Is there any such thing as going on “newsletter hiatus”?

Whew, do I have a lot of catching up to do! There’s a reason I took a three-month break from sending out our newsletter (several reasons, actually) and now I have so many things I’m excited to tell you about. But where to start?

First things first: thanks to all of you who sent “we miss you” messages. If you’re curious to know what I’m up to on a daily basis, go to the home page any time and click on Bella’s Blog or the Message Board. The blog updates each and every time I make a change to a page or add a new page (so, every day really). I also add messages to the Message Board several times a week. I use it to post brief introductions to new pages or sections I’m working on, and anything else I think you might find useful like airline flight sales, upcoming tour offers, etc. If you visit the site often, these are the two pages you’ll want to check. The best option though? Subscribe to our RSS feed and FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER.

OK, so let’s just say I took a “newsletter hiatus”. Here’s why:

APRIL Visited Bolivia’s Guarani Villages

In April I took an amazing trip with New York photojournalist John Rizzo who visited Bolivia with his daughter Chloe. After several meetings with the Guaraní council here in the city of Santa Cruz I was able to arrange a trip deep into their territory in Southeastern Santa Cruz near Kaa Iya National Park. Now there’s a reason this took some arranging. There is absolutely no tourist infrastructure in this area. The Guaraní arranged for us to stay their homes and provided a vehicle and Guarani/Spanish guide while I interpreted from Spanish to English. While there, thanks to the wonderful relationship the Guaraní have with their Mennonite neighbors, we were also privileged to tour a local Mennonite cheese factory (they’re famous for their cheese throughout Bolivia) and we made some new friends from the Durango Colony. You can read about my trip and see photos here.

MAY Traveled to Beni in Search of Pink River Dolphins

In May I was unexpectedly invited to join a press tour in Beni, Bolivia’s second largest department, where I took a two day river boat tour along the Ibare River in search of pink river dolphins with the crew of Punto Cardinal, a TV travel program from Santa Fé, Argentina. This is one of the things I have ALWAYS wanted to do and I am so grateful to Ernest Roda, owner of Moxos Tours in Trinidad, Beni (he also hosted John Rizzo during his trip to Beni). Thanks also to his brother Roger Rodas, owner of Travel Market Group in Trinidad for the amazing river trip, the owners of the Beni Hotel, and the Hinojosa family, owners of the Chuchini Eco-Reserve. We stayed the night at the amazing Chuchini, toured Beni’s capital city Trinidad, and also visited various other local towns. You can read all about it in our new section on Beni, Bolivia which I’ll be adding to continually as Ernesto is helping me create this section.

JUNE Restructured BoliviaBella Completely

In June I took on another immense project. I completely restructured the site, checked and updated each and every single one of its over 1000 pages, updated photos and made many other changes, all culminating in a special finishing touch - a fresh green background. I also added about 50 new pages and re-organized several sections that were getting large and confusing. No page was left untouched!

There’s a reason Bella’s gone green (literally). I’ve always made a point to encourage tourists and visitors (and my site visitors) to treat our Earth with kindness and be especially conscientious while touring Bolivia. We also do everything we can inform the over 10,000 kids and teachers who visit our Bolivia for Kids and Rainforest sections each month on the importance of adopting more environmentally healthy practices in their daily lives. We work on this continually and support projects and events like Earth Hour and others.

As a result, we’re now working with WWF Bolivia on a great new section on Bolivian wildlife with photos and text contributed by WWF. In addition, we’ll be featuring one English and one Spanish article from each new issue of WWF’s quarterly newsletter WWFolio and have also made their Spanish-language children’s magazine Pandilla Pantanera available for download in PDF format for kids and teachers all over the world. It’s a great resource for kids who are learning Spanish, or for those whose first language is Spanish.

Within the next 30 days we will be completely re-structuring our climate pages as well to include a new Climate Change section WWF is preparing for the site. I’m hoping every time you visit us and see our new “green” site, you’ll be made aware of the very real urgency of making some changes in your daily lives, no matter how small. In our Rainforest Store you’ll see our message: We all breathe the rainforest, we all live in the rainforest. Please check out all the great new products and features I’ve added to our 11 online shops. Bella Store keeps BoliviaBella online and we’ve pledged to donate 20% of all sales to!

