Archive for the ‘Sarah in Venezuela’ Category

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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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Sarah: A peek at my Venezuelan life

September 2, 2011

A little bit more about my life here in Venezuela:

When I wake up in the morning, I shower, brush my teeth with purified water that’s been boiled for at least 15 minutes, and wake up my roommate, Jenni if she’s still sleeping. Then I choose one of the four t-shirts that I brought with me to wear with my favorite jeans. I slip on my black flats, pack my backpack, and let my hair air dry while I eat breakfast. When Jenni and I walk into the kitchen, Benilde, our 29 year old host sister, will already be there with two pots and two pans on the stove, all boiling or steaming or simmering with something different inside. She’ll greet us with “¡buenos dias!” and we’ll greet her back and sit down on our stools on opposite sides of the kitchen island. Benilde will set down two mugs of café con leche in front of us (a rich blend of milk, coffee, and sugar), and then put down our plates on matching orange placemats. Breakfast usually consists of arepas (a traditional Venezuelan pancake made of ground corn dough) which are sliced open when they are still warm and stuffed with ham and cheese or eggs.

When we are finished eating, we grab our backpacks and head out the door by 7:40 to make it to our 8:30 class on time. We walk along this path…

next to this lake…

to get to on this red trolley-bus.

And this is what I see outside the trolley window on my 15 minute ride to school.

I see the same colorful fences and houses and powder blue mountains on the ride home. And then I know I’m at the right stop when I see the sign on the corner that says “Museo de Ciencia y Tecnología”.

This is the museum that I live by. And this is what it looks like from across the lake.

On my way home I walk up a big hill, and this dog follows me.

I pass by the house with the crazy plant (which I always stop to look at), and the little store where I buy yogurt and apples, and I have no idea how much anything costs.

And then I walk three more blocks along the windy road until I see this gate.

Behind the gate is my house…

and this beautiful garden…

and a very interesting tree with very interesting flowers.

When I walk through the front door I pass through the livingroom…

and then flop down onto my bed.

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Sarah: In an effort to cut English out of my life…

August 30, 2011

I’ve started listening to Spanish music on the way to school, while I’m studying, and as I fall asleep. As a consequence, I’ve expanded my collection of songs by Maná, a well known pop-rock band from Mexico.

This song is called Vivir Sin Aire, from their album Dónde Jugarán Los Niños, and is currently one of my favorite Spanish love songs.

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Sarah: Andes excursion!

August 27, 2011

Yesterday my group took a trip through the Andes Mountains. Our goal was to find snow…and we did! When we woke up at 7 a.m. it was already almost 80 degrees outside and sunny. I hardly believed our group leader when she told me to bring my North Face, one of my warmest fleece jackets, but after riding on the bus for several hours I started to shiver.

We stopped on the way up the mountains at two places. First, to see this view…

and second, to take a closer look at this lonely mountainside stone church.

After that I didn’t think it could get any more beautiful…

until we got higher up in the mountains.

We finally reached a high enough elevation that we could see snow and sleet (thank you mom for the rain jacket!), and I could see my breath, so we stopped for lunch and a hot chocolate at this little mountain restaurant.

I was starving at this point and was definitely not disappointed with my meal: traditional Venezuelan soup with potatoes, mild white cheese, and cilantro

and chicken in mushroom sauce with seasoned potatoes and “arroz con vino tinto”

After eating, we continued on to our destination and finally reached the snowy peaks of the Andes!

There are really no words to describe what I saw, but what I will never forget the way I felt – thrilled, overwhelmed, a little dizzy from the elevation, and very very cold.

The Andes Mountains are now at the top of my list of most beautiful places in the world.

Snowballs.

Mountain climbers.

Monster flowers.

Winter lake.

Foggy.

Rainbow hat.

All in all, it was an excessive amount of beauty to absorb in one day. I think I still feel the adrenaline.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”        – St. Augustine.

What I’m thinking right now: nothing tops traveling and seeing things you NEVER expected to witness with your own eyes.

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Sarah: ¡Mérida, Venezuela!

August 25, 2011

This is me, blogging comfortably from my hammock at Venusa, the college where I am studying in Mérida. And this is one of my favorite study areas:

Beautiful, isn’t it? One of my favorite things about the school and about life in Venezuela in general is that people are so much a part of nature. The houses and schools all have areas that are open to the outdoors, like this one.

Some things that are interesting here:

They eat lots of jamón y queso (ham and cheese), the café con leche (coffee with steamed milk and sugar) is better than any Starbucks latte that I’ve ever had, and there are never hand towels in the bathrooms.

And apparently ham and corn pizza is popular at Dominoes? Who would’ve thought.

Some things that I already love, some things I still have to get used to.

My group and I arrived in Mérida on Monday night, and yesterday we took a walking tour through the city. These are my fellow travelers and the 20 people that I will be going to school with and getting to know over the next 3 months!

The architecture in Mérida is beautiful. This is a school building where they teach fine arts to children and people in the community, and the style here is very similar to many of the houses and buildings throughout the city. 

That’s all for now…more photos to come!

 

 

 

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