Friday, August 7, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

La Playa

This weekend, we hit la playa, the beach. Now, this probably isn't what you're imagining, taking a short ride to the beach, no the beach here was 12 HOURS AWAY by bus. The place that we went was called Chichirivichi, pronounced chee-chee-ri-bee-chee. It's a mouthful, I know.

So the bus ride was absolutely miserable. Forget being comfortable, don't even THINK about sleeping. In twelve hours, I probably got about thirty minutes of uninterrupted sleep. That's all. We did see lots of strange and dinky bus stops and gas stations, and found out that pretty much all of Venezuela outside of Merida stinks like shit. No joke.

However, it was worth it, once we got to Chichirivichi. The day that we got to the beach, Friday, was a holiday, so there was a huge amount of traffic into Chichirivichi, and there is of course only ONE access road into this town. That meant big traffic. So we were stopped in traffic for at least another hour, but it felt like five.

So for hours we had all been talking about taking showers once we got to our posada. Nice cool showers with clean water, and then being able to escape into the heaven that is Air Conditioning in our rooms. Our dreams were never realized, however. When we got to our first posada, we got the very unpleasant surprise that not only was there no functional A/C or electricity, but no water either.

Needless to say, most of us were pissed. It was eleven in the morning, none of us had really slept, we were dirt, sweaty, hungry, and cranky, and then we were given the news that we couldn't even take a shower. Damn.

So we sucked it up for a while and were promised by the owner that by the time we got back from the beach that day, we would have electricity and water again. We grabbed our suits, sunscreen, and towels and headed into the town.

First we stopped for some lunch at a little place that sold fresh empanadas and Nestea. I had a fish empanada and a chicken empanada, both of which I swear must have been the most delicious thing I had ever tasted. I was also so parched from the busride that I drank two full Nesteas like I had just escaped from the desert.

After we let our food settle a little, we made our way to the docks to go to the beach.

A piece of information to clarify: There are no good beaches IN Chichirivichi, they are all islands off the coast of Chichirivichi. So to get there, one has to contract a boat driver to drive you out there and back.

When we got into the boat, I felt completely overwhelmed by the beauty that I encountered. Not only was the water turquiose, but it was WARM. It was actually... warm. Coming from Minnesota, the land of frozen waters, this was a very, very welcome surprise for me.

So we made it to the island, and the name escapes me, but it was beautiful. The sand was colored cream, and was soft to the touch. It wasn't coarse at all. And the water was cool enough to be refreshing in the 95 degree weather, but still warm enough to be comfortable.

We played in the water for what seemed like hours, tossing a volleyball around between us, or diving under the water to see what we could find. I felt like a little kid again, discovering the beach and all of its wonders for the first time.

After a while, we got out of the water to relax in the shade. A man selling ceviche came by and I bought one to share with a friend. Simply, ceviche is seafood cooked by the acidity of lemon juice and it therefore preserves its fantastic texture. There were shrimp, scallops, octopus, and squid in this delicious lemony goodness with a tangy tomato sauce on top. Delicious!

So we played a whole lot of volleyball, in the water and on land, and then discovered this lagoon inside the island. It reminded me of being on Star Island on Cass Lake, a lake inside a lake. This was a salt lagoon, and trust me it was EXTREMELY salty. It was also really hot. The water had to be at least 150 degrees. It was so hot, I could only stand about ten minutes in it.

So later on, when the sun was starting to go down, we headed back to our posada to find that there was NOOOO WATER OR ELECTRICITY. We were all dirty, sweaty, and pissed, so two people from our group went to go find another posada to stay at while we bummed around the pier.

Luckily, the place that we ended up staying was five million times nicer than our first place, so good thing for that.

That night, my friend Rich and I went down to the pier to check things out, and it was going crazy. Since there are no bars or discos in Chichirivichi, people get their party on by parking their cars in the parking lot and bumping music through their HUGE speakers. The pier was packed, so we walked down people watching until we found a street performer that was a flame thrower. We watched for a while and eventually he wanted a volunteer to show off his skills with.

The unlucky "volunteer" was a woman from the audience that was VERY reluctant to join him on his "stage". He pulled her on stage though, and started to do a routine where he swung his fireballs around her body and face. And then it happened... something went wrong and his fireball HIT HER IN THE FACE.

