Archive for the ‘Erica in Venezuela’ Category



August 7, 2009

The final project of my undergraduate career was talking about World of Warcraft in Spanish for ten minutes. Fantastic way to go out!

Today was the last day of classes for VENUSA, and I did really well here academically. Which was kind of surprising considering how many distractions I have here every day. I’m very relieved to be done, and excited to attend the going away party at VENUSA tonight.

Tomorrow morning I leave for a town called Trujillo where there is a giant statue/temple dedicated to the Virgen de la Paz (the Virgin of Peace). I guess it’s big enough where people can walk around inside and have 3 or 4 different views of the city. So that should be a lot of fun. I’m glad I’ll be able to take one more trip before I leave Venezuela.

Then on Saturday we’ll come back to Merida, and I’ll try to get the bulk of my packing done, because we have to leave the city around 5 a.m. on Monday, drive about 1–1.5 hours to El Vigia where we take an 8:30 a.m. flight to Caracas, then hang out in the airport for a looooong time (something like 7 or 8 hour layover, ouch.) Leave Caracas at 7:15 p.m., get into Miami around 11:15 p.m. Overnight in a hotel there, then get up and back to the airport for my flight, getting back into the US around 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Whew! Even writing it was tedious!

It’s a bittersweet ending. I’m so thankful I was able to take this trip and experience all that I did, but I think on the whole I’m definitely ready to come home and eat steak with homemade mac & cheese. And have a glass of milk (has it really almost been three months since I did that!?!?) and eat fruits that don’t need to be peeled or washed in vinegar, and drink water out of the tap and have ice cubes in my drinks without worrying about getting a parasite.


Say “Chichiribichi” Five Times Fast

August 7, 2009

Had a great time at the beach this weekend. From the beginning:

DSCI0092.JPGThis is the private bus we took to get to the beach. It took about 12 hours (uugghhhh…) because we had to go south then west north/east and finally north because of the mountain and road situation. It was pretty ridiculous.  There were 16 of us on the trip, and 10 of us were americans. The bus blasted salsa, reggaeton and various other musical styles the whole trip. There was even a point where we had an improv limbo session in the aisle. Good fun. Until we wanted to sleep, then it just got annoying.

DSCI0111.JPGSo we come to the original “posada” we were going to stay in. It was brutally warm in here with no breeze, and we did not have running water or electricity. It would have been complete Hell to stay here. I can’t believe the renters provided this utter lack of comforts and still expect us to pay and stay there. 16 people with a toilet that doesn’t flush? No thank you. Luckily our accompanying Venezolanos were able to walk around the area and talk to people so that we could stay somewhere else.

DSCI0121.JPGThis picture was taken just after we left the dock to go to one of the islands. Next to me is another American, Lisa, who is studying in Venezuela for a year. The woman on the right with the amazing smile was the group “mami”. This trip was organized by her and her daughter (who is a young english teacher at VENUSA). Her other daughter of 16 and son of 15 came along too. They’re a great family, and Mami rocked my world with her awesomeness.  She didn’t speak any english, but took great care of us and was always smiling.

DSCI0200.JPGI really like this picture, because it captures the complete beauty of the beach as well as the meager living conditions of most of the people in this area. It’s such a weird contrast, especially when you think of how ridiculously wealthy people are in the U.S. who have ocean-side property.

Great trip, though. I’m really glad I spent the money to make it out there. Only two weekends left in Merida, and I’m not planning on taking any more trips (I feel like I’ve done pretty much everything I came here to do, which is a great feeling.) This weekend I’m going to need to do homework and final projects, and the last weekend I’ll probably just party around the city when I’m not packing up to go. Ah, such adventures!




Erica: Artsy field trip

July 23, 2009

Last Tuesday for my Cross-Cultural Communication class we went downtown and visited some art museums.  It was my first time taking a buseta (little bus) and seeing some of the art scene of Merida.  It was really interesting, and I always love walking around downtown.  Though I was disappointed that the solitary pan-flute player wasn’t in the Plaza Bolivar playing Celine Dion or that song from the movie Ghost.

