Dennis on the Road

Thursday, October 20, 2005

More from Venezuela...

¡Young Chavistas!

On a bus to Maracay last weekend, I jotted a short list of the things I love about Venezuela on a blank page in the back of Love in the Time of Cholera. The list only scratches the surface, but here are a few things… many more to be added in the future.
* Everyone, from the youngest kids to grandparents seem to know every word of every song on the radio and will sing them anywhere ~ on busses, in the streets, at home ~ at full volume and usually out of key.
* Family, friends and community are valued above all else. Venezuelans are overly social and warm and generally travel in packs. There is little solitude or privacy here, which I sometimes miss… but it is worth sacrificing for the authentic connections that are so quickly made.
* There is lots of laughter!
* Grosarias: Mild profanity and humor are staples of most conversations. Expressions that if literally translated in English would be quite offensive here are standard vocabulary.
* The countryside, and even the city to a lesser degree, is green and lush.
* Fried plantains are served with everything! And I still can’t get enough of them.

My home base here has been the apartment of Marianela and Josefa (sisters) and Estrella and Aliana, students who are renting rooms. Their generosity and hospitality is incredible. I finally had the chance to offer something to them by preparing a large Italian dinner last night with two different pastas and sauces, insalata caprese, antipasti, and wine. One of the things I miss while traveling is cooking… It felt good to be back in the kitchen.

Last weekend I took a side trip to Maracay to visit a family I met last year in Choroni. Six people, of three generations, live in their modest house and made me feel a part of their family. Aquiles is a baseball fanatic. I went with him to three of his softball games over the weekend, where the beer drinking would begin as early as 9:00 AM. Their four-year old daughter, Seliuqa, is adorable and incredibly smart. She beat me in a memory card game, not once, but four times! The whole family is die-hard “Chavista” and loves the fact that I’m a fan of President Hugo Chávez. It is a novelty that was mentioned nearly every time I was introduced to a family friend. I’ve up-loaded some pictures of this weekend here in a new folder, and have also added some more photos from Caracas.

On the cycling front, this week I’ve returned to daily training and it feels great. I was happy and surprised to discover that Venezuela’s national sports complex is only a few blocks from where I’m staying. There is a velodrome, offices of the national cycling federation, facilities for dozens of other sports, and residence for hundreds of international-caliber athletes. In my first visit there I met Cirio, a para-Olympian with one leg who has competed (and won) all over the globe. He introduced me to daily rides that leave from this area every morning. Today a group of about ten of us headed up into the mountains to the West of the city, weaving through clogged traffic until escaping the city.

I’ve also been exploring work possibilities here and might teach an English class for employees of a company once a week to gain the experience. I’ve already had an offer for full time work, including a tempting opportunity in the Amazon to teach English at a big mining camp for a few months, but I’m enjoying being on vacation too much to take on a work commitment, especially since the pay is horrible. It would make more sense for me to return to California to work for six months while living frugally and then travel for six months.

Tomorrow I'm off to Colonia Tovar and nearby beaches for the weekened to celebrate the birthday of my friend Rafael!


At 11:05 AM, Blogger Monique said...

Hi Dennis! Monique here, Traci T's friend. Nice to meet you. And thanks so much for checking out my blog the other week.

Re: that post, actually I´m told such demonstrations are extremely common! And truth be told, clearly the kids were having a ball, it was fun for them. But still. . . . To my virgin Western eyes it was pretty exciting and not at all routine.

I'm just now having a chance to check out your blog. I read only the first couple posts but I loved them, very inspiring and so interesting. I myself won't be in Venezuela for many months and I don't know how long you're in SA but I hope we can meet up sometime. If ever you get a chance, please email me, I'd love to be in touch. I won't post my email here but you can get it from Traci.



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