She ran off stage with soot on her face to her friends that were watching her from the sidelines. All I can say is that luckily her boyfriend or brother wasn't there, or else it would have gotten a lot uglier.

The next day we got up bright and early to check out another beach called Callo Sol. It was much smaller than the other one, and all things considered, in my opinion much better than the first. The sand was softer, the water was bluer, and the swimsuits smaller. Well, not so much on the last one, but they were pretty small.

The waves were insane. Every five minutes or so, really large waves would come in that you either had to dive into, or jump with, so that you didn't get taken under or away with them. I felt like a five year old again, discovering how fun the water can be. We stayed in the waves for hours at a time it seemed like, diving and jumping and riding waves.

After we left this beach, we went back to our posada to clean up and relax a little in the shade.

That night we all went out to find some food, but I wasn't feeling the idea of a restaurant, so a friend and I snuck away to get some real street food, which I must say was a fantastic idea. Fan-tastic. We got shishcabobs with chicken, steak, and sausage on them, served with a salad made of chopped arepa, a fresh salsa, and salsa amarillo.

It was some of the most delicious food I have had here in Venezuela. the meat was perfect, the flavor was amazing, and best of all, it was fast and really cheap. REALLY CHEAP. For one meal, it was a mere ten Bolos, which is less than two dollars USD.

So that night we partied with the locals and hung out on the pier some more. The next day was already Sunday, which meant it was time to get on that godforsaken bus again to go home.

We left at noon, thereabout, and didn't get home until well after one in the morning. The busride, yes, was absolutely terrible, but the weekend was amazing. Absolutely amazing. If I could live on the beach forever, and never leave, that would make me one happy girl.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pasteles y Café

These are from the pastelería close to our house that reminded me of heaven. Jenee and I decided to take a dessert and coffee break on Friday while doing homework. Veeeery good idea. They also have huge, decadent cakes. We are thinking of getting one for the family for the night before we leave.

Bailadores y Las Cascadas Bonitas

Bailadores... Ay Dios.

This last weekend, many of us decided we wanted a short excursion out of the city, so we hopped a bus to Bailadores, in the Merida state. It was less than 60 miles away, however by bus through the mountains, that equates to a little more than two hours.

That however was fine. The bus ride to Bailadores was absolutely beautiful. We traveled out of the mountains for a short time, and then back into them. We saw cacti growing directly next to palm trees. There were prairie grasses in what looked like a jungle. The views of the distant mountains from the bus windows was absolutely breathtaking. I took nearly 100 pictures just of the mountains on the bus.

When we arrived in Bailadores, the bus dropped us off in the plaza de Simon Bolivar. People are obsessed with him here, he is like the patron saint... of everything. Of freedom, of independence, of soveriegnty, but his statue looks cool, so I don´t mind.

Bailadores was the fresh of breath air that I was needing. It´s much less touristy than Merida, and you could tell people there didn´t often see American tourists walking through. There were a few posadas and hotels, but there wasn´t much there. We found a small hotel called Hotel Libares where we were able to get rooms for 30 Bsf each, $5.00 USD. And for that cheap, we were all willing. The rooms were nice too, not just for how much we paid, but in general. Each room had a HUGE king bed that easily could fit three or four people, and two bunk beds. There was a television, fan, and stocked fridge in each room, as well as an amazing balcony overlooking the mountains. Unbelievable.

When we settled into the hotel, a smaller group of us went to go find some food. We found a little restaurant that served a delicious almuerzo ejecutivo, which included the usual, sopa, arroz, platano, carne, vegetales y jugo. It was sooo delicious. And unlike in Merida, they seemed excited that we were there and happy to be serving us. They talked to us, and even posed for a picture. Much friendlier than in Merida.

After we ate, we started walking towards las cascadas, the waterfalls. We thought it was very close to where we were, turns out we were wrong. We started walking down the road that had a sign saying ¨Las Cascadas¨and walked FOREVER. Another group of people had left before we did, and they texted that they weren´t even there yet. Not good news. After a looong time walking uphill, a man, with no teeth, stopped in his truck and mumbled SOMETHING in Spanish about dropping some other gringas off at the top. We didn´t understand exactly what he was talking about, but at the same time, another truck stopped and literally five guys climbed out of the cab and told us to get in, and that they´d take us tp las cascadas. I have never seen people soo happy as they were at that moment.

