If you can't beat'em should you join'em?

As most of Latin America celebrates Carnaval, 3-5 days of partying, dancing, and drinking and gorging, I'm tempted to stock up on groceries and DVDs, shut myself in the house and avoid the onslaught of water balloons, sprays of sticky, colored foam and jets of multi-colored ink that will leave my blonde hair permanently streaked with pink and purple (like last year).

As foreigners in Latin America we sometimes question how, in a region that is so poverty-stricken, entire countries can shut down at the expense of all income generating activities and furthermore, spend millions on gorgeous parade floats, impossibly intricate costumes, food and drink, and party for apparently no reason other than to dance and get drunk in the streets. “I just don’t get it,” I heard an expat say one day, “I mean, it’d be different if it was something they could actually afford to do.”

But does life always come down to finances? Not in South America. The poorest of the poor save up all year for this one week, which by the way, is not just an excuse to party. To many, beyond the partying, it’s a religious conviction. Carnaval is actually timed to end precisely on Fat Tuesday (or Martes Gordo) (Mardi Gras) which is the Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday (the day that marks the beginning of Lent on the Christian calendar). That’s the 40-day period prior to Easter during which many abstain from all types of excess. Read the history of Carnaval here and you may be surprised to find that it actually began over 1000 years ago on a completely different continent.

There is one very wise and respected gringo who, despite his austere religious background, would probably "get" Carnaval. Abraham Lincoln said: "In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." That’s the basic precept behind this ginormous party. It all began a thousand years ago and is celebrated all over the world in different ways, and in reverence to various differing deities, etc. However, even a gringo can understand the idea of living life to the fullest. Some of us may not want to admit it, but isn’t living a better, fuller life what often motivates us to seek out a new life overseas?

So if you're tempted to lock yourself indoors during this festival of sloth and binging, take another look and venture out, even if it's just for a few minutes just to take some pictures. Many people look forward to Carnaval all year as a time to put aside the three P's with which they have to live throughout the remainder of the year: politics, poverty, and problems. Therefore, this festival, if anything, will only get bigger, brighter, gaudier, roudier, messier, and louder in time. So if you can’t beat’em should you join’em? Haha. Maybe!

Your turn to help Bella with a project!

Take one photo and win a t-shirt! I need a little help with a project – pretty por favor? We've turned this fun project into a contest and we're asking kids, teens and grown-ups to all participate now!

Help Flat Sophia Travel the World!

February things you should know about:

Global Giving has set up a fund to help the victims of the Haiti earthquake: Give the Gift of Medicine at Global Giving or help change your world in other South American countries on our sister site here. You can also help Haiti by donating to Save the Children.

National Geographic has extended their 75% off sale (which was to have ended 31 January) while supplies last. Shop their newly re-launched online store to see thousands of products OR shop for South American Gifts online right here at Bella Store.

Winter Sale!  Save as much as 75%!

LAN Airlines has some really good February deals on flights to South America right now:

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The new Bolivian constitution in English – finally found a translation:

Bolivian Constitution in English The New Bolivian Constitution was translated by a translator in La Paz Bolivia. He is offering his English translation for just $6.99 and you can download it immediately. We'd like to know what you thought of this translation. If you have comments contact us. If you speak Spanish you can download the new Bolivian Constitution in Spanish FREE here.

Check out awesome spring break deals, cheap flights to South America (must book in February), great February deals on Spanish courses and more on my Message Board!

Stay informed throughout the month

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Taxes vs. Shopping - Hmmmm....

Tax Time Again! (Uh-oh!)

Expats can't put tax filing off until the last minute. NCH Wealth Advisors (ExpatCFO.com) can help you get everything in order between now and April (hopefully you won't wait until the last minute). I own a business in Bolivia - can you imagine filing taxes every month here AND at year's end AND in the US?? Ugh. I think I'll go hide under a rock. Meanwhile, here's hoping things will be much simpler for you:

ExpatCFO.com - Beyond Getting the Numbers Right

18 New Shops at Bella Store!

Bella Store has been totally revamped for 2010. Shop for alpaca sweaters, Andean handicrafts, leather, ceramics, arts, souvenirs and more.

18 new shops at Bella Store!

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