One of the places we stopped was an old church built in the 1800’s that had a bunch of paintings and sculptures from that time.  It smelled old, damp and musky.  Next to the tall windows were little seats built in so young, unmarried women could look out onto the street (though normally there would be some kind of wooden cross-stitched panel so that they could not be seen).  We also stopped at what was formerly some kind of Governor’s Mansion with tons of portraits of former governors of Merida.  My profesora pointed out how each of the plaques below their names showed the years through which they governed.  Pretty much all of them spanned three years, because that’s generally how often they have elections.  However, the dude in power now has been there since 2000, because he is a buddy of Chavez.  And there just haven’t been any new elections organized.  Pretty sketchy if you ask me.  I can’t imagine something like that happening in the U.S.

I won’t be around this weekend because I’m (FINALLY) going to the beach!  We leave tonight and have rented a private bus so I don’t need to be nervous about falling asleep and having my things run off with someone else.  It’s something like a 9-12 hour bus ride, so we’ll be able to wake up and be at or very near the beach.  One of the young english profesoras at VENUSA is organizing it for us, and I’m pretty sure we’re staying at some kind of beach house that is owned by someone at VENUSA.  Also, some kind of boat is included in the cost, so we’ll be able to get off the main beach to visit some islands.  As per usual, I’m pretty fuzzy on the details.  But I make up for it in enthusiasm.

Erica: Such and Such

July 2, 2009

I had my last first day of school today (of course that’s making the presumption that I won’t someday go to grad school or pick up any vocational degrees, but still.) I met some of the new students at VENUSA and they seem like a pretty good crew. I am sure I will meet a lot more tonight at “Nuevos Encuentros” and afterwards when we make it to whatever bar we end up going to.

My schedule this semester looks decent, I’m taking Cross-Cultural Communications, Spanish 1004, and am attending (but not enrolled for) Field Botany in the Andes. I really-really-really wanted to take that class, but the folks who signed up for it wanted it in spanish, and since I don’t have the language skills to keep up with that, I’m just showing up and learning whatever I can. Plus, if I didn’t go to that class, I’d be done at 1:30 p.m. and wouldn’t know what to do with myself for the rest of the day.


Erica: Catatumbo

June 30, 2009

This trip was lots of fun, and different than the others because it was just me and two other americans who planned it last-minute.  It was totally worth it, though.

DSCI0167.JPGThis is a picture of the “Ranger’s Station” in our area of Lake Maracaibo.  For those not familiar with Venezuelan geography, this lake is actually the huge bay in northern Venezuela, but they all call it a lake because the inlet is small in comparison with how big the area of water is, and the species here (at least where we were, on the south-west edge of it) are fresh-water.

DSCI0161.JPGSunset from our boat.

DSCI0145.JPGThis is where we slept (yay for the return of the hammocks!) Luckily there was a breeze for most of the night so we didn’t get bitten too badly by the mosquitoes. My hammock was the one closest to the corner, and when it got dark I could see the stars from where I was laying down. It was really clear at night and was excellent stargazing conditions once the quarter moon retired. It was amazing, this picture is facing north, and that’s where the lightning phenomenon started and stayed for about two hours, then it moved to the southwest. So we had this awesome lights show in the distance (I decided it was a pretty good substitute for missing the 4th of July celebrations) and a clear sky above us.

At its peak, we would see flashes every two or three seconds. Most of it was cloud-to-cloud, but some of it was striking down too. It was too far away to hear the thunder, but that made it all the more mysterious and special. Most of the night I sat with my two other american girl friends talking about our Venezuelan experience. There were only five of us tourists there (two Germans were with us), with two guides and the boat driver.  I think I prefer smaller groups like this, you can get to know people better and generally have a more intimate experience. Read the rest of this entry ?


Erica: Los Llanos 4

June 27, 2009

This was the utterly breathtaking midsummer sunrise that I woke up to. I needed to go to the bathroom, and stepped outside to this magnificence.  There was also a chorus of birds and frogs to welcome the day. This was the only sunrise I’ve been awake to see here, and definitely the most amazing one of my life thus far.

n1597560085_30223988_7418462And here we are on the river tour, this fancy beetle decided to have a little visit on my shoe.

n1597560085_30224009_3178130Owl that we saw on one of the jeep tours.  I was surprised it was out that early.

n1597560085_30223982_618775Here we can see the frog that our guide found and decided to put on my back.  It was a good little friend.

n1597560085_30223934_3565539We saw some howler monkeys too. Pretty neat to see their arboreal acrobatics in the wild.n1597560085_30223921_6471076


Erica: Los Llanos 3

June 26, 2009

Here are the local R.O.U.S.’s  (for those of you unfamiliar with The Princess Bride, that stands for “rodents of unusual size”). They are called Capybara and they travel in these herds all across Los Llanos. They have webbed feet too, and can swim really well.  Some of the bigger ones were the size of a labrador.