So we jumped in the cab, and rode up to las cascadas. Apparently yeah, it was a little far away. Who knew...? Once we got there, we all piled out of the cab and looked around. We were at the bottom of a huge mountain in a park called Parque de Cascada "India Caru". There were small ponds that had been created for people to swim in, and a huge staircase leading up to the waterfalls. We slowly made our way up, and honestly, for a while I was a little disappointed. It was beautiful, but nothing all that special.

However, on the last set of stairs, we were finally able to see the actual waterfall. It was AMAZING. It blew me away, especially because I had never before seen an actual waterfall like this before. What I had in my mind when I thought of waterfall was St. Anthony Falls. Trust me, that's no waterfall compared to this. This is beautiful and huge and misty and unbelievable. THIS was a waterfall.

After we took a sufficient amount of pictures and marveled at the amazing sites, we started on our way back down the stairs to check out the small craft huts we had seen when we got there. Some people were selling food and fresas, they're known for their strawberries there, and lots of jewelry. I bought a new pair of earrings for myself, and REALLY wanted some fresas con crema, but I decided to wait until later for that.

So we started down back to the town of Bailadores, very leisurely. On the way back, we stopped at a small wine brewery that made wine from strawberries, blackberries, and more. They also made their own liquors (muy fuerte) and natural medicines. We tasted lots of wines, and then bought a bottle of Vino de Mora. Muy delicioso. Then we kept walking down the hill towards Bailadores and caught a ride down with a man on his flat bed. A small portion of me thought about how it could be dangerous, not the man, but riding down the hill, fast, on an open bed, around curves, in the mountains. But before I could allow these thoughts to completely penetrate my mind, we had already reached the bottom.

So we got back to Bailadores and took a little tour around the city. Jenee, Amanda and I split up from the group to allow us to have a little bit more flexibility with where we wanted to go and see. So we sat in the plaze for a while, and people watched. There was a man there that I can only expect would be considered the town drunk, and he was hilarious to watch. After that, we went into to church that is adjacent to the plaze and sat in for the last few minutes of mass. The priest was singing in Spanish and Latin, and it was absolutely beautiful. The congregation was singing along with the priest at times, and it almost brought me to tears. This small Catholic church had beautiful frescas painted on the walls and ceilings, and ornate statues of saints and The Virgin Mary.

After mass ended, Amanda, Jenee, and I went on an adventure for a bar and a restaurant. However, as we found out, apparently Bailadores doesn't have a bar, only one liquor store, so we instead decided to buy a few beers and chatted up the locals at the bar.

That night was sooo much fun. After we left the liquor store at about sundown, we walked back to our hotel, which was only a few blocks away. We were all just hanging out in the hotel in eachother's rooms and chatting it up. After a while we headed to a pizza place down the street. What I have noticed, and what is very obvious, is what wherever we go, we have the tendency to just... take over. We take over bars and clubs, we take over hotels and posadas, and this night, we completely took over the pizzeria. On the one hand it's fun, but on the other hand I wish that sometimes we just blended in more here. In smaller groups, we're much less conspicuous.

After that, we went back to the hotel and most of us got really, really tired. I stayed up for a while, sitting on the balcony with a couple of girls, chatting, but soon enough I fell asleep too.

The next day, I was up bright and early, thanks to my 7:00 am weekday schedule, that I love SOOOO much. Not. But on the flipside, it was a good thing. It gave us more time to explore Bailadores before we needed to leave at noon, and also gave us an ample amount of time to shower and tidy up the hotel rooms. And sit on the balcony.

I have never seen a clearer sky than that morning on the balcony. At 8:00 am, the mountains were in perfect focus and the vista was just... absolutely breathtaking. You could see until what seemed the end of time. I am so glad I got a chance to see that.

Jenee and I, after our showers, went and ventured out again into Bailadores to track down some breakfast and coffee. We stopped at what must have been the only panadería in the town and got some pastries, big coffees, and water. The sun was already hot, as it normally is early in the mornings here.

After we had eated there, we had realized that nuestro padres told us to try the fresas, which we hadn't done yet, so we headed across the street to the heladería to grab some fresas con crema. More realistically, it was crema con una fresa, but I am not complaining. It came tp me as a castle of whipped cream topped with a bright red, ripe fresa, and a little dainty spoon to eat it all with.

It was heaven, whipped cream heaven. And probably the most nutritious breakfast of my life: pastries, coffee, and whipped cream covered strawberries. Go me.

