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My Last Final…

August 7, 2009

In case anyone has failed to notice, there has been a decided lack of new entries in my blog. I feel that I owe an explanation, but honestly, the only one that I can come up with is that Mérida sits atop some kind of vortex that distorts time. Actually, it may be even more complicated than that, as I have discovered that during the past three weeks (coincidentally the same period of time during which I have been taking Spanish 1004) time has been moving both rapidly and excruciatingly slowly, but this somehow occurs simultaneously! At times, I feel so overwhelmed by the course work and the amount of material that I am required to remember, it seems like it will never end, and that all I do is go to school, study, and occasionally eat and sleep. On the other hand, weekends seem to come and go with the blink of an eye, and suddenly, here I am, sitting in a classroom with only two days of school left.

Yes, the truth is that I have been too busy to blog. That does not mean that there has been nothing to report, however, and my experiences here have continued to be amazing. I am writing this, what may be one of my final blog postings from Venezuela, as an attempt to quickly capture some of the more exciting points that have occurred while I have been here, and also as a brief synopsis of what the next three weeks hold for me.

Holiday in Plaza Bolívar, downtown Mérida.

Holiday in Plaza Bolívar, downtown Mérida.

So, let’s start with the immediate future. I have the last exam of my undergraduate career tomorrow. The format has been revamped, and now each of the students in my class is responsible for “teaching the teacher” in an effort to prove that we know the material inside and out. We did this for the last exam as well, and I have to say that it was both enjoyable and an excellent way to review. All three of us received great grades, but we also had the opportunity to go over everything point by point, further solidifying that which we have been studying during our tenure in Mérida. And that’s it. That is the culmination of six long years. I am very excited, and can not think of a better way to finish it off than by studying here in Mérida and actually gaining the ability to speak in a foreign language (or at least give it a pretty good try).

The three weeks that follow are going to be a lot of fun I think. Tomorrow night I will be getting on a bus with three friends…Lucas, Alec, and Madeline. We are taking an overnight bus up to the colonial town of Coro in the north of Venezuela. Founded primarily by German immigrants, Coro was the very first capital of Venezuela and still boasts some of the most interesting and well-preserved architecture in Venezuela. It is also home to several interesting places, including a house that has over 100 windows in it, and the oldest Jewish cemetery on the entire continent of South America. The bus ride itself is a 12 hour journey, and from what I have heard the buses in Venezuela require several layers of clothing because the air conditioners run at full blast, usually putting the air temperature in the bus at somewhere just above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It should be interesting…

…and just in case that is not interesting enough, there are a few other “unknowns” that still have to be uncovered. For instance, we tried to purchase our bus tickets yesterday, but were told that you have to buy your tickets on the day that you travel. That means that tomorrow morning, the four of us need to show up at the bus station at 7 a.m. in order to buy the tickets before class. The trip doesn’t really happen unless we can get bus tickets. The other big unknown is where we are going to be staying once we arrive in Coro. Now normally I probably wouldn’t worry too much about this, but Venezuela (yes, most of the entire country) has August off. That’s right, they have the entire month…off. It is referred to as “temprana alta” or the “high season” and from August 1st to August 31st prices are much higher, and availability of EVERYTHING is severely diminished. No problem, we could just make reservations, right? Well, not so fast. Reservations in Venezuela do not simply require a phone call and a credit card in order to hold your room. Instead, it is a complicated process that requires you to receive a bank account number and physically go to a bank, make a deposit of half of the total, and then call the hotel or posada again in order to confirm that they have received the payment. Needless to say, since we are leaving tomorrow, we do not have the time to make that happen. So (assuming we can get the tickets) we are headed to Coro hoping to find a place to stay.

My friend Lukas the day we headed to El Valle together.

My friend Lukas the day we headed to El Valle together.

We are going to spend a brief two days in Coro before heading over to Puerto Colombia, a beach that is relatively close to Caracas, and where almost all of the other students from VENUSA are going to be congregating on their way out of town. We will have one full day at the beach to soak up the sun before saying goodbye and heading our separate ways. For most that means a trip to Caracas and the airport… for me it means a 12 hour bus trip back to Mérida, solo. When all is said and done, I will have something like 38 to 42 hours of time on busses during the next 6 days. Suddenly I am very glad that I brought Shogun (a HUGE book that will hopefully carry me through the entire journey).

