23 October 2014

The Big Blog Exchange 2014: Meet Belén from Argentina!

Hi, everyone!  Some of you will know by now that, together with 15 other bloggers from around the world, I recently won the Big Blog Exchange (BBE) 2014 organised by Hostelling International (HI).  What entails is this.  In a few days' time, HI will be criss-crossing all of us across the globe on a 10-day cultural exchange aimed primarily at promoting international understanding and fostering goodwill among various cultures.  In my case, that exchange destination is Argentina.  The BBE winner from Argentina, Ms Belén Palacios, will therefore be heading to Malaysia to see and experience first-hand our colourful country, our diverse cultures and, needless to say, our wonderful cuisine.  I, of course, will be doing likewise (and more!) in her great South American homeland.

As part of the exchange, Belén will be sharing with everyone her Malaysian journey here on my blog, while I will be blogging about my experiences in Argentina on hers (Viajar en Pelotas).  As you'll all be seeing a lot more of her on this site over the next few weeks, I thought it timely that I should now introduce to you my very lovely exchange partner and now-friend from Buenos Aires, Señorita Belén Palacios.  Here's a little Q&A I did with her recently.

Everyone say "hi" to Señorita Belén Palacios from Buenos Aires!

1.  Belén, please tell us a little bit about yourself; what you do, what your hobbies and interests are.  

Hola!  My name is Belén and I’m from Buenos Aires Argentina but I have lived in Asunción-Paraguay for almost 10 years.  After finishing school I decided to return to Buenos Aires to study Filmmaking in the University of Buenos Aires (only one final left!!).

I have many hobbies and interests.  I obviously love travelling, photography and design, but another of my passions is food!  My family has a huge gastronomic background and since I was a small girl I was very interested in cooking and specially baking, that’s why I also recently started going to Pastry School.

Also my main language is Spanish, so bear with me por favor... I may have some mistakes here and there but I’ll do my best to post in English :)  I really do appreciate your corrections!

2.  What is the main motivation behind your blog and what do you usually write about?  

I created "Viajar en Pelotas" with my brother Iñaki back in 2012 to share our trip to Europe.  As I like to say, it was the perfect excuse to put together all the things we enjoyed doing the most!  Our main motivation is sharing! Being able to share our experiences – good or bad – and the chance to inspire others is the best part of having a blog.  We know we are not perfect, and the imperfections of our trips is what makes Viajar En Pelotas totally us.  We love to write about doing things at our own rhythm, taking long walks, trying new food, and specially getting lost!

We are firm believers that if you cannot travel you still can bring different cultures to your home... that’s why we started a new section in our blog called Travel·By·Taste, with our other brother Gastón, with the intention of sharing recipes - hopefully - from all around the world!

Viajar en Pelotas comes from the feeling of arriving to a new place, without a marked map or an itinerary, without a schedule to follow, suddenly realizing you made it to that place you've dreamed of... it's travelling with the eager to enjoy, learn and make every minute worth it.

3.  Briefly tell us about your BBE 2014 participation; why and when did you join?  How did you feel when you learnt you'd made the list of 100 finalists?  

Since we found out about BBE last year, through an article on the local newspaper featuring Rosario, who represented Argentina, we fell in love with the amazing opportunity of exchanging cultures for a couple of days, we were 100% sure we wanted to be in it's next edition.  We already had a young and shy blog, primarily for friends and family, but it was after seeing all the amazing blogs from last year’s winners that we buckled up and started sharing it more, improving the design and adding some new social media... we just couldn’t wait to apply!

We had some time since the first BBE... and a lot happened.  We got the lucky chance to travel again: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Macau, some cities of Argentina and we went back a couple of times to Asunción.  Between finishing college, work and everyday stuff, things got complicated... and we ended up signing up late!!  So the whole process of gathering votes was really difficult.. but never impossible!!  Although there were times we felt really behind.

When we learnt we made it to the list of 100 finalists, my first reaction was relief... really!  Americas was tough!!  Sometimes like a ranking rollercoaster.  After that, the fun began!  We made a great group of support between fellow bloggers for the waiting time to the announcement of the lucky 16.

4.  Let's go back a month to September 16th.  When your name appeared on the list of 16 winners worldwide, how did you feel and what was the moment like for you?  Were you happy to get exchanged with me?  

Having slept just a few hours that day, I went out early from my home to do some boring paperwork and I was way too nervous to see the Big Blog Exchange web yet - although there was still an hour left for the announcement.  Before I left home, I told Iñaki to say nothing until I get back, but he just couldn’t resist himself and before I knew it I was getting the news by phone!!  I couldn’t believed it!!  ‘What?? I won?? We won?? Are you kidding me??’ are a couple of things I started repeating with a HUGE smile in my face.  Immediately I started to asking about the other 16; the first one I asked was you, Vincent!  I knew it was your second time participating and I felt so happy when I found out you did it!!  And just some minutes later I knew it, it got better, we where exchanging places and I was going to Malaysia!!  I was over the moon :)

5.  What do you already know about Malaysia and what's the first thing you plan to do when you get there?  

As soon as I find out I was going to Malaysia I stared doing my “research”.  I read about the mixed culture which I found awesome and so enriching, I read about the temples and the markets which I cannot wait to visit, the beaches and views, the shopping opportunities, the incredible architecture, and I read a lot about the food!  You guys are really proud of it.. and you should!!  Everything sounds amazing!!  I can’t wait to taste some of your famous dishes, I’m also thinking on taking a cooking class to share some of those tastes when I return home... so feel free to recommend me some places!

I’m arriving in the afternoon, so the first thing I want to do after leaving my bags and having a refreshing shower after an almost 30-hour flight, is to go out for a walk and start my Malaysian experience!  I don’t want to miss a minute!  Lets just hope I don’t suffer from jetlag though; fingers crossed!

Muchas gracias, 
Belén, for telling us a little bit about yourself.  By the way, your English is perfect - so don't worry.  On behalf of my Malaysian readers, I'd like to extend to you a very warm welcome to Malaysia (or as we say here, SELAMAT DATANG KE MALAYSIA) and hope you thoroughly enjoy your short stay in our country.  Don't forget to bring more sunscreen though. :-)

And to you, my dear readers, remember to regularly visit the the Big Blog Exchange website from October 31, 2014 onwards to follow all the 16 winners' adventures as we embark on our epic journeys around the world.  I also wish to take this opportunity to wish my fellow BBE winners a good and safe trip.  One sky, one love and peace to all.

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