We wandered around town for a little longer, and then mosied back to the hotel to check out and get ready to leave. We grabbed our things, and headed back to the plaza to enjoy the sunshine and the sights.

A while later, we went down to the bus stop and boarded the bus. And then it hit me... damn I am tired! Most of the bus ride home I spent napping, which is exactly what I needed, because when I got home, there was lots of homework to be done. Lots.

So we got home, and Jenee and I started walking back to our house. Normally it is pretty quiet on Sundays, since everything is closed and people like to stay home, very similar to the United States. However, as we approached our apartment building, we hit police barracades. The entire street was blocked off for a HUGE kid's celebration. there were hundreds and hundreds of people spilling out of the park across the house from our street, so many that we had to squeeze very tightly to even make it home. There was a stage set up in the middle of the street with children performers doing karaoke and dancing. It was insane, to say the least.

The best, no, worst part, was that the state was directly below our window. Just as I went to lay down on my bed, after unpacking my things, the talent contest began. And whoever this kid was didn't have much of it. They were singing a version of an Avril Lavigne song. I didn't like it the first time around, and I DEFINITELY didn't like it this time either. It was so horrible, so offkey, so annoying that I had to leave the house. I couldn't even BE THERE.

So Jenee and I decided to go find some lunch, and let the kid festivities die down (hopefully!) while we were gone. We went to a small outdoor restaurant down the street and got almuerzos ejecutivos con pescado. It was DELISH.

By the time we headed back to our apartment, luckily the festivities were dying down. The rest of the night was spent doing homework, before I passed out at 10:00 pm. I swear, my schedule has made me into an 80-year-old woman. To bed before ten, and awake before seven. We'll see how that works out once I am back in the states however...

The last few days since I came back have been... normal. Yesterday and today I had class until 1:30 pm, and soon after that I went home to nap, eat, do homework, and relax. Tonight at VENUSA there is a Karaoke event which I am looking forward to heading out to tonight, and hopefully I can get some pictures as well to put up here.

This weekend I am going to Chichiribichi Beach on the coast for the weekend, which I am SOOO EXCITED about. I am looking forward to a couple solid days of relaxing, swimming, and laying out, especially since that's what most people think of when they think of South America anyways.

Well, I must be off for now, but I will be thinking of all of you fondly, and can't wait to tell you all of my experiences in person.

Chao America.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Clases, Semana Tres

I am officially done with class for the week, and overall it was great. Lunes (Monday) we had a test in both of my classes. The one for Cross Cultural Communications wasn't bad, it was an essay test with four questions, about pretty basic terms from class. However, then there was my Spanish test. I had studied that previous weekend, a lot, so I thought that I should have been prepared. I was sadly, sadly mistaken.

The second week, last week, I missed a day of class when I was sick. Apparently, I missed a lot of material that just happened to make up about a quarter of my Spanish test. Damn. I tried to bullshit my way through it, but with no luck. Instead, I just wrote a note on the test explaining that I missed the day we covered this, and if I would have been there, I would know how to do it.

Tuesday we had a field trip day, which I posted about before, and in Spanish we watched Amor en El Tiempo de Colera, Love in the Time of Cholera. It was a good reward after a terrible exam.

Wednesday was a normal class day, and so after two not-so-normal class days, time seemed to go so slowly. We just took notes in CCC and in Spanish we found out how we did on our tests from Monday. Fail. Big, big fail. Erica and I both completely bombed it. So, she cut us a deal. If we promised to study very hard and try very hard to do better on the next one, she would give us another chance and throw out the old test.

YESSS!!! We got another shot! So last night I went home and studied my butt off, until I was falling asleep on my books.

And today it paid off. We took the second test, and I got a 90/100. Yeah! A solid A-.

That certainly was a good ending to a seemingly long week. Now I just need to enjoy my weekend.

Right now, it's raining hard outside, and there was just a crack of thunder that sounded like it was right outside my window. Maybe this is what they mean by rainy season... It's completely pouring.

Hopefully this doesn't ruin my plans to go out tonight. I had big plans to check out a hookah bar I haven't been to yet, and a small small bar called Mojitos. We shall see how it is tonight at ten.

I also posted here another picture of this amazing city. I am sure you are all sick of seeing it, but trust me, it never gets old in person. It's amazing, and it continues to amaze me every day I am here.