Here is another one a little more close up, they’re adorable.  And kind of ridiculous.


This was my super-high-tech fishing utensil for catching piranhas. That’s a piece of beef on the end. I didn’t end up catching any, but it was fun trying anyway. And after some people caught one or two, they just chopped up the pirana and used that as bait for the other ones. While we were fishing the pink river dolphins came and gave us a visit too. That was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. We didn’t get a great look at them because they don’t jump out of the water like ocean dolphins do, but we saw the hump on their back (they don’t have dorsal fins) and I saw one poke its head out of the water to peek at us. There is lots of local folklore related to these animals, and even some new-age-healing-swimming-with-the-dolphins therapy in Brazil.


This is a crazy turtle that our guide jumped into the pirana-infested waters to show to us.  Pretty weird looking, it’s head goes in to the (our) left to hide.  It’s sideways and weird, but impressive and old.


And finally, this shows the small area we had to work with in our boat tour.



Erica: Los Llanos 2

June 26, 2009

Here is where we began our river tour on Sunday.


There was an ocelot that hung around the farm where we started the river tour. It was really great seeing one wild/partially domesticated and not in a cage. But one dude wanted a picture with it and tried to hold it next to him but it growled and he had to let it go or suffer the consequences. Serves him right. Respect the feline. However, after it growled at him the ocelot walked over to me and briefly rubbed at my legs, so I got to pet it. I felt blessed.


Gorgeous sunset coming back from Saturday’s jeep safari adventure.


I don’t know why we were so fascinating to these cows, but they couldn’t stop staring at us.  And this picture makes me laugh, it’s currently the background on my laptop.



Erica: Los Llanos 1

June 26, 2009

Los Llanos was absolutely amazing. It didn’t get as hot as I thought it would, and I had enough bug spray to avoid the worst of it.

Here are some of the other students that came with, we went horseback riding for about three hours last saturday. It was great, my horse was exactly how I needed it to be.  It normally liked to walk and follow the crowd, but it would gallop when I wanted it to and was generally responsive to my commands. It was also nice being in a bigger group with so much area, because we could stray a little away from the trodden path if we chose to.  And it was absolutely gorgeous. We saw lots of wild horses, and I guess all the horses they have at the “ranch” we stayed at were taken from the wild and “broke in”.DSCI0150.JPG

This is a picture of our shower. The running water was from a well, and it was the perfect temperature. However, this shower only had three sides (the non-wall part was facing the fence in this picture). Needless to say I only took one shower, and it was at dusk.

DSCI0138.JPGProbably one of the highlights of this trip was being able to sleep in a hammock.  You wouldn’t think it would be very comfortable, but if you sleep more diagonally it’s actually quite cozy.  There were eight of us here, each with our hammock in this small rounded building.  Really nice for visiting.

This is the view from the restaurant we stopped at on the way to Los Llanos.  We had an amazing BBQ and lots of different kinds of birds came around to eat the fruit we put out on the ledge.  Saw a hummingbird, too.



Erica: Merida Zoo

June 5, 2009
Like always, I went to the zoo excited and left depressed. I did get to see some interesting animals, though.

Yes, we were really that close to the lion. It was breathtaking, frightening, and exhilarating all at the same time. I snapped a video of him pacing back and forth, and if I figure out how to post it on here I will. It was really sad to see what small cages they kept their Big Cats in, though. Really, really sad. I also soaw one of the big cats… I think it’s a jaguar… doing its cat-like thing. I needed most of my willpower to stop myself from touching it (it was rubbing its face against the bars, just like a Little Cat would do). But I decided I liked my fingers too much, and respected the animal too much to touch it.

This animal totally cracked me up as well.  It’s called a Tapir and lives in tropical rainforest areas.  Glorious.

This is the only species of bear that lives in Venezuela, and it hangs out in the Andes mountains.

This bird just cracked me up. And it was in the cage with some parrots who kept saying “Ola!! Ola!!” to us.

And I had to take a picture of the Toucan, just because it’s a Toucan. It was really bizarre, though, they had these really exotic tropical birds in the same cage as a deer, and something that looked like a deer but was smaller and red-ish colored.
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