Archive for the ‘Sarah in Venezuela’ Category

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Sarah: Sunshower

October 19, 2011

Journal Entry #3 from Choroni:

There was a sunshower on the beach today. I wasn’t able to take a photo because I forgot to charge my camera last night, but just picture it. The sky and water were so blue, and the sand was so white in the sun. When the drops started falling, everything sparkled. Most people returned to their umbrellas, but I put my book down, wrapped it safely in my towel to stay dry, and walk out to put my feet in the water. It felt like beating sun, hot sand, warm rain, and cool seawater.

There was a blind man wandering around the beach today with a hand-carved walking stick seeking out people to talk to. He must have recognized my voice from the day before, because he walked straight towards me as he neared our chairs and asked to talk to me. He was dark, too thin, and wrinkled from spending his life wandering the beach under the sweltering sun. He told me that I had a pretty voice, very familiar, and that he could tell I was a good woman. He had about a dozen hand-carved wooden kitchen utensils hanging from a leather strap around his waist and he explained each one to me. What type of wood it was made of, and exactly what to use it for. They were nice, but rather than buying a hand-crafted butter and marmelade spreader, I gave him the change I had in my wallet – enough to buy him an empanada for lunch. He seemed ever more greatful than I’d hoped he would…everyone in Venezuela likes empanadas.

We also met another man today. He was fifty years old, he told us that, and he had a kind smile. You know how sometimes you get a feeling from someone, just by seeing them, that they are a really good person? Through and through down to the core? I think it’s universal, a feeling that occurs when you meet exceptional people everywhere. You could be any place on earth and when you met one of those people, you’d get the same exact feeling. That’s the feeling that overwhelmed me when he approached our small group of three girls walking down to the beach today. We were carrying our cooler and towels like usual when he must have seen us from the window of his tiny restaraunt on the side of the road. He walked outside and down the road toward us and asked if we were on our way to the beach. We said yes and he said that he was too. He asked if he could carry our cooler for us (it was heavy) since we were headed the same place as he was. When he insisted, we said sure. He carried it the whole way for us, about a 15 minute walk in the burning sun with bare feet and carefully set it down in our favorite sandy spot under a big blue umbrella. I thanked him and when I asked him what brought him to the beach today, he smiled and said “Nothing. I just thought you looked like you could use a hand.” He told us to be safe and to enjoy our time in Choroní before he waved goodbye and started the hot and sandy treck back to his restaraunt.

I’m pretty sure that these kinds of people do exist all over the globe, and even though I don’t know his name, I think he was one of them.

Tonight my friend Alex and I decided to spend a relaxing girls night together after our long day at the beach, so we went out to dinner at a little restaurant next to the river. We shared a delicious caprese salad – fresh tomatoes, mozzerella, and pesto. Nothing like eating a fresh dinner at a rooftop table that overlooks the river, filled with boats like the canals. It almost looked like Venice.

After dinner, I went back to my posada, opened the window next to my bed, turned on the fan, and finally finished reading Julie and Julia.

The moral of the story is that good books, good people and good food all make for a very successful vacation.


Delicious caprese salad.
River boats.
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Sarah: Choroni

October 16, 2011

I just arrived “home” in Mérida after a 15 hour busride from Choroní, where I spent my semester break vacation. I had an amazing time there and came back with some great new experiences and a lot of beautiful photos to prove it! Since I didn’t bring my laptop along, I decided to bring a journal instead so I’d be able to add some of my writing to my blog when I got home.

Day 1:

We arrived in Choroní this morning around 11 am. The busride from Maracay (12 hours from Mérida) was about 3 hours long through the jungle along winding mountain passes. There were bamboo stalks nearly scraping the sides of the bus – some of them were as tall as 3 story buildings and as wide around as telephone polls. The jungle was dense and full of plants and thick foliage in a variety of rich green colors, and lots of the leaves were bigger than I was! There were vines too. They hung from cliffs and overhangs somewhere above me and draped over tree branches, dangling down as far as I could see over the mountain’s edge. If the music on the bus hadn’t been so loud, I’m sure I could have heard noises coming from the jungle…the sounds of the flowing streams hidden somewhere off of the mountain roads, the birds which I’m sure hid camouflaged amongst the plants…and whatever else was out there. The busride overall was scary though, fast and jerky, but worth it. I got to see the Venezuelan jungle, and it was nothing short of magical.