Los Calles en La Noche... Wow

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

El Mercado Loco

El Mercado Principal

So yesterday I went to school to find the greatest surprise, we were going on a "cultural field trip" to El Mercado Principal, a huge center for shopping traditional ingredients, crafts, and art. Our assignment for the day was to watch the gestures of the people in El Mercado: how they dress, how they show emotion on their face, how they interact with acquaintances, friends, family, strangers.

Honestly, I couldn't stop looking at the fantastic colors and the seemingly endless rows of shops. I felt like a little girl, such a small person in such a large place. There were shoe stores, wine shops, pottery stands, food stands, an heladeria, a pasteleria, jewelry stores, grocers... EVERYTHING.

It reminded me of the Global Market, except on acid. It was so bright, there were amazingly bright colors everywhere that you looked. The rows were very narrow, and all of the small shops were packed together as tight as they possibly could be.

The food court was so loud with the sounds of blenders, friends laughing, and sellers advertising their wares. There was even a drink, a smoothie, that was made with fruit, milk, liquor, raw quail and chicken eggs, and the juice of a BULL'S EYE. Apparently, it is supposed to increase virility. I am not sure I really need to work on virility, so I passed on it. Probably not the best thing for a still gurgling stomach.

I did however buy some beautiful earrings made from nut shells in the art gallery. I love them, I've worn them for the past two days.

A few hours there was certainly not enough time. I am looking forward to having some time off in the days ahead to go back and check it out again. Hopefully I can have a little more time to explore alone, or with some friends, and see what else I can find. I do know that I didn't even see a fraction of what they have there, I have only scratched the surface.

However, when I explore more, I will let you know.

Chau America, Te Amo.

Perros Calientes

Mac Wen y El Torito

This has to be one of my favorite stories that I have collected since I have been in Venezuela. So surreal and absolutely hilarious, even when it was happening:

On Monday night, Jenee and I needed to fend for ourselves for dinner because nuestro madre was working late, or for some reason wouldn't be home for dinner. No bigs, we thought.

About a week ago, she told us that a place close to our house, called Mac Wen is very good, and their food is fairly decent and cheap. We thought: good, cheap, close. It's a winner. And, by that time it was nearly 7pm, and neither of us had eaten since lunch at noon. Needless to say, we were starving.

So we walked to Mac Wen, and first couldn't figure out how to get inside. Silly, yes, but there honestly wasn't a clarly marked entrance. So we took some random steps, and this by chance led us inside to the restaurant. The rest of our experience was a neverending string of odd and ridiculous events. Here we go.

First of all, the place was DEAD. Completely empty besides us, and a table of four people with only beer and cigarettes. Hrm... didn't think much of it. Nuestro madre told us it was good, we'll believe her. So we grabbed a table near the back, and waited for a waiter to come find us. That didn't take too long, since most of the waiters were bored, leaning on the wall watching television. So one found his way to our table, and came over to our table. And stood there, staring at us. When we asked for a menu from him, he looked confused for a moment, then walked away to grab us something.

About five minutes later, he came back with a menu. For drinks. We both looked at the menu, one sheet, front and back, searching frantically for the food, as the waiter still loomed over us. I whispered to Jenee, "There's food... right?" and she whispered back, "I really hope so..." After a thorough search of the menu, and after it became obvious that the waiter wasn't going to leave until we ordered something, we decided to share a drink, then cut our losses and run.

So we went for something neither of us had had before, a Sex on the Beach, this cute girly drink with fruity juice and pure yumminess. The next point of confusion, we only wanted one? the waiter asked, we said yes, that is correct, and he gave us another strange look and left.

Ten minutes later, he came back with our drink. Why it took so long, we didn't know. As far as we knew, they could be making the juice fresh from fruit they were picking as we were sitting there.


He came back with a creamy drink with Kahlua and god knows what else. We looked at the drink, and then asked the waiter again, "a Sex on the Beach?". He nodded, and so I gave him a 50 Bsf bill, and he left presumably to get change. We poked around in our drink for a while, and finally tried it. Muy fuerte. Muy muy fuerte. So we sipped it between the two of us, and started laughing about our ridiculous situation. First, we thought we were getting food, and then apparently there are only drinks. So we get a cute little fruity drink, whoops, I mean Kahlua.

