BootsnAll Travel Network

Welcome aboard people

I'm almost back on the road! Hello. This is the blog I (occasionally) wrote during my travels in 2007 and 2008. Now I'm off to India for the summer, working for UNICEF in New Dehi, so I thought I may as well start writing again. I'll try to be more consistent this time...

Peruvian Home Stay

August 7th, 2010

It amazes me that months after I stopped updating this site it still gets a lot of hits. So I’m going to mention my new venture here too (originally posted on my shiny new blog site; This entry can be viewed there with added photos.

And now onto today’s topic….

Back in 2007 I spent some time living in Peru. I had an adventurous few months there during which I survived an 8.0 Earthquake, performed a baptism and ate a chicken that was swimming in its own blood.

And how could I forget, accidentally brought the kids to a torture museum.

Along the way I also befriended a Peruvian family. Kelly and her crew brought me to lots of fun places I would never have heard about from a guidebook. Like the water fountain park that had just made it into the Guinness Book of Records (don’t know why because I was only learning Spanish at the time – I just about understood the Guinness bit).

Kelly and her family have now extended their house and are taking lodgers. This is a great (and cheap) way to live in Peru and get to know the local culture. Whenever people ask me which were my favourite countries on my trip it’s always the countries I spent at least 2 or 3 months in. If I’d stayed in a hostel in Peru, I would have missed out on most of the really incredible experiences I had there.

To help them make the most out of the interweb I’ve set up a little website to get the word out there.
If you know anyone who is looking for a place to stay in Lima, please, spread the word!

I’m now on Twitter. Feel free to follow me @clairecanning. I also Tumblr as Gaeilge (in Irish);

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New Blog!

January 19th, 2010

It’s not quite ready yet, I’m trying to get my old posts from here switched over.
But pretty soon my new site – – will be ready to go!

Since I last blogged I handed in my masters thesis, finished the research for UNICEF, moved back to Ireland, taught some Irish, started climbing mountains, visited Moldova and am now about to move to Kosovo to work for a little know UN agency called UNIFEM.

I’ll post a bit on this until that is fully set up and then it’s bye bye to the Claire who wanted to take on the world after 3 great years of intermittant blogging.


Delhi: Sweaty but Sweet

July 12th, 2009

I’ve decided I really like this city. I always knew I liked it, but while strolling around yesterday evening I decided I really like it. It’s like a year round carnival here; people are pushing around carts with umbrellas selling ice creams and drinks. The tourist attractions are really just attractions. I live by one of the biggest, India gate and it’s mostly local people who go there with their entire family to eat ice cream and jump in the pond.

Delhi makes me laugh when I don’t think it means to. As I got on the underground metro last night I joined the 200 metre queue for the security check and all the men around me excitedly told me to get out of the queue, it’s just for men. Less women use the metro it seems and the free space to my left was the ladies queue. I skipped past them all, and the guard who’d made a fort for himself out of sandbags and went straight to the airport-like security. Every bag gets scanned and regardless of the outcome every person gets searched.

While I was behind the curtain getting poked and prodded by the security lady I noticed a sign with all the items banned from the subway; corpses, decaying animals, bones (unless bleached), human skeletons, manure (of any kind) and dirty t-shirts. Thankfully I had none of those on me yesterday so I passed the inspection.

Delhi is becoming more similar to its western counterparts the whole time. The newest addition is chain fitness centres with the tag line ‘It’s not just for movie stars’. I wandered in for the first time after my metro ride. It may actually be only for movie stars; the visit cost half my weekly salary. The upside is the gym comes with free soft drinks, so I made some of the money back, but then it may have defeated the purpose of the visit. I tried a spin class, which was just like a spin class back home. Except for the amount of mobile phones on bikes and people mid way through a sprint hopping off to take a call. When it was all over and time to stretch half the class decided that was unnecessary bending and so left! Most made their way to the Pepsi machine before moving on to the treadmill. That must have hurt.

Our field work is now over and we have four weeks to write a 30 page report on how the water and sanitation programme is being maintained…..or not as we may write. I don’t think I’ve ever been lied to as much in my life. It was clear nothing was happening in most schools, often due to no fault of the staff, but they saw us coming with the government officials in tow and told us what they thought we wanted to hear.