I thought it couldn’t get much more mysterious and beautiful, but shortly after arriving in Choroní, we walked to the edge of the Caribbean Sea.

Day 2:

We set off on the sunny twenty-minute walk past colorful little shops and restaraunts towards the ocean. I could smell the air and feel the ocean breeze before I could actually see the water, but when I did see it for the first time, I felt like I was standing in front of a larger-than-life postcard. The beating sun that I felt on my shoulders and the heat of the sand on my bare feet were the only reasons that I finally snapped out of my trance and moved toward a patch of shade underneath a gigantic palm tree.

Playa Grande, Choroní’s largest beach resting on the Caribbean sea, is an incredible place. It is cradeled in a nook by the green mountains and the sand feels like velvet under your toes. We all sat down under an umbrella just steps from the edge of the sea, and I read for hours. I think I just needed some time to realize that it was real – that I was really there, so I could appreciate it before jumping in to swim.

And I’m glad I did – feeling weightless in the middle of a translucent body of the bluest seawater you’ve ever seen, with waves rushing beneath you, mountains towering over you, and the sun soaking into your skin from every angle is overwhelming. It deserves preparing for, and even then it’s impossible to take it all in.

The beach is so lively here. There are people everywhere, many who are selling things like food and necklaces. One man was even crouching on the sand cracking open oysters and squirting them with fresh lime for people to eat! Another man selling jewelry was walking down the beach and started heading in my direction. He approached me while I was reading and asked to give me a gift. When I said “okay” he told me to hold out my wrist and he tied a delicate bracelet with a fancy knot made of blue string to it. As he was tying it on, he instructed me to think of three wishes, and as he secured three knots, he told me that he hoped each wish would come true for me.

These were my three wishes:

1. That I would never forget how exhilerating it feels to be in a place you never thought you’d be lucky enough to see.

2. That I’ll be able to retain some of the amazing qualities of the people I’ve met here and hopefully incorporate their positive attitudes, energy, and willingness to lend a hand into my daily life in Minnesota.

3. To achieve the two main goals I set for myself for this trip: to drastically improve my Spanish and to form lasting friendships with people I’ve met over the course of my time in Venezuela.

My wishes are well on their way to coming true – I’ve established a very close friendship with my roommate, my Spanish is improving every day, I’m continually being inspired by the positivity of the people around me, and I can’t imagine forgetting the feeling that consumed me when I first laid eyes on the Caribbean Sea.

I mean, it is pretty unforgettable…take a look for yourself.

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Sarah: Dulce de lechosa

October 8, 2011

Lechosa. That’s the word that they use in Venezuela for papaya.

They eat a fair amount of papaya here, prepared in more ways than I can count. I’ve seen it mostly in freshly blended juices that we have with our breakfasts, fresh fuit salads drizzled with sweetened condensed milk, and delicate little pastries in the display case at my favorite cafe.

A few nights ago after dinner, my host mom served me a “postre” that she called “dulce de lechosa”.

Postre means dessert and dulce means sweet, so I was excited to try it!

This is dulce de lechosa. It’s chewey carmelized papaya with cinnamon, a traditional Venezuelan dessert, most commonly served at Christmas time.

 

…and it’s delicious!

It’s also about as close to Grandma’s home-made apple pie as I’m going to get this fall, so I’d better enjoy it!

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Sarah: Cabaña en las montañas

October 7, 2011

Cabin in the mountains.

That is where 7 of my friends and I headed last Saturday for an overnight stay in “la culata” or the valley of the chilly Andes. It is about an hour away from our homes here in Mérida, a perfect weekend getaway.

I found a bench and a good book…the only thing missing was my coffee (I DID ask at the front desk, it just wasn’t exactly a luxury hotel…)

Blue Skies.

Hotel Princesa (the Princess Hotel) that owns the cabins.

Last weekend’s cabin adventure was beautiful and relaxing, but now that I’m on my semester break (as of today) I’m getting excited for a 5 day trip to the beach on the beautiful Caribbean! We leave tonight for Choroní, a town on the coast of Venezuela, and have an overnight busride that takes something like 16 hours. The buses here are notoriously cold, so I’m planning to pack my northface and wool socks so hopefully I can get some sleep. WIsh me luck!

