Disclaimer: there are no photos with this post. Next time though, I’ll have tons of pictures of piranhas and anacondas and me looking burnt. Not a euphemism.
Moving right along! Bienvenidos a blog numero dos, or “welcome to blog number two,” where I tell you all the scintillating details of my last week and a half in Venezuela:
I got a spider bite.
Seriously, it was all big and I was worried because I watched a Youtube video once of some guy who had to have his arm removed because he got bit by a recluse spider and it ate away his flesh. But the bite’s mostly gone now, so I guess I get to keep my arm, which is good because I use it a lot.
Which brings me to my first point—bugs. The mosquitoes are definitely onto us, and find my blood to be delicious. Also, the parasites. Oh, the parasites. As a unit, a lot of the kids are coming down with some nasty parasites. For whatever reason, I’m fine, even though in the past I was always the first to be felled by GI problems in Latin America. Either I’ve become immune or destiny is just waiting to throw me a terrible curveball. Either way, I’m on alert.
Also, sunburns. Unsurprisingly, I am burnt to a deep, crispy red right now, and a lot of Latinos are always shocked when they see me, a little like I’m the Elephant Man. “Do you know you have a sunburn?” they ask. And I say, “Who? Me?” and look around for the burnt gringo everyone’s talking about. It kills every time. Well, I laugh, at least.
Classes are going well. My listening skills are definitely much better than my spoken Spanish skills. I can understand a lecture, but when it comes time to answer a question, it takes much longer to reboot my brain so I can get the words out.
So during the day, school happens. When night falls, I go get my dance on. I won’t lie, I been rolling to the clubs.
Related: So I fancy myself a dancer. Not like a good dancer, more like a goofy dancer. However, in Latin America, my dancing skillz definitely stand out like a sore thumb, or a tall blonde white girl bopping around the dance floor.
Many Latin Americans tend to dance a little like this. Maybe with slightly less rain.
My moral beliefs about dancing are thus: everyone looks super odd when they dance. Good dancers, bad dancers, essentially at it’s core what you’re doing is bouncing to an artificial beat. No matter how much you bite your lip or shake your butt, you’re going to look like a goofus, so just give into it, you know? So I can’t decide who looks weirder when we’re side-by-side: me, jerking and flopping my entire body around, or someone who is trying to look super-cool and non-chalant. Or is it just two sides to the same coin? This interlude brought to you by Deep Thoughts with Gillian.
A bunch of us are going to Los Llanos this weekend, where we can fish for piranhas and hunt anacondas and sleep in a hammock. And get super sunburnt and bitten by bugs, if I’m lucky. It’ll be nice to get out of the city.
I’ve finally been able to pinpoint what feels so different about Venezuela, or at least Merida. For whatever reason, it doesn’t feel as exotic as the other places in Latin America I’ve been too. In the past in Central America, I’ve always felt drawn into the chaos and unpredictability of whichever city I was in. At the time it was often frustrating to be unable to communicate or complete simple tasks, but at the same time the extreme lows only highlighted how great the extreme highs felt. In Merida, that chaos sometimes feels like it’s missing. I don’t know why I’m seeking it out so much anyway. I should just open my mind and accept Venezuela, or at least this small city of Venezuela, for what it is and go from there. I should stop trying to make into an experience from my past and let myself create new experiences. Hear that, hindbrain? That’s the new plan. Adjust accordingly.
It is beautiful, though, in a way that is more striking than almost anyplace else I’ve seen. From the window in my bedroom I can see the mountains and the houses rising up. When the sun is just starting to set, there are all these tiny pinpoints of light that pop up everywhere in the haze, which I think might be mostly pollution-based, but I digress. It reminds me of a picture or a movie. Isn’t that weird, when real life reminds you of something that just imitates real life? It’s a bizarre sensation.
My Tuesdays and Thursdays are pretty free around here. I only have one class, Business Spanish, at eight in the morning, and I don’t quite know what to do with myself for the rest of the day. I like being able to relax for the rest of the day, and as many people know, I’m kind of a career nap-taker, so this fits into my lifestyle.
But, I am reminded of the advice my mom gave me when she dropped me off at the dorms my freshman year: don’t be the girl who naps all the time. Wise words from a wise lady.
I feel the pressure to be out doing something, investigating and familiarizing myself with Merida, during all this free time. I feel like I’m wasting my day, but I’m also intimidated to go off by myself and I don’t know where to start.
Every once and a while it will hit me though, I am in Venezuela right now, in the Andes Mountains, just strolling down the street, and it’s surreal. I’ll be here for three months and some change, and that’s plenty of time to fall in love with a place. I was telling a friend of mine that I still don’t feel too comfortable here, and she just said, “Don’t worry, you’ll probably fall in love with it too.” And she’s right. I just have to freaking chill out.
The big thing I miss here, and whenever I’m in a Spanish-speaking country: small talk. Man, do I miss small talk, just being able to chit-chat about nothing for a minute or two with a stranger. Instead, my communication skills are kind of limited to immediate, necessary sentences. Like, if I’m in a taxi, what I would like to say is: “Sorry I didn’t tell you to turn until the last second, I get distracted and forget to tell people where to go when I’m giving directions. My bad.” Instead, I get intimidated trying to think of how to say all that, and all I end up saying is, “Pardon me. Turn left here. Thank you.” So basically, I’m really letting my personality shine.
But overall, most of my most memorable time here is spent riding around in the back of a pickup truck with my friend Grace’s family (that I’ve forcibly adopted) and cruising around the mountains looking at stuff. I love the way a day can go from hot and miserable and sweaty to a total adventure in the blink of an eye.
I hope the rest of my time in Venezuela will continue to follow this pattern. I want my time here to be more adventure-filled and less sweaty. But then, in a larger sense, don’t we all?