Today we went into the Andes to take a day trip and explore around. We actually left on time today, which was very surprising to me. Again, this isn't a complaint, but a mere observation, and it is a known fact that most people outside of the United States have a very different view of time.
The bus ride was fantastic. It took over four hours to reach our final destination, since we stopped in many villages and places along the way, including a place called Mucuchies. Here, according to our tour guide, most people are farmers of onions and garlic. Believe me, the entire drive there, you could certainly smell las cebollas y los ajos. The entire mountainside smelled like it. He said that most people in Mérida believe that the people of Muchuchies are only poor farmers, but they actually have lots of money because of the fruits of their labor in the fields. However, they prefer living like los pobres because it is the way that they have always lived, and for them, it is unnecessary to live any other way.
After we drove through Muchucies, we then stopped in a small town with a church built by a man named Juan Felix Sanchez Sanchez. He started building the small churchh when he was 80 years old. Eighty f-ing years old!! It is made with no cement, but only small hand collected rocks stacked on top of eachother with the greatest of care. It was a huge feat, obviously, and took him over four years to complete. It was an amazing church too, obviously very rustic, but nonetheless it was certainly the most charming little (very little) church I have ever seen. This entire day's theme for me was enjoying and appreciated non-materialistic things: my surroundings, the people here, big dreams and accomplishments. I am so happy I have the opportunity to see such a different world from my own. Muchas gracias a todas.
When we left the church, it had started to rain, so we decided to eat lunch in a restaurant called Refugio Mucubaji that served delicious food that in the United States I would categorize under "Comfort Food". We were all chilled to the bone from being in the rain, so most of us bought hot coffee and food. I had la sopa de cebolla, onion soup, and una arepa trigo con mantequilla, a wheat arepa with butter. Everything was so fresh and the arepa was brought to me steaming hot. Even the butter was freshly whipped from fresh cream!
When we finished our meal, we finished our bus ride to the top of one of the peaks that reached 14,000 feet above sea level and took a four kilometer hike from one lake to another. It was absolutely beautiful, but the altitude made it difficult to do anything too fast. You could certainly tell that the air was thinner there.
The walk was great, we saw such a huge variety of things. A few other students saw a BIG spider and got a picture of it, we also saw some deer, and lots of horses. I don't think they were wild, because they didn't seemed bothered with us being there... We also saw some mushrooms that according to our tour guide were used as hallucinogenics. Interestiiiiing... We also saw lots and lots of amazing vistas. The fog came and went, but when it was gone, the view was unbelievable. We saw a few small rivers and waterfalls, and lots of different plants that I didn't recognize at all.
After we got to the second lake, we boarded the bus and started our loooong journey back to Mérida and VENUSA. It took well over two hours to get back, but the bus ride was pleasant nonetheless. When we got back to VENUSA, Jenee, another student Becca, and I went and bought our first cerveza (beer)! It was less than $1.00 USD for a bottle and it was really delicious beer. We payed our three Bolivares each and then watched traffic from the bridge above the street as we enjoyed our drink.
After our beer, we walked home and met mi madre's hermana, sister, y sus sobrinas, nieces. They were all very nice and welcoming, and the two little girls were SOO cute. One was ten, and the other was nine. I feel much more comfortable talking Spanish today and it is getting easier to understand and respond to people in Spanish. It is still a little intimidating talking to mis padres and people at school and on the street, but I have just accepted that I am going to make mistakes, but I need to actually SPEAK before I can learn anything new or get better.
Tomorrow is my first day of school, and it starts bright and early at 8:00 in the morning. I certainly am not a morning person, but any stretch of the imagination, but I am giving it a good try. Tomorrow I need to wake up before 7:00 am to eat and walk to school with Jenee. Tomorrow evening we have an opportunity to meet our Nuevos Encuentros partners, and get to know them a little. They are students from VENUSA that are taking English classes and we are going to get to help eachother learn the other's language. I think that it will be a great and interesting experience. Tomorrow is also the end of our week, which means that we have, get ready... THREE DAYS OFF!! Lots of us are planning on going to the discoteca tomorrow to dance and have some fun outside of VENUSA and explore Mérida a little more. More updates on that later, and until tomorrow, ¡Ciao America!