The five day trip probably means soaking up a lot of sun, reading by the beach, eating fresh seafood, and maybe taking a boat ride or two to the neighboring islands…but it also may mean that there won’t be another blog post for a while. However, I assure you all that I’ll be documenting my adventures diligently with my camera and my journal, so I’ll have something good to post when I get home!

See you in 5 days, world!

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Sarah: Fútbol

September 29, 2011

In Venezuela, fútbol is like the mountains, the plants and the storms….

WILD.

And very different from the U.S.

I went to my first “soccer” game ever in South America on Sunday, and I definitely got a taste of the latin american fútbol scene. The passion these people have for the game of soccer is incredible. My favorite example of this is the huge sign I saw hanging from the fence surrounding the soccer field. It said “pasión y locura” – passion and craziness.

This is what a fútbol stadium looks like in Mérida, Venezuela:

And this is what a football stadium looks like in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

It is an amazing feeling to be sitting in the stands on a beautiful, warm, Venezuela evening gazing at the mountains that seem to be swallowing you up from every direction.

And it is an entirely different feeling to be freezing your butt off at TCF Bank Stadium with your friends, watching the Gophers play and smiling when you look up at that oh-so-familiar skyline in the distance.

But they are both exhilerating and give me a rush when I think about them. One makes me realize how lucky I am, how far away I am, and what an incredible experience I’m having.

The other makes me nostalgic, proud, and greatful to have the best family, school and friends in the world waiting for me when I come home to winter in Minnesota.

Needless to say, it would be impossible to forget either one.

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Sarah: 7 pieces of advice to a happy & healthy life

September 11, 2011

I’m no expert, but these are just a few pieces of advice that I’ve learned over the years from the people that I love most…mainly my mom, dad, and grandma. They have taught me a lot more than seven things, but these are some of the lessons that have really stuck with me and that apply most directly to my life right now, adjusting to things here in Venezuela.

1. Allow yourself chocolate, but in moderation.

2. Always strive for optimism. A positive outlook goes a long way.

3. Never stop learning how to cook.

4. Take full advantage of the resources you have around you…especially the comfort of family and close friends.

5. Relax. Give yourself at least an hour to get ready in the morning so you can shower, cook a big breakfast, or just sip your coffee and read a book instead of taking it on the go.

6. Really pay attention to the people that surround you on a daily basis – whether it is your family members, friends, neighbors, or the girl that made your morning latte.

7. Embrace your time alone, don’t dread it. Do something that makes YOU happy.

Another goal for my trip: take my own advice.

I’m determined to keep these things in mind (I shouldn’t have trouble with allowing myself chocolate when it’s available) and to really adapt and enjoy my time here as much as I possibly can.

I hope you got a little something out of these simple pieces of advice…whether it made you think, inspired you, made you laugh, or just made you smile.

Have a wonderful day, everyone!

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Sarah: School

September 6, 2011

I’m in the spirit of school today, because for most students back in Minnesota, today is (once again) the first day of school. For the college freshman, it is their first first day of school. For the seniors, it may be their last first day of school. I, however, had my first day of Venezuelan school exactly 14 days ago, and nonetheless I feel like being a part of the big back-to-school hype.

I remember watching the video of my 5-year-old self getting off the school bus outside of Windom Open School on my first day of Kindergarten. I had my address and phone number memorized, and had ridden the bus all by myself. My grandpa was waiting outside with the video camera as I walked off of the bus, ready to capture my first footsteps as a “big kid”.

No matter how old you are, the first day of school always brings the same two of emotions. A little bit of nervousness and excitement to meet new friends and start a new routine. But as you get older, you also feel confident that you’ll get good grades this semester because you’ve done this before, sad because you have another year behind you, apprehensive about graduating from college, and overwhelmed with thoughts of 15 page papers and sleepless nights filled with homework and Pandora. You feel happy to see familiar faces in your classes and recognize professors, and proud that you showed up on time and prepared, with time to sip on your latte and eat your scone before the classroom fills and the professor introduces himself.

Most of all, the first day of school makes me feel excited and comfortable at the same time, and I think that’s why I’ve always liked it.

My goal here is to achieve that same sense comfortability and excitement about school. I’m starting to get there – to be comfortable in my surroundings, find my favorite coffee shops and panaderías, and my favorite hammocks to sink into during breaks between classes. As far as the excitement part goes, I’ve never had such an unpredictable and exciting semester.

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