After about another ten minutes, our waiter came sauntering back, walked up to the television that had been playing telanovelas, and turned on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Reggaeton was blasting over the sound of the tv, so it didn't really matter what was playing anyway. I waited for him to catch my eye, and when he didn't, I flagged him down.

I told him, probably a little too rudely, "Necesito mi dinero, treinta Bolivares, por favor," as I made the hand gesture for cash. Gimme a break, I was still starving. He muttered something in Spanish about having to go get change from another place, and then walked away again.

By this time, Jenee and I exchanged a look and BURST out laughing. We were hungry and feeling silly from the little bit of alcohol that had just hit our bloodstream. As we sat in our corner spot, we looked outside the window and saw a small stand that read "El Torito, comida rapida". We started salivating immediately.

I had to wait another five minutes for my change, but as soon as we got it, we ran out of Mac Wen and down ten meters to El Torito, that served only perros calientes (hot dogs). Good enough. We each ordered one, and sat down at a picnic table to wait, at least outwardly patient.

The hotdogs looked sooo good when they brought them to our table. There was a small perro caliente in the middle, with papas fritas (potato chips), ajo (garlic), salsa de crema (creamy sauce), and salsa de tomate (ketchup). They also brought us salsa diferentes, that included salsa de queso, mustard, y mas salsa crema.

Whoa, just... whoa. We devoured our first hot dog, and both ordered another. Round two was even better than round one. I have never enjoyed a hotdog more, I am positive of it. The best part about it, it was SOOO cheap. For four perros calientes, it was only 24 Bsf. That's 6 each, which in USD is only $1. So, I paid $2 for my dinner. Go. Me.

As both of us sat there, in delicious full belly, perros calientes heaven, we had to have another laugh about our night so far. Just the combination of hunger, adventure, and the everpresent communication barrier made for a great story.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Otras Cosas

Mi Segunda Semana...

What an insane second week. Not my best ever, but there were still good and memorable things. First of all, I had to go back to class on Monday. Weird. I don't feel like I should be in school here, just sitting in the park. Ha! The first day back in class was fine, since I start early in the morning, it seems to go fast, which is nice.

However, that night I had a stomach ache, and I didn't think too much of it. I thought, "I haven't had any water from the tap, and I've been pretty careful to eat hot foods." Well, I obviously didn't do SOMETHING right, because by Tuesday morning, I felt like death. I was woken up at six am by stomach pains and nausea, and it didn't get better all day. According to mis padres, I had two choices, go to VENUSA that moment and tell them I am sick, or wait until one in the afternoon when i am dying. What a choice!

I was able to drag myself to VENUSA and talked to Marinela, the know-all wonderful, amazing woman that works in the office. She told me, in excellent Spainglish, that I probably have a parasite (!!!), what I need to do and if she needs me to go with her. I said yes, and we went out to the farmacía. I must say, healthcare is one thing that I am VERY impressed with here. There are hospitals everywhere, like one right next to my house. Also, farmacías are like Starbucks here. They're on every corner!

So I took my medicine with me, and dragged my feet home. I stopped at the grocery store to get some crackers, about the only thing I could have stomached, and almost wimped out to get a taxi for the last eight blocks home. Alas, I made it, and proceeded to sleep the rest of the day away.

That night, unfortunately, I missed the dance lessons. more accurately, I completely slept through them. The next day I dragged myself to class, and then went home, because that night there was another activity, Venezuelan Cooking Night. I managed to go to that, and we got to make our own arepas and they had a big pot of soup waiting for us. We didn't get to make the dough, but we were able to roll the arepas out and grill them. Deeeelish. However, that night i felt like hell again, so after eating my dinner, I almost fell asleep in one of the hammock-chairs at VENUSA. I swear, I need to get one of those. :-) Jenee then dragged me home after she and a friend Pat bought HUGE hotdogs at a stand down the street, and I almost passed out with my clothes still on.

It took a few days for the parasite to go away, but by Thursday, I was mostly feeling better. And so I went out, to celebrate. My roommate Jenee didn't want to come with, so I went alone to meet some friends at VENUSA before heading out to el centro. We had a GREAT time. By eleven, I was feeling dandy. We stopped by three different bars/discotecas, and it was just a great night. The last place we went before I went home, Las Gradas, was insane. It was packed to the brim, so tight I don't think we could have possibly fit one more person in. They were playing mostly salsa music, so I put my (rudimentary) salsa skills to the test. It felt like we danced all night, mostly because we almost did. By the time I got home in a taxi, the sun was coming up!