Thing is, children rarely lie. Especially about water and sanitation issues. The schools seemed to have anticipated some of our questions like ‘Who maintains the bio intensive garden’. Don’t think they were expecting us to ask the little ones ‘When was said garden built’. A lot said two to three days ago. One little chap was even more direct and answered “When we heard you were coming”.

After our two weeks in rural India we’re back in the big city. The weather changed since we’ve been away, the monsoon came (although thanks to Mr. Global Warming that no longer means rain – just humidity) and now it’s sticky and sweaty here.

Speaking of global warming, the papers this week have been documenting the fall in tourism in Udaipur. I hope you can see the picture below (I’m using my phone as a modem here….)

Well nowadays tour operators use motorbikes and cars instead of the boat you see in the picture. That photo was taken just last year and somehow one missing monsoon has dried the whole place up! I can’t find the photo of the dry lake but I’ll get it.

My own photos are on route to this blog. They should be here any day now. Once this internet connection speeds up I’ll show all the great photos of the fake gardens, the 3 foot health monitors who I’m supposed to believe administer first aid and the game of snakes and ladders that includes a drop of eight places if you are caught reliving yourself in the open.

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Claire Canning, Toilet Inspector

June 30th, 2009

I bet the title just made my mother well up with pride. Before you get weepy mom, I’m not actually a toilet inspector but everyone here seems to think I am. And it looks like a great job!

We’ve arrive in the southern state of Karnataka. Plan is to spend two weeks travelling around to see if a program UNICEF had from 2003-2007 changed anything among village folk. Seems toilets are not too popular here, the people have their own traditional ways and don’t like officials from the big smoke coming along and telling them to confine themselves to a small cement structure.

The program covered more than just toilets. It also aimed to provide clean drinking water, create gardens in schools so the meal they all get at lunch time has some vegetables, install separate toilets for girls and boys, promote ‘Nali Kali’ (Joyful Learning) and the big one; convince people to wash their hands after going to the toilet and before meals.
Our main issue so far has been that the schools all know that we were coming. We were meant to be testing UNICEF and seeing if their intervention worked. But the schools saw us as inspectors so what we observed may not have been the school on an average day.

The second school we visited was very impressive. We had only just started on school No. 1 when word came through that No. 2 had a fancy meal prepared for us and so we had to get there immediately. Being humongous India ‘the next school’ was an hour away, but we reached and were greeted like returning war heroes. Just as we sat down to eat the entire staff squealed “Hand washing!” and we were paraded out to a bucket they had prepared in the centre of the school courtyard, on an elevated plateau so everyone could see, and right next to the national flag, which made for some lovely photos.

They sat us down and for almost an hour served us a variety of things that I will never be able to describe properly. There was the doughy chilli thing, and the round sweet piece of something. Lots of rice with accompanying coloured water. I was the unfortunate centre of attention as I was eating my one tiny piece of food extremely slowly and guarding my plate from anything anyone would try to put on it. My colleagues noticed the first hygiene strike against the school during the meal; the principal dirtied his hands serving us, grabbed the nearest student and scrubbed himself clean on her skirt! And a clean uniform is something that they are meant to monitor every day!

Next the team split to check out the school and interview different people. I was sent off to do worksheets with the tiny tots on whether they take a bath, wash their hands, that sort of thing. One guy proudly announced how he always uses the toilet and washes his hands with soap. Things were looking good for school No.2, especially when I looked outside and saw the garden and separate boy/girl toilets. Another thing the schools are meant to have are cabinets (of the governmental kind, not wooden). One student is meant to be health minister and together with his team check all the students daily for clean nails, hair, that kind of thing. We were really not expecting anyone to still be doing that 2 years on. But when we mentioned it the health minister jumped up and grabbed his crew.

Things started to unravel when the proud boy who uses the toilet asked to go and Yusra saw him leap up and take off out the school gate. On his return she asked what that had been about. He just shrugged and said how he went on the road, why wouldn’t he? Did he wash his hands? He might have done had he had the school had running water. I went to visit another team mate, Ina, to see how she was getting on with the school cabinet. She whispered “It’s all fake” and suddenly the dream was over. She had heard people congratulate the health minister on his new position. One of his cabinet; the tooth brushing checker had been asked how she checks whether or not people have brushed. She almost started crying; no one had prepared her for that question.