Next Wednesday night is when Jess is supposed to arrive in El Vigía, and I can hardly wait. I have rented an apartment for us in Mérida where we will stay for a week. During that time I have scheduled a few day trips…hiking in the mountains around Paramo, taking a natural sauna in El Valle, a visit to the indigienous village of Jají, and of course, a schedule parapente jump! But more than anything, I am looking forward to being able to show Jess where I have been living for almost three months. We are going to hang out with my family here, and we have also been invited to have dinner and play dominoes at the home of the cook at Venusa, Joan, and his wife Yiya. I have become very good friends with them in the last few weeks, and I am very much looking forward to being able to go to there house and see them again before I leave.After our whirlwind tour of Mérida (and trust me, 7 days here will literally fly by) we will jump on a bus for another long bus ride. Just like all of the other bus rides, this one should take approximately 12 hours. Actually, it seems like all of the bus trips here take 12 hours, even if when you look at a map the distances are vastly different. I haven’t quite figured it out yet. I just keep coming back to the vortex theory. In any case, we have a reservation in a posada on a beach there, and it sounds like they have a boat that will take us out to any variety of small islands for us to spend our days on. Hopefully it will be relaxing, and hopefully the sunscreen we take will be strong enough…almost everyone that has come back from beach trips has been burned badly. After a few days there, we bus over to a hotel outside of Caracas for a day, and then early the next morning we arrive at the airport and leave for home. I can’t believe it, but that’s it. That is the rest of my trip!

As for what has been going on here since my last blog post…well, here are a few of the highlights.

My friends Rob and Madeline accompanied me on the second attempt at hiking to the first teleférico station, and this time, we were successful! It took around 9 hours round trip, and was literally exhausting. Although everyone else I have talked to tells me that the station seems a long ways away, I still stare up at it from the city and wonder how it could possibly take that long to hike to, but it does. The view from the top was amazing, and definitely worth the hike. Perhaps the most surprising thing of all was arriving at the top only to find a group of repair men actually working on fixing the teleférico. We are still not sure how they got up there because there is NO way that they hike up and down everyday, but the cable cars don’t currently move. Oh well, probably a mystery that I am not going to solve before I leave.

The wedding. I was invited to a Venezuelan wedding for a cousin of the family, and I have to say that this was probably the most interesting cultural experience I have had…ever! Hopefully I will have a chance to blog about it later, but it involved me wearing a suit, speaking to a lot of new people in both English and Spanish, and…even dancing. And when I say dancing, it is not the simple “get out and shake your body” type of action that passes for dancing in the states. In Venezuela everyone knows what they are doing, from the very young to the very old. Literally, once they start walking they are able to merenge, salsa, and others. Interestingly, early on in my trip I was talking to a woman (who turned out to be an aunt in the family) at a birthday party in Ejido, and she asked if I dance. I told her that no, I didn’t really know how. Her response was that if I haven’t danced in Venezuela, then I have never been to Venezuela. Well, I fixed that during the party that followed the wedding…it was an all night affair, and shortly before we left the aunt cornered me and asked if I would like to try salsa. I said yes, and although I was horrible (trust me on this one) it was a lot of fun, and I am SO glad that I tried. So, I think now I have officially been to Venezuela.

Where does the time go? I have been trying to write this one blog entry off and on for two days. Now, I am sitting here one hour before I get on a bus to Coro. I have finished my last final, I have said goodbye to a few friends, and I have come home with enough time to pack, talk to Jess for a few minutes, and hopefully with enough time to post this blog. Oh, and perhaps the most important thing of all…I logged into the University of Minnesota computer system and officially registered for graduation.

I know that I don’t have much time left in Venezuela, and what little time I do have is going to be spent experiencing as much as possible. The computer is not coming with me while I travel, so that means no blog entries for a while. However, I promise that I will be taking a lot of pictures, and if this trip is anything like my prior experiences in Venezuela, I am sure that I will return with more interesting stories. Entonces…hasta luego.

One comment

  1. Hi. Lucky for you, you get to study in a different country. I’m learning Spanish from home via online classes. Big Difference. Anyway, I’d like to say I understand your frustration of writing a paper in a foreign language with limited vocabulary (exactly as you said: unable to translate from English, must begin in Spanish), however you have made that just a bit easier for me. I had to describe una ciudad en espanol, of a Spanish-speaking country at that. What some people might refer to as coincidence, I prefer to call my choosing Merida, Venezuela a blessing. Your blog has given me information to write about that I couldn’t find anywhere else on the net. The fact that it was enjoyable was a bonus.

    So I guess I just wanted to say thanks for being who you are that resulted in your blog being what it is that has helped me so much with my project.

    I hope you and your wife have made many wonderful memories in Merida. 🙂

    Adios.



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