Posts Tagged ‘salsa’


Brittany: Lately

October 16, 2010

I’m getting close to the end of the first half of the semester. Classes end in two weeks and then we’re off to our internship sites. I decided I don’t want to do the internship that I wrote about before, but I do still want to be in the Amazon. My professor found me another internship with an indigenous, agriculture organization. I’m a little worried it will be too agricultural-y, but I should be able to do some things with environmental conservation, education, and agro-tourism.

We had a salsa lessons at school this week. One of the people who works at our school is a professional dancer on the side. We had another lesson with a different professor when we went to San Miguel de los Bancos back at the beginning of the semester, and a few weeks ago Sam, Francisco, and I had a lesson with his sisters and mom. I’m starting to get the hang of it. I’m not good, but it is really fun.

I cooked tostados with my family last week. It is meat, onions, and mote all fried on the stove. It is a common dish, but my family adds a twist by adding beer, sort of like how you’d do brats. It was pretty good and fun to cook with my parents.  It took most of the evening, but we just hung out.

My family also just got a new a puppy, Rufo. It’s 3 months old and black…not sure what type. It spends most of its time out in the yard, so I honestly don’t interact much with it.

–Brittany Libra


Tiana: In a rhythm

February 23, 2010

T-minus three weeks left of class…and counting. WHAT?!

This weekend has been a sort of surreal transitional period.  I feel like I’ve been here for months, but also like I just got here.  I finally feel at ease and in-step with the pace and practice of Senegalese society and with my family.  I’m becoming more and more able to communicate in both French and Wolof.  And what’s more, I’m just starting to realize that I have three weeks left with my family before I pack my bags, spend a week in Saint Louis and in the desert for spring break, and head on to Joal to work at the pediatric center and integrate into a new family.  So, to recap, life has somehow sped by in slow fashion.  Are you with me?

Friday, most of us spent the morning and early afternoon at WARC for our Wolof class, then we just hung out and did absolutely nothing.  A few people were finishing their papers for Country Analysis, some were befriending the Senegalese students who study there, others were planning the schedule for the weekend and for spring break, and me, well, I sat in the sunshine and played solitaire on my computer for about two hours.

Later that evening, the majority of our MSID group along with some CIEE students met at New Africa, a restaurant in the Sacré Coeur 3 neighborhood, which was putting on a salsa dance party.  Very à la Loring Pasta Bar, if I do say so myself.  All of you University of Minnesota folk know what I’m talking about.  It was so much fun!  The ambiance of the place made me feel like I was in the middle of the movie Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.  Cool, upbeat music, open-air, tropical setting, incredible salsa dancers (including the U of M’s very own Kaela McConnon!), pool, and an ice cold Coca-Cola.  We relaxed and chatted for a couple of hours, and then us non-salsa-ers got up and danced a bit towards the end of the evening when the less salsa-y music came on.  Surprisingly (and thankfully!), creepers were few and far between that evening, and everyone seemed to have a great time!  I taxied home with Devyn and Brenna at about two a.m.

Aminata, Xadi, and Doudou standing outside my bedroom.

We started by trying to hail a taxi.  Aby negotiated the price which, unfortunately, was upped because of my presence, as I am undoubtedly a toubab.  The taxi ride was long, and I was relieved to finally get to the market, called HLM.  The market is huge! And was incredibly busy!  At first, I experienced some intense sensory overload.  Cars and taxis everywhere.  Colors everywhere.  Hundreds and hundreds of people hustling and bustling through the narrow walkways between packed stalls and vendors selling jewelry, shoes, bags, clothes, fabrics, books, food, sunglasses.  A little scuffle breaking out between a vendor and a buyer.  Vendors coming right up to your face and staying there, trying to sell you their product.  I cannot explain how grateful I felt to be there with two Senegalese women who knew how everything worked.  Otherwise, I think I would have lost myself, both in terms of location and in terms of sanity!

Magat knew just where to bring me for fabric to make a traditional taille basse, as she works at the market and is well acquainted with it.  We went to two different places, and her and Aby helped me decide on a deep, midnight blue, shiny wax fabric with golden, radiating starbursts on it.  After buying six meters and spending four thousand CFA (such a good deal!), we headed to the area of the market where the tailors congregate.  Enter another moment of sensory overload: a one-level, concrete edifice with open air above, aisle after aisle of stalls, maybe six feet wide by eight feet deep, holding up to six tailors, each working on some intricate clothing or beading or threading design, hundreds of sewing machines thump-thump-thumping in rapid succession, fabric and plastic scattered on the ground, you get the picture.  We approached one stall and I was introduced to Xadim, another one of Magat’s friends who works as a tailor and would be making my taille basse.  He took my measurements while him and a couple of his friends tested my Wolof, and then Magat, Aby and I headed to another stall to meet with another man who specializes in more intricate threadwork.  Aby is having an incredible thread design embroidered onto a new tunic, so she negotiated with this man while Magat and I looked through magazines for a specific design for my outfit.  We ate crème glacé, or frozen cream (not ice cream, mind you) and I decided on a pattern.  After sitting and chatting a bit more, we went back to Xadim to show him the layout, I paid half of the price of his service in advance, and Magat is going back on Monday to pick up the finished product.  Thanks to Magat, I’m getting a significant discount!  In sum, I’m spending about twenty dollars on this outfit, and I am so excited to see how it turns out!

I taxied home from the market by myself and got a tour of a part of Dakar that I hadn’t seen before, which was really great.  In awe of how amazing of a time I am having here, I took the duration of the taxi ride to thank the Lord again for this opportunity.

After arriving home, I spent the afternoon with the nieces and nephew and some of the neighbor children.  We ate baignets (YUM!), said hello to people who passed on the street, and held a casual photo shoot.  I flashed back to my first few days here, when the kids were too shy to approach me or jump on me or come up and say hello, and I see how far we’ve all come since that short time ago.  I love it here.

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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. Read the rest of this entry ?

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