sea-side towns) where all the locals shop for groceries.
  10. You can also buy live chicks at most of these markets.
  11. Meat and dairy products are seldom refrigerated and as a result we rarely purchased them.
  12. IMG_4910 (1024x1024)Eggs are never refrigerated and are sold individually and put into a plastic bag to carry home.
  13. Like eggs, many other things can be bought individually out of a package – i.e. need just one battery or craving that one cigarette?
  14. In grocery stores there is someone in the fruit/veggie section to price all your items, likewise in the bread section (anything by weight) as the front registers do not have scales. This means multiple line ups before you get out of the grocery store.
  15. Everything is sold bagged instead of bottled – condiments, milk, water and even food on the streets.
  16. Pop is sold in 3L bottles.
  17. Beer is sold in 1L bottles.
  18. You can drink alcohol anywhere, anytime; we have seen people open and finish their beers in the grocery store before even paying multiple times.
  19. IMG_5023Local liquors: Chocolate/passion fruit Pisco (Peru), Fernet (Argentina), 2$ bottles Malbec (Argentina)
  20. Matte is huge in southern South America – almost everyone carries a thermos and hot water is available everywhere.
  21. Almost all restaurants offer a super cheap “Menu of the Day”.
  22. When ordering at a restaurant you will be looked at like you’re crazy if you try and alter the dish you’re requesting – most places seemingly haven’t heard of allergies. Most will just say that it isn’t possible (even for something as simple as not sprinkling cheese on a salad) and tell you to order something else. As for the waiters that do understand you, they don’t seem to care enough to actually check on all of the ingredients (i.e. the ones not listed on the menu).
  23. Walking down the streets in the “restaurant part of town” or in touristy areas, waiters will constantly try and shove a menu in your face as if this will make you want to eat at their restaurant.
  24. When you order a drink with your food it is brought out at the same time as your food and not before.
  25. A ham and cheese sandwich consists of bread, one slice of ham and one slice of cheese; likewise with many menu options: you get what you order, literally – no sauces, dressing, etc.
  26. As a whole, the bread in South America is awful. Baguette-style bread is plentiful and cheap but has no real crust (or taste) and is usually very crummy and full or air or very stale.
  27. “Breakfast” consists of one to two pieces of bread (see above) possibly served with jam and instant coffee which made the “free breakfasts” some hostels offer less appealing.
  28. DSC02962 (1024x1024)Instant coffee is extremely common and the norm in most countries south of Colombia.
  29. The common time to eat dinner is 10 to 11PM (Argentina, Chile and Brazil).
  30. Likewise, people don’t head to the bars and clubs until around midnight and they are open as late as 7AM.
  31. IMG_5204 (1024x1024)Across South America (even in the cold regions in the south) almost all stores close for siesta time – times vary but are usually between noon and five in the afternoon.
  32. Don’t bother making plans to do, buy or get something on a Sunday. Everything is closed, especially in smaller towns or cities.
  33. IMG_4767 (1024x1024)Holidays (especially religious ones) are a big deal and generally last a lot longer than one day – examples: Carnival and Easter both last about a week and everything shuts down during these days.
  34. Everywhere uses 24-hour time and there is no abbreviated translation in Spanish for AM or PM.
  35. Internet cafes which double as calling centres are still common and actually used by locals. One can be found on almost every block in larger cities.
  36. Coin laundry machines do not exist –  you can pay someone to do your laundry (self laundry service is unheard of).
  37. There is a major lack of big box department stores. Instead there are hundreds of little shops scattered all over the city and you have to go through each one to find a specific item you need.
  38. As mentioned above, the little shops are usually all grouped together in blocks. For example, if you want a haircut, you walk to the ‘barber’ neighbourhood where you will find about five to thirty barbershops all next to each other on one street. Same goes for electronics, car parts, etc.
  39. Imported products are uncommon, hard to find and expensive if you do find them as they are discouraged and heavily taxed by the government.
  40. You can buy almost anything on the street (except real imported products – you’ll find plenty of fakes).
  41. You can buy most prescription drugs without the prescription and you don’t get the packaging, instructions or box when you purchase them (just the pills in a sealed packet).
  42. Pharmacies are everywhere, you’ll find one on almost every block in town (except when you’re actually looking for one).
  43. IMG_5048 (1024x1024)Public plazas – beautiful open areas with trees, grass, seats, benches and more can be found in every neigbourhood.