The next day, Friday, I went exploring El Centro with my friend Rich, a guy from VENUSA. We found all kinds of fun things, and stumbled upon a huge mall with different stores and a food court. I swear, every other store here on the street in El Centro is a shoe store. And they're all selling the same shoes!

That night we went out again, and I was able to convince Jenee to come along with. We went to a place called Bananas first, which is a bar that seems to cater to American culture, and they try to be really hip. However, the Venezuelan idea of hip, at least at this place, is about... five years behind. They had a big screen where they were playing Jackass, The Movie, and on the speakers they were playing bad rap and rock mash-ups. However, the drinks were good. They had a great drink menu, and their mojitos were muy fuerte, very strong.

After we left Bananas, after one drink, we went to Las Gradas for the second night in a row. It was again PACKED to the brim, but less salsa dancing, and more classic rock. Who knew? However, at Las Gradas, they have a thing called a Bomba, which is a shared drink, for four-five people made in what looks like... a small sand pail. It's filled with a combination of liquor, beer, and juice. Deliciosa. We danced for hours again at Las Gradas after they stopped playing the HORRIBLE rock music. However, we met a few Venezuelans there, and apparently, they're all about it. After another night of dancing, not quite as late as the night before, I caught a taxi home with my friend who lives across the street and promptly passed out from exhaustion.

The next day, Saturday, I took the day to relaaaaax... I didn't get out of my pajamas until well past eleven, and in the early afternoon, after our madre made us some lunch, Jenee and I went to the park across the street to feed the parrots that we both love so much. They were so happy to get some crackers, and rewarded us with lots of laughing, talking, and whistling. After we left the park, Jenee and I went to go check out a pastelería down the street where they sell desserts. I got an amazing fresca con crema dessert, strawberries with cream, and she got an awesome crunchy, delicious something-or-another.

They were far more filling that we both expected, so we waddled back home and chilled for a while. Dinner was on our own that night, so after some awesome chilling and giving out tummies some time to relax, we went to el automercado, Cosmos, close to our house. We bought fruit and bread for dinner, since here dinner, cena, is pretty small. Whoa! There were mangoes bigger than anything I have ever seen. Well, apparently they were mangas. We bought one of those, and also a huge pokey fruit (guyanabana), a spongey gobstopper (parchita), and mini bananas (cambures). When we brought them home to open them up, we were a little surprised. The cambures were really good, I had mine con mantequilla de cacahuete y pan dulce (peanut butter and bread). The manga was AMAAAAZING, but the other fruits were... at best, interesting. We found out today that the guyanabana was probably overripe, since it looked like innards, and the parchita, which is VERY VERY sour, is normally used for making juice. Whoops. However, our little fruit exploration was definitely worth it anyways. If nothing else, for the manga. And, it was very reasonable. For all of those fruits, and the bread, the total was 21,47 Bsf (Bolivares Fuertes), which is $3.50 USD.

Last night, my lack of sleep finally caught up with me, and I fell asleep before 10:30, and slept for well over twelve hours last night. I woke up feeling... somewhat refreshed. We had breakfast, and then more hanging out in la casa time. For me, studying for my first exam in Spanish. (Aaah!) After that, we went on a hunt for some lunch. Not the easiest task in the world, on a Sunday, let me tell you. We walked past all the street places that are normally open, and restaurants close to our house, but nothing was open. We tried Garzón, el supermercado, which has an a la carte restaurant on the second floor. It was indeed open, but unbelievably busy. The line was so long, we would have probably waited for at least forty minutes to get to the front.

So we settled for the Panadería y Pastelería Croacía that we ate at last week. It's not bad, but I wish we could had found a new place to check out.

After lunch though, I started to feel sick... again. This time I started to take the Cipro that my doctor in the States prescribed me, and according to mi madre, es muy fuerte, very strong. She said I should be feeling better by tomorrow night, at the latest.

So tonight, I have been taking it easy, and pretending to study for my Spanish test tomorrow. However, I still feel like my energy levels are completely dissipated. I suppose that's what happens when you get sick. However, I am now dedicated to good self-care (and ONLY bottled water outside of our house).

Until tomorrow, Ciao.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

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