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Working as a Journalist Abroad

The Best Way to Meet Colorful People

Working as a journalist abroad provides insights into the country and its culture you could never get by traveling as a tourist. It also allows you to research in depth many fascinating subjects and meet all manner of colorful local people, from government ministers and entrepreneurs to artists and cockfighting barons.

Don’t expect state-of-the-art offices. At the Bolivian Times, where I worked as a volunteer reporter for one of the country’s only English-language paper, the atmosphere was one of controlled chaos. Many of the computers were old. Internet access was spasmodic. I was amazed that, despite the challenges, a professional paper would emerge each week.

Many of the expat reporters also taught English part time. Teaching didn’t interest me, but I joined other volunteers helping at a local children’s home. I only regret my writing didn’t allow me to spend more time with the children.

Bolivia is in the depths of an economic crisis and cash flow is tight, so many newspaper advertisers paid in goods and services. A local coffee house supplied our office with scrumptious cakes every afternoon. However, intercambios don’t pay the bills. While Bolivia is cheap (3-course meals for $1, taxis for five cents), some cash reserves might increase your security should payday be delayed.

On one particularly enjoyable intercambio a hotel advertiser invited our entire office for a weekend in the sleepy, sub-tropical town of Coroico. The only problem was getting there. The Coroico road has been described as the "world’s most dangerous." Vehicles drop over its unprotected edge at a rate of one every two weeks, with fatal consequences.

Along with a number of other writers, I chose to mountain bike down the road rather than risk the minibus. The thrilling journey was well worth it and so was the tranquil Coroico hotel where I could get acquainted and practice my Spanish with the entire Bolivian staff.

For More Info

i-to-i organizes volunteer placement packages, English teaching, and commercial placements. Contact: 9 Blenheim Terrace, Leeds LS2 9HZ, U.K.; 011-44-870-333-2332, fax 011-44-113-242-2171; info@onlinetefl.com, www.onlinetefl.com.

Bolivian Times, Casilla 1696, La Paz, Bolivia; 011- 591-2-441-348; Tel./fax 011-591-2-441-348; info@boliviantimes.com; www.boliviatimes.com.


Martin Li in Vilcabamba