We got a little curious about the separate toilets. Yusra searched out a student who spoke Hindi so we could avoid interpreters (another major problem is having an interviewee who knows nothing of the interventions and an interpreter who not only knows it inside out – but was in charge of the whole thing). We gave up on interviews and just asked the kids casually what the story was with the toilets. They said there are no toilets. What I’d been looking at were some storage rooms with a girl’s head painted on one and a boy’s head painted on the other to give the impression of a toilet.

Next we had to find out about the ‘bio intensive’ garden that looked so pretty. I never questioned why it was just a square piece of soil. I presumed the seeds had just been planted and that in a few months something would be visible above ground. Some students rushed over and asked if we liked their new garden. How new? About 6 hours.

In a way I was impressed, in a day they had cleaned the school, elected a cabinet and made them learn off some detailed answers, installed a ‘Nali Kali’ classroom and taught the kids songs, made the storage room look like a toilet and dug the garden. The sad part was that the kids still had no toilet, and diseases from water with human excrement in it are rampant. Most of the schools we’ve visited have no water, the kids bring from home or else go all day with none. The craziest thing we’ve seen has been a school with three toilet blocks made by three different water and sanitation schemes, and none are in use because there is no water in them. A field is much preferred to a toilet that is stinking from having no water to flush.

Right now we’re over a week into this field work. We’ve just moved to the next district and so far things are looking much better there. The biggest problem in this area is water. When we asked state officials about that they said there is no problem; every village has a well, which is true. But the schools have never installed a mechanism to direct it to their building or store it there. And national level programs seem to keep hearing “Schools have no toilets” and so build more!

So now all that needs to be done is to make the toilets workable, convince the people to use them, and get some soap for after and we can tell UNICEF that Gulbarga is a happy little town!

Photos will be up soon, computers are about as scarce as healthy toilet habits around here.

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Delhi Living

June 15th, 2009

Two weeks in I suppose it’s time to write! Already I’ve been socially faux pas-ing all over the place. Yvonne and I became the two most unpopular girls in school yesterday when we sat at the warden’s table for lunch. All the other people in our hostel were sitting at the tables for regular folk and the only two foreigners in the building strutted right up to the top to sit with the bosses. Not a good move for making friends.

I should probably back up a little bit and introduce the people I will be rambling on about for the rest of the summer. Yvonne is my team-mate, from Hong Kong, currently studying in the US. We’re living in the Indian All Women’s Conference Centre, a place where working women from all over India (and now with us – the world) come to stay when they’re working in Delhi. Our other two team mates are Delhites so they stay at home and we all get together Monday to Friday in our shared office to try and write a case study for UNICEF.
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Someone call for a Toilet Duck?

May 24th, 2009

I got people very excited over the last while. I got my UNICEF mission – I’m working in their Water and Sanitation department. That to me meant toilets. And in India; extremely hot toilets. I spent some time last year teaching Home Economics in India so I learned a bit about their toilets, or latrines. By the end of my time there I could even draw diagrams of the pit latrine and and the snazzy ‘ventilated latrine’.

But it was not to be. Shortly afterwards I was given more information; seems I working with a project that educates school children on all things sanitation so that they can keep their houses in operating room condition. I’ll be stationed in New Delhi, current temperature 41 degrees, and doing my field work in Karnataka state. So I have a 35 hour commute to work. Unless I forget my briefcase or something, I should be only going there once so it shouldn’t be too bad.

I fly out Sunday – since writing the last post I’ve written the 5,000, 6,000 and 1,000 word papers, gotten my shots, visa and luggage. Final two hurdles are Spanish exam and thesis and I am out of here!

Now, to find a place to live….


Here we go again…

May 2nd, 2009

Hello world.
I’ve decided to get back to this blogging thing. I’m four weeks away from another summer in India. Except this time it won’t be in the comfortable surroundings the Himalayan Foothills. I’ve no idea where I’m going yet. UNICEF will let me know where I’m to be stationed by May 15th for an internship I have with them. First I have to do a personality test so they can match me to some other interns to form a team. I’m incredibly worried about failing. I have no time to study as I have a few other things to take care of first; a 5,000 word essay, a 6,000 word essay, a little 1,000 something-or-other, and exam and a thesis of 20,000 words. Then I need some injections to ward off a few illnesses, a visa, some new luggage and I’m all set.
I don’t doubt everyone has forgotten this blog but I think it might help me plan this adventure.