JULY AND AUGUST My Biggest Undertaking Yet

My biggest undertaking yet? I’ve built a whole new website inspired by you! This is one of the main reasons I put the newsletter and many other smaller tasks aside. Based on, and in response to, the dozens of messages and questions I receive every month from people who are planning to move to Bolivia, I’ve built a completely new website just for expats from English-speaking countries who are moving to, or already living in, South America. is a new online South America expat community and forum. You can read more about what motivated me to do this here. GoSouthExpat covers only South America. It does not cover Central America (yet, although I’m already being asked to). The reason for this? My goal is to concentrate on providing detail. I’m working continually to add information on expat tax issues, moving companies, expat medical insurance, relocation resources, culture transition coaching, and many other subjects expat families want covered. We’re also building a special section called Expat Experts – we go straight to the experts to get information for you. You’ll also find facts about each of the 10 countries we cover, news rooms by country, video feeds by country, an expat bookstore with books, travel guides, kindle version books, ebooks, and many other resources, and much more.

There are plenty of expat websites on the net, all of which attempt to cover every country on Earth. GoSouthExpat will build on detail and stay in South America for now. This huge undertaking occupied me full time in July and August but I think it’s been worthwhile. It shot up in the search engine rankings right away and after only two months is already being easily found by visitors.

If you’re an expat in Bolivia or anywhere else in South America, please visit the site and send me your feedback. I’ve built the site completely based on feedback so that’s what it’s all about. I also encourage you to join our community and contribute your story or any other information you’d like, to the site.

If you’re planning a move to South America soon, I’ve already posted about two great resources to help you and your family plan for your big move. has a great FREE guide called the Expat Life Portfolio Kit. It lists the 17 documents expats cannot live without and you’ll learn all about how to get your finances and wealth management in order before you move. Changes are expected in the expat tax arena and you need to be informed about this.

Watch our video at

In addition, I contacted Heather Markel, a culture transition coach in New York. An expat herself, she’s prepared a new guide called the Relocation Success Guide. Find out from Heather how you and your family can overcome culture shock and relocation depression, fear of the new, and learn to feel at home, no matter where you are in the world!

Two of our most active sections on the site continue to be our Bolivian food and recipes section (please send in your favorite recipes) and our Bolivia tourism section. If you’ve traveled Bolivia, consider sharing your story, hotel, restaurant and travel agency recommendations (or warnings), and anything else through our forums. It’s become a very interactive section of the site.

Many of you have asked me why I don’t put up information on the news or current events and political situation in Bolivia. I’ve got a Bolivia news section on the site which features several feeds that update continually throughout the day. As I attempt to remain positive and highlight the good I find each day about life in Bolivia, I’ve committed to staying informed about the situation but won’t comment on politics on the site. However, you’re welcome to do so through our forums.

SEPTEMBER Back on Track

In addition to all of this, Bolivian schools were out on winter vacation for the usual three weeks in July but this was extended an additional two weeks, started up again for two weeks, and then closed again for a week due to the swine flu epidemic. (If any of you have a magical formula for keeping a hyperactive kindergartener busy and entertained 24/7 for 6 weeks, I’d love to know about it!)

I’ll be sending out my newsletter once again each month beginning in September. I hope you’ll find my “newsletter hiatus” was worth the wait!

Help Bella Raise Funds for (Association of Washingtonians for Needy Bolivian Children) is a non-profit organization established by my aunt Margarita Hassenteufel and a group of Bolivian women who live in the Washington D.C. area. They raise funds every year to donate hospital equipment, clothing, and many other types of items to children's charities and children's hospitals in Bolivia. I just had to be a part of this somehow so I pledged to donate 20% of ALL sales made at Bella Store to Wanides. Visit their website for info. Check out all my Bolivia designs at Bella store here:

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Welcome to all our new subscribers!

We had a lot of new BELLA NEWS subscribers this month - welcome to the BoliviaBella online community. For those of you who don't yet know, "Bella" is actually an American living in Bolivia. She works as a professional translator and interpreter and also spends countless hours designing this site just for you! Find out who is Bella really??

As you can see, we've been very busy working super hard to grow and improve and make it the number one English site on Bolivia. Parts of the site are also being translated into Spanish due to the large number of visitors we have from Spanish-speaking countries. We're always looking to improve - this site is FOR YOU so be sure to let us know what you want to see included on - we're not on our way to NUMERO UNO for nothing - we're working very hard to get there!! Please direct your comments to webmaster "Bella". Tell Bella what you want!


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