Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mi vista en la noche...

Baile! Baile!

Well! The first real day in Merida. I woke up pretty early this morning to the sounds of motorbikes and cars whizzing past my window to the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. I am in the mountains! I am surrounded by beautiful, amazing mountains. Mi madre served my roommate Jenee and I arepas con huevos, and it was really delish. It was like a crispy, soft, squishy english muffin... sort of. After breakfast, mi padre gave us our keys and showed us how to open and lock all of the doors. I feel really secure here, there are four doors between me and the inside of mis padres's house.

After we successfully showed that we could open and close the doors, he walked us to school to show us where some of the essentials are, and also to show us how to get to school. We found la lavandería, the laundromat, and el supermercado, the grocery store. There is so much to look at and see here, especially the first day, that I was just trying as hard as I could to suck it all in.

When we got to VENUSA, we met some other people that worked there and waited for orientation to start. I definitely understand better today the Venezuelan understanding of time. It is not exactly the same. Here, things happen when they happen, and as for the schedule that we have, it seems to be more of a suggestion than an actual plan. This isn't a complaint, by any means, but a mere observation as someone that has never experienced that culture. I like it quite well actually! Orientation was very basic, and was over almost two hours before it was supposed to. After that, some other students and I attempted to take a walk, before our plan was thwarted by some unexpected rain overhead. We instead waited inside for the rain to clear, and then found a really cute panderia to get some lunch from.

I think it is going to take me some time to understand these Bolivares. Today for lunch, I attempted to pay with coins, and didn't realize I had only given her the equivalent of $0,50 Bolivares instead of $5,00 like I thought I was doing. Oh well, she had a little giggle and then helped me to sort out my cash.

After a whole lot of waiting around at VENUSA, we went on a tour of the city by bus. It was soo fantastic. We saw so much of the city that I didn't even know existed! We saw El Centro, which is like downtown, and got some awesome arepas from a street vender and also visited an amazing heladeria that had well over 400 flavors posted. I settled on a small cup of rose-flavored icecream, and also sampled the arroz (rice) , chile, ajo (garlic), cebolla (onion), and kiwi. They were all pretty delicious, even the ajo, except the flavor in your mouth lasted quite a long time. When we got back onto the bus to go back to VENUSA, the bus driver turned up the reggaeton music LOUD and Jose Carlos and John from the school had a blast showing off their (amazing) dance skills. After a little while, it was our turn. They chose people at random to dance up the aisle of the bus, show off their skills to everyone, and then dance back to their seats. All the while they were laughing, screaming, clapping, and yelling, "Baile!" Song after song we danced along to the beat, some much more willing to dance than others. I think this was the best introduction to this amazing city I think that I could have had.

Tomorrow we have a day-long trip to the mountains, and I can't wait. I have heard that it is fairly cold, but time will tell what "frio" actually means to Venezuelans, who are used to the humidity and mild temperatures in Merida. I am sure being from Minnesota I can handle it. Hell, I've survived all those winters, right?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Merida es muy fantastica!

Well, I have made it to Merida. We arrived in the evening, so I have yet to see the city in the light. According to mi madre y padre, es muy bonita.

The trip here was... epic. Words can't even describe exactly the journey that I have been on so far. I traveled for about thirty hours to get here, and about three of those hours were spent in legitimate sleep in a real, not make-shift bed. I'm tired. Granted, most of that thirty hours was spent waiting to go somewhere, or finding out where to go, but somehow, it was nevertheless quite exhausting. But, four plane rides and an amazing bus ride later, I am here in Merida. The bus itself was quite the adventure. It looked as if it were decorated by Snoop Doggy Dog. The only word to describe how it looked is... pimp. That, coupled with the fact that he had no qualms about driving sixty miles an hour around curves and through the many lighted tunnels.

I feel like I have so much to share already, and I have only been in the city for less than three hours. Already so much has happened and I know that it is going to be an amazing time. Mis padres already have so many pieces of advice to share. Rigoberto, mi padre, told me that if any man tries to talk to me or dance with me, I can just tell him, ¨Mi novio es un militare Chavanista.¨ That basically means, my boyfriend is a militant for Chavez. And if they talk english, simply tell them, ´´Lo siento, pero no hablo englais.´´ Basically, sorry I don´t speak english.

They´re so amazing. I am sure that I will have a fantastic time with them. They´re very patient with my roommate Jenee and I, although I think they feel more comfortable talking to her because they know she can talk back. That´s fine with me.

Well, for now I must go get some sleep before desayuna in the morning. We have orientation at 9AM sharp and after that a walking tour, and other fun activities planned.

Hasta luego America.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

departure: 4 days

So... I am leaving for Venezuela in FOUR DAYS. (!!!!!) I keep asking myself, how did it suddenly come up so quickly?! Even though I have been preparing for weeks now, and I have had clothes organized and (partially) packed for about a week, I still feel utterly unprepared to leave for the next six weeks.

I realized, even being gone for such a relatively short time, there are LOTS of things to get in order. Student loans, medication refills, credit card payments, ALL of the things that I normally take care of at home I suddenly need to think about six weeks in advance!

There's also the problem of me being the control freak/overly organized person that I am. There are so many uncertainties still, even though VENUSA has done lots of preparing and organizing for us. I woke up today, checked my email, and found I had a message from VENUSA about our detailed travel plans. "Great!" I thought, since I love being 'in the know' about everything in advance, which often gets on the nerves of people around me. I read through the email and found a short paragraph about making sure that I had at least $100 USD's in Bolivares when I am traveling.

I suddenly switched to freak out mode. What?! I need Bolivares when I am traveling!?!! Where do I even get those? I called every bank, AND the airport and it is, with the amount of time before I leave, IMPOSSIBLE to get Bolivares on U.S. soil...

In other news, I've already had to upgrade my suitcase once to fit all of my clothes and shoes. Damn.

Monday, June 1, 2009

27 Days to Go!

I have 27 days until I leave for Venezuela, but I am ready now to pack my bags and leave! Bemidji is of course a beautiful place, and being home is wonderful, but I am craving the adventure a new world may offer me.

I'm already concerned about how to pack... How do I?!? What if I take too much and have to pay a huge amount for shipping my bags? These things I am sure will work out in the end...

I also seem to find a great amount of inspiration through quotes, which is probably already a pretty obvious point if you know me a little. But as the time counts down to when I leave for South America, I find myself inspired by a number of traveling quotes as well. The name of this blog was itself taken from a longer quote by Robert Louis Stevenson, “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” A few other favorite ones that I have found are...

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” - Henry Miller

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” - Mark Twain

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