  44. The USD is accepted almost everywhere and you usually get a better exchange rate having USD cash than the legal rate (extreme example: the blue market in Argentina).
  45. Generally speaking, everything has two sets of prices – local and gringo.
  46. Most of the time there is no set pricing or price stickers on anything which becomes extremely frustrating when the price on the same item from the same mini-market varies daily.
  47. The advertised manufacture retail price (if there is one) is not what the item is being sold for.
  48. If there does happen to be a price tag on an item, the price you see is the price you pay. Tax and fees are always included.
  49. Getting/having change is a problem. This is usually due inflated currencies, low prices for the majority of items being bought and an overall lack of small bills and coins in each country.
  50. Banks are always very busy. Line ups for ATM’s go around the block, same goes for bank teller lineups. We have also noticed that everyone carries a file folder with them when going to the bank (probably because online banking doesn’t exist?).
  51. DSC05929 (1024x1024)It is common to see traditionally dressed indigenous people throughout the Andes.
  52. Most of the large cities from Bolivia to Colombia are above 2000m with some even higher than 4000m!
  53. DSC05527 (1024x1024)  Coca leaves are chewed by everyone to help overcome altitude sickness and you can buy bags of the leaves in any Andean city.
  54. It’s not uncommon to see a constant stream of windblowers (our nickname for ‘hippie’ travellers as described in a previous post) selling food and handicrafts on the beach.
  55. DSC06548 (1020x1024)On the beaches, girls commonly wear very skimpy bikinis (on some beaches a g-string thong bikini is completely acceptable). Men’s bathing suits are also quite a bit shorter and tighter.
  56. People (including locals) wear their backpacks on their front likely to prevent theft. Supposedly knifing open a backpack and stealing the contents without the wearer noticing is common.
  57. DSC06572 (1024x1024)It is shockingly common to see unsupervised very young children running freely through the streets, beaches, parks, etc.
  58. On public transportation you will almost always encounter a performer, a preacher, a blind beggar stumbling through the crowded bus, or someone try to sell a product (giving about a 5 minute speech about a simple product such as a chocolate bar and handing it out to everyone to evaluate) – and people actually give money to most of the above examples.
  59. There are more android phones than iPhones.
  60. Many South American countries use 220V electricity.
  61. IMG_5205 (1024x1024)While some countries use different sized plugs they tend to have universal or at least dual electrical outlets.
  62. Electrical wiring is a disaster and would never come close to meeting North American standards.
  63. IMG_5202 (1024x1024)There are no electric stoves and very few gas stoves with electric starters – carry a lighter or matches if you’re planning on cooking.
  64. Light shades or covers don’t seem to be a thing here – instead light bulbs blindingly shine from ceilings everywhere.
  65. IMG_5282 (1024x1024)The most common type of shower is an electric shower head where the exposed wiring is right in the shower with you and there are three options – low, medium and high. Don’t be surprised if grabbing the shower tap shocks you.
  66. Sinks only have cold water – washing your hands or dishes with hot or warm water is impossible. Most of the time the hot water tap on a sink is only there for show and does nothing when you turn it.
  67. Toilet paper gets thrown into a waste bin – low pressure plumbing doesn’t allow toilet paper in the toilet.
  68. Generally there is no toilet paper available anyways – carry your own.
  69. All public bathrooms charge a fee to enter and often times it is unclear what you are paying for as they are not maintained and don’t offer toilet paper.
  70. DSC05009 (1024x1024)Concrete is mixed right on the sidewalk with shovels for smaller projects and their appears to be no standards or quality control (this makes us cringe as civil/mechanical engineers). All construction in the continent is mind boggling to us actually.
  71. DSC05920 (1024x1022)Clay bricks are by far the most common building material (from single story buildings to high-rises) and construction is very sloppy. The mortar/grout literally looks like it is jut slapped on.
  72. In coastal towns bamboo is a common construction material, accompanied with straw roofs.
  73. IMG_5206 (1024x1024)If you thought city workers in Canada were painfully slow you would be stunned by workers in South America. We once saw a guy painting circles on parking spots (there were about thirty circles) and this was a three day job.
  74. Most structures look unfinished from up top. They have rebar sticking out of columns (most likely because it gives them the option to continue building vertically if they ever wanted too).
  75. It is common to come across door frames that are less than 6’0″ tall.