Another adventure, one that involved a whole lot more planning than I’ve ever done is my brother’s round the world trip that he started last week. I’m still waiting for him to update his blog, but I’m assured by his gchat presence that he’s still alive. You can check him out here:

Have a good day all!


Why I love Jet Airways

March 29th, 2009

I’ve been back in Ireland almost 7 months now. I still jump sometimes if I’ve been daydreaming and then suddenly hear an Irish
accent. Hearing that accent was a big event for me for over a year, it’s hard to get used to not getting excited now. Also today in a book store I found myself gently swaying to the right so the guy behind me wouldn’t be directly behind my bag. Force of habit. And a few days ago, for the first time in about 4 months my heart stopped for a second when I couldn’t feel my money belt around my waist, then remembered I haven’t worn a money belt since last August.

Anyway, back to the point of this post. I’m again planning some travelling. Had to wrestle a travel guide out my hands in that book store today. To make up for not getting a new travel book I decided to book my flights to India. And discovered that to celebrate International Women’s Day, Jet Airways are giving me a 10% discount! But even that’s not why I love them.

My love for them stems from their never ending quest to serve their loyal customers. Especially when it comes to food. When booking a flight you can chose what type of meal you’d like. These are the options:

1. Asian Vegetarian Meal
2. Bland Meal – Veg
3. Bland Meal – Non Veg
4. Diabetic Meal – Veg
5. Diabetic Meal – Non Veg
6. Fruit Platter Meal
7. Gluten Free Meal – Veg
8. Gluten Free Meal – Non Veg
9. Jain Meal
10. Lacto Ovo Vegetarian Meal
11. Low Calorie Meal – Veg
12. Low Calorie Meal – Non Veg
13. Low Cholesterol – Veg
14. Low Cholesterol – Non Veg
15. Low Protein Meal – Veg
16. Low Protein Meal – Non Veg
17. Low Purine Meal – Veg
18. Low Purine Meal – Non Veg
19. Low Salt/Sodium Meal – Veg
20. Low Sodium Meal – Non Veg
21. Muslim / Moslem Meal
22. Non-Vegetarian Meal
23. Non-Dairy Meal – Veg
24. Non-Dairy Meal – Non Veg
25. Strict Vegetarian Meal
26. Vegetarian Meal

It’s like a joke they’ve concocted to quieten awkward customers. Best thing is, I’ve noticed that on the plane people can change their order. So you could ask what the low-protein meal of the day is, or who is gracing the fruit platter and make your decision then. I’m going to have some questions ready for the flight attendants to waste away some of the 9 hour journey. I’m very eager to learn the difference between a vegetarian meal and a strict vegetarian meal. Vegan meal perhaps? And how do they cater for Muslims with a cholesterol problem?
It’s going to be a fun flight!

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Award for Worst Blogger Ever goes to….

January 27th, 2009

I know, it’s been about 5 months since I’ve blogged. I came home from my 15 months of travelling in September. I really wanted to write about a wedding I went to before I left India. That has been what delayed my ‘I’m back home’ post, and then essays and deadlines delayed that…..and now I’m incredibly behind! So I’m just going to use some photos to describe the end of my trip.

This is our gang at Christine and Banshan’s wedding. Christine is one of the teachers at the school.
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Just what we need – more photos!

August 25th, 2008

Alright, so I’m kind of cheating here. I’ve left India, am now in Milan. Found some exchange students and I’m following them around for a few days before I head off to Sweden; the last and 19th stop on my trip. I haven’t had internet for a very long time. I find it very hard to write in internet cafes. hence the slowness. I’m sure everyone who used read this has given up on me by now anyway. Oh well, I’ll carry on alone here. Only a few more entries then I’m finished!!

But first, some more photos:
Not sure who lives here, but this is the kind of house my students live in:

One of our guides, Marius, with a lovely house on stilts behind him.
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