  76. There is a major lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) used by labourers.
  77. While it varies from country to country, on the whole there is a complete lack of efficiency and an abundance of patience – no one seems to blink an eye when they have to wait 45 minutes in a grocery store line when there are only five people in front of them. Our saying was “hurry up and wait”
  78. Contrary to the above, there is a complete lack of patience on the roads. If the light is green for more than half a second people have already started honking and there is very little regard given to red lights (and none at all to yellow).
  79. DSC06589 (1024x1024)They ride bikes/cars/tuktuks on the beach selling goods.
  80. Tuk-tuks (motorized tricycles) are used as taxis.
  81. Combis/Collectivos are used as cheaper alternatives to buses. Similar to the system on buses, there is a per person fee depending on the distance traveled. Each one has a designated route; however, you can get on and off anywhere along this route, not just at a designated stop. In some countries these combis are very uncomfortable as they will pack in up to 24 passengers in a mini-van sized vehicle.
  82. Pedestrians most definitely do not have the right of way.
  83. DSC05011 (1024x1024)Pedestrian traffic signals display a running person, not a walking one.
  84. No one is phased by the constant sound of car alarms going off or the continuous honking all around them. It seems like the horn has lost all meaning, its just another background noise in the city.
  85. Cars actually run on natural gas. Many cars are converted to run on natural gas which is sold at most gas stations.
  86. Gas stations are located in strange locations (for example, the median of a highway).
  87. Nobody gets out of the way for emergency response vehicles. We have witnessed ambulances sitting in traffic with their sirens on and honking, while no ones moves over.
  88. Police cars always drive with their lights on. Also, we don’t believe they enforce any traffic rules (if there are any)
  89. IMG_5232 (1024x1024)Police officers often control intersections with hand signals and whistles, governing over the traffic lights. And they also have no regard for pedestrians.
  90. The streets in many of the older cities (most) are so narrow buses can barely turn the corners.
  91. Bus drivers think they are formula one race drivers! They accelerate hard, floor it until the last second when approaching a red light, then hit the brakes hard. They take corners so fast that you don’t understand how the bus didn’t roll, don’t come to a complete stop when letting people on or off, all this while the bus is packed over capacity. It makes public transport very uncomfortable.
  92. There is a general lack of safety precautions with transportation – we have yet to be in a taxi where there are working sea belts in the back seats.
  93. IMG_5262 (1024x1024)Hitchhiking is possible but you are expected to pay for your ride and you don’t stick your thumb out, you wave your hand up and down like crazy instead.
  94. Taxis don’t use meters (even if they are installed) and you should always agree on a price before getting in – in most countries you can haggle the price down or find a second/third taxi that will give you a better price. It’s good to have a general idea of what the ride should cost you otherwise you will likely be ripped off.
  95. Fake taxis are a thing. They can be a cheaper option but also a way unsafer option and most countries recommend tourists to have where you stay/eat call you a taxi so you don’t get in a “fake” taxi. Often they look real and the only thing that differentiates them is the colour of their license plate.
  96. Street parking meters don’t exist. Instead, a person patrols a street and collects parking fares while also assisting drivers to park in the narrow streets.
  97. IMG_4635 (1024x1024)Free public outdoor gyms are scattered all around any major city.
  98. Pickup trucks drive through neigbhourhoods blasting banter front megaphones/speakers, we have no idea what they’re advertising/promoting/brain-washing.
  99. DSC05531 (1024x1024)Liter is a problem everywhere. We see people throwing garbage on the street, out of bus windows and in rivers/streams with no care (and recycling is unheard of in most cities).
  100. Overall, the music is terrible; all music has the same rhythm, beat and style – it sounds like the same song on repeat and it’s constantly played everywhere.

2 thoughts on “100 DAYS — 100 WAYS

  1. Anna Jean Msllinson says:

    This is amazing! What a detailed account of day-to-day living. You are so observant! I was amused by the picture on traffic signs of pedestrians running! I can see you have to be patient, flexible and emphasize the positive. How long did it take you to make this list?

  2. Kyra & Daniel says:

    Thank you! Throughout our whole trip we always pointed out things we noticed that were different to each other. Then we came up with the idea to make a list and spent a few hours brainstorming. Took awhile to track down